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..

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New Ideas Brewing

ImageI  to confess that I am of a mindset that change is good..so why is it that I am terrified of making changes in my own life? Well here is it is.. I am going to confess that I getting ready to catch my breath and make a big change. For years, I have been tinkering in my kitchen, making gluten free goodies, adapting recipes and finding ways to make sure my daughters experience every culinary delight  despite their gluten free necessity. I am always willing to share what I know with newbies and moms who hear put your child on a gluten free diet and think well now what. So now I am considering taking it a step further.

I am thinking about making a little business out of this venture..making crackers, bagels, and other goodies that are gluten free..taste pretty good and easy enough to create out of my kitchen for now. My services will also be available in the greater Boston and Providence areas to help anyone new to this get started..I just have to remember what the heck the password is for verizon so I can set up a new email address and get things rolling..I look forward to starting a new chapter in life even if means jumping off the high dive…

 

Oh and a little edit here..the picture above is from an experiment I tried via Pinterest..I found a recipe on a friend’s board for pepperoni and sausage pizza bites and thought I can do this..in the end these turned out to be a savory cupcake with chicken and cheese and turned into more of an alfredo/savory cupcake that passed the adult taste test but was an epic fail in the kid department..here is the non gluten free recipe link http://www.plainchicken.com/2011/02/sausage-pepperoni-pizza-puffs.html

I substituted cup4cup flour

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

Super Sunday..Just another day in our house

ImageI am going to confess that I am not a huge football fan. I like the game well enough to sit down and watch our local team play, but once we were eliminated form the playoffs, yeah I was done. I also can not stand the constant coverage on game day that talks about everything irrelevant to some interesting game day facts..play the damn game already  and stop talking about it!

Still, the boys in my house are going to watch the game and I guess I have to feed them. So I decided to have a clean out the fridge day and conjure up some gluten free meals/goodies to keep everyone satisfied and out of my hair…you know so I can go on Pinterest, get ideas from others who are far more creative than I can ever dream to be…

I started the day off and made guacamole thanks to Ina Garten, got even more ambitious and decided to skip opening up a jar of Tostitos and make my own salsa (which is incredibly easy and I have no clue why I do not do this more often ..and then it dawns on me that not only I am incredibly busy, but i am seriously lazy/unmotivated) and somehow after reading the awesome Joanne at Fifteeenspatulas.com I got the crazy notion to make copy her and make Huevos Rancheros. I am going to admit this was the first time I have ever made this recipe in any form and it was also the first time eating it..yeah I am that chicken when it comes to trying new foods/recipes. Usually things sound good when I look at them or read them but the actual trying tends to go by the wayside. Today I decided what the heck, it is time to take the plunge, and the results were pretty darn good.

Right now simmering on the stove is a pot of gluten-free broccoli cheese soup. I am hoping the darn thing comes out well. Here is the issue, usually if I make something like the filling for chicken pot pie using gluten-free flour (and I have tried every gluten-free flour I can think of) it comes out great, usually  it is a little thick and then it gets watery. I am not sure if the flour is the culprit or if I get nervous and add too much extra liquid..but so far so good with the soup.

i will post a picture of the soup soon

Gluten Free Grocery Shopping

OK so let’s talk about the first things you must do when you or someone you feed is on a GF diet…clean out the kitchen. Sounds simple enough but it is a pain especially when you lack space in your kitchen.I live in a house so small that it is actually a shoebox masquerading as a house (i am serious here) and hence I have zero pantry space. I quickly became best friends with a fairly inexpensive label maker and a great lady who works at The Container Store (www.containerstore.com). I also have found alternative ways to handle my kitchen storage like buying fairly inexpensive wire racks at a local box store or Target. If you have a lack of storage space then something like one of these racks placed in a garage, a basement or spare room is going to help considerably. I do not have a garage or a pantry and my racks are in the basement holding all those kitchen gadgets that I do not use every day but when I need them..I need them. This frees up space on my counters and in my cabinets for our Gluten Free foods and products.

After you clean out a dedicated space think about a few staples that are important to have in the kitchen. These can include condiments like mayonnaise, peanut butter, applesauce etc..and then look a little deeper. You quite possibly need to replace cereal, chicken stock, soups and definitely any and all bread products. once you go shopping look for some staples to add to you kitchen. Besides adding fruit and vegetables and other natural and healthy  Here are some that I recommend

Corn tortillas..these are excellent for tacos, for making ham and cheese roll ups,  quesadillas and a host of other items with bread

Frozen/fresh Pizza Crusts..In my family the kids love kinnickkinnick foods brand frozen pizza crusts. These pizza crusts are excellent when cooked according to package directions, but my kids like to toast the crusts before adding their favorite toppings and then broil the cheese it makes them look and taste like they come from a pizza shop.

http://consumer.kinnikinnick.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/products.home/productcategoryid/34

All Purpose Gluten Free Flour..So far King Arthur has a good flour mix but the best thus far is a new one I found this week Cup4Cup flour available at Williams Sonoma…this is a great staple so you can make items like pancakes, muffins or use in making bread or just for adding butter and flour a pan when baking

Xanthum Gum…Gluten is what gives flour its elasticity xanthum gum is what helps gluten-free flour

Frozen Dinners/Soups..Amy’s has a very good frozen macaroni and cheese, if you can get it foods by George has a good GF pizza..Udi’s has great bagels available in the freezer at many stores including Whole Foods Market..Van’s frozen waffles are good…Kettle Cuisine has some very good GF soups, Bell and Evans makes GF chicken nuggets and patties, these are excellent for making an easy GF chicken Parmesan or crispy chicken salad or just to eat alone

Bread…A tough category…Udi’s makes bread and bagels, my kids love their plain as well as their cinnamon raisin bagels, Udi’s also makes hamburger buns and other ready-made bread products…Schar makes several bread products that we have tried including par baked ciabata bread and baguette both are VERY good, they have par baked pizza crusts and sandwich bread all very good…and if you can find it there is a small bakery that makes a fabulous italian bread called Joan’s…it is so good I have served it to non GF friends of my kids who really enjoyed…especially right out of the oven

Baking Mixes…King Arthur has some good mixes available to make cookies, chocolate cake, pancakes and bread..Betty Crocker has a very good line of GF mixes to make cakes, cookies and brownies, these are great bases and can have ingredients added to make creative baked goods. If you go to their website they have recipes available for you…Pamela’s has a great all-purpose baking mix, the really great food company also has a lot very good mixes available…Now my new discovery has been the mixes available at Williams Sonoma. I have  plans to make the chocolate layer cake mix this weekend (if it cools down a little) the plan is to make part of the batter into whoopie pies and the part into cupcakes with a salted caramel butter cream frosting, this ambitious project may have to wait until next weekend because it is warm and muggy here and I do not have central A/C)

Pasta…I am not going to lie Gf pasta is nothing like the real thing but there are great alternatives that are GF. After many, many samples of GF pasta we have come down to 3 brands that are consistently very good..the first is a brand called Tinkyada, the second is from Schar (Schar makes other

Finally Cereal and snacks…You can not go wrong with Chex cereal..Most flavors of Chex are GF and if eating cereal is not your thing you can make a GF Chex mix. Glutino makes really good bagel chips and pretzels and if you look hard there are GF cheese nips as well. Snyder’s makes the best GF pretzels and are available at walmart..Amy’s has pretty good GF bunny cookies too

This is just a sample of what is out there and some of the best we have tasted. Nothing beats some of the home made items that myself and others have learned to make ,,but this is a start

So until next time HAPPY EATING

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