Cookies For Kids’ Cancer Bake Sale & Silent Auction

Tomorrow is a day of gratitude.

A day to give of myself. Help others. Create awareness.


In the morning, I will run my first 5k with Team Gluten-Free. All of the proceeds will go to the Celiac Disease Foundation, who in turn, send kids with Celiac Disease to summer camp. (wish they had one for adults) Fifteen of us will hit the pavement tomorrow morning for this important cause.

And after the race, instead of heading home to pass out on the couch — I’ll be rounding up as many friends as I can to check out the Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Bake Sale & Silent Auction event happening down at Best Place at the historic Pabst Brewery.

I was honored when Peef and Lo from Burp! Where Food Happens sent out the call for bakers for this cause, which holds a a special place in my heart, and included me on their list. Such a simple way to come together as a community and make a difference.

As soon as I read the email, I knew I was in. And I knew the cookies to make — Grandma G’s Monster Cookies.

I lost both of my grandmas to cancer, as well as numerous other family, friends and little kiddos over the years. It’s heartbreaking. So this is my opportunity to give a little. To put a little extra love into these batches of cookies for tomorrow, and share them with the community. Spread awareness about the need to support research for new and improved therapies for pediatric cancers. All of the proceeds go to the Cookies for Kids’ Cancer organization.

When you’re out and about tomorrow, running errands, grocery shopping, getting your hair done — take just a few minutes to stop in at this event. Grab some cookies. Take part in the silent auction. Be part of the community, standing together for this cause.


No meat? No problem. (more on the gluten free meatless week)

When I told friends and family I was doing a meatless week with some fellow food bloggers, their first question was, “WHY?”

Many found it hard to believe that I would willingly give up meat for any amount of time. (especially during cookout season in Wisconsin)

But I was determined to make it through the week.

And I did.

It was easier than I originally anticipated. The perfect opportunity to dig out my favorite quinoa recipe which I posted last week. And a chance to finally make the Asparagus Pizza with Summers Past Pesto from Peef and Lo over at Burp! Where Food Happens. You remember them… they were the champions of the Gluten Free Challenge a couple of weeks ago. Champs in my eyes. Read all about Peef and Lo’s successful gluten free weekend, if you haven’t already.

I have been saying since the day they posted it that I would convert it over to gluten free. The crust was the only thing that needed converting, the rest of the ingredients were good to go.

It was a cool morning with a light lake breeze. Not too hot for the oven to be at such a high temp. Because I didn’t have any frozen crusts on hand, I took a recommendation from a reliable member of my gf-team. I used Gluten Free Mommy’s recipe for homemade pizza crust.

It does seem like a long list of ingredients, but once you have been baking gluten free for a while, you just have these bags of Bob’s Red Mill flour hanging around.

I have to be honest with you. I was not a huge fan of this crust. It was beautiful when it came out of the oven and I was thrilled to see the golden brown color. But it had tapioca flour in it and I can’t seem to tolerate that flavor. (I have an extremely sensitive sense of smell and taste) This has happened with other recipes too. It just gives them that “gluten free” flavor. For those who do eat gluten free, you might know what I mean.

It was fluffy in the middle and crispy on the edges, looked beautiful, it just wasn’t my favorite recipe. (but a gluten-eating taste tester thought it was great) Now I am on a mission to find a substitute flour that works for this recipe, then try it again.

Had a little fresh mozzarella in the fridge.

Although I would have been happy to, I did not eat pizza every day last week. This open-faced Caprese style sandwich is sort of pizza-like though, isn’t it?

When you have Udi’s gluten free bread on hand, it’s hard not to use it.

I ventured out to eat a couple of times during the week too. Gluten free and vegetarian at Stir Crazy in Brookfield. Several of their sauces can be made gluten free and their Market Bar is full of veggie toppings.

Do you have a favorite meatless dish? Leave a comment and tells us about it!

(and if any other gf-friends aren’t fans of tapioca flour, tell me that too, and what you substitute)

Guest Post: Fellow Milwaukee bloggers take on the Gluten Free Challenge

When Peef and Lo from Burp! Where Food Happens told me they were interested in doing the Gluten Free Challenge, I was thrilled. (and a little nervous for them) I should have known they would be fine. Just fine. Especially because some of their recipes are naturally gluten free. Including this recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Schaum Torte which won in Chef Feker’s Family Recipe Revival contest. And others are easily converted, like this recipe for Asapragus-Pesto Pizza. I’m going to be making it this week as part of my “meatless week” challenge.

They were more than fine. Pros really. And they did it on a weekend when they knew they would be on the go and eating out. Grab your beverage of choice, this one is a little lengthy, but well worth the read.

This is their adventure in the gluten free world…


This weekend, Peef and I did something we’ve never done before.
We eliminated wheat and gluten from our diets.

Why did we do it?
We took part in the Gluten Free Challenge because we were curious about what it would take to adhere to a more strict set of dietary guidelines.  We’ve been reading Sarah’s blog now for the better part of year.  And we’ve also connected with other GF bloggers like Melissa from Gluten Free for Good and  Jenn and her gluten-free husband from Jenn Cuisine. We know that gluten free foods are popping up everywhere — great news for the one in 133 people suffering from celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes a severe allergy to wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats.  But, we are also aware that avoiding gluten can still pose quite the challenge in our wheat-heavy world.

So, for two days (May 22-23) we decided to stand tall and proud, along with all of our GF blogger friends, and raise awareness about gluten intolerance. And it’s a little crazy how much we learned.

DAY ONE (Saturday):
The weekend started off bright and early.  We got up at 5am, hoping to get to the Ozaukee County Master Gardener’s Heirloom Plant and Herb Sale before the doors opened so we could get first dibs on seedlings for our backyard garden.   We skipped breakfast, thinking we’d pick something up along the way. So, we were excited to see that there was a Bake Sale going on when we arrived.

“Perfect!” I thought, “we can grab a muffin.”
Of course, it didn’t take me long to realize that there wouldn’t be any gluten-free muffins to be found at the bake sale.  Peef even asked the nice lady working the counter if there was anything we might be able to eat.  Sadly, she shook her head.  Instead, we soothed our growling stomachs with cups of organic herbal tea.

After loading up on herb plants, we headed home to wait for my sister who was coming down to Milwaukee to meet us for lunch for her birthday.  While we were waiting for her to arrive, Peef started foraging for a late morning snack. As he scanned the cupboards in our house, he found that almost everything contained “gluten cooties”.  Crackers… malted milk balls… leftover pizza… granola… He went through most of our pantry and fridge, reading the labels on the products and putting them back down on the shelf.

Now, I should explain that we’re already dedicated label readers.  We always have our eyes peeled for “evils” like high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and trans-fats.  But, during the GF challenge, we needed to be extra vigilant. Thickeners, stabilizers, flavorings, food starches, vegetable proteins, and MSG … all of these things could contain ingredients that were derived from wheat. So, every time we picked up a package of food to eat, we had to think about what we were putting into our bodies. It also seemed that everything contained some form of gluten or another.

After about ten minutes of shuffling, I heard a shout of victory from the direction of the kitchen and I saw Peef come sauntering out with a handful of toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds).

“No gluten in pumpkin seeds, right?” he asked.

“Nope,” I replied. And he smiled. GF snacking mission completed.

My sister arrived in the early afternoon and we headed off to lunch at the Stack’d Burger Bar on South 1st Street.  We’d heard from Sarah that Stack’d was very GF friendly.  They maintain a dedicated fryer used only for GF foods, and they also featured something unusual – gluten free buns for their burgers.  So, we were pretty excited.

We called ahead to let them know that we were coming so that they could start up the gluten free fryer. They seemed happy to accommodate us, and our server was very helpful when we asked questions about the gluten free items on the menu. Peef ordered the Hangover Burger and I opted for a custom burger with pepperjack cheese and jalapeno peppers.  Both of us requested GF buns and French fries. Both burgers were positively delicious – thick, juicy, and perfectly cooked to our specifications.  And the buns were seriously good.  Their texture was more chewy than the white bakery buns we’re accustomed to eating in restaurants, and the tops were slightly cracked and dry looking.  But, the buns themselves were tasty, and they really held up well to the loaded burgers.   The fries were crisp and delicious. And, even better, they’d been fried in the GF fryer, so we knew they were “safe” for us to eat.

When it came time for dinner, my niece requested that we go out for pizza.  Now, pizza would have been a real challenge for us, had it not been for another great recommendation from Sarah, Transfer Pizzeria and Cafe on the corner of 1st Street, Mitchell Street, and Kinnickinnic Avenue.    While my mother and sister enjoyed pizza made with Transfer’s regular wheat crust, Paul and I were able to enjoy our own individual sized pizzas made with GF crust.  We opted to try the Diavola (with cheese, tomato sauce, salami, hot and red peppers, and onions), and the Roasted Potato Chicken pizza (with garlic sauce, cheese, pan fried potatoes, and chicken).   We didn’t know quite what to expect from a GF crust, but we were very pleased. The crust was thin and crisp – reminiscent of a cracker.  It held up well to the toppings and had a nice, nutty flavor.

DAY TWO (Sunday):
Day two was infinitely less eventful on the food front.   Peef made gluten-free scrambled eggs with onions, tarragon, chives, and Gruyere cheese for breakfast, which we enjoyed with some homemade iced coffee.   I headed off to work for a few hours, and Paul spent the afternoon completing a variety of household chores.

Although I’d been hoping to try my hand at some GF baking on Sunday, the time slipped away from us, and when I came home from work we found ourselves discussing what to have for dinner.  The weather had grown oppressively hot during the course of the day, so we were pretty opposed to turning on the oven.  Instead, we decided to cook our dinner on the grill – which turned out to be a pretty easy way to finish off our GF challenge.  We opted for grass-fed New York Strip steaks (seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic), sautéed mushrooms, grilled asparagus, and packets of purple potatoes cooked with sweet Vidalia onions, garlic, and butter – a meal comprised of basic foods, most of which had been grown or raised within 150 miles of our own doorstep.

We sipped gin & tonics as Paul put the food on the grill. Our drinks were made with Stirrings tonic water, a brand that is sweetened with pure cane sugar (not high fructose corn syrup) and contains no added artificial colors or flavors.  That’s Very Good news when you’re concerned that the “natural flavors” in your food might be tainted with gluten – but I found myself feeling a little bit sad that I had to think about what was in my sugary carbonated beverage.

On the other hand, as I sat there enjoying the smell of our dinner cooking, it also occurred to me that when it comes to going gluten-free, a diet rich in whole (rather than processed) foods – things like organic, local vegetables and high quality meatsmakes everything a whole lot easier.  Things get worlds simpler when we stop opting for packaged foods with long complicated ingredient lists and start getting back to the basics and taking the time to cook dinner for ourselves.

That simple steak dinner was the most “meat and potatoesy” meal that we’ve eaten in a very long time.  But, it was simple. And delicious.  And, the best part of it was, at the end of a long day, there wasn’t a speck of processed food (or gluten) on our plates.


Of course, the saying goes that “every good thing must come to an end.”  And so it goes with the Gluten Free Challenge. This morning we found ourselves getting back to our old routine.  We made kefir and fruit smoothies for breakfast before heading off to work. For lunch I ate up a bit of the leftover pizza we had languishing in the fridge (which was off-limits during the challenge).  And I have no idea what’s on the docket for dinner tonight, but it may very well involve something with “gluten cooties” in it.

Everything on the surface looks suspiciously the same as BEFORE the challenge. But, trust me when I say that things have changed.  We’ve lived in another’s shoes and experienced what it means to live each day with a gluten allergy – to be dutiful and conscious of every speck of food that goes into our bodies.  And it has opened our eyes to a whole way of looking at the world.   We might not need to avoid gluten for the sake of our own health, but we’re now well aware of what our GF friends go through each day – reading labels, asking questions, doing the research. And it has inspired us to make a few changes in our own lives.

We don’t want to forget our GF friends or their journeys, so we’re hoping to continue to opt for at least one gluten-free meal per week. Maybe we’ll experiment with some of that GF baking we’ve gotten so curious about. If we do, we’ll definitely blog about it. And it’s also quite possible we’ll order another round of that GF pizza at Transfer Pizzeria. After all, it was pretty darned good.  And we’d have never tried it if it weren’t for Sarah and the Gluten Free Challenge.


Aren’t they great? Impressive. (just like their Burp! Where Food Happens blog, go see!)

Did any of your friends and family take the Gluten Free Challenge over the weekend?

Prolific Blogger Awards ~ Passing on the love.

Do any of you know of someone in your life that is bursting with talent, but extremely modest about their gift? My friend Christi is that person.

She is an interpreter and Super Mom (to two adorable kiddos, one of which has multiple food allergies) by day and a witty, ever-so-creative writer by night. But don’t take my word for it, go see her blog for yourself.

Earlier this month she gave me the Prolific Blogger Award, which you can check out here. What an honor. Especially coming from her.

There may be a rule, some type of “re-gifting” clause about giving the award back to her. But if it were allowed, she would be at the top of my list.

Here are some other Prolific Bloggers.

And the awards go to…

  • Lauren from Celiac Teen. A teen from Canada. Passionate about food and photos. Created an eBook to help those in Haiti. Yes, a teenager. Pretty amazing.
  • Anne from Gluten-Free Musings. She keeps us up to date. Plenty of great recipes and giveaways too. Hoping to meet her in person one of these days.
  • Kim @ Gluten Free is Life. Not sure exactly where she finds the time to run, write, review, run, cook, bake, run, tend to kiddos… but she DOES IT! (and she shares the love of coconut M&M’s)
  • “Peef and Lo” from Burp! Where Food Happens. Fellow Wisco food lovers. You can easily convert their recipes to gluten free. In fact, they are in a recipe contest RIGHT NOW, and you can vote for them. The recipe IS gluten free.
  • Dan and Melissa from A Duo of Chefs More local food fanatics. Although they don’t have a gf focus, the recipes are creative and easily converted over to our side.
  • Stephen from Your Milwaukee Dining. Storming Milwaukee one restaurant at a time and reporting back to us. Fast fingers on Twitter. Plenty of pics. (w/ a side of sarcasm) Big fun.

There it is. Hope you enjoy visiting their sites as much as I do. I am blessed to be among great writers.