Perfect Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

Crisp on the outside? Check. Satisfying chew on the inside? Yup. Holds up to lots of toppings? You betcha. Can you eat it one-handed? Yes, indeed. On the table in under an hour and a half? Absolutely. Yeasty, dough-like taste and texture? Double check. It may not look like much in the picture, but try it and taste it! I think you’ll agree, your quest for the perfect gluten-free pizza crust is complete.

After a trip to a pizza place (where I was not able to enjoy the pizza), I became a woman on a mission – to create a pizza crust which was allergy-friendly while satisfying my discriminating pizza palate and raging pizza craving. No small task honestly. And I’m pleased to say this one is a true winner. When we ate it the other night, the discussion at the table included the words – “so delicious,” “please make this again,” and “I sure hope you’re going to share this one on your blog.” So here it is.

No need to drag out the mixer or fancy dough hooks, no bread maker or any other fancy equipment. Mix up almost everything in a single bowl. Let it rest for an hour while you prepare your toppings (or do something else), add a final ingredient, knead the dough a few times, let it sit for 10 minutes while you stage your other ingredients, assemble, bake, and eat. Done. Homemade gluten-free pizza on the table and in your mouth in less than 90 minutes from start to finish.

I called this recipe a pizza crust, though it’s so much more than that! This dough can be used to make all manner of pizzas, flatbreads, calzones, and most likely other tasty goodies as well. Let your imagination run wild!

We made flatbreads topped with pesto, my No-Heat Italian Sausage Crumbles, caramelized onions and garlic cloves, black olives, and a sprinkle of oregano on top. We’ll be coming back to this one again and again!

Perfect Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

This delicious dough is made of cassava flour and arrowroot powder, yet has the sturdy texture and chew mimicking a traditional wheat crust. Use this dough to make pizzas, flatbreads, calzones and more! Your family will love this! (AIP, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free, nightshade-free)
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Resting Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cassava flour plus extra to form dough
  • 1 cup arrowroot flour
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2-1/4 cup water (105-110 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 2 package yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar or honey
  • 1 Tbsp gelatin
  • 3 Tbsp hot water

Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl, add 3.5 cups cassava, arrowroot, garlic powder, and salt. Whisk to combine. Then add in olive oil and whisk again until evenly distributed and crumbly in texture.
  • In a glass bowl or liquid measuring cup with the 105-110 degree water, add sugar/honey and yeast and allow to sit for a few minutes until bubbling. When yeast is proofed, add water and yeast mixture to flour mixture and form dough ball with hands. Knead a handful of times, just to make sure it's evenly mixed. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm area of your kitchen for 1 hour.
  • In a small cup, add gelatin and hot water. Immediately, mix to combine, ensuring no lumps. Then, as quickly as possible, pour liquid gelatin into bowl with dough. Using hands, incorporate gelatin into dough. Adding 1/4 cup cassava flour at a time, knead a handful of times again until dough is not sticky (I added 3/4 cup cassava).
  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Divide dough into eight evenly sized pieces. Using a rolling pin on a floured surface, roll out dough into a round disk of your desired thickness. Place on a pizza pan and bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browning.

Notes

Thicker crust will be chewier. Thinner crust will be lighter and crisper. Increase cooking time to make crispier.
Leftovers can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for several days. Reheats best in a toaster oven (crispiness), may also use a microwave.
For paleo or AIP, use honey instead of sugar.

No-Heat Italian Sausage Crumbles

Love the rich, meaty flavor of Italian Sausage, but cooking for someone who doesn’t appreciate spicy food? A picky toddler? Or someone needing to avoid nightshade spices (peppers, tomatoes, and paprika)? You can still enjoy amazing, homemade Italian Sausage Crumbles.

With a handful of spices and a skillet, you can transform plain ol’ ground pork into something magical and versatile in a matter of minutes. Sprinkle these No-Heat Italian Sausage Crumbles onto a pizza, flatbread, or loaded baked potato. Add them to a breakfast egg casserole, veggie hash or pasta. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, these Italian Sausage Crumbles can jazz up any meal!

We thought we might miss the heat, but we were wrong! My husband grew up in a home where Italian Sausage was taken very seriously, and he claims this sausage hits the mark! While I prefer ground pork for a more traditional flavor, another meat could be substituted based on what you have in the fridge or dietary preference.

This recipe makes two pounds of sausage crumbles which is likely more than you need, unless you’re feeding a crowd. This was intentional, because the leftovers freeze beautifully. Automatically put half in the freezer and you’re taking a shortcut to dinner on another night! Not interested? All the quantities may be easily cut in half to make only a single pound.

How will you eat your No-Heat Italian Sausage Crumbles? We ate ours on flatbreads (pictures above) – heavenly pizza crust recipe to follow soon! Stay tuned!

No-Heat Italian Sausage Crumbles

Full of flavor, but not the heat! These Italian Sausage Crumbles are a favorite of kids and adults whether or not they enjoy spicy foods and those who need to avoid nightshade spices, such as peppers and paprika, common ingredients in Italian Sausage. Sprinkle on flatbreads, pizzas, pasta, or veggies for a delicious meal! (Paleo, AIP option, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, nightshade-free)
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 1 drizzle olive oil
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • salt, to taste

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients except salt to a large skillet. Over medium-high heat, using a spoon or spatula, break up meat into small chunks and stir to distribute spices evenly throughout.
  • Stirring occasionally, cook until browned and cooked all the way through, about 15 minutes on my cooktop. Remove from heat. Enjoy!

Notes

AIP option: omit fennel seeds and black pepper.
Leftovers store well in the refrigerator for three days. Sausage crumbles reheat well in microwave or on a skillet on medium heat just until hot. Leftovers freeze beautifully.

Banana Cake

Tired of dry, crumbly, somewhat flavorless allergy-friendly desserts which really aren’t that worth eating? Stop right there and make my Banana Cake. It’s soft, moist without being gooey, rich, and sweet. Definitely a cake, not a bread. The tender crumb and mouth-feel of this cake is on-par with a traditional cake made with wheat – hard to recreate without typical baking ingredients since alternatives always behave differently!

The green banana flour and cassava flour form the base of the cake. The two flours mixed together gives a better texture and taste than either one would on their own. Palm shortening replaces butter and helps give an airy lift to the cake. Flax-eggs replace chicken eggs. And coconut milk plus a little lemon juice replaces buttermilk. Typically I shy away from using coconut milk in baked goods, since coconut can be such a dominating flavor. Here, however, it is well hidden, and what hint of coconut you may detect goes well with banana anyway.

I took a shortcut with frosting and used Simple Mills Vanilla Frosting, topped with a handful of chopped walnuts as garnish. Feel free to use your own homemade frosting recipe if you prefer. Or even leave it plain. To make this cake nut-free, you could easily omit the walnuts and instead garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon, sliced bananas, crushed banana chips, or just leave it plain and call it good.

Follow the steps exactly as written. It does make a difference if you alternate adding dry ingredients and wet ingredients in multiple small additions rather than adding each all at once. Also, don’t bypass the step of popping the cake into the freezer as soon as it is removed from the oven. It helps the cake set and cool, making frosting the cake easier. Baking this cake is easy, and you’ll have the best results if you make sure to do these couple of steps. Your patience will be rewarded! Last important step: keep a knife handy. We can’t help but cut off a little piece each time we walk by – so yummy! Happy baking!

Banana Cake

Rich, moist, decadent and scrumptious frosted banana cake. Great make-ahead recipe for serving at a party or brunch, or enjoy it all yourself! (Gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nightshade-free, nut-free option, paleo option)
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr 15 mins
Freezing Time1 hr
Total Time2 hrs 35 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12 slices

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
  • 1-1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup green banana flour
  • 1 cup cassava flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup palm shortening
  • 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 5 Tbsp water
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 can Simple Mills Vanilla Frosting - OR frosting of your choice
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit (no, this is not a typo). Thoroughly mash bananas and 1-1/2 tsp lemon juice in a bowl and set aside. In a small cup or bowl, mix the flaxseed and water. Allow to sit for several minutes until thickened. In a liquid measuring cup, combine coconut milk and 1 tsp lemon juice. Give it a quick stir, then let sit for several minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, cream palm shortening and sugar. Then add the "flax eggs" and vanilla, then combine. Mix green banana flour, cassava flour, salt, and baking soda in another bowl. Alternate flour mixture and coconut milk, adding 1/3 at a time, mixing into the palm shortening-sugar mixture. Stir in bananas. 
  • Pour cake batter into a 9x9 baking pan (my glass pan didn't need to be oiled/floured to avoid sticking). Bake at 275 degrees for 1hr and 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Then remove from oven and place into the freezer for 1 hour or until cool enough to frost.
  • Remove from freezer, frost with frosting. Top with chopped walnuts.

Notes

May make 1 day in advance. Leftovers store well in the refrigerator for a few days. Leftovers also freeze well.
Nut-free option: omit walnuts
Paleo option: sub suitable solid, granulated sugar, such as maple sugar (flavor/texture may change depending on which sugar used)

Steak Tacos From Scratch

I wish you could have come over and shared dinner with us the night we made Steak Tacos. We could hardly wait to dig in and start assembling our tacos once the food was done. I barely had any time to snap pictures! My preschooler was busy gobbling up a fully loaded taco which had been self-assembled without any supervision while I grabbed the few pictures I did manage to take 🙂

Steak Tacos are one of our family favorites. We make them on slower weekends when we have time to cook more leisurely and want to spend the time in the kitchen. We also make these when entertaining, for date night at home, or for special dinners – we made these on New Year’s Eve last year, for example. The steak marinades for several hours, up to 24 hours, to soak up flavor, so this is definitely a meal which you’ll plan in advance.

While a lot of prep work goes into making these, much of the work (marinading the steak, pickling the onions, mashing up the guac, slicing garnishes) can be done in advance. Or, if you choose, shortcuts can be taken, so you can pick and choose what components of the tacos you’d like to make vs outsource to the store (ex – store bought guac or tortillas). I will say though, the results will be SO MUCH better if you make all of it from scratch – especially the tortillas!

My husband is the tortilla-making guru in our family. He takes care of making these while I prepare the steak and put the finishing touches on the toppings.

The tortilla contribution from my husband is not only exceptionally delicious, but also a huge help. For best results, the tortillas and the steak should be hot – and therefore, cooking at the same time. And there’s enough to do to keep two people occupied during crunch-time in the kitchen, making this is a great recipe to make with a friend or for a date night at home. Many of the steps are simple, so if your friend or date is less experienced in the kitchen, there are ways they can get involved without feeling overwhelmed.

The various toppings add layers of flavor on top of the juicy marinated steak. The warm smoky corn is satisfying. Pickled onions add tang with a little crunch. And the cool, rich and creamy guacamole tops it all off. Each topping plays off each other perfectly to make one seriously awesome steak taco you’ll be craving after they’re all gone! 

Now you could load up all this yumminess on a store-bought tortilla, which would be more efficient and still tasty, but you’d really be missing out on the homemade tortillas. Truly, store-bought vs home-made is as different as night and day, in this case. My husband’s tortillas have ever so much more rich corn flavor. They have a smoother, more airy texture overall, yet with crispy edges, and they taste fresh and authentic in a way that store-bought never will! One bite and you’ll be hooked! 

The tortilla making process will be made easier with some special equipment – a tortilla press and a griddle. However, neither are necessary. You could roll out your tortillas with a rolling pin. And instead of frying tortillas on a griddle, a heavy frying pan (preferably enameled cast iron) can serve as a stand-in.

Fresh pineapple or mango makes a refreshing side item. Refried beans would also be tasty and round out the meal in minutes. And don’t forget a mojito or some sparkling water with a spritz of lime juice and mint leaves to drink!

My mouth is starting to water just looking at this picture! Too bad we already ate all the Steak Tacos. Anyone want to come make some more with me?

Steak Tacos From Scratch

Mouth watering marinated steak strips on top of authentic corn tortillas. Topped with smoky corn salsa, pickled red onions, creamy guacamole, chopped cilantro and fresh lime juice. All homemade. (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, nightshade-free)
Prep Time1 hr 15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Marinade Time6 hrs
Total Time2 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

Marinated Sirloin Steak

  • 3 pounds sirloin steak
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 lime, juice of
  • 1-1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano

Pickled Onions

  • 1 red onion, large, sliced thinly
  • 6 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • water, boiling

Smoky Corn Salsa

  • 16 ounces corn
  • 1 Tbsp lard or other cooking fat
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried minced onion
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • salt, to taste

Chunky Guacamole

  • 3 avocados, ripe, cubed
  • 3 Tbsp red onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 lime, juice of
  • salt, to taste

Corn Tortillas

  • 3-1/2 cups masa harina
  • 1 cup + 1 Tbsp water
  • lard
  • salt

Taco Garnishes

  • 1 lime, sliced into wedges
  • 1 handfull cilantro, chopped

Instructions

Steps Which Must Be/May Be Done in Advance

  • Marinated Sirloin Steak: Add all ingredients for marinated sirloin steak, except the steak, to a large glass bowl or baking dish. Whisk to combine. Trim fat and bone off of steak. Nestle steak pieces into marinade, ensuring all surfaces of steak are coated. Cover dish with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for several hours, up to 24 hours for best results.
  • Pickled Onions: Add sliced onions to a glass jar along with apple cider vinegar, salt, sugar, pepper, and garlic powder. Pour in enough boiling water to fully cover the onions in the jar. Close lid tightly. Gently invert jar a few times to mix. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  • Smoky Corn Salsa: Add all ingredients for smoky corn salsa, except salt, to a skillet over medium heat. Stir occasionally as corn cooks for 10 minutes. Add salt to taste, if needed. If making in advance, refrigerate until ready to eat, then reheat on stove over medium-low heat until hot.
  • Chunky Guacamole: add all ingredients for the guacamole, except salt, to a medium sized bowl. Using a spoon, gently stir to combine, taking care not to over-stir unless a smoother consistency is desired. Add salt to taste. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
  • Taco Garnishes: Set aside chopped limes and cilantro into serving cups/small bowls. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Steps To Be Done Right Before Eating

  • Marinated Sirloin Steak: Remove steak from fridge. Drain off marinade. Grill steaks on outdoor grill or using a grill pan on the stove on medium-high heat.  Ensure grill/grill pan is hot before applying meat. Using a kitchen timer to keep track of time, turn or flip steaks every 90-120 seconds, depending on the thickness of your steaks, to achieve a classic criss-cross or "X" pattern on the meat on both sides and a medium done cook on the steak. Each steak should have two "cook times" on each side of the steak. When done, remove from heat. Cover with foil for 5 minutes to rest before slicing on an angle.
  • Corn Tortillas: Heat griddle or nonstick pan to 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit. By hand, mix masa harina and water in a bowl until a dough forms. Cover with a wet tea towel until ready to use. Pull off a ball of dough a little larger than the size of a golf ball for each tortilla. Roll in hands to create round balls. Line tortilla press with parchment paper for easy tortilla removal. Set a dough ball onto bottom of tortilla press and fold up the sides of the press, creating a classic tortilla shape. 
    When griddle is hot, add a marble-sized amount of lard where the tortilla will cook. Then place uncooked tortilla on top. Gently move/spin tortilla to cover roughly evenly with the lard. Then sprinkle lightly with salt. After a couple minutes, light brown spots will appear on the bottom of the tortillas. This indicates it's time to flip the tortillas. Again put a small amount of lard under the tortilla before it goes back on the griddle for the second side to cook for another couple of minutes. When the light brown patches start to show, remove the tortilla from the griddle. Cover with a damp tea towel until ready to eat. Repeat until all tortilla dough is used. Expect to make 15-16 tortillas.
  • Assemble tacos with a corn tortilla as the base, adding steak next, then pickled onions and corn salsa. Then a generous dollop of guacamole. Finishing with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro and a drizzle of lime juice.

Notes

Marinade meat for up to 24 hours.
If storing guacamole for any notable length of time (longer than an hour or so), press plastic wrap down onto the surface of the guacamole to minimize any contact of the food with air. This will prevent browning of the avocado.
Leftovers are tasty and last a few days in the refrigerator; except the pickled onions will keep much longer, a few weeks. Store each component separately, so the flavors/textures don't blend.
To reheat tortillas, wrap a tortilla loosely in a damp paper towel and microwave on high for (literally) a few seconds. Steak and corn salsa also reheat well in the microwave.
Leftovers make a slightly messy, but seriously satisfying lunch! Your coworkers will be jealous!


several varieties of citrus fruits on a plate and platter, each stopped with pomegranate and mint

Winter Citrus Salad

This celebration of seasonal fruit is the antidote to dreary, overcast winter days on a plate. Unlike the brown and gray of short December days, my Winter Citrus Salad is a feast for the eyes. Containing four different types of citrus fruits – naval oranges, pink grapefruits, pomelos, and mandarin oranges – this salad is beautiful, refreshing, and uplifting.

Oranges are a classic, staple fruit in many households, but why stop there when there’s so much variety to enjoy? Citrus fruits of all kinds have a few things in common: they’re vividly colored, bursting with bright acidity and sweetness, juicy, and oh-so fresh smelling! Take advantage of the winter growing season and try some of the others this year; I bet you’ll be glad you did.

Slices of pomelo, grapefruit, naval orange, mandarin orange, and clementine with pomegranate and mint leave sprinkled on top.

Fruit salad, while always tasty, typically makes its appearance during the summer months at picnics and graduation parties. It’s much less often that we think of fruit salad as an option during the winter. But why? With all this delicious fruit in season right now, we’ve been missing out! Bring a little pizzaz to your table this winter. Grab a sharp knife, cutting board, some fruit and try my Winter Citrus Salad!

Vibrant slices of pink, orange, red, and yellow citrus are eye-catching on a platter, especially when accented with slivers of deep green mint leaves and pops of dark red pomegranate. Not only that, but these fruits are a much needed contrast to the warm, cooked foods we often eat as winter-fare.

Close up of slices of citrus fruit with pomegranate and mint on top.

One last thing. This salad is highly forgiving. Can’t find pomelo? Tangerines or clementines look better than the mandarins? Dying to try some blood oranges? Swap out whatever citrus fruits are available or sound good. For best results, I would include a minimum of three different citrus varieties, though four or even five is definitely preferred. (I actually thought I had grabbed some clementines, but instead ended up two different types of  mandarins – oops!! Those things happen sometimes when shopping while distracted!) Also, I don’t recommend subbing in lemon or lime as these are much more sour than sweet, unlike the other fruits. Have fun with this no-cook beauty!

Winter Citrus Salad

A celebration of seasonal fruit, this salad contains slices of pink grapefruit, naval oranges, pomelo, clementines, and mandarin oranges topped with pomegranate arils and sliced mint leaves. (AIP, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free, nightshade-free)
Prep Time20 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pomelo
  • 2 pink grapefruits
  • 2 naval oranges
  • 6 mandarin oranges
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves

Instructions

  • Peel fruit with soft, thin, easily removable skin, like mandarins, by hand. Using a sharp knife, chop off end with stem and opposite end to create two flat surfaces. Stand up fruit on one flat end. Using knife, cut off peel in strips, rotating the fruit around in a circle until all peel has been removed.
  • Cut each citrus fruit into cross-sectional slices of even thickness. Arrange citrus slices randomly on platter or plate. Sprinkle pomegranate arils on top.
  • Chiffonade a few mint leaves (stack and fold mint leaves together, then cut with sharp paring knife into thin strips). Sprinkle over plated fruit. Garnish with remaining mint leaves.

Notes

May make in advance. If doing so, recommend waiting to cut and add mint leaves until time of serving, for freshness. Cut mint leaves can discolor on the edges.
Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator.


Cooked bacon wrapped pears in rows on a rectangular metal serving tray.

Bacon Wrapped Pears

Appetizers which require only a few real-food ingredients, look attractive and get gobbled up quickly are in high demand this time of year. Whether you’re attending an autumn dinner party or hosting a New Year’s Eve gathering, add these Bacon Wrapped Pears to your short list of appetizers to consider. They’re an awesome addition to just about any planned menu or potluck!

Have you ever tasted roasted pears? Fresh pears are tasty, but roasting takes them to a whole new level of yumminess! Caramelized pear tastes sweeter and more refined than the fresh fruit. And contrasting in many ways, the bacon is the perfect compliment, making my Bacon Wrapped Pears a true treat. Sweet and salty, savory and cinnamon-y. Don’t pass up this recipe, seriously. You’ll be missing out!

While the prep work is easy, it’s a bit tedious. Coring and cutting the pears is a cinch. As is cutting the bacon pieces in half length-wise. However, wrapping the individual pieces of bacon around the pear slices and skewering with an appetizer pick is the part which requires a little more attention and patience. To speed things up, I recommend creating a mini assembly line by having all the ingredients prepared and kitchen gear ready before you begin the bacon-wrapping. And, if you can recruit an assistant, more hands make for lighter work, of course!Uncooked bacon wrapped pear slices laying on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.

While you can wrap the bacon around the pear slices any way you like, I think creating an “X” or “criss-cross” pattern around each pear slice is the most attractive pattern. Although, simply winding the bacon around the pear would save you a few minutes of prep time, and will obviously taste the same.

You may like to skewer each pear slice with an appetizer pick to make it easier to eat – saving the food from being manhandled on the serving tray (yuck!) and saving guests from having sticky or greasy fingers. If you stick the pick through the bacon, it may help it stay in place, too. However, this is not necessarily needed depending on how the bacon is placed. And it is easier to slide the appetizer picks through the pear only, going around the bacon. Try it both ways and see which you prefer.

Appetizer picks are superior to toothpicks, in this instance, though toothpicks will do in a pinch. Choose appetizer picks with a squared-off or rectangular post, if possible. These will work better, preventing the cooked pear from sliding or spinning on a round post on the way to your mouth!Cooked bacon wrapped pears, fresh out of the oven, sitting on a rack on top of a baking sheet.

Serve these pears warm or at room temperature – but not cold! They’re best when eaten fresh, so I don’t recommend making these far in advance. If you bake them at home, then pop them in the oven for a few minutes to reheat when you get to your destination, this works well and won’t monopolize the host’s oven space. A considerate guest is one who gets invited back. And a guest who brings these Bacon Wrapped Pears gets a repeat invite, too 🙂

Bacon Wrapped Pears

Crisped bacon wrapped around slices of cinnamon spiced roasted pear. An ideal appetizer for Fall and Winter gatherings and special meals. 
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 ripe pears, cored and cut into wedges
  • 12 oz bacon, strips cut length-wise
  • cinnamon

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Making a criss-cross pattern, wrap a bacon strip around each pear slice. Slide appetizer pick through the middle of each pear slice. 
  • Place bacon wrapped pear slices on a rack on a rimmed baking sheet (rack not necessary in order to make recipe). Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. Bake for 35 minutes, or until pears are tender and bacon is cooked.
  • Remove from oven. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before plating or eating.

Notes

Best eaten immediately, or if covered for a short period of time and reheated in oven for a few minutes. 
Number of servings depends on number of people eating and how much other food is available. May serve more or less depending.


Rustic banana muffin on marble slab

Rustic Banana Muffins

Some banana muffins are so tender, delicate and fluffy that 10 minutes after you eat it, your tummy feels just as hungry as before you snacked. This isn’t that kind of banana muffin. This muffin is a rustic, sturdier kind of muffin. The kind that you can grab on your way out the door and eat one-handed without making 1000 crumbs. The kind which are low enough in sugar, they aren’t dessert in disguise. You can enjoy these banana muffins at breakfast, yet they’re sweet enough to enjoy as a lower sugar treat. My favorite way to eat these banana muffins is topped with a smear of nut or seed butter and a mug of chai tea.

These gluten-free Rustic Banana Muffins are made with cassava flour. Cassava flour is one of my favorite gluten-free flours, because it bakes very similarly to wheat flour. Often it can be substituted 1:1 for wheat in recipes. It’s a little bit heavier than wheat, contributing to the overall weightiness of your baked goods – and its ability to satisfy your appetite. Cassava flour is mild and relatively neutral in flavor. Interestingly, this flour isn’t a grain. It’s a dried, ground South American root vegetable, yuca. It’s not yet quite as mainstream as some other gluten-free options, but popularity of cassava flour is rising. It’s now available at Whole Foods and on Amazon, making it more accessible than ever before.

Have time to make muffins, but not looking to eat them right away? Freeze a batch to have on hand. Individual muffins can easily be added to a lunchbox for adults or kids. Or stash them all away for when overnight guests come; defrost the night before for a head start on making breakfast. A breakfast casserole and some fresh fruit would be low-maintenance, crowd-pleasing accompaniments.

3 rustic banana muffins in a row on a marble slab

Rustic Banana Muffins

Rustic, satisfying banana muffins made with cassava flour. Perfect for adding to a lunchbox for school or work, breakfast, or dessert. (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, and nightshade-free)
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time55 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Servings: 9 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cup cassava flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 large bananas, mashed
  • 7.5 + 2 Tbsp water
  • 3 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 3 Tbsp palm shortening, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small cup, prepare "flax egg" by adding ground flaxseed and 7.5 Tbsp water. Stir and allow to sit for several minutes, until water is absorbed and consistency changes to look more like a gel. 
  • In a mixing bowl, add cassava, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk to combine. In a second mixing bowl, add mashed bananas, 2 Tbsp water, maple syrup, honey, melted palm shortening, vanilla extract, and "flax egg". Whisk vigorously until smooth.
  • Pour dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Using a spatula, mix until combined. Spoon batter into muffin pan. 
  • Bake for 55 minutes. If checked with a toothpick, it should come out clean. Allow to cool before removing from pan.

Notes

Makes 8-9 standard size muffins depending on size of bananas used. 
Muffins are easy to remove from a silicone muffin pan. If using a metal pan, may benefit from using paper/parchment muffin liners.
May make in advance. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator for longest "shelf-life". Muffins freeze well.
While many muffin recipes also turn out similarly well if baked in a loaf pan instead of a muffin pan, I don't recommend making banana bread with this recipe. The bread remains a little doughy, especially towards the center and bottom of the loaf.


Maple Mandarin Vinaigrette

Have you ever made your own salad dressing before? For most people, the answer is likely “no”. It may seem unattainable, unnecessarily fancy, or complicated. After all there are shelves and shelves full of ready-to-eat salad dressings in every supermarket. Hopefully, this recipe will change your mind and introduce you to the wonderful world of homemade salad dressing.

If you’ve yet to make salad dressing, my Maple Mandarin Vinaigrette is a great one to try first! It is fresh, zesty, and has depth. The warm, homey maple syrup contrasts with the bright, acidic citrus. This stuff is seriously good. And I’ve never seen this flavor in the store before. Dress some salad with it. Pour it over some roasted vegetables. Marinade some chicken before grilling. Right now, my favorite way to eat this dressing is drizzled over my Harvest Salad (previous post and pictured below); the two are a perfect match! With a handful of ingredients you may already have in your kitchen, you can make this Maple Mandarin Vinaigrette in 3 minutes. That’s all – 3 minutes! And in as much time as it takes you to check the mail, you’ll have a fresh, original flavor of salad dressing which has all real-food ingredients!

Have you ever stopped to read the ingredients on the pre-made bottles of salad dressing? With very few exceptions, salad dressings have become a magnet for all sorts of cheap, processed ingredients not found in nature. Many dressings include several of these all in the same bottle – even brands promoting themselves as healthy and natural! From the very base of the dressing- the oil (ex: soy, canola, safflower) to “natural flavors,” which by the way are really essentially the same as artificial flavors, to “spices” (another umbrella term preventing transparency in our food supply), to emulsifiers, thickeners, preservatives and so forth. 

No, thank you! I don’t mind giving my dressing a quick shake before I pour. And I’ve got 6 ingredients, a jar, and 3 minutes to make this dressing. How about you?

Maple Mandarin Vinaigrette

Savory-sweet vinaigrette style salad dressing which comes together in minutes. (AIP option, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, nightshade-free)
Prep Time3 mins
Total Time3 mins
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3 mandarin oranges, juice of
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions

  • Place all ingredients in a glass jar. Shake vigorously until completely mixed and has an even, consistent appearance.

Notes

May prepare in advance. Store in refrigerator. Lasts for at least 1 week.
Serving recommendation: dressing on my Harvest Salad.
AIP option: omit dijon mustard.


Harvest Salad

This salad truly tastes like a celebration of Fall in a bowl, and it comes together with only minutes of hands-on cooking time. In the midst of the busyness of the holidays, we all seem to have an abundance of “extras” on our to-do lists while treats persistently loom nearby. The temptation to over-indulge is sky high! As a result, the question of “what to eat?” sometimes feels more daunting than usual. Have no worries, friends, this salad will keep you nourished, satisfied, and back to the holiday festivities in a flash! And it’s seriously delish. 

Seasonal fruits are the true jewels of this Harvest Salad. Their flavors are sweet and tart and there’s something undeniable about their visual appeal. Crisp juicy apples are, for many people, the quintessential autumnal fruit. An abundance of varieties are readily available in stores now – take advantage and try something new! The satisfying chew and bursts of flavor from dried cranberries can’t be beat! Roasted brussels sprouts and red onion contribute savory saltiness and a bit of a bite. A mix of three kinds of salad greens, arugula, spinach, and butter lettuce, keeps the salad base interesting. The greens have a mix of crunchy and delicate textures. Mild flavor from the butter lettuce and a peppery spiciness from the arugula. Top that all off with some crunchy pumpkin seeds, and you’ve got yourself a real salad. No boring, wimpy salad here! 

Another convenience is that ingredients can effortlessly be swapped out depending on what’s on hand or your taste preferences. Swap pears for apples, cherries for cranberries, carrots for brussels sprouts, or almonds for pumpkin seeds. So many possibilities, surely there’s something for everyone!

I highly recommend topping this salad with my Maple Mandarin Vinaigrette (post coming soon). The sweet-savory flavor perfectly compliments this Harvest Salad and adds to the all-things-fall feel. Even if you’re in a time crunch, this dressing comes together in under 5 minutes and really “makes” this salad! Top with some shredded rotisserie chicken or goat cheese, if dairy is tolerated,  to quickly turn this salad into a stand-alone meal. Enjoy!

Harvest Salad

Crisp salad greens topped with roasted brussels sprouts, seasonal fruit, red onion and pumpkin seeds. Pairs beautifully with a savory-sweet dressing such as my Maple Mandarin Vinaigrette. (AIP option, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, nightshade-free)
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

Harvest Salad

  • 1 big handful arugula
  • 1 big handful spinach
  • 2 big handfuls butter lettuce
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 apples, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 pound brussels sprouts, halved or quartered depending on size
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread brussel sprouts on a baking sheet. Coat brussels sprouts with olive oil, and shake pan to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Roast in oven for about 25 minutes, giving the pan a shake about every 10 minutes to move the sprouts around, until brussels sprouts are moderately browned and tender. Remove from oven. Allow to cool.
  • Assemble salad in a large bowl- adding greens, red onion, roasted brussels sprouts, apple slices, dried cranberries, and sprinkling with pumpkin seeds on top.
  • At time of serving, drizzle desired amount of dressing on top. 

Notes

Dressing recommendation: my Maple Mandarin Vinaigrette.
Best enjoyed the day prepared. May prepare in advance. If doing so, add dressing at time of serving to keep lettuce crisp.
Will last a day or two in the refrigerator.
AIP option - omit pumpkin seeds


Snowball Cookies

Snowball cookies are quite possibly the most underrated Christmas cookie. If you’ve not had the privilege of eating one before, they are tender, flaky, light little balls of shortbread which actually look like a miniature snowball! And they almost melt in your mouth the way a real snowball would, too. Elegant, yet simple and playful in appearance, a tray of snowball cookies would be welcomed at any holiday gathering!

Growing up, snowball cookies were some of my absolute favorites! It was tradition for my grandma to make them each year for Christmas, making this allergy-friendly recipe remake extra special. I hope you enjoy these as much as I have!

A few comments on the ingredients: Palm shortening is a replacement for butter in this recipe. Palm shortening is solid at room temperature, like butter, and has a very neutral flavor which makes it a good choice for this type of baking. The gelatin powder is included to help bind the cookie dough together. Often gluten-free baking flour mixes contain different gums (often xanthan gum), which have been linked with various health concerns. To avoid the inclusion of these processed and questionable ingredients, gelatin is used here to accomplish the same goal. An additional tip for ensuring the dough will stick together is to chop the walnuts very finely. Larger bits will make it more challenging for the dough to come together. I chopped mine with a chefs knife, but the food processor may do a nice job in a fraction of the time.

Happy holiday baking!

Snowball Cookies

Also known as Russian Teacakes and Mexican Wedding Cookies, these light, airy shortbread Christmas cookies actually look like little snowballs! (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nightshade-free)
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Chill Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 24 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup + 1 Tbsp white rice flour
  • 2/3 cup + 1 Tbsp brown rice flour
  • 2/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup palm shortening
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2-1/2 tsp gelatin
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  • Reserving 1/2 cup powdered sugar on the side for later, mix all other ingredients together with clean hands and form dough into a ball. If dough is too crumbly still, add additional water in tiny increments - 1 tsp or so at a time until dough will stick together. Cover dough with plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour.
  • Remove from refrigerator. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Form cookie dough into 1" balls. Dough may be a little more crumbly than traditional snowball cookie dough; may require a little extra effort to shape. 
  • Form 24 cookies and place on a baking sheet. Bake in oven for 10 minutes; cookies should be "set" but NOT browned. Remove from oven. 
  • Allow cookies to cook for 3 minutes, then while the cookies are still warm, roll them in the remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar to coat them. Rolling cookies while warm ensures the powdered sugar will stick to the outside. 
  • Consider a second roll in powdered sugar just before serving to freshen up the powdered sugar coating.

Notes

May be made in advance. Cookies freeze well.