Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Best of 2014 - My Favorite Gluten Free Products

My first Best of 2014 blog post will focus on the best gluten free products that I have discovered this year.  I am hoping to work on a second Best of 2014 post focusing on my eating adventures at Disney World in the next couple of days.

I am going to start this list with a product that I like to start my day with during the work/school week - Chobani Indulgent Banana & Dark Chocolate Greek Yogurt.  This might be the best yogurt I have ever had.  It is blended (my preference), made with whole milk (I like healthy fats), contains bananas and dark chocolate (a winning combination), and is certified gluten free.

Before I work out, I like to eat another new breakfast favorite - Erewhon Buckwheat & Hemp Gluten Free Cereal.  Until this year, I was not a cereal eater, but I love this cereal with milk and bananas.  Erewhon Buckwheat & Hemp Cereal doesn't get soggy in milk, it is not overly sweet, and it contains a good amount of fiber and protein.

In 2014, I discovered a gluten free bagel that actually tastes like a gluten-filled New York style bagel.  Sweet Note Bagels are not sold locally, but they are definitely worth ordering online.  Even though my husband takes my daughters to eat gluten-filled bagels once a week, my daughter Katie keeps begging me to order these bagels again.

Cup4Cup Pancake & Waffle Mix has become our favorite mix for waffles this year, and it makes pretty amazing pancakes as well.  It is easy to make, it makes the perfect amount of pancakes or waffles for our family, and it tastes great.  This fall, I started making pumpkin waffles and cinnamon banana waffles with chocolate chips with the mix.

For lunch, one of my top picks for 2014 is  Boar's Head Bianco D'Oro Italian Salame.  I love to eat it with avocado, or my favorite Italian cheeses.  All of Boar's Head's deli meats, cheeses, and condiments are gluten free.

Earlier this year, I tried Krave Black Cherry Barbecue Pork Jerky for the first time.  I wouldn't consider myself a huge fan of jerky, but this stuff is amazing!

In the chip department, my top pick for 2014 is Simply 7 Cheddar Quinoa Chips, which I purchase from The Fresh Market.  When I need an easy and quick lunch, I eat some quinoa chips with string cheese, fruit, and gluten free cookies.  

I love to bake, but when I don't have any homemade cookies on the counter or in the freezer, I know I can open a pack of Schar Hazelnut Wafers, which I just discovered this year.  If you love Nutella, you will love these cookies, which are so nice and light, and not overly sweet.  I purchase Schar Hazelnut Wafers from my local Walmart Neighborhood Market or from Vitacost.com.  

My favorite gluten free pastas of 2014 have been Le Veneziane and Barilla.  We love Le Veneziane fettuccine, penne, rigatoni and ditalini, and Barilla penne and spaghetti.  The gluten-eaters in my house tell me they are as good as the gluten-filled pastas they eat at restaurants, and neither one requires a cold rinse.   

Lately, when we have needed a really quick & easy dinner, my go-to microwave meal has been Blake's Shepherd's Pie, which is made with organic corn, organic mashed potatoes, and ground beef.  When I think comfort food, this is the meal that comes to mind.  Locally, Blake's Shepherd's Pie can be purchased at Whole Foods, Publix, and Target.    

I am going to finish my Best of 2014 list with my favorite gluten free products that are only available at the holidays.  On Sunday, I tried Glutino Gluten Free Peppermint Yogurt Covered Pretzels for the first time.  If they hadn't been giving out free samples at Whole Foods, I would have never purchased them, because I am not a big fan of mint, pretzels, or anything covered with yogurt, but the combo of the three is just amazing!  I am now regretting that I showed restraint, and only came home with one bag.

Last weekend, I tried Williams-Sonoma Gluten-Free Gingerbread Spice Quick Bread Mix for the first time as well, and was so impressed with it, I called my local Williams-Sonoma to reserve two more bags.  I made gingerbread spice muffins with the mix on Saturday, and everyone in my family loved how flavorful they were.  The mix is sold out online, but you can probably still buy it on sale at your local Williams-Sonoma store.

I am finishing my Best of 2014 list with Trader Joe's Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancake Mix for a couple of reasons.  It was the first product that popped into my head when I started to brainstorm this list, my review of the mix has been one of my most viewed blog posts this year with over 3,500 views, and my husband and I both agree that it might be the best pancake mix we have ever had, beating out both its gluten free and gluten-filled counterparts.  With some pumpkin spice honey butter and maple syrup on top, the pancakes we make with this mix are just heavenly.

There are a lot of links in this post, so if you want to know more about these products, like where to buy them, or information about ingredients, click on the words in blue.  Some of the links will take you to product reviews I have written on my blog over the course of 2014.

Wishing you and your family a Happy New Year!

What are your favorite gluten free products of 2014?  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Williams-Sonoma Gluten-Free Gingerbread Spice Quick Bread Mix

This morning, I made gingerbread spice muffins for breakfast, using Williams-Sonoma Gluten-Free Gingerbread Spice Quick Bread Mix.  

The directions were pretty simple.  I melted a stick of unsalted butter, let it cool, then combined it with 2 large eggs, the quick bread mix, and 1 cup of lowfat milk in a large bowl.  

There are directions to make gingerbread spice muffins with the quick bread mix on the side of the bag.  I greased the wells of my muffin pan with butter, filled them with batter, then baked my 12 muffins for 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  

I let the muffins cool for about 5 minutes in the pan before serving them.  They were a little crispy around the edges, and had the most wonderful texture and taste.  The muffins were not overly sweet, and they had such a lovely flavor from the molasses, crystallized ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.  

There is a recipe for spiced glaze on the bag, using confectioners' sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and milk, but we decided to serve our muffins with butter.  

The mix contains Cup4Cup flour (cornstarch, white rice flour, brown rice flour, milk powder, tapioca flour, potato starch, xanthan gum), dark brown sugar, molasses powder, crystallized ginger, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, natural vanilla flavor, salt, cloves, and nutmeg.  

Allergy warning: contains milk.  This product is prepared and packaged using machines that may come in contact with eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts and tree nuts.  The mix is certified gluten free by the CSA, which means that it must test less than 5 ppm.  

Williams-Sonoma's gluten-free gingerbread spice quick bread mix is no longer available online, so I called the Winter Park store and had them hold two bags for me.

March 1, 2015

This morning, I made 36 mini gingerbread spice muffins in my mini muffin pans.  I cooked them on 350 for 15 minutes. 

December 13, 2016 Update

Williams-Sonoma gluten free gingerbread spice quick bread mix is back for the holiday season, and can be ordered online here, or you can call your local store to see if it is in stock.  Online, you can purchase the quick bread mix alone, or with several different Nordic Ware holiday pans, which you can view here.

What are your favorite gluten free products at Williams-Sonoma?  

Friday, December 26, 2014

Trattoria al Forno Dinner - Disney's BoardWalk

Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, we dined at Trattoria al Forno, a casual Italian restaurant on Disney's BoardWalk.  Trattoria al Forno opened earlier this month, replacing Kouzzina, one of our favorite restaurants at Disney World.

Trattoria al Forno will be offering a gluten free menu at both breakfast and dinner, but they were not available for me to look at, because they are in the process of having them reprinted.  

Chef Miguel came out to speak with me about gluten free options on the menu.  I was shocked to find out that Trattoria al Forno is using gluten free breadcrumbs in all of their dishes, so I could enjoy the fried calamari, meatballs, chicken breast alla Parmigiana, and pork chop alla Milanese.  I could also order the pasta dishes, because they have Barilla gluten free spaghetti.  Gluten free pizzas are currently not available at Trattoria al Forno, but almost everything else on the menu was naturally gluten free, or could be modified to be gluten free.  

The rolls appeared to be the same dry Udi's rolls that I was served at The Wave last weekend.  They are definitely not worth eating.  I would much prefer a GNI roll, or a piece of toasted Udi's bread, which I know both restaurants have on hand for breakfast.

The highlight of my dinner at Trattoria al Forno was the fried calamari with white balsamic and lemon agrodolce.  It was just as delicious as the calamari I have had at the Flying Fish Cafe next door.  The agrodolce under the calamari was tart from the vinegar, which didn't appear to be white balsamic, and contained golden raisins and peppers.  I thought the breading was seasoned well, and I enjoyed my calamari with and without the agrodolce.  

I had a very hard time deciding on an entree.  I really wanted the pasta with green beans, roasted potatoes, and Genovese pesto, but spaghetti is my least favorite noodle.  I love Barilla gluten free pasta, but wish Trattoria al Forno carried their penne instead.  I ended up ordering the pork chop alla Milanese, which is a pork chop that has been pounded flat, then breaded.  It is usually topped with a shaved fennel-arugula salad, but I am not a fan of anything that tastes like black licorice, so I asked if they could substitute broccolini.  I found my pork to be a bit tasteless at first.  The breadcrumbs could use some salt and pepper.  I rectified the problem by asking our server for some salt and Parmesan, which added some much needed flavor.  I enjoyed my pork, which reminded me of the pork chops my Italian grandmother used to make, but I look forward to trying other entrees the next time we go to Trattoria al Forno.  

My broccolini, like my pork, was a little underseasoned, and I was shocked to see that we were charged for a side dish of it after we left the restaurant.  We spoke to a manager the next morning at breakfast, who gladly refunded our money.  This is not the first time this has happened to us at Disney, so be sure to check that you have not been charged for a side when you are substituting the vegetable in your entree.  

Gluten free dessert options include the affogato al caffe (espresso with choice of hazelnut or vanilla gelato), spaghetti gelato and meatballs, lemon panna cotta with almond crunch & macerated berries, or a spoonful of gelato (choice of hazelnut, double dark chocolate, strawberry-basil-balsamic, or pistachio-stracciatella).  I would have loved to have tried the lemon panna cotta, but I don't eat desserts with sugar substitutes.  

We ended up ordering three different types of gelato.  The pistachio-stracciatella was so smooth and creamy, and I actually didn't mind the chocolate running throughout it, which I wasn't sure I would like in pistachio gelato.  My husband chose the strawberry-basil-balsamic, which he liked, but I thought was too sweet.  My girls both loved their double dark chocolate gelato, but we all thought the portion size for all of our desserts was way too small.  

My husband and daughters, who do not have to eat gluten free, did not love either one of the entrees they shared.  They agreed that the lasagna could not compare to the lasagna they love at Maggiano's on International Drive.  My husband thought it was a little tasteless, and that there was too much pasta, and too little cheese and meat.  The prosciutto, potato, rosemary, and mozzarella pizza they ordered was served with tomato sauce, which they were not expecting.  It was not mentioned on the menu, and my husband and I both thought the pizza would be served like the pizza we so loved in Italy, without red sauce.  My husband said the crust was good, but the sauce drowned out the other elements of the pizza that he wanted to taste, like the prosciutto and potato.   Lesson learned - always assume that pizzas in America will be served with red sauce, so ask before ordering.

All of us agreed that we preferred the breakfast we had at Trattoria al Forno, which you can read about here, but I do look forward to dining at the newest restaurant on Disney's BoardWalk again soon for both breakfast and dinner.

February 15, 2014 Update

Last night, we celebrated Valentine's Day at Trattoria al Forno.  We started with their calamari, which is so ridiculously good, I might just order it as my entree the next time we dine there. 

This time around, I did ask for Udi's gluten free bread, which was lightly toasted, instead of the rolls I did not enjoy on our last visit.  The bread was great with some butter, and our waitress suggested dipping it in the agrodolce that comes with the calamari.  

My husband and I split two of the entrees on their gluten free menu.  The Pasta all Carbonara with guanciale was good, but not good enough to order again.  You could definitely taste the egg, but I found myself missing bacon on this dish.  The guanciale was either too scarce, or does not have as strong a taste as bacon, which I like a lot of on carbonara.  

The slow-cooked lamb shank with polenta was also good, but couldn't match the deliciousness of my favorite lamb dish at Sanaa.  The meat was incredibly tender, but I found my polenta to be a little runny.  My husband enjoyed both of our entrees much more than I did, and had no complaints about our food.

For dessert, I ordered both the spaghetti gelato with meatballs, and pistachio-stracciatella gelato.  Since the portions are on the smaller side, and it was Valentine's Day, I treated myself to two desserts.  The pistachio gelato was just as good as it was on Christmas Eve, but in the future, I will probably order the spaghetti gelato (vanilla gelato) and meatballs (raspberries coated in gluten free bread crumbs).  I loved the presentation, and the spaghetti (raspberry) sauce on the vanilla gelato, and the meatballs were delicious.  

We will be dining at Trattoria al Forno again over Spring Break with my parents, and I plan on sampling more of the dishes on their gluten free menu.  My daughters split an order of the chicken parmesan tonight, and loved it.  I would have liked to have tried their chicken, which is naturally gluten free, but it was sitting on a plate with gluten-filled pasta.  My husband sampled a bite while he was cutting it, and said it was delicious.

March 18, 2015 Update

Last night, we had dinner at Trattoria al Forno with my parents. 

My girls split an order of the Chicken Breast alla Parmigiana with pasta, which can be made with gluten free Barilla spaghetti.  They said it was even better than the last time they ordered it.  

My mom enjoyed her whole-roasted fish with roasted vegetables, which is another option on the gluten free menu.

Both my dad and I ordered the pasta with green beans, roasted potatoes, and Genovese pesto, which is the best entree I have had at Trattoria al Forno.  The pasta was perfectly cooked and sauced, and I loved the thin slices of roasted potatoes.  I am definitely going to have to try to recreate this dish at home with my homemade pesto.  My husband enjoyed his braised beef Bolognese with pasta, another dish that can be made gluten free.  He said the beef was nice and tender, and reminded him of a dish his grandmother used to make.

Trattoria al Forno's current gluten free offerings include:


  • Fried calamari
  • Shaved Italian cured meats with house-pickled peppers, olive, and caponata
  • Venetian mussels with tomato-curry broth
  • Regional Italian soup of the day
  • Romaine lettuce with cucumber, tomato, olives, and shaved Pecorino Romano
  • Caprese salad with house-made mozzarella
  • Grilled treviso with gorgonzola dolce and pistachio gremolata
Pasta e Riso
  • Spaghetti alla Vongole (spaghetti with clams)
  • Polpetta gigante - giant meatball with pasta
  • Seasonal risotto
  • Pasta with green beans, roasted potatoes, and Genovese pesto
  • Pasta alla Carbonara
Carni e Pesci
  • T-Bone Steak Florentine with broccolini
  • Slow-cooked lamb shank with soft polenta
  • Chicken Breast alla Parmigiana with pasta (chicken parmesan with gluten free spaghetti)  
  • Pork chop alla Milanese topped with shaved fennel-arugula salad
  • Eggplant rollatini with shaved fennel-arugula salad
  • Sauteed shrimp with lemon caper and anchovy butter with polenta
  • Braised beef Bolognese with pasta
  • Whole-roasted fish with roasted vegetables
  • Lemon panna cotta with almond crunch and macerated berries (a no sugar added dessert)
  • Affogato al Caffe - espresso with choice of hazelnut or vanilla gelato
  • Spoonful of gelato - choice of hazelnut, double dark chocolate, strawberry-basil-balsamic, or pistachio-stracciatella
  • Spaghetti gelato and meatballs
Kids' Meals
  • Appetizers - mixed green salad with fat-free ranch dressing
  • Mickey Check Meals (served with choice of lowfat milk or small Dasani water, and fresh fruit for dessert) - seasonal fish with green beans and potatoes; grilled chicken breast with pasta marinara and green beans
  • Desserts - Italian garden meringue mushroom s'mores

July 27, 2015 Update

On Saturday, we had dinner at Trattoria al Forno.  I was shocked when I saw their new allergy-friendly menu, because the gluten free menu they used to have listed 3 more gluten free appetizers, 8 more entrees, and 2 more desserts.  Because the pasta dish I was interested in ordering wasn't on the new menu, I asked to speak to a chef, who said he could prepare the dish for me by simply using gluten free spaghetti.

I asked for toasted Udi's bread instead of rolls, which looked great upon arrival, but I quickly discovered that my bread was only toasted on one side, which made it much less appetizing.

When my pasta with green beans, roasted potatoes, and Genovese pesto arrived, I noticed right away that it was swimming in oil.  It was so over sauced, I couldn't eat much of it.  When I told our server about it, she sent over a manager to talk to me.  

The manager was very apologetic, and offered me a new entree.  I decided to try the chicken parmesan, but asked for it without the pasta and without sauce, because I typically do not like red sauces.  When my new entree arrived with sauce, I didn't say anything about it being prepared incorrectly, because I did not want to send back a second meal.  I didn't love the sauce, but the chicken was excellent.  I could see myself ordering this dish with freshly grated parmesan on top of the chicken instead of sauce and melted cheese.

My pasta dish was removed from our bill, but I was charged for the chicken parmesan, which was several dollars more.  I don't mind paying for my meal, but I received the chicken parmesan without pasta, so it would have made sense to charge me for my original entree, which cost less.  I did receive a complimentary dish of pistachio gelato, but sadly, it tasted old, and as usual, the portion size was ridiculously small.  

The highlight of my meal was the fried calamari, which never disappoints.  

I spoke to the manager on duty about the reduced number of gluten free dishes on their new allergy-friendly menu, and she didn't really have a good explanation for it.  For my pesto pasta dish, she thought maybe it wasn't on the menu because it contains nuts, but that didn't make much sense to me, because it could just be listed without a peanut/tree nut designation.  I assume that all the dishes on Trattoria al Forno's old gluten free menu can still be prepared gluten free if you talk to a chef, which is why I have left that information in this post.

You can view Trattoria al Forno's menus, and make advance dining reservations on Disney's website here.

What are your favorite gluten free dishes at Trattoria al Forno?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Trattoria al Forno Breakfast - Disney's BoardWalk

Last night and this morning, we dined at Trattoria al Forno, a casual Italian restaurant on Disney's BoardWalk.  Trattoria al Forno opened earlier this month, replacing Kouzzina, one of our favorite restaurants at Disney World.

Trattoria al Forno will be offering a gluten free menu at both breakfast and dinner, but they were not available for me to look at, because they are in the process of having them reprinted.  

This morning, we were greeted by Chef Brad, who told me that any of the breakfast entrees could be made gluten free, except the caramel apple crumb pancakes, which my husband ordered, and thoroughly enjoyed.

My daughters and I shared an order of gluten free Mickey waffles with espresso-mascarpone cream and bacon.  The espresso-mascarpone cream is one of the best toppings for Mickey waffles at Disney.  If you like tiramisu, you will love this topping.  The waffles seemed to be a bit better than they used to be at Kouzzina, but that might just be because they were cooked to perfection this morning.  

For a second entree, my girls and I ordered the scrambled eggs with tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella served with breakfast potatoes and bacon.  We were all fighting over the crispy breakfast potatoes, and everyone loved the eggs, which I ate right on top of my Udi's toast.  The bacon on both of our dishes was thick and crispy, just right for dunking in some maple syrup.  

I must admit that I was quite sad when I heard that Kouzzina was closing its doors, because it was one of our favorite restaurants at Disney for breakfast, and we spent many a Christmas morning there over the years.  The breakfast we had at Trattoria al Forno this morning was as amazing as any breakfast we ever had at Kouzzina, and it was great to see familiar faces like Chef Brad, who always takes such great care of us.

In October, I dined at the Flying Fish Cafe, which was serving breakfast while Kouzzina was being transformed into Trattoria al Forno.

I had the same gluten free Mickey waffles we ate on Christmas morning, while my friend Shelley ordered the poached eggs with fennel sausage, Parmesan, and tomato gravy, served over soft polenta.  She told me that she liked it better than her favorite breakfast dish at Kouzzina, and that it might be her new favorite breakfast at Disney.  Shelley said the tomato gravy was delicious, and the dish was super flavorful, creamy, and cheesy.  She also loved the addition of the poached eggs.  This dish is available for breakfast at Trattoria al Forno.

My friend Sarah from Gluten-Free & Dairy Free at WDW was also dining at Trattoria al Forno for breakfast on Christmas day with her family.  You can read her review here.

April 7, 2015 Update

On Easter Sunday, we had breakfast at Trattoria al Forno.  I ordered the Mickey waffles with espresso-mascarpone cream and bacon, which are featured in my blog post about the best Disney-themed gluten free waffles at Walt Disney World, which you can view here.

My father-in-law ordered the frittata with roasted red peppers, prosciutto and onion, topped with pecorino romano cheese and arugula, and served with breakfast potatoes.  He loved everything about this dish, and mentioned how good it was a couple of times on Easter Sunday.

Trattoria al Forno's gluten free offerings for breakfast include the following dishes:  

  • Choice of two eggs, served with breakfast potatoes, and choice of bacon or chicken sausage
  • Frittata with roasted red peppers, prosciutto, onions, potatoes, and Pecorino Romano cheese, topped with arugula
  • Scrambled eggs with tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella, served with breakfast potatoes, and choice of bacon or chicken sausage
  • Poached eggs with fennel sausage, Parmesan, and tomato gravy, served over soft polenta
  • Seasonal fresh fruit bowl
  • Waffle with espresso-mascarpone cream, and choice of bacon or chicken sausage
  • Yogurt with berries
  • Cured Italian meats with tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, and cheese with fonduta
  • Side dishes - breakfast potatoes, bacon or chicken sausage, Mickey waffle

Kids' Meals (for guests ages 9 and under)
  • Egg white, spinach, and tomato omelet, served with potatoes, and a choice of a small lowfat milk or small Dasani water
  • All-American Breakfast (bacon, eggs, and a muffin), fresh fruit plate, Mickey-shaped waffles, or pancakes served with a choice of small lowfat milk, small Dasani water, or small Minute Maid Apple Juice

You can read my dinner review of Trattoria al Forno here.

You can read more about Trattoria al Forno, and make advance dining reservations on Disney's website here.

What are your favorite gluten free dishes at Trattoria al Forno?