Friday, March 28, 2008

Photo Phriday: Baby Edition

This is my niece, aka "La Dudarina." I took this photo shortly after her parents changed her diaper -- I just love the expression on her face.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Almond Banana Cookies

I have a really simple go-to peanut butter cookie recipe, as do many gluten-free bakers. Mix one cup of peanut butter (use the fake kind), one cup of sugar and one egg in a bowl and drop teaspoon-sized amount of the dough onto a baking sheet. Bake for about ten minutes; pretty easy, huh? They are awesome cookies and so simple to put together -- and really are crowd pleasers, but they're not that great for you. One cup of sugar? Processed peanut butter? Fine in moderation, but I needed an everyday cookie.

Nutritionally speaking, almonds are great (to find out how great, click here), so I wanted to base my cookie around the jar of smooth, natural almond butter sitting in my cabinet, but I wanted to use a lot less sugar than the peanut-butter cookie recipe and I've always found brown sugar more appealing, so I used a bit of that. I like to smear my bananas in almond butter, so I threw in half of one, and from knowing the very basics of baking I knew I needed an egg and some baking soda in there. So, voila -- almond banana cookies are born. They're a not-too-sweet, easy to put together, guilt-free cookie with a cake-like texture. And boy, they went well with my coffee this morning (that one's for you, Dad).

Almond Banana Cookies (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

1 cup of smooth, natural almond butter
1/4 cup of brown sugar (I'm sure agave nectar, or another sugar alternative would work well here)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 of banana, mashed
1 teaspoon baking soda
Dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Next, in heaping teaspoons -- drop the batter onto a cookie sheet, spacing each cookie an inch or so apart. Flatten the cookies a bit with the palm of your hand, or with the bottom of a glass. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Makes fifteen cookies.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Simple Fish Soup

I really shouldn't be blogging right now. I have corn muffins in the oven. Henry needs a walk. I need a shower. And I have work to get done; there's an exciting new project happening at work, but it has caused me to stay late on Friday, go to work on Saturday and work from home today. Oh yeah, and it's Easter Sunday. We'll be bringing Easter dinner to the noodle and parents later in the day.


I have to share this recipe. Yesterday was a productive, but busy day. I had a great piece of cornmeal encrusted cod for dinner on Friday night, but I had about a pound of cod that I didn't use, and since fish is no good days later -- I had to do something! So my trusty How to Cook Everything came to the rescue. I adapted Mark Bittman's "Lighting-Quick Fish Soup" to my ingredients and liking. It has a nice little kick to it and comes together, well lightning-quick.

Simple Fish Soup (gluten free, dairy free)

4 cups of fish, chicken, or shrimp stock (or water)
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
1 pinch saffron
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup of canned, diced tomatoes
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 lb of cod, or any white fish -- cut into chunks
Minced parsley to garnish


Saute the onion, garlic, tomatoes and spices in the olive oil, then add the stock and bring to a boil, then turn heat to medium and cook for five minutes.

Add the fish and cook for another five minutes at medium heat. Garnish and serve.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Photo Phriday: Cute Overload

A sleeping baby and a sleeping puppy-dog? My gosh, I might faint from the cuteness.

That's my niece (aka The Noodle because she's so long) in the onesie that my boyfriend's Mom made for her. And that's Henry (and me kissing him) sleeping like a tuckered out pup.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My New Niece and Grandma's Kugeli

There she is! My niece: 8lbs, 3 oz and 21 1/2 inches long. She was born on Wednesday morning at 9:50AM after nine hours of active labor and over twenty-four hours after my sister's water broke. And it was all done completely naturally. I am so incredibly proud of my sister and her husband. I was with them throughout the labor and after witnessing it and assisting when I could, I am now completely certain that my sister is the strongest, most incredible woman I know. I'll save the details for my sister to tell, but once that baby came out there was nothing I could do to stop the tears from streaming down my face. And I had the pleasure of telling the new Grandparents the sex and name of the baby, which brings me to something pretty neat: her middle name is my Grandma's name -- the same Grandma that calls me a good eatah.

So, in honor of the new baby and my Grandma -- I give you my Grandma's Lithuanian Kugeli recipe:

Grandma's Potato Kugeli (gluten-free and dairy-free)

8 slices of bacon (make sure it's gluten-free)
10 medium-sized potatos (any kind will do)
1 large onion
6 eggs, whisked
4 tbsp gluten-free flour (I use rice flour)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pan fry the bacon until slightly crispy and reserve *fat and set aside. Coarsely grate the onion and potatos by hand or in a food processor. Let them stand for a few minutes and then with a clean kitchen towel wring out all moisture from the potatos and onion. Place the potatos and onion in a large bowl and add the eggs, a few tablespoons of the bacon fat, flour and salt and pepper and combine. Add the mixture to a caserole dish and top with crumbled bacon. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until cooked thoroughly.

Enjoy with sour cream (if you can have it) or with some applesauce. It's great on it's own too.

*This is the traditional way that my Grandmother makes it, but to make it a bit healthier I'd use turkey bacon and replace the bacon fat with olive oil.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Incredible, Versitile Crepe

Last weekend I attended a great, gluten-free cooking demonstration at the Whole Foods near my sister's house. Jill, the gluten-free baker shared with us two great recipes using Whole Foods gluten-free baking mix. One for biscuits, and the other for hot-cross mini-muffins. I was unable to sample them because they were made with cow's milk, but my sister tried them and loved them both. I also made the biscuit recipe the next day, sans cow's milk and ate about half of what the recipe made for breakfast and lunch -- so needless to say, I approved.

But you might be thinking -- what does this have to do with crepes?

Well, Jill also gave some wonderful tips. Her son has celiac disease so she has the whole gluten-free thing down pat. From what to give him when he goes to birthday parties, to how to approach restaurants about cooking gluten-free -- she was a wealth of knowledge -- and speaking with the other "students" opened my eyes to new products and gave me a chance to share my favorite tips. Though, one of Jill's tips really stuck with me: make crepes! She listed the simplest recipe ever and told us how in her family she uses them as layers in lasagna, as wraps, and as tortillas in Mexican dishes. And there went my lightbulb. I hadn't had a crepe in over a year, so I quickly made the recipe -- and converted it dairy-free, and started playing in the kitchen.

Easy Crepes (gluten-free & dairy-free)

1/2 cup milk alternative (I used almond milk)
1/2 cup gluten-free flour mix (I used a combination of rice flour/buckwheat flour, or rice flour/millet flour)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon melted butter alternative (I used Earth Balance)

Mix all of the wet ingredients together and slowly add in the flour mixture. You should have a very thin, crepe-like batter. If it looks too thick -- add more milk, or water. In in a pan (preferably non-stick) on medium-low heat, pour enough batter to coat the bottom of the pan. Be very patient with these and flip only when you can tell they have been cooked through (usually about three minutes). This recipe will make four giant crepes, or six little ones.

The photos above: the first one is filled with grilled eggplant and covered in marinara sauce, the middle photo is of a plain millet flour crepe and the last one is filled with sauted bananas, drizzled with a little agave nectar.)

And Henry says Happy St. Patrick's Day! And that he hopes eveyone likes his festive collar.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Photo Phriday: Oh Henry

This is the position Henry assumes when he has done something wrong, like this morning when he stole a hat off of my desk and started chewing on it. It's hard to stay mad at the little fella.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Coconut Banana Muffins

Or shall I say mini Coconut Banana Muffins. There I go again with my infatuation of all things miniature, or is my new obsession all things coconut now? I should state that I find when baking gluten-free goods -- the smaller, the better. There's less of a chance for crumbliness when you're creating a mini muffin, versus a regular sized muffin. And these held up very well.

The texture of these little guys isn't the same as a regular muffin, you can definately tell they're made with coconut flour, but I like that. They're a hearty lot and not very sweet. And the fiber? They are loaded with it. Coconut flour has the highest percentage of dietary fiber (58%) than any other flour. Just imagine how fiber-rific they'd be if you added some ground flax seed to this mix...

Coconut Banana Muffins

3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
3 eggs
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 overly-ripe, mashed banana
1/2 teaspoon gluten free vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
(toasted coconut and pecans for tops optional)

Preheat oven to 375F. In a medium-sized bowl combine the coconut oil, eggs, agave nectar, banana and vanilla extract. In a smaller bowl, combine the coconut flour, salt and baking powder until all lumps are gone. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ones until thoroughly combined.

Using a teaspoon, fill mini-muffin tins 3/4 full (mine are non-stick, but coats yours with oil if they are not) and top with toasted coconut and/or pecans. Bake for 12 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.

Monday, March 10, 2008

My New Obsession: Coconut Apricot Chews

Seriously -- these are awesome. You've got your fiber (coconut, apricots), your omega-3 fatty acids (walnuts), your protein (walnuts, cashews) and you've omitted the (refined) sugar! In an effort to cut more sugar out of my diet, I've been researching recipes using Stevia -- which, according to wikipedia is "a genus of about 150 species of herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family (Asteraceae), native to subtropical and tropical South America and Central America." It's about ten times sweeter than sugar (with zero of the negative effects of sugar), so you only use very little. To me, these chews taste like a mix between a blondie and a macaroon.

I found this recipe on a stevia website, which originally called for figs, but I had none on hand so I turned it into a apricot chew. I also adapted it to my needs -- making it gluten free as well as being naturally dairy-free, vegan, and low in refined sugar. The original recipe can be found: here.

Coconut Apricot Chews

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots (I used organic, unsulfured, unsweetened ones)
1/2 cup water
1 cup unsweetened coconut (if you use sweetened, you can omit the stevia)
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon powdered Stevia extract
2 tablespoons cashew butter
1/3 cup gluten-free flour

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Stew the chopped apricots in the water for 8 to 10 minutes. Add the coconut to the pot, mix and set aside. Grind the walnuts in a blender, or small food processor. In the mixing bowl, place the stewed apricots and coconut, ground walnuts, salt, Stevia extract, cashew butter and flour. Mix well. Shape the cookies with your hands. Place on the cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Bake for 12-14 minutes.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Photo Phriday: Sydney Aquarium

Yikes. It's been five years since I spent a semester of college in Australia. For whatever reason, memories of my time there have been flooding my thoughts lately. What a lucky gal I was to be able to study abroad; I know it wouldn't have been possible without my parents support (and funds!) to go there. Thanks Ma and Pa :)

This photo was taken at the Sydney Aquarium.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

C is for Cookie

That's good enough for me (and gluten-eaters).

I can take no credit for this recipe, it all goes to Annalise Roberts whose book is a gluten-free Godsend. I was introduced to the book through my boyfriend's mother who after hearing of my gluten and dairy intolerances decicded to do some research and found the book and made some amazing recipes from it. The one that sticks in my mind (and heart, and soul, and stomach) are her chocolate chip cookies. Really, I think I would be one cranky gluten-free eatah had I not experienced these cookies. They are the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had -- gluten-filled, or gluten-free. And they are dairy-free if you use Enjoy Life or Tropical Source chocolate chips.

They're my go-to recipe. When I need to make something to bring to a party, or as a gift -- I make these gems. For Christmas I gave a box to my hairdresser and his co-worker exclaimed that they were "the best cookie's he's ever had!" I've taken them to parties where their gluten-freeness was unknown and I've had friends who were visiting ask if they could bring some home. So, when it comes to feeding the gluten-eaters -- they get the job done.

The only reason I feel okay with posting this recipe is because Annalise has it on her website (but buy the book for the others -- it's so worth it). Follow the directions exactly and you'll have some yummy cookies.

1 cup vegetable shortening (not butter or margarine)
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons brown rice flour mix*
1½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
12 ounces chocolate chips (optional – plus ¼ cup)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Baking spray to grease cookie sheets

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Beat shortening, sugar, and brown sugar at medium speed in large bowl of electric mixer. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until fluffy.

Blend in flour, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum. Mix in chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop by heaping teaspoon onto greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake in center of oven for 8–10 minutes until golden brown. For convection ovens — bake at 350°F using no more than three trays at a time. Transfer to a wire rack and cool. Store in airtight container.

*Superfine brown rice flour, tapioca flour and potato starch -- click on "gluten-free flour mixes" to get exact measurements for the brown rice flour mix.

Oh, cookie, cookie, cookie starts with C.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Pregger Party Swedish Meatballs

Even though she's making a funny face -- you can still tell my sister makes one beautiful pregger. So beautiful in fact that my Mom and I decided to throw her a pregger party, er, I mean baby shower. My sister is gluten-free too so my Mom and I had a mission: to make the entire shower gluten-free (and mostly dairy free). It wasn't a large gathering (we pretty much had to force her to agree to let us throw her one), I think there were ten of us total, and my sister and I were the only two under fifty, but still -- I was a bit nervous that people would be turned off by the "gluten-freeness" of it all. But there was really no need. Everyone was wonderful and complimentary and kind.

Our menu included: deviled eggs, ham-wrapped asparagus, spinach salad with strawberries and red onion, a rockin' cheese platter with almond crackers, swedish meatballs with brown rice pasta, coc a vain (I'm butchering the spelling: it's French for chicken with mushrooms and other tasty stuff), chocolate chip cookies, flourless chocolate cake, vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting and a lemon-almond cake.

I put together my chocolate chip cookies (I will post the recipe in the near future), cupcakes (Pamela's vanilla cake mix), Swedish meatballs and salad. I've always had a thing for Swedish meatballs -- they may be the very first thing I ever cooked on my own. You see, I had this doll, "Kirsten" growing up. She was one of those American Girl dolls that was outrageously expensive and I adored her. Even more perhaps, I adored the cookbook that came with her and since she was of Swedish background, a recipe for Swedish meatballs was in the book. I hybrid that recipe and one from Gluten a Go-Go to create the one below. If you half it, it should feed a family of four for dinner. In my case, the whole recipe fed ten as a side dish.

Simple Swedish Meatballs (gluten-free and dairy-free)

2 lb ground bison

2 eggs

1 onion, chopped

4 (previously frozen) waffles toasted and ground into crumbs (you can use regular bread crumbs here, too. should measure out to 1 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs)

1 cup almond milk (rice milk works too)

3/4 teaspoon all spice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Butter, or margarine (Use Earth Balance to keep it dairy-free)

Place the waffle-crumbs, milk and spices in a large bowl and let sit for a few minutes. Add the onion to a medium-sized pan on medium heat and cook until lightly brown. Add the bison and eggs to the waffle-crumb mixture and add the onions when ready (let them cool a bit before adding). Now, get in there and work it around with your hands. Form into one-inch balls and place in the same pan (now coated in margarine on medium heat) and cook until browned on all sides.

Now you have a choice -- place the meatballs on a tray in the oven at 350 degrees for five minutes, or until the center is cooked. Or, place in your slow cooker on high heat to finish (so you can take it to your sister's pregger party).

Serve over brown rice pasta and pour drippings from pan over meatballs.