Gluten Free Ice Cream Cake…kinda fail..kinda not

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 5.40.17 PMI 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

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Crackers

ImageYou know things in life we take for granted? Oh come on you know what I am talking about…simple things like family, home and yeah food. There are things we have all eaten or had that we cherish or just do not enjoy, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for example. We have all had a PBJ on white bread with the crusts cut off and most people think of it as a fond childhood memory..me not so much since I am not a fan of peanut butter, never have been probably never will be..but I have downed my fair share of PBJ, with grape jelly or better yet with Fluff. Well if I happened to have a peanut allergy that PBJ would be something I never experienced…well same thing goes for kids who are Gluten Free. My younger daughter has never really experienced a diet with gluten since she was diagnosed very young.  There are a lot of things my daughter has missed out on as a result of her celiac disease…things I have taken for granted as part of my diet (many in limited quantities) from my earliest memories..things like Oreos and Pepperidge Farms Goldfish. I am a huge fan of goldfish, those little crackers can make me happy in small quantities , are an easy snack to toss in the lunch box..ok let’s face it they are just yummy in any flavor. My daughter, she has never had them and until recently it never occurred to me that maybe some soul out there created a recipe for someone like me.

I scoped out the gluten free blogs and found a few new ones. There is one called gluten free on a shoestring that really looked promising. In order to get the recipe for the author’s gluten free version of goldfish crackers I got suckered into buying her cookbook. That is $9.99 I really did not want to waste…so I got the recipe, and with my food processor and silicone baking mat set out to make goldfish..or something small enough to be a cheese cracker. Let me just say that using velveeta and salt in a recipe together is not something I recommend..WAY too salty. Going to admit the first batch was nothing shy of nasty..I even used the flour blend the site author uses and the result was not great…so back tot he drawing board I went..I found a recipe for homemade goldfish crackers that uses traditional flour and decided to combine the gluten free recipe and this one. This time I used real shredded cheddar cheese and butter vs shortening and velveeta  as well as Cup4CUp flour, and the first batch tasted way better..but they were not exactly crispy in the middle. This was actually the same issue I had with the first batch. So what to do to remedy this?

Real cheese and butter helped to improve the taste, I am not 100% positive that the true CUP4CUP flour was a factor, but I am not sure it hurt the recipe either. The key was to refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes and to roll it out as thinly as possible before cutting the shapes out. as soon as I get the recipe absolutely perfect I will post it here. I do not have a little goldfish cookie cutter so I used little stars that are actually fondant cutters and baked until nice and crisp about 14 minutes.

I have a way to go with my recipe, every batch is getting better and my daughter and her friends are willing victims..i mean taste testers..

Snowed in

ImageAs we in the Northeast  kept hearing about the fast approaching storm supplies in the local groceries stores began to dwindle fast and furious. Staples like milk, bread and eggs were kind of running low, but really those things did not bother me …I was more concerned about finding gluten free staples and what to cook Friday in case the power was gone by Saturday. I needed foods that could be easily put in a container and stored in snow if necessary and easily heated up on a gas cooktop.

I decided to make a baked chicken, some chili and a beef stew. Sounds pretty daunting to do all 3 on one day, but honestly, I was lucky that school was cancelled, the governor banned people from driving and there really is only so much storm coverage a person can watch before even I needed a break.

The easy thing to do was prep the chicken, I long ago found my go to recipe for baked chicken..I use a mortar and pestle and combine 2 cloves of garlic, a handful of kosher salt, a teaspoon of pepper or more ( I like more) a few sprigs of thyme leaves off the stem, some paprika and olive oil and make a paste to lather all over the chicken inside and out and put it in a baking dish and back into the fridge to dry the skin out (makes for a super crispy skin) and before I bake the chicken I stuff the cavity with half of a lemon, 2 smashed garlic cloves and a few sprigs of thyme and bake first bake at 425 for 30 minutes and then turn it down to 375 until a thermometer reads 180. SO that was easy.. then it was on to the beef stew and then everyone’s favorite (well in my house) chili..

Once upon a time when I was still figuring out how to cook, my mother in law gave me guidance on how to cook chili, she browned some hamburger with garlic salt and then added a few seasonings, whole California Tomatoes, tomato sauce and we had chili…well I started having babies, and then those babies started getting busy and I thought I did not have the time to figure out seasoning etc..so I started buying the chili starter seasoning packets and browning a little meat, add packet, open cans of tomatoes and tomato sauce and dinner is served. well here is the thing…a lot of those quick and easy packets have wheat stabilizers and flour in them. That is ok when you do not have an issue with gluten .. but once the little one was diagnosed with celiac well using the packet was out the window..so to come up with my own recipe that took into account my mother in law and then add my own spin on it.

I also decided to make some beef stew, comfort food at its best! The trick to a delicious gluten free beef stew is to use the slow cooker and to find a  very good recipe. I also find using a decent all purpose gluten free flour (1/4 cup for about 2 lbs cut up stew beef) seasoned with garlic powder, salt, pepper and put into a large ziploc bag works really well..kind of like a shake and bake technique. The rest is all about putting the ingredients like vegetables, a little red wine and seasonings into the crockpot along with some beef stock and the meat..put on low and let it cook for about 8-9 hours.

Of course there were some left over potatoes and veggies and I figured why let them go to waste so I was even able to crank out some home fries and a chicken soup ..Today I was able to make a non gluten free wonton soup from my leftovers…I think the rest of the week we might visiting the new takeout restaurant near my daughter’s school (Gluten Free take out oh yeah)

So the blizzard did come and we were snowed in..however we never lost power for a significant amount of time. We were well prepared and well fed for a couple of days..I swear I gained at least 5 lbs from the food alone. I am not really looking forward to spending quality time in my kitchen for a few days.

So for now happy eating and here is to hoping you are not snowed in

Flour, Cakes, and Pie …Oh My

This morning I had plans to go into the city, see an older relative and maybe catch some lunch at one of the local joints in the neighborhood. Half way up my phone rang, it was UJ on the other end dumping me for one of his cronies..( I will tell you about UJ another time…) and to be honest I was kind of disappointed because for a moment I had no clue what to do with my time. I actually do not even recall the last time I had a moment where I was in a situation trying to figure out what to do with my free time!

It so happens I was near the shopping center where our local Whole Foods Market is located and I figured what the heck I will be semi organized for once and go get something for dinner. I also realized that I needed a birthday gift for one of my carpool kids and a new meat thermometer while I was there so off I went. I am going to admit I am really frustrated by the disorganization at our Whole Foods when it comes to Gluten Free products. They are literally all over the place and you have to look really hard to find what you are looking for. The process is not only time-consuming but also irritating. GF crackers and cookies are in separate aisles, the GF flour is mixed in with regular wheat based products, even the GF pizza is in a case away from the other GF frozen foods. Get a clue Whole Foods and organize the products and LABEL the GF sections even the local grocery chains do this…I go to Whole Foods to get better quality foods to feed my family and it ends up sucking up my time more than anything. Ok rant over..

I figured I would be nice seeing it is the second week of school and make a favorite so I bought a whole chicken. Our local chain grocery store in our town has a special that they run every Thursday called “five buck cluck”, basically it is a whole rotisserie chicken that they sell for $5. The problem is I am not sure of all the seasonings that they use and die to the high volume of birds they are cooking they do not look all the appetizing..so for a few dollars more I made my own version of “five buck cluck”…only this one cost me $9.77…

Oh and about that meat thermometer…I have one but the problem is I usually have to stick it in a glass of ice water for the darn thing to work so I decided to splurge since there is also a Williams Sonoma in the same shopping center. My big issue is I can never just GO IN to WS. You see I have to browse and once I have what I came in for then I recall about 12 more things I “need”…so I did get the thermometer, but then I recalled that I needed a scale since I did indeed find a macaron recipe that looks promising. Oh yeah and I also needed pink grapefruit hand lotion because I tried the hand soap (side note here that stuff is awesome! No matter how bad my hands smell from onions, garlic… you name it….this soap neutralizes it) and while I was waiting for Kathy the sales associate to get me a new scale from the back I decided to go and look at the cookbooks ( I am a self-professed cookbook junkie) and the baking mixes and that was when I spotted some items the piqued my interest..

This is a chocolate cake mix that is from Chef Thomas Keller’s restaurant…it looks good. M and I plan to give it a try this weekend, provided it not too hot or humid. I will be honest the darn thing better be good considering it cost $21.95 for the mix alone, you still need to add cocoa powder, eggs, oil ,milk and water …I will let you know the verdict as soon as we make it… the cake was not the only add-on in my basket I also spotted a GF pie crust mix

The last was a big surprise  Cup4Cup flour. here is a link to their site…http://cup4cup.com

I am looking for a really good GF flour. Many times I have settled for whatever is available but it has not always been the best choice.Point in case is when I make chicken pot pie, the mixture tends to immediately come out at the correct consistency but after a few minutes it is like the mixture falls apart and just thins out and does not taste as well as it did immediately after cooking. I am going to admit I am pretty excited about this since many of the online reviews are good.

I am going to admit that I did in fact try this flour out while I cooked dinner. You can not have roasted chicken without gravy and since all gravies available in the jar, the packet or the can (even the ready-made stuff at the grocery store) are all wheat flour based I have to make gravy from scratch using GF alternatives. I am going to admit I was always a bit intimidated by making gravy until I became a Food Network devotee and saw Ina Garten make gravy on the show..when she said “How easy was that?” I got the courage to tackle gravy making 101…first batch I made was a little scary but since then it has gotten much easier and tonight for the first time the gravy did not taste GF.

I think I will have to make a recipe like a coffee cake or some muffins before I am a complete convert but I am willing to give this a go…

So as a FYi here is the recipe for making gravy thanks to Ina Garten and food network.com. I gave this a try going cup for cup

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/homemade-gravy-recipe/index.html

Until next time Happy Eating