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Turn on the oven, friends, because in 30 minutes you could be devouring delicious, gluten free, garlic and rosemary bread sticks. Substituting almond flour for 2/3 of the flour makes them low(er) carb. Using some potato starch and tapioca starch makes them crusty on the outside, yet soft and chewy on the inside. (Since potato starch and tapioca starch are derived from root vegetables – tapioca comes from the cassava root – it’s technically grain free, if you’re looking for a Paleoish bread that actually tastes like bread.)  Adding Parmesan cheese to the dough makes the flavor amazing!  And did I mention that the smell is so divine that I want to go lick the leftovers so I don’t have to share them with my family? Excuse me…

GF Rosemary Bread Sticks

I’ve also used this recipe to make pizza crust that is crispy on the bottom, yet pliable, so it supports toppings without being floppy or crumbing to pieces. If you value self care, you will choose the optional step of brushing garlic butter on the edges of the crust at the end. My kids have decided that this is now their favorite pizza crust, and it’s probably because of the garlic butter.

Low-carb Pizza Crust

The only downside of the pizza crust is that it’s best enjoyed fresh from the oven – which means I just gave you an excuse to eat the whole thing. You’re welcome. When I tried to reheat some leftover pizza that had been refrigerated, the crust had absorbed the sauce and turned soggy. Perhaps leftovers could be frozen and reheated in the oven instead of the microwave for better success. Or you could go with the preferred method of eating the whole thing. Your call.  The bread sticks reheat well on subsequent days. The bottom crust becomes soft instead of crusty, but still tastes awesome – especially when dipped in olive oil.

(Pssst, if you’re interested in a weight loss plan that includes this pizza once a week, check out my “Weight Loss for 1 in a Family of 4” easy weekly menu plans. Yes, I lost about 20 lbs. while still enjoying pizza!)

Mmmm... low-carb pizza with garlic butter crust!

Mmmm… low-carb pizza with garlic butter crust!

Low Carb, GF Bread Sticks/Pizza Crust

Dry Ingredients:
1 c. almond flour
1/4 c. tapioca flour/starch (they’re the same)
1/4 c. potato starch (NOT potato flour)
2 T. Parmesan cheese (I used the kind from a can)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
(For bread sticks, also add 1/8 tsp. garlic powder)

Wet Ingredients:
1/4 c. + 1 T. hot water (hot enough to dissolve the honey)
2 T. olive oil + more for topping dough
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 egg

Bread Stick Toppings:
Olive oil
1 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed between fingers
Fresh ground pepper
Parmesan cheese
1 T. melted butter

Pizza Crust Directions:
Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the size of your baking stone/pan.  This makes a 13″ – 14″ pizza, so make the circle at least 15″.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  If using a baking stone (recommended), place it in the oven while it preheats. (If you don’t preheat your pan, the crust may not crisp as well.)

Mix together the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix together.  You should have a wet, sticky dough. Don’t worry if it seems more like batter than dough.

Place dough on the parchment paper and, using a greased spoon or silicone spatula, spread it out using circular motions, greasing the spoon as needed.  (I just spray my spatula with nonstick cooking spray when it starts to stick to the dough.) Spread it as thin as you can, with a raised ridge at the edge.  If desired, brush with a little additional olive oil.  (I skipped this step, but plan to do it next time.)

Slide a rimless cookie sheet under the parchment paper to help transfer the crust to the hot baking stone/pan.  Bake 8 minutes, then add toppings.  (I used Prego pizza sauce, Hormel Nitrate-Free Pepperoni, Falls Brand All Natural Hot Italian Sausage, mozzarella, white cheddar, and shredded Parmesan.) Bake 8 minutes more until cheese is bubbly and starts to brown.

For The Most Awesome Crust EVER: Melt 1 T. butter with a dash or two of garlic powder and brush on the edge of the finished pizza.  Pizza AND garlic bread sticks! Sooooooo good.

Bread Stick Recipe:
Follow the above recipe, adding garlic powder to the dry ingredients. After spreading the dough/batter into a 10-in. circle, use a spoon or spatula to press a few indentations into the dough. Drizzle with olive oil, letting it pool in the indentations. Crush rosemary between your fingers and sprinkle over the dough. I used a coarse-grind pepper grinder to lightly top the dough with pepper, then sprinkled a light coating of Parmesan cheese on top.

Bake 10 minutes at 425 degrees. Melt 1 T. butter and drizzle over the top. Use a pizza cutter to cut into strips or wedges and serve immediately. Store any leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week, and serve warm with olive oil for dipping.

Keepin’ It Real…
Not all of my experiments turn out so well.  Here’s my first attempt at making grain free chocolate chip cookies.  The taste is spot on, so I will definitely be trying again, but they’re a bit…thin.

Grain Free Cookie Attempt

Grain free chocolate chip cookie…pieces.

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My son returned home from camp yesterday, and after I casually inquired about his week (Did you make any new friends?  Did you do all the activities this time?  Did you remember to shower?), I decided to celebrate his survival/success at camp with my homemade pizza (even though homemade pizza itself is a reason to celebrate in this house).  But as I was gathering my ingredients, I realized that I’m guilty of both procrastinating and hoarding this recipe – two things I’m trying to address through The Fast.  This recipe is hands down the best pizza in town, according to the 4 people in my home.  I can’t speak for anyone else because we don’t share our pizza.  Ever.  Pizza is a lot of work to make from scratch, people, so my son goes into Super Flattery mode every time I make it in an effort to get pizza more often.  If we order one from Domino’s or pull out an Udi’s crust – which we still like, it’s just that they’re expensive and small – he bemoans the fact that it’s not my recipe.  Loudly.

So please forgive me, readers, for holding out on you and not posting this sooner.  My site stats tell me that most of my visitors are gluten free parents, and my phone book tells me that most of what we Americans want to eat is pizza.  So I apologize for my procrastination.  (I took this picture of a baked pizza a year ago.  Please don’t hate me.)

Gluten Free Pizza

What I love about this pizza is that it makes a large, 14-inch crust!  If you’ve ever gone out to a restaurant with wheat-eaters, and plunked down twice what they spent on their bulging, large pizza for your little kids-size, gluten free/cardboard pizza, you understand the injustice of the gluten free pizza universe.  It’s especially tough to feed a family on small pizzas.  ($22-$26 for two small, marginally decent pizzas?  I don’t think so.)  My recipe makes a thin crust pizza.  When you bake the crust initially, it will rise and look pretty and fluffy (remember those days?), but once you load on the toppings, it will settle into a thin crust – that tastes wonderful!!  The crust is nicely browned on the bottom (with no soggy center!) and makes delicious bread sticks or focaccia if you decide to just bake it with olive oil and herbs, in which case it stays nice and fluffy.  (Gluten Free Cooking Tip: I’m convinced it’s the corn flour that gives your taste buds something to latch onto, and makes this taste like wheat crust – you don’t taste the corn.  I now add 1 or 2 T. corn meal/cup of flour to all my savory GF breads, and it makes all the difference!)

14" Pizza Crust

The best part for me is that it doesn’t require any time to rise, although it still takes me an hour to make because I’m totally OCD about toppings placement. (Or has my husband says, “No, you’re just doing it RIGHT.”)  One of these days, I’ll post my homemade pizza sauce recipe, when I can reproduce it the same way twice and actually remember what I did.  But since the crust is what matters to GF folks, I’ll say no to excuses for procrastination and share this recipe for 12 slices of heaven with you.

Heavenly Gluten Free Pizza Crust / Focaccia Recipe

Dry ingredients:
1 c. + 2 T. Brenda’s flour blend (recipe at the end)
1/4 c. potato starch (not potato flour; could substitute corn starch)
2 T. corn flour (mine is coarse ground; could substitute corn meal)
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 packet yeast (regular, active dry yeast)

Wet ingredients:
1/2 c. hot water + 2 T., divided
2 T. olive oil (EVOO or the cheap stuff; I like 1 T. each)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. cider vinegar

Corn meal for dusting parchment

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit your pizza pan or baking stone.  (I use a 15-in. Pampered Chef baking stone, and it really does make a difference.)  Place baking stone in cold oven and preheat to 450 degrees.  (If you’re using a regular metal pan, you can probably wait to preheat your pan until the dough is mixing.)  Sprinkle corn meal on parchment paper and set aside on counter.

In the bowl of your mixer, whisk together dry ingredients.  In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together 1/2 c. hot water, olive oil, egg, and vinegar.  Add to dry ingredients and mix together on low until combined.  Continue mixing and gradually add additional hot water, 1 T. at a time, until batter is smooth and thick.  (I use 2 T. water, but if you alter the flour blend in this recipe, you may need more or less water, since gluten free flours absorb water differently.)  Beat 5 minutes on medium-high, scraping bowl occasionally.  (If using a metal pizza pan, preheat your oven and pan at this time.  I also like to fry the sausage and shred cheese, if needed, while the batter is mixing.)

I call this “batter” instead of “dough” because unbaked gluten free bread products do not resemble wheat dough.  Don’t let this freak you out – I promise it tastes good!  Because it is a sticky batter, the process of spreading it out on the parchment is a little tricky and takes time, but if you’ve ever tried to make pizza with wheat dough, you know that it’s just as tricky but in a different way.  (There’s a reason we all order takeout or buy frozen pizzas.)  So to get a large circle of “dough,” you’ll want to drop about 5 mounds of batter in a circle with the remaining batter in a mound in the middle.  Fill your empty mixing bowl halfway with water, then dip a rubber spatula/scraper in the water and use the back of it to flatten each dough mound, dipping in water as needed to keep the batter from sticking to the spatula.  When each mound is flattened, begin to spread the mounds together, working from the middle outward.  Once it’s all in a circle, you can begin making circular strokes and spreading the dough toward the edge of your parchment, creating a slightly raised edge that comes within 1/2-in. of the edge of the paper.  (My stone is about 15-in., so I end up with a 14-in. pizza.)

Drizzle a little olive oil in a spiral and spread over top of crust with a brush or your spatula, for a nice, golden crust.  Slide parchment paper onto a large baking sheet with no edges (or an upside-down one).  Remove baking stone from oven and carefully slide the pizza crust onto the hot stone.  (This step is what gives you a golden crust, instead of a soggy one.)  Bake 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with your favorite toppings.  (I like to layer pepperoni and sausage on my sauce, then top with mozzarella and a little cheddar.  Putting the cheese on top instead of underneath guarantees that the toppings don’t fall off!)  Bake pizza 8-10 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and starts to brown.

Bonus Points: If you really want to rock your husband’s world, while the pizza is baking, melt 1 T. butter with a pinch of garlic powder and brush on the edges of the crust when the pizza is done baking.  Pizza AND garlic bread sticks!  Yum!

Focaccia: Let the dough rest for 20 minutes after you spread it on the parchment.  Dimple the dough with wet fingers, then sprinkle with herbs (I like rosemary), minced garlic, and coarsely ground black pepper.  Drizzle 2-3 T. olive oil on top.  Bake 15 minutes until lightly browned.  Sprinkle with grated Parmesan.  (Modified from the recipe in The Gluten Free Bible.)

Brenda’s Flour Blend* (I usually triple this and store in a gallon-size zippered bag in the fridge):

  • 1 c. rice flour
  • 1 c. brown rice flour
  • 1/3 c. potato starch (not flour)
  • 1/3 c. cornstarch
  • 1/3 c. tapioca starch/flour (same thing)
  • 1 T. sweet rice flour (also called sticky rice flour)
  • 1 T. potato flour

*There are lots of good flour blends, so feel free to substitute your favorite, although I can’t guarantee the same results.

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This fun take on 2 kid favorites – chicken pot pie and pizza – is a recipe I adapted from Family Fun Magazine, and can be made either as a pizza or biscuit pot pie.  I began making the pizza when we figured out that my son was suffering from Intersticial Cystitus, a chronic condition that feels like a constant urinary tract infection.  While there’s no cure, the symptoms can be alleviated by avoiding certain trigger foods like caffeine, citrus and many other fruits, including tomatoes (hence, the search for a tomato-free pizza).

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Before I go on to tell you about this tasty recipe, I just want to take a minute to tell my readers how much my heart goes out to you, especially if you’re a parent of a child with multiple food intolerances.  When I downloaded the enormous list of possible food triggers (many of which we’ve now determined are okay for him), it was like receiving the gluten intolerance diagnosis all over again.  I looked through my pantry with despair at all the foods that would be off limits to my son until we slowly tested each food.  As I looked through my cookbook and tagged the half-dozen recipes there were NOT off limits to him, I cried for him and myself.  I remembered how overwhelmed I was during our first few months on the gluten free diet, and how sad I was that my kids had to be “different.”  If that’s where you are today, I just want you to know that you’re not alone.  

It’s been 6 weeks since then, and my son has handled his new diet restrictions remarkably well.  I’m reminded, once again, of how resilient our kids are.  We think they’ll fall apart when something bad happens, but if we continue to love and support them, showing empathy and compassion, they can amaze us with their ability to bounce back.  Kids with food intolerances have the potential to be some of the most compassionate kids on the planet because they know what it’s like to be the only one who has to pass up the Valentines cookie or sip punch at a reception because it’s the only safe thing to eat.  They also tend to be more grateful when people do go out of their way to include them because they don’t take for granted that they will be given anything.  So yes, it hurts to see our kids suffer, but sometimes the road of suffering is the road that leads to strength of character, compassion, and gratitude.  

One way we can support our kids is by taking the time to make yummy substitutes for some of their favorite foods.  That’s why I’m continuing my series of “Gluten Free Kid Favorites” (like corn dogs and chicken tenders) with the recipe below.   

Whether you like chicken pot pie or are just looking for an easy GF pizza crust recipe, I’ve got you covered on both!  The crust recipe is so versatile.  It makes tender, flaky biscuits, a quick and easy pizza crust, and can be used in your favorite recipes that call for Pillsbury biscuits from a can.  I like to mix up the dry ingredients in bags to have on hand for quick suppers.  If you have a food processor, you can simply dump the dry ingredients in, cut in the butter, then add milk.  So easy!  I’ve made it with half milk and half cream for extra moist biscuits, and rice milk for dairy free recipes.  The pot pie filling is spot on when it comes to mimicking those little (nutritionally void and laden with unhealthy ingredients) frozen pies I used to love.

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Chicken or Turkey Pot Pie Filling/Topping

1 T. butter
1 T. GF flour blend with a pinch of xanthan gum
1 tsp. chicken flavored Better Than Bouillon + 2/3 c. water (or 2/3 c. GF chicken broth)
1/2 tsp. dried minced onion
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. sage (I use ground sage, not rubbed)
1/4 tsp. thyme
2/3 – 1 c. frozen mixed veggies, thawed and patted dry (I use peas, diced carrots, and corn)
2/3 – 1 c. cooked chicken or turkey, chopped
1 c. shredded mozzarella (optional, if making biscuit pot pie cups)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute.  If using Better Than Bouillon, whisk this into the roux (the flour/butter mixture).  Slowly whisk in the water (or chicken broth) until the mixture is smooth.  Cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens and begins to bubble, about 2 min.  Whisk in onion and seasonings, and cook for 1 more minute.

Remove from heat and let cool while you make the dough.  If you made the dough first, just pop the sauce in the fridge on a hot pad to quickly cool while you chop the meat.

Biscuit and Pizza Crust Dough

1 c. gluten free flour blend
1/4 c. tapioca starch/flour (they’re the same thing)
1/4 c. potato starch (for softer biscuits) or cornstarch (for pizza crust)
2 1/2 T. baking powder
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 c. butter or dairy free margarine (real butter is best, if tolerated)
2/3 c. milk, rice milk, or half-and-half (for really good biscuits)

Whisk dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl or food processor.  Cut butter into chunks, then cut into dry ingredients with a food processor or two knives used like scissors.  (When I use my food processor, I like to add half the butter and pulse a few times, then add the remaining butter chunks and pulse a few more times.  Ideally, you want some pieces to be small and some larger pea-size chunks.  Smartypants Factoid: It’s the steam created from the melting of the larger chunks of butter that creates the flaky layers in biscuits, so don’t over-process.)  Stir in milk.

For Pizza: With floured hands, spread dough onto a 15-in. greased pizza pan or, if preheating a pizza stone in the oven, spread dough onto a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the stone.  (Preheating your pan will help brown the bottom of the crust.)  Spread sauce over the crust and top with 1 c. veggies and 1 c. meat.  Sprinkle cheese evenly over the pizza.  Bake 18-20 min. at 425 degrees.  (This crust also works with any topping, not just the pot pie topping!)

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For Pot Pies: Divide dough into quarters.  Divide each quarter into 3 balls.  Place the balls in 12 greased muffin cups.  With floured hands, gently press the dough down and up the sides of each muffin cup.  The dough should reach the top of the muffin cup.  (If you do this before making the filling, you may need to go back and press the dough up the sides again before filling, since it will slide down after sitting for awhile.)  Stir 2/3 c. meat and 2/3 c. veggies into the sauce and divide among the cups, about 2 T. filling per cup.  If desired, sprinkle with cheese.  Bake 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees.

For Biscuits: Divide dough into quarters or thirds (depending on how big you want your biscuits to be) and roll into balls according to pot pie directions.  Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet and, with floured hands or the bottom of a glass, gently press down on each ball until it’s about 1/2-in. thick.  Or, using an ice cream scoop, scoop out the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and gently press down to flatten.  (These won’t rise or spread much, so you’ll end up with more even results if the biscuits are flat instead of rounded.)  Bake 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees.

There are lots more variations for this dough, so check back for future recipes like Garlic Cheese Biscuits, Bread Sticks, and more!

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