Gluten Free Cupcake Mixes Coming Soon from Crave Bake Shop

We’ve talked (more like raved) about Crave Bake Shop here and here in the past. We really love their gluten free cupcakes and were excited when they contacted us about trying out some cupcake mixes that they’re working to develop. They’ve been working on these mixes as a more economical way to get their cupcakes to customers, and we think that’s a great idea. For testing, they sent us two mixes: Chocolate and Chai Spice.

We decided to wait for an event so that we wouldn’t end up eating these all by ourselves. Luckily my friend Noah had a birthday party coming up. So we were able to make cupcakes for the party and also have a larger group of taste testers. Our friend Noah has some other food allergies, so we had to check out the ingredients with Crave. At the time of this testing, the base ingredients for the mixes were: millet flour, tapioca flour, rice flour, potato starch, sugar, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.

If you’ve ever made a cake from a mix, then you’ll be familiar with how these work. They come as bagged powders to which you add wet ingredients such as oil, water, eggs, and butter. Follow the directions and apply the mixer as needed, bake, and voila! You have cupcakes ready to frost.

Gluten Free Chai Spice Cupcake Mix

The Chai Spice cupcake mix calls for a half cup of butter, buttermilk, and two eggs. To make these dairy free, it’s recommended to use Spectrum organic veggie shortening in place of the butter, and rice milk in place of the buttermilk. The instructions on the Chai Spice cupcakes were very clear, and included the sort of procedures that your mom always tells you to do when making a cake. For instance, at the end of the Chai Spice mix, you add part of the dry, part of the wet, mix, then repeat until you get through the rest of the dry and wet ingredients.

Chai Spice Gluten Free Cupcakes

Gluten Free Chai Spice Cupcakes, baked

When you’re done mixing, you plop the batter into paper cups and bake them. These were easy as pie. To frost them, I used a basic cream cheese frosting from a Betty Crocker cook book. The mixes make 12 regular-sized cupcakes.

Frosted gluten free cupcakes

Next up, the chocolate gluten-free cupcake mix. This mix calls for one egg, 1/4 vegetable oil, vanilla extract, hot water, and whole milk. To make these dairy-free, they recommend using soy milk or hemp milk, but warn that rice milk is going to be too thin. I thought that the inclusion of hot water was unusual. The instructions for these were much shorter, as well. Basically it’s mix everything but the hot water. Then add the hot water and blend until the batter is the consistency of warm chocolate sauce.

Gluten free chocolate cupcakes

I think that I made a mistake while putting these together. While the instructions said to fill the cups 2/3 full, I had extra batter and filled them all up. This ended up being a tactical error. For one thing, the cakes took a little longer to cook than the instructions called for. Also, the cupcakes ended up having muffin tops.

Chocolate Gluten Free Cupcakes

Despite the muffin tops, these cupcakes were AMAZING. Something about them (maybe it’s the hot water) makes the texture of these cupcakes almost silky smooth, like angel food cake. They need no frosting. I simply dusted them with powdered sugar.

So how did they do at the party? They were a success. These cupcakes are amazing. Everybody at the party loved them. I’ve never made anything like the chocolate cupcakes at home. They’re really unique. We’re rooting for Crave Bake Shop to get these mixes available for the public soon. They’re awesome.

50 Plates, Gluten Free Classes, and Halloween

50 Plates Reader Review

Jenn from Grain Damaged sent us this great email about a place in town called 50 Plates:

Just thought I’d direct your attention to 50 Plates. I had a great dining experience there last night. While their GF menu is a regular menu with handmade notations on it (as to what’s safe), they were most accommodating.  I was very nervous eating out somewhere new.  I’m both very sensitive to gluten as well as having a list of other food allergies including dairy and eggs, I don’t think I’m very easy to cook for. We got there early in the evening and the chef came out to take the time to talk to me about what I might have off their menu.  He was even willing to “frankenstein” something together for me if I didn’t see any one menu item I could have.  He was knowledgeable and could recommend a few things that I could safely eat.  I went for the “fish and chips” which had to be the most sophisticated version of this meal I’ve ever had.  The light white fish was wrapped in a single strand of never ending potato “shoelace” and browned to perfection, it was laid over a bed of bok choy and accompanied by steamed asparagus.  The whole delightful meal was drizzled with an amazing sauce that he’d come up with just for me.  (Normally this dish is served with a sauce that uses malt vinegar as the base), instead he replaced it with a sauce of lemon, sweet wine and magic. It was delicious and above all I felt full and happy and quite gluten free when I left the table.

Wow! Doesn’t that sound awesome??? Speaking of Grain Damaged, they are a really great Portland-based gluten-free information site, so you should check them out.

50 Plates is located at 333 NW 13th Ave. in Portland. Phone: 503-228-5050

Gluten Free Classes at Sprout Health

Next Up, this is late and I’m sorry about that, but there are still dates available. Here is the email from Skylor at Sprout Health.

Sprout Health has just opened on 44th and Hawthorne. We are a health coaching and donation based yoga studio. We guide people through cleanses and have cooking classes. We have a gluten free, dairy free cooking class series starting on October 3rd–4 classes, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Here is our site.

Gluten-free Candy List

Thanks to Heather for sending us this list of gluten-free Halloween candies.

Product Review: Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate

(Quick side note: This product is only available at Trader Joe’s during the holidays, which is terrible! Our local Trader Joe’s is out of it and they say that they won’t have any until next year.) OK OK I know it’s not exactly what you call a “breakthrough gluten-free product.” I mean chocolate is one of those things that is naturally gluten-free like a steak or a baked potato. At the same time, it’s sipping chocolate (yeah!) and it’s also now Sienna’s 3 PM snack at work. We got tipped off to the Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate by a reader, Lynne. Thanks Lynne!

Here are the ingredients: Cocoa Powder, Cane Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Cocoa Butter. A nice short list. Their allergen disclaimer for this product reads: “Made on equipment shared with milk and soy.” The can says a serving is 3 tablespoons, which is 90 calories, 30 mg of sodium, and also contains a whopping 23% of your recommended daily allowance of dietary fiber. Of the 28 grams that make up a serving, 15 grams of that is sugars.

Of course, if you want some hot chocolate, you’re probably not going to fret about the sugar much, are you? Then on the other side of the can are two recipes. One is for making hot chocolate, and the other is to make sipping chocolate. To make hot chocolate, you stir 3 tablespoons of mix into 3/4 cup of hot milk. To make the sipping chocolate, you stir 3 tablespoons of mix into 1/3 cup of hot milk.

Check out the chocolate left on our whisk. That’s thick! We tried the hot chocolate recipe first, and I wasn’t into it. For better or for worse, I like my hot chocolate with more sugar and milk, so the proportions were wrong for me. Sienna likes it that way, though. She doesn’t adjust it at all.

Here is the pour. It’s like we’re pouring molten steel to make hammers or something. (No we’re not. That’s sipping chocolate.)

Here is the finished chocolate drink. It almost tastes like someone melted down a chocolate bar. It’s very thick and really delicious. As the name would imply, it is for sipping, and I think most people are not going to want to drink very much of it in one go. I like it with a palate cleanser like some hot tea or a glass of milk. Little bit of chocolate. Little bit of tea.

One thing that they don’t mention on the tin, but most professional hot chocolate brewers will already know, is that you can’t just stir the mix into some hot milk. If you do it that way you end up with lumps. To make it without lumps, you first stir up the mix with a little bit of hot milk or hot water (maybe a tablespoon or so). Then you mix that up into a paste. Once it’s consistent, then you can add it to hot milk and it will all dissolve uniformly.

This post was originally intended as a companion piece for our review of the Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Brownie Mix, which we love!

We want to know: It seems like sipping chocolate is kind of a new thing. Does anybody out there have a favorite place to get it? Is there anywhere in Portland Oregon to get sipping chocolate? Let us know in the comments.

Times we have visited: 3+ (so we feel confident about our score.)
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: The same

Product Review: Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Brownie Mix

Chocolate! That’s what we’re talking about here. We’ve been making the Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Brownie Mix for almost a year now and recently it came to my attention that we haven’t ever reviewed it on this site. This mix is really awesome. We don’t make it exactly how the package says you should, though, so I’m going to provide details about what we do.

Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Brownie Mix

The brownie mix is free of wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, soy, and corn, which is cool because that takes care of quite a few common allergy foods. Of course, it has chocolate, but that’s the point! Here is a list of ingredients: Organic Evaporated Cane Juice (sugar), Sweet Brown Rice Flour, Cocoa (processed with alkali), Tapioca Flour, Arrowroot Flour, Sea Salt, Xanthan Gum. I always list the amount of sodium in the Trader Joe’s products I review. The package says that it makes 12 servings. Each serving has 125 mg of salt.

Trader Joes Gluten-free Brownie Mix

The recipe on the package calls for 1 egg, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and 1/4 cup water.

Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

We always put some of these awesome chips in our brownies. They’re the Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. Besides being delicious, they’re free of dairy, nuts, gluten, and soy, and are mini-chips. This makes them ideal for brownies.
As an egg substitute, you can add your own favorite (when we replace eggs, we use the Ener-G Food Egg Replacer because it is gluten-free.) We also replace half of the oil with some applesauce. This sounds kind of weird, considering you’re making brownies, but I think it really improves the brownies, and also the brownies are a lot more healthy. In case you’re wondering, it is possible to replace all the oil with applesauce and end up with edible brownies, but they definitely aren’t as delicious, and don’t seem to keep as well.

Ready to go!

One of the most important things about making brownies is to not overcook them. When you overcook brownies they end up rock hard when they’ve cooled off. It seems like the Trader Joe’s mix doesn’t suffer from this so much, which is cool. With a little bit of adjustment, this mix can also be used to make cookies. Instructions for these are on the package.

Finished Brownie

And here’s the reward. We have made these brownies and shared them with friends and family, and nobody has ever suspected that they are gluten-free. They’re awesome!

We want to know: Are there other gluten-free brownie mixes out there? Do you have any tricks or tips to make better brownies? Let us know in the comments.

Times we have visited: 8+ (so we feel confident about our score.)
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: About the same

Restaurant Review: Abby’s Table

One of the challenges we face when covering gluten-free eating is that different people have different tolerances for gluten. Making it even worse is that there are only a few dedicated gluten-free facilities in Portland. People who are very seriously gluten-intolerant probably shouldn’t eat at a lot of the places we review. So it’s a good day when we get to review a place that is dedicated gluten-free. Abby’s table is one such place.

Abby’s table is sort of more informal, family-style eating. It is hosted at a kitchen at SE 6th and Ankeny. Dinner is served by chef Abby Fammartino and her team on a bunch of large stainless steel tables. It’s the sort of place where you show up, pay a flat price ($18 a head at this writing), and they serve everyone what happens to be on the menu that night. The meal is vegan-friendly, gluten-free, soy-free, and casein-free. Multiple courses are served and everyone starts eating at the same time, which is 7:00 PM every Wednesday. Check their calendar for nights and events.

Gluten Free Roasted pears

Our meal started with baked pears, and…

Curious Salad

continued with a curious but amazingly delicious salad, progressed to fried zucchini with Abby’s own “Nude Ranch” sauce, then moved on over to shrimp and/or beans with marinara over polenta, and…

Raw chocolate treats

ended with raw chocolate truffles with Abby’s “Dream Date” sauce.

The food was great, and everyone in our party had a fun time. Click here for awesome photos of the event by Portland photographer Shawn Linehan. Abby gave us a free sample of one of her sauces. (In the interest of full disclosure here, I have to state that although we paid for our meals, Abby was aware that we were coming. Normally our policy is to show up anonymously. See our disclosure policy. At the same time, since it’s family style, we ate the same food everyone else did.) The zucchini and salad were among the best we’ve had in Portland. While it was good, the quality of the rest of the food made us expect more from the polenta. It would have been better if the polenta had been more crisp. For vegans, the marinara could be had with beans instead of shrimp, and I was amazed at how good the beans went with it. Sienna liked the raw chocolate treats, but I thought they were only OK. Of course, I’m not a fan of raw chocolate.

The menu changes week by week. With our meal, we liked some things more than others. We got the feeling that Abby’s Table likes to experiment and is working to improve their dishes. The food is adventurous and well-prepared by people who obviously love food and care about health. The service was great. If you’re looking for a dedicated gluten-free restaurant in Portland to have dinner, Abby’s Table is one of the few options I currently know of, and we’re lucky to have such a good place to eat.

We want to know: Do you know of any other places to eat dinner that serve only gluten-free food? Have you tried any of Abby’s sauces? Let us know!

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free Mostly Safe (as far as we know it’s safe.)
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same

Abby’s table
http://www.abbys-table.com/
609 SE Ankeny St Portland, OR 97214 / 503.828.7662

Restaurant Review: Pix Patisserie Redux

Yes yes we already reviewed Pix Patisserie a while back and gave it a rave review. It’s just that we’ve been back a few more times, taken more photos, gathered new relevant information, and also finally got to try their other gluten-free dessert, the Aphrodite.

Gluten Free Dessert place

First off, I went to the Pix Patisserie on N Williams with a friend of mine who is allergic to a long list of items that happen to be in a lot of desserts. He’s allergic to almonds, hazelnuts, apricots, apples, pears, peaches, plums, kiwi, cherries, soy protein, and most beans. By “allergic” I mean that he carries an Epi Pen around in case he goes into anaphylactic shock. It’s expired, but he still carries one. I felt lucky because I knew what I could eat there, but he needed to have a rather long discussion with our waitress, which involved going over to the case. The waitress was really cool and friendly, and knew what was in all the desserts. Eventually they were able to find something my friend could eat, which was a good thing for my friend.

Gluten Free Desserts at Pix Patisserie

This is what you call dessert pron at the Pix Patisserie on SE Division. The chocolate-colored dessert there on the far left is one of Pix’s gluten-free offerings, the Aphrodite.

Aphrodite at Pix Patisserie

The Aphrodite is a “drunken” cherry in chocolate mousse, with a layer of cherry mousse. The bottom is made of a chocolate flourless biscuit that has been soaked in moscato. All this is in a chocolate shell. If you like chocolate mousse and cherries, this is the dessert for you. I loved mine and would eat one again anytime anywhere, but I think that for my tastes, the Concord is better.

pix-macaron-dscn3480

They also have amazing Macarons at Pix Patisserie. These are gluten-free and really have to be tried to be believed. They are air-light, crunchy and chewy at the same time. The macarons at Pix are so good that they were featured in a Sunset Magazine article on macarons recently.

Pix Sugar Dish

Stir your coffee at Pix Patisserie

Some more things we love about Pix Patisserie:

  • The coffee.
  • Cool closing sugar dishes.
  • Tiny spoons to stir your coffee.
  • The Rosemary Mocha.

Yes you read that right. The Rosemary Mocha. When I asked our server if the Rosemary Mocha was good, she replied, “We wouldn’t serve it to you if we didn’t think it was good.” And it was.

We want to know: Have you been to Pix Patisserie? We love that Portland has awesome little places like Pix. Do you have any favorite items on their menu? Let us know in the comments!

Times we have visited: 4 (So we feel good about our rating.)
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same

Pix Patisserie
www.pixpatisserie.com
3402 SE Division St, Portland, Oregon 97202 / 503.232.4407
3901 N. Williams Ave, Portland, Oregon 97227 / 503.282.6539

Gluten Free Food Fair Wrap-up

We got to the 2009 Portland Oregon Gluten Free Food Fair a little late. They were already doing the lottery drawings. We walked around and sampled a lot of food, took some photos, and talked to people at the booths.

Sift Gluten Free Bakery

Sift Bakery – They are a gluten-free and vegan bakery. A lot of cafes in Portland carry their cookies, which I think are pretty good. In my opinion they make the best packaged gluten-free cookie. They also had some cooking sauces there. They had a couple different kinds of Thai curry paste, a hot chili oil, a Thai hot sauce, and also a Thai peanut sauce. Their peanut sauce was good but I make better. ;) They also had falafel crackers that were really good.

Mississippi Pizza Pub

Mississippi Pizza Pub (See our review of the Mississippi Pizza Pub) – They were handing out squares of pizza. While we were walking around the tables, a couple of times I overheard someone tell a friend “There’s more pizza out. Let’s go!” The pizza was good. Sienna asked the guy there about how to get a crust more crispy and he said that olive oil is good for that. Now we’ll have to experiment!

muruku-dscn4067

Muruku Snacks – SCL Marketing – One of the more interesting items at the fair. These are basically like fried chow mein noodles, and are delicious. I love fried chow mein noodles!

Gloria's Delicious Gluten Free Desserts

Gloria’s Delicious Gluten Free Desserts – This person was selling dessert cookbooks. We tried her samples and they were really good.

New Cascadia Traditional Bakery

New Cascadia Traditional Bakery (See our reviews of New Cascadia Traditional Bakery) – We’re big fans of New Cascadia. They had a bunch of their gluten free products to sample. I tried a piece of their coffee cake and Sienna tried their cranberry raisin walnut bread.

Ener-G Foods

Ener-G Foods – Ener-G Foods had a booth, which I was really excited about. Mostly because they seem kind of hit-or-miss to me and it’s nice to sample a bunch of things without having to buy them. I liked their pretzels but wasn’t excited about their cookies, bread or bars.

Angeline's Gluten Free Bakery

Angeline’s Bakery – Angeline’s Bakery had a bunch of bread and cookie samples out. Their bread is very sort of white-bready, but good white-bready.

Some of the booths we stopped by but didn’t take photos of:

Papa G’s – They make different tofu meat substitutes which we both love, and also have a vegan organic deli with some gluten free items.

Wendy Cohan – Author of the Gluten Free Resource Guide, who also has classes on gluten free cooking. We talked to her for a while about making gluten free pizza crusts and she had a lot of tips for us.

New Traditions Bakery – I’ve looked these folks up on the internet and can’t find anything. They had a bunch of different kind of cheesecakes. The cheesecakes are free of gluten, nuts, eggs, and dairy, which brings up the question: What the heck are they made of? Whatever it is, there was a sign that they did contain soy. I thought they were good, although they really had more the texture of a frozen ice cream cake.

Lingonberries Market – The gluten free, wheat free, allergy-friendly foods grocery store in Vancouver Washington, which we’ve been to once, but keep meaning to get back to so we can take some pictures and do a review.

There were a lot more booths than I’ve included here. There were some booths selling baking mixes, one booth with exercise “power bars” that pretty much tasted like all the rest of the ones you’ve ever tasted, and even a cosmetics booth. After we left, we were waiting for the light to turn so we could cross the street, and a couple of people drove up in a van, rolled down a window, and asked us if it was worth going to the fair. We told them definitely yes. It’s always good to check out new things and find out what is good (or not) without having to buy so much stuff. We’re looking forward to next year’s food fair.

Restaurant Review: Dessert at Papa Haydn

This last Friday we went to see the movie Coraline and decided that we wanted to get some dessert somewhere after the movie. So we got out our fancy celiac-friendly restaurant list and called around until we found a place that was still open. We ended up going to Papa Haydn on NW 23rd.

At 10:00 PM this Friday night, Papa Haydn was busy enough that there was a 20 minute wait for a table, which is pretty amazing for sleepy Portland Oregon. I could be wrong, but it looks to me like their dinner menu is actually shorter than their dessert menu. On the dessert menu they have a lot of things that I can eat. I’m going to let their descriptions paint the picture. These are all gluten-free:

Boccone Dolce – Swiss meringues drizzled with semi-sweet chocolate, layered with fresh fruit and chantilly cream.
Raspberry Gateau – Fallen chocolate souffle topped by whole berries and red current glaze. Bordered with bittersweet chocolate ganache.
Chocolate Cube – Chocolate cube filled with chocolate mousse.

Are you getting the idea yet? Maybe some pictures will help.

hummina hummina

hummina hummina

Oooo Baby!

Oooo Baby!

First the bad things: First, one of the hostesses (or maybe she was a waitress filling in for the hostess) was too cool to be friendly, which we found off-putting. Second, the coffee was awful. The Americano we ordered to replace the coffee was not as bad, but still disappointing. By awful I mean the coffee tasted like it had been brewed and then left on a burner for several hours. This, for a dessert place, is a major sin.

Now the good things:
Our waitress was very friendly and helpful. When asked about the gluten-free options, she was able to tell us what was available by checking a list they keep. There are enough options that most people will actually be stumped about what to order. I got the Chocolate Cube.

The Chocolate Cube

The Chocolate Cube

I could be wrong, but I think they keep these things chilled and then heat them up to room temperature when they serve them. It came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some nice chocolate and caramel drizzle. It was really amazing.

Sienna got some kind of hazelnut caramel crunch thing that wasn’t celiac-safe and that she ended up being kind of disappointed with. Partly because their caramel sauce had a butterscotch sort of flavor.

We were sufficiently impressed with Papa Haydn’s that we’ll definitely be visiting again. Have you been to Papa Haydn’s? Let us know what your experience was like! Also, we really want to know about your favorite gluten-free friendly dessert places in Portland Oregon. Leave a comment and let us know.

Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same price, but expensive. Expect to pay $8 for a dessert.

Papa Haydn
701 NW 23rd Ave., Portland, Oregon 97210 / 503.228.7317
5829 SE Milwaukie Ave., Portland, Oregon 97202 / 503.232.9440
www.papahaydn.com

Gluten-Free Product Review – Nana’s Chocolate Crunch Cookie

Those of you who are aware of the origin of our current poll will know that it started with an awful cookie. The time has come to unmask the cookie in question, which was bought at our local New Seasons Market. Here’s our review:

We have a love-hate relationship with gluten free and vegan products. I have eaten many delicious vegan cakes and cookies. I have not eaten many good gluten-free and vegan cakes or cookies. This is a fact that I hope will change some day.

As for the Nana’s cookie, it tastes like something that was extruded and freeze-dried instead of something that was stirred, formed into a cookie, and baked. I do think these have a target audience. While doing a little research for this review I noticed that this is a popular cookie. If you like Twinkies and Ding-Dongs, or fakey packaged cookies, you might like this cookie. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with liking snack cakes or fakey packaged cookies. I’m just sayin’…

You might like this cookie and it's OK with me.

You might like this cookie and it's OK with me.

Overall rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same price I guess.

Nana’s Chocolate Crunch Cookie