November 26, 2009

DC Flashback: Hello Cupcake!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm sitting among family in Chicago. The TV has football playing. People are lounging around, playing hand-held video games, passing around the newest edition to the family, Vincent, who is only two months old. Soon the feast will begin, but it's now the calm before the gastronomic storm.

I thought... what better a time to write about my most recent trip to Washington DC?! Mindy attended an International Affairs Conference two weeks ago. Being that it was only a few hours drive away, I decided to tag along. We stayed in Georgetown, which is full of great coffee shops, restaurants, sites to see, and things to do.

While she attended workshops I wandered our area, scoping out our evening-time options. Whenever I came across a sweet coffee shop, I stopped in and did some of my school work. It was like a little work-vacation. I actually got a lot of work done, plus I was able to satiate my wanderlust and get some partying in:) Mindy and I found a great piano bar, and the Piano Man even dedicated a song to us! It was a little embarrassing, but completely awesome at the same time.

One night we had dinner at a place called Zed's. Zed's serves Ethiopian cuisine, most of which comes wrapped in glutenous bread. However, the staff knew about Celiac Disease and served my dishes with rice and beans instead. The food, overall, was delicious, but the lentils were out of this world!

But the absolute #1 foody find of the weekend was HELLO CUPCAKE. Hello Cupcake is a little bakery dedicated to scrumptious mini-cakes topped with a mountain of icing. And the best part of all... they serve Gluten Free Cupcakes!!! At $3.00 a cupcake, it's a bit expensive, but after just one bite I was in love! The best GF baked goods I've had thus far!

From what I've read on the internet, the GF cupcakes sell out fast, so if you are in an area with a Hello Cupcake, get in there early and treat yourself. You'll be glad you did:)

Well, I think the bird is about done. I'm off to feast!!!

November 20, 2009

Gluten Free Restaurant Review: Pho & Cafe Saigon

Whooooo Hoooooo! This is my 100th posting!!! I can't believe I've written a hundred entries for this website already. And I'm sure I'll feel the same way when I reach 200:) Besides hooking people up with easy gluten free recipes, links to great resources, and tips to living a GF lifestyle, I write this blog to document my own journey into a life of reading labels, questioning the ingredients for all the food put in front of me, and of course... to have a written and visual history of my culinary adventures.

The people who read this are often faceless, often voiceless, but nevertheless, when I see the number on my site-visit counter it makes me smile:) I do this just because I enjoy it. Thank all of you who visit and follow me. Knowing there are others alongside me on my journey gives me a warm feeling.

Speaking of warm feelings, this entry is all about my absolute favorite Vietnamese Pho restaurant, located on the west side of Philly near U-Penn. It's called Pho & Cafe Saigon, and is located at the corner of Spruce and South 43rd street. I've been going there solely for their Pho for over three years, and to tell you the truth, I've never known the name of the place. LOL! Just yesterday I took a friend/colleague to share in the enjoyment of sitting in front of a large, steaming, deliciously smelling, completely comforting bowl of noodle soup. I'm pretty sure she was digging it. I was! As I always do:) Sometimes I even have a few taste-bud orgasms before the end of my meal. It's that good... not kidding at all.

I ordered the chicken pho, and Brianna ordered the vegetarian pho. It comes out at lightening speed, and is accompanied by a plate of fresh basil, lime wedges and bean sprouts. Hot green tea is also included for free. The noodles are made of 100% rice flour, and the stock is homemade (so no hidden gluten). The hot-sauce on every table is gluten free, but the plum sauce is questionable. Since first walking foot into the establishment over three years ago, I've pretty much tried every variety of pho they have; even ones that include chunks of cow stomach, intestines and gizzard. All AWESOME!!! Although the pieces of cow throat have a texture which takes some time to get used to.

If you are ever in the area, I highly suggest trying the place out. The staff isn't the most friendly or social, but who cares! Their Pho is out of this world!!!

Pho & Cafe Saigon
4248 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(Average cost of a bowl of Pho = $5.95-$6.95)

November 10, 2009

Gluten Free Pumpkin Apricot Stew

Halloween is over, but I'm still daydreaming about the stew that we served at our Halloween costume party. It was absolutely amazing! And eating it out of a pumpkin was just downright cool! Plus, I'm a huge fan of yams, and this dish is loaded with delicious yam chunks!

I'm not sure if you can find pumpkins anymore, but even without the pumpkin shell, this is sure to be a hit with anyone you're feeding:) My apologies for the poor photo, I planned on taking nice photos of this stew the next day, but it was all eaten up!

To keep things GF, I used an organic beef broth that stated "gluten-free" on the carton. I've also used the product "Better Than Bouillon" numerous times with no ill effect. The ingredients do not list anything evidently glutenous, but proceed with caution if you happen to have a very sensitive system.

  • 2 lb beef stew meat, cubed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tblsp oil
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 3 white potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 sweet potatoes (yams), peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • butter
  • 1 16oz. can whole kernal corn, drained
  • 1 medium pumpkin

Cooking Directions
  1. Cook beef, onion and garlic together in oil until browned. Add the tomatoes, pepper, salt, pepper, sugar, apricots, potatoes and broth. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, cut off the pumpkin top. Scoop out the seeds and membrane. Brush the inside of the pumpkin walls with melted butter and then salt and pepper the inside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Once the pumpkin is prepped, add the corn to the stew and stir together. Ladle the hot stew into the pumpkin shell.
  5. Place shell in a shallow pan and bake, uncovered, for about an hour or until the pumpkin meat is tender.
  6. Serve by scraping up the sides of the pumpkin before ladling into bowls. Make sure you get a nice amount of pumpkin flesh into each serving.
  7. Place lid of pumpkin back on for aesthetic appeal:) You're going to love this!!!

November 1, 2009

Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Cookies

I just had my last weekend class for the semester, and boy is my mind exhausted. Spending 8+ hours with very smart people, making sure to be on top of your game, is always a challenge, and always tiring. I loved it though! I guess I'm just a big nerd, but I love group learning:)

Since it was Halloween weekend, and we were all stuck in class with each other, we were encouraged to bring in treats to share. I brought these cookies and a gallon of apple cider. The cookies, which my partner whipped up with a recipe I found while I set up the outdoor Halloween decorations in hopes of terrifying the local kids, came out FREAKING AWESOME!! Thank you Mindy;) I absolutely loved em, as did everyone else who tried em! These would be the perfect cookies to bring for Thanksgiving.

To get the icing to coat the tops just right, you need to wait for the cookies to completely cool first. I know that this may be difficult to do, especially with the scent of warm cookies in the air, and your mouth watering, but trust me... these actually are better chilled. Once cooled and drizzled, I'd advise layering the iced cookies between parchment paper to keep it all sticking together.

Mindy smartly decided to add walnuts to my recipe, but feel free to omit them if you wish. However, they do give these cookies a nice chunky character. Either way, I'm sure you'll dig these!

Here's a recipe for the Gluten Free flour baking mix I whipped up.

Gluten Free Flour Mix
  • 3 cups white rice flour
  • 1 cup potato flour
  • ½ cup tapioca flour
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum

Cookie Ingredients
  • 5 cups Gluten Free Flour (I made my own, but feel free to use any brand you choose)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups walnut chunks

Glaze Ingredients
  • 4 cups confectioner's sugar (aka powdered sugar)
  • 6 tblsp milk
  • 2 tblsp melted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together a cup of softened butter and the sugar.
  4. Add the pumpkin , eggs and 1 tsp vanilla. Beat until creamy (either with an electric mixer, or some serious arm power).
  5. Incorporate the dry flour mixture into the wet pumpkin mixture and then stir in the walnuts.
  6. Drop by spoonfuls onto a non-stick baking sheet, slightly flattening them as you go, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until edges are lightly toasted.
  7. Remove from oven and let each batch cool completely on a cooling rack before drizzling with the icing. To make the icing, simply whip together all the ingredients until nice and creamy. Use a fork to drizzle.
  8. Wait till the icing dries and layer cookies between parchment paper sheets in a large bowl or pan.
  9. This recipe makes a TON of cookies, so be prepared to share. Enjoy!!


Just So You Know...

The information presented in this blog is intended to educate and entertainment. However, I'm not a medical expert.  I also do not know absolutely everything about Celiac Disease.  What I do know has been learned through trial and error, research, and what has been taught to me by friends who also share my food-related affliction.  Please take the time to do your own research about Celiac Disease and gluten-related issues.  I have a list of links to useful resources along the left-side of this blog. Also, feel free to cross-check my statements. If you find contrary information, please let me know. Thanks so much for visiting Trav's Gone Gluten Free!