Friday, January 10, 2014

The Best of 2013

Wow!  2013 was a big year for me in so many ways!  I saw my 18 year teaching career come to an end, I started this blog, we traveled to some incredible places, and I joined Pinterest and Twitter, which I said I would never do because I already had a slight Facebook addiction.  I have also made some great GFFs (gluten free friends).

My travels showed me that a lot has changed in the 5 1/2 years since my Celiac diagnosis.  So many restaurants now have gluten free menus, or actually know what gluten is and can make gluten free meals. Thanks to some internet research and the Find Me Gluten Free App, I had amazing gluten free food in Disneyland, Temecula, Napa, San Francisco, Hilton Head, Pittsburgh, and on the Disney Dream.  I put a lot of links in this paragraph so you can check out the related blog posts or Pinterest boards if you are interested.

Probably the biggest change for me in 2013 was my decision to retire from teaching.  I could no longer work at our school because of my husband's promotion to Superintendent, but instead of looking for another teaching job, I decided to start this blog.  I was a little burnt out and needed a change.  I got constant speeches from the older generation in my family about how I would get bored, I should look for a job, and the "you have 3 degrees, you should use them" speech.  I spent 18 years serving some absolutely amazing young people, and now I hope to serve others who are eating gluten free by writing this blog.  I actually have time to exercise now, we rarely eat out because of all the cooking and baking I am doing, we are eating healthier, and I made it through the first semester without being bored at all.

In this post, I would like to share my top 10 blog posts and my favorite gluten free products of 2013.

Favorite Gluten Free Products of 2013

#5 NuGo Dark Bars  My father in law introduced me to NuGo Dark.  This is the one bar I can get my kids to regularly eat.  I cut them in half for my daughters to take to school for snacks and lunch treats.  My favorite is the Chocolate Pretzel with Sea Salt.  You can read my review of NuGo here.

#4  DeLallo Gluten Free Gnocchi  My husband and I have always loved gnocchi, especially the ones his grandmother makes.  I was so excited to hear that DeLallo had released a gluten free gnocchi this year.  I like that it's not frozen, like all the other gluten free gnocchi I have tried.  It cooks up in just a couple of minutes, has a great texture and taste, and my whole family loves them!  You can view my blog post about gluten free gnocchi here.  We purchase DeLallo Gluten Free Gnocchi at The Fresh Market.

#3  Bakery on Main Blueberry Scone Oatmeal  In a twitter contest, I won 3 packets of Bakery on Main instant oatmeal.  I instantly fell in love with the blueberry scone oatmeal and ordered several boxes from amazon.  You can read more about it in my Bakery on Main blog post here.

#2  Chebe Original Cheese Bread  I had tried Chebe before 2013, but I had never made pizza with it until summer break.  From our first experience making pizza with it, we were blown away.  Every pizza experiment has gotten better and better.  Chebe is gluten free and grain free, and so easy to make.  The possibilities are endless!  In 2014, we will be making a Chebe pizza with potatoes on it like we had in Rome, and I would like to make a BBQ chicken pizza.  I have written three blog posts about our Chebe pizzas.  You can view them here (sausage & spinach pizza), here (pizza experiments) and here (pesto chicken pizza).

#1 BiAglut  When I was first diagnosed with Celiac, I missed three things the most -- bread, pizza, and pasta.  In 2013, I found amazing gluten free bread, pizza, and pasta that made everyone in my family happy.  Prior to 2013, we were eating Bionaturae gluten free fusilli, elbows, and linguini, which are all very good.  On Christmas day of 2012, I placed an order on amazon for BiAglut Penne using a gift card I had been given for Christmas.  I had known about BiAglut since that summer.  The owner of Gluten Free Zone in Pittsburgh had told me that it was the best gluten free pasta, but my suitcase was too full to take any home, and I was hesitant to buy it in bulk from amazon and spend over $30 for pasta I may not like.  I am so glad I finally decided to try it.  Penne was my favorite pasta noodle before my Celiac diagnosis, and I was so excited to try BiAglut's penne, which is amazing.  In 2013, I went on to try BiAglut Pipes (shells), Fusilli, Rigatoni, and Stelline.  You can read more about BiAglut here in my blog post about gluten free pasta. 

#1  Cup4Cup - As I was inserting pictures into this blog post, I ran across this picture I had taken of Cup4Cup.  Then it hit me!  Why was Cup4Cup not on my Favorite Gluten Free Products of 2013 list?  Should it be?  I just wasn't sure if I had been using it before 2013.  Well, I decided to include it anyway, and placed it in the number one spot, tied with BiAglut.  Any flour that can produce such amazing scones deserves to be at the top of the list.  I have also used it to make Martha Stewart inspired Chocolate Sugar Cookies, and my Apple-Raspberry Puffed Pancake. It's the key ingredient in my favorite Williams-Sonoma Gluten Free Red Velvet Cupcake Mix, and in December, I used it to make amazing Italian Knot Cookies and Chocolate Pizzelle.  My Peach Crostata and Raspberry Crostata owe their awesome crust to Cup4Cup.  I could go on and on and on about all the great food I have made with this amazing gluten free flour!  I purchase Cup4Cup at Williams-Sonoma or The Fresh Market.

I have discovered many other great gluten free products in 2013.  You can check them out here, on my Favorite Gluten Free Products Pinterest board.

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2013 - the most viewed blog posts on Gluten Free in Orlando

#10  Pasta -- You Don't Have to Settle - You can view all my favorite gluten free pastas and pasta recipes in this blog post.  This post was one of my first, and it is a constant work in progress as I add new recipes and try new brands of gluten free pasta.  You can view it here

#9  Honey Balsamic Chicken Drumsticks - This is one of our favorite recipes, and I have had a lot of positive comments on it from followers of my Facebook page who have tried it.  You can view the recipe here

#8  Favorite Breakfast Recipes - I created this blog post back in September to highlight my favorite breakfast recipes.  Like my pasta post, it is constantly a work in progress as I add new recipes.  You can view it here.  

#7  Gluten Free Dinner Rolls - I first saw this recipe on Gluten-Free Girl's Facebook page, and quickly began to experiment with it.  I make dinner rolls in my muffin pans, or flatter bread for panini in my pie pans.  This recipe is versatile, easy to make, gluten free and grain free, and incredibly delicious!  I have successfully frozen it, so I can grab some bread out of the freezer and reheat it whenever I am in the mood.  You can view the recipe here.   I am so happy to have awesome homemade bread back in my life.  2013 was also the year I finally managed to perfect a gluten free Easter Bread recipe, which you can view here

#6  Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pie - One of my favorite "everything is better with" phrases is Everything is Better with Cream Cheese, especially pumpkin pie.  I didn't like pumpkin pie until my aunt made a creamy pumpkin pie in my gluten eating days.  You can view my gluten free version here

#5  Gluten Free Thanksgiving & Fall Favorites - This blog post highlights so many of my favorite recipes - smoked turkey, cornbread stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, homemade cranberry orange relish, cream cheese pumpkin pie, apple crostata, chocolate chess pie, pumpkin scones, acorn squash with apples & cranberries, sweet potato pineapple casserole, sweet buns and dinner rolls, apple raspberry puffed pancake, apple breakfast cookies, several great fall smoothies, and Thanksgiving leftovers panini.  You can view all my fall favorites here.

#4  Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2013 - I"m sure this will be the first of many blog posts about the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.  We love to attend this event every fall.  With a little bit of work this year, I was able to find some great gluten free eats.  You can read all about it here

#3  Pizza Experiments - This blog post is about my adventures in making pizza with Chebe, one of my favorite products of 2013.  In this post, you can find recipes for margherita pizza, pesto chicken pizza, spinach & sausage pizza, and homemade pesto.  Many thanks to Chebe, who regularly posts pictures of my pizzas and the link to this blog post, which you can view here.

#2  Gluten Free Beignets at Disney World  - I am not surprised at all that my post about gluten free beignets has been so popular.  If it wasn't for Glutino posting a link to my number one blog post, gluten free beignets would have been the top dog, or should I say doughnut, for 2013.  Living in Orlando and being a Disney addict, I get to enjoy these amazing beignets at least once or twice a month.  You can read all about Chef Raphael's amazing creation here.

#1  Mexican Chocolate Banana Muffins - My most viewed blog post of the year had almost 1,400 pageviews, over 500 more than my post about gluten free beignets at Disney.  Why?  Yes, it's an amazing recipe, but I have to give Glutino a big thanks for those numbers.  I use Glutino's Gluten Free Pantry All-Purpose Flour to make our favorite muffins.  I think I posted that fact and a link to the blog post on Glutino's Facebook page.  They let their followers know about my recipe, and the rest is history.  This recipe has been a huge hit with my husband and daughters, our extended family, and even some of our neighbors.  You can check out my number one blog post of the year here.   I usually make minis with this recipe, which is great for portion control, but I included information for making 12 regular size muffins in the blog post too.

What have been your favorite gluten free products of 2013?

Happy 2014!


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