Penne pomodoro with turkey meatballs, coffee+cumin rubbed pork tenderloin, sweet chile chicken tacos and BBQ chicken flatbread--just a few of the gluten-free options on the menu at the newly renovated LYFE Kitchen+Chisca Bar in Downtown Memphis.
I LOVE LYFE Kitchen! My family rarely dines out due to risk of gluten cross contact, but we've had really good luck at LYFE Kitchen. Every employee I have encountered has been well trained on food allergies and the restaurant has a dedicated area to prepare gluten-free and allergen-free orders. There are two locations in Memphis which isn't too far from my Mississippi home and I was really excited to find a great place that the kids also enjoyed--until the downtown location closed for "tranformation" according to the sign in the window. I was heartbroken. Just a couple of weeks after my video review and NIMA demonstration (click here to see video), the restaurant closed. Memphis is pretty much a gluten-free food desert, so when my favorite eatery closed, I was deeply saddened. We didn't dine out for more than three months.
My heart nearly skipped a beat when I saw on social media that the 272 S. Main location was reopening! My family was lucky enough to be treated as VIPs at their pre-opening training lunch where we had the opportunity to sample appetizers, entrees and desserts from the new menu which boasts many delicious gluten-free options! The new LYFE Kitchen+Chisca Bar is now a full-service restaurant that takes patrons back in time with decor from the historic Hotel Chisca. Beautiful chandeliers and a hotel registration desk greets guests when they enter. The menu still has many of the classic LYFE Kitchen dishes that my family loves, but some welcome new additions as well. Our server did a great job making sure our order was carefully prepared and that our glasses stayed full! The menu prices were reasonable with entrees ranging from $8 to $16--and half are labeled gluten free! Kids' meals are only $5.
I ordered the sweet chile chicken tacos served on three organic corn tortillas with avocado smash, chayote slaw, black beans, cilantro and chipotle aioli. This spicy dish was messy, but delicious. I would order it again, but it was a bit too spicy for the kids to enjoy. My mom ordered the penne pomodoro with turkey meatballs and really enjoyed it. It was a huge portion and she took half of it home with her. I tasted her dish and it was so good that I will probably order that next time I visit! I really liked the turkey meatballs and the zucchini slices that were mixed in with the pasta. It was surprising to see the only pasta dish on the menu was gluten free! My mom ordered it because it looked good to her, not because it is gluten free. She said she couldn't tell the difference between the gluten free pasta and what she normally eats. I was excited to hear that! My kiddos always order the margherita flat bread without the tomatoes (essentially a cheese pizza) with baked sweet potato fries. We didn't order dessert, but since it was a staff training day, the server brought out a couple of desserts for us to sample and made sure to bring gluten free desserts. Unfortunately, we didn't love the desserts. They were pretty, but just didn't taste good. We were so full from the meal that we weren't really interested in dessert anyway.
Here's some other things I noticed when dining at the new LYFE Kitchen+Chisca Bar:
VOLUME LEVEL: The music was VERY loud, so sit close to your dining partner if you want to have a conversation. I know bars are typically loud, but this is now also a full-service restaurant. I was expecting it to be a little quieter. This location has amazing patio seating! I'm not sure if it is quieter outside.
PARKING: Parking downtown is not always easy. There is a parking lot near the Orpheum about a block north of the restaurant. Fortunately, we were able to park on the street beside the restaurant. Parking meters are only enforced on weekdays. There is a trolley stop outside LYFE Kitchen, so you could always take the trolley!
NO SMOKING: This is a smoke-free environment. The entire Chisca on Main building, including the restaurant's outdoor patio, is smoke free.
If you're looking for a great full-service restaurant with gluten-free options in Downtown Memphis, look no further than the transformed LYFE Kitchen+Chisca Bar. I look forward to many date nights downtown with my handsome husband. There are so many fun things to do and now we can also plan to eat a safe, gluten-free dinner while we're out.
Have you been to LYFE Kitchen? Tell us what you love about it?
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. While I did receive a complimentary meal; as part of the pre-opening testing event, I did not receive financial compensation for this post.
Aaaarrrrgggghhhh (in my best post-surgery pirate voice)!!! Ahoy, Matey!
While I may be up on my "pirate talk," it turns out that I'm a terrible pirate. Even worse, I'm a terrible pirate baker. I'm not the best baker in the world anyway, but having to wear an eye patch after surgery made things a little trickier. Reading recipes with one eye covered proved to be more difficult than I expected. My good eye isn't as good as I thought it was. Here's the story...
My Cap'n (husband) took me pick up groceries and shiver me timbers, those Girl Scouts had taken over the entrance to Kroger! There was no getting past them without seeing cases of Thin Mints. Of course I can't have them. They're not gluten free! But I certainly wanted them. Oh, how I miss Thin Mints!
I made it half-way through the store when I announced rather loudly that I must have Thin Mints. I searched high and low for the Goodie Girl Mint Slims--a gluten-free cookie that is actually better than their Girl Scout counterpart, but there were none to be found. I was desperate. My husband, I mean Cap'n, pulled up a gluten-free thin mint recipe on the phone and read the ingredient list to me. I decided those Girl Scouts weren't ruining my day--I'd just make my own cookies.
When I got home, I started melting chocolate and butter while mixing the dry ingredients. I poured in the chocolate mixture and began stirring. It didn't seem to be mixing that well and I thought maybe it was supposed to be that way. I transferred the dough, which was pretty powdery, from the mixing bowl to the parchment paper and began rolling it with the rolling pin. It just wasn't holding together. I managed to cut out 20 cookies--not nearly enough for the $12 I had in ingredients. After they finished baking and cooling, I tried removing them from the parchment paper-lined pan, but they were breaking from the slightest touch. It was a crumbly mess! Each time I tried dipping the fragile cookies into the chocolate glaze they literally fell to pieces. There were crumbs all over the floor. I almost felt bad for the swabby that had to sweep and mop after I was finished. I've given up my cleaning chores for a couple of weeks--doctor's orders!
After the chocolate glazed hardened, we tried the cookies and they were AWFUL! The glaze was perfect, but the cookie itself was so bad that it just ruined the mint chocolate glaze. Pirate baking fail. I'm not sure where I went wrong. I don't know if my measuring was off because all numbers look like eights to me, or if the recipe had a misprint...I just know that these cookies were not fit to eat.
I'm thankful I'm not really a pirate and I hope my eyes will be better before my next attempt at baking. Those cookies were so bad that whoever tried to eat them would've made me walk the plank! From now on, I'll pillage the town in search of Goodie Girl Mint Slims!
Sorry Girl Scouts, X marks the spot at Goodie Girl Cookies on my treasure map! I'm sure to find them again soon!
This is not a sponsored post. While I would love to have free Goodie Girl Mint Slims or money to buy cases of them, I did not receive any compensation for this post. I am just a really bad pirate baker and I love my Mint Slims!
"May I watch it again?" Nathan asks for the tenth time after watching the YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin Gluten Free Kids Camp video.
Nathan has never been to summer camp. I've never been comfortable letting him even sleep over at a friend's house because of dietary restrictions, much less letting him go to a sleep-away camp where who knows who's preparing the food. Cross contamination is a huge risk for kids with celiac disease and food allergies, so this mama bear has done everything in her power to keep her little one safe.
Last summer, Nathan attended a church day camp and I packed his lunch and snacks each day. I went out of my way to make sure what I packed for him was the same as what was on the menu for the "regular kids." But every day he came home sad because he couldn't eat all the gluten-filled snacks that everyone could eat. He felt excluded and it truly broke my heart. After posting Unhappy Camper (click to read it), MI Gluten Free Gal, a fellow gluten-free blogger and celiac disease awareness advocate, let me know about the Gluten Free Michigan Kids Camp and told me that they could really use some help in the kitchen, so I showed Nathan the online video to see if he would be interested in attending.
"Mom, that looks awesome," he exclaimed as he watched kids on zip lines, climbing towers, horses, paddle boards and making s'mores. "Can we stay all summer?"
So, I volunteered to help in the kitchen this summer and registered Nathan to attend! He is so excited. This will be the first time he gets to be a "regular kid" and participate in all the cool activities, as well as eat the same foods that everyone else is eating because everyone there must eat gluten free. By working in the kitchen, I will see every ingredient label and make sure not only Nathan, but every camper, will have safe, gluten-free meals.
I am thrilled that Nathan and other kids with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity will have the opportunity to have fun without worrying about every bite of food. But camps like these don't happen without awesome people like you!
How can you help make a kid like Nathan have a safe, fun week at summer camp?
Volunteer to help in the kitchen. If you would give a day or two (or six), we could really use your help! You don't even have to live in Michigan. I'm actually taking a week of vacation and traveling from Mississippi to volunteer in the kitchen. Please contact me if you're interested in getting more information about serving in this capacity.
Donate gluten-free and allergy-friendly foods. Everyone knows that gluten-free foods cost more than gluten-filled foods. To offset the cost and make this an awesome experience for campers, we are seeking companies that offer products that are free of gluten. There will be campers with additional dietary restrictions that we are working hard to accommodate, so Top 8 free products are most needed. Many wonderful companies have already partnered with the Michigan Gluten Free Kids Camp to make this happen, but we plan to serve snacks three times per day, so we need lots of snacks. Campers range in age from 8-17. I'm finding that tween and teen boys (and girls) really eat a lot! If you own or work for a company or have a contact with a company that may be willing to donate some safe and delicious snacks for our campers, please contact me for details. All donations are tax deductible.
Sponsor a child to go to camp. The families of many campers are above the income level for camp scholarships, but they have extra expenses from an expensive diet and health issues arising from celiac disease. If you can help in any way it would be greatly appreciated. Donations may be sent to the Michigan Capital Celiac/DH Group, PO Box 23222, Lansing, MI 48909.
I am thankful to the amazing people who make this camp happen for kids like Nathan. From the camp coordinator, to the kitchen volunteers, to the companies and individuals that donate money and safe food for campers, everyone is valuable to the team that puts this whole thing together. I hope giving my time to make sure campers have safe meals and snacks by volunteering in the kitchen will make a difference in the lives of these kiddos. I hope you will join me!
Please share this post with everyone you know that may be willing to help! THANK YOU!
Nathan's Note: I can't wait for camp, I will most likely come home weighing 20 lbs more than when I left.
I live in a gluten-free food desert. While my home state of Mississippi in the deep-fried south is well known for its cuisine, none of it is gluten free. Just google it. You will see that there is not a single dedicated gluten-free restaurant in the whole state. Not one. It usually doesn't bother me, but it is depressing sometimes. I cook 99 percent of my family's meals at home to avoid cross contamination and ignorance (many people living in the state that leads in obesity, diabetes and hypertension believe that gluten is a nutrient that one cannot live without). I don't mind cooking, but sometimes it would be nice if I could just pick up something to eat on the way home from work or go out to eat once in a while--especially later this month.
I'm scheduled to have minor surgery in a couple of weeks and my amazing friends and coworkers have been so kind to offer to bring dinner or send gift cards for my husband to pick up dinner on his way home from work. While I greatly appreciate the kind gestures, I politely declined and let them know I was planning to cooking in advance to accommodate dietary restrictions in our home. There isn't a single restaurant in our area that I feel is safe, and my well-meaning friends don't have gluten-free kitchens.
We can't eat out and our friends can't bring dinner, but we still have to eat. What's a busy working mom to do? Meal prep! I always do meal prep on Sundays to make weeknights easier, but this Sunday and next, I will be doubling, tripling and quadrupling recipes to freeze to make preparing dinner for the rest of the month so easy that even my kids will be able to do it. Luckily, they are old enough to help by reheating chili, soups, casseroles, and even cooking pasta.
Laundry is a different issue.
Maybe my friends who offered to help will be willing to assist with laundry while I recover.
What are your favorite kid friendly gluten-free meals to make ahead and freeze?
Nathan's note: I did not do that to the towel.
I keep having a reoccurring dream that I am eating at Weezie's GF Kitchen, a dedicated gluten-free restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, FL. My family visited this amazing restaurant last summer for breakfast while we were in south Florida and enjoyed it so much that we came back again when we were passing through the next week. We had pre-ordered a take-away lasagna dinner for four so we would have a safe, gluten-free option for our overnight stay. It was the best lasagna I've ever eaten!
There are no dedicated gluten-free restaurants in the great state of Mississippi where I live, so my family rarely dines out. Being able to go to a dedicated gluten-free restaurant was a real treat and it was a great feeling for me to be able to tell my son, Nathan, that he could order anything he wanted. Of course, he chose chocolate chip pancakes! Weezie's definitely made a huge impression on my family and I often daydream about the delicious meals that I have enjoyed there. But now I'm actually having real dreams about Weezie's.
Last night I woke almost every hour with a foot cramp, and every time I bolted out of bed and hobbled around the room trying to make my foot feel better, I told my husband about my vivid dreams of Weezie's GF Kitchen. Every time, I ordered something different--lasagna, chicken, soup, or cinnamon rolls. In one dream, Weezie's Owner Louise Dutton knew we were passing through and she had a bag of frozen chili for me to bring home to Nathan. I don't even know if Weezie's serves chili! If they do, I'm certain it is delicious! The dreams were so weird, but they got me thinking about how much I love this amazing restaurant and how I have to find a way to go back. My family is now planning a summer trip to Fort Lauderdale.
CLICK HERE to watch the short GFree Genius video of my family's visit to Weezie's GF Kitchen that includes a brief interview with Weezie herself!
Do you have a gluten free restaurant that you dream about? Tell me more...
Between helping with insane amounts of homework and shuttling two tweens to all of the activities of their overcommitted schedules, who has time to cook a nice dinner? Definitely not me. I also have a full-time job, so time is precious--especially between the hours between 5-10pm. Back in the old days (before Nathan and I had to eat gluten free) we would order a pizza or stop by a fast food establishment and grab a greasy burger between events or on the way home. Not anymore. Our little Mississippi town has ZERO celiac-safe dining options, so dining at home is our only option. Meal Prep Sunday is what I have found that works best for our gluten-free family.
Almost every week, I wake up a couple of hours before the kids and start preparing meals for the upcoming busy weeknights, but having a plan is the first step. On Saturday mornings, I look at the calendar to see which events, projects and testing are listed, then set the menu from there. I also consider what's on sale at the grocery store when making the menu. I try to save time AND money whenever I can.
Create a menu and shopping list
Planning ahead with a menu and shopping list (or checking to see what's already in the freezer and pantry) are the first essential steps to the success of Meal Prep Sunday. There's nothing more frustrating than being in the middle of cooking five meals and have brownies in the oven when you realize you don't have an onion in the house and the kids are asleep so you can't run to the grocery store. I prefer to have everything I need before I get started cooking. I also seek input on the menu from my husband and kids. Everyone gets to suggest menu items which takes the stress of "what's for dinner?" out of my way.
Make both ready-to-eat meals and faster-to-cook meals on Sundays
I prepare complete meals ready to heat and eat, but I also plan for other meals by prepping ingredients to save time on nights when we have menu items that are better prepared on the day they'll be eaten. For example, soup or chili reheats well and takes just a few minutes to get from stove to table, while reheated gluten-free pasta isn't our favorite. I would make the pasta sauce on Sunday to save time, then I would only have to reheat the sauce while cooking the pasta on the night we eat it. Washing, chopping and pre-measuring fruits and vegetables and pre-seasoning meat on Meal Prep Sunday saves a lot of time on busy weeknights.
Make more than one meal with the same main ingredients
I try to plan menu items with the same ingredients that can be used for more than one meal. For example, this week I'm making chili, tacos, chicken and rice soup and BBQ chicken sandwiches. I browned enough ground beef at one time to make both chili and tacos. I was able to buy one big package of chicken breast (with bone and skin) to make both chicken recipes. I boiled chicken which also gave me broth for tonight's soup, and I pre-seasoned the other chicken which is now ready to put in the slow cooker in the morning before work. The only prep work I'll have tomorrow is plugging in the slow cooker, then shredding the chicken with a fork when I get home. I'll put some fries in my Kalorik air fryer, toast the gluten-free Kinnickinick buns, and dinner is served!
If you have a great recipe that freezes well, double or triple the recipe, then freeze the leftovers for future meals. We often use frozen chili, soup and sauces when we travel, or on busy weeks when we don't have a chance to meal prep.
Lunch Box Life Savers
Prepping lunch for the week also is a huge time saver! Prewashing grapes, celery, carrots, etc. and putting them in individual baggies makes lunch packing faster and healthier. For the kids' lunches, we keep a plastic over-the-door-shoe organizer in the pantry to store the daily lunchbox contents. I'll buy gluten-free granola bars, chips, fruit snacks, cookies and drinks and put them in the individual packs in the organizer for the entire week to make daily lunch packing faster. The kids know to just grab the contents from the "Monday" pocket on Sunday night to get the lunchbox ready. Depending on what we had for dinner the night before, we will either reheat and put leftovers in a hot food container or make a sandwich on gluten-free bread for the main dish. My husband and I prefer leftovers or salads for lunch and are more likely to eat fruit and veggies if they are ready to eat.
Well, I can't help you with snacks. I often make gluten-free brownies or cupcakes on Meal Prep Sunday, but sadly, all of the brownie and goodies are consumed Monday. Eleven-year-old boys can eat a lot!
Meal Prep Sunday takes some planning and effort, but once I got the hang of it, I can't imagine not spending a couple of hours on one day to get meals ready for an entire week. It really frees up my evenings so I can help with homework and participate in other activities.
Need some fresh menu ideas? The Gluten Intolerance Group offers a 4-week meal plan complete with shopping lists and recipes. (click here for link). Also follow me on Facebook and Instagram at gfreegenius to see what's on my dinner table!
What's on your Meal Prep Sunday menu? Share your ideas!
As I reflect on 2016, I think back to that cold day in March when I decided I would start blogging about my gluten-free journey. I was talking to my husband one night and I told him how frustrated I was with obstacles that our son, Nathan, and I faced every single day. The constant issues with school parties, dining out, sleepovers, mean kids, unsupportive friends and family, and even irritation from soap and shampoo we used was frustrating.
He asked me if I had ever thought about writing about what we were experiencing, which I had not. He had been encouraging me to start writing again for many years since I gave up my journalism career to start a family, but I felt like I didn't have anything to write about, or nothing anyone would care about reading. But that night was different. I knew I had something to say and somebody out there needed to hear it. If I was having these challenges, then so are other people.
I've spent countless hours on research and dollars on a lot of awful products that nobody else should have to do. I've been "glutened" by foods I thought were safe. My son has been excluded from, well, just about everything. I thought it may be helpful to others with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, or who have children who do, to share our experiences--both good and bad. We've had a lot of both. I never in a million years thought I would start a blog, but it has been a rewarding experience and I'm so glad I did! My goal for GFree Genius is to continue to encourage, inspire and educate others who are facing or will face the same challenges my family has overcome or will experience.
In the beginning
So, what have I shared over the past nine months? A lot! As I began exploring gluten free topics to find my niche, I started my blog by writing a "letter" to my non-gluten free friends and family sharing a few of my frustrations and concerns, followed by my first gluten free recipe post--chicken and rice soup. I was getting all geared up for my first BIG blog post, a review of the Gluten Free and Allergy Friendly Expo in Atlanta, Georgia. The GFAF Expo is something Nathan and I look forward to all year long. We drove six hours from our home outside of Memphis, TN to Atlanta to have the opportunity to see and taste all of the latest and greatest gluten-free products. That event introduced me to many wonderful people and products to help launch my platform and discover my love for product reviews.
My first review was of Tiffany Hinton's cookbook, Mom Certified Celebrates Heritage Gluten Free. It was so much fun to test new recipes and share my family's opinion. I went on to test several products that were sent to me to sample, including Namaste Foods, Mazra Snacks, American Gluten Free subscription box, Kiss Freely lip and body products, and even the Nima sensor, the world's first portable gluten detector (click here to see Nima in action).
Gluten Free Restaurant Reviews
I expanded from reviewing products to restaurants! The first was Gluten Free Things in Arvada, CO. They sent me a box full of gluten free things to sample and I had the opportunity to visit their retail location later in the year and meet the engineer who created the perfect gluten free bread recipes. As my family planned vacations and business trips, we made sure to include visits to safe and delicious gluten free restaurants. Annie May's Sweet Cafe in Louisville, KY, Dempsey Bakery in Little Rock, AR, and Weezie's GF Kitchen in Fort Lauderdale, FL are just a few of my favorites that we visited this past summer and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of these! I am so blessed that I had the opportunity to sit down and interview the amazing people behind these dedicated gluten free establishments to hear their stories.
While helping others with celiac or gluten intolerance through reviews was rewarding, I wanted to do more to raise awareness and help people overcome some of the same obstacles my family faces. During National Preparedness Month I shared my GFree Genius Emergency Kit that I put together for my family in case of emergency, and I showed the GFree Genius Travel Kitchen, my Plan B for dining when there are no safe restaurants while on the road. During Celiac Awareness month, I shared tips from my experiences on how to survive the holidays with gluten-filled family events and a guide to giving the perfect gluten-free gift, and even produced a chocolate chip cookie taste test video! After meeting several other people at my church that can't eat gluten, I was able to make our church leaders aware of the need for gluten free communion wafers--something that was promptly addressed after they learned there was a need.
Sharing my own story of the ups and downs of parenting a gluten free child has introduced me to some amazing people and opportunities as well. After writing Unhappy Camper a post where I expressed my frustration of my then 10-year-old's experience at day camp, I met MI Gluten Free Gal through social media who shared about a gluten free camp in Michigan that would be completely safe for my son. She also recruited me to volunteer in the kitchen which will teach me so much about providing celiac safe meals to large numbers of people--something I hope to bring back to Mississippi to help kids here. I finally had the opportunity to meet MI Gluten Free Gal in person at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference in Denver, CO, along with countless other rock stars/advocates in the celiac/food allergy world that have poured their knowledge into me.
I made new gluten free friends in the aisles of the grocery store by exchanging product recommendations and I even found a gluten free gem at the farmers market in my own back yard--Grass Fed Gals--a cottage bakery in my Mississippi hometown that makes the best banana bread and pineapple upside down baby butter cakes on the planet. I even met Rosie, a gluten-detection service dog trained by Creating New Tails, which was one of the coolest things I've ever seen!
What's new for 2017
I've learned so much in the past nine months since GFree Genius was born and I cannot wait for the opportunities to share with you in 2017. I look forward to sharing my experiences at gluten free expos, gluten free camp, more product and restaurant reviews, taste tests, recipes, shopping tips, and even the ups and downs of Nathan starting middle school on a gluten free diet! Did I mention giveaways? Yes, I hope to partner with companies for more giveaways in 2017! I met a lot of representatives of some amazing gluten free companies this past year. I look forward building relationships with these great companies and bringing you the latest and greatest products and services, and I will continue to raise awareness for celiac disease/gluten intolerance through GFreeGenius.com and on social media. Please share with a gluten free friend and join me on this amazing journey! Thank you for your support!
What was your favorite GFree Genius post of 2016? Click through the archives to see what we've been working on!
What would you like to see at GFree Genius in 2017? I want to hear from you! Please follow GFreeGenius on Facebook and Instagram.
Happy New Year!
Twas the day before Christmas Eve and I didn't have the first gluten free cookie baked for Santa! Both kids have been sick this week, so I got a late start to our holiday baking this season. I didn't want to start making cookies and candies until everyone was fever-free for at least 24 hours. Today was the day!
This year, I thought it would be fun to test a couple of sugar cookie mixes in addition to a new recipe. Surely Santa would love at least one of the three batches! I bought Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix at Walmart and Pamela's Sugar Cookie Mix at Kroger. I found a recipe for gluten free sugar cookies on momables.com that listed ingredients I already had at home. I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour that I found at Sam's Club. I've only used the flour to make banana bread and it didn't turn out well, but I don't think the flour is to blame.
I quietly made peppermint patties and chocolate covered pretzels while everyone was still sleeping, so that happened without incident. No fighting, crying or messes. Baking is a chore for me and it tends to bring out my OCD tendencies which isn't always a good thing. It also brings back old memories of me fighting with my sister because I wanted everything to be perfect. Why do it if you're not going to do it right? I decided to get started while the kids were still sleeping, but right after the first batch came out of the oven, they awoke and the sugar cookie drama began.
Pillsbury Gluten Free Sugar Premium Cookie Mix
I only had to add butter, water and egg to Pillsbury mix, combine ingredients, and drop rounded teaspoons of dough onto a baking sheet. Super easy! The dough was easy to handle and held together nicely. The instructions did not say I could roll and cut the dough with cookie cutters, but I had some leftover after filling two baking sheets as instructed, so I cut out a snowman and a bell. Honestly, the cut-out cookies turned out just fine. These cookies did not stick to the pan and after they cooled, I sampled one and it was soft and chewy. I really liked it! Way to go Pillsbury! This mix was a great price ($2.50 at my local Walmart), had great taste and texture, and was easy to prepare. (Ingredients: Sugar, rice flour, tapioca starch, canola oil, potato starch, salt, baking soda, cellulose, xanthan gum, cellulose gum, natural and artificial flavors)
I guess the sweet aroma of these cookies woke my 12-year-old daughter and she came into the kitchen ready to help. We had our usually fight about pulling her hair back and washing her hands. By the time that was done, I had already mixed up Pamela's Sugar Cookie Mix.
Pamela's Sugar Cookie Mix Roll & Cut
I only had to add butter and egg to Pamela's gluten free sugar cookie mix. To make these cookies dairy free and egg free, the instructions state that butter alternative and egg replacer can be used. We don't have allergies to dairy or eggs, so we used both. This dough was stickier than the Pillsbury dough, but instead of following directions and refrigerating the dough for a few minutes before handling, my daughter was ready to roll out the dough and cut out the cookies. She didn't need or want my help, so I set everything out on the table and walked away. She usually has to make mistakes on her own to learn instead of taking my word for anything. She was on a mission to prove me wrong, so I just let her be. In the meantime, her brother entered the kitchen ready to cut out cookies. I politely told him that he could do the next batch. He was fine with that answer and went back in his room to play a video game. Whew! That was a disaster waiting to happen.
The dough became stickier and sticker and my daughter couldn't get the cut-out dough from the table to the pan without tearing and she wouldn't listen, and told me that they didn't have to be perfect. So, I took the dough and finished cutting out the cookies myself. There was flour all over the kitchen and I was ready to get the cookies into the oven so I could get the third batch complete. I didn't want to bake all day. There's still a lot I need to do since I've been home with sick kids all week.
She went to her room and I finally got the cookies in the oven. Ten minutes later, they were ready and I let them cool. These cookies didn't stick to the pan too badly, but I did have to work to get a couple of them off the pan. The Pamela's cookies were crunchier than the Pillsbury cookies. They had a good flavor, but were very sweet. I purchased this mix at my local Kroger for $4.69. The Pamela's mix contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives and uses a wider variety of flours and organic ingredients which explains the higher price. I have always been pleased with Pamela's flours and mixes, and this is no exception, but if I needed to pick up a mix to make a quick batch of sugar cookies, I'd probably go with Pillsbury. I prefer a softer cookie and the lower price. (Ingredients: Evaporated cane sugar, brown rice flour, cassava flour, organic powdered sugar, potato starch, tapioca starch, sorghum flour, white rice flour, sweet rice flour, natural vanilla flavor, sea salt, guar gum, grainless and aluminum-free baking powder)
Homemade Gluten Free Sugar Cookies
Using Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour which claims to replace wheat flour in your favorite recipes for baked goods, I made the last batch from scratch. The recipe at momables.com wasn't any more difficult than the mixes. In addition to the butter and egg that I used in the mixes, I actually had to measure the rest of the ingredients (gluten free flour, sugar, salt, vailla and milk), but it really wasn't a big deal. I refrigerated the dough for an hour and it handled beautifully when it was time to roll it out and use the cookie cutters. After I cut out the first half, I called my daughter back into the kitchen and explained that this dough was easier because I followed the directions and refrigerated it. She agreed that it was easier and more like the non-gf dough she uses at her grandmother's house. I let her finish the job while I started cleaning up the mess. I baked these cookies for 10 minutes and let them cool before removing from the baking sheet. They did stick to the pan worse than the mixes. I had a few gingerbread men and snowmen with missing parts after they broke while I was removing them from the pan.
The taste and texture was exactly like I had hoped. The cost for this recipe wasn't bad either! I used about $1.60 worth of flour, then the amounts of the other ingredients, which I already had on hand, were just a few cents each. Baking from scratch using Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour was the most cost-effective option. The dough was the easiest to work with and tasted just like the cookies I made for Santa when I was a child! That's the way sugar cookies are supposed to taste!
So, if I was in a pinch and needed to make sugar cookies in a hurry and had the Pillsbury mix on hand, I would definitely use it. I really like how soft these cookies turned out and they were seriously easy to make. Adding just a couple of minutes of prep time to measure ingredients for homemade sugar cookies isn't that bad and I would totally make these again. The Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour produced excellent cookies with great taste and texture. I'm glad I can finally buy this at Sam's Club!
The Sugar Cookie Taste Test
In a blind taste test, the kids selected the homemade sugar cookies as the winner. I gave them one cookie from each batch. Nathan, age 11, said they were all good, but Cookie #3 (Homemade) was his favorite. He liked the texture and sweetness of that one. He said Cookie #2 (Pamela's) was too sweet for his taste and Cookie #1 (Pillsbury) was too buttery. My big kid (aka my husband) actually preferred the Pamela's cookie. He liked that it was sweeter than the others. He agreed that all three cookies were good, but he preferred Pamela's.
Santa will be our ultimate taste tester tomorrow night, so be sure to follow GFree Genius on Instagram to see which cookie the big guy likes the most. Now I have to decide whether to give him regular milk, almond milk, coconut milk or rice milk...on second thought, maybe Santa can just fix his own drink when he gets here.
What kind of gluten free treats will you be making for Santa?
Disclaimer: This IS NOT a sponsored post. I selected and purchased all mixes and ingredients for the three batches of cookies mentioned in this post. I have not received compensation for this post and opinions are my own.
I know many of you are careful to avoid putting gluten in your body, but how careful are you to avoid putting gluten on your body? Yes, many cosmetic brands contain gluten! Most doctors say products containing gluten that are applied on the skin won't cause a reaction (I think they are wrong based on my personal experience with reactions to skincare and cosmetics), but have you ever thought about how much of it you actually swallow? According to lipsource.com, the average woman ingests more than 30 percent of the lipstick she puts on her lips. That can't be good for people with celiac disease.
I was recently introduced to Kiss Freely, a cosmetic company that offers lip, eye, face and body products that are free from the top eight major allergens and beyond! Kiss Freely is also free from sesame, shea butter, peas, coconut, avocado and sunflower seed. I have only used their lip balm so far, but I love it and am so happy to know that I can use it with confidence knowing it is free from gluten and allergens. I noticed that my lips stopped peeling and cracking when I switched to this gluten-free brand.
KISS FREELY STOCKING STUFFER GIVEAWAY
All natural, allergen and gluten-free cosmetics make the perfect stocking stuffers, so Kiss Freely and GFree Genius are working to help those with food allergies & gluten issues have a safer, happier holiday!
Enter this giveaway for two of Kiss Freely's "Best Stocking Stuffers"
Kiss Freely Luxurious Winter Bundle
Best Body Butter Ever, Sugar Scrub, & Pixie Dust Eye Shadow (to brighten up those dreary winter days)
Kiss Freely Peppermint / Lavender Lip Balm Bundle
Lavender, Peppermint, & Peppermint Lime
1. 18 years and older, U.S. only. Not affiliated with Instagram or Facebook.
2. Comment below to tell me which of the above-listed sets you'd love to have in your stocking.
3. Additional entry for tagging ONE friend who is interested in gluten free or allergen free cosmetics on GFree Genius Instagram or Facebook.
4. Additional entry for signing up for the GFree Genius newsletter at www.gfreegenius.com.
5. Winner will be randomly selected on 12/16/16 at 7pm central.
While only one lucky reader will win, everyone can save 20 percent on all orders through 12/31/16 at www.kissfreely.com by using code GFG20 (cannot be combined with other offers and not valid on gift certificates).
It is not too late to order these great stocking stuffers and make someone's holiday a little safer and happier, but please note the last day for Christmas shipping is 12/18.
Have you tried Kiss Freely products? Please comment to share your favorite! Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook and tag a friend in my contest post for a an extra contest entry.
Kiss Freely and good luck!
Disclosure: I have not received any compensation for writing this post or producing this video. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. All opinions in this post are my own.
Nima sensor, where have you been all my life?
I first learned about Nima in 2015 at the Gluten Free and Allergy Friendly Expo in Atlanta where I met one of the developers and knew that I had to have this technology in my life. Having two people in my family (my 11-year-old son and myself) who can't eat gluten, I could definitely see where this could help keep us safe.
I've kept up with Nima over the past couple of years, but I finally had the opportunity to meet a Nima representative at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference in Denver in early November and she took lots of time to answer my many questions about the device. I told her about my son's recent gluten cross-contact episode that was so severe that the school nurse called me to take him to the doctor. I also explained that he is participating in his school's science fair and that he wants to prove gluten cross-contact is a real thing so he can better advocate for himself. She was so interested in hearing about my fifth grader's project and she offered to loan him a Nima sensor to conduct his research! Just a couple of weeks later, a package arrived with the Nima.
Click here to watch the GFree Genius Nima Unboxing Video.
So, I never eat at restaurants that aren't dedicated gluten free--ever. Seriously. But the day the Nima arrived, I read the quick-start guide, put the portable gluten sensor in my small, crossbody purse and went out for my first "regular" meal.
Ultimate Foods, Olive Branch, MS
I verified with the employee that the meal I selected was gluten free, then purchased it and went to my table. She noticed that I was putting a sample into the one-time-use capsule and inquired about it, so I showed off the Nima. This was the first time I had ever used the device, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. I inserted the capsule into the sensor, turned it on and pressed start. Then I started getting nervous. The employee was standing over my shoulder watching the machine as it processed the sample. What if the food wasn't really gluten free? What should I say? Will she give me a refund? Will I ever be able to eat out again? A lot of questions and anxiety built up over the three minutes required for Nima results. Then finally, a smiling face appeared. I don't know who was more excited--me or the employee!
LYFE Kitchen, Memphis, TN (Downtown)
I knew we had to send the Nima back since my son's science project is complete, so we decided to take the kids out for a family dinner in a "regular" restaurant. My husband occasionally eats lunch at LYFE Kitchen in Memphis, TN since it is near his office and he knew they had gluten free options, so that's where we decided to go. I studied the menu online before we arrived and asked so many questions to the young lady taking my order. She assured me that my meal would be gluten free and answered my questions without a single eye roll. Meals were delivered to our table one at a time and we started Nima testing. All smiles! Every plate tested gluten free! Words cannot describe how awesome it was to go out for a meal together as a family and not worry about getting glutened. I did have the opportunity to speak to the manager and show off the Nima. She had never heard of this device and was so excited that it confirmed the meals at LYFE Kitchen were gluten free. I told her that we hadn't eaten in a restaurant in many months and we were so happy to have found a safe option. She actually got teary-eyed and thanked me for sharing. She said her staff is trained to deal with gluten and food allergies. They have a separate prep area with tools that are thoroughly sanitized after each use. She said she was so happy that their efforts are truly helping people like me be able to eat safely.
As I sat at a table for four at LYFE Kitchen listening to my kids laugh and chat about their school day while enjoying a meal outside of our home for the first time in a long time, I was very thankful for Nima. A little gluten detector that fits in my little purse was such a blessing. It gave me the choice to dine out without worry. It gave me confidence to order knowing that I wouldn't get sick if it tested gluten free. It gave me back my social life...at least for a weekend. Sadly, I have to send the Nima back tomorrow since it was borrowed.
Did you know Nima has an app? It allows Nima users to log their tests. Anyone can use the app to see which restaurants and which dishes have tested gluten free (or not). For more information on ordering Nima, visit www.nimasensor.com.