Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Food Review: Trader Joe's Gluten Free Pancake and Waffle Mix

Chicken wings. Pancakes. Chocolate chip cookies. And now -- waffles. I swear I eat healthy food. Really, I do. See: fresh spring rolls, fish soup and salad. But the homecoming of the boyfriend means celebrating his arrival with the foods that he may have missed overseas. Foods I know he likes. And not a lot of that vegetable stuff.

When I stopped by Trader Joes a few weeks ago I saw this: Trader Joes Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle mix. Thank the gluten free Gods for Trader Joe's. Not only are they relatively inexpensive, but they have a list online with all of the "no gluten ingredients used" in the store. That big bag down there; it cost me $2.99 and it's free of gluten, dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, soy and corn. Not. Too. Shabby.

Now on to my review; I have only made waffles so far, but they're good. Pretty darn good, in fact and really simple to put together. Luckily, I have one of those fancy waffle irons that you see at restaurant brunches, so ours were cooked perfectly. They're made with a hint of vanilla bean, which was subtle and nice and there's less than one gram of sugar per serving, so you can feel okay about drizzling a little maple syrup on your waffle. We chose to put some blueberries (previously frozen) on ours.

I'm never one to promote packaged foods over homemade, but if you're feeling a bit lazy, are short on time, or are running low on your gluten-free flour mix -- go for these gems. Henry liked them so much he felt the need to start walking his two hind legs...

Oh Henry.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Anatomy of a Fresh Spring Roll

There's something about the texture of a fresh spring roll that I really enjoy. Or perhaps, it's the contrast of textures that I find so appealing. The chewiness of the rice paper, the crunchiness of the carrot and the hearty bite of, in this case, kale. Fresh spring rolls can be quite simple if you want them to be, or they can be exotic with bits of fresh ginger, red pepper flakes and fresh mint leaves. Use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Often they're filled with thin rice noodles, too.

Lucky for me, I like them filled with pretty much anything. This post is more about the technique of wrapping and filling a fresh roll, then about what should go inside. Though, I should mention that I am a big fan of kale with some julianned carrots, zucchini, fresh ginger and a few splashes of gf soy sauce, rice vinegar and agave inside of my roll. Avocados also make a nice, creamy addition.

I live about 800 yards away from a very large Asian market with incredibly inexpensive groceries. I can find young coconuts, rice paper, tapioca starch and rice flour for less than half the price of what I pay at my local health food store. It's a gluten-free paradise. I also have choices, I can buy round rice paper, or square. I prefer to work with the square pieces as I find there's less of a chance for the filling to sneak out.

Making rice paper pliable is quite simple. I filled a large pan of mine with water (only about 2 inches) and put over the stove on medium-low heat. Once the water was warm I simply place the rice paper in and let sit for ten seconds. Once that is done, remove and the rice paper is ready to be worked with.

You'll want to prepare your filling before you do this because the rice paper can cool quickly (within a minute or two) and become too sticky to roll.

Once you have your rice paper lying flat, place your filling mixture on the lower-third of the rice paper. Make sure to leave room (about an inch or two) on both sides of the mixture.

Next, start "rolling" the rice paper, just until the mixture is covered.

Then, fold in the "extra" paper that you left on the sides.

Once you have done that, continue rolling tightly until you have your roll.

If you are making a whole batch, be sure to place a damp paper towel over the plate of rolls so they don't get dry. They can stay like this for a few hours. They go really well with sweet chili sauce, I used Thai Kitchen Sweet Chili Sauce, which says gluten-free on the label. Hey That Taste's Good also has a simple recipe for the sauce (and spring roll post!) on her website. Yum.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Photo Saturday?

I'm a day late on this one, but Henry, the boyfriend and I had a great day at a local park where Henry got in the water a bit. He doesn't exactly swim, but he will wade up to his chest to retrieve a ball.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Buffalo Style Chicken Wings

Vegans, vegetarians, and the health conscious -- please avert your eyes. For those still reading, I present you the chicken wing. Quite possibly the fattiest piece of food you can eat, even worse if you deep fry it, but luckily I didn't go that far.

These chicken wings are baked, believe-it-or-not, there's just that much fat in the skin that it looks like it's been deep fat fried for ten minutes. Instead, they spent forty five minutes in the oven.

In the television business the first thing you do before creating a show idea is take a hard look at the audience, the demographic. Creating a show for seniors? Well you better have some nostalgia pieces in there. Trying to come up with a set for a children's program? Make it colorful! A show topic for a program for teenagers? Go with anything pop culture. You've got to cater to your audience. So, for a small barbecue this weekend for my family and boyfriend I had a healthy pre-meal smattering of carrots, hummus, guacamole, organic corn chips and.... chicken wings. Hooters-style chicken wings. You see my family and boyfriend are all health conscious, but special occasions (his homecoming) call for special foods. Indulgent foods. And as long as you provide a few healthy options so no one OD's on the wings to the point they feel bad about themselves, you're all good. After all, moderation is key.

I can't remember the last time I had chicken wings, but whenever that was, they pale in comparison to these beauties. I adapted the recipe to be gluten free and dairy free from one here.

Buffalo-Style Chicken Wings

20 chicken wings (separated at the drumette)
1/2 cup gluten-free, dairy-free butter alternative, melted (I used Earth Balance)
1/2 cup hot sauce (I used Frank's hot sauce)
3/4 cup rice flour
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

In a large bowl, or large ziploc bag place the rice flour, cayenne pepper and garlic poweder. Coat the chicken wings in the mixture and refrigerate for an hour or more to "set" the flour.

Once that is done, preheat your oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. In a medium bowl mix the melted butter alternative and hot sauce together and dip each wing in the mixture and place on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 45 minutes, turning the wings halfway through.

Serve with blue cheese dressing if you can have it. Or I enjoyed them plain, they're not terribly spicy, but have nice flavor. Use extra hot sauce if you want more of a kick to your wings.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Welcome Home Pancakes

One of the many questions I asked my boyfriend when he was overseas was, "What foods do you miss?" Well, it sounded like he was pretty well fed over there, he had to search a bit for an answer. He didn't have any serious cravings, but once he came to the realization that he hadn't had any blueberry pancakes in quite a long time, he knew he'd want them once he got home. I had a lot to live up to, he's a native Mainer, so he knows his blueberries, his Mom is an amazing baker and he describes the local, volunteer-firefighter pancake breakfasts that he attended as a child with such passion it made me shudder to think of the Lions Club pancake breakfasts I attended as a child, surely they didn't use fresh blueberries in their pancakes.

So, I had a lot to live up to. Try making them gluten-free and dairy-free and serving them to a gluten-eater. Well, a gluten-eater when I'm not around. You see, once he understood the ins and outs of my gluten sensitivity, learning that even a small amount would make me sick, meaning that if he eats a sandwich and gives me a kiss, most likely I would end up with stomach cramps, among many other things for at least twenty-four hours, he basically swore off gluten when I'm around. Pretty. Darn. Cool. And just another reason why I wait through eight-month long deployments, month long trips and hundreds of miles between us, because he's just that worth it.

Enough of the sappy stuff and back to the pancakes. In my quest to find the perfect gluten-free, dairy-free pancake I had grueling taste tests, often involving my family. We tasted mixes, including one that was so dry that one pancake could literally soak up 1/4 cup of syrup. We tried recipes, including one that involved teff flour, which I love, but which my parents definately did not. And luckily, I stumbeled upon a recipe from for "delicious gluten-free pancakes" that received rave reviews and euereka! after tweaking them to my requirements, no dairy and no sugar -- they were delicious! The following is the recipe I adapted from this

Blueberry Pancakes (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, no added sugar)

1 cup superfine brown rice flour
3 tablespoons tapioca flour
1/3 cup potato starch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 eggs
3 tablespoons extra light olive oil (or any light tasting oil)
1 1/2 cups soured almond or rice milk (to sour milk, simply add one tablespoon per cup of "milk" and mix, then let sit for about five minutes)
1 cup fresh blueberries (frozen will work well too)

In a bowl, mix together the brown rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum. Stir in eggs, "milk", and oil until well blended and few lumps remain.

Heat a large, well-oiled skillet (or non-stick) over medium heat. Spoon batter onto skillet and add about five blueberries (make hearts and funny faces if you feel inclined) per pancake. Cook until bubbles begin to form. Flip, and continue cooking until golden brown on bottom. Serve immediately plain, with maple syrup, or condiment of choice (agave nectar is tasty too).

Friday, April 18, 2008

Photo Phriday: Homecoming Edition

Meet Bella: an Iraqi dog that my boyfriend (and his buddies) "adopted" while overseas. This post is being written with a big smile on my face because he (and Bella) are stateside now. Deployment is over. The weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I will get to see him soon.

Today is a good day.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Faux Risotto

Also know as: brown rice with chives. Risotto's great, but sometimes I can't stand in front of the stove for thirty minutes straight. Sometimes, someone decides to act like he's on crack and do his weird "dog talk" thing where he follows me around the condo not quite barking, and not quite wimpering, but sounding like a pig being slaughtered. I really need to capture it on video sometime for you all (well, all three of you).

Aborio rice, which is what is used to make authentic risotto, can be expensive and hard to find. I love it; I really do, but even with the tax return I can't go spending all my cash-money on aborio rice, I need the cheap stuff, the hearty stuff -- I need brown rice. But! I want it to taste like risotto. This recipe isn't going to fool your Everyday Italian, but its texture and creaminess fooled my Irish-Lithuanian palate. This was your typical risotto-style rice dish, until the chives were added; they really add a nice flavor.

Brown Rice with Chives, or Faux Risotto (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

3 Tablespoons olive oil (or butter)
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1 cup brown rice
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock (I had homemade on hand, so I used that)
1/2 cups chopped chives, save some for garnish

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, add two tablespoons of the olive oil. Once the oil gets hot, add the onion and carrots, reducing the heat to medium low. Cook for about ten minutes until translucent. Next, add the brown rice and stir to coat in the olive oil. Add the vegetable stock and turn heat to high and briefly bring to a boil, then simmer over medium-low heat for thirty minutes, or until most of the liquid is gone. Add the chives and the rest of the olive oil. Mix well. Garnish with the rest of the chives and serve (with grilled chicken over spinach and a dijon mustard dressing, like below).

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Coconut Flour Cranberry Walnut Bread

Coconut flour is pretty cool; I've posted about it before, but I am really impressed with how much it expands when you bake it. I made an entire loaf of bread with just 2/3 of a cup of sifted coconut flour. Mind you, I had to use eight eggs, but still -- that defies physics (er, well -- I think).

This bread is perfect for breakfast, or as a snack. It doesn't really hold up well enough to make a sandwich from, but do you really expect that from a cranberry walnut bread? I adapted (omitted the sugar and added agave/use lemon zest instead of lemon extract) the recipe from one I found here and I'm hoping to experiment more with the flour (just check out the chocolate cake in that link -- yum).

Cranberry Walnut Bread (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

8 eggs
½ cup coconut oil, melted
½ cup coconut milk
1/3 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup sifted coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup dried cranberries
½ cup walnuts, chopped

Blend together eggs, oil, coconut milk, agave, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Combine coconut flour with baking powder and whisk thoroughly into batter until there are no lumps. Fold in dried cranberries and nuts. Pour into greased 9x5x3-inch loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees F (175 C) for 60 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on rack.

Please note that the crust of the bread may turn out quite dark due to the agave, but it still tastes quite nice; even *Henry thinks so.

*Henry has this new thing where he will wait underneath the kitchen table just in case I happen to drop a crumb that he can conveniently catch in his mouth. It's quite the sight when you're trying to enjoy your meal and look down and see that face just staring at you betwixt your legs.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Turkey Bacon, Kale & Roasted Tomato. It doesn't float off the tongue quite as nicely as Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato, eh? That's okay. I had a carb-filled breakfast: Nutty Flax cereal with almond milk and a corn tortilla with peanut butter, so I wanted to balance out my day a bit with a low-carb lunch, so TBKRT it is.

I can't get over how much I enjoyed these. Something about the deep flavor of the roasted plum tomato, smokey turkey bacon and hearty kale with a few dollops of equal parts horseradish and mayonaise and a side of roasted chick peas made for a satisfying lunch.

This isn't much of a recipe, but more of a recommendation. Next time you have plum tomatoes a few days from going bad, toss them in olive oil and salt and pepper and roast for forty five minutes. If you've run out of recipes for your kale, use it as a wrap. And if you're tired of the same, old BLT. Try this one.

Turkey Bacon Kale & Roasted Tomato (TBKRT)

2 slices of turkey bacon, cooked
4 roasted plum tomato halves
2 large pieces of raw, rinsed kale
1 tablespoon of light mayonaise and horseradish, mixed

Place the turkey and tomatoes on the kale and spread the mayo/horseradish mixture on top and enjoy.

*As far as the chick peas, I simply tossed some rinsed, canned chic peas in olive oil and sprinkled with paprika and chili powder and roasted for twenty minutes at 375 degrees. They're quite nice in place of chips.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Photo Phriday: Food Porn

You may be asking yourself "What this sloppy mess of chocolate on top of?"

Well, I'll answer. It's a dairy-free, gluten-free pumpkin custard cupcake. And its quite delicious (especially drizzled, er globbed in melted vegan chocolate).

Sometimes I get a bit weary about using my special gluten-free flours when I'm experimenting -- they're downright expensive. So, in my latest recipe I created a single serving size dessert without using any flour. With only a few ingredients, it's quite easy to put together, too.

Pumkin Custard Cupcakes (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)
Makes 12

1 15 oz can of pureed pumpkin
1 14 oz can of cream of coconut
2 eggs, whisked
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with cupcake liners. Make sure the cream of coconut is thoroughly mixed. In a bowl combine the pumpkin puree, cream of coconut, eggs and stir in the spices. Pour the mixture into the liners 3/4 full and bake for 25 minutes. They are done when a knife comes out of the cupcake clean.

Let the cupcakes stand for at least ten minutes before eating, or the liners will be difficult to peel off.

They can be a breakfast item if you lay off the chocolate, or make a sweet dessert when drizzled with chocolate.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Zucchini Fritter-tatas

I was going to make zucchini fritters today, but I was running out of time before work so I quickly changed plans and made what I call: a zucchini fritter--tata; the ingredients in this recipe are normally those used in fritters (hence the flour) but the outcome, which was one large pie was more fritata-like. And the taste? A pleasant combination of the two -- and with a lot less fat than normal fried fritters.

Zucchini Fritter-tatas (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

4 zucchini grated
1/2 cup rice flour (any kind should do)
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 375

Place the grated zucchini on a bed of paper towels and let stand for twenty minutes to rid the zucchini of some of its water. In a bowl combine the flour, paprika, salt and pepper. Next, add the eggs and finally add the zucchini. Stir to combine. Meanwhile, add the oil to a medium-sized skillet on medium-high heat. Pour the zucchini mixture into the pan and cook for ten minutes undisturbed. Then, place the pan in the oven and finish cooking for about fifteen more minutes, or until the top has lightly browned.

Serve room temperate or cold.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Butter Bean and Pesto Soup

What do you do when you have a bowl of butter beans cooked with olive oil, garlic and rosemary, a tablespoon of leftover parsley pesto and one jarred artichoke heart? You blend it all together and make a soup! A very tastey, creamy, garlicy soup.

My Mom saw a jar of butter beans in my cabinet once and gave a slightly disgusted (in the nicest possible way) face. She's not a fan, and neither am I I learned -- at least not in their "bean" form. Something about the size and texture threw me off, so in an effort not to waste the beans I had to somehow transform them into something I liked, and the good eatah likes this.

Butter Bean and Pesto Soup (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) Serves 2

1 15 oz can of butter beans (any white bean would work here)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped (use less if dried)
salt and pepper to taste

1 tablspoon pesto (I used some homemade, dairy-free parsley pesto, [simply blend a large bunch of parsley, 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, 2 cloves garlic and a teaspoon olive oil] I had leftover)

1 jarred artichoke heart

1/2 cup water

In a pan on medium low heat place oil and add garlic and rosemary -- cooking for two minutes. Add beans and salt and pepper and cook another four minutes, then let stand for a few minutes. In a small food processor add the beans, pesto, artichoke heart and water. Blend until desired consistency. Add more water if you like your soup thinner.

Enjoy cold, or warm.

Just had to share...

This will be my last post about Pamela's recipe contest -- I swear! But I just had to share that they posted my "runner up" recipe on their website and their photo of the brownies (see below) came out a whole lot better than mine did.

Yay for Pamela's!