Recipe: DIY Starbucks Kale + Veggie Salad

*First of all, congratulations to Carolyn, winner of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird! Thank you to everyone who signed up for my newsletter. If you haven’t signed up yet, go now! I’m choosing winners at random from my entire email subscription list.

Next up to give away is Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, a clever and entertaining book filled anecdotes about his life interspersed with practical advice.

onwriting

I had it in my collection for years, but for some reason it took me almost a decade to pick it up. Big mistake. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re in for a treat. 

The results of this random drawing will be posted here and on Writing at the Table on Tuesday, December 23rd.

Now for the post…

During the thirteen years I lived in Brooklyn, I never went to Starbucks. Why would I? I lived in the land of Quirky Cool Coffee Shops (that’s a direct quote from the linked article, by the way, I’m not trying to be a snob), and besides, the closest Starbucks was too far of a walk.

But I love writing in cafes, and the closest one to me in Brooklyn was a little sliver of a cafe called Steeplechase, which had the most delicious cinnamon chip scones (alas, not gluten free). I used to go there once a week when my son had a sitter. 

When we moved to New Hope, I knew I’d have to find a place to write. Sure, I had a whole house instead of a tiny apartment, but the thing is, I like the background noise of coffee shops. Plus, I love coffee.

I tried seeking out a cute little independent shop, but seating was a problem. The local Starbucks, however, has some rather comfy armchairs. And did you know they now offer a blonde (light) roast? It’s pretty tasty and far less intense than their dark roasts. Just my personal preference because I know plenty of people who can’t get enough of their regular sludge, I mean coffee.

Anyway, I was also pleased to see that they added some healthy and hearty food options to their menu. Including this awesome salad, which to my knowledge is gluten free (though not labeled as such):

starbucks kale salad

(Yes, it’s sitting on my dashboard because I was too hungry to take it home for a proper photo shoot.)

So, after buying it several times, I decided to make it myself. It’s a bit labor intensive, but it makes a week’s worth of lunches (unless someone in your household steals half of them…)

DIY Kale, Brown Rice + Roasted Veggie Bowl

IMG_3999

For the recipe, head over to Writing at the Table

Tropical Blueberry Smoothie

Ah, Vitamix, you Christian Louboutin of blenders…

I heard the rumors. I read the blog posts. But I ignored them. I avoided recipes that required liquifying kale. Instead I worked my decade old Cuisinart into the ground and dreamt about making smoothies that didn’t have green bits floating inside of them. Then one day something arrived at my doorstep…

No, not Little Guy.

vitamixIt all started when I left my kids with their dad and mine to attend a day long writer’s conference at Rosemont College. While I spent the day luxuriating in writerly stuff, my family spent the afternoon in Target where they were wooed by a Vitamix demonstration. Frozen desserts, green smoothies, ice cream, hot soup. Apparently it was quite the exhibition because they couldn’t stop talking about it.

Then my dad came to visit a few days later with one in the back of his car. WOW. I was totally shocked, in no way expecting such a generous gift.

So, of course I made him a smoothie right away. A green one.

first smoothie

The best part was that Little Guy loved it. In fact, he insisted on drinking the rest of ours.

lg drinking

Life with the Vitamix has been pretty fab. Especially the clean up. Not even kidding. It’s so easy! You may remember me complaining about the torture of having to scrub out the Cuisinart crevices, which made me less likely to use it. The awesome thing about the Vitamix is that it cleans itself (sort of). You add warm water and a dash of soap, give it a crazy whirl, and bam, done. (Unless you make something very sticky or oily, but still, you get a head start with the self cleaning.)

Not a big deal to clean. Srsly.

Not a big deal to clean. Srsly.

What we’ve learned so far: As a Vitamix novice, it’s best to follow a recipe. At least until you get the hang of it. Now I’m able to play more, but in the beginning, every time we (as in my husband, a notorious rule breaker) tried to wing it, disaster ensued. It was too watery, too thick, weird texture (pear issues), or just plain gross (carrot + pear + cinnamon + ice = yuck).

Luckily, Vitamix gives you a huge binder filled with recipes, plus there’s a recipe finder on the website.

Two weeks in, we’re practically experts. Here is my debut recipe, which you absolutely do NOT need a Vitamix to make. Use your blender or Cuisinart. You may need to slightly thaw your fruit first since less powerful machines can’t pulverize frozen stuff without busting up. I know this from experience, unfortunately.

Final thought/warning: the Vitamix is crazy loud. Like, terrifyingly loud. The first time I put mine on the Smoothie cycle I literally thought it was going to launch itself into space. Luckily, it didn’t.

Tropical Blueberry Smoothie

Tropical blueberry smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 heaping cup yogurt (full fat will make a thicker shake, fyi)
  • 1 ripe banana (frozen or not)
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh pineapple

This recipe is kid approved. And super healthy. Bunky drank hers down in seconds. She was unfazed by the fact that there is NO added sugar. Not even a drop of honey. And that’s a pretty big deal considering she has a serious sweet tooth.

*If you have a high powered blender, you may need to add ice if most of your fruit is room temperature. Nothing less exciting than a lukewarm smoothie. But that could just be me.

If using a Vitamix, add liquids first, then soft fruit, and frozen stuff last. I put mine on Smoothie cycle. If you need to tweak it, feel free to add more fruit/yogurt/water/ice as needed and hit the cycle again.

Bird's eye view.

Then drink it up quick before your kid tries to steal the rest of yours.

bunky pink smoothie

Do you have any favorite Vitamix/blender smoothie recipes? If so, please share! I’m seriously addicted. Next up: homemade chocolate almond butter, YUM.

Gluten Free Rainbow Birthday Cake

We’re on. It’s cake time.

Finally! The post you’ve been waiting for. The one I neglected in order to write this and this. Ah, relief. No more deep thoughts (for now).

So. Roll up your sleeves, because it’s going to get messy. And time consuming. And kind of pricey. Also, seriously unhealthy. It’s time for…

gf rainbow cake special

Your hands will get dirty, or, at the very least, dyed a vivid pink hue not found in nature. If my daughter could dye all of her food this color, she totally would:

Upper left corner. The best color ever.

Upper left corner. The best color ever.

The seed for a rainbow layer cake began over a year ago when I saw this gorgeous concoction on April Peveteaux’s fab site, Gluten Is My Bitch. I had NO idea such a thing existed, but apparently it was big on Pinterest back then. I was intrigued, but scared. Seemed like a LOT of work. So I stuck with a simple (ish) but decadent double chocolate cake for Bunky’s 5th birthday party. It was gluten, nut, egg free, and AWESOME.

fifth gluten free bday cake

But this year I was ready. A kick-ass rainbow cake seemed a perfect match for Bunky’s art-themed party and my rainbow loving girl.

Gluten Free Rainbow Birthday (or any day) Cake

What You Need:

  • 3 boxes of gluten free cake mix (I used Cherrybrook Farms Yellow Cake mix) – plus whatever mix-ins it requires: oil, eggs, etc.
  • 2-3 circular cake pans, springform is easier but not totally necessary, I used 10-inch but could use 8-inch for a smaller circular cake
  • approximately 6 containers* of Betty Crocker or Duncan Heinz vanilla frosting, or homemade if you prefer, or for dairy free try this recipe
  • AmeriColor Soft Gel Paste Food Color – I bought the junior kit on amazon, but you can really use whatever dye you’d like, but the gel color is REALLY vivid. Also, this brand is gluten AND nut free (and kosher), woo hoo!
  • parchment paper or nonstick spray or butter to grease pans (I used spray with our springform pans, but if you’re using regular cake pans I would suggest lining them with parchment AND greasing to make sure you can get those skinny cakes out)
  • help in the form of childcare, partner support, and/or sous chefs, maybe some wine
  • patience of a saint doesn’t hurt

* When it comes to buying tubs of frosting, you can get a combo of the Whipped Vanilla kind, which is great to spread over the finished and assembled cake stack. But for in between each layer, we suggest using Regular Vanilla because the Whipped texture might be too airy and squishy to go between. You don’t want the layers to collapse together. My sous chef husband pointed this out and he was totally right. Thanks honey.

Getting It Done:

1. Prepare cake pans by spraying and/or lining them. If you’re not using springforms, line with parchment and grease. If using springform, nonstick spray or butter liberally.

2. Preheat oven and then prepare the THREE box mixes as directed. I started with only two Cherrybrook Farm mixes (why I followed the gluten Betty Crocker recipe and not April’s is beyond me) and divided them up into 6 bowls, weighed them with my kitchen scale (yes, I’m an anal dork), dyed the crap out of them, before realizing it wasn’t enough to cover the bottom of my 10-inch cake pans. So, I had to send my husband out for another box. Do yourself a favor and buy three boxes upfront unless you get secret pleasure out of making your partner run extra errands. No judgement here.

3. Divide into 6 bowls (or how many layers you want). Like I said above, I used a kitchen scale because you want each layer to be the same size, but you could also just use measuring cups.

bday cake prep

4. Here’s the fun part: adding color! A little squeeze of gel goes a long way, so be warned. Bunky and I both loved the hot pink. Little Guy went nuts over the blue and green.

My adorable little baking assistant.

Behold my adorable little baking assistant.

bday cake prep bunky

5. Start the cooking process. I had six cake pans, but we cooked two at a time (in 3 separate sessions) because our oven cooks unevenly on the different racks. If you can squeeze in three, go for it. But use your discretion. My sous chef, aka Husband, did the dirty work here. He spread the batter in the pans and was in charge of the cooking, cooling, and releasing.

Rainbow cakes take a village. Or at least a helpful husband.

Rainbow cakes take a village. Or a helpful husband.

We cooked ours for about 6-7 minutes (it’s a thin cake, remember) but our oven is like Hades hot, so again, you may want to check your cakes starting at 6 minutes but it could take a bit longer. Don’t overcook, though, because that takes away a bit of color.

And please make sure the cakes are FULLY cooled before releasing or (gently) prying them out. You don’t want to damage the goods.

bday cake cooling

Cooked cakes just chilling by the windowsill.

6. Now for assembly. Again, my sous chef was in charge here. He likes doing the detail work and I like when he does it. But the birthday girl was the cake designer, with very specific instructions as to the order of colors. She went against the whole ROY G BIV color scheme which I know made my (OCD) husband a bit nuts, but hey, it was her day.

bunky cake designer

Like I mentioned earlier, we used a combo of Whipped and Regular Vanilla frosting. Regular for between the layers, and Whipped for the outer layer (because it goes on smoother and faster).

Taken before the final frost. My husband was out buying MORE tubs. Srsly.

This pic was taken before the final frost. My husband was out buying MORE. Srsly.

7. Then top that sucker with whatever you want – we went for an easy and crowd pleasing route: sprinkles.

bday sprinkles

But you could try this gorgeous insanity that I contemplated for about twenty seconds:

makdoodle rainbow cake

But seriously, sprinkles are a sure thing. Don’t make it harder than it has to be. Unless you want to.

Finished product, please excuse the candle indentations.

Finished product. Please ignore the candle indentations. Forgot to take a pic with them.

The cake was a HUGE success, and so was the very sweet art party. But let’s talk about the cake!

gluten free rainbow cake slice

Every kid devoured it. Even the one boy who told me ahead of time that he doesn’t like cake. I promised that I wouldn’t make him eat it. But when he saw it he gestured me over. “I’ll take a small piece,” he said. And then he ate the entire thing, crumbs included.

Cake anticipation!

Cake anticipation! Everyone is very excited.

My sweet 6 year old birthday girl. It was a wonderful party.

Our six year old birthday girl.

bunky eating cake

Little Guy inhaled his entire slice.

It was a great party.

Me and my girl. (And Little Guy’s legs.) It was a great party.

bunky artHappy Birthday to my dear girl, who loved decorating her butterfly wings surrounded by her friends. She is growing her own secret wings, and one day she will fly away from me, but not yet.

opening gifts

 

Shared on the fabulous Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten Free Friday link up. Click the badge below for more awesome GF recipes and tidbits.

gf friday badge

How I Write, or, Pulling a Blog Post Out of My…

beginnings

I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes kind of girl. The whole peeking around the curtain thing is exciting (please don’t read into that line, this is a family blog). I’m talking about the process, people. The artistic process.

Writing can be such a solitary practice. By nature it has to be, unless you’re one of those collaborators (lucky you). But for most of us hunched-over-screens-all-across-the-globe kind, it’s solo stuff. Which makes it doubly more fantastic to read behind-the-scenes about writers.

That’s probably why I’m totally enamored by this Writing Process series that I discovered over at one of my favorite blogs, via one of those “blog hops.” (WARNING: rambling sidebar happening now – I’m sorry, but I have a hard time getting behind the “hop” name, since for me it conjures up such a bizarre juxtaposition of frogs, bunnies, and 50s dances. But moving along…)

Inspired by this, “hop” I decided to write a bit about my own practice. Specifically, my blogging practice, because my fiction one varies, as you might expect. I’m more flexible and fancy free with blogging, which may or may not be a good thing.

So, here’s the thing about me:

I’ve never been much of a planner. In writing or life in general. I’m more of an instinct girl. Inspiration turns me on (again, not in that way, come on!). I feel a stirring, sense a seed (WHOA, no terrible puns unintended, I swear) and I go with it. Sometimes I fall on my face, other times I soar.

Like right now I’m thinking the above paragraph is a bit of a face plant, but I’m leaving it since time is of the essence. Which, ultimately, leads us to my biggest challenge in writing ANYTHING:

I have no time.

Seriously. Sometimes I don’t even let myself pee. Well, not until it’s a real emergency anyhow. I forget to eat, shower, and brush my teeth because I’m often too busy feeding, bathing, and brushing everyone else’s teeth (not my husband’s, just to clarify).

mom humor

Since I don’t have time to pee, I don’t have much time to do anything else.

So how do I write blog posts (let alone anything else)? Well. To clarify, when I say “no” time, I really mean extremely limited, and when it occurs, it can be interrupted at any moment. I write when Little Guy naps and Bunky’s at school. Both have to happen at the same time. I write when I have a babysitter, which is for about three hours one morning a week. I occasionally write at night after I wrestle LG into bed – but sometimes this doesn’t happen until 10pm. Not even kidding about that.

For example, right now it’s early evening and I’m writing this while Bunky takes a shower and Little Guy is dancing to the Frozen soundtrack. I’m standing in a corner of the kitchen (where I can see LG out of the corner of my eye since we live in an apartment) so he doesn’t see the computer because if he does, he’ll want to watch Frozen videos on it, or play Thomas the Train games (torture). Right now he’s asking me to help him because he’s spinning in circles and threatening to fall into the train table.

Thirty minutes later… okay, I’m back. It’s mere seconds until the bedtime bomb explodes so this will be brief. I quit earlier so I could dance with my two-year-old son to “Let it Go” while we both belted it out, in pale comparison to Idina Menzel’s version, but rather adorably if I say so myself.

Yet, you can see how the time thing is not on my side.

So, here’s what I do. Here’s the HOW.

I write in PIECES. A little here, a little there. It can take me weeks to write a post. Some days it’s all I can do to upload some photos.

What also helps is to THINK about my posts in advance. I do some of my best thinking in the shower (maybe because I’m alone?! Though not recently since LG has become a shower-addict). I think when I’m waiting for Bunky at school pick-up, when LG is falling asleep. Thinking helps. I can formulate my ideas, take notes on my phone, maybe even think out loud. Ever see a woman pushing a stroller talking out loud to HERSELF? Might be me. Some posts are written entirely in my head first.

It’s a piece-meal process that took some getting used to. In my early blogging days (as in almost 3 years ago!) I used to get a little OCD about finishing. I’d start a blog post and feel this NEED to finish it. And when forced, inevitably, to stop, I’d get upset. I quickly realized I’d have to change my ‘tude because my life was not going to be changing any time soon. Interruption is a parenting byproduct. To get upset by it is futile and exhausting. So, I got used to it. I started to expect it. Knowing it may take a dozen (more or less – this post took exactly 12!) little moments to make up one post, makes it easier to put the computer away when I have to.

Now, there are some times when I have a chunk of time – when the sitter comes and during LG’s naps. He will sleep at least an hour, maybe two, and sometimes if the stars are aligned, three (!). Something Bunky NEVER did, so I really and truly treasure and appreciate his nap times. I try to squeeze out every single minute of them. For writing. Dishes, laundry, and sadly, dinner planning often get sidelined. Sorry, but I have my priorities.

LG sweeping laundry

Yup. He’s “sweeping” the laundry.

When I have my block o’ time the best thing I can do is PLAN AHEAD. Meaning, THINK AHEAD. If I think about what I want to write about, what I’d like to accomplish – be it finishing a blog post or a scene in my novel – I am better equipped at making it happen. If I force myself NOT to go online (not for email, not for research if possible), I am more productive. If I make an effort NOT to look at my phone for vital texts (I don’t actually get vital texts, but sometimes I forget this), I get more done. When time is of the essence, you do all you can not to waste it. I spent a good decade or more putzing around the computer, with entire DAYS at my disposal, and even though my time is so incredibly limited (in comparison), I might actually be writing more. Crazy, but true.

It seems obvious in retrospect that this blog, Aliventures, should have made my Top 10+ list, but here are two great posts by this lovely UK writer who is also a mom. The first is about making the most of your writing time. Along the lines of what I wrote, but without all the rambling. Second, this inspiring post about whether to call yourself a writer when you’re not writing. I definitely could’ve benefited from reading this when I was too exhausted by new motherhood to think about writing, and feeling crappy because of it.

So, go forth and write (or not). Write in long luxurious stretches, or short choppy ones. Write while “hiding” in your kitchen, or compose gorgeous prose while you shower or go for a run. Steal a few minutes to jot down some notes when your boss isn’t around or your kids are watching TV.

Please, share your tips and tricks for getting those words to appear. Despite the chaos of life. I’d love to hear them.

 

Happy Chinese Gluten New Year

I have about a million things to tell you, but no time to do it. Between getting back on my play date game (which I was never on, apparently) and researching play schools for Little Guy (which he says have to be “blue”), I have had about zero time to update.

Fancy play date picnic.

What snacks look like when I’m on my play date A game. Of course this only happened once.

In my spare time (i.e. LG’s naps) I’m attempting to edit my novel AND take an online real estate course. By the time LG passes out at 10pm (yes, because of the long and vitally important naps) my brain is completely zapped. I’m lucky if I can stay up long enough to watch the last season of Breaking Bad, which I’m woefully behind on (no spoilers please) and gives me nightmares. I kind of wish I never started the show. It’s like a train wreck, and I can’t look away even though I really want to. At least there’s Jesse.

One of the many stretches of the show's imagination.

One of the show’s many far fetched concepts.

Anyway… another thing that kept me and my brain busy recently was Bunky’s first class trip of the year, which happened to be a celebration of Chinese New Year… at a Chinese restaurant. UGH. Sure, they have rice noodles. But most are doused in GLUTEN. I kind of freaked about this for a while. Why do class trips have to be food related? And not just food related, but completely food focused. What about kids with food restrictions, life threatening allergies, celiac? Why not take the kids to a museum or an indoor play space? But no. It had to be Chinese food.

Unfortunately, it wasn't to Lilli and Loo, the only GF chinese I've heard of.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to Lilli and Loo, which apparently has great GF options.

I had planned on making Bunky a similar menu including lo mein, but ended up giving her leftover baked ziti (always better the second day, B says and it’s true), chicken noodle soup, and GF fried rice similar to this recipe. Dessert was Turkey Hill Vanilla (GF – I called ahead and checked online), so at least I didn’t have to worry about that. Or so I thought. More on that in a bit. Here’s a clue:

Ours was not GF, obvs.

Ours was not gluten free, obvs.

Backtracking a bit, when my husband and I first heard about this trip, we were both angry and deflated. Angry about the concept, deflated that our kid might feel left out – again. We debated about not sending her to school that day. We considered giving her a choice. But neither felt right. She’d definitely feel left out if she didn’t go, right? And I don’t want her to think opting out is the automatic response

Food related activities and celebrations will be part of her life forever, and she has to learn how to navigate them, not hide from them. But I realize now how important it is that I don’t hide from them. That I teach her how she can enjoy these events. That they may be challenging at times, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid them.

Homemade brown fried rice is way healthier anyhow.

Homemade fried rice is way healthier anyhow.

And so I worked my butt off to make the trip a success, to help her feel included, amid all the oohs and ahhs over the fragrant egg rolls, fried wontons, shrimp dumplings, lo mein, and fried rice.

Sometimes being GF can feel a little lonesome.

Sometimes being GF can feel a little lonesome.

I used my best British accent when serving her our food, grabbed a soup bowl and spoon before they could gluten-ize it, and kept an eye out for flying crumbs and roving gluten-y fingers. The kids are her table were sweet, and I kept an eye out for their needs as well, but mostly my attention was on Bunky. It paid off. She had fun, I think.

She ate everything I brought, and we donated some extra soup to a friend.

She ate everything I brought, and then we donated some extra soup to a grateful friend.

I feel like I was pretty chill during the whole thing, except for one teensy weensy moment at the very end when the waiters brought out trays of gluten free vanilla ice cream in plastic cups… with gluten fortune cookies on top. I might have said, “Oh shit” but I’m not sure. I leapt out of my seat and asked for a plain ice cream. One waiter tried to pry the cookie off and hand the cup to me, but I said no.

Luckily, I had packed some Lucy’s allergy free cookies in my bag, just in case. So while Bunky waited for her uncontaminated ice cream, she happily munched on a cookie. Then I used the rest of the cookies to make her a gluten free ice cream sandwich. Score.

Lucys-Cookies1

Loving the new Snack and Go combo packs!

She was also thrilled with my stop at the local Hello Kitty store. (Oh holy moly, the store was AWESOME.)

I easily could have bought way, way more.

I easily could have bought way, way more cute stuff.

All in all, it was a success. Not every event will go so seamlessly, but it’s nice that this first one did.

Up next (as in tomorrow) – first sleepover. Say WHAT?!

(Luckily my sweet little homebody will be coming home in the evening. At least that gets me out of figuring out breakfast. Geez.)

Hopefully soon I’ll be able to work on the recipe posts currently simmering in my brain. There’s GF gnocchi (not homemade), one pot dinners, and Risi Bisi, a rice cooker dream.

How do you handle non GF friendly events and outings? Do you bring your own food, eat beforehand, or skip it all together? If your kid has celiac or a gluten intolerance, how do you help him or her feel included?

Gluten Free Philadelphia Family Style

When Little Guy was just five months old, we went to Philadelphia for a long weekend. This was just a month after we FLEW to Florida to see my husband’s grandparents. The ironic thing is that this was both kids’ first flights – Bunky at age almost 4, Little Guy 4 months. 

My baby asleep on me en route to Florida.

LG asleep on me en route to Florida.

Looking back, I’m amazed at our bold travel plans with a picky and GF toddler (she was not yet four) and an infant, considering we didn’t leave our home for about a year after Bunky as born. Then again, let’s not forget about colic. Enough said.

Anyway, we had such a great time in Philadelphia that first time, we decided to go again over Bunky’s recent holiday break. One of the reasons we love Philly so much, besides the awesome Please Touch Me children’s museum, which now has a GF menu in their cafe, yay!

Hanging out with the birds by the clothesline.

Hanging out with the birds by the clothesline.

Playing some serious doctor.

Playing some serious doctor.

Little Guy, too. He really loves babies.

Little Guy really loves babies.

… and the Franklin Institute (I just love that giant beating heart), is because the city is literally crawling with gluten free dining options. There’s even a place to get a gluten free Philly Cheesesteak, because of course.

All that positive stuff said, let me be honest here – it’s HARD traveling away from home with a celiac kiddo and a GF family. Partly because we had to rely almost entirely on take-out – something we RARELY do at home. One thing I would do differently next time is find a hotel with a kitchenette. We had a fridge in our room, which helped a lot, but it wasn’t enough. Maybe because I didn’t bring enough food.

Sure, I packed cheese (2 types), a loaf of Udi’s bread, bags of pretzels (3 kinds), Pirate’s Booty (2 bags), apples, bananas, grapes, pouches of toddler food, nuts, dried cranberries, raisins (yogurt covered and plain), cereal (Honey Puffins and Koala Crisp), almond butter, and more stuff I can’t recall.

I packed about double this.

I packed at least double this. amount

I’m laughing as I type this because about ten seconds ago I genuinely believed that I didn’t bring enough, and yet – YET – clearly, there is NEVER enough. I forgot hummus and Temptee cream cheese (oh the horror! Bunky is not a fan of the city’s own brand), plus we ran out of fruit very fast. The fact is, when you have no way to cook anything, your packed stash disappears quickly. Maybe next time we’ll hit a grocery store mid way through, but that would’ve been a bit crazy considering we were only away for three days.

Thankfully there was a Starbucks in the lobby, and even though I’m a Dunkin’ Donuts girl at heart, I would have perished without my morning coffee, and they also sold fruit, yogurt, and travel size Rice Chex. Score!

I’d like to say my husband and I handled the food stress gracefully. That we laughed off Bunky’s refusal to eat eggs (eggs!?!? the only GF food on the hotel breakfast menu besides yogurt and fruit) and the fact that we were all starving by lunchtime and had to rush back to the hotel for LG’s nap while simultaneously trying to Google map the nearest GF pizza place. All this during a BLIZZARD. Plus arctic temperatures.

So, no, we didn’t handle it gracefully. Have I ever mentioned my husband’s genetic disposition to extreme grumpiness and borderline personality disorder when hungry?

angry face square

This is an understatement.

Have I ever mentioned mine?

Things took a grim turn the second night. Little Guy’s nap was extra late, and by the time he woke it was dark and the weather was a mess. After exhausting our research abilities and snapping at each other, my husband decided to order room service for us (which we tried to make GF, but I wouldn’t bet on it) and the kids ate scraps. Ha. Leftover pizza and our own food stash, but still, it was not ideal.

We survived though, and along the way found some new favorite GF places, plus revisited (several times) Franklin Fountain, an adorable and delicious old-fashioned ice cream shop. Yes, we ate ice cream in ten degree weather. Inside, though, which makes it okay.

Below is a list of the GF places that worked for us. There are about a bazillion more, which you can glimpse here.

[A quick disclaimer: Though I called ahead and checked the GF status of the following places, this is not a 100% guarantee that they will be safe for you, so you may want to do your own double checking.]

Giorgio On Pine … They have a gluten free menu and when my husband spoke to the chef during our first visit, she was well versed in gluten free safety and celiac disease. We felt very comfortable ordering from there. But not eating there, since it’s too nice and intimate of a place to bring two kids under five (in our opinion). Besides, one of our sweetest memories from our last trip was eating Giorgio on Pine’s pasta on the windowsill of our hotel room. So we did it again.

Window service. Freezing but fun.

Window service. Freezing but fun.

The pasta we ordered was Schar, and you can’t go wrong with that, but Bunky was not a big fan of the pizza, made with Still Riding brand dough. It was fine, but nothing compared to the pizza from…

Slice (oh my god, seriously delicious) … This might have been some of the BEST gluten free pizza I’ve ever had. No joke. I would totally be their best customer if they opened up a shop in Brooklyn. (Please, please!) It also passed Bunky’s very strict approval process. Phew!

Franklin Fountain … We went here twice in arctic temperatures to eat ice cream. Do I need to say more?

Thumbs up to vanilla shakes with lots of vanilla bean bits.

Thumbs up to vanilla shakes and ice cream with lots of vanilla bean bits.

This is what LG looked like waking from his nap.

This is LG wondering, where is my take-out chocolate shake?

Oh yeah, the chocolate shake was a big hit.

Now, that’s the way to wake up from a nap.

Well, yes, I do. They also opened a brand new vanilla for Bunky AND disinfected their ice cream scoop BEFORE making hers. Awesome. Plus, the employees wear these cute old-fashioned caps and aprons. Plus, they sell lots of old-fashioned candy.

Xochitl … This adorable little Mexican restaurant in Old City, Society Hill has great ambiance and delicious food. Oh, and fantastic margaritas. Thank goodness we went at 5:30 and were the first table, because Little Guy was climbing all over me and using his outside voice. But our waitress was SO nice and helpful, not only about the GF menu (pretty much everything was GF!) but also with my kids. I really can’t say enough how much I appreciate when wait staff is genuinely loving towards children.

Soy Cafe … This place seriously SAVED our lives on our way out of Philly. We were all hungry and cranky (shocking) plus a little bit sad to be leaving the city of brotherly love. Our food stash was seriously compromised. As in gone. We told a not very pleased Bunky we were getting eggs at a cool sounding place called, Green Eggs Cafe, but when we arrived there was a line out the door. Crap, we had forgotten it was Sunday. As parents of a celiac kid we had completely forgotten about the existence of brunch (so sad). Doh. My husband pulled the car over and I happened to glance out the window and saw this:

soy cafe

I just had a feeling we were golden. Soy practically means gluten free, right? Well, in this case it did! They have a hugely extensive menu filled with fresh juices, smoothies, salads, veggies, hummus, eggs, wraps, soups (including GF miso, yum!), plus gluten free muffins (banana chip, I mean, really how did they know?!) and hot chocolate, which I had promised the kids. I HIGHLY recommend dropping by if you ever find yourself in the area. The online reviews are all raves, too, so it wasn’t just a case of dire desperation. Soy Cafe truly rocks!

Now, you can’t hit everything, especially not in only three days. We didn’t get to Taffet’s this time (formerly Totes Bakery) which has a FANTASTIC stash of breads, baked goods and specialty GF foods, or to Pasanos’s, which sells delicious sounding Italian sandwiches on GF rolls (purchased from their neighbor, Taffet’s). Or the vegan bakery, Sweet Freedom, or about a dozen other places that sounded great.

Fortunately, there’s always next year.

Have you been to Philly recently? What are your favorite GF places there? 

Gluten Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

chocolate pic

In my home, it’s hard to bake anything without chocolate. I see recipes on Pinterest for lovely looking lemon vanilla sugar cookies and gorgeously frosted banana maple donuts, but I don’t make them. My family demands chocolate. Even Little Guy, who is not yet two, bites the chocolate chip off the top of his mini pumpkin muffin first and then goes rooting around for more. 

So when it comes to pumpkin season, which everyone knows is now (unless you live under a rock) I automatically add chocolate to my recipes, with the exception of pumpkin pie, which incidentally no one in my family enjoys but me. I thought this pumpkin + chocolate thing was universal, but after doing some reading on foodie blogs, it seems not everyone agrees.

They go so naturally together, don't you think?

They go so naturally together, don’t you think?

This recipe could go either way, but since my family demands chocolate that’s the route I take. You could skip it and frost with some decadent cream cheese frosting, or squirt some inside like the recipe I adapted mine from does, but that goes against one of my daughter’s very strict food rules, which I learned about the hard way a few years back after an unfortunate vomiting episode: cream cheese should never be sweet. Hence, the chocolate. 

No matter how you swing it, this recipe is a keeper. I made these a few weeks ago while trying to stock up on healthy school breakfasts before Bunky started kindergarten. They were so popular I made them twice that first week, and now again. It’s a great way to use a 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree, since each batch uses about a half a can. (Reason enough to double the recipe, which I haven’t actually done yet so if you do let me know how it goes.)

pumpkin big close up

Final thing before I get down to business: don’t be concerned about the seemingly long ingredient list. The spices make it appear busy, but in fact this recipe comes together very fast and easily. You know I have no time for any fussiness in recipes. Not with a kid crawling up my leg.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Yield: 9 regular size + 12 minis (or 12 regulars and a handful of minis)

pumpkin mini

[Measurements are in weight and volume because I am kind of a dork about my kitchen scale.]

1 + 1/2 cups GF Flour Mix* (200 grams)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 + 1/2 tsps cinnamon
sprinkle of ginger (or up to 1/4 tsp)
sprinkle of nutmeg (or up to 1/4 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup coconut palm sugar** or sugar of your choice (about 140 grams)
1/2 cup canola oil (90 grams)
1/4 cup milk, any kind is fine (60 grams)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (approx half of a 15 oz can is about 220 grams)
1 cup chocolate chips

* I sifted my coconut palm sugar because it’s kind of grainy and that seemed to do the trick. It made me use a bit more to get the measurement right, but I tossed the harder crunchy pieces back in the bag cause it’s great in my coffee (not to mention rather pricey).

Notice the price tag is scraped off because I can't stand to look at how much I paid for it.

Notice the price tag is scraped off because I can’t stand to look at how much I paid for it.

Speaking of the bag, look at the back! It’s the gluten free world’s very own Carol Kicinski, of the great recipe blog Simply Gluten Free and it even features a GF recipe. Score!

palm sugar carol k

Ok, finally (!) The Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line muffin tins with cupcake liners, or spray.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together GF flour mix, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, spices, and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, oil, milk, vanilla extract, and pumpkin until smooth. Slowly add in dry ingredients, mixing well.

4. Now would be the time to fold in the chocolate chips. But I often leave some minis plain so Little Guy can eat some before his nap without me stressing about him having a chocolate high. I was feeling rather generous, however, so I plopped one chip in the center of his minis.

A very un-photogenic pic of my unbaked goods.

A very un-photogenic pic of my unbaked goods.

5. Fill each prepared liner about 3/4 full with pumpkin batter. Bake the regular sized muffins for about 15-18 minutes and the minis for 8-10, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let muffins cool about 2 minutes in pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store in air proof container or freeze.

pumpkin big

**My (current) GF Flour Mix is 60% whole grains (millet and sorghum) and 40% starches (sweet rice and potato starch), all certified gluten free from Bob’s Red Mill that I mix myself using my kitchen scale and giant plastic canister. See here for details. But you can probably use most kinds of ready made all purpose GF mixes, including your own. If your mix already includes xanthan gum, then please – for the love of your stomach – don’t add any more.

And finally, having nothing to do with baking whatsoever, please enjoy this hilarious and adorable pic (in my humble and totally biased opinion) of my kids playing dress up, big sister style.

crazy dress up