Tuesday Reviews-Day: Easy Everyday Gluten-Free Cooking

Tuesday Revews-Day


You know the problem with most gluten-free cookbooks, at least those I’ve seen? Unless they are baking-specific, most of the books are made up of main dishes that have little-to-no need for gluten to begin with. Great for ideas, but a little light on gluten-free usefulness.

Which is why I was so happy to peruse the table of contents for my review copy of Easy Everyday Gluten-Free Cooking by Donna Washburn & Heather Butt and see that at least half of the book is baked goods. Because, let’s be honest, it’s the quick breads, desserts, and other bready treats that we’re most missing when we give up wheat or gluten. And it’s those same dishes we want to most share with our families at holidays and other special occasions but meet resistance with because of so many bad dishes that have come before.

Not that the dinner-style dishes are anything to ignore! We enjoyed several suppers from within its pages and I found the rundown of gluten-free flours and starches as well as the tips for traveling gluten-free as well as preventing cross-contamination in the home to be straightforward while avoiding being dull. It allows the reader to get up to speed and start cooking as fast as possible, and that’s definitely a good thing in my book! (pun totally intended)

Battered FIsh

Batter-Fried Fish (p.79)

Just because we watch what we eat, doesn’t mean a good old-fashioned indulgence isn’t called for from time to time. Such was the case with the Batter-Fried Fish for a fish and chips night. Among the different coatings we’ve tried over the last year this has been hands-down the best.

Grilled Mandarin Chicken Salad with Sweet and Sour Dressing

Grilled Mandarin Chicken Salad with Sweet-and-Sour Dressing (p.68)

A staple of American-style restaurants, Mandarin Chicken Salad is often fried. Everyday Gluten Free gives us a grilled version whose dressing more than makes up for the missing breading, even if you skip the Caramelized Almonds like we did.


Souvlaki (p.139)

Greek food is always a big hit in our house, so when I saw the Souvlaki recipe I knew it would end up on our table. The marinade is flavorful without being overpowering and the authors suggest serving it either over rice, as we did, or in corn tortillas. A little tzatziki sauce and you’d be good to go!

Scalloped Potatoes with a Twist

Scalloped Potatoes with a New Twist (p.123)

Going back to comfort food, scalloped potatoes can be a little ho-hum. This version uses stock instead of milk or cream and adds celery leaves for additional flavor. There was a slightly green tinge to the dish, but the flavor was outstanding.

Spinach Risotto

Spinach Risotto (p.125)

The only quibble I had with the Spinach Risotto was that it didn’t follow proper risotto technique. While I knew better, I followed their directions but needed to add more liquid slowly cooked in to achieve the correct al dente texture. The combination of carrots, spinach, and zucchini, though, was right-on, flavor-wise.

And for your holiday baking pleasure, give these decadent Triple-Threat Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies a try!

Triple-Threat Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Easy Everyday Gluten-Free Cooking


Makes 5 dozen

1 cup sorghum flour
2/3 cup whole bean flour*
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthum gum
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup shortening
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp instant coffee granules
2 eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

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Triple the pleasure, triple the fun–but who’s counting calories? These fudgy morsels are worth every bite!

1. In a large bowl or plastic bag, combine sorghum flour, whole bean flour, tapioca starch, baking soda, xanthum gum, salt and cocoa. Mix well and set aside.

2. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate, butter, shortening, water and coffee granules, uncovered, on Medium (50%) for 2 minutes. Stir until completely melted. Set aside to cool.

3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar and brown sugar for 3 minutes, until smooth. Add vanilla and cooled melted chocolate mixture. Slowly beat in the dry ingredients until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls 2 inches (5 cm) apart on prepared baking sheets. Let stand for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

4. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until set. Transfer to a cooling rack immediately.



Brunch: Because Breakfast is Good Anytime!

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

In the Road Trip home the rule of thumb is: when in doubt, breakfast–at least when we need one more dinner plan for the upcoming week.

There’s just so many options with breakfast, be it for lunch, dinner, or at it’s regularly scheduled hour, and they all have one thing in common: they’re delicious! So when we needed to let go of the tapas reception idea, what do we fall back on but brunch, of course.

Before we booked Honey Lake Plantation, I needed to make sure that they were truly going to fit into the budget and that included settling on a price per person for the meal. Since they didn’t have a brunch option as part of their wedding package, we got to come up with our own menu, following the example of one of their sample menus that was at the price point we wanted to be at (just under $20 per person).

1st Course
Spiced Butternut Squash Soup served with a Bacon-Wrapped Breadsticks

2nd Course
Quiche Lorraine with a Salad of Mixed Green and Seasonal Fruit

3rd Course
Country-Fried Steak, Buttermilk Biscuits and Pepper Gravy

The third course was thoroughly Mr. Road Trip’s idea, but I had no objections to it whatsoever. There’s nothing necessarily show-stopping about the menu, but that wasn’t  really the point. Breakfast and brunch always have a cozy, comfort-food vibe to them and I think our menu will really play to that strength and let the quality of ingredients speak for themselves.

And speaking of ingredients…

I’ve mentioned in passing that I have some pesky digestive issues, always have in one form or another–it’s actually a very common issue on my dad’s side, they just call it the “family stomach”–but they’ve usually just been a nuisance more than anything. Just something that you deal with.

Until last summer when on a business trip, aka out of my usual environment, and I got very sick and I realized just how often I felt ill and just how much that affected what I did or didn’t do on a given day. And then I realized that I had been getting progressively worse for a couple of years–hindsight and all that. It should also be noted that I have two specialists I see throughout the year and have full bloodwork done every 6 months, in addition to annual check-ups, and since 2 of my diagnoses fall under the “rare” category, you can believe I’m pretty well monitored. So we still came back to it was just IBS–the catch-all of tummy troubles and not much you can do about it.

What this has to do with the reception menu, is that I heard about some research from Australia on FODMAPs, and that there was a fairly simple diagnostic diet protocol to try to see if it helped. You basically eliminate the known trigger foods for a while to reduce symptoms, then challenge the different groups to see if the symptoms come back. I talked it over with Mr. Road Trip (since he cooks every other week it would affect him, too, so I needed him on board) and right after Thanksgiving I started the Elimination phase, and it worked!  A week and a half in and I was feeling amazing, and my gastro was thrilled I’d taken it upon myself (the research is just starting to take hold here in the US) to try it and that it was working.

Then I started the challenges and failed every. single. one of them.

Which means, that in order to not be sick every day, I need to avoid a really long list of very common (and very tasty!) foods. I already knew I was lactose-intolerant, but now I needed to be stricter about that along with cutting out wheat, onions, garlic, apples, pears, mushrooms, honey, agave nectar, broccoli, asparagus, beans and most legumes, and a whole host of other foods that, in general, are very healthy and, in the case of onion and garlic, in so many things.

Let me tell you, having worked in professional kitchens before, I was not looking forward to telling a chef–any chef!–that he couldn’t use onions or garlic in my food!

Thankfully, my plan of figuring all this out way ahead of time (the main reason I was willing to give up wheat, etc. just before Christmas!) and giving the Plantation a 6-month heads-up has worked out well. They are doing their level best to accommodate my multiple food intolerances and, in fact, I spoke with Chef Bill just the other day about how we were going to handle some items (I’d requested a proposed ingredient list for the menu, just to try to spot any issues ahead of time). After our talk I’m feeling much more confident that it will be safe for me to eat at my own wedding, and am really looking forward to our tasting this week!

Did you find yourself throwing a vendor a curve ball at the last minute?

Dining Out on a Low-FODMAP Diet


Hands-down, eating at home is the safest way to ensure compliance on any sort of restricted diet. But it’s not always the most fun, and sometimes you just plain want to go out and have someone else do the work.

Is that even possible on a Low-FODMAP diet? Absolutely.

Steak Toscano and Grilled Vegetables from Olive Garden

Steak Toscano and Grilled Vegetables from Olive Garden

Once you’ve finished the elimination and challenge phases (the diagnostic portion) of the diet, the only limitations are your personal trigger-foods, and everyone is going to be a little different in that respect, and there’s nothing that says you cannot have something that might cause you some upset, if you’re willing to accept the intestinal consequences. The more numerous your intolerances, the tougher it might be to find suitable items on the menu, but it’s far from impossible.

Plan Ahead Whenever Possible

If you know you’re meeting up with friends for a celebratory dinner on Friday night, check out the restaurants menu online (if possible), or give them a call a day or two ahead of time (in the late afternoon, before the dinner crowd comes in) and ask about any substitutions that might be available. There are plenty of websites and apps that keep track of allergy-friendly restaurants with star-ratings, reviews, and sometimes links to their menus. Some of the apps will even use the gps-locator to find restaurants in your vicinity–useful for when you’re travelling.

If reservations are required, that’s also a good time to bring up a restricted diet situation.

Chain Restaurants are Your Friend

As much as we love to support local, independent restaurants, we’ve found that the chains are usually better equipped to handle special-diet requests, as the corporate office is able to figure out and disseminate the needed information and ingredients. For instance, Panera has a “Hidden Menu” of gluten-free entrees (salads and egg bowls) that you can find on their website and request to order from at any store nationwide.  Olive Garden has gluten-free pastas available as well as items from their grill that are suitable for a low-FODMAP client. And Five Guys Hamburgers and Fries has a bunless ordering option that turns your choice of burger and toppings into a sort of patty salad that, frankly, is more tasty than it sounds!

A bunless Bacon Cheeseburger from Five Guys

A bunless Bacon Cheeseburger from Five Guys

That’s not to say that you won’t find local establishments willing to serve your needs, but when it doubt the chains can help you out.

Beware of Soups and Sauces

This is probably one of the tougher things to work around in a restaurant setting as soups and sauces are going to be pre-made in large batches (for the most part) and will likely have onion and garlic–common trigger-foods for people sensitive to fructans (also the family of FODMAPs that contain wheat). So while you might be able to get gluten-free pasta at an Italian restaurant, the sauce options might still prove problematic.

Dine at Non-Peak Times

Regardless of where you choose to eat, if you go during the dinner rush it’s going to be harder for the restaurant to accommodate your needs. Eating early or late, when the rush has died down and there’s more room to breathe in the kitchen, might make the chef more inclined to whip up something special for you. It can also help to become recognized regulars at one or two places–in the interest of keeping your steady business the staff will often go the extra mile.

Keep It Simple

As always, the less complex a dish the easier it will be to spot problematic ingredients. While it may not be the most exciting menu item, a simply grilled cut of salmon or steak will provide a satisfying supper with little chance of triggering an IBS episode (just watch out for marinades), especially when paired with a side of steamed vegetable and rice or a baked potato.

Unless you’re someplace like Applebee’s who doesn’t serve baked potatoes in the “morning times” (which, apparently, extends to at least 4pm as that was when we were ordering on Saturday).

The infamous House Salad from Olive Garden, sans onions, with oil and vinegar dressing.

The infamous House Salad from Olive Garden, sans onions, with oil and vinegar dressing.

And, when in doubt, almost every place has a house salad on the menu that can be topped with some sort of grilled protein. With oil and vinegar for a dressing you can eat least eat healthily if nothing else.

So the next time a group of friends is going out, do some homework and see if there’s a workable solution before you decline. Just because you’re on a restricted diet, doesn’t mean you have to live a restricted life.