Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mummy cupcakes

Cupcakes aren't just for kid's parties! They are a giant hit with adults as well!

I made these mummy cupcakes for work and a party and everyone loved them. These cupcakes are very easy to transform into a spooky Halloween treat. These were made gluten free and dairy free, much to the surprise of some of the eaters - they could not tell that anything was different!

To make, you need:
Baked, unfrosted, and cool cupcakes (I used a devil's food cake mix)
1 recipe of buttercream frosting (I used the Wilton classroom recipe with water, powdered sugar and Crisco)
Two decorating bags or freezer bags
No taste red icing coloring (or whatever color eyes you want for your mummy)
Decorating tip 104 for the white mummy wraps
Decorating tip 10 for the eyes
Coupler for your decorating bag
Sprinkles for the center of the eyes

Put about 1/4 cup of frosting into a small bowl. Using a toothpick, add about 2-3 "dips" of the red icing coloring and mix well. Add to a decorating bag with tip 10, using a coupler if you prefer

Put the rest of the frosting into the other decorating bag with tip 104, using a coupler if you prefer.

Pipe two eyes on the cupcake in red.
Then, using your white icing bag, pipe a circle around the edge of the cupcake. This will provide maximum mummy coverage.
Then pipe a large X below the eyes, making sure the wraps extend the entire width of the cupcake.
Continue piping wraps over the mummy.
For an extra spooky (and even creepy) effect, carefully place sprinkles in the center of the eyes.

Get creative! These had red eyes, per the request of the party host. In no time, you can have custom made cupcakes for Halloween! Making mummies was so easy - this project would be great for little hands as well!

Monday, October 24, 2011

GFDF Lasagna

Lasagna was the first dish I made for my family by myself. I always referred to the no-boil lasagna recipe my mom had clipped from a magazine and kept in the cabinet next to the spaghetti sauce. My small hands were great at layering the noodles, sauce, and cheese in the pan and putting in the oven. This was my most commonly repeated recipe growing up. I’m sure my mom loved it – “Michelle, can you make lasagna?” meant I went to work for five minutes, barely made a mess, and an hour later, a perfect lasagna would come out of the oven and out to the dinner table.

Dairy free lasagna? I thought it was going to be impossible, or at least a $50 dish. I’m fortunate to be able to tolerate goat and sheep cheeses in reasonable amounts, but spending $30 on specialty cheeses for one dish is too much of a hit on my budget.

And gluten and dairy free lasagna? I may as well give up. But gluten free lasagna noodles exist for a reason, right?

My lasagna is a mash up of this recipe from Glutenfreechops.blogspot and the Engine 2 vegan lasagna with tofu ricotta.

The tofu ricotta was simply made with two blocks of extra firm silken tofu, honey, apple cider vinegar and salt mashed together with a fork.

I cooked 2 medium sized sweet potatoes and then mashed them with my electric hand mixer.

The noodles (I used the entire 8 oz package of Maplegrove Gluten Free Foods Inc's brown rice pasta lasagna) were cooked with the Glutenfreechops hint borrowed from The College Housewife. My secret to prevent the noodles from sticking together? Add some olive oil to the water first. I had no issues!

I browned some ground beef mixed with some Italian seasonings and drained it. Then I sautéed some sliced zucchini and diced onions and red peppers with salt, pepper, and some more seasonings.

In my Corning Ware casserole dish, I placed some olive oil on the bottom and then laid out three pieces of lasagna. I poured my store bought basil spaghetti sauce on top and layered in mashed sweet potatoes, beef, tofu ricotta, and more noodles until my ingredients were almost used up. The last bits of spaghetti sauce and tofu went on top and the dish (with the glass lid on) went into the 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. For the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking, I took the lid off to brown the tofu.

This definitely wasn’t my mom’s lasagna recipe. I think I used almost a whole dishwasher’s worth of dishes and pans and bowls making this. But the lasagna was heavenly. My first bite made me forget that I even had food intolerances. I was able to make a delicious gluten and dairy free lasagna without ruining my budget and made it guilt-free with the extra veggies. My lasagna made about 8 servings – some more is already packed away in the freezer for the next time my lasagna cravings hit!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


After a long work week, I wanted to treat myself to a nice dinner. Earlier in the month, I bought a groupon for a Japanese restaurant in my former neighborhood (I recently moved five blocks away - nothing major.) Making my way to the restaurant, I noticed how many places that were very accommodating to the gluten and dairy free diet - Italian, Indian, Mexican, and even the little grocery store where I was once asked where I was since I hadn't been in there for a month. One of the only restaurants left to try was a Japanese one.

The trick when dining out is having confidence. (More of my tricks are here.) I was going to be eating alone, which required confidence in myself on a different level. At home and work, I was used to eating in front of a computer. Now, I was going to be detached from the glare of a computer screen (my eyes were thankful) and instead enjoy good food with the company of a good magazine. After I was seated, I handed my waitress my Thai dining card from Triumph Dining and said that I was allergic to gluten (often I will say "allergic" rather than "intolerant" to place a little more weight on my requests). Apologizing that I did not have a Japanese card (I somehow lost it), the waitress thankfully said that she
was Thai so the card was perfect for the situation. She was able to read the information in Thai and took it back to the kitchen. Many of the sushi rolls also contained cream cheese so I was left to explain my dairy intolerance (no cheese, milk, butter, dairy but yes to coconut milk). They used imitation crab meat in the rolls I wanted, so that was going to be left out from my order. In the end, I ordered endamame (my absolute favorite - the saltiness of the hot vegetable sliding through my teeth is heavenly), rainbow rolls, shrimp rolls and asparagus rolls. I noticed the elegant wood chopsticks and had to politely ask for disposable chopsticks (the "cross contamination is everywhere" paranoia was kicking in and I was not taking any chances). This was a great confidence boost for me - I was able to accurately and effectively express my needs and have a safe, delicious, and very filling meal. I even tried new things (one of my first times consciously eating shrimp - I'm not a fan) and enjoyed treating myself to a dinner out. (Another secret to dining out gluten free with sushi? San-J soy sauce travel packs - I've seen them at Dominick's.)

Today after church, a friend and I wanted to catch up over lunch. He parked near Argyle and we were headed towards a tried and true restaurant where I had great service in the past. A brand new Thai noodle place caught our eye (there can be a lot of restaurant turnover in the area) and we decided to check it out. An empty restaurant translated into less stress over explaining my needs as our server was not juggling me and dozens of other guests. Before even opening my menu, I showed the server my card and she took it back to the kitchen. The curry dish seemed appetizing and it is my go-to when dining out Thai style - the coconut milk sauce is deliciously dairy-free and curry typically does not have soy sauce or noodles (in my experience). After taking my order back to the kitchen, the server reappeared and said that they could not guarantee that my food was gluten free. For some things, they did not know what ingredients went in them. That was a huge disappointment because there is a Thai grocery store in almost every other building that are loaded with fresh vegetables, packaged spices, and cans of coconut milk. This was not going to be as effortless as my sushi the night before. I asked if they could just cook some vegetables in oil and place on top of rice for me. The waitress (bless her heart), must have gone from our table to the kitchen half a dozen times before I was given a piece of paper that said "Dear Miss, Can you please write down what you can have. Can you have salt?" I wrote down rice, a list of vegetables cooked in oil, beef cooked in oil, and yes to the salt. Keep it simple. My order finally came out - a generous mound of rice with a large helping of broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, peas, carrots, and corn sauteed in oil on the side. I took a San-J soy sauce packet from my purse and called it a meal. Was it the best thing I ever ate? Hardly. Was I bummed that the kitchen didn't just create a dish like previous chefs have? Yes. Did I still tip well? Of course. Ultimately, this time the point of going out was to enjoy time with a friend and we accomplished just that.

This weekend marked three years since my appendectomy, when my dairy and gluten food intolerances were "turned on". At that time, did I picture that I would be quizzing waitresses on their sauces or be mindful of cross contamination and what touched wheat and then touched my food? Never. But I also never pictured that I would even have the confidence to be trying shrimp while eating sushi at a restaurant alone. I'm thankful that my food intolerances have shaped me into a more adventurous (but still cautious) diner.