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gluten-free, casein-free pupusas

This week’s recipe has a funny name, but a great taste. I found this recipe in The Complete Allergy-Free Comfort Foods Cookbook: Every Recipe Is Free of Gluten, Dairy, Soy, Nuts, and Eggs by Elizabeth Gordon. According to the author, pupusas are El Salvadoran street food. Besides being super easy to make, pupusas are also very versatile. I put refried beans inside these, but you could also use barbeque-flavored shredded pork or beef, a cheese alternative, or a combination of cheese alternative and beans. They freeze well so you can make a big batch and stash some away for later.

Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Pupusas (Nicholas Rating = 100 Thumbs Up!)

2 cups masa harina corn flour (NOT cornmeal); I used Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Corn Flour

2 cups plus 2 Tbsp water

Coconut Oil, as needed

1 cup vegetarian refried beans (or substitute bbq-flavored meat)

1 cup Daiya Cheese (optional)

Toppings of your choice: cubed avocado, salsa, shredded cabbage (optional)

1. In large mixing bowl, combine corn flour and water with your fingers. It should form a dough that is not thin and watery, but thick and moist. Press plastic wrap directly on top of dough and let it sit for 5 minutes.

2. Lightly oil griddle or large skillet with coconut oil. Preheat pan/griddle over medium-high heat.

3. While heating pan/griddle, form the pupusas. With wet hands, roll 2 Tbsp of the dough between your hands to form a ball. Poke a hole about a quarter of the way through the ball with your thumb. Press 1-2 teaspoons of your choice of filling into the hole, and form dough around the filling until it is a ball again. Then, pat the pupusa between your palms until it is flat like a pancake. The edges should be smooth. If the edges crack or look dry, add 1-2 Tbsp water to the dough.

4. Place the pupusas on heated griddle/skillet and cook over medium-high heat for 7-8 minutes per side. Continue rolling and stuffing the pupusas until all dough is used.

5. Serve immediately with any toppings of your choice.

6. Leftovers can be stored in refrigerator in airtight container for up to 3 days. Or, you can place completely cooled pupusas in an airtight container with squares of wax paper between each one and freeze for up to three months. To reheat frozen pupusas, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place pupusas on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until warmed through. Serve immediately.


Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Roasted Bananas are a simple way to both use bananas that are starting to get too brown and make a tasty snack! I adapted the recipe from the cookbook, Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce: A Guide to Easy-to-Make Dishes with Fresh Organic Fruits and Vegetables. I served these as an accompaniment to a chicken dinner that I made last week and they were splendid.  My husband kept asking for more of them.  They are so easy to make and yet so satisfying. What more could you ask for? My husband gave these 20 Thumbs Up!

GFCF Roasted Bananas (Husband Rating = 20 Thumbs Up!)

canola oil spray

3 ripe bananas, peeled and cut in half lengthwise

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1-2 Tbsp coconut oil spread (I like Earth Balance), divided into small pieces

Optional garnish – toasted pecan halves (see instructions below)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Spray a 9-inch baking dish with canola spray. Add bananas in a single layer, cut side up.

3. Sprinkle lime juice over all bananas. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar; dot the coconut oil spread pieces all over bananas.

4. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes or until tender and lightly glazed.

5. If you wish, garnish bananas with toasted pecan halves.

(How to toast pecans – place pecan halves in a single layer on a cookie sheet that has an edge on it. Toast in middle of a 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Keep an eye on them because they can burn quickly. Cool before using.)

How can you substitute for dairy or gluten-containing items and still stay on the GFCF diet? It’s actually easier than you think for most items. Many times when I’m trying to adapt a recipe, I find I need to either find a common substitution, or create one. This can take quite a bit of time, so I thought it would be helpful to create a resource for you to refer back to easily when you are cooking. Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of common dairy substitutions and a list of common gluten substitutions to help you stay true to the gluten-free, casein-free diet without getting too frustrated in the process!

Dairy Substitutions

Stick Butter – Willow Run Soybean Margarine by Shedd’s (if you can eat soy); OR, Ghee (clarified butter) : this doesn’t contain casein and yet has all the richness of butter; OR, Spectrum Organic Shortening (I use this when I need more than a few tablespoons); OR,                                 Coconut Oil (melts nicely, easy to scoop into a measuring cup).

Buttermilk – 1 cup milk alternative (unsweetened, unflavored) with 1 Tbsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

Milk – substitute 1:1 with milk alternatives like rice milk, soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk

Yogurt – substitute 1:1 with So Delicious coconut milk yogurt or soy-based yogurt

Cream -1/4 cup soy half-n-half, mixed with ¼ cup soy margarine, melted, and ½ c unsweetened soymilk; OR, 1 cup cream of coconut

Condensed Milk – substitute 1:1 with canned coconut milk

Gluten Substitutions –

Gluten-Free Flours –      rice, sorghum, corn, amaranth, soy, almond meal, coconut flour, quinoa flour, flaxseed flour, arrowroot,millet, buckwheat, etc.

Pastas – rice pasta, corn pasta, quinoa pasta

Cereals – items made with rice, corn, or gluten-free oats and marked “gluten-free” (watch out for extra chemicals though in some mainstream cereals!)

Breads – rice cakes, corn tortillas, gluten-free bread mixes, gluten-free crackers

Oats – look for “gluten-free” certified oats (Trader Joe’s sells them)

Rice – rice doesn’t contain gluten; if you need to avoid rice, try quinoa because it is very similar in taste/texture

(Sources of information include:  Dairy-Free Cooking; GlutenFreeWorks.)

Are there any substitutions that I missed? Have one you’d like to share? Please comment below.

coconut oil

I know I’ve discussed my passion for coconut oil in the past on this blog. But, I was given an opportunity to check out another brand of coconut oil and was excited to see the differences between Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil and the Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil that I have previously reviewed. Both products, according to their websites, are produced in a very similar fashion – cold-pressed, made from organic materials, and without the use of any harsh chemicals.

I didn’t find any terribly obvious difference between the two products, except for perhaps the aroma and the price. Here’s a comparison list between the two products –

Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil

PROS: melts very fast; comes in an elegant glass jar; is made by hand on small family farms;  looks more like oil, than shortening; did not smell strongly of coconut when cooking.

CONS: higher price ($29.50 for one-quart size), but they do offer sales and savings on shipping sporadically; have to buy a shopping membership in order to purchase from them.

Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil –

PROS: lower price (2-pack of 54 oz. jars is $46.50 from Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program, with free shipping); has a slight coconut aroma (some people like this, some don’t); large jar makes it easy to scoop product out for cooking.

CONS: does have coconut aroma (I don’t mind it for most things, but sometimes it does seem to interfere with other flavors in the dish I’m preparing); looks more like shortening (in color); melts slowly; comes in a plastic container; probably mass-produced.

Here’s a short video that Tropical Traditions provided me about their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil:

Overall, I think the Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil is more of a gourmet version while the Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is more of a generic coconut oil. I’m interested in hearing if you have used either of these coconut oil products and if you see any difference between them. Please comment below!

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.



I have a monkey living with me, his name is Nicholas; he looks like a boy, but since he eats so many bananas I often call him “my monkey.” Well, that and his interest in climbing trees, play structures…you get the idea! My monkey keeps asking for new breakfast ideas from me. So, I decided to try transforming banana bread into french toast. The banana bread recipe is from a wonderful blog called Comfy Belly and then I modified a french toast recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 15th Edition (Better Homes & Gardens Plaid).  The experiment was a delicious success, I’m happy to report!

French Toast for Monkeys (Nicholas Rating = 100 Thumbs Up!)

Ingredients –

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup coconut milk (from carton)

2 Tbsp white sugar

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

8 slices of  banana bread (see link below)

 2 – 4 Tbsp coconut oil for cooking the french toast

1. Make the Banana Bread Recipe (courtesy of Comfy Belly). Let it cool completely, or make it the night before. Slice it into thick slices.

2. In a shallow mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, coconut milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

3. Dip banana bread slices into the mixture and let it soak in for about 10 seconds per side.

4. In a skillet or griddle, melt coconut oil over medium heat. Add 2-3 pieces of banana bread at a time and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Repeat with remaining slices, adding more coconut oil to skillet if needed.

5. Serve warm with maple syrup or honey!

gluten free cinnamon buns

Before I went gluten-free, I used to enjoy the Morning Buns at Starbuck’s Coffee. Not only were they a wonderful compliment to a cup of coffee, but Nicholas enjoyed eating one as a snack too! That all changed when we went gluten-free and casein-free. Until now, since I’ve almost replicated the flavors in this tasty Gluten-Free Cinnamon Bun; adapted from a recipe called “Cinnamon Butter Puffs” in The Breakfast Book. Nicholas agreed that the flavors and moistness of the muffin are an amazing resemblance to the Starbuck’s Morning Bun. Hope you enjoy them too!

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Buns (Nicholas Rating = 1 Trillion Thumbs Up!!)

canola oil spray

1/3 c organic vegetable shortening

1/2 c white sugar

5 eggs

1 c almond meal

1/2 c coconut flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 c coconut milk (from the carton)

Topping –

1/2 c melted coconut oil

1/2 c white sugar combined with 1 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins with canola oil spray.

2. Beat together shortening, sugar, and eggs in mixing bowl. Add flours, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg and mix thoroughly.

3. Add milk and beat until blended and smooth.

4. Fill muffin tins about 2/3 full. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into muffin comes out clean.

5. For the topping, have melted coconut oil ready in one bowl and another bowl with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

6. Once muffins are cooked, remove them from muffin tin and dip them individually first into coconut oil and then roll them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

7. These taste fantastic while they are still warm, or reheat them if you need to for a later meal.

We recently had to stop feeding Nicholas potatoes to try to resolve some “gut issues” he is still having.  Since he loves homemade french fries, I was trying to figure out how to substitute something that was ok for him to eat and that he would enjoy.  As he had already loved the “Yummy Yam Spears” in Everyday Paleo, I thought I would try substituting butternut squash for the yams/sweet potatoes. As it turned out, we happened upon a terrific alternative that we all enjoy! And, Nicholas is now….gasp….eating a vegetable! (But, don’t tell him that, please!)

Butternut Squash Fries (Nicholas Rating = 100 Thumbs Up)

1 large butternut squash (about 2 lbs)

3 Tbsp coconut oil

1/2 Tbsp paprika

1/2 Tbsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Sea Salt and Black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Peel the squash, then split in half and remove the seeds. Cut into planks about 4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide.

3. In a large bowl, mix all the spices together with the melted coconut oil and then toss the squash planks in and stir them so they get coated evenly with the sauce.

4. Line a cookie sheet with foil and evenly spread the planks out on the foil-covered cookie sheet.

5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, turning planks over at least once halfway through the cooking time.

6. Serve with ketchup, mustard, or even gluten-free ranch dressing!


A few posts back, I mentioned that I really have enjoyed getting to know the many uses for Coconut Oil.  Well, I am now exploring the many benefits of Coconut Flour, too! Since Nicholas can not have rice or beans or potatoes right now, we don’t have too many options left for creating any type of baked goods.  That is, until I discovered Coconut Flour!

According to Bob’s Red Mill

Coconut flour is a delicious, healthy alternative to wheat and other grain flours. It is very high in fiber, low in digestible carbohydrates, a good source of protein and gluten-free. It lends baked goods an incomparably rich texture and a unique, natural sweetness.

It is all those things, but it is also quite tricky to work with in your recipes! I’ve been finding that it takes about 5 eggs for every 1 cup of coconut flour because it is such a dense flour.  I have found some wonderful recipes for muffins over at Comfy Belly, that I strongly encourage you to try out.  I will also be posting a pound cake recipe shortly that I made with coconut flour.

As with all the specialty flours, it’s not cheap to purchase.  I’ve started ordering mine through Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program, because it’s very reasonable.  It’s best to keep the flour in either the refrigerator or freezer so that it stays fresh.


I’ve decided to call these “Chicken Cakes” because they are so similar to crab cakes. Thanks to the further streamlining of our diet here, I’ve been really struggling to find new and interesting things to cook.  This was a recipe I modified from the classic book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet. These turned out to be quite tasty and made excellent leftovers too!

Chicken Cakes (Nick Rating = 12 Thumbs Up!)

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2-3 Tbsp almond meal

1 egg

1 small onion, quartered

1/2 cup butternut squash puree*

2-3 Tbsp coconut oil, for frying

Season to taste with salt, pepper

1 Tbsp chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400. Trim fat off chicken breasts. Bake chicken breasts for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Using a food processor:

Add chopped (cooked) chicken, onion, butternut squash puree, egg, and parsley. Blend until smooth.

Add about half the almond meal, salt, pepper, and blend for a few seconds.

Using your hands, shape mixture into 3 1/2 inch patties. If mixture is to goopy, add more almond meal to stiffen it up.

Fry patties in coconut oil over medium heat until golden brown and turn as needed. Serve hot.

*Directions for making purees –

  • Butternut Squash: cut off the stem, cut squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Roast halves on cookie sheet, flesh-side down, at 400 for 45-50 minutes. Scoop out the flesh and puree in food processor or blender for about 2 minutes.
  • NOTE: I often make large batches of purees and package them in Ziploc quart freezer bags in 1/4 or 1/2 cup size amounts. Then, you can simply thaw them out for a recipe and snip off a corner of the bag and squeeze the puree out of the hole into a bowl. Very easy and efficient!

veggie chicken rice balls

This is another recipe that I adapted from Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious Cookbook. I will warn you that this is a time-consuming dish, but it is one that can be made ahead and reheated quite nicely. They also make fabulous leftovers and work great in a thermos for a school lunch too! You cannot taste the veggies or the chicken in them, so if you have picky eaters that do like rice, they should be pretty happy with these.

Veggie Chicken Rice Balls (Nick Rating = 10 Thumbs Up!)

1 c short-grain brown rice

Nonstick canola cooking spray

6 Tbsp coconut oil

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and dried

1 c butternut squash puree (see instructions below for how to make puree)

1/4 c soy-based cheddar-style cheese

1 tsp salt

1/4 c rice milk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 1/2 c gluten-free panko-style breadcrumbs

Put 1 cup of brown rice and 2 cups of water in saucepan on stove and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until rice is tender, approximately 30-40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400. Spray cookie sheet with canola cooking spray and set aside. Trim chicken breasts of any unnecessary fat. Bake chicken breasts for 20 minutes in 400 degree oven.

Cut cooked chicken into chunks and put in food processor or blender. Add butternut squash puree and cheese, 1 tsp salt, and the rice milk, and blend until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the cooked rice. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls and place them on a plate.

In a shallow bowl, beat egg with a fork. Put crumbs in second bowl. One at a time, dip rice balls into the egg mixture, then roll them in the crumbs to coat them evenly.

Spray large skillet with canola cooking spray and then melt the coconut oil in it over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add rice balls and cook for 5-7 minutes, turning occasionally and adding more coconut oil as you continue to cook the rice balls.  If needed, have a serving dish in oven at 200 degrees to transfer rice balls to so they will stay warm prior to serving.

Butternut Squash Puree Instructions: cut off the stem, cut squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Roast halves on cookie sheet, flesh-side down, at 400 for 45-50 minutes. Scoop out the flesh and puree in food processor or blender for about 2 minutes.

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