Gluten Free Pancakes as seen on WBTV with Kristen Miranda


WBTV's Kristen Miranda

WBTV’s Kristen Miranda

I’ve LOVE cooking in front of a group, making personal appearances and cooking on television. I am quite fortunate to have regular culinary segments on several Charlotte television stations, among them WBTV.

Heidi on  WBTV circa 2009

Heidi on WBTV circa 2009

I’ve been cooking on WBTV  regularly since 2009 – I used to get up around 4 am to prep and then arrive at the station around 6 am or so in advance of what is usually a 6:20 or 6:30 3 minutes spot, My wonderful husband Tom would always go with me, helping to lug in all the stuff, to set up what sort of kind of looked like a kitchen counter. Even with the early morning hours it was  and still is always great fun!

A couple of years ago, though, I suggested to the WBTV team that it might be easier if we filmed in my home kitchen. While I still go back to the studio every now and again; now, once a quarter or so, Kristen comes to me,  with lights, camera and photographer and we film four cooking spots to air over the next several months. Such was the case last week.

Fresh off the recipe planning for my Gluten Free Gourmet class a couple of weeks ago, I decided that this recipe for Gluten Free Banana Pancakes might be a fun way to start – great recipe, perfect for kids to prep and help make if you are looking for family fun in the kitchen; plus use organic bananas and blueberries, local eggs and Charlotte’s own Cloister Honey and its a practically perfect way to start the day or enjoy as a little late afternoon pick me up or after school snack.

cinnamonTo spice it up a bit – add one teaspoon to one Tablespoon of your favorite cinnamon from the Savory Spice Shop. ( I shop at the SouthEnd location in Charlotte and while I mix and match the trio of cinnamons they offer, I have to admit that the spicy but very flavorful Saigon Cassia Ground Cinnamon might be my favorite to add to this recipe.

bourbon HoneyLikewise you could top the pancakes with any sort of honey, but eating local is important to me, so local honey is my syrup of choice; and in this recipe the Cloister Honey Bourbon Honey pairs well; but Cloister’s whipped cinnamon honey, melted down in the microwave would be every bit as delicious .

For easy flipping, use a non stick pan and a very thin metal spatula and you are good to go – Here’s the printed recipe and the video for WBTV follows, enjoy!

For more info and to order on Cloister Honey from my friends Randall and Joanne Young in Charlotte NC, visit

For more info on the Savory Spice Shop Southend, visit my friends Amy and Scott MacCabe at the shop at Atherton Mill, 2000 South Blvd.  suite 150, Charlotte, North Carolina 28203 or friend them on their page on Facebook 

Gluten Free Banana Pancakes

Recipe shared by Heidi Billotto

1 ripe banana, mashed

1 local or organic egg

½ tsp. baking powder

Blend all of the ingredients together, but keep the batter a little lumpy with chunks of banana

Drop the batter onto a hot non stick fry pan in spoonfuls to make silver dollar sized pancakes.

Cook until bubbles form on the top of the pancakes and the edges are firm. Flip with a this spatula to brown the other side.

Serve topped with fresh blueberries and a drizzling of Charlotte’s own Cloister Honey’s Bourbon Honey

Still time to Indulge in Charlotte Restaurant Week – The 2014 Winter Queens Feast runs Jan 17-26

cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgWith the last weekend of the winter 2014 Queens Feast Charlotte Restaurant Week upon us, I wanted to share two fabulous dinners my husband Tom and I enjoyed during the two week winter run of this semi annual culinary event.

What? You’ve never partaken in Restaurant Week before? What are you waiting for? You have until January 26 to enjoy the perks – make your reservations today!

Its super simple and at 3 for $30 pricing (3 courses for $30, exclusive of alcohol, tax and gratuity) its a great way to try out a new place or revisit on old favorite…

Here is how it works –

Charlotte Restaurant Week - the winter 2014 Queens Feast

Charlotte Restaurant Week – the winter 2014 Queens Feast

There are over 100 participating restaurants on the Queens Feast web site, so lots of offerings to choose from – search for restaurants by neighborhood or name.
Then, click on each restaurant’s name to view the exact location of each dining establishment, contact/reservation information and the restaurant’s  special Charlotte Restaurant Week menu. To make it all the easier, the link to the site is at the end of this post.

Be sure to make advance dinner reservations and then all you have to do is show up. Its really just that easy.  No passes, tickets, or restaurant coupons are  required.

Most restaurants go all out to share what they do on a regular basis for an exceptional 3 for $30 pricetag. Some restaurants also offer their regular menus should not everyone in your party want to partake in the Restaurant week offerings and this year I have noticed that many places are offering several additions or enhancements to their individual Queen Feast menus at an additional charge.

Heidi Tom and SwitchbackWith so many Charlotte area restaurants participating, the choice of where to dine is a tough one. Over the past two weeks, my husband, Tom Billotto and I took time out to eat at two outstanding Charlotte restaurants participating in the promotion: Passion 8 Bistro and Bonterra Dining and Wine Room.

Our first dinner was the first Sunday of the Queens Feast run. Passion 8 Bistro is one of our favorite places in town, but they are not usually open on Sunday or Monday nights. For restaurant week, however, the schedule changes and the place is open for business as usual on what are regularly the chefs nights off. I called to make reservations and was delighted to find they had a table for two open.

The team at Passion 8 Bistro

The team at Passion 8 Bistro

We enjoyed an incredible Restaurant Week meal  – chefs Luca Annunziata, Matt Matthew Krenz and Evan Micek and staff outdid themselves!  So much food on the 3 for $30 menu – portions are big, so some of our dinner made its way into to-go containers and we very much enjoyed the rest for lunch the next day!

While I ordered from the Restaurant Week menu, Tom opted to ordered from the short list of nightly specials. It was wonderful to have so many choices.
Food, wine, service and atmosphere are always wonderful at this small 48 seat bistro supporting over 40 farms and serving a market menu every evening.  A pictorial of our first 2014 Restaurant Week meal follows.
Passion 8 Bistro's escargot

Passion 8 Bistro’s escargot

Passion  8 was serving the Restaurant Week menu as well as an abbreviated regular menu – so we decided to mix it up a bit – I ordered a la restaurant week and Tom went for the nightly specials – a marvelous mix as we shared each plate.
I kicked it off with the escargot in a fabulous chimichurri butter and ancho cream sauce on the evening specials menu. When I was a little girl escargot was the first “fancy” food I ever ordered in a restaurant – tongs, shells, tiny forks, garlic butter and all. These escargot at Passion 8 were. oh so. different than that and oh so. much better than what I remembered – no shells, no special equipment; but it brought back wonderful memories. It’s been so long since I have had escargot -LOVED them done this way!
Passion 8 Cheese plate

Passion 8 Cheese plate

Tom started with the Passion 8 cheese plate – my photo here really doesn’t do it justice – a beautiful oversized platter of four cheeses with a delicious local jam and crispy flatbread crackers.
pasnip and NC apple soup with BBQ beet salad, crispy pigs ear, Tega Hill Farm microgreens

pasnip and NC apple soup with BBQ beet salad, crispy pigs ear, Tega Hill Farm microgreens

Next, the first of three courses from my offical Charlotte Restaurant Week meal at Passion 8  – a warm and creamy apple and parsnip soup topped with a BBQ beet salad and a slice of crispy pigs ear. Okay, I’ll bite… the beets obviously weren’t the challenge here –  I am a beet lover and the salad with Tega Hill farm micro greens was a nice foil to the creamy soup . But the pigs ear…well, honestly could have done without the pig’s ear – but in the spirit of paying homage to the whole animal when you use local product, I got it – I tasted it and it was a nice touch!

Passion 8's infamous Calamari Cubano

Passion 8’s infamous Calamari Cubano

Tom’s second plate was the infamous Passion 8 calamari – this is a dish Chef/owner Luca Annunizata has had on the Passion 8 menu for years – his original plan was to change the recipe around every month or so and make it some sort of calamari special; but regular customers – the Billotto’s included – won’t let him take this lime, jalapeno and honey glazed fried calamari off the menu – with good reason:its incredible! A must try the next time you go to experience dinner at Passion 8.

NC trout with black garlic sauce

NC trout with black garlic sauce

Entrees came next – for me the Restaurant Week  – NC trout with smoked NC trout roe and a side of silken tofu and black garlic sauce – really tasty and the first time I have ever had Black Garlic – thank you to Passion 8 chef Matthew Krenz for all of the information about this warm, rich and earthy ingredient. Now I am anxious to get some and try it out in recipes for myself.

Wild caught U-10 scallops with parsnip puree, Brussels sprouts with cherries and almonds, bourbon and thyme demi

Wild caught U-10 scallops with parsnip puree, Brussels sprouts with cherries and almonds, bourbon and thyme demi

Tom ordered the scallops from the non restaurant week menu – outstanding and of melt -in-your-mouth proportions ( there is also a scallop starter on the Charlotte Restaurant Week menu at Passion 8.) Toms plate was done with a parsnip puree and Brussels sprouts with  cherry and almonds and a Bourbon and Thyme demi  – oh my!

dark chocolate ganache with grand Marnier scented meringue

dark chocolate ganache with grand Marnier scented meringue

And for dessert on the Passion 8 Bistro Charlotte Restaurant Week menu – a bowl of chocolate ganache studded with Grand Marnier scented meringue, devil’s food cake and  a roasted pear – nuff said!

sous vide NC apples with sorghum molasses infused crème fraiche

sous vide NC apples with sorghum molasses infused crème fraiche

Tom Billotto’s favorite Charlotte Restaurant Week dessert at Passion 8 Bistro was the rich and wonderful sous vide NC apples with sorghum molasses infused crème fraiche – a perfect ending to the evening.

Bonterra logoOur next 2014 winter Queens Feast restaurant week meal this week was at another of our favorite restaurants – Bonterra Dining and Wine Room located in Charlotte’s historic SouthEnd. Bonterra is a special restaurant for Tom and me, as it is where we met at a friend’s wedding in 2003, but despite our emotional attachment to the place, the food is always excellent and the wine list of offerings by the glass and by the bottle, always spectacular…and the service is some of the best around. Thanks to owner John “JD” Duncan and staff for doing such a wonderful job!

Bonterra's Chef Bill Schutz in action

Bonterra’s Chef Bill Schutz in action

Bonterra doesn’t offer the restaurants’ regular menu during all the restaurant week hubbub; however there are some “enhancements” to the 3 for $30 menu you can make if you would like a different seafood or steak option or would like to add Bonterra’s signature fried lobster tail, a crab cake or shrimp or scallops to any entrée. Enhancements or no,   Chef Bill Schutz outdid himself on the menu … simple but decidedly delicious.

NFL logoRight after Restaurant Week ends, Chef Bill will be representing Charlotte, cooking at an exclusive NFL cocktail party in NYC. As this pre Superbowl extravaganza,  each city with an NFL team will have a chef cooking and a representative of their team in attendance.  I know Bill will represent us well – can’t wait to hear what he’ll be cooking – more later!
For now its back to our 2014 Bonterra restaurant week meal…
Bonterra's crispy calamari

Bonterra’s crispy calamari

To start,  Tom was still in calamari mode and so he ordered the crispy calamari  with creole seasoning, tomato aioli and fresh herbs – excellent.

Grilled shrimp and Anson Mill grits at Bonterra

Grilled shrimp and Anson Mill grits at Bonterra

I opted for a simple but rich and flavorful plate of the most tender grilled shrimp over a bed of Anson Mill grits.  I asked for the Andouille cream sauce on the side and I found  it was the perfect way to enjoy all the intricate flavors of each component of this tasty dish.

saintsbury pinot noir
One of the wonderful things about dining at Bonterra is the wine list    – from the start, the bar at Bonterra has been set up with an exclusive system for storing and preserving the wines at the restaurant, leading to the largest by the glass wine program in the country with more than 200 options at any one time. Whenever you dine at Bonterra you can wine as well – by the glass or by the bottle. This night Tom and I enjoyed one of our favorite California Pinot Noirs- Saintsbury 2010 Carneros – oh so good!
Bonterra' s roasted free range chicken breast

Bonterra’ s roasted free range chicken breast

My entrée for this Charlotte Restaurant Week dinner at Bonterra Dining & Wine Room was the roasted free range chicken breast served with toasted farro, leaf spinach, red wine shallots and a fresh thyme sauce;

The pasta option on the Bonterra restaurant week menu

The pasta option on the Bonterra restaurant week menu

while Tom, very much enjoyed the  pasta offering –  an excellent choice tossed with asparagus, fire roasted mushrooms, basil and Parmigiano.

The evening ended with two delicious desserts – a NY style cheesecake for Tom and a molten  chocolate cake for this food writer – delish!
For more information about all of the restaurants participating in Charlotte’s 2014 Queens Feast Restaurant Week visit:
For more information on Passion 8 Bistro in Ft Mill – visit 

Passion8 Bistro on Urbanspoon

For more information on Bonterra Dining and Wine Room in Charlotte’s SouthEnd neighborhood, visit

Bonterra on Urbanspoon

Eat your Peas and Carrots ( and the pods and the stems as well) Repurposing Your Produce Scraps

Heidi Billotto in the kitchen with Charlotte Today hosts Coleen Odegaard and Ramona Holloway

Heidi Billotto in the kitchen with Charlotte Today hosts Coleen Odegaard and Ramona Holloway

Heidi Billotto’s Shares Fun Produce Tips

on WCNC’s Charlotte Today 

Jan 15 , 2014

Save the Scraps and Repurpose Your Produce…

If you have just made a salad or prepared a fresh veggie or two for dinner, think twice before you toss the scraps in the garbage.  This morning on WCNC’s Charlotte Today I did a fun “cooking” segment with my friends, show hosts Colleen Odegaard  and Ramona  Holloway. How to repurpose your produce “scraps”. This cooking “tip and tricks” topic was producer Allison Andrews’ idea but I was up to the challenge and came up with five or six tasty solutions to avoid wasting the good stuff.

Click here for the  Jan 15 video of Heidi Billotto on WCNC’s Charlotte Today 

And here is what we chatted about during the segment…. 

regrown celeryCelery – First of all, purchase whole celery heads, not just celery hearts – you’ll get tons more flavor and then  when you need celery – slice across the whole head for more flavor than you can get simply slicing up  one stalk. Then when you are done and down to the root, put the root end of the celery in a pot of dirt and believe it or not you can regrow it! use the new celery leaves as you would any flavorful herb.


broccoli crowns, stems and leaves are all great to eat!

broccoli crowns, stems and leaves are all great to eat!

Broccoli  – You can buy crowns of broccoli as easily as you can purchase whole stalks, but the stalks are every bit as good as the flowers. So just cut the whole stalks so that your blossom ends have a stalk and then peel the stalk with a vegetable peeler so that it will be more tender as your steam or boil it.  You may also cut the stems for the blossom end, peel and then cut into sticks to serve on a raw veggie tray, or the stalks may be peeled and shredded for broccoli slaw. Or steam or boil the blossoms and then cut the stalks into slices – they will resemble little clouds and you can use them in stirfries or instead of or in addition or in place of the peas in  pot pies

What to do with orange and citrus peels?

What to do with orange and citrus peels?

Orange, grapefruit, lemon or lime peel – Its so easy to repurpose any citrus peel –  just cut it into thin strips and then candy it in a simply syrup made with one cup of sugar and one cup of water .

Make candied citrus rind by puuting the cut rind into a simply syrup - 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. bring the mix to a boil and then let cool .  Pull candied rind out of the syrup and dust with organic granulated sugar

Make candied citrus rind by putting the cut rind into a simply syrup – 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. bring the mix to a boil and then let cool . Pull candied rind out of the syrup and dust with organic granulated sugar

The candied peel can be used to garnish desserts and the leftover syrup is delicious mixed with you favorite pour in cocktails or used over ice with a splash of sparkling soda for the family to enjoy instead of a soft drink.

Candied orange rind with a orange peel rosette

Candied orange rind with a orange peel rosette

Buy organic carrots for the vey best flavor in the root and greens as well

Buy organic carrots for the vey best flavor in the root and greens as well

Carrot tops  – I have been enjoying the fabulous harvest of local carrots Charlotte has had this year and always opt to take my carrot purchase home from farmers markets with the greens attached. As I had the greens on hand, I  have been doing a bit of research and while I
knew that the carrot tops are as healthy as the carrots – I didn’t know just how healthy.

Carrots themselves are high in beta carotene, Calcium and Potassium, and vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and E.

The carrot greens  contain 6 times the vitamin C in the carrot and are a great source of potassium. They are also an excellent source of magnesium, which promotes healthy blood pressure as well as strong bones and muscles.

So buy  the carrots with the greens still attached.  Cut of the greens and cook, juice or use them first  – carrots have a longer refrigerator shelf life than do the greens – carrot greens are delicious as the herb in  homemade vinaigrettes ( see my favorite vinaigrette recipe  in the Jan issue of Charlotte Parent Magazine  (  and simply add in 2-3 Tbsp. of carrot tops with the dried herbs. You can use minced carrot tops in pestos or to flavor  vegetable, potato or carrot soup as well.


Make the leek and potato soup recipe below garnished with minced carrot tops and "hearts" of heavy cream

Make the leek and potato soup recipe below garnished with minced carrot tops and “hearts” of heavy cream

More scraps and peels? Any other veggie peels and stems, stalks etc. can go into a homemade veggie broth – the recipe is super simple – just put all of your scraps in a big pot, add 1-2 cans of organic whole or diced tomatoes and one chopped onion; cover with water and bring it to a boil. After the volume of the water reduces by one half, strain the broth from the veggies parts and pieces, discard the veggies and season the broth to taste with salt and pepper or you favorite herbs or spices. Homemade veggie broth will freeze well for up to a year.

If all else fails – compost – Honestly, this  has been a hard concept for me to wrap my head around, but it really does make sense… and so 2014 may be my year to stop tossing scraps I really don’t use and instead compost them Remember when you first started to recycling and it seems a pain to rinse out cans and jars? Then we got used to it and now it just seems like second nature – plus its so much better of our environment and our landfills. Well, just think of composting as recycling for veggies  – smart to do for your garden and for the environment!

You may start small with tabletop and indoor composters and then move to a bigger outdoor composter when you are ready.

Leek and potato Carrot top soup

Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto

1 ½ lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes or slices

2 white rainbow carrots or 1 parsnip, cut into slices

4 medium leeks, chopped

1 cup minced carrot greens

4 cups water

1 cup heavy cream or half and half

sea salt and pepper to taste

minced carrot greens to serve on top

Bring the potatoes, carrots or parsnips, leeks, carrot greens and water to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes,

Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Return to the pot and stir in the heavy cream or  half and half. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot or cold garnished with additional minced carrot greens


Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto

3/4 pound lean beef – London Broil or flank steak – thin sliced

1 1/4 cups oil, or as needed


1 Tbsp. rice vinegar

1 Tbsp. organic sugar

1 tsp. Mushroom flavored soy sauce

1 Tbsp. water

1 Tbsp. cornstarch


2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce

2 Tbsp. mushroom soy sauce

1 Tbsp. water


1 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp. water


1 pound fresh broccoli stalks cut into “clouds”

4 carrots, sliced or cut into tulips

1 garlic clove, finely minced

Cut the beef across the grain into thin slices. Add the marinade ingredients, adding the cornstarch last (use your fingers to rub it in). Marinate the beef for 30 minutes.
While the beef is marinating, prepare the sauce and vegetables: for the sauce, mix together the hoisin sauce, light soy, dark soy, and water in a small bowl and set aside. In another small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water thickener and set aside.
Wash and drain the broccoli. Cut the stalk diagonally into thin slices. Cut the flowerets into 3 or 4 pieces. Combine with the carrots and boil or steam quickly in ½ cup As soon as the broccoli turns a spring green color, drain it form the cooking water and rinse quickly with cold water. Reserve.
Heat the wok and add 1 cup oil. When the oil is medium-hot (use the wooden spoon test, add the beef. Sear quickly and remove the beef from the wok when it changes color and is nearly cooked (about 1 – 2 minutes).
Drain beef on several thicknesses of paper towels.
Pour the majority of the oil out of the wok leaving only 2 Tablespoons.
Heat wok again, when the oil is hot, add the beef with the garlic and quickly toss to combine. Add in broccoli, sprinkle with ¼ tsp. salt and ½ tsp sugar over, and stir fry briefly, turning down the heat if necessary to make sure it doesn’t burn. Toss well to combine with beef.

Add the sauce and cornstarch mixture in the middle of the wok and stir quickly to thicken. Mix everything together and serve hot over steamed rice.

Going Gluten Free? Here’s a great North Carolina Chestnut Flour bread recipe you’re gonna love!

cropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgWhat a fabulous weekend, filled with three great cooking classes – two a part of my At Home with Heidi series and the other a private cooking class designed for a group of 10-year-old-chefs-to-be celebrate a birthday and make dinner for Saturday night sleepover!

gluten freeEarlier that Saturday morning my At Home with Heidi Gluten Free Gourmet cooking class was a huge success; and in addition to a wonderful soft gluten free white bread we also created a heartier gluten free bread with Locally produced Chestnut flour from my good friends at High Rock Farm in Gibsonville NC.

High Rock Farm is the largest working and producing chestnut orchard in the mid-Atlantic region with a grove of nearly 500 chestnut trees. While the farm is chestnut-centric, High Rock also produces a hearty crop of pecans each fall from some 400 pecan trees; and in the spring visitors can look to enjoy the annual blackberry harvest.

HRF 3High Rock Farm was built in 1807 by Joseph McCain, Senator John McCain’s fourth great-grandfather. This federalist style home features many large rooms including eight fireplaces, antique furniture, and beautiful landscape. High Rock Farm is one of North Carolinas Historic landmarks and is listed under Preservation North Carolina.

The historic home at High Rock Farm in Gibsonvie, NC

The historic home at High Rock Farm in Gibsonville, NC

The farm house sits off High Rock Road and was used as a stage coach stay in the 1800’s. At one time, the house was also home to a local tavern and area post office. Today the historic house is home to Richard Teague who planted his first chestnut tree in 1991, and is available for home and farm tours by appointment.

Pecans are generally harvested in October and then packaged for sale directly from the farm, but they go fast! To extend the life and flavor of the pecans High Rock Farm also produces and sells sugar toasted pecans and chocolate covered pecans as well as their chestnuts, chestnut flour, dried chestnut kernels and in season fresh blackberries and raspberries and as well as their own blackberry jam. These fabulous local products are available all year round.

For information about ordering product or visiting the farm ( or perhaps hosting your wedding celebration there) visit for all the details

fresh picked chestnuts

Fresh picked chestnuts are roasted and then ground into flour at North Carolina’s own High Rock Farms

If you are looking to cook gluten free – chestnuts and pecans will be a great healthy addition to your diet and kitchen pantry. The fact that these nuts are a local North Carolina product, makes them all the better! High Rock Farm’s Chestnut flour may be used in any gluten free bread or baked good recipes to give a heartier taste and texture similar to that of whole wheat flour.

gluten free chestnut flour breadBelow you will find the High Rock Farm Chestnut Flour  Bread recipe I developed for the class – I was inspired by a great little cookbook called Gluten Free on a Shoestring. See details at the end of this post.

This fresh baked bread is best enjoyed once it is out of the oven and has been allowed to cool completely. While it is tempting to cut it while it is still hot from the oven, with the bread cool, it may be cut to a thinner slice and is perfect for sandwich bread.

If you would like to serve the bread warm (Gluten free or not – who doesn’t love warm bread?) wrap the completely cooled loaf in foil and reheat in a 250-300 degree oven. If you cut into the loaf hot out of the oven just after baking, the interior will still be damp with steam.

If you wait and rewarm the bread, you will be rewarded with much better results both in terms of taste and texture.

tj flourJust a couple of recipe notes before we begin.

After doing a lot of research and trying several different gluten free flours, my favorite blend in the  gluten free flour blend from Trader Joe’s – it seems to work the best in  all sorts of baking, from yeast breads to cobblers which rise with the addition of baking powder or baking soda. so we’ll start with 2 cups of this all purpose Gluten free flour as the base for our bread and then blend in the wonderful High Rock Farms Chestnut Flour to give our bread the nutty tasting finish.


X gumThe Xantham Gum is a very important part of the Gluten free yeast bread equation. It is the ingredient which interacts with the yeast – in place of the gluten found in regular all purpose flour – to give your bread dought the elasticity to rise.   Some gluten free flour mixes already include xantham gum, but I prefer to use a mix that does not and add my own. In manufacturing, xanthan gum is used as a thickening, emulsifying and stabilizing agent in foods such as chewing gum, toothpaste, bottled salad dressings, etc. and it works exactly the same way in your yeast bread, but to make it work the most effectively, you really need to mix it in vigorously – which is why mixing this batter up in a stand mixer is the best way to blend the batter.

saf yeastFinally about the yeast – Yeast is a living growing organism and is what gives your bread dough the power to rise.

In proofing yeast, as soon as bubbles begin to form on the surface of the water you are good to move forward with the recipe.

In proofing yeast, as soon as bubbles begin to form on the surface of the water you are good to move forward with the recipe.

Normally a package of yeast must be proofed before you use it in any yeast bread so that you can be sure it will indeed rise. To proof yeast, simply mix a tablespoon with tepid water and a bit of sugar and stir, as soon as little bubbles form on the surface of the water, the proofed yeast is ready to add to your bread dough.

Heat can kill the yeast – so it is best stored in a cool spot like your refrigerator or freezer.  Personally, I like SAF brand yeast. It is a French instant yeast and it needs no proofing and it works wonderfully each and every time. Once open I keep my bag in a freezer quality Zip Lock bag in my freezer. The fact that it doesn’t require proofing means you may add it directly to the dry ingredients in your recipe – which is how I have written the recipe here. I have found SAF yeast locally in Charlotte at the Healthy Home Economist Food Store; but it is also available online, as is xanthan gum, at

chestnut flour bread - gluten freeHeidi’s Chestnut Flour Sandwich Bread
As taught by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto

2 Cups Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Flour Blend ( after experimenting around, I think this is the best gluten free flour blend on the market.
1 cup High Rock Farm’s Chestnut Flour
2 ¼ tsp. Xantham Gum
2 tsp. Sea salt – I like to use the fine grind of pink Himalayan sea salt available at the Savory Spice Shop in Southend Charlotte
3 ¼ tsp. instant Yeast (I like the SAF Instant brand)
¼ tsp. Cream of Tartar
2 Tbsp. organic Sugar
1 ½ Cups organic whole Milk (fat free,almond, soy and coconut mild yield less than desirable results in this recipe)
¼ Cup Butter, melted then cooled
1 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 local Egg Whites

Combine the gluten free flour blend and the chestnut flour in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the xanthan gum, cream of tartar, sugar and yeast, salt and blend on low speed to combine the dry mix well.

Add the  milk, cooled butter, vinegar, eggs, to the dry ingredients and then combine until well blended on low speed. Once the wet ingredients have been incorporated into the dry ingredients, turn the mixer up to high speed and allow to mix for about 5 minutes – yes 5 minutes – gotta work up the xantham gum so it can do its job!

Once the dough is blended, spoon it into a buttered and parchment paper lined bread pan. Allow the dough to rise in a warm but not hot spot for about 30 minutes. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes or so. Allow the bread to cool for about 5 minutes in the pan and then use the parchment paper to lift the bread out of the pan and allow it to cool completely before slicing – enjoy!

GF bread bookGF bookCheck out these two cookbooks for more great gluten free recipes and of course more ways to use the High Rock farms chestnut flour – substitute it in any gluten free recipe for up to half of the flour called for in the list of ingredients for a fabulous nutty flavor to your final baked product.

Anyone can cook, let Heidi Billotto show you how to make it fun – 2014 kicks off with Eleven Fabulous Cooking Classes!

cooking class with Nadacropped-heidi-cooks-logo.jpgIt’s always a blast! My Cooking Classes are held at my South Charlotte home in my kitchen. Once you make your reservations I will send out directions to our home,  its all hands on unless you’d rather just sit and watch, enjoy, eat and drink, which is fine, too. Wine parings with every dish, recipes packets and wine notes for each class participant. Cost is $65 – $75 per person. Class size is limited – your advance reservations via email gets you on the class list and advance payment confirms your space in class. To make your reservations for any of these classes – or to plan a private cooking class or teambuilding event of your own, just email me at and we’ll get it set up.

tables set for cooking classMy unique On the Farm Classes are held at various farms in and around Charlotte.
 Each On The Farm class includes a walking Farm Tour and then we settle into the farm kitchen to cook with ( and eat!)  whatever is in season.    You really just have to experience these classes for yourself, there is indeed something quite special about being on all these local farms…

Class size is limited depending upon the size of the farm. At each farm we cook and eat and drink and you and your fellow classmates can watch or lend a hand if you’d like and together will learn to chop, slice, simmer and saute along the way.

So,  now that you know how it works…Lets Get Cooking!!!

Roman Holiday – Food and Wine of Rome with guest Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy.                                 Wednesday Jan 15, 6:30-9:30 pm.

Nada Vergili of Nada's Italy

Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy

Want to travel to Rome? Nada’s tours are fabulous and when you do go to Rome, you should plan the trip through Nada. But for now, why not just attend my Roman Holiday cooking class with my special guest Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy-Tours!  These hands -on cooking classes with Nada are always great fun.                                                    We’ll all cook, enjoy food and wine of Italy ( in this case of Rome and surrounds in particular) and then Nada will teach us all some fun Italian phrases and a little bit about this wonderful and historic region.                                                                    

The classic Roman entrée, Porchetta

The classic Roman entrée, Porchetta

On the menu: we’ll kick things off with a negroni cocktail, but make it a bit more local by using TOPO Distillery certified organic gin from Chapel Hill! Then we’ll prepare cacao e pepe – a fabulous pasta dish with pecorino romano and cracked pepper; a pasta and chick pea soup; porchetta made from local pork shoulder from A Way of Life Farm in Bostic NC and a nutella tiramisu for dessert – Italian wines to pair with each course provided by my friend Josh Villapando at the Assorted Table Wine Shoppe.

Cost is $75 per person, class runs from 6:30-9:30 – printed recipe packet and wine notes for all participants.    To Join us for your Roman Holiday, simply email me at to make your reservation – Ciao!

gluten freeSat Jan 18 – Gluten Free Gourmet –
11am – 2:30 pm
Now here’s a class I’ve been wanting to offer for some time and so excited to finally have it on the books – an entire dinner meal – all gluten free – with easy substitutions and a host of new products with which to work; plus we’ll adding fresh and local product from this morning’s farmers’ markets. Wine pairings with each course, of course!
Cost is $65 email Heidi at to make your advance reservations

pieSunday Jan 19 -The Apple of My Pie – 1-4 pm
Nothing more fun than baking in the winter and filling the kitchen with warm wonderful aromas, This afternoon the concentration will be on pies – 4 different from scratch crusts with sweet and savory fillings and an easy way to make pie for a crowd with the refrigerator crust you just unroll and bake.
Cost is $65 email Heidi at to make your advance reservations

grillSunday Jan 26 – On the Winter Grill –  At Home with Heidi – 1-4 pm
This is a fun seasonal At Home with Heidi Class everyone will love. Local chicken, pork, beef and veggies all on the grill. Class covers basic grilling techniques, marinades, dry rubs and more. You’ll  be good to grill for any occasion after this fun and flavorful and informative class. Lots of tips and tricks to help you achieve grilling perfection. On the menu – grilled antipasto veggies and house marinated olives, tuna burgers with grilled jalapeno and cilantro pesto,  dry rub bbq chicken with tabouli,  grilled from scratch sausage biscuits and a fun  grilled dessert you are going to love. Wine pairings with each dish, of course!
Cost is $65 email Heidi at to make your advance reservations

eiffle towerTues Jan 28 – French Dressing – 6:30-9:30 pm – At Home with Heidi
A Winter spin on a delicious Food and Wine of France menu. Wine pairings, techniques for making sauces, braising and more
Cost is $65 email Heidi at to make your advance reservations

may 2013 007Feb 1 – Superbowl Spread On the Farm at Tega Hills Farms – 3-6:30 pm
Come prep for the big game in the warmth of Tega Hill’s hydroponic greenhouses in Ft. Mill and we use all Mark and Mindy Robinson of Tega Hill grow and have in season. Farm tour and cooking class with wine and some local beer pairings, too!
Cost is $75 email Heidi at to make your advance reservations

wines of spainTuesday Feb 4 – Food and Wine of Spain – 6:30-9:30 pm
Hands -on class – At Home with Heidi- a complete meal from tapas to dessert with regional wine parings with each dish
Cost is $65 email Heidi at to make your advance reservations

breadSat Feb 8 – Bread baking 101- 11 am – 3pm -At Home with Heidi
This is the winter therapy you’ll knead to keep you happy! Nothing like baking your own bread and I’ll share several tips and tricks to make it easy and fun; using recipes from my own collection and some from several of my favorite bread baking books –
Cost is $65 email Heidi at to make your advance reservations

december 2013 076Tues Feb 11 – On the Bone with local beer pairings -At Home with Heidi- 6:30-9:30 pm
A fun twist on one of my favorite classes – we are cooking local beef, pork, lamb and chicken all on the bone and then pairing each dish with a local Winter beer – Eat Local – Drink Local
Cost is $75 email Heidi at to make your advance reservations

Nada Vergili of Nada's Italy

Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy

Sat Feb 15 – The Annual That’s Amore cooking class with Nada Vergili of Nada’s Italy – 5:30-9:30 pm
This At Home with Heidi class is always a quick sell out – so make your reservations soon -Nada is back with us for a food and wine of Italy class for you and your Valentine; although you can come as a single or with friends too. We’ll cook a full meal, share Italian wine pairings and Nada will fill us in on some fun and flirtatious Italian pillow talk – good anytime of the year!
Cost is $75 email Heidi at to make your advance reservations

Sammy and Melinda Koenigsberg of New Town Farms

Sammy and Melinda Koenigsberg of New Town Farms

Sat March 8 – On the Farm at New Town Farms                        11 am – 4 pm                                                                       Veggies and heritage breed chickens and pigs are just a few of things you’ll see on this fabulous family farm in Waxhaw NC. So happy to be cooking once again with my good friends, local farmers Sammy and Melinda Koenigsberg.  This class begins in the kitchen as we prepare a menu
of recipes featuring New Town’s  chicken and eggs in addition to all that is ripe
and ready to pick in  the field. After we cook – and eat and drink – we’ll enjoy
a walking farm tour with our gracious hosts where we will meet the pasture raised
chickens and heritage breed  pigs and  learn about the ins and outs of farming acres
of wonderful produce.  Sammy will share with us his philosophy of farming and sustainability
and the importance of knowing how what we eat is grown and is raised.  Its more
than just a farm tour and cooking class – it’s an event that will change the way
you think about where your food comes from. Cost is $75 email Heidi to make your advance reservations at

bosky acres baby goatsSat March 22 – On the Farm at Bosky Acres – 11 am – 4 pm.                                                                                               Join me and meet Bosky Acres’ owner Michele Lamb and her oh-so-friendly herd of goats at the farm – including the group of new born kids who you can bottle feed if you would like.  its the only cooking class in twon  where you will learn how to milk a goat and how Michele makes her delicious fresh chevre. As the cheese process takes place, I will cook four different dishes – appetizers, entrees and a dessert – all using Bosky Acres tasty chevre and feta cheese.  Menu to come  – so happy to be at Bosky Acres once again!. Farm tour and cooking class- Cost is $65. For reservations, simply email Heidi at 

Great Recipes for Charlotte’s Panther Fever

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2014 – New Eats in Town – The Flipside Cafe

flipside logoWowzer! – With the new year at its very beginnings, it’s going to be a month marked by restaurants opening all over town in Charlotte, North Carolina; and as a food writer & restaurant critic in the Tarheel State’s Queen City, I am so excited … let the eating begin!
Funny enough, the first new place on which I will report is not actually in North Carolina, but instead in Ft. Mill South Carolina – close enough that we will claim it for sure…
Flipside owners Amy  and Jon

Flipside owners Amy and Jon

My husband Tom Billotto and I treated our 8-year-old friend, Natalie Bookout to dinner out as a part of a holiday vacation sleepover.

After an afternoon of adventures at Discovery Place, we all flipped over The Flipside Café , owned by my friends chefs Amy Kumpf and Jonathan Fortes. Of course, you’ll remember  Jon, winner of the 2013 Fire in the City Competition Dining and executive chef at Mimosa Grill. Amy is Jon’s fiancé and a former chef for the Harper’s group and Flipside is really her baby, although Jon comes in to help when he can.

 This little casual café in the Regency Park strip mall in Ft. Mill – not far from Carowinds and just 5 minutes from the downtown blocks of Pineville –  is turning out big flavors – lots of them local and all of them fresh and delicious. It’s a must try for sure! Tom and I loved.every bite… Natalie, too!
 Do check it out –3150 HIGHWAY 21 NORTH, FORT MILL SC, 29715,  803.802.1711.

Breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner – great kids’ offerings with tasty rather grown-up well seasoned choices. And even though Amy’s palate may be pork-centric, there are lots of vegetarian selections on the menu too! No ABC license yet, but it’s coming soon – in the meantime, enjoy!

To whet your palate, here’s a taste of what we enjoyed at our first ( but certainly not last) Flipside Café dinner – delish – we’ll be back soon!
We started with a several selections from the “small bites’ category on the menu for the table to share. These plate are small enough to serve as a starter to your meal or large enough to combine one with the other or with a soup or salad to make a dinner of small plates.
Soft Baked Pretzels and Amy's Pimento Cheese

Soft Baked Pretzels and Amy’s Pimento Cheese

First came  the  homemade pretzels with Amy’s pimento cheese – we all agreed the pretzels were delicious but could have used a little sprinkling of salt.  Salt or no, the pimento cheese was on the chunky side and made for the perfect foil to the slightly sweet dough of the soft warm pretzel – it was a refreshing change of pace from toasts or crackers with the classically Southern cheese spread.

Next from the small bites menu two dishes Tom could and will probably order over and over again – both vegetarian offerings and each one more better than the other.
The Flipside's Crispy Ravioli with local sweet potatoes is outstanding - perhaps our table's favorite plate of the evening

The Flipside’s Crispy Ravioli with local sweet potatoes is outstanding – perhaps our table’s favorite plate of the evening

The Crispy Autumn Raviolis, another “small bite” plate on the menu, were of melt in your mouth magnitude. These puffs of pasta are filled with local sweet potatoes, a small dice of sweet potato also surrounded the pasta which was also garnished with local greens, Pecorino and a flavorful drizzle of aged balsamic and extra virgin olive oil .  We loved it! Our suggestion is to double the quantity and offer this as a dinner plate of  Flipside’s “not so small bite” proportion.
A skillet of mac and cheese laced with spicy with soy chorizo

A skillet of mac and cheese laced with spicy with soy chorizo

Our third small bite for this first evening at The Flipside Café was the Mac and Cheese, dressed with the addition of a soy chorizo – a slightly spicy combo, that serves to soothe the pork lovers among us but speaks to the vegetarian palate as well. An excellent combo of flavor and I loved that it was served in a small cast iron skillet.

While Tom’s taste’s went for the pastas on the menu, I couldn’t resist ordering two combinations of mixed local seasonal greens, one listed as a salad the other as a side – both excellent choices and together practically a meal!
Warm Greens Salad with homemade ricotta and a delicious radish crema

Warm Greens Salad with homemade ricotta and a delicious radish crema

First the warm greens salad. I was intrigued here not only with the use of local greens, but with the house made ricotta and an interesting condiment on the side – a radish crema. The ricotta was rich and creamy while the crema weighed in smooth and soft but with the sharp bite of radish. Together with the crisp sweet apples and the toasted pistachios which finished the salad it was a winning combo of taste and texture.

warm asparagus salad topped with a local perfectly fried egg

warm asparagus salad topped with a local perfectly fried egg

The second side I ordered was the asparagus salad with roasted marinated mushrooms, greens, Parmesan and a perfectly fried local egg on top. I was grateful that our well-informed waitress mentioned that this side come finished with a sprinkling of truffle oil –  I opted to have it without. While truffle oil has its place, I really believe that most of the time it is too much of a good thing; and here would have drowned out the taste of the delicious local with the large golden yolk egg, the fine roasted veggies and the vibrant local greens. Tom agreed; and Natalie, one normally not so big on eggs, loved this one au natural as well – declaring it to be a thumbs up  as she asked for more …high praise from this 8-year-old to be sure!

from the kids menu at The Flipside Café - a cheeseburger and perfect house fries!
from the kids menu at The Flipside Café – a cheeseburger and perfect house fries!

While Natalie enjoyed the egg and other bites of the assortment of small plates we ordered, she had her heart set on a cheeseburger from the get go and The Flipside café did not disappoint. The children’s menu has a nice variety of offerings  that don’t play down to kids. Instead Amy and her culinary team take flavors and foods kids like and offer them up in a sophisticated but still kid friendly manner.

Natalie loved the cheeseburger – another big thumbs up –  saying that it was well seasoned and cooked just right. The handmade patty was delicious indeed; and the potatoes on the side, first blanched then fried and seasoned, were the perfect companion to the plate.

Not to slight adults who are also craving a burger,  a slightly more ornate version of this delicious hand made patty is offered daily as the  Flipside’s 5 Buck Chuck – a chuck burger with Amy’s pimento cheese, shredded lettuce and bacon jam, oh my!

Chef Amy Kumpf's take on classic Shepard's Pie

Chef Amy Kumpf’s take on classic Shepard’s Pie

While Tom and I were happily full at this point, I felt it my culinary duty to try at least one of The Flipside’s “not so small bites” aka dinner plates. I told the waitress to ask Amy to send out her favorite item and her own take on Shepard’s Pie with braised short rib, local greens and buttery potatoes and additional gravy on the side is what came to the table. Even as a dinner portion, quantities in Amy’s creative take on this classic Irish peasant dish were just the right amount  to satisfy but not stuff, and the presentation in a hot cast iron skillet made it look as charming as it tasted.

And then there were desserts…

Cookies and Cream

Cookies and Cream

cookies and cream deliciously transformed into a oversized ice cream sandwich

cookies and cream deliciously transformed into a oversized ice cream sandwich

A cookie and cream for Natalie – 2 large crispy warm chocolate chip cookies with a side of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup begged to be recreated into a make your own ice cream sandwich  – a task that Natalie carried out, and enjoyed, like a pro

Soon to be renamed the Elvis, this combo of chocolate cake, roasted bananas and peanut butter mousse hit the after dinner sweet spot - yum!

Soon to be renamed the Elvis, this combo of chocolate cake, roasted bananas and peanut butter mousse hit the after dinner sweet spot – yum!

For Tom the chocolate cake, roasted bananas and peanut butter mousse, served up in a ball jar… delicious!

espresso pots de creme
espresso pots de creme

And for me the slightly lighter espresso pot de crème served in a coffee cup topped with a bit of whipped cream – all three the perfect end to a meal we will most certainly return to enjoy again.

Plan a visit to The Flipside Café soon… and check out their website at for menu details and directions… or call if you have any questions – 803.802.1711
Monday – Thursday: 7am -9pm Friday: 7am -10pm; Saturday: 10am -10pm; Sunday: 10am – 2pm
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