Gluten-Free Birthday “Pizza” Cake

Posted on September 16th, 2015 by Alison | Posted in Holidays/Special Events, Recipes & Cooking Tips | Read 3 Comments - Add Your Own »

The idea for this year’s cake design came from my 9 year old birthday girl herself, who knew exactly what she wanted because she saw it on a You Tube video from the popular Rosanna Pansino of Nerdy Nummies. Pizza Cake — a cake made to look like a pizza. I have to admit, this was a fun cake to make because I had my little helper by my side, cutting out and creating all the “pizza” toppings. We actually made two gluten-free pizza cakes (one of them was also egg-free so her egg-allergic sister could have some too).

Gluten-Free Pizza Cake

Because pizzas are flat, the cakes only needed to be one layer. We used a 10″ round cake pan (yes, I bought one since I did not have that size). We also bought a Cake Leveler(daughter insisted we needed it – it actually was pretty cool!)

Use any gluten-free vanilla cake mix (we used Pamela’s) — if you use a chocolate cake mix, it won’t look like pizza when you cut it. After baking and cooling your 10″ round cake, you can trim the rounded top with the cake leveler to make it completely flat.

While the cake is cooling, you can get the toppings ready (see below) and make frosting (like a basic buttercream) and color some of it with a yellow or tan food coloring for the pizza crust, and some of it with the reddest red you can get for the tomato sauce. (A note from me on food coloring — no, I don’t like it, as I am a natural foodie, but there are just some times, like when making pizza birthday cakes, that you just have to let it go! 🙂 ) Have all of the toppings ready before you frost the cake because you want them to stick in the fresh frosting.

TOPPINGS:

  • Grated white chocolate (Ghirardelli – found in baking aisle) for the cheese. It was kind of a pain to grate but the Nerdy Nummies tip. to keep in frig and use tin foil to hold it, helped.
  • Fruit rolls for the pepperoni (rather than fruit strips as shown in the video — either work fine. The fruit roll is stickier than the strip). My daughter free-form cut circles out instead of using a round cookie cutter because we didn’t have a round cookie cutter. Or maybe she traced circles onto the fruit roll with a knife and then cut them out. I wasn’t really paying attention.
  • Tootsie Rolls for the olives, but we couldn’t find regular size ones, so we used minis. My daughter cut a slice of it, smashed it down with the bottom of a glass and then used a decorating tip to cut a hole in it. Lot of work but she enjoyed it and she really enjoyed eating the tootsie olive holes along the way.
  • Milk Duds for sausages
  • Airheads Bites, cut up, for the green peppers — these are NOT gluten-free. She insisted on having them. (For a list of GF and allergen-free candies, please see my annual Halloween Candy List.)

We bought 12 inch cardboard rounds at a cake decorating shop to put the cakes on when we frosted them, and we asked a local pizza restaurant for 12 inch boxes. It made for a great presentation and a surprise for everyone because they thought we had ordered pizza!

Gluten-Free Pizza Cakes

Want to see past birthday treats? Here they are:

Happy Birthday to my girls and a surprise allergen-free dessert

Happy Birthday to my girls and Aloha! gluten-free cakes

Happy birthday to my girls and wow! gluten-free mermaid cakes!

Happy Birthday to my girls and fish cakes

A gluten-free dairy-free egg-free birthday menu


Easy Allergen-Free Valentine Brownie Bites

Posted on February 13th, 2015 by Alison | Posted in Egg Allergy, Holidays/Special Events, Recipes & Cooking Tips | Read 1 Comment - Add Your Own »

Gluten-Free Valentine Brownie Bites

These gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free treats are easy to make for Valentine’s Day and your kids will have fun decorating them too! Everyone will love the dark chocolate taste!

This is all you do:

  1. Use Pamela’s Chocolate Brownie Mix (or your favorite gluten-free brownie mix). I make the basic recipe using egg replacer. I like to use coconut oil where it calls for oil, which you have to melt first before you mix into the batter. (Note: Pamela’s Brownie Mix does have a warning that the chocolate chunks may contain traces of milk, so not suitable for someone with a severe dairy allergy.)
  2. Spoon into mini-muffin tins and bake until you no longer see oil top of the brownies — it took around 12 minutes for mine. You don’t want to overbake but you don’t want it to have pools of oil on the top either. Let them cool for a little while before you try to remove them from the tin.
  3. After removing them and cooling completely, use a piping bag and tips to pipe frosting in different shapes. Put the sprinkles on as you go, before the frosting hardens.

That’s it! They look pretty and are yummy too.

One bag yields about 20 brownie bites.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Gluten-Free Valentine Brownies

13 Gluten-Free/Allergen-Free Holiday Tips

Posted on November 16th, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Holidays/Special Events | Comments Off on 13 Gluten-Free/Allergen-Free Holiday Tips

If you are gluten-free or have any other allergy or dietary restriction, it is important to have strategies for navigating the holidays so that you can attend the celebrations stress-free and, hopefully, enjoy them too!

Here are some practical tips for coping with holiday events:

1. TELL THE HOST

There’s nothing worse than going to a dinner and having the host prepare an entire meal that you cannot eat. Make the host aware of your dietary restrictions and you might be pleasantly surprised by the effort that he or she goes through to accommodate you. Gluten-free diets and food allergies are becoming more common and people are more knowledgeable about special diets, so give your host a chance!

2. OFFER TO BRING A DISH

The easiest and most sure-fire way to make sure there is something you can eat at a party is to bring a dish. Whether you purchase something safe or make it yourself, you will be guaranteed not to starve. If it’s desserts you miss most, then bring treats. If bread is what you need, then bring dinner rolls or cornbread. There are many available gluten-free prepared foods and baking mixes that will help to fulfill your cravings.

3. HELP PLAN THE MEAL

Who doesn’t need help with the holiday meal? If the host is a family member or close friend, offer to help plan the menu and even assign dishes to guests if appropriate. That way, you can have some control over what dishes are going to be prepared, or at least you will know ahead of time what the meal will entail.

4. DO THE GROCERY SHOPPING

If you have been living gluten-free or with food allergies for a while, you know your safe foods, which means grocery shopping for your foods is easier for you than for anyone else. So if you are visiting relatives or friends and plan to make a dish while you are there, make time to go to the store. It will take the pressure off of your host and give you assurance that your ingredients are safe.

5. OFFER SUGGESTIONS

What not to do: call your host and say “Oh, by the way, I’m gluten-free. Thanks!” click. Don’t expect your host to know what gluten-free means or how to avoid another ingredient that you are sensitive to. What you can do is offer suggestions for foods that you know are safe. For example, if the host is serving ham, you can let them know some of the brands that are gluten-free: Costco spiral ham, Niman Ranch, Honeybaked Ham (they recently changed their honey glaze recipe to be gluten-free). You could suggest a ready-made gluten-free bread to use for their traditional stuffing recipe and some safe brands of broth (Pacific, Imagine, Kitchen Basics are some).

6. GET IN THE KITCHEN

Holidays hosts will often accept help in kitchen, especially if they get overwhelmed when it gets closer to mealtime and they haven’t finished preparing everything. While you are in the kitchen, you can check ingredients in flavoring packets or canned soups – stuff that goes into those “old favorite” recipes.  Maybe you can even intervene in the gravy-making and use cornstarch or arrowroot starch instead of wheat flour to thicken. If you are not a chef, at least you can get an idea of what you can and cannot eat.

7. ASK QUESTIONS

You’re not going to be able to guess what’s in a dish just by looking at it, so you will need to ask questions about ingredients and how the food was prepared. When in doubt, leave it out.

8. READ LABELS

Have you ever looked through other people’s garbage or recycling bins? Sometimes you just have to know… what brand of chicken broth did they use? Are these crackers gluten-free? What ingredients are in the seasoning packet used in the dip?

9. EAT BEFORE YOU GO

You never want to show up to an event starving if you aren’t sure what’s going to be served. Have some food in you before you arrive. An empty stomach can lead to heightened emotions and if you are drinking alcohol, can lead to something worse. Put a buffer in your belly just in case.

10. BRING EMERGENCY FOOD

It’s always a good idea to stash a snack — in your purse, in your car, even a pocket of a jacket. Rice crackers, nuts or a bar are easy to transport and nibble on in a food emergency.

11. BRING YOUR OWN MEAL

If you have so many food restrictions that it would nearly impossible for your host to know what to feed you, take the pressure off and just establish that you will be bringing your own food. You will be safe and won’t starve and your host, though she may feel bad, will most likely be relieved.

12. BE PATIENT

You might fully understand your diet and the reasons you are doing it, but others might not get it. Don’t expect your friends and relatives to understand your special diet right away, especially if you rarely see them. There is a learning curve when it comes to eliminating gluten, or dairy, or anything else. You may feel frustrated, but they may be just as frustrated as you.

13. DON’T PREACH

Let’s face it — we all have family members we think are in denial and need to eliminate gluten and/or something from their diet. But while they are eating Aunt Susie’s famous pumpkin pie at the Thanksgiving table is not the time to get on your soapbox and let them know how eating gluten-free will change their lives! Talking about reflux, migraines and bloating are probably not be what people were looking forward to when they arrived at the holiday gathering. So hold off on your sermon — maybe after the holidays when they are feeling ill (from all that holiday food) would be a good time to broach the subject.

Do you have tips to share? Feel free to provide them in the comments section!
Need a Pep Talk?


A Gluten-Free Pep Talk For the Holidays

Posted on November 12th, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Emotions, Holidays/Special Events | Comments Off on A Gluten-Free Pep Talk For the Holidays

Holidays can be a stressful time even without special dietary restrictions – people are dealing with family, travel, expenses, and cooking for guests. Add in a gluten-free diet, or a gluten-free-plus diet and it can make for some challenging moments. When you are the host of a holiday meal or event, you are in control of your menu, but if you are the guest with a restricted diet, a holiday event can stir up a myriad of emotions. I was diagnosed 11 years ago right between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I remember what it was like to be surrounded by food but feel like there was nothing safe to eat.

Whether you are new to the gluten-free diet or have been doing it for years, you may experience any of the following emotions as a guest at a holiday event:

  • Anxiety
    • Will there be something I can eat? Will there be anything I can eat?
    • This anxiety causes many people to just stay home!
  • Fear
    • Will I get sick… (again)?
    • Fears about cross-contamination can get in the way of any enjoyment of a meal.
  • Embarrassment
    • Will my friends and family think I’m a pain? What if they made me something special and I have to ask about the ingredients or cross-contamination? Will they apologize again and again that they are eating something that I can’t eat?
    • Sometimes you just want to disappear!
  • Sadness or Anger or Resentment
    • Why can’t I enjoy the freedom that everyone else can? How can I enjoy this meal if I can’t have Aunt Susie’s famous pumpkin pie?
  • Hunger!
    • This may just be a psychological hunger, as there may be enough food to eat, but it feels like there is so much that you can’t have.
  • Kids emotions may be intensified:
    • Quote from my daughter: “It’s hard because you walk into someone’s house and there’s all this good stuff all around that you can’t have and you can only have the other stuff like turkey and vegetables.”

I want to tell you a little story about one of my emotional moments…

I was out at a dinner recently in Las Vegas for a work event. I was with a table of about 14 people I didn’t really know at a restaurant that I was told was a Thai restaurant called Jasmine in the Bellagio, so I felt confident that there would be something I could eat. After we got the menus I realized that it was in fact a Cantonese restaurant and when I asked the waiter what I could have on the menu, I was told that there was only one dish that I could have. While everyone else was ordering appetizers, and plates to share, I felt so uncomfortable and was overcome with this feeling that I was going to cry.

I was then mortified that I, a grown woman, would cry in front of all of these people, and what would they think of that?? So I had to have a self-coaching moment – you know, when you’re like:

“C’mon – pull yourself together! You can do it. It’s just one meal. You’re going to get through this. Do not cry. Do not cry!”

I had to look down, pretend I was doing something on my phone for a minute, and gather myself. It turned out that the one dish on the menu that I could have was delicious and… imagine… I had a fun time enjoying the non-food part — the company of the people at the table and the view of the dancing fountains of the Bellagio out the window.

So if you find yourself in one of those tough moments this holiday season (or ever after), try to find your Inner Coach to help you get through.

Maybe you need this kind of coach:

Or someone a little more smiley :):

Or maybe you really need this guy!

Whichever one works for you, use that Inner Coach to guide you when you have feelings of despair. Instead of focusing on what you can’t have, find what you can eat, and get enjoyment from things other than the food. Rather than stand around the appetizer table, have a conversation with an elderly family member. If you can’t nibble from the dessert tray, play with the kids or hold a baby or look through photo albums… and don’t forget to appreciate the dancing fountains outside the window!

Happy Holidays! 🙂
See also: 13 Gluten-Free/Allergen-Free Tips for the Holidays