Packable lunch recipes that kids (and grown-ups!) will love

Whether you’re a parent of kiddos headed back to school or looking for healthy, packable lunch options to take to work, these somewhat nostalgic, updated and nutrient-packed lunch ideas are simple to make and take all week long. Using a character lunchbox is optional.

PB&J Chia Pudding Cups

peanut butter chia pudding cups

Who needs store-bought, sugary and questionable ingredient-laden, foil-topped cups? Make these pudding cups in small mason jars for an irresistible and nutrition-packed breakfast, or pack them for an on-the-go lunch treat.  Click here for the recipe.

Throwback Meatball Soup

meatball soup

As a little girl, I begged to buy the canned meatball soup at the grocery store. I carried it in my (Wonder Woman? Holly Hobbie?) thermos. As an adult, I still love a hot and filling soup, and this grown-up meatball version, sans noodles, is rich and delicious. A bit of honey adds slight sweetness (kiddos will love this!), and you’ll never miss the soggy noodles. Click here for the recipe.

Fruit and Veggie Gummy Treats

fruit juice dummies

Fruit juice and real honey combine with gelatin to make a sweet treat that’s packable and yummy—even for grown-ups. Use a silicone mold or simply prepare in a baking pan and cut into blocks, and adjust the sweetness to your preference. Click here for the recipe. 

Pack a Gluten-Free Picnic and Hit the Trail With These Recipes

Warmer weather means we want to get out and explore, enjoying the brighter days and nature’s explosion of beauty. Take advantage of the opportunity and plan a day-hike or picnic. Make these take-along dishes that are a mix of sweet, savory, warm and cool. Add a container of fresh-cut fruit or a couple of apples, bananas or oranges, and you have a full meal to last you for hours.

Spring Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Spring Chicken Soup

Soup in the spring?! This soup is easy to make and refreshing to eat, making it perfect to pack for a picnic or hike. The light spring flavors and colorful veggies will make it a spring favorite. Get the recipe.

Smoky-Sweet Trail Mix

Smoky Sweet Trail Mix

If your trip is a few days long (whether camping or hiking), this trail mix is an ideal companion. It can be stored in a tightly sealed container for up to three weeks. This trail mix gets the combination of sweet and spicy right on the nose, with plenty of protein to keep you going. Get the recipe.

No-Bake Almond Butter Bars

No-Bake Almond Butter Bars

No picnic is complete without a sweet treat! Pack your picnic basket with gluten-free No-Bake Almond Butter Bars topped with dark chocolate. You won’t even have to turn on the oven to bring these beauties to life, making them almost effortless. Get the recipe.

Grain-Free Breakfast Bowls

It’s easy to fall into the rut of having toast, cereal and oatmeal or other grains for breakfast. While these can be healthy choices, warmer seasons are the perfect time to get creative, and these bowls will help you do that. From a raw, creamy fruit bowl to a lightened-up version of a classic dish (Cheesy Grits with Bacon!), these grain-free breakfast bowls will fill you up and keep you moving through your morning.

Cheesy Cauliflower “Grits” with Bacon

Cheesy Cauliflower “Grits” with Bacon

Growing up, my grandpa made me a hot breakfast most mornings I can remember during high school. Grits or Cream of Wheat and bacon, along with creamy scrambled eggs, were staples. For some reason, there were always green onions and sliced tomatoes, and to me, the green onion in this lightened-up breakfast bowl speaks of southern welcome on a spring morning. This dish is easy to make on a morning, but to save even more time, it heats well when stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for two to three days. Get the recipe.

Cheesesteak Egg Scramble Bowl

Cheesesteak Egg Scramble Bowl

When our family moved to the Jersey shore a few years ago, we fell in love with the cheesesteak. This bowl has all the classic flavors, making for a hearty breakfast. Get the recipe.

Banana Cream Monkey Bowls

Banana Cream Monkey Bowls

A no-cook breakfast can be filling and refreshing on a weekend or, because it’s so fast, any work or school day! The nuts and oil add substance, and the cinnamon plays perfectly off the sweet fruits. Get the recipe.

Spring Produce-Inspired Dishes: In-Season Cooking With Fresh, Ripe Fruits and Veggies

Spring is officially upon us, with summer right on its heels. The rain and sunshine and warmer weather bring with them a wealth of fresh, in-season produce. No matter where you live, it’s a great time to explore your local farmers market and even grocery stores for featured local produce and what’s fresh nearby.

These recipes are inspired by some of those beautiful spring vegetables: artichokes, asparagus and fresh peas and radishes, and are lightened up versions of some favorite cool-weather foods, perfect for warm days, spring brunches and even a summer evening in the backyard.

Here are some of our favorite spring and summer vegetables!


  • Artichokes 
  • Asparagus—try it in our cauliflower risotto or steam lightly and grill
  • Peas and pea greens—try spring and snow peas and snap peas or give the fresh pea soup a try
  • Salad greens—lots of lettuces and greens spring up throughout spring and summer—mix and match with simple vinaigrettes for new flavors


Try planting a few of these in your garden for a late harvest (check with your local garden supply for best times in your area), or visit a u-pick near you and give them a taste.

  • Peaches and plums—these are gorgeous sliced fresh or grilled for just a few minutes and drizzled with honey and fresh basil
  • Blackberries, blueberries, watermelon and strawberries
  • Corn—try making a fresh corn salad or salsa, or grill in the husk and top with melted butter and crumbly blue cheese
  • Cucumbers—make a quick refrigerator pickle or cucumbers topped with cream cheese and smoked salmon as a light appetizer
  • Mangos
  • Summer squash and zucchini—give these a quick sauté, with or without onions, and toss with fresh herbs and even chopped tomatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil


1. Steamed Artichokes with Balsamic Herb Butter

This quick and easy recipe makes a beautiful side dish to almost any main course and utilizes artichokes, a luscious spring vegetable.

Steamed Artichokes with Balsamic Herb Butter

2. Creamy Cauliflower Risotto with Peas and Asparagus

This recipe was inspired by a risotto we made years ago for Easter brunch with dear friends, created in 2010 by Annie at Everyday Annie. Our friends still talk about it all these years later, and it’s the perfect celebration of the bright and green flavors of spring. This version replaces heavier rice with cauliflower for a lighter yet still creamy dish.

Creamy Cauliflower Risotto with Peas and Asparagus


3. Fresh Pea and Mint Soup with Radishes

This light, bright soup is ideal for spring. It’s cool and refreshing and beautiful to look at!

Fresh Pea and Mint Soup with Radishes

NYC Gluten Free: Take a Bite Out of the Gluten-Free Big Apple

Spring travel season is here, and New York City is calling! Whether you travel with friends and take in a show or bring the whole family and visit the parks, museums and iconic landmarks, there is delicious gluten-free food to be enjoyed along the way. Here are a few of our family’s favorites from a recent trip.

Tu-Lu’s Bakery

A delightful little nook, tucked inconspicuously into a block in the East Village/Flatiron District, Tu-Lu’s Bakery serves up baked goods and paninis. Make sure and pick up one of the cupcakes—one Yelp review claimed they’re far better than a nearby acclaimed traditional bakery. Born, as so often is the case, out of necessity for the owner, Tu-Lu’s is a tiny treasure trove of cookies and sweet breads.

Familiar flavors like a strawberry or cinnamon sugar donut—light crumb and spicy-sweet topping—mingle with specialty seasonal and holiday offerings. (Be sure to try the gingerbread if you happen to be around next winter—it’s amazing.) The entirely gluten-free bakery is worth a detour for an oatmeal cookie, complete with white chocolate chips and cranberries. Baked goods and pressed sandwiches are reasonably priced, and many items are available for shipping. (A cute and cozy bar seating area is perfect for snuggling up to your coffee and morning glory muffin, or grab them to-go and head out to explore the sights.)



The Little Beet

This fast casual treasure, now expanded to nine locations in and out of New York, has a “100% guiltin’ free” philosophy: “serve real food deliciously.” The Little Beet is the perfect place to stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Promoting a “veggie-forward” approach and proudly working to reduce food waste, these guys serve up flavor-punched, healthy food with a do-good mindset. The Little Beet features a “choose your own adventure” format, where diners can select from options like kaffir lime chicken; golden cauliflower, crunchy with a smattering of turmeric-laced almonds; crisp sautéed kale with cranberries; and the newest menu addition of barbecued jackfruit. Whether you eat meat or not, give it a try—it’s fantastic. Select a gluten-free grain and a sauce to round out your bowl at this all-gluten-free restaurant. Bright and airy with loads of seating and white-and-wood decor, it’s a great spot to rest for a few before exploring some more.


Sometime mid-morning or late afternoon, you’ll need a boost of energy to keep trucking. Let the tunes and the pink, neon-lit exterior guide you through the city’s gray tones around it, and make a point to hit up Cha Cha Matcha—as much a “must” for its atmosphere as the incredible quality matcha. Choose the classic hot matcha, whisked to order in a bowl in the traditional method;  try an iced matcha latte with hazelnut milk; or get adventurous and enjoy a “blue” iced drink, with lavender honey offering additional health benefits and a glorious blue layer from algae (trust us—it’s delicious), served with a tropical flower on top. Whether it’s mid-March or mid-summer, or even if it’s winter, you should order the much-Instagrammed matcha soft serve. Choose a seasonally flavored swirl if you like (peppermint in winter is the perfect complement), or stick to the grassy, sweet glorious green swirl on its own, towering in a little pink cup—and be sure to post your photo and join the “in crowd.” Juggle for a table amongst laptops and social media icons, or grab your iced matcha latte and a treat for the road. (Can someone say gluten-free matcha donut?!)

The Meatball Shop

The servers and slogans are witty and irreverent, but the food is no joke at The Meatball Shop. An ever-evolving selection of seasonal ingredients and themed creations includes classics like spaghetti and “balls,” as the locals order, or, for traditional diners, hero sandwiches. Not all dishes are gluten free, but a surprising number are, including all sauces. The chicken meatball is your gluten-free go-to here, and you’ll want to order a bowl with risotto, polenta (the must-pick, in our opinion) or flavor-packed garlic cheese mashed potatoes. Choose from sides like sautéed greens or seasonal vegetables and a topper like traditional sauce, garlic cream, lemon butter or buffalo to make your dish truly your own.

The Meatball Shop feels a bit like a speakeasy, and once you’re in the dark, bricked, rustic interior, you’ll feel like an insider. Offering a full bar as well, this family-friendly option is also great for a casual date night. With several locations in the city, it makes an ideal location for a late-night dinner.

Can’t make the trip to NYC?

Before our wanderings, we discovered an online-only bakery, Krumville, “an artisanal online bakery with a passion for making sweet and savory gluten-free baked goods.” With exquisitely crafted cakes, cookies, muffins and breads, Krumville caters to anyone who appreciates fine baked goods—and these are cream of the crop. We sampled the strawberry vanilla cake. It was like summer, if summer was laced with Italian buttercream and fresh strawberries and perched atop a pedestal. We also tried the coconut layer cake. This beauty would make an incredible centerpiece for your Mother’s Day table, your mother-in-law’s birthday or your daughter’s sweet 16, or even a perfectly elegant wedding cake. (We took one of these cakes to a ladies’ evening out, and there might have been tears.)

Whether you hit the streets of the Big Apple or place your order from home, gluten-free diners can grab unique, flavorful tastes of New York.

4 Juice Recipes to Refresh and Re-energize Your Day

Any time of year is a good time to kick-start healthy habits, and these juice recipes are a sweet place to start. Juicing (especially as part of a short “fast” from heavy foods and junk foods) can give your digestive system a rest and pump in nutrients more easily absorbed than from other dishes.

Make these juices all at once while you’ve got the juicer out and seal each in a tightly capped jar in the refrigerator for up to three days.

If you don’t have a juicer yet, shop your options and use these recipes to get started. Once you are familiar with the basics of creating fantastic juice, you can get creative and squeeze in your favorite fruits and veggies. Some of these recipes only require a high-speed blender, however, and are closer to smoothie consistency.

Citrus Dream Juice

1. Citrus Dream

This “juice” is closer to a smoothie thanks to the coconut milk and can be made in your high-speed blender—no juicer needed! Pineapple, coconut milk, oranges and spinach create a tropical combination that will perk up your morning in a flash. Get the recipe.

Go Veggie Forward: Healthy Gluten-Free Veggie Dishes

Veggie-forward dishes like these challenge the notion that meals always consist of a meat entree, a starch and a little vegetable on the side. You can save money and power up the nutrient factor by making vegetables the star. If you want to make healthy gluten-free cooking a priority this year, these dishes are a flavorful, inspiring place to start. These dishes work as a side (just adjust your portions) if you want a traditional meal but also make wonderful main attractions themselves.

Scalloped Sweet Potato Bake

This dish is rich and decadent, and reheats well so you can serve it another day.  Serve alongside a fancy dinner or make it your main attraction—it perfectly complements a big hearty salad for a weeknight dinner. Click here for the recipe.

Hearty Kale and Radicchio Salad

Squash, carrots, kale and radicchio provide a colorful, multi-textured base for the salad. The prosciutto ribbons, goat cheese, nuts, seeds and apples add crunch and depth of flavor. Whip up some homemade dressing with sour and sweet notes, and you have a fantastic looking and tasting meal. Click here for the recipe.

Paleo Carrot Cake Muffins with Cinnamon Maple Cream Cheese Buttercream

Healthy enough to serve as a breakfast muffin or a dinner side, but delicious enough to be dessert, these muffins are full of vegetables and spice. Click here for the recipe.

Looking for more healthy recipes? Check out more of our healthy, gluten-free recipes here. 

Celebrate Flavor and Tradition: Kwanzaa Recipes With Modern Shortcuts

Kwanzaa, which means “first fruits,” is a celebration of tradition and heritage, family, personal and community values, and giving thanks.  Kwanzaa isn’t a religious holiday, but a community celebration of seven values to pursue as an individual, for the benefit of of others. Like most holidays, Kwanzaa is celebrated with gatherings centered on food, rich in cultural tradition. Many families prepare time-honored recipes passed down from generation to generation.

These Kwanzaa recipes take a few modern shortcuts, while celebrating African American and southern flavors.

Ethiopian Inspired Chicken Stew

This stew has all the good stuff: lots of spices, red wine and onions. It’s hearty, filling and quick to make. Get the recipe.

Ethiopian Inspired Chicken Stew

Jalapeno Cheddar Grits

If you’ve never made grits before, these ones are a great place to start. They’re creamy and cheesy with just a bit of a kick. Get the recipe.

Cheese Grits

Southern Buttermilk Custard Pie

A few ingredients and all the Southern-inspired textures and tastes you could ask for in a buttermilk pie. Get the recipe.

Buttermilk Pie

Braised Kale With Bacon

It’s bacon, it’s kale, it’s red pepper flakes. The flavors are so good, you’d never guess you’re eating something healthy. Get the recipe.

Make-Ahead Weekend Recipes

Spinach Sausage Balls

During the holidays, our doors are always open to visiting friends and family. Everyone wants to serve good food, but who wants to be stuck in the kitchen preparing dish after dish? Try these three delicious and nutritious recipes that can be prepped, frozen ahead of time and pulled out to enjoy at a moment’s notice!

4 Flavorful Make-Ahead Party Foods

Person dipping meatball into a dish of curry lime mayo

Prepare these four crowd-pleasing recipes ahead of time for a party or to have on hand this holiday season. All of these recipes can be made in advance to make your holiday less stressful. They’ll also be a big hit with your friends and family! Read on to find recipes for simple make-ahead meatballs, curry lime mayo, an appetizing cheese ball, and more!

Grain-Free Breakfasts

These incredible gluten- and grain-free breakfasts present three options that will fuel you up for the day ahead. Whether you grab a heavenly Morning Glory Muffin, whip up a batch of delicate Grain-Free Crêpes with Berries and Lemon, or settle in with yummy Peaches-and-Cream Breakfast Biscuits, your day will start with a hearty, healthy option that will keep you going until lunch.

Morning Glory Muffins

Chock full of fruit and nuts, these gluten- and grain-free Morning Glory Muffins are the perfect healthy treat, providing protein, fiber and healthy fats.

Crêpes with Berries and Lemon

Topped with chocolate hazelnut spread, fresh berries or a simple squeeze of lemon and sprinkle of coarse sugar, crêpes are deceptively simple to make.

Peaches-and-Cream Breakfast Biscuits

These biscuits resemble strawberry shortcakes, but the warmed spicy peaches add depth and richness to an indulgence that’s perfect for breakfast, too.


Recipes and photos by Angela Sackett

For more information and recipes that satisfy dietary restrictions in addition to gluten free, check out our Not Just Gluten Free section!

Girlfriends’ Gluten-Free Getaway Guide to Upstate New York

Upstate New York is low-key, friendly and full of small towns and intimate eateries, with stunning countryside and beautiful places to stay in the heart of East Coast wine country. Because of its progressive focus on farm-to-table and locally sourced resources, it’s also a great place to travel for a gluten-free getaway. The Finger Lakes region is dotted with surprising experiences, with the towns of Watkins Glen and Corning easily filling a four-day road trip with hiking, riding, waterfall chasing and culinary delights. When a fellow writer and I wanted to get away for some rest and renewed creativity, New York’s Finger Lakes region provided the perfect quiet spots for reflection, influenced richly by a blend of both local farm and wine culture and a hint of the “big city’s” progressive side.

Must-try favorites from our trip

Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, Watkins Glen

All the amenities of a larger chain, with all the charm of a small hotel

Beautiful common areas, lushly appointed rooms, a gorgeous harbor view and gluten-free menu options in the dining room add up to an ideal home base when exploring the area.

Graft Wine + Cider Bar, Watkins Glen

Friendly and knowledgeable staff, intimate setting and delicious shareable plates 

You’d never guess celeriac root and Brussels sprout slaw would be top picks, but don’t skip these mouthwatering menu items, among chef/co-owner Christina McKeough’s specialties. The can’t-miss charcuterie platter includes gluten-free crackers to replace traditional ones upon request. Be sure to try a local cider or a wine from Atwater Vineyards, whose owner also co-owns Graft. Make plans to visit Atwater for a tasting; one of the smaller vineyards, it has a friendly staff and the wine selection is excellent.

The Colonial Inn & Motel, Watkins Glen

Quirky bed and breakfast, ice cream shop and pottery gallery

This is the perfect mid-afternoon or evening stop, offering a surprising selection of house-made flavors, including dairy-free options. House-made seasonal favorites such as bourbon-mint-chip ice cream and year-round specials like honey-vanilla make it worth saving room for dessert.

Hawk Meadow Farm, Trumansburg

Husband-and-wife-owned mushroom farm

Welcoming owners Steve and Anne Sierigk grow both medicinal mushrooms and culinary varieties coveted by local chefs. Make an appointment to tour their homestead and learn about local ecosystems and woodlot management of, growing of and uses for mushrooms. This is truly a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience agricultural life and local culture.

Painted Bar Stables, Burdett

Sightseeing on horseback

Hiking the parks and hunting waterfalls is mandatory, but seeing the parks on horseback is a special treat. Owner Erika Eckstrom and the staff at Painted Bar are hilarious guides and sensitive instructors, carefully pairing horse with rider for what Eckstrom laughingly calls a “boutique trail-riding experience.”

Elf in the Oak, Burdett

A magical little spot

This childhood-home-turned-café sits nestled off the road near a grove of trees where owner Debra Griffen’s grandmother built elf houses with her sisters once upon a time. Try the sloppy Joe sandwich on gluten-free toast—and don’t skip the house-made sweet pickles.

Watkins Glen State Park

“Breathtaking” doesn’t do these views justice

The park’s Rim Trail, open during warmer months, offers an up-close look at one of the area’s most majestic waterfalls. Famous for its history with auto racing, Watkins Glen is also bursting with sites to entice outdoor enthusiasts. Gorgeous scenery and plentiful waterfalls are features of other parks in the area, including the North Country Trail, Great Eastern Trail and Finger Lakes Trail.

Seneca Sunrise Coffee, Watkins Glen

Always a vegan and gluten-free offering

Owner Mindi Beheydt roasts her own beans and features daily house-made soups, including a vegan and a gluten-free option. Choose your cozy soup from those bubbling in slow cookers, sip the fresh coffee and savor your time—and food—on the wide front porch in this former private-home-turned-café.

Union Block Italian Bistro, Hammondsport

A hip vibe and incredible menu

This casual Italian bistro offers gluten-free pasta and flatbreads and boasts a chef who will gladly customize any item. Add to this the intimate “hidden” bar/club room downstairs offering up live music and local flavor, and you’ve got a multi-hour stop.

Pleasant Valley Inn, Hammondsport

Merging historic elegance with modern luxury

This chef-owned four-room bed and breakfast features local produce served in both a classically trendy restaurant and a welcoming and eclectic pub. Be sure to ask about the local farm tour, which allows you to hand-pick seasonal offerings and present them to the chef, who will prepare them for a tasting plate at the evening meal.

Tips for a memorable girlfriends’ getaway

Consider booking separate rooms or a multi-room house. Traveling together is exciting and entertaining, but there’s something to be said for having alone time to enjoy a hot shower and the chocolate on your pillow. Leave free time in your days. Vineyard excursions and horseback rides can be energizing, but so can a short nap before heading out for dinner and drinks.



As always, do your homework. Check out online menus and itineraries to make on-the-spot decisions less stressful. When possible, create a game plan for meals and snacks, packing an emergency supply while taking
advantage of local specialties.

Mix it up. Alternate outdoor activities like hiking and waterfall-chasing with wine tastings, or opt for replacing a meal with light snacks on days you’ll eat heavier meals.

Consider booking a bed and breakfast or hotel with breakfast included so you’re free to daydream and plan about adventurous meals the rest of the day. 

Chat with locals. The Finger Lakes region offers little-known agri-tourism opportunities like small farm visits and you-pick produce. Wine guides and small business owners are happy to answer questions about their products and services and the story behind their passion, which adds richness to your experience and enjoyment to the memories from your trip.

Want more information, tips and destinations for gluten-free travel? Check out our Travel section!

Photos by Angela Sackett

Grainless, Gluten-Free Café Squirrel & The Bee

After successfully treating her ulcerative colitis with a strict dietary regimen, Michelle Retik wanted to educate others on the benefits of such a diet. This desire led her to open the grainless bake shop and café Squirrel & The Bee in Short Hills, New Jersey. Also known as “the Queen Bee,” Retik lines the shelves of her grainless, gluten-free café with not just grain-free, gluten-free goodies but also refined-sugar-free and low-dairy or no-dairy products. The menu clearly indicates which dietary restriction each item meets, including gluten free, Paleo, dairy free, vegan and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

Grainless, Local, Real Food

All baked goods at Squirrel & The Bee are made with a combination of nut flour, coconut flour, coconut or olive oil, fresh fruit and honey for natural sweetness. Baked goods containing nut flours add protein and healthy fats to your dietary intake. The staff makes everything from scratch, right down to roasting the nuts and making the jams. Aiming to bring a “farm to table” element to the baked goods, they use locally sourced honey, fruits and vegetables. In fact, the name Squirrel & The Bee is an homage to two such ingredients proudly featured on the menu: nuts and local honey.

The website for Squirrel & The Bee provides not only a culinary experience but an educational one as well. Ingredient lists also include health benefit information so diners can understand how certain foods affect their body and what shapes Retik’s dietary philosophy. Even those without any food restriction might want to take cues from the choices Retik has made in her own diet after learning how various ingredients have positively affected her body.

Stimulate Your Senses

While the website offers a feast for the eyes, a visit to the bakery awakens all your senses, from the sight of the glass case full of decadent pastries to the wafting aromas of freshly baked goodies. Good luck choosing! Diners rave over the peanut butter swirl brownie prepared with house-made almond butter and natural peanut butter, bagels made with almond flour, and Tom’s Treat Cookies, named after a loyal customer and available in three nut-and-fruit filled varieties that are as healthy as they are yummy. “Waffle Sundays” give guests the opportunity to devour grainless Belgian waffles with such toppings as berries, chocolate chips, pecans and bananas. Vegan guests and those
avoiding dairy can even enjoy shakes and smoothies
made with Don’t Have a Cow dairy-free frozen dessert.

In addition to the sundry scrumptious dessert and breakfast options, lunch offers the opportunity to try one of the more savory—but no less tasty—menu items. The roasted veggie sandwich with basil-aioli; pineapple, avocado and cucumber gazpacho; and carrot-zucchini, pumpkin-tomato or sweet potato soup provide hearty and rich midday repasts. Those in the mood for something lighter but just as filling can’t go wrong with the delightful apple and brie salad, blackberry-avocado salad or roasted butternut squash salad.


On Any Given Morning

Guests at Squirrel & The Bee will find busy yet sunny staff buzzing up smoothies and coffee drinks. Retik often joins them behind the counter or in the kitchen, overseeing everything in her customary workout clothes and positive attitude, happy to share the “lemonade” she’s made from a “lemon” of a health diagnosis. Out of hardship, she created a business that keeps giving to all her customers, many of whom have been “coming since the beginning.”

Photos by Angela Sackett

6 Tips for Hosting Gluten-Free Guests


Hosting a holiday dinner for gluten-free guests—as well as other food allergies or sensitivities—carries a list of responsibilities. Here are some quick tips to ensure a safe, stress-free meal for all.

  1. Communication is key. Talk with your guests to find out which foods are unsafe for them. Be very specific and stick to their requirements. Provide an ingredients list for their peace of mind.
  2. Welcome help. If you are comfortable with letting food-sensitive guests bring a dish, let them! That takes something off your to-do list while letting them show off their own culinary prowess.
  3. A crowd is company. Consider making your full menu “safe” for those guests with food restrictions. While they will welcome your intention, they will also greatly appreciate not being “singled out.” Chances are, the rest of your guests will love trying new options, as well.
  4. Clean house! Of course, we always clean for guests. But this is especially important in an allergy-friendly kitchen. When cooking “safe” foods for your guests, be very careful not to cross-contaminate with utensils, dishes or preparation areas such as the counter—and always wash your hands between handling ingredients.
  5. Go green. Instead of trying to recreate allergy-friendly versions of all the “same old” traditional foods, consider roasted vegetables, a beautiful green salad, or a fresh soup with just vegetables, herbs, and spices. You may create a new, naturally allergen-free favorite!
  6. There is no shame in shortcuts! Maybe you have access to a wonderful gluten-free bakery that makes delicious French bread. Instead of trying to make bread from scratch, take advantage of the pre-made option for part of the menu, saving you precious time and, likely, aggravation.

Gluten-Free Macaron Recipes

My daughter, Anna, and I love to bake together. We also love to open our home to share the recipes we make. To that end, we threw a soiree for our friends to indulge in these three incredible gluten-free macaron recipes that we developed together. Our personalities are pretty opposite—I tend to be the experimental one who can’t ever leave a recipe alone, and she’s a rule-following, precise-measuring stickler for details. This makes for a perfect partnership in the kitchen, as illustrated by these magnificent macarons. Try your hand at preparing one or all three of the recipes—and enjoy!

Strawberry Lemonade Macarons

Tea and Honey Macarons

Salted Caramel Latte Macarons

Angela Sackett is a photographer at Legacy Seven Studios and writer at and, where she shares recipes and hospitality tips. She and her 16-year-old daughter, Anna, join together for photography and other creative projects.

Great Gluten-Free Eats in St. Pete

While you might think only think of Orlando or Miami as a Florida destination, the St. Petersburg/Clearwater region offers fun and sun—and delicious gluten-free food!—for everyone.

clearwater beachSports fans flock to the area for the Outback Bowl and the spring training homes of the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. Those who visit between April and September can watch regular-season Tampa Bay Rays games at Tropicana Field, which features a live stingray tank. The Firestone Grand Prix, an exciting Indy car street race through the streets of St. Petersburg’s downtown, draws crowds from around the world. Tampa Bay’s professional soccer team, the Rowdies, also play here. And if you’d rather exert a little energy of your own, hit the links at one of several award-winning golf courses.

Little-known gem

St. Pete is rich in cultural diversity and a delight for art lovers. From museums like the Salvador Dali Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts to the Chihuly glass exhibit and powerful Florida Holocaust Museum, visitors can cool off indoors while they immerse themselves in art and history. Nearby Lowry Park Zoo, Great Explorations Children’s Museum, and Busch Gardens and Adventure Island offer more active destinations for families with children to entertain. If you visit between late June and early August, be sure to take advantage of Summer Nights at Busch Gardens, which features extended hours and special live entertainment.

The seasonal home to dolphin tours, fishing excursions, pirate festivals, chalk art festivals and lovely, meandering farmers markets, St. Petersburg features miles of award-winning beaches. It is also a treasure trove of vintage and handmade furniture, crafts, clothing and art.

Gluten-free fun

But what you really want to know about is the food in St. Petersburg/Clearwater. The seafood is, of course, outstanding. But there is an eclectic range of choices here that can match that of just about any big city while satisfying any preference, sensitivity or allergy.

When you arrive in this quaint small-town/big-city hybrid, you’ll have plenty to keep you going from morning till night. The moment you wake up, head straight to Craft Kafé, a dreamy little hot spot specializing in “gluten-free artisan fare.” You’ll have trouble believing that every flaky, warm, gooey or savory baked good is free of gluten and made with in-house stone-milled flours. Order a muffin, a cupcake, a fluffy slice of quiche or a savory flatbread. Try a latte with house-made almond milk or a locally grown salad, grilled cheese sandwich, hazelnut cake or plate of pancakes. Or let loose and order one of each. New York native and owner Teddy Skiadiotis dreamed of opening a gluten-free restaurant for years, and his baked goods have been such a hit with locals that he is planning a relocation/expansion in 2017.

When you want something different, head to Alesia Restaurant, a delightful rustic-modern spot serving French-Vietnamese fusion. While the designated gluten-free menu is limited (be sure to tell your server about food allergies), all you really need to order is a hearty bowl of pho, the traditional rice noodle soup. If you like, ask to replace the noodles with bok choy. I truly have never found a pho to match the one at Alesia. Now, just thinking about that healing and heavenly dish has this Florida native, since transplanted to the northeast, ready for a road trip! True story: I was once fighting a killer cold with a looming wedding to photograph. I called Alesia on the way, explained my plight and flat-out begged for a to-go order of pho. Asked if I had a few minutes to spare, I arrived to find a corner table set for me and my business partner/husband. Within seconds, two piping-hot bowls of soup were brought out, filling our bellies and priming us for a long day of work.

Whether you soak up some sunshine, hunt for vintage treasures, history or fine art, or relax to live music while tucking into crab legs and a fruity drink at a rooftop bar, St. Petersburg/Clearwater is a culinary and cultural Florida paradise for the young, the young-at-heart and families of all ages.

-Written and Photographed by Angela Sackett

Gluten-Free Loving

The Happy Mixer Gluten Free Bakery owners Tim and Lisa Mourer

Written and Photographed by Angela Sackett

From the moment you walk up to the brick-framed French doors of The Happy Mixer Gluten Free Bakery in Chalfont, Pennsylvania, you feel welcomed. The homey décor continues inside, but it’s so much more that draws devoted customers. Husband-wife duo Tim and Lisa Mourer clearly love each other and love what they do—and they pass on that passion to their customers.

Happy Mixer Bakery
Tim and Lisa Mourer

Lisa gives a cookie to children visiting for the first time, remembering how as a girl, she would wait at the counter of her favorite bakery for her own cookie. For those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, her free cookie represents freedom in a small treat. Once, she says, as she was buying gluten-free pasta at the grocery store, she ran into a mother whose daughter had been recently diagnosed with celiac disease. When the mom asked for food advice, Lisa revealed that she and her husband owned a gluten-free bakery. “Mommy, I can have a wedding cake some day!” the little girl exclaimed as she hugged Lisa.

Providing that kind of joy is a gift to Tim, whose roots in the baking industry run
deep, beginning with years of work in a traditional bakery on Long Beach Island. When he removed gluten from his own diet, he continued working in a bakery where he couldn’t taste his own food. After years of restraint at work, followed by baking “safe” treats for himself and his then-fiancée, Tim dreamed of, planned for and created his own gluten-free bakery. Determined to create the best traditionally styled treats available, he spent a year methodically testing recipes, with Lisa tasting alongside him.

Although Lisa isn’t gluten free herself, she proudly says her husband romanced her with weekly batches of warm gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, making her girlfriends jealous. She laughs when she tells the story, and Tim smiles almost shyly as he agrees.

Butter Cookies
The Happy Mixer Butter Cookies

Tim and Lisa have an agreement: He runs the immaculately organized kitchen, she runs the front of house and marketing. She lights up when customers come into the store as he focuses with his team of bakers on creating gluten-free treats like ombre wedding cakes, giant cupcakes, spicy old-fashioned donuts with perfectly not-too-sweet crumb toppings and their famous “kiffles.” These “cookies with a funny name” that feature dough reminiscent of flaky, tender pie crust are filled with berry or apricot jam and sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.

Tim is the focused, formula-following expert baker; Lisa is the spirited champion of social media and customer relations. Even their family gets in on the action. At a recent gluten-free expo, both Lisa and Tim’s parents helped hand out samples as guests lined up to taste and buy the treats that have become favorites in several local markets and restaurants.

A recent first-time visitor stared at the bakery cases, speechless, as she and a friend decided what to try. “It’s been eight years since I’ve had a donut,” she said. “I might cry.”

Tim might have won Lisa’s heart with his warm chocolate chip cookies, but now she’s devoted to helping him win the hearts of others with classic, sweet, gluten-free treats. And it seems the love continues, as “Philadelphia’s best gluten-free baked goods” have won over devoted gluten-free and non-gluten-free fans alike. GF

To make the Happy Mixer Butter Cookies yourself, click here for the recipe!

Hosting Holiday Dinners: Food Allergy Safety

Hosting a holiday dinner carries a list of responsibilities, and increasingly, your guest list may include others with food allergies or sensitivities. Here are some quick tips to ensure a safe, stress-free meal for all.

Communication is key.

Talk with your guests to find out which foods are unsafe for them. Be very specific and stick to their requirements. has created a printable label to indicate allergens contained in prepared foods. It may not solve the challenges of living with food allergies, but it can help give your guests some peace of mind.

Allergy card blue     Allergy card red green

Welcome help.

If you are comfortable with letting food-sensitive guests bring a dish, let them! That takes something off your to-do list while letting them show off their own culinary prowess.

A crowd is company.

Consider making your full menu “safe” for those guests with food restrictions. While they will welcome your intention, they will also greatly appreciate not being “singled out.” Chances are, the rest of your guests will love trying new options, as well.

Clean house! 

Of course, we always clean for guests. But this is especially important in an allergy-friendly kitchen. When cooking “safe” foods for your guests, be very careful not to cross-contaminate with utensils, dishes or preparation areas such as the counter—and always wash your hands between handling ingredients.

Go green.

Instead of trying to recreate allergy-friendly versions of all the “same old” traditional foods, consider roasted vegetables, a beautiful green salad, or a fresh soup with just vegetables, herbs and spices. You may create a new, naturally allergen-free favorite!

There is no shame in shortcuts!

Maybe you have access to a wonderful gluten-free bakery that makes delicious French bread. Instead of trying to make bread from scratch, take advantage of the pre-made option for part of the menu, saving you precious time and, likely, aggravation.