I started a Facebook page to share my quarantine cooking adventures..hoping my friends would either tell me enough with the posting or get some ideas from what I am making ..I also hope to get some inspiration from their dinners as well.
Well tonight I want to talk about Gluten Free. I started this blog with the grandiose idea that I would share my experiences cooking and adapting Gluten Free recipes so that everyone can see that Gluten Free does not mean flavor free, it does not mean boring and it definitely does not mean overly complicated. I like to tell people who ask me about starting with gluten free diets that if you roasted chicken in the oven with nothing more than salt, pepper, maybe some garlic powder and some oil and served it with some rice or mashed potatoes and some steamed green beans ..you just ate a gluten free meal.
Tonight I made a version of a chicken recipe that I saw on The NY Times cooking page ..it has so many elements that make a delicious chicken Parmesan ..just minus the gluten..The thing about this recipe is it is essentially cooked all in one skillet and the layers of flavor just build on themselves. The original calls for pancetta I am out so thick cut bacon took its place. The recipe also calls for fresh basil..I took a look in the fridge and there was fuzz growing on mine…whoops…but I do have dried .., The recipe also calls for a can of whole plum tomatoes well again I am out but I did have San Marzano a decent substitution if I do say so myself..other changes: I improvised and added a shallot to the sauce and to finish it off you add fresh mozzarella ..I am well stocked there.
Trying a new recipe is always stressful ..trying a new recipe when someone else has shopped for your ingredients just adds to that sense if unease..my shopper in my case is my husband and he did a decent job picking things out from what was available at our local Roche Brothers Supermarket. The amazing thing about this recipe is it is naturally gluten free ..the chicken is browned in the same pan as the pancetta or bacon ..the sauce builds up its flavor from the bacon, the chicken the addition of garlic and chili flakes and I deglazed my pan with a little white wine before adding the tomatoes ..lastly the mozzarella and you garnish it all with the pancetta or bacon and some basil..unless you are me and have to skip this step..a gluten free meal in a skillet filled with flavor
This poor neglected site of mine ..the last time I posted here in 2014 was right around now give or take a week or 2 ..and it was at the cusp of many many changes headed my way. I am still concocting gluten free food ..taking inspiration from places I’ve traveled to, things I’ve eaten and yeah not going to lie..Pinterest…I just have not shred anything for a long time. There are pictures in the cloud that I will get around to sharing ..but first, indulge me while I explain my absence (does this count as a note?)
Of all the changes in my life since I was here last the most challenging one is my health took a rather nasty turn in the wrong direction. What started off as a sore neck as the result of sleeping in the wrong position (or so I thought) ..turned into something more complicated and life altering in the form of pericarditis with a rather decent sized effusion (pocket of fluid) in the pericardial sac ..to also include effusions in both of my lungs making breathing a challenge. The cause initially was chalked up to a virus since just a week or so previous to my symptoms appearing I had been sick. 3 days of recovery ..was later bumped to 3 weeks..and when I was not better they said wait 6 months and now 6 years later here we are. Eventually I switched physicians and hospitals and the cause was determined as systemic Lupus which was a gamer changer with its own life altering implications . A lousy diagnosis but at least we have a reason and can work with that. The recovery process has been slow and taken a toll on every aspect of my life but I see this as life altering not life ending . I am getting better ..and the original symptoms have eased up..although not entirely gone..or it may be possible that I have lived for the past 6 years like this and I am just tolerant to the pain ..either way I am a far more productive human being than I was even 3 years ago. The other challenges? The normal things that just about everyone can relate to ..house, kids, dogs ..not enough worthy of detailing. I will mention that although I was not the person in my family with celiac or who for whom a GF diet was necessary ..it is possible that I myself will begin limiting gluten as a way to bring my sky high inflammation markers down and help manage my symptoms better going forward.
So now that is out of the way..I have been cooking, creating, and taking pictures..Oh and idd I mention traveling? I just have not possessed the brain power to get this site up and running again..but it’s a new year..a new decade and time to get on with living and get rid of the hundreds of pictures of my food creations taking up space on my phone.
I have an idea that I might incorporate into this site..only problem is I have not a clue how to set up a proper website ..not my area of expertise shall we say ..but once I figure this out I think it may work out as a good addition to what I tried to accomplish here
In the meantime ..Today was one of those days when I opened the fridge and freezer and realized there is food in desperate need of cooking..and I need to stop buying things because they are on sale and hoping to get around to making something with said food. I had 2 packages of butternut squash rice staring at me..daring me to cook them ..and I decided to make a butternut squash “risotto”..you know using the riced veggies vs aborio rice..I will make a separate post because the results were less than stellar..I do have an idea to improve my first attempt ..but other things got in the way..things like making a banana cream pie for my husband ( I don’t do banana anything) this was not GF ..and I wish I liked the stuff..graham cracker crust, a layer of chocolate fudge (made by me) a banana, cream cheese and homemade whipped cream filling and the idea of eating it ..yeah no…I also made a cheeseburger pizza that was definitely not a fail
I totally have a new respect for anyone that attempts to make an ice cream cake. I got a bright idea that for my son, who is not gluten free by the way and whose birthday happens to be today..I would make an ice cream cake with the ice cream flavors he likes and make it gluten free as a bonus. I keep wondering what we did in the days before Pinterest and google with all their helpful suggestions and recipes to share? The above “gem” (stop laughing I can hear you) is my first attempt at making an ice cream cake and decorating it..not exactly a fail..but not exactly a win…
There is a science to making an ice cream cake..I did not know this until this week. Even if you are like me and decided to construct vs actually make the cake (and by make I mean create your own ice cream vs buying whatever brand is on sale at the grocery store) there is a lot of work that needs to go into this. Things like I did not know that you cannot melt the ice cream because it will refreeze into a different consistency..so softened ice cream is good..melted not so much. I chose to use slightly softened ice cream and to mash into the pan I used to mold it. The other important piece of information is before you even begin this project..make sure you freeze the cake pan you are using for a couple of hours in the coldest part of your freezer to insure it is nice and cold. Once the pan (I used a spring form pan) is cold line it with parchment paper to make it easier to remove the molded ice cream at the end.
Each Step was all about patience..I wish I took pictures as I was doing it but it went a little something like this…freeze pan, line and put back in freezer for a few minutes..put softened ice cream into bottom layer and smooth out..cover with plastic wrap and place back in freezer for a minimum of 2.5 hours. If you want the cookie crunch you have a couple of options..1) make cookies and cool them or buy pre made. For this venture I bought a package of Glutino GF oreo like cookies and mixed them with magic shell. You can make your own the recipe is embedded in this post… http://www.kinfolk.com/cakes-ages/
after you spread the cookie crunch and cover it with plastic wrap and refreeze for about 2 hours to set you add the top layer of ice cream. My son does not enjoy many ice creams beyond vanilla or vanilla with caramel mixed in so I opted for a layer of carame swirl and a layer of vanilla. The top layer took a while to freeze but once it was done I was able to “frost” the cake with a layer of cool whip and then put it back in the freezer to set again..then came the decorating part..and here is where not only my inexperience with decorating showed but also my laziness. Did I mention the boy is a HUGE Boston Bruins fan?
Said Boy is a Bruins fan and I thought that should not be too hard..AH WRONG WRONG WRONG. To start this adventure off on the wrong foot I was terrified of the prospect of making black icing and gave into that fear and purchased pre made black icing and furthering my laziness..I bought the yellow too. Those Betty Crocker tubes look nice and convenient don’t they? Yeah they are evil little tubes of plastic that are not easy to work with and to top it off the stencil I cut out with the B was sticking to the cake and no help at all…I did not give up even after I massively screwed up and to go to plan (pun definitely not intended) …also have I mentioned that said boy has Asperger’s Syndrome? SO he sees what I am doing and looks at me with a dropped face and says “You are not buying me an ice cream cake at Friendly’S”? ..Queue the epic fail. Next time I will just make the icing myself and use a pastry bag it will at least look less like a 5 year olds creation…now to get home again and see if it tastes good
Yesterday I felt kind of brave and decided to attempt something I usually leave to the aisles of the grocery store…making gluten-free tortillas. I was just in San Diego and spent some time in Old Town where I was able to watch some serious tortilla making pros. These women make the whole process look incredibly easy and the portion of my brain that has an issue with knowing my limits was like yeah I can do that.
So after researching several recipes and making sure I have all the correct ingredients, I set out to make flour tortillas. Here is the thing, a product is only as good as its recipe and recipe is only as good as the person who executes it..I am not completely sure where my experience took a turn..maybe it was my over confidence? I am not sure where things went wrong, however the thing is the tortillas actually tasted pretty good. The problem was they were more of a pita bread consistency AND (this is a BIG and) I am not sure if my skills with the rolling-pin are inadequate or working with gluten-free flour was the issue. The recipe I settled on was Alton Brown’s easy tortilla recipe from food network.com http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/flour-tortillas-recipe/index.html
my tortillas looked like some kind of misshapen mess, absolutely nothing like the goodies made on the streets of san Diego.
I wish I had a photo of my attempt but I was so disappointed with my results that I never bothered to even snap a quick shot of that hot mess.
there is a first time for everything and now I need to get back in the kitchen and figure out if the problem was the lack of gluten that gives flour its elasticity, my measurements are off due to the fact that I did not weigh the flour or if it was the recipe itself.
I am now using Pinterest as a source for inspiration and came across a new gluten free tortilla recipe that I am hoping to try..IF I can find the time..
One would think with the start of school realistically that time to experiment with new gluten free recipes would be non existent. HA! I am the kind of girl who responds better under pressure than not. Take for example, I was home all summer and until we got our new grill, I can count on one hand how many times I actually cooked at home (does heating things in the microwave count as cooking?) Saturday night in the midst of trying to figure out what exactly dinner was and if I possessed the right ingredients the kids decided they wished for me to make Aussie Cheese Fries like the ones found at the Outback Steak House and a light went off in my head..Bloomin Onion sounded good..it sounded really good. Problem is said onion is not Gluten Free. The kids were game for trying the onion, the husband was in too..so the question was how the heck does one make the darn thing?
Believe it or not, cutting and making the onion is a lot simpler than you might expect. Make sure you cut the top and not the root ..here are the instructions via foodnetwork.com http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes-and-cooking/how-to-slice-a-bloominrsquo-onion/pictures/index.html
The next step was finding the recipe to make the onion and converting it to Gluten Free. I am a huge fan of Cup 4 Cup flour, it has served me well in almost every recipe I have used it for so I decided it was the right blend to start with. Initially I tried the Food Network recipe but th batter was kind of blah and lacked the same spice that I am used to at the Outback so I increased the cayenne pepper, added some salt, extra black pepper, paprika and added garlic powder as well ..i like to kick things up a notch or 2. Although I did not soak the onion in buttermilk as I would chicken, I read in some comments on the recipe that people find this method helps the onion petal separate easier and stick less. The next thing was coating the onion and shaking out the excess flour before submerging the whole thing into very hot canola oil that I heated in my Le Cruset dutch oven…a little side rant ..I LOVE this pot, it cost a small fortune to buy but it has been the most versatile and user -friendly cookware I ever owned.
I did fry the onion twice because I needed to space out the petals and make sure the batter that was still raw between the petals actually cooked. The results were 2 not incredibly pretty looking onions but they tasted alright and went well with the sauce I made to dip them into..although the sauce was not as good as I expected the next time I try this I will try a spicy aioli I made a few years ago to go with homemade crab cakes…I served this with some chicken wings that I grilled and came up with a great hard lemonade recipe for the adults and fresh Squeezed lemonade for the kids
So..In the end, I am glad I gave this a whirl..this is definitely a recipe for parties or special occasions but I definitely try it again with a few modifications like soaking the onion first.
Finally gluten free is going mainstream..for really real! Finding decent gluten free food that is ready to make is often a challenge, historically the available options included small companies that are big on price and low in taste..that was until…I found myself in my local Walmart Super Store on Thursday.
I am admitting here that my relationship with Walmart is very love/hate. I hate going to Walmart. The store is big, bright, a pain to get to and they never have enough people working the cash registers so the wait time to check out really makes me think I am crazy for subjecting myself to this torture over and over because nothing changes ..ever. However there are times like Thursday when I find something new in the store I have not seen elsewhere and the end totally justifies the means. So as I grabbed paper towels, cleaning supplies, snacks for school and a few other staples I wandered over to the aisle with yogurt and the cookie doughs and what caught my eye was a small tub that said Gluten Free. I looked over and it was actually a container that said Pillsbury, I nearly wet my pants with excitement. The Pillsbury Doughboy is GLUTEN FREE!!! WOOHOO!!! So of course me being me, I bought every item available to give it a whirl without even looking at the price. However the love part of Walmart kicked in when I looked and the price was $3.99 for a tub of chocolate chip cookie dough..finally reasonably priced gluten free, it was enough to restore my faith in why I venture to Walmart every now and again.
Of course, once again me being me..I got home and instantly started doubting my purchase. After all, I have managed through much trial and error to come up with a method of making gluten free chocolate chip cookies that not only look good, but they also taste really good so if this dough is good, my ego was getting a swift kick. I decided yesterday to give the cookie dough a shot and baked a small batch. Just like regular pop n fresh dough all you do is take the container out of the fridge, preheat the oven to the recommended temperature (in this case 350 F) and spoon the dough onto a cookie sheet. I used a melon baller like I usually do to get a smaller cookie that is nice and rounded and the cookies are evenly sized.
Yeah I hate to admit this..but these were probably some of the best gluten free chocolate chip cookies I have ever tasted. They even passed the fussy girl’s taste test so I will be buying these again in the future. So now that we have tried these I have a tub of their gluten free pizza crust and pie dough waiting for me to give them a whirl. I am going to make a calzone and some pop tarts in a bit..I will let you know how they turn out in a post very soon. In the meantime..get yourself some of these cookies..even if it means going to walmart..I kid
I’m a lazy blogger..I think of posts in my head all the time and then when it gets right down to executing my thoughts I would rather goof off on Facebook. Summer is coming to an end and it is back to planning of lunches and figuring out what to feed the world’s fussiest child who happens to have celiac disease. I think I have a couple of ideas that might just pass the lunchbox test.. I do not know why I never thought to attempt to make gluten free pasta salad before, but after a trip to the local market I thought why not give it a try. The truest test if this is really good happens tomorrow when I take my creation to a family party where there are family members who are new to gluten free, but for now passing the test at my house is a good indicator one of the three recipes I created is a keeper.
Thanks to good friends, today I attended the New England Food Show in Boston. Gotta love friends with connections who can get you into a great exhibition such as this one. The place was a foodie’s wet dream (sorry for being so crude) there were samples of absolutely every type of food and drink you can imagine all ready to be looked at, asked about and tasted. I think I ate my way up and down the aisles stopping for a moment or 2 to peep at some great commercial style appliances and serving options. The show is geared for those individuals who are in the restaurant business and looking to connect with vendors of all kinds but I was lucky to tag along with my friends who operate a catering business here in New England.
It is absolutely amazing to me how many big name brands are served under house labels in your favorite restaurants and delis. While my friends were seeking out ways to expand their growing business, I was a woman on a mission seeking out the best of the best in gluten free offerings.
Finding gluten free options took a few minutes, there were pasta vendors, and a few bakers as well. One vendor had samples of gluten free lemon drop cookies available and lets just say I felt like I was tasting a piece of cardboard with lemon oil on it. All I thought was come on you think this stuff actually tastes good? There have been so many advances in making people aware of eating gluten free and like a few of these food vendors just did not get the message. The pasta vendor was excellent..in light of my recent discoveries of how to make tortillas at home I was quite excited to bend the ear of a natural tortilla maker who sold a gluten free option. The chef’s pitch was rather disheartened and his attitude was yeah we make them..but they are gluten free. Translation is they do not taste good but ours are the best available on the market that look white like your typical flour tortilla. If you ask me, being white and looking like a traditional tortilla is simply not enough. Just because individuals with celiac disease have no other choice than to eat a gluten free diet does automatically mean they have to sacrifice eating foods that are tasty and healthy as well. The secret to these particular gluten free tortillas was to hit them with steam vs dry heat to keep them pliable and not a hard brittle mess. Yeah so if steamed flour for effect and not taste is what you are going for these are the tortillas for you otherwise..there has to be another option.
Many of the chefs at the show were perfectly aware of what components of their foods did or did not contain gluten but most were not too keen on how the products taste or way too aware of cross contamination. I was surprised to see that Gillians breads are produced by a bread company that also produces many breads containing gluten. I will be interested to research to see if the gluten free breads are produced in a separate facility.
The other shocker for me was to walk up and down the aisles seeing all the very best in products available not only for lunch, dinner and breakfast but also for desert. The amount of cakes, cookies and ice creams available to supply to restaurants and catering companies is unreal. I sampled delicious lemon mousse cheese cake, chocolate cakes and frozen yogurt and then started seeing sprinkles and confections to decorate cakes with. Once again I ran into the same issue I am finding with all of these types of confections, manufacturers are processing them on equipment that also processes nuts, gluten and any other type allergen out there. For as much awareness as there is about nut allergies and gluten intolerance why are there not more companies committed or smart enough to start processing their items like sprinkles, decorative sugars and sugar confections on dedicated machinery to prevent cross contamination? These items are fairly easy to make just incredibly time consuming. I do not know, it seems like there is a huge section of the population that they are neglecting and could be tapping for profits.
So I am hoping my friends hook me up again next year to tag along with them to the Food Show. I really enjoyed being the safety officer for Chef’s Cove for a day
Well I did it, I attempted making Gluten Free glazed donuts and the results were not too bad but not perfect for the first try…I think the water was too hot for the yeast and so it did not rise as nicely as it could have..next time so I will use slightly cooler water, also I need a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oil..I am wondering if gluten free flour reacts differently than glutinous flours..but we will see ..just feels good to finally give these a try
Mother Nature either has a twisted sense of humor or she figures we here in the Northeast had it a little too easy and it is high time for a reality check. It is freaking snowing again..seriously? This weekend I am not quite so prepared for snowmageddon and did not buy out Whole Foods and my local chain…
So seeing that we have the potential for another nasty storm here tomorrow..and I find being snowed in exhausting! So the question is what to make? Tonight I tried a honey mustard pretzel chicken recipe that I originally saw on pinterest (I am admitting that I am a pinterest addict..I love the food porn people post) and then I followed the link to a site called cinnamon spice and everything nice. My chicken did not come out quite so pretty..maybe it has something to do with the gluten free pretzels not playing nice with the food processor….so this was my attempt at the honey mustard chicken recipe..it actually tastes much better than it looks. The chicken is lathered in honey mustard sauce before it dipped in the pretzels and then the remaining honey mustard goes on top…next time I think a ziploc bag and a rolling pin will crumble the pretzels much better than my food processor and I will play with the honey mustard seasoning as well..this is definitely a recipe that has potential…
So moving on to tomorrow..let me start by telling you that I am not a huge fan of donuts. I worked for a few years at a local coffee shop near my house and we served about as many donuts as we did coffee. Those were the days when each store employed a baker who came in during the middle of the night and made the donuts and the worker bees like me often came in early and “finished” the donuts before the morning rush. We filled jelly, frosting, custard, lemon, and apple..put frosting, sugar, powdered sugar and glaze on others then put them in paper lined baskets into their designated spots out front. The smell of grease and frosting permeated my hair and clothes while I worked there and yeah I was no longer a fan. That was until we traveled (many years later I might add) down below the Mason-Dixon line and I had my first Krispy Kreme glazed donut right out of the oven…it was so good it was sinful. My poor kid was sitting there looking at me like JERK, you are eating that yummy look thing and I am sitting here with a juice box and an apple. SO last week on Pinterest I came across a pin of Krispy Kreme looking donuts and more importantly …a recipe here is a link to a picture of these gorgeous looking donuts
I am thinking these donuts are my Sunday Gluten free project…I am thinking if I am snowed in, we might as well enjoy it