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Zen Cookery – Gluten Free and Vegan foods for mindful munching.

Zen Cookery – Gluten Free and Vegan foods for mindful munching. Made with love in Boston.Screen shot 2013-11-21 at 10.59.38 AM

Founded in 2013, Zen Cookery is the brainchild of Erica Zendell, a researcher of contemporary China by day and a celiac baker by night. On a mission to provide allergic eaters and health-conscious snackers gluten free, allergen-free, and vegan choices in small batches, all products are free of the top 8 allergens, corn, and sesame.

Erica was diagnosed with Celiac in August 2012. Much of her identity was based around cooking. In college she cooked for a co-op of 30+ people everyday. She loved cooking and she loved food. Over the past year Erica read lots of cookbooks and did lots of research in order to reclaim her identity as a gluten free chef. She spent much of her time in the kitchen experimenting and perfecting gluten free, allergy friendly recipes.

In the summer of 2013, Erica was reflecting deeply on her first year out of school and her future career prospects. One day, upon returning from a weekend retreat and on her way to work at her favorite cafe in the Cambridge, she made a mental leap from, “Why doesn’t this place have a healthy, satisfying snack I can eat with my tea that won’t make me sick?” to “Why can’t I make a healthy, satisfying snack for them to sell here and share with others, especially those with food sensitivities and restrictions?”

And with that brief meditation, Zen Cookery was born.

Erica makes a variety of desserts including:

Brownies: Dark chocolate, red velvet, coconut blondie, and salted caramel

Truffles: Chocolate-coconut, sunflower buttercup, mint matcha, maple vanilla, dark chocolate, and apple spice

Muffins: Banana chocolate chip, chocolate lavender, carrot, and pumpkin

Cookies: Oatmeal chocolate chip, chewy coconut, snickerdoodle, and harvest joy

Don’t see a flavor you like? No problem! That is just a sampling of what she can make. If you can think it, Erica can bake it.IMG_5688

Las night I had the chance to try some of Erica’s creations.

Erica made me three of her most prized dessert – the truffles. I tried the vanilla maple, dark chocolate, and mint matcha. These little truffles are divine bites from heaven. Allergy-free and refined sugar free, these bites are also suitable for those following a raw or paleo diet.

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The vanilla maple was slightly sweet with a subtle hint of maple syrup. The dark chocolate was rich with a silky smooth texture. Yum. The mint matcha was not for me; I learned tonight I do not like this flavor. I don’t think this had anything to do with her abilities as a chef; I just don’t like this flavor.

IMG_5686The oatmeal chocolate chip cookie was my favorite. I love oatmeal cookies and this one is unquestionably one of the best oatmeal cookies I’ve ever had. It had such great texture and a strong cinnamon flavor; I loved it! IMG_5689

I also love that all of her cookies are also made without refined sugar.

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I like that all her products are “little bites”. It’s just enough to satisfy my sweet tooth. This is so much better than buying an extra large cookie or brownie the size of my hand, and endimg up feeling sick after eating it all, because let’s face it, who eats half a cookie?

You can purchase these delicious treats online. One dozen of anything—muffins, cookies, truffles, or brownies—sell for $15. Delivery is free within Boston. Place your order now for Thanksgiving!

This December her products will also be available for sale at Violette Bakery and at the Cambridge Winter Farmer’s Market every other Saturday.

Zen Cookery needs your help to start selling retail in Boston and beyond!

Starting up this business has some big initial costs, and Zen Cookery has started an indiegogo campaign to raise money to help cover them. The contributions they’re asking for are linked to their core expenses, and as you’ll see, the rewards are sweet!

$35 buys us an hour’s worth of time in a gluten-free commercial kitchen space.

$75 buys us a month’s worth of stand space at a local farmers’ market.

$150 covers the cost of one of the many licenses and permits we need to do business on a local, statewide, or national level.

$300 covers the cost of different components of our branding budget, including website design, packaging, labeling, and distribution.

In return for your support, Zen Cookery will bake you samples of their delicious desserts. To read more about their indiegogo campaign and make a contribution click here.

The funding campaign will run until November 30, 2013 at 11:59pm.

Disclaimer: I received these products for free to sample and review for my blog.  I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.

Olivia’s Organics makes appearance at Boston Local Food Festival today!

On October 6, 2013, Olivia’s Organics will be attending the Boston Local Food Festival for it’s 4th straight year in a row. Ken, the Senior Business Manager, says he is most excited about this event because he gets to see “a lot of regular customers and find new customers.” They sell salad mixes, cooking greens, and celery hearts.

Olivia’s Organics was created in February 2006 with children’s charities as the main focus behind the name. A percentage of the proceeds are used to fund children’s charities, including Kids Clothes Club, Cradles to Crayons, Make a Wish Foundation, and so many more! The company strongly believes in giving back. Investing in the lives of children who live in the communities where their salads are sold is how they have chosen to give back.

Olivia’s Organics is only grown on organic farms and is a USDA certified organic company. All of the salads are grown without the use of pesticides, chemicals, synthetic fertilizers, bioengineering or ionizing radiation. The greens come from all over the US (from Maine to Arizona to California). Regardless of where the produce comes from, Olivia’s washes, packs and ships everything from their state-of-the-art facility in Chelsea, MA. Packaging locally allows for maximum freshness.

The company has strict food safety policies in place to help safeguard all of their products and their wholesomeness. A sample from each batch is sent to third-party food industry auditors to test for E.Coli, Listeria and other harmful bacteria and chemicals. Once the batch has been deemed safe, the products are shipped out, all within 24 hours of being washed and packaged. This dynamic process includes continuous recording and documentation so that each and every product can be traced back to the start if need be. No one else in the industry has a system set up like this.

Not only is food safety and health top priority for Olivia’s Organics, but, Olivia’s has also pledged to use only renewable resources and 100% recyclable, BRA free packaging. All containers are made in the US using wind and hydroelectric power.

Olivia’s Organics can be found in grocery stores all along the East Coast, from Maine to Tampa, FL. At the BLFF, Olivia’s will be there to chat with people about their products and charities.  They will also be handing out samples of their spring mix, complete with a recyclable fork and organic dressing, all packaged in one of their 100% recyclable containers, of course!

Photo Courtesy of Katelyn Dennis

Gluten Free Boston Girl’s October Happenings

Can you believe it’s October? I can’t! September just flew by! I love fall in New England. I love big comfy sweaters, fall foliage, apple picking, the fresh flavors of fall veggies and being outside before the brisk winter months.

Photo Courtesy of Kate Garrity

This month there are a lot of great events and festivals happening. This weekend, which is supposed to be beautiful and warm, is the 4th annual Boston Local Food Festival on the Greenway, where festival goers learn about the benefits of sustainably grown and produced food, shop the market – lots of gluten free goodies!- eat delicious local food, participate in fun, educational activities and exhibits, and engage with top local chefs.

There are lots of other great things to do this month, including apple picking, gluten free cooking and baking classes at the Boston Center for Adult Education, and the Gluten Free Expo at the end of the month! Check out these and other great events below. Will I see any of you there? I hope so!

Photo Courtesy of Katelyn Dennis
Photo Courtesy of Katelyn Dennis

Boston Local Food Festival October 6, 2013

For one spectacular day each year, the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts transforms the Greenway and the City of Boston into the nation’s largest local & sustainable food hub! Boston Local Food Festival is a free outdoor festival that showcases farmers, local restaurants, food trucks, specialty food producers, fisher folks, and organizations focusing on healthy food and fitness from New England. The festival also features lively chef & DIY demos, a seafood throwdown competition, diverse music and performances, family fun zone and more.

Local Craft Brewfest October 12, 2013

New this year, to make this the best Local Craft Brewfest yet, they’ve extended the tasting period AND have opened up the previously VIP area of distilleries, mead and cider for all attendees taste! They will be featuring 50+ beer tastings, 20+ tastings from distilleries as well as cider, mead, and delicious local food. Tickets $45. Save $5 with promo code “GlutenFree5”.

Gluten Free Halloween Chocolates at BCAE October 20, 2013

Just in time for Halloween, treat yourself or a loved one to hand-made chocolate treats! Learn about making molded and filled chocolates, ganache truffles, and a flourless chocolate cake recipe that is endlessly adaptable. Extra sensitive? All Chef Mary Greenfield’s recipes are either allergy-friendly or can be with very simple modifications. Sign up here. Gluten free classes in Nov/Dec include Gluten Free Holiday Sides, Gluten Free Holiday Treats, and Gluten Free Chocolates.

The Healthy Villi’s Gluten Free Expo October 20, 2013

A day to stroll and browse the wares of scores of vendors of gluten free offerings. An Opportunity to swap tips and stores with hundreds of other people who follow the gluten free diet and attend one (or more!) of 6 workshops covering all aspects of the gluten free lifestyle. My favorite part is sampling the gluten free products and going home with samples and coupons for me favorite goodies.  Tickets $20 for members, $30 for nonmembers.

Boston Vegetarian Food Festival October 26-287, 2013

This festival brings together an amazing array of vegetarian natural food providers, top national speakers and chefs, and educational exhibitors in a fun and welcoming environment. There will be cooking demos, kids activities, food samples, shopping specials and deals, and so much more. Not everything will be gluten free but over 75% of food vendors do have gluten free products. Another chance to sample and purchase your favorite foods, discover new products, and speak with professionals. Free.

Kitchen Surfing, any day any time.

Kitchensurfing is a community for a unique food and social experience. Meet, cook and eat together, host a dinner, or join others. This site offers an easy way to find a private chef—many from top local restaurants— online, to come into your home and cook a private dinner, cater a small (or large) gathering or give you and your friends a cooking lesson.  No mater what your budget or dietary restrictions you can find a chef to suit your individual needs.



Gluten Free Options at The Taco Truck

The Taco Truck is one of my favorite food trucks in Boston. Serving Authentic Mexican Street Food using locally grown and organic food [whenever possible]. On Sundays, from May 5th through October, the Taco Truck joins a whole slew of Food Trucks at Sowa Open Market. For the full schedule, click here

The tortillas used are 100% corn. All of tacos, except the pescado and aquacate, are gluten free.
If you tell them you have a gluten allergy they can change their gloves. But do be ware that there are gluten items in the truck, and there is only one fryer, so cross contamination is possible. I didn’t have any problems, but I do not have celiac, so use caution, as always, when dining out.

The tacos come in pairs, costing $4.50 – $5.00 ($2.25 – $2.50 each), which is actually quite reasonable, especially considering the focus on local and organic ingredients. As of now you can’t mix and match, but it would be great if they could offer this option to their costumers. My advice, go with a friend and order two different tacos. This is exactly what my sister and I did.

All ingredients are fresh, there’s no question there. I could taste the freshness of the cilantro, vegetables, and handmade sauces. And everything is incredibly flavorful. All tacos are served on double corn tortillas with a lime. Cotija cheese or avocado can be added to any taco for an extra for 75 cents each.

We tried two tacos, first was the Pollo Asado ($4.50); a mixture of guajillo (chile) marinated grilled chicken with lime-pickled onions and roasted red salsa, topped with avocado. Amply filled with juicy, moist nicely seasoned chicken.

We also ordered the Carnitas Michoacan ($4.50); slow braised sweet pork with onion, cilantro and fresh green salsa. The Carnitas were also moist,and  taste as though they had been braising all day. The green salsa and onions were so fresh and unlike anything I’ve had at a Mexican restaurant before, also very spicy, much spicier than the pollo taco.

The Platanos Fritos, aka fried plantains, ($2.50) were sweet and creamy. I loved the soft texture of the plantains, but would have preferred the crema on the side. Plantains are like bananas, but much sweeter. If you haven’t tried platanos fritos before you must try them!! These were among my favorites, Orinoco also makes delicious plantains.

There is always a line around lunch time, so get there early or be patient. The line moves slow and the food takes longer than expected to be prepared, but I assure you it is worth the wait.


The Taco Truck Mobile Food Truck on Urbanspoon


Ravioli with Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

‘Tis the season of butternut squash! Yes I knowwwww, last week it was pumpkin, but now I’m moving onto another fall favorite of mine! Of course butternut squash is delicious just baked up with some oil and herbs or cinnamon and brown sugar, but one can only eat so much roasted butternut squash in one week!

Last Sunday I went Sowa Market [again] with my sister and bought Gluten Free Butternut Squash Ravioli’s from Valicenti Organico. I absolutely love their spinach fettuccine! All the pasta is fresh and handmade, and you can tell. I had been wanting to try their ravioli since I first found out they had it. It is not available at the market, BUT if you call the week before they will bring it down for you. Valicenti Organico offers more than 20 varieties of gluten free raviolis, which changes seasonally.

I had leftover roasted butternut squash from earlier this week, which I used to make the sauce. I topped it with sage, fresh sage would have been better but I did not have that in my fridge so the jarred spice had to make due. It came out too thin when I first made it, but I was starving to I ate it anyways. I then added more squash and a splash of milk to make it a little thicker. Ahhh, much better! I also added chunks of butternut squash to the dish as well, because you can never have enough right?


About a 1 to 1 1/2lb butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and cubed. Roasted or baked until soft
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth or butternut squash soup from Trader Joe’s (this is what I used in place of broth)
1/4 cup milk
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
fresh sage for garnish, add to sauce it desired
Butternut Squash or Mushroom Ravioli


Place 1 pound (about 2 coups) cooled, cubed butternut squash in a food processor or blender, along with the onion, broth, milk, garlic, pepper, and salt. Blend until liquidy and smooth. Pour over ravioli, and in remaining cubed butternut squash and top with fresh sage. Out of sage? I’m sure basil would taste great too!

If it’s too runny for your liking, add more squash and try using less milk or broth. You can skip the milk completely if you are lactose in tolerant.

Gluten Free Spinach fettuccine with tomatoes, chickpeas, spinach, garlic and basil pesto

Last Sunday at Sowa Market my sister and I bought spinach fettuccine from Valicenti Organico .

They had so many gluten free options I couldn’t get over it! Dave kept pulling different kinds out of the fridge – all labeled gluten free – for us to check out. He also told us we could call or e-mail ahead of time and place an order we could pick up at the market (They are located in Hollis, NH so this beats driving all the way there just to buy noodles) . I love this because he didn’t have any gluten free ravioli the day I went so I am going t place an order and cannot wait to try it! Ravioli is one food I do truly miss.

The spinach fettuccine is one of the best gluten free noodles I’ve had. The texture was so smooth and took about 2 minutes to cook and had a great flavor.


8 oz Spinach Fettuccine
1 tomato, chopped
3 cups baby spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
2-3 tablespoons basil pesto
1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Bring water to a boil and boil noodles for 2-3 minutes. Drain.

Heat oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes, until it begins to brown. Add in baby spinach and tomatoes and cook 4 minutes. Add in chickpeas and 1 more minute to allow chickpeas to get warm. Remove from heat.

Add fettuccine to vegetable mixture and stir. Add in basil pesto 1 tablespoon at a time until the desired amount and taste is acheived.