Gluten-free Veggie Burgers [That Actually Taste Like Vegetables]

One of the most frustrating things about being gluten free is checking ingredients lists when food shopping, as so many things you wouldn’t even think could contain wheat seem to. I have a lot of good supermarkets near me, but not a single one’s veggie burger selection includes one that doesn’t contain wheat. Since homemade everything is better anyway, I decided to try making them from scratch.
Veggie burgers that actually taste like vegetables! (AND they're gluten free too!)The problem is that the breadcrumbs in commercial veggie burgers are what helps them hold together, something I only realized when I started cooking my first batch. I threw almond flour in to my second batch which definitely helped (and is great to use if you’re grain-free or slow carb), but I’d recommend using gluten-free breadcrumbs instead to really bind them together well; they’re a bit delicate otherwise…but still taste lightyears better than those gluten-y store bought veggie burgers. The great thing about making veggie burgers from scratch is that you can really customize them to your liking/based on what you have on hand. Don’t like peas? Use corn. Not a fan of spinach? Skip it. Have some leftover zucchini in the fridge? Throw it in. The world is your gluten-free oyster.
These veggie burgers actually taste like veggies (and they're gluten free too!)
Gluten-free Veggie Burger Recipe
1 medium sweet potato, cooked however you like (I roasted mine in a 350 degree oven for one hour, but if you need to save time just stab it with a fork and use the microwave), then peeled
1 cup cooked rice (I used jasmine. If you cook 1 cup of uncooked rice, you’ll have enough for the burgers and to have on the side)
8 ounces button, white, or cremini mushrooms, diced small
1 large carrot (or about 7 to 9 baby ones), diced small
2 small shallots, diced small
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen chopped spinach (not thawed)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
1/4 cup almond meal or gluten-free breadcrumbs
olive oil

In a large bowl, mash together sweet potato and rice. Set aside.

Heat enough olive oil to comfortably coat the bottom of a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add mushrooms, carrot, shallots, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring regularly, until vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Add in frozen peas and spinach and continue to cook, stirring to break up spinach chunks, until vegetables are cooked, about 2 to 3 minutes longer.

Add vegetable mixture to the bowl with the sweet potato and rice. (Wipe out skillet but don’t wash it yet.) Add cayenne, Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper, and mix until well combined. Taste mixture and add more seasonings if necessary. Let cool about 30 minutes (you can speed this up in the fridge), then mix in egg and meal or breadcrumbs until everything is combined nicely.

Heat a teaspoon or two of olive oil in your skillet (use a paper towel to spread it around). Take large golf ball-ish sized portions of the veggie mixture and flatten into patties, then add to skillet. Cook until lightly browned (about 4 minutes), then flip carefully with a thin metal spatula and cook on other side. Serve on toasted gluten-free buns with cheese, because cheese is the best.

(This recipe makes 8 to 10 burgers and freezes quite nicely. Freeze burgers between pieces of parchment paper in a freezer bag and reheat in a skillet or in the microwave.)

Proof of the Truth in My Blog Title

This weekend I went to a second birthday party for my best friend’s niece, who is truly a girl after my own heart. She refused to put down her cake even for a pony ride, so the cake came along on the pony with her.
cake babyCake is clearly the only thing that matters, whether you’re 2 or in your 20s (even if it’s [surprisingly good] gluten and dairy free cake).

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins [Adventures in Xanthan Gum]

Fall is upon us, which means it’s time for boots, new leather jackets, and being able to turn on the oven again without turning your apartment into a kiln.
You'd never, ever know these blueberry muffins are gluten free!I normally dive into baking season with enthusiasm, but I’ve been nervous this time around, since gluten-free baking is a new adventure for me. I did a lot of reading about it, and much of what I read kind of terrified me–lots of people warning off of baking with cups instead of weight (math?!), making your own flour blends (how big are your kitchens?!), and the perils of xanthan gum, the binder used in place of gluten. Baking and its ratios really are chemistry, but messing up xanthan gum ratios is not the same as using a little too much vanilla, and I couldn’t find a definitive agreement on how much to use. I also didn’t really love the ingredients lists in many of the recipes I found; some called for very specific flours, others required more eggs than I had on hand. To further complicate matters, many of the recipes I found were also dairy-free and other-stuff-free, and all I wanted to eliminate was gluten.
Gluten free blueberry muffin recipe – tastes just like the real thing!Naturally, I solved the problem by winging it and adapting an existing favorite (gluten) muffin recipe, because I have some sort of terrible compulsion to almost never follow recipe directions exactly, even when attempting something new. I ended up basing my xanthan gum usage off the package’s recommendation, but using a bit less than they suggested; I’d rather have my muffins be too crumbly than too tough. To my supreme surprise, these muffins actually came out as close to real muffins as they possibly could. The gluten-eaters in my life all loved them too, so these would be great to serve a crowd (but also great if you want to eat a dozen muffins by yourself–no judgments here).

Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins [adapted from The Modern Baker]
2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour blend (I used King Arthur)
1/2 cup almond flour (not almond meal, which is coarser. I used Bob’s Red Mill, which my friend Lauren so kindly sent me)
2 tsp baking powder
1 slightly overfull tsp xanthan gum (mine is also Bob’s Red Mill)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, plus a little extra to sprinkle on top
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste (vanilla extract will also work, but make sure it’s the real thing)
1/2 cup milk (I used 1 percent)
8 ounces fresh blueberries, picked over for stems and mushy ones
a bit of cinnamon for sprinkling

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk (or stir with a fork) together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, nutmeg, and salt until well combined. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars until lightened and getting fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add in eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in vanilla and scrape down the sides again. Add in half of flour mixture and mix on low speed until well mixed. Stop mixer and pour in the milk, then mix on low speed again until combined (you may want to start with your mixer on “stir” to avoid getting your counter covered in milk splashes). Add remaining flour mixture and mix again until combined. Add in blueberries and mix on stir until berries are just distributed.

Divide batter between the liners (they will be quite full) and sprinkle a bit of brown sugar and cinnamon on top of each. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and tops are golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let muffins cool in pan for 5 to 10 minutes (basically until you can touch them without burning your fingers off), then move to wire rack to cool completely. If you’re making them later in the day, eat one for dessert (as my friend Sally says, muffins are just cake).

Behold: Gluten-free Challah Exists

Challah is the greatest kind of bread that exists in the world. This is an objective fact, so please do not argue. If I were to cheat on being gluten free with anything, it would be challah.

So when Rosh Hashanah rolled around, I knew I needed to find myself a gluten free substitute, or it was very likely that I would go off the rails. At first I looked at recipes, but as I still haven’t done much gluten-free baking, and bread is tricky even if you’ve got gluten on your side, I ended up turning to store-bought. After reading a whoooole lotta product reviews, I decided to try Katz Gluten Free.
How to get gluten free challah breadThe good news is that this was the first gluten-free bread I’ve eaten that didn’t absolutely need to be toasted. It is most definitely better when toasted, but I was able to douse plain slices in honey with the rest of my family. The texture is, of course, not quite the same, as challah’s wonderful stretchiness is thanks to that jerk gluten, but the flavor is pretty close. Their challah would absolutely work in French toast and bread pudding perfectly, too. They sell the challah in a lot of ways and sizes, but I just bought the small loaf (knife and honey for scale) as I’m the only GF member of my family.

I would definitely try more of their bread products, but I’d stick with those; I also tried their gluten-free hamentaschen and they were not very edible, unfortunately. If you’d like to give their breads a try, Katz will give you 35 percent off your fist order if you use my referral link, so here it is!

Also: I’ve been doing a little freelance writing on the side. Check out the two pieces I wrote for Cosmo recently!
The 6 Types of Coworkers No One Warns You About
11 Reasons Guys on OkCupid Are the Worst (these are all real messages I’ve received)

[Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I found and paid for these products myself.]

Three Months Gluten Free!

Let’s celebrate with this series of selfies I tried to take with one of my dogs the last time I was home, all of which failed (yet totally won) because his ear was sticking out so far.
Cute dachshund on Cake Is The Only Thing That MattersSo here’s the three-month update: there is no update. I haven’t really seen any changes or improvements yet, but I’ve been told that it could take up to a year for my body to “heal” from all the gluten I’ve ever subjected it to, so I wasn’t really expecting anything. I will say that I am definitely eating better than I did before going gluten free, since I now tend to eat more salads and vegetables in general. The fact that it’s harder to find baked goods hasn’t stopped me, but it has slowed me down. Hopefully I can keep that up as the weather turns colder, produce gets thinner, and I have more time inside for baking.

Fingers crossed for better news at the six month update!

Spicy Gluten-Free Crab Cakes [Perfect for Lazy Late Summer Days]

We’re not going to talk about how August is almost over, because that will make me start crying.

What we are going to talk about is how perfect the (late, sob) summer weather has (finally) been lately. Is there anything better than a weekend full of cloudless skies, temperatures in the low 80s, barely any humidity, and a slight breeze? No, no there is not, especially when you don’t have to travel and can just spend the whole perfect weekend outside.
SummerThough you could make it a bit better with these crab cakes, because seriously, they are bomb.

I am a huge crab cake fan, but I’d never made them before, preferring to get them at restaurants, or to let my dad make large batches while I come over to steal some of them. But the perfect summer weather got me in a crab cakey mood, and I decided to give it a whirl. I figured that since I’ve watched my dad make them so many times, I’d just glance at a few recipes’ ingredients lists and just wing it.

However, none of this prepared me for the fact that crab meat is not like chicken cutlets or ground meat–it doesn’t come ready to go. Apparently, you have to pick through the crab meat for any stray pieces of shell, which will definitely be there. If I had bothered to fully read any of the recipes I glanced at for seasoning ideas, I would have known this. So, if you’re planning to make these, please promise me you’ll check for shells. Otherwise, some bites of your crab cakes will have a slightly crunchy bite, which isn’t unpleasant, exactly, but I’d really recommend them without that.
Easy and delicious spicy crab cakes (that can be made gluten-free!)One thing I did learn from my glances at recipes is that pretty much all of them, even the “light” ones, require you to use mayonnaise as an ingredient. I’m not really a fan of mayo, so I don’t keep it in the house, and I didn’t feel like walking to Panera to steal some mayo packets. What I DO keep in the house is a bottle of chipotle ranch dressing, which is one of my favorite condiments for sandwiches and salads. I knew the texture would be similar to mayo, and the flavor better, so I decided to try that out. I was NOT disappointed. I don’t often brag outright about my cooking successes, but this was probably one of my best cooking ideas in a long time. I use Cindy’s Kitchen (I get it at Whole Foods and Fairway), but if you can’t find it, you can use stupid mayo instead–just increase the amount of hot sauce and seasonings you’re using. Don’t be daunted by the length of the ingredient list; you have most of this in your kitchen already, and the actual prep and cooking takes less than 15 minutes.

Spicy Gluten-free Crab Cakes Recipe (makes 6)
8 ounces fresh lump crab meat, picked over for shell pieces, seriously
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 to 1 tsp hot sauce (your choice)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp chipotle ranch dressing (or regular ranch or mayo, plus more hot sauce)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup gluten-free Panko (or other breadcrumbs of your choice)
olive oil

Dump out crab meat into a large bowl and check it for shell pieces, I’m not kidding. Add all of the rest of the ingredients except the olive oil. Using your hands (gross, but the most effective), mix everything together as lightly as you can, until everything is well distributed. Cover bowl lightly with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours (go get a pedicure).

Take the bowl out of the fridge about 10 minutes before you’re ready to get cooking (maybe get working on your side dishes, unless you’re planning to just eat crab cakes for dinner, which sounds awesome). Divide crab mixture into six portions. Roll each portion lightly into a ball, then press out into a patty (mine were about 1/2 to 3/4 an inch thick). Pour enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a large, nonstick skillet and heat over medium-high heat. When oil is hot (test it by putting in a small piece of crab and seeing if it sizzles), add crab cakes and cook, flipping once, until browned on each side, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from skillet, squeeze some lemon juice over them, and dig in.

I Never Want Summer to End…But I Do Like Shopping for Fall

Summer is my favorite season. It is the best one and I will accept no arguments in this matter.

However, I do really like fall. Nowhere near as much as summer, but it’s a pretty good second-place season. I mostly like it for the clothes–being able to put together layered outfits without needing to cover them up with a huge coat because it’s negative 17 degrees outside is a fun use of my (tiny) closet. And with my new crop of birthday gift cards, here’s what I’m planning to stock up on*:
fall shopping basics1 – lowish-heeled booties. I’m planning to buy these, in brown, from Madewell this week, because while I prefer to do all my shopping there during sales, I have a feeling they won’t go on sale for a veeery long time. I think they’re a good day-to-night option.

2 – sweaters that aren’t gray. As I was looking for a sweater to feature for this post, I found half a dozen gray sweaters I loved. But when taking sweater inventory the other day and noticing just how many gray sweaters I have (we don’t have to get into details, but most of my sweaters are gray), I am instituting a rule that I am not allowed to buy gray sweaters this year. I do like this JCrew one (which I will get only when they have a sale–don’t shop there without one, kids), not that I need more things with polka dots…

3 – a leather jacket. I don’t really have a good in-between jacket, so a nice leather one would be perfect. I want something classic enough to last a few seasons, since they’re not exactly inexpensive, but still modern-looking. This Nordstrom one is a good start.

4 – moar statement necklaces! I have a problem.

5 – a new leather everyday bag. My current regular purse is not long for this world–I love it and I’ve had it for years (it’s the bag in this post, which isn’t sold anymore), but it’s going to need replacing soon. I have no idea what style I’m really looking for (this one is just okay), and well-made leather bags do not come cheap, so this is one I probably won’t actually buy.

6 – sheer polka dot tights. I tried to buy these three times last year and all of them ripped. Hopefully this year I can find a pair that lasts.

Thanks for enabling a shopping spree, birthday!

*I apologize for the lack of posting/meaty posts lately! Work has been quite busy and, sadly, I do need to put my paying job before this here blog.

A Letter to Myself on My Birthday 10 Years Ago

Dear Little Alie,

I know that you are very upset right now–the lovely blackout that’s affecting the entire northeast for multiple days had the audacity to fall right smack in the middle of your birthday. You are so sad that instead of enjoying Baskin Robbins ice cream cake (the best kind, because it’s cake AND ice cream–you will still feel strongly about this in 10 years) for days, you watched your cake melt. You will continue to dramatically tell this story for the next decade, if that’s any condolence. But I know that right now you just can’t get over that this is the worst birthday EVER.

If I could go back and time and give you this letter, I wouldn’t. Because, while this is the worst right now, this isn’t going to be your worst birthday ever. In the next 10 years you will fully enter adulthood, and you will come to realize that your birthday, unfortunately, isn’t always the best day ever. You’ll have birthdays where people will make you cry. You’ll have birthdays where you’ll get food poisoning. You’ll have birthdays where you’ll have to eat gluten-free cake, even though right now you’ve never even heard that word before (it’s good though!). You’ll have birthdays where your heart has been so broken you don’t even want to celebrate. Growing up sucks.
Birthday cake with googly eyesBut you’ll have great birthdays too. When you turn 21, even though you’ve had alcohol quite a few (many, sorry Mom) times already, you’ll be so drunk and silly that your habit of leaving Leela drunk voice mails will cause you to drunk dial her in the cab home while you’re sitting next to her (of course she’s still your best friend, not that you’re surprised. When you’re in your 20s you’ll finally become roommates like you’ve dreamed of since you were 7, again, not that you’re surprised. On your birthday 10 years from now, she’ll get you this great cake filled with private jokes you haven’t even gotten to yet). When you’re older and your parents have gotten divorced (again, I’d never give you this letter from a time machine), they’ll still be there, together, on your birthday. And your friends, your wonderful friends (you’ve got some good ones right now, but just wait to see who you meet in college and adulthood), they’ll be there with you for all of them. And you’ll know that even with blackouts and tears and heartbreak, that you really are blessed with what matters.

So no, Alie of 10 years ago, this will not be your worst birthday ever. But make a wish on that melted cake anyway and know you’ve got some truly great people in your life now, and have so many more you won’t believe how lucky you are coming your way.

Love, Old Alie

Great Day, or Greatest Day?

On Saturday night I went to the Beyoncé concert. You know the phrase “everything you dreamed of and more?” Whoever came up with it was at a Beyoncé concert. I spent a lot of dollars on my seat and every single penny was worth it.
BeyonceSorry, Billy Joel, but you’ve been passed for the #1 spot on my internal list of best concerts ever.

I’d post some of the videos I took here (Survivor! CRAZY IN LOVE! I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU INTO HALO!) but I am preeetty sure that’s illegal, so just put on your sequined jumpsuit and put on Spotify.

Too Much of a Good Thing

When 2013 started, I decided that I had good feelings about 2013. I decided that i was going to make sure those good feelings happened by pushing my tendency to PROCRASTINATE ALL THE THINGS! aside and be active in making moves to change the things I wanted changed, because while there are a lot of things you can wait around and drag your feet about, ensuring positive change in your life is not one of them. And so I did, what with the exercise and the glutens and all that, and some other things that I have not written about here because the Internet is everywhere, forever and maybe some things don’t need to go up on it, etc. etc. ANYWAY. I also felt like good things were going to happen in 2013 because I kicked it off by traveling to LA for the very first time, and I love travel, and perhaps it would be a year of travel.

And it has been. Not only did I go to LA for the first time, but then I went for the second time, and I’ll be going for the third time very soon, all in the space of one year (and I may even go a fourth time if I make New Years in LA a Thing). I went to Israel. I went on my very first business trip, to Dallas. I went to lots of driving-distance places for lots of weddings. And I loved it all. BUT (here’s the but you knew was coming since I started this post), so much of it piled on top of each other has led to me truly understanding what too much of a good thing really means, beyond eating too much cake. In the past five weeks I have gotten to spend exactly one weekend sleeping at my apartment the whole time, doing whatever I wanted the whole time. I’ve been gone at least one weekend every month all year. I kind of feel like all I do lately is pack and unpack suitcases. Even my love of making packing lists has started to lose its appeal; I’ve been reusing lists, which I never do, because I like making them so much.

I am not complaining about all this, exactly. I have truly loved every place I’ve been to in 2013, I have truly loved celebrating every marriage, I have truly loved all the new people I have met along the way. I am so, so grateful to be so fortunate to be able to do all of this. I am, quite simply, tired. Ever since I went to Blissdom in March and listened to a talk about introverts and extroverts, it’s become clear to me that I’m not quite a textbook extrovert. I need quiet time. I do love to be doing things and be surrounded by at least one other person 90 percent of the time, that is absolutely true. But I need time to myself, to not be doing anything but whatever it is I want to do alone, whether that’s a good walk around New York or watching TV or reading a book, and travel has been getting in the way of that. I guess my next active betterment changes project for 2013 needs to be making sure I find that time within the traveling, because I do still want to maybe go to LA for New Years again, and I do want to visit Torie in Chicago this year, and when I make this third trip to LA I am getting there early so I can see friends, and I do still want to have new experiences and try new things and meet new people and continue to take advantage of all the opportunities I am so very lucky to have. I just need to be able to find the best way to do it all for me.

I really wish there had been a class in college about how to be a proper grownup, because I have no idea. But, I guess no one else does either.

Lest I leave you on a complete Debbie Downer note, here is a photo of a sign I saw last weekend, which I thought was hilarious until I got to the beach and saw that the ocean was LITERALLY MADE OF SEAWEED. Get well soon, ocean.
watch out for seaweed