Saturday, November 10, 2012

The One Where I Geek Out Over Stuffing

 Unless you are new around here (and if you are, hello!), you know that I have a deep and undying love for Sweet Ali's bakery. It all stems back to that first (and second, and third) gluten-free cupcake I had, the day after my celiac diagnosis. Maybe I imprinted on them, as a newborn gluten-freer, or maybe it's just that their stuff is that good. I'm pretty sure it is the latter.

Regardless, I have the utmost adoration and respect for Ali Graeme and her staff, so when I got an invite to a special after-hours holiday goodies preview, I literally jumped for joy. Not only was I nervous about going into my first holiday season gluten-free, but I couldn't wait for the chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at the bakery.

Wednesday night, after a hectic day at work and a puking dog at home, I was scatterbrained, tired and a little grumpy, but stepping into the bakery, my mood lifted instantly. Something about being in a room full of deliciousness that I can *actually* eat does that to me, I suppose.

Mozzarella cheese sticks. Yes.
The event was broken down into three parts: Appetizers, demos and dessert. We mingled and talked recipes while noshing on pumpkin dip, cheesy pigs-in-blankets, mozzarella cheese sticks and bruschetta. Their app table looked a lot like my typical New Year's Eve spreads (which reminded me, I need to start planning my annual NYE event). The staff put out recipes for just about everything (which I nabbed, because I will be recreating most of these noshes in the weeks to come). It all tasted ... regular, and I mean that in the best way possible. I have no doubt that I could put that spread out, and very few of my gluten-eating friends would even know the difference (spoiler alert to my NYE-going friends: you can thank Ali for the deliciousness you will enjoy). My two favorite treats were the blanketed pigs (Hillshire Farms. Go meat!) and the mozz sticks, and I likely would have snarfed the whole tray if it weren't for my mom physically restraining me  sense of decorum.

So cute! So gluten-free
After apps, we got to go back in the kitchen for a stuffing demo. That's right. In. The. Kitchen. As I have professed here on the blog before, I could live in that kitchen, happily. So getting to go back there? Amazing. Ali herself demonstrated stuffing from the mix the bakery sells. I could watch people cook all day, so I loved getting to see it put together, in addition to getting to taste it. I'll admit, basically the only stuffing I've ever eaten is made from a red box labeled Stove-Top, so my standards on stuffing aren't real high. Even so, the mix the bakery sells was really good, and Ali told several ways to customize it, which I appreciated. Since we are doing a to-go Thanksgiving meal for me, I don't know if I am going to attempt stuffing or not, but if I do, I know which one I am trying. Staffer Carrie also did a food demo, showing us how to make this adorable little pumpkin dip thing that looks like a jack-o-lantern. It would be a great addition to any appetizer table or something like a work potluck.

This is what a happy Alissa looks like.
No well-rounded meal would be complete without desserts, and this is Sweet Ali's specialty. Among the treats I sampled? Pumpkin pie, raspberry tarts, pumpkin bread, pound cake, and more - the sugar buzz sort of kicked in at that point, so I don't recall ALL of the delightful things I tried (bad blogger! Bad girl!). Winner of dessert round was the pumpkin pie - creamy and sweet and delightful. I am the only pumpkin pie fan in my house, so it was nice to get to try some - I probably won't buy a whole one, since Luke doesn't eat it, and I would feel obligated to eat the whole thing (and regret nothing). But I did purchase a few more treats to try at home (frozen cookie dough and cinnamon rolls, and yes, they were both amazing). If you are in the Chicagoland area and looking for a great place to nab some Thanksgiving treats, even if you aren't gluten-free, I highly suggest Sweet Ali's. They even deliver to the Chicagoland area through Artizone, and they can be found in some area grocery stores. If you choose to purchase for Thanksgiving, though, make sure you get your orders in by November 17. I know I will.

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