Outdoor Dining with Kitchen-Play and Land O’Lakes

When I received an e-mail from Kitchen PLAY about taking part in their Land O’Lakes 30 Days of Outdoor Dining, I was very intrigued. I grew up eating Land O’Lakes cheese from the deli counter. This project, however, features a whole new cheese that they have recently released. It’s called 4 Cheese Italian Blend Deli Cheese, which is a combination of Asiago, Romano and Parmesan with creamy American.

I went to pick up a pound of the cheese and couldn’t wait to create a recipe with it.Naturally, I had to eat it straight out of the package first. (I love cheese by the way, so it was very difficult to even wait to get out to the car to do so.)

This cheese is creamy and delicious. I couldn’t decide on just one recipe to make so I tried several. I pretty much used this cheese on everything I possibly could – buffalo chicken pizza, stuffed zucchini, and many other dishes. I loved the flavor and the great creamy texture of this cheese!.

Of all the different ways I tried this cheese, I decided to share a burger recipe with you. To me, nothing says outdoor grilling more than a juicy cheese burger with great toppings. Below is an easy yet delicious burger recipe that is quick to make and easily adjusts to a larger or smaller crowd. Remember to keep it simple because you also want to be able to enjoy your company along with the food!

Grilled Cheeseburger with Avocado and Grilled Onions (serves 4)

1 pound ground beef (you could also buy the pre-packaged burgers)

1 large onion

1 avocado – sliced

1 medium tomato

4 slices of Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend4 pieces of romaine lettuce (washed and dried)

4 gluten-free hamburger buns

salt and pepper to taste

Condiments of your choice

Pre-heat grill.

Divide ground beef into four even portions (1/4 pound each) and form into hamburgers. To help prevent shrinking press down in the center of the burgers. Season both sides with salt and pepper

Slice onion and tomato – set aside.

Place burgers on grill and do not move them around! Just let them hang out for a few minutes until they easily release from the grill. You want to have some delicious grill marks on those beauties. Once they release easily (this timing all depends on the thickness and how you like your burgers cooked) flip them and then top with the 4 Cheese Italian Blend Deli Cheese

Lightly oil the onions and season both sides with salt and pepper – grill until desired done-ness

Cook until desired internal temp has been reached. To learn more about internal cooking temperatures check out this informative post. Toast buns on the grill.

Slice avocado and remove from skins Click here to learn how to slice an avocado. Place one burger on each bottom bun, top with grilled onions, tomato slice(s), avocado, and desired condiments–I personally love ketchup and spicy mustard.)—and top bun.

Serve with your favorite accompaniment – grilled corn on the cob, potato salad, cole slaw etc. Enjoy and have a great dinner!

Don’t forget to check Kitchen PLAY every day for the next delicious recipe featuring new Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend or Land O Lakes® Deli American Cheese. Then, get in on the fun by leaving a comment with your own “30 Days of Outdoor Dining” tip for dining al fresco this summer. If you do, you’ll be entered to win a lovely grilling prize pack, including one grilling spatula, one marinade brush, one set of tongs and one grill scraper. Kitchen PLAY will be giving away four prizes total, one each week! Please visit Kitchen PLAY for sweepstakes guidelines.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Land O Lakes as part of the Kitchen PLAY SideCar series. All opinions given are my own.

Chicken Parmesan

One of my favorite dishes when I was younger was Chicken Parmesan. I love the crunch chicken but yet still tender and juicy inside with some bubbly mozzarella cheese on the top.  It is a very simple dish, however I never make it.  I don’t know if it was because I feared how it would actually come out with using gluten-free flour instead.  It has just been one of those dishes that kind of made me nervous to “re-create”. While flipping through my favorite cooking magazine (Everyday Food by Martha Stewart) I saw a recipe for chicken parm and asked Bryan if he likes it.  When he said yes I figure, why not give it a shot and see how it comes out.

I opened up my flour cabinet (yes I have a small pantry with all of my gluten-free flours stored in my favorite containers by Snapware) and looked around to see what I had left (I’m running extremely low or I’m completely out of the majority of my flours) and saw that I had some Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose GF Flour, Gluten Free Bisquick and also some Orgran Rice Crumbs.  I decided to use a mixture of the Bisquick and Rice Crumbs and see how that would turn out, and if we didn’t like it I would try another combination the next time around.  We both really liked it – which I was surprised because I kind of just threw this recipe together quickly one night. The recipe is very simple and quick, you can feel free to change the measurements of the seasoning and cheese to your taste level.

Chicken Parmesan

1/4 Cup Gluten Free Bisquick (You could also sub in your favorite GF All Purpose Flour mix)

1/8 Cup Rice Crumbs (You could also sub in GF Bread Crumbs)

1/8 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

1/4 Teaspoon Salt

1/4 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning

2 Medium Chicken Breasts – pounded to 1/4 inch thickness

1 Egg – beaten with 1 Tablespoon of water

Cooked Gluten Free Pasta – We use Sam Mill’s GF Corn Penne Pasta (It is our favorite GF pasta that we’ve tried)

1/2-1 Cup Pasta Sauce (You can make your own or used a jarred sauce)

1/3 Cup of Shredded Mozzarella Cheese


In a shallow baking dish beat one egg with 1 tablespoon of water, set aside.

In a second shallow baking dish mix the Bisquick, Rice Crumbs, Cheese, Salt and Italian Seasoning – mix well, set aside.

Between two pieces of plasticwrap or parchment paper pound the chicken until it is about 1/4 inch thick (for even and quick cooking).

Dredge each piece of chicken in the Bisquick/Rice Crumb mixture, shake off any excess and then in the egg mixture.  Again shake off any excess and then dredge it back in the Bisquick/Rice Crumb mixture.  Set aside.

In a medium skillet add one tablespoon of oil and heat over medium heat.  Once oil is hot enough (I always test by running cold water over my hand and then flicking a little in the pan, if it sizzles then I know my meat will sizzle – this is by no means scientific but it works well for me).  Add the two pieces of chicken breast.  Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until lightly golden brown and juices run clear.

If you do not have pans that can go into the oven, place the pieces of chicken either on a baking sheet or baking dish for this next step.

Turn your oven to broil and top each piece of chicken with half of the mozzarella cheese.  Place the chicken under the broiler just until the cheese starts to bubble and turn lightly golden brown.

Serve atop your favorite gluten-free pasta and top with your favorite sauce.

Mozzarella Sticks


One of my favorite snack foods when growing up was mozzarella sticks.  I grew up in fairly small town, however it had three or four pizza places (mostly run by Greeks instead of Italians) and none of the pizza was ever spectacular or out of this world but the mozzarella sticks were always good (and their sandwiches!).  I would much rather have an order of mozzarella sticks instead of pizza; I don’t know if it was because I loved cheese so much, or that they were hot, gooey and crunchy at the same time.  No matter the reason, I was a huge fan.  That was until I was told I was lactose intolerant (or so the doctors thought back then).  I gave up on my love of fried cheese way back then so when I was finally diagnosed with having Celiac Disease I never really gave them much thought.

I can’t remember exactly what made me think of them and crave them again, but last time we went grocery shopping I mentioned to Bryan that I can try to make them gluten-free, he of course said “sure”. I began looking online for recipes on how to make mozzarella sticks at home, which I figured wouldn’t be hard but I needed to see the basics. You need mozzarella, bread crumbs, flour, oil and egg.  I found a “regular” recipe and a gluten-free recipe that were pretty much the same so I figured I would try that one first, and of course make a few minor adjustments.  First off instead of using bread crumbs I used Orgran’s Rice Crumbs and seasoned those (see below), I also changed some of the measurements from the original recipe.   I made Bryan these for lunch today.  He being my official taste tester really enjoyed them.  I love him being a non-gluten-free taste tester because if he says something is good, then it is.

Gluten Free Mozzarella Sticks (GF/OF)

1/3 Cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (you could use another flour blend if you wish)

1/3 Cup Corn Starch

2 Eggs

1/4 Cup Water

1 to 1 1/3 Cup(s) Rice Crumbs (or bread crumbs)

2 Teaspoons Garlic Powder

2 Teaspoons of Italian Seasoning (Parsley, Oregano, etc.)

1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1 16oz package of Mozzarella Sticks – cut in half (12 sticks)

Canola Oil – enough to have 1/2 inch come up the side of your pan

3 Shallow Dishes

  1. In the first shallow dish add the flour and corn starch, mix well.  In the second dish add the egg and water, whisk well.  In the third dish combine the rice crumbs, garlic, Italian seasoning (your choice of herbs), pepper and salt, mix well.
  2. Open all of the mozzarella sticks and cut in half.  You should have 24 pieces.  You could cut this in half again and make little mozzarella poppers.
  3. In batches of four or six, coat the mozzarella sticks in the flour/corn starch mixture.  Shake off any excess.
  4. Then add them to the egg and water mixture – make sure these get coated all around – including the ends.
  5. Before adding the sticks into the rice crumb and herb mixture shake off any excess egg.  Coat well in, including the ends.
  6. You can either leave them as they are or go back and repeat steps 4 and 5 – I did this and the came out with a great crunch.  Trust me you will have enough egg and rice crumb mixture to do all of these twice.
  7. Place the ready to fry sticks either on a plate or cooling rack.
  8. Add oil to a large sauté pan so it comes up about 1/2 inch. Heat oil over medium heat.
  9. Again, in batches of four or six add your mozzarella sticks and cook for about thirty seconds on each side.  Take out of the oil and place on a cooling rack with paper towels underneath to catch any excess oil that may drip off. Repeat this step until all of the sticks have been fried.
  10. Serve with warmed up marinara sauce.


If you have the time (I didn’t) before you fry these up, place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet and freeze for about an hour.  This will help them from bursting open when you fry them.

You can also make these in advance and then freeze them in smaller batches to easily be heated up again at a later time.  I would suggest heating them in a toaster or regular oven. This is a great idea for an after school snack for your kiddos.  Instead of buying the frozen ones at the store, make them at home, freeze them in small portions and there you go!

The rice crumbs worked perfectly!  If  you haven’t tried these yet or are looking for an alternative to bread crumbs, you should really give them a try.

Some recipes are just so easy so why not make them at home?  That way you know for sure you can eat them and the best part you know what is going into them. These really did come out great.  Very simple, easy and quick recipe.  I think I will make these for our super bowl party this year.

Creatively and Frugally Gluten Free

We’ve all been hit hard with the economy the way that it is and if you are like myself, you’ve been hit a bit harder because I am still out of work.  I wasn’t laid off or anything, I willing left my job and life in California to move back East to be with Bryan.  I don’t regret my decision by any means – I think it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. If I didn’t move in the summer who knows if or when it would have happened.  There were other factors (like our families) into moving when I did but he was the main reason.  Seeing as I left my job, I do not collect unemployment and have no income or health insurance. I spend my days searching and applying for jobs – which is usually about 20 jobs!  I’m not being picky and only applying for certain jobs, I am applying to anything and everything that I remotely qualify, however the call backs are scarce. sparse.  Honestly as depressing and defeating as it is, I keep doing it every day.  I know something will come along, I just hope it happens soon. It is funny because the few responses I have received back say I am over qualified and that is one thing I have never been told in my life, usually it is the opposite because even though I have about 10 years of administrative work under my belt (mostly in Higher Education admissions) I am under qualified because I don’t have a Bachelor’s degree (actually any degree for that matter).

I would love to someday have the ability to donate my time with an organization or be a part time food blogger and work part-time, but right now we need me to be working.  I enjoy working (and earning a pay check) actually I miss working.  People keep telling me that once I get a job I’ll be wishing for this time again, and I’m sure I will at some point but I think it might take a while for me to feel that way.

So with being out of work for a total of four months we have learned to not only live the gluten-free life creatively but also frugally!  I am a coupon clipper and at first Bryan would make fun of me for it but I think now he is pretty thankful for my OCD with coupons.  Each week when we get the grocery ads I scour them looking for the good sales.  We normally don’t buy anything that isn’t on sale.  I’m a big fan of the buy one get one items.  We buy more fresh items vs. processed items.

I also try to make as many gluten-free things that I possibly can instead of buying them at the stores such as granola, bread, salad dressings, cookies, ice tea, mochas, cakes and pies.  Sadly however, I am running low on all of my gluten-free flours and my xanthan gum! So I have to be careful until I can afford to order some new ones.  Today I was trying to think of other things I can make at home with the ingredients I have on hand instead of buying.  One thing that came to mind is taco seasoning.  We eat tacos fairly often because it is a quick and easy meal that we both enjoy.  So I did some searching around online to find out what people really put in taco seasoning because the packages are a bit vague listing “spices” – well that is obvious but which ones? Here is what I came up with, and should probably note we really enjoy spicy foods in our house so you might want to adjust this recipe to your level of spice preference.  We tried this tonight and it was really good, if I do say so myself!

CCGF’s Taco Seasoning (GF/OF/DF)

1 Tablespoon Corn Starch (I noticed some people used Potato Starch or Corn Flour)

1 Teaspoon Chili Powder (make sure it is gluten-free!)

1 Teaspoon Paprika

3/4 Teaspoon Salt

1/2 Teaspoon Cumin

1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (You might want to use only 1/4 teaspoon if you don’t like much spice)

1/2 Teaspoon Chipolte Pepper (You can omit this or use 1/4 teaspoon)

1/4 Teaspoon Garlic Powder

1/4 Teaspoon Sugar

Add all of the ingredients to a bowl or plastic bag, mix well.  Store in an airtight container.


1lb – 1 1/2lb ground beef or turkey

Taco Seasoning (see above)

2/3 Cup water

Corn tortilla shells -hard or soft

Shredded lettuce (optional)

Shredded cheese (optional)

Sour cream (optional)

Avocado (optional)

In a large skillet on medium heat, brown beef and drain off any fat, about 8-10 minutes.  Add taco seasoning stir until well combined then add water.  Simmer over medium heat until sauce has thickened, about 3-4 minutes.  Serve in taco shells with your favorite toppings.  You can even make nachos with this instead!

Here is to living the gluten-free life creatively and frugally!

Bacon-Cheddar Scones

Oh yes you read the title correctly! People say bacon makes everything better and I would have to agree (well for the most part).  I try my hardest not to eat too much bacon, but I love it and its really hard to restrain myself when its around.   Being gluten free one of the hardest things for me is breakfast foods.  I can’t eat first thing in the morning so I usually eat at my office.  Lately its been yogurt, but I was craving something else.  Eggs are good but I don’t always want to make them before work and then put them in a container to heat up a little later on. I’m always on the hung for breakfast type recipes.  I need to build my recipe bank with more of these of recipes.

So I did some searching online for some gluten free recipes.  Even though its not gluten free I found a recipe online for these Bacon Cheddar Scones (check out this blog – Buns In My Oven for step by step photos and the non-gluten free version!!!) scones and tried to create them to the gluten free recipe that I had posted on here.  They just came out of the oven and they look, smell and taste fantastic!  You really have to try these!

Gluten Free Bacon-Cheddar Scones- (adapted from Bun in my oven’s Bacon Cheddar Scones)

3 C. gluten-free flour mix (see below)

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 tsp salt

8 slices of bacon (cooked and chopped or crumbled)

1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese

4 green onions, sliced thin

6 oz cold butter cut into small cubes

1 C. milk (or gluten-free soy milk) mixed with 4 T. vinegar–I used apple cider vinegar

1 large egg

2 tablespoons water

Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix (mix together and store in fridge):
1 1/4 C. brown rice flour
1 1/4 C. white rice flour
1 C. tapioca flour
1 C. sweet rice flour (also known at Mochiko)
2 scant tsp. xanthan gum

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with a Silpat sheet. In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper.  Mix until blended well.  Add butter and keep mixing with your hands until it is crumbly and your butter is in small pea size pieces.  You can also use a pastry cutter or two knives. Add the cheese and mix until well blended.

Slowly pour in the milk mixture–do this carefully, because you might not need it all. I used about 7/8s of the milk. The dough should be just barely wet. Use your hands to carefully mix in the last bits of flour. The dough should be extremely light and fluffy. Handle carefully.

Turn out only a floured board.  I use tapioca flour to lightly flour a large cutting board and lightly press out the ball of dough until it is about 1/2 in thickness (you can also follow the original recipe and use a rolling pin and cut the scones according to Jeanne’s instructions).  Cut in half and depending on how many scones you want to make cut each half in third or quarters.  Place the scones on the baking sheet lined with the Silpat sheet.

In a small bowl beat egg and water together.  Lightly brush the tops of the scones and bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.  Cool on a rack and enjoy warm!

Pasta-less Lasagna


(Updated November 2010)

When I was little every year for my birthday we would have lasagna and I loved it so much. Mostly loved it with out meat but on the occasion meat was ok . I haven’t had lasagna in such a long time and the other day Lisa was talking to me about a recipe she made with squash instead of noodles. It sounded pretty tasty so I thought I would give it a try.

This recipe is awesome! So tasty and has a little bit of crunch from the squash. I used a Trader Joe’s sauce with a little bit of spice to it.


2 medium-large yellow squash

1/2 cups ricotta cheese (you can use skim ricotta to make it a bit lighter)

1 cup frozen spinach, chopped (after its been thawed and drained well)

1/2 cup Pasta Sauce (I prefer homemade, but jar sauce is perfectly fine)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Slice the squash in 1/4 inch pieces.  Lay them on a paper towel, salt to draw out the extra water/moisture from the squash.

In a bowl mix the spinach and ricotta, season with salt and pepper.

In a baking dish (I used a small 2qt baking dish, for a larger lasagna double the recipe and use a larger baking dish) layer the bottom of the pan with a small amount of sauce. Place the first player of squash down to cover the bottom of the pan (you may have to cut a few pieces to make it fit), evenly spread out the ricotta and spinach mixture, top with sauce. Repeat. You should get about three layers out of these ingredients. Sprinkle with some grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese or top with sliced/shredded mozzarella.

(This can also be done with eggplant or zucchini, again after slicing place on a paper towel and salt to draw out excess water).

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes (or until mozzarella is golden brown)

Thanks Lisa!!!




Citrus Chili Chicken with Roasted Grape Tomatoes

Citrus Chili Chicken with Roasted Grape Tomatoes


Roasted Grape Tomatoes
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp salt

Roast at 400° for 10-15 minutes until they start to split open
In a bowl combine roasted tomatoes (with any juices on the pan) and 1/8 cup crumbled feta cheese

Citrus Chili chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast – butterflied
1/4 cup Williams Sonoma Citrus – Chili Finishing Sauce

Marinade the chicken in the sauce for 30 minutes
Cook on in a sautée pan for 4-5 minutes on each side or until juices run clear