Black Bean Salsa

I think it’s safe to say that summer is officially here. The temperatures in Chicago are heating up after it’s been a comfortable start to the season. Barbecues and picnics are all the craze right now and what’s a better side to serve than a fresh salsa?

I made this flavorful black bean salsa for the Fourth of July and it was a hit. It’s been a favorite recipe in my family for years and a hot summer day is the perfect time to enjoy it. It’s delicious with corn chips, jicama slices, or as a topping to grilled chicken or fish. Did I mention it’s a breeze to make?

Black Bean Salsa

2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of sweet corn, drained
4-5 plum tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/8 cup cilantro, chopped
1 sweet red pepper, chopped

Dressing Ingredients
4 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 pepper
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Blend the dressing ingredients together in a smaller bowl and pour over bean and vegetable mixture. Combine to coat evenly.

*If you are making this the day before you are serving it, wait to add the avocado until right before serving.

 What’s your favorite fresh salsa to make? Fruity, spicy? I want to know!

Old School Potato Salad – Perfect For Your Gluten-Free BBQ

Summer is officially here and BBQ season is upon us. At my cook-outs, there’s always some type of glorious meat on the grill whether it’s burgers, chicken, ribs, or steak. While the focus is usually on that main meat, the side dishes are just as important! Potato salad is a popular choice, and that store bought stuff just doesn’t cut it. Homemade is where it’s at, and my family’s recipe is so loved that I still hear stories about it to this day.

My mom grew up on the south side of Chicago and had relatives that lived on the north side of the city. The exact north neighborhood is unknown since that family was lovely referred to as “the north sides”. As the story goes, the north side aunt made THE. BEST. potato salad in the world. Like nothing you’ve ever had before. When I called Babs to tell her I was making THE potato salad and to confirm the recipe (I hadn’t made it myself in a while), I could hear the praise in her voice when she told me, “Oh, that potato salad was so good. She made the best potato salad. It was pink!”

All the south side ladies in the family would try to replicate the recipe. As I’m told my Grandma made a fantastic version for which she would get oodles of compliments. She would add onions and celery and got it down just right. Growing up with five picky eater children, my mom dropped the onions and celery and just made a creamy potato goodness. Our family would fight over who got the last spoonful.

Like my mom’s recipe, I’ve also omitted the onions and celery (I hate raw celery) and let the other ingredients shine. This recipe is very easy and versatile; you can add whichever veggies and herbs you want if you want to pump up the flavor.

Old School “North Side Inspired” Potato Salad
Serves 4-6

6 to 8 Red Potatoes unpeeled
3 to 4 Eggs, hard-boiled
¼ Cup Sour Cream
¼ Cup Mayo
1 tsp Red Wine Vinegar
Dill (optional) to taste
Salt and Pepper (optional) to taste
Paprika for garnishing


  1. Wash your taters, put them in a large pot and fill with water, covering them about an inch or two. Do not peel or cut them. Boil the potatoes until they can be pierced easily with a fork and begin to fall apart. You’ll see the skin on the potatoes starting to come off or looked cracked. This is good. If the potatoes fall apart, great, they’re ready! Remove from water and let them cool.
  2. Once the potatoes are cool (or able to be handled without burning your fingers), use a fork or butter knife to peel off the skin. Cut or break them into small-ish pieces in a large bowl.
  3. Cut up hard-boiled eggs into pieces and mix together with potato pieces. *If you are adding onions, peppers, celery or other raw veggies, include them in this step*
  4. In a small bowl, mix together equal parts sour cream and mayo. You might need a little more than ¼ cup of each. (I usually eyeball this and dump in 2 heaping tablespoons of each)
  5. Stir in red wine vinegar, dill, salt and pepper to creamy mixture and pour mixture over potatoes and evening coat.
  6. Sprinkle a little paprika on top of the potatoes and chill until serving. If you can’t wait, it’s also pretty darn tasty warm.

I actually was so unprepared when I made this tonight. I didn’t have red wine vinegar or dill and the couple of stores within walking distance (I’m looking at you Walgreens and Aldi) didn’t carry either of them, so I improvised. I ended up using plain old white distilled vinegar and Herbs de Provence and the end result was really good, but I would recommend the red wine vinegar.

What’s your favorite BBQ side?

Epic Move

The silence on Gluten Free Betsy hasn’t been another bout of writer’s block. It’s been because something big happened. I moved. And trust me when I say it was big.

Let’s travel down memory lane for a bit of a back-story. I started my blog in 2009 right when I “moved back home”. I had been living in the Ukrainian Village/Wicker Park area of Chicago with my best friends and a random Craigslist dude (not recommended). 2008 was a crappy year. I lost my job (twice), relationships were being tested and were evolving, and I was broker than broke. That fall after both of my roommates lost their jobs and two of us were denied unemployment we had no choice but to break out lease and go about our separate ways. My only option was moving back home with my parents. It was a major adjustment for me. I hadn’t lived “at home” for four years. I was used to the late night bars and hopping on the blue line whenever. My friends were my family, in that I saw them every day and ate dinner with them every night. I was used to my routine and moving across the city where none of my friends lived was super hard. The accessibility to people and places was more complicated, and while I tried my best to get into the city as often as I could, it was tiring and expensive (I was still broke, after all). I settled back into suburbia and started this blog to keep myself busy and creative.

My very first blog header. Shared that fancy font with Gluten Free Frenzy!

While it was only supposed to last for a few months and my plan was to be back in the city by that summer, things didn’t work out that way. I ended up living with my family for a little over four years. While I love my fam to death and didn’t necessarily want to leave, this spring I decided that it was time to be back on my own again. I found a super cute apartment that was spacious and close to transportation and friends.
Unpacking for the last month has been taking up my blogging time. When I initially moved home, I had an entire household that couldn’t (and wouldn’t) fit into my parents’ house. I rented a storage locker to hold everything until I could move out. Uncovering those treasures has been a mixture of joy and WTF?! Why did I save some of the things that I did? Why did I even own some of the things that I did? If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you saw some of the gems that I found. Luckily my sister-in-law’s family held a garage sale that I piggybacked on and sold a huge chunk of it. The rest of the vintage stuff will make its way to an etsy store I am in the works of setting up.
Packed to the gills.
The only downfall to my new place is that the kitchen is a food blogger’s worst nightmare. It’s small, lacking counter space, and needs a lot of updates. The small, falling in sink is not ideal. The stove is tricky. The knob for the oven temperature is worn out, so heating to a specified temperature is anyone’s guess. I did buy an oven thermometer, but that’s not working out too well either. My recent batch of Kyra’s Crave Bake Shop cupcakes turned out more like pound cake than cupcake, but that’s OK.
Snickerdoodle cupcake, literally!

Despite being back in the city near friends and fun times, I’m excited to continue blogging. I know my posts have slowed down over the past couple of years, but I’m hoping having my own (tiny) kitchen and cooking more meals (already miss Babs’s cooking) will generate more fun stories and recipes. I’m bringing book club back. I want to whip myself into shape again. And of course I want you all to eat out, so I will constantly be updating the Chicago restaurant list. There’s been a lot of change for me lately, but change is good. It’s time.

Betty Crocker Gluten Free Baking Giveaway

We all know Betty Crocker has been making some really good gluten free boxed mixes for some time now. They’ve upped the ante again and released a couple more items to their gluten free boxed mix line, Sugar Cookie and Rice Flour Blend. Their entire gluten free line got redesigned that looks pretty snazzy too!

With these new additions, convenient gluten free baking just got easier. Hello, Christmas cookies! Or any other holiday cut out cookie for that matter. A basic gluten free all purpose blend is great to have at the ready. You never know when you’re going to need a tablespoon here or there for a recipe. I always have a box of Betty Crocker Gluten Free mixes on hand for gluten free dessert emergencies. When my nephew and niece visit, baking with Babs or me is one of their favorite things to do. Throwing together a box mix instead of mixing a hundred different flours is simple for kids, plus the finished products always turns out delicious.

To celebrate the launch of these new gluten free mixes, General Mills through MyBlogSpark is offering one Gluten Free Betsy reader a super sweet baking kit consisting of a baking tool set and an 8″ square cake pan.

Win me!

To enter, leave a comment in the comments section of this post with what you are most excited to bake with these new mixes. If you need a little inspiration, check out the recipe section on Betty Crocker’s website. I’ll choose a winner using on Monday, July 1st. PLEASE remember to include an email address or some communication method, so I can contact you if you win!

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks for entering!

Abe’s Market Loves Their Celiac and Gluten Free Customers!

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me profess my love for Abe’s Market:

And apparently they love me back:
No, seriously, I want to work there.
They are an online retailer that sells natural products. Everything from food, fashion, cleaning products,  home decorating, adorable baby stuff and pets. They are like the of green living. When they send out their weekly newsletters, I want to buy everything they feature. The beautiful pictures, drool-worthy recipes, and overall warm and cozy feeling of living happily and healthily draw me in. Not to mention they have a giant selection of gluten free products.

With May being a Celiac Awareness Month, they are celebrating Celiacs and all their gluten free glory. They know gluten free foods and products can be pricey and from now until May 12th, they are offering up to 50% off some of their best gluten free selling products.

Abe’s Market also has a green living and environmental blog which has gluten free recipes such as this one for Gluten Free Mocha Brownies.

Brownie Ingredients
15 Medjool dates, pitted, soaked and drained
¼ cup water
9 T raw cocoa
¼ cup agave syrup
¼ cup coconut oil, soft, not liquid
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
4 eggs
½ tsp baking powder
2 T espresso, ground fine
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Blend dates (in a blender) and ¼ cup water on high until it becomes a paste
3. Add eggs, cocoa, agave, coconut oil, baking powder and espresso; blend until smooth
4. Add garbanzo beans; mix on high until entire mixture is well incorporated, thick and smooth
5. Evenly distribute mixture into mini muffin tins (fills 30-32)
6. Bake for 10-12 minutes (until it passes the toothpick test); remove and cool on a wire rack

Do you buy gluten free products online? Where is your favorite place to shop for your gluten free lifestyle?

Chicago Gluten Free Expo Recap and a Crave Bake Shop Giveaway!

It’s been a crazy week! I would have posted this GFAF Expo recap sooner, but I’m in the midst of moving (!!!!!) and have been spending all my free time packing instead of blogging. This expo couldn’t go unmentioned, so I took a break to fill you in if you didn’t have the chance to attend.

New Planet Beer, Blogger Booth, Sweet Ali‘s Salted Caramel Cupcakes, Schar Kid’s Table making S’mores, with the Gluten Free Bar Sweater (and Biebs), She-Liac, Van’s Natural Foods new gluten free cereal, Kyra of Crave Bake Shop, with Blogger Sponsor, Holy Crap cereal.

Last weekend started off with a fabulous pizza party hosted by Schar at D’Agostino’s and ended up with me in bed at 8:30pm on Sunday night. I’ve been having a rough time with my fibromyalgia and was having flare-ups earlier in the week and the expo completely tuckered me out. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast meeting so many awesome bloggers, discovering new gluten free companies, eating delicious food, and reconnecting with old friends. I just wish I had more energy to enjoy it to the fullest.

Here’s what was totally awesome about this year’s GFAF Expo:

Alissa of Breaking Up with Captain Crunch and Mel of Geekily Gluten Free

Alissa, Mel, and myself. Charlie’s Angels style.

These girls rock the house. I met Alissa via our blogs about a year ago and then in real life a few weeks ago at a Chicago Gluten Free Meetup at Tweet for some seriously amazing gluten free brunch. Then we hung out the entire weekend at the expo. First off, her blog is hilarious and a great one to be reading. Second, we get along famously. You’d never know that we just met, it feels like we’ve been friends forever.

Mel is another Chicago celiac friend that I met last year briefly at a group dinner at Senza. Then again briefly at the Gluten Free Calendar White Sox game. I finally got to spend some quality time with her last week since we split a hotel room. Just like Alissa, Mel rocks! She writes a blog, rocks heels while being six feet tall, and is also a gluten free superhero, She-Liac. Plus she’s super sweet and fun.

New Gluten Free (and non-Gluten Free) Discoveries

Gluten free products have taken the market by storm. Years ago a new sandwich bread that was tasty and wouldn’t crumble was what one could dream for. Maybe a cupcake or some cookies. Nowadays there are numerous soft and delicious breads on the market. Tons of cookies and plenty of cupcake mixes. Today we think outside of the box in writing up our gluten free wish list. Croissant? Pita bread? Phyllo dough? Gluten free companies are starting to make everything possible.

There were a couple vendors that announced that their gluten free bread was the best ever (no, it wasn’t) or their cookies were amazing because all the other gluten free cookies taste like cardboard (Really? have you tried Wow Baking Company‘s gluten free cookies? Or a bunch others that are really good and not at all like cardboard?) Regardless of those false claims, I did find some new “Shut UP! I can’t believe it’s gluten free!!!” products. Which are:

  • Kiki’s Gluten Free Foods – Their tag line is “Simply Awesome!” They couldn’t have written truer words. I was blown away at just how awesome their Spinach and Feta pockets were. So much so that on Day 2, Alissa and I immediately walked into the expo and headed right to their booth. Their desserts were out of this world as well. Blueberry FreakCake and Malibu Madness were most definitely freak-out madness incredible. Four restaurants in Chicago carry their products, and you bet I’ll be visiting them soon.

  • Teri’s Gluten Free – I know Teri from way back when her business was Mixes From The Heartland. She started up a new company, Teri’s Gluten Free, and I’m thrilled that her products haven’t changed in taste. She’s still delivering one of the most amazing gluten free desserts on the market today. I sampled her Sweet Potato Brownies and Coconut Cream Pie which I immediately bought. She has everything from soups and casserole mixes to breads and dessert mixes. She also carries Gluten Free Emergency Kits which I think is the most genius idea ever. With kits prepared for 24 hours to 1 year, this is a wonderful life-saver. Look at events such as Hurricane Sandy, which left many gluten free people struggling to find safe food to eat. Even for a quick one day getaway, a kit could have you prepared.

  • The Eating Well – Their veggies burgers were really good. Alissa and I each ordered one fully cooked and ate them for lunch on Sunday. 
Veggies Burgers from The Eating Well.
  • Red Apple Lipstick – I met Jay and Andrea of Red Apple Lipstick at the previous GFAF Expo and love their lip gloss. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on more makeup, since they now have eyeshadow! I picked up a new tube of lip gloss and some eye shadow in blue and purple. Colors I wouldn’t think I could rock, but apparently I do! I even got my first compliment (ever in my entire life) on my eyeshadow yesterday, so thank you, Red Apple Lipstick. This booth was constantly mobbed during the expo, but luckily Sunday morning Mel, Alissa, and I got to play with make-up and make our purchases.
  • CNB Naturally – OK, there were a lot of weird booths going on at the Expo. There was a psychic and a few window salesmen. Then there was a booth with these wooden boxes. Alissa and I were very skeptical and joked about them all Saturday. Then Sunday we bit the bullet and tried them out. Whoa. I take back every snarky comment I said the day before. They were Far Infrared Thermal Therapy (F.I.T.T. System) boxes. AKA…a sauna seat. And I want one. Badly. It was amazing. After my week of aches and pains from fibromyalgia, this was a welcome relief. I’m saving up for one.
Alissa and me in “the wooden boxes”

The Bloggers

I love meeting bloggers, especially gluten free bloggers. We obviously have something in common and I love hearing their stories of being gluten free. Picking each other brains about blogging is always interesting. I met several new bloggers at the Expo. Here are a few of them:

Giveaway Time!

Another favorite of mine, Kyra from Crave Bake Shop was at the expo. If you’re not familiar with Kyra, she has celiac disease and opened an entirely gluten free bakery in Portland. She’s a two time champion of Cupcake Wars.  She recently launched a line of boxed cake mixes so you can make her award winning cupcakes at home. She was selling them at the expo and they were selling out like hotcakes. I quickly snatched up three boxes of Snickerdoodle cake mix (the only variety available since the chocolate and vanilla sold out).

Kyra and her amazing Snickerdoodle Cake Mix!

As much as I love these mixes, I’m giving away a box of Snickerdoodle cake mix to one lucky Gluten Free Betsy reader. To enter, leave a comment below telling me what your favorite dessert is. Be sure to include an email address so I can contact you if you win. Winner will be announced Sunday, May 5th. I’ll use to select a winner. 

This Giveaway is now closed!
Congratulations to the winner from entry #2, Jeegs!

Did you attend the Chicago Gluten Free and Allergen Free Expo? What was your favorite find?