Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wow, you could cut the tenseness in this house with a knife...I can't say the same for these granola bars... [a.k.a. my weekend]

Hi there. Erica here. I had a pretty busy weekend...so obviously no blogging. But here I am, on a Tuesday. Shocking...Mondays and Tuesdays are usually the least-likely-to-blog-days...but not this week. I'm mixin' it up.

I went shopping all day on Saturday with my Mom. Things are a bit tense at our house these days with all we have going on...and trust me, there's a Lot. And as a result, unfortunately our outing wasn't as fun as ones we've had in the past. But one block of time where there was no tenseness or grumpiness was when we were eating lunch at Chipotle. It's like a Celiac's dream. EVERYTHING except for the flour tortillas is gluten-free. Beef, pork, chicken, guacamole, 4 salsas, sour cream, cheese, cilantro-lime rice, black & pinto beans...and the beat goes on. Yummm...I'm seriously drooling right now.

And another AWESOME perk? All you have to say is "I have Celiac, so I have to eat gluten-free..." and the people on the line pull off their gloves, wash their hands, and put on fresh, un-glutened gloves. I feel so special when I go there. 
"Really? For me? Just for my little tired villi, you changed your gloves?! How sweet!"
All this to say...if you are a Celiac and haven't tried Chipotle, do yourself a favor. Just go! :)

And then, on Sunday after church, I was feeling hungry for granola bars. Just in case you are still wondering...yes, the house was still tense - everyone was cranky about something and stressed to the point of cracking.

So I did what any stressed-out foodie would do. I ran to the kitchen...the place where I am in control. I armed myself with honey, agave nectar, gluten-free oats, craisins, chocolate chunks, and almond butter...and I set to work.

Now, this recipe isn't like my other recipes thus far. Honestly, this recipe is not blog-ready. Why? Well, because my execution clearly left something to be desired. The 8x8 pan I baked my granola bars in still has baked-on granola-bar "sticky" on it. And I had to literally PEEL the granola bars out of the pan. No easy cutting and bagging here...oh no. I actually had to scrape as much as I could salvage into a new wax-papered and greased pan, pressed them down - hard - again, and refrigerated again.
Then I cut them.
And they were messy.
But they were GOOD.

Epic fail? No!
Epic win? Definitely not.

But the taste...oh. Oh, the TASTE. Sweet chocolate and tart cranberries.
And the texture! Ahh...chunky fruits and chocolates, sticky honey and almond butter.

So while I deal with my roller-coaster life, my crazy family, and while my family deals with crazy me (poor them!)...I will perfect these granola bars.

Only then will I share the recipe...in the meantime...eat your heart out with these pictures...after the battle they fought, they're looking good. Versatile, valiant little buggers, aren't they?

I chose chocolate chunks, cranberries, walnuts & almond butter to flavor these.
Maybe that's why they were so sticky...
I ate one today, and get this - I wasn't hungry for nearly 3 hours. For me, that's saying something,
considering I was sitting in an infinitely boring training at work that usually makes me eat nonstop to stay awake.
Good times.
Be back soon with the recipe...wish me luck. :) I'd really rather not have to scrape hardened and petrified sugar, honey, and agave crystals off my pyrex bakeware anymore.



Thursday, August 18, 2011

Naturally, Dah'ling!

"Love your skin; because what goes on, goes in." - Naturally Dah'ling!

I have discovered an excellent website this morning while browsing, and I'm so excited to share it!

Naturally Dah'ling uses all-natural ingredients like luscious mango butter in their concealers.
Looks good enough to eat, but I don't recommend it.

Now, this may pertain more to those of you with gluten intolerance/allergies more than the Celiacs - I personally don't have problems when I use beauty products containing wheat. But some of us do. And, in all honesty, it's probably better overall to stay away from "contaminated" products if you are a Celiac. Do as I say, not as I do...ahem. :)

Check out Naturally Dah'ling - it is literally a one stop shop for gluten free cosmetics, hair care, skin care, and nail care. They even have a special section specifically for Men's products!


The Celiac Sisterhood

Sunday, August 14, 2011

This gives new meaning to "Coffee Cake"

Espresso makes me melt (Erica here, by the way).
Coffee in general makes me melt.
However, I enjoy what my Dad calls "Fru-Fru" drinks. Lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos. Really...extra foam, caramel, chocolate, with whip...give me all of it. I'd be one happy lady.

So when I was introduced to the idea of espresso cake, I was determined to make it gluten-free. Espresso cake?! Coffee IN the cake?! YES PLEASE!

I think you'll agree with us. This cake passed the test in my house...everyone loved it. In fact, my sister's fiance, Jon, told us that the chocolate espresso ganache was "knee-buckling good". How's that for a review?

Don't be intimidated by the steps. It's not difficult, and even if it was it would be worth it. :)

White and Dark Chocolate curls make a lovely topping.

That would be the cake. And Cait's fiance, who was waiting to eat the cake.

Chocolate Espresso Cake

1 cup tapioca flour
3/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ cups low-fat 1% milk
2 squares Baker's unsweetened baking chocolate, melted

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour (with tapioca starch) two 8-inch pans and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa, powder, soda, salt, instant coffee, and set aside.

It's very important to combine the dry ingredients thoroughly to get an even cake.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla, mixing well - then add eggs one at a time. Add melted Baker's chocolate, mix until well combined.

Gradually add flour to wet ingredients, stirring well after each addition. Add the milk gradually during this stage as well. Try adding some flour, then some milk, mixing well, and so on. Mix batter until incorporated (do not over mix). Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

While cakes are cooling, prepare the chocolate ganache for the center:

Chocolate Ganache
3/4 cup semi-sweet, milk, or white chocolate chips
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
(You may use a double boiler for this process, but if, like me, you don't have a double boiler, you can just use a sturdy glass bowl over a saucepan with an inch or two of simmering water. Whatever method you choose, take great care not to let the simmering water touch the bowl/double boiler. This will cause the ganache to "seize" and will be unusable.)
Melt butter and chocolate chips together until smooth and thoroughly melted. Pour over cake.
(Note: If you want the ganache to really soak into both cakes, simply top with 2nd tier immediately after "ganaching"…that's what I did and the center was fudgy and moist!)

And finally, the CROWNING glory of this cake…the frosting.

Espresso Buttercream Frosting
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
16 oz. powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
3 teaspoons instant coffee granules
1-2 Tablespoons half & half (to desired consistency)

Beat all ingredients using electric mixer. Frost top and sides of cake with Espresso Buttercream.

You'll want to eat this frosting by the Tablespoon.
You want to eat this...trust me.

It's already disappearing!


The Celiac Sisters

Monday, August 8, 2011

Muddy Buddies...gluten-free joy.

Today was incredibly hot and muggy.

But did you ever notice on the hot and muggy days that summer throws our way, we still need to eat. And if you're like me, you want to eat something worth the calories. And this snack is QUICK and requires very little heating. So it's perfect for those hot, sticky days.

One of my favorite gluten-free snacks is Chex Muddy Buddies. Chocolate, peanut butter, powdered sugar...what more could you possibly ask for in a snack?

Ohhhh Rice Chex, you are so versatile...you go from
breakfast to snacktime without breaking a sweat.

Here is the recipe I use:

Chex Muddy Buddies
4 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. pure vanilla
9 1/2 c. Rice Chex cereal
4 c. powdered sugar

Pour Rice Chex in a LARGE mixing bowl. Set aside.

Melt butter in medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add peanut butter and chocolate chips, stir until melted. Stir in vanilla.

Pour chocolate mixture over rice chex. Gently toss to coat all cereal pieces.

Divide powdered sugar evenly into two gallon-sized Ziploc bags. Then, divide cereal mixture into the bags and...shake shake shake!
I like this part!
Try adding a dance move or two...and playing Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO or Dynamite by Taio Cruz..but then you might shake it so hard that you break all the pieces.
So...no music.
Never mind, I took it too far.

At the end of the shake, shake, shake...you will have these:


Enjoy them quickly!
If your family is anything like ours, they will be gone within 24 hours.


The Celiac Sisters

Things we like...and some we don't

Now, as far as the gluten-free lifestyle goes, there's WAY more choices than ever before. 

The other side of ten, five, or even two years ago, gluten-free products were still pretty difficult to locate. Now mainstream grocers will actually label their shelves with tags that point to products not only in the "organic" or "natural" aisle (where a majority of gluten-free items are often stocked together) but throughout the entire store (i.e., gluten-free pasta is next to the wheat pastas in the pasta aisle. Novel idea, really.) 

So here, in somewhat random order (much like our grocery lists) are the products we've come to know as our new favorites. Some of the notes include the ones we've wasted our hard-earned money on and promised to never buy again. 

Very simply, these are our own personal opinions on individual products that will (hopefully) help you find new normal options for you and your family without you wasting money and meals trying a myriad of products that are disappointing at best. Good luck!

Eat-This-Now list 

Excellent as toast and grilled sandwiches. Still not exactly normal (for a peanut butter and jelly, let's say) but pretty darn close. Great for kids, as it's a softer, smoother bread similar (but not exactly) Wonderbread and the like. Will keep on the kitchen counter or breadbox just like regular wheat bread- doesn't mold immediately upon coming out of the freezer! Of Original, Multigrain, and Cinnamon Raisin varieties, we've tried the first two and loved them!

Note: Rudi's bread is great. Rudi's bagels...not so great. Try Udi's (different company altogether) bagels instead. (Scroll down for more info on Udi's)

$: 5-6/18 oz. loaf (Hannafords, Whole Foods)

Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-free Sandwich breads- http://canyonbakehouse.com/canyon-bakehouse-products

Okay, so not sure which is better- Rudi's or Canyon Bakehouse. The best way we can think to say it: 

If you used to eat whole-grain, nutty wheat breads, try Canyon Bakehouse breads (San Juan 7-grain is amazing.) 

If you prefer Wonderbread or simple white or wheat sandwich breads, try Rudi's- especially for little kiddos.

$: 5-6/18 oz. loaf  (Whole Foods)

Best buns hands down. Truly normal to us. 

$: 5-6/ 12 oz. (4-pack) (Whole Foods)

Bagels are tough for gluten-free diets. These are the best we've tried yet. They still need a little work, but comparatively they're heads above the competition. Other bagels are heavier and come in higher count bags, but they do not toast, do not have taste or texture, or feel like a rock in your stomach as soon as you're done eating it. These are soft-er and tast-ier. I would say it's worth trying once at least, to see if it's your thing, too. Varieties include: Plain, Whole-Grain, and Cinnamon Raisin

Note: Udi's bagels are delicious. And although Udi's bread is widely available, and palatable in a pinch, it doesn't compare (to our taste buds) to the others listed above. The slices are hole-y and the texture is very dry, especially after thawing.

$: 5-6/ 14 oz. (4 bagels) (Hannafords, Shaws, Whole Foods)

Tastes so very close to normal to us- and our gluten-eating family members, too. 

*Cooking tip: Boil a little longer than wheat pastas, and refrigerate leftover pasta in a Ziploc or container with a little water, and reboil briefly before serving again. If making a pasta bake, aim to make just enough for one family meal with no leftovers- gluten-free pasta just doesn't translate well without that brief re-boiling step.

$: 2-3 for 12 oz. (Walmart, Whole Foods)

Orgran Gluten-free Rice and Corn Pasta Macaroni- http://www.orgran.com/products/127

Delicious- closest to normal of any pasta (but definitely costlier and harder to find.) The key to this is the same as the Heartland pastas: it is a combination of rice AND corn in the pasta ingredients. Any other combination we've tried (buckwheat, millet, rice-only, corn-only, etc.) just tastes really OFF: sometimes it doesn't cook thoroughly, or it is slimy...just not good. More delicious varieties of rice and corn pasta from this company include: Spirals, Penne, Tortelli, Macaroni, Lasagne, Noodles, and Risoni (Garlic and Herb flavoured)  

$: 3-4 for 7-8.8 oz. package (Whole Foods)


Bob's Red Mill Chocolate and Vanilla Cake Mixes- http://www.bobsredmill.com/gluten-free/?sort=title

Tastes like it sounds- good chocolate and vanilla cakes. Can be used as cupcakes, too. Makes a little less than a traditional box cake mix (18.25 oz.), but very tasty for birthday cakes for the kids!

*Baking tip (from the company): Texture is a little different, but if cake(s) are removed from (preferably glass) pan between 5-10 minutes into the cooling process after baking, the "gummy" texture can be greatly reduced. 

$: 2-4 for 16 oz. mix (Walmart, Ocean State Job Lot, Reny's, Whole Foods)

Simply delicious. After not eating donuts for almost a year, I was more than excited to try these- and they are great. A little heavier (and smaller) than your average donut, but tastes amazing (and has less fat than the average donut!) In all fairness, I've only had the vanilla-glazed so far, simply because I like them so much I don't want to try the others. Also available in Chocolate-glazed, Cinnamon Sugar, and Maple-glazed varieties

$: 5-6/ 9.5-11 oz. (6-pack) (Hannafords, Shaws, Whole Foods)

Keep checking for more updates, and please comment with any GF products you feed your family on a daily basis!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Triple Cream Cup[cheese]cakes.

Cream cheese makes everything taste better.
Are we in agreement on this point? I mean really, have you ever met a block of cream cheese you didn't like?

I was craving cheesecake today, and I got all geared up to make some.
Then I was craving cake.
And then I just decided to make cream cheese cupcakes.
Simple and yummy, right? I thought so.

So I pulled out my good old Jules Nearly Normal flour to make these little lovies. And as I creamed the dairy and the sugars, I smiled when I saw how yummy it looked.

Then I discovered something terrifying as I attempted to combine the dry into the creamed mixture.

Jules Nearly Normal flour is not always the flour of choice. Particularly in cakes.

My delicious batter turned into a gelatinous mass - in a matter of 5 seconds. Too many starches, too many thickeners exist in the flour.
Now, please don't ask me WHY this flour works so beautifully in some things and so dreadful in others. I really don't know.

But I decided as I scraped the gooey mess into the trash that I would try a new cake recipe with ONLY white rice flour - one of my favorite flours to use.

It was shortly after this decision that I realized I had used the last of the baking powder and butter in my fridge on the Epic Fail cake.

Eeeeeeeeexcellent. Really. This is probably the highlight of my day.

Now I was getting antsy. I wanted cake, dangit! So I started throwing things in a bowl. A little of this, a little of that.

What I had an hour later was a vanilla cupcake. With a layer of cheesecake. And a layer of cream cheese frosting.


And now, I share my dessert with you.

Triple Cream Cup[cheese]cakes
Yield: 12 cupcakes

Sour Cream Cake:
1 1/2 c. White Rice flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla 
1/2 c. Greek yogurt (plain)
1/3 c. sour cream

Cheesecake Layer:
8 oz. Neufchatel cheese, softened
1 egg
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin tins or place muffin cups in tins. 
Whisk together flour and soda in a small bowl. Set aside. Cream eggs, vanilla, yogurt and sour cream in a large bowl. Gradually add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with sour cream cake batter. 
Fill muffin cups to the top with cheesecake mixture.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until knife inserted in cupcake comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz Neufchatel cheese, softened
3 tbsp. butter, softened 
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla
3-4 c. powdered sugar

Beat cheese, butter, and vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar until creamy and fluffy. Fill gallon Ziploc bag 2/3 full with frosting, and snip off a generous corner of the bag. Pipe frosting onto cool cup[cheese]cakes.

Look at these little beauties. 



The Celiac Sisters

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Spice(s) of Life: Part I

For those of us who have been eating GF for more than a week, I think I can honestly say that food can get, shall we say...




And generally uninspired.

And that especially goes for GF foods that have more thought put into the packaging design than the product within. 

This made me frustrated. And it still does. But there are some simple things that can be done to create foods that have a bit more LIFE to them. And they're really quite easy. (I'm all about easy in the kitchen!) 

Let me introduce you to my good friend Spice Cupboard. I think you'll be friends.

Note: The only downside to this is the up-front cost...dried spices cost money. Serious money, depending on where you buy. Don't purchase at the major supermarkets, especially if you are creating your spice closet for the first time, unless you want to pay top-dollar. And for that matter, forgo the cute glass jars, too. Your dinner isn't going to taste very (possibly any) different if your spice came out of a bulk container or artistically-inspired packaging. Choosing the less asthetically-pleasing jar often translates to a savings of $2-3 dollars per jar, and can often mean you get more spice for the lower price. So shop around.

Any food (but especially gluten-free, in my opinion) can always use a little extra flavor, be in savory or sweet or spicy...however you like it. Below are several lists to build upon in creating your own flavor haven.

Basic spice cupboard list:

Sea salt
Black pepper (Grinders are good for both salt and pepper, as it gives a wider grain and more flavor to your food!)
Chili powder
Garlic powder
Celery salt

Others that you may want to add (to diversify your combinations):

Dried citrus (orange peel, lemon peel, etc.)
Cilantro leaves
White pepper
Dill Weed
Dried mustard

Spice blends can sometimes be gluten-free, too. Check the labels on these:**

Chinese Five-spice blend
Lemon-Pepper blend
Italian seasoning blend
Mexican blends (Taco or chili seasoning)
Garam masala (Indian blend)

**Note: Spice blends (most often sold in bottles) are simply spices and preservatives, and will be noted in the ingredient list as such. Any of the seasoning packets (not bottled) very often DO contain gluten. Please use caution!