Thursday, January 31, 2008

Too G-darn Cool

Ah - hem.

You are currently reading the blog of a recipe award winner. Not too long ago, in December to be exact, I submitted a recipe to a contest that Pamela's brand gluten-free foods was having. I entered my German Chocolate Brownies in the decadent dessert category and just yesterday I found out I got "Runner Up!" You may say to yourself, "Lizzie, it's runner-up, it's not that big of a deal." To that I would say "Sure, you may think so, but this was the first recipe I have ever submitted to anything, and with Pamela's being so well known in the gluten-free community, I'm pretty proud." Oh, and this which Stephanie at Pamela's told me about:


“We are pleased to tell you that your German Chocolate Brownies have won Runner Up in the Delicious Dessert Category of the Pamela's Products Second Annual Greatest Gluten-free Recipe Contest. We don't officially plan for runners up, but when a recipe strikes us as really good and we want to be sure that it receives its due recognition, we allow for this special award. What does that mean for you? We'll be sending you a care package with our congratulations, we'll be publishing your recipe on our website (per our official rules) noting your name, and the best of all really, bragging rights! All yours!”

Another reason this is pretty cool: I created the recipe because my Mom would always make my Dad german chocolate cake for his Birthday. But now that he, my sister and I are gluten-free, I knew it would be difficult to replicate her cake. So I attempted to get the german chocolate feel in a brownie -- just for Pops.

I will post the recipe soon, I promise. But first I have to take Henry for a walk. He's getting pretty tired of hearing me say "Who's your little baker?"

Here's a pretty bad picture of the brownies. I took the photo in a bit of a rush so I could get the recipe in on time.

German Chocolate Brownies (gluten-free, dairy-free**)

One bag of Pamela's Chocolate Brownie Mix
One egg
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup water

Topping:

1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup toasted pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons margerine or butter, melted (I use Earth Balance to make it dairy-free)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease 8x8 inch pan with shortening.

Follow "oil" instructions for Pamela's brownies and pour into greased pan.

In a bowl, combine shredded coconut, pecans, brown sugar, salt and melted margarine. Crumble mixture evenly on top of brownies.

Bake brownies in the middle rack of the oven for approximately twenty-five minutes. Let the brownies cool on a wire-rack and cut into squares.

*Please note: there's not real german chocolate in here, the idea was to replicate the frosting that tops a German Chocolate Cake, sans dairy.
**Also note that if you are allergic to dairy in very small amounts, Pamela's brownies have a disclaimer that there may be dairy residue due to manufacturing equipment, but the mix is otherwise dairy-free.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Clean Plate Club


I was lucky enough to go out to eat at two amazing (and super expensive) restaurants within the past week. Mind you, I don't normally eat like this (or eat out all that much anymore) but the experiences I had will surely tide me over in the going-out-to-eat department for awhile.

This post might be a bit boring for those that don't live in the Boston area, but if you ever do visit Boston, pleeeeeease try these restaurants. They take food allergy issues very seriously. In fact, Rialto has a gluten-free menu.



Rialto at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge

Aujour'hui is as swanky as it gets. I went on a Wednesday evening with my Mom and cousin who was in town on business. Besides the great company (I hadn't seen my cousin in over a year) the experience was, well -- divine. The waiter was very attentive and really listened to my dietary restrictions. I ordered dishes off the menu that looked gluten and dairy free, but made sure to find out if they were, in fact, made with either food. I got a simple salad of field greens to start and my main course was a Florida grouper that was cooked to perfection. The entree was altered a bit because the normal dish included butter, so it took a bit longer for us to get our meals, but that was quite alright -- we had plenty to chat about. For dessert I had a bowl of mixed berries which was a perfect way to end the meal. I briefly looked at the dessert menu and if I could eat dairy there would be a few things I could have had. My Mom and cousin got some amazing looking food, including a lobster bisque which was poured from a le creuset at the table and chocolate souffle with a warm, vanilla sauce.

I had heard good things about Rialto from the local, gluten-free community prior to my arrival. I went on a Monday night to celebrate my brother-in-laws 30th Birthday and it was quite busy, which is a good sign. Also, the head chef was walking around the restaurant and talking with customers all night -- another tip off we were in for a treat. My dear sister made the reservations and made sure the restaurant knew that three gluten-free people would be in attendence. I cannot get over the venison that I had. I've had venison maybe once before, but never like this. It was cooked medium-rare and served with a reduction (I'm guessing red wine), roasted chestnuts, onion and a chutney of some sort. I'm totally butchering what was exactly in it, but I'm guessing there was crack in there too, because it was so darn good.

*How could I even write this post without thanking Mom and my sister for taking me to such nice places. Seriously, I haven't eaten out safely and deliciously in a long, long time.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Superbowl Snacks

I have no tried and true recipe today, but I do have some ideas. Superbowl Sunday is coming up and I usually spend it at my parents. Last year I remember making guacamole and putting too much red onion in it, so I would like to redeem myself this year.

I did a bit of research and here is what I'm thinking:

Brocolli-Stuffed Potato Skins with Avocado Cream - this recipe is by Ellie Krieger who hosts a healty-cooking show on the food network. I'm hoping to make this recipe sans-cheddar and omit the sour cream in the avocado cream, making it more of a guacamole (I'll go easy on the red onion, I swear)

Popcorn Shrimp with Chili-Lime Dipping Sauce - another recipe by Ellie Krieger; this one calls for regular flour. I'll probably substitute with my Annalise Roberts flour mix (superfine brown rice flour, tapioca flour and potato starch) and make the dip for my dairy-eating family.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries - from allrecipies. If I can find some good-looking strawberries, I'm all over this one. I'll be using Enjoy Life chocolate chips. I also heard a rumor that Stop and Shop brand chocolate chips are dairy-free, so if I can confirm, I'll use those to save me some dough.

It'd be great if I made all three; I'll be sure and post about it if I do!

Speaking of the Superbowl, this will probably make fellow Bostonians pretty pissed, but I'm hoping the Patriots lose -- here's why: Why I Hope the Patriots Lose the Superbowl

Though, I (heart) Wes Welker.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ma! The Mini-Meatloaf!


If you don't recognize the title of this post, please click here

Will Ferrell, who is quite possibly my favorite actor, had a small part in the movie, Wedding Crashers and had a funny little scene about meatloaf; I like to yell it every now and then to my Mom -- she usually gives me a weird look -- I don't think she's seen the movie. Regardless, this post is about a healthy, gluten-free, dairy-free mini-meatloaf. Say that five times fast.

The recipe is such that I just kind of threw things in that sounded good, and it turned out quite delicious. The "mini" in it all comes from the fact that I live alone and like to eat "little" things. It makes me feel better about gorging on five of them, so lay off me.

Ma! The Mini-Meatloaf!

1.3 pounds ground turkey
1 1/2 slices of gluten free bread crumbled (I used Trader Joe's french bread rolls)
1 egg
1 medium-sized vidallia onion
2 carrots
1 1/2 teaspoon spices (I used a blend of pepper and a garlic blend)

3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350

In a bowl, combine ground turkey, breadcrumbes, onion, carrot, egg and spices. Place in mini-muffin tins and mini-loaf pans. Combine the ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar in a small bowl and brush on top of your muffin tins and loaf.

You most certainly can cook this meatloaf the normal way -- in a normal sized loaf pan, but then it wouldn't be mini and you might feel bad about yourself for eating half of it and end up working out for an hour because of it...

If you are baking yours in the mini-muffin tins and mini-loaf pan, it should take about twenty to twenty-five minutes. Just keep an eye on it.

Wedding Crashers is a decent movie, but I definately quote Anchorman a whole lot more. Unfortunately, I can't think of any food-related scenes to quote from that one.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Dog Training & Roasted Cauliflower

I adopted Henry in mid-August from a rescue organization after longing for a dog of my own for years. I finally felt I was at a point in my life where I could handle the responsibilities of taking care of a dog: I was living sans-roommates, I worked only a few miles from my home which meant I could come home on lunch breaks, and monetarily, I felt I could handle the food, vet and training costs. What I didn't take into account is that adorable, little Henry would have some major behavioral issues.

Taking him out for walks has become quite the adventure. I have been embarrassed, scared-beyond-belief and almost brought to tears because of this guy. He barks and pulls and jumps and whines. I've tried the dog-whisperer "be the pack leader" and make your dog walk right next to you way of walking, which only makes him freak out more. I've taken along spray bottles on walks to spritz him when he yelps. And I've had one old curmudgeon neighbor tell me that I should get Henry a shock collar (the gem stated this while making a strangling motion).

I'm typing all of this while he is quietly napping beside me; he really is a sweet dog.

Needless to say, he needs to be better trained. Within the first few weeks of adopting him I had him at a trainer where I was being taught how to walk and train him, but it just wasn't working and the trainer didn't really seem to care. Finally, just yesterday, after Henry embarrassed me with his incessant barking and taunting of other dogs at an indoor doggie playgroup, we had an appointment with a dog trainer who cared and really knew her stuff. We spent an hour talking and training and going over things with Henry. He's nowhere near saved, but now I have the humane tools to make him a less embarrassing dog -- I hope.

We went on a walk this morning, it went well until he saw a little dog across the street, and all hell broke loose: barking loudly and pulling really hard. But, I'm looking on the bright side -- three quarters of the walk he was well behaved.

Much like Henry, cauliflowers have a bad reputation; I don't know anyone who would name the vegetable as a favorite, but with the right amount of love and just a few additions, it turns into a sweet and savory delight. Seriously, I had a hard time not eating the whole thing after it was roasted.



Simple Roasted Cauliflower

One head of cauliflower
3/4 tablespoon salt
3/4 tablespoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 375.

Rid the cauliflower of it's green and break into chunks. Place in a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place into the oven and roast for about forty-five minutes, or until the cauliflower is slightly crispy with dark edges.

So about that picture up top; I let Henry eat the piece of cauliflower he's licking the photo, but only after he sat like a good dog. He's learning!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Photo Phriday


Sooooo. Maybe this blog is turning into a gluten-free cooking blog and an I-like-cute-and-furry-things blog.

Think: gluten-free girl meets cute overload.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Perfect Chicken Breast

Boneless, skinless chicken breast. They're good for you: packed with protein and no fat, but often difficult to to keep moist and tender. Luckily, I've discovered a no-fail way to cook those buggers to perfection.

Meet, the perfect chicken breast:


Ingredients:

3 tablespoons gluten-free flour mix (I use Annalise Roberts' brown rice mix)
1 tablespoon of fresh or dried herbs (like sage, rosemary and thyme)
1 chicken breast, rinsed and pat dry
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. On a plate, mix the flour and herbs together. Take the chicken and dredge in the flour -- just enough to lightly coat, you don't want it gummy. In a oven-proof 8-inch pan, heat the olive oil to a medium-high heat. Place the chicken in the pan a sear on both sides until light brown -- about a minute and a half per side. Now, put in the oven for about eight minutes, or until juices run clear.

Let the chicken stand for at least five minutes before serving.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Stuffed Portabella

This was the very first savory gluten-free recipe that I created and booooooy, do I love it. I had a hankering for something healthy, yet filling. Chewy, yet crunchy. So I started to play. I had on hand a few ingredients: a zucchini, two portabella mushroom caps, the stump of some stale bread, and a half of a red onion. I drizzled some balsamic vinegar and olive oil into the mixture, and viola -- a healthy, filling, chewy and crunchy meal. More descriptive instructions below.


Simple Stuffed Portabellas

2 Portabella Mushroom Caps (try to use organic here, the porous nature of mushrooms make it easy for them to absorb pesticides)
1 cup of cubed, stale bread (I used Pamela's Bread Mix that I baked in my bread maker -- it is by far, the best gluten-free, dairy-free bread out there)
1/2 red onion (use less if you're not a huge red onion fan)
1 chopped zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 350

In a bowl, combine the bread, red onion and zucchini. Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic vinegar throughout the mixture. Place the mushrooms in a roasting pan and put the bread mixture over the mushrooms. Most likely, you will have too much of the bread mixture; that's okay. Put it in the pan anyway. Bake for about fifteen minutes, or until the bread cubes crunch up real nice. Eat them both as a meal, or use as a side dish.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Minature Banana Bread Loaf

I've tried quite a few gluten-free, dairy-free banana bread recipes in my day and none could compare to my dear Mom's banana bread. It was so good that when she sent a loaf back with me to school in college, and I had to hand it off to my friend to bring it back to my dorm because I had to go to tennis practice, there was only half left when I got back to the dorm. And I really couldn't blame her; my Mom's banana bread is good.

Fast forward to a few years later, and I'm trying to replicate that moist, sweet, loaf. I've had a few failures, including a loaf that crumbled to the touch, but alas! I have found a winner, and it's basically my Mom's recipe -- modified gluten free.

I should also mention my slight obsession with "little" cooking tools. The notebook above is the size of a checkbook, so yes, the whisk is really the size of a fork, and the mini-loaf pan (I have four of them) makes a loaf slightly larger than a regular-sized muffin. This banana bread worked perfectly in my mini-loaf pan, but it also turned out well in a regular sized loaf pan -- just adjust your cooking time.

That's Henry -- eyeballing my loaf. Bad Henry.

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Banana Bread

2 teaspoons vanilla (make sure it's gluten-free; I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas)
3/4 cup sugar (I had vanilla sugar on hand, so I used that)
4 very ripe, mashed bananas (I freeze over-ripe bananas and pop them in the microwave to defrost them when I want to use them)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups of your favorite gluten-free flour (I use a mix of superfine brown rice flour, tapioca starch and potato flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, mix the vanilla, sugar, bananas, oil and eggs. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients.

Grease either your mini-loaf, or regular-sized loaf pans and fill just before you reach the top of the pan.

Bake until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the loaf. It took about seventeen minutes for my mini-loaf pans, and about thirty-five for my regular-sized loaf.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Photo Phriday (times two)

This adorable, innocent-looking dog, Elsa managed to get my poor, little dog Henry into a "mouth lock."


If you look carefully and can distinguish the two mouths you will see Henry completely on the receiving end.


Okay, okay. Henry is anything but poor and little. He probably instigated the whole thing, but this picture perfectly symbolizes the craziness that occurs when the two dogs get together. I'll have to videotape it next time.

Egg-cellent


This simple, hearty scramble is sure to fill you up in the morning so you don't end up eating the majority of your calories later in the day, when you're less likely to burn them off.

Here's my take on a Southwestern Scramble:

One teaspoon olive oil
5 eggs (or the equivelent in egg whites)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/3 cup canned black beans
1/3 cup canned corn (used fresh if you have it)
4 cooked, gluten-free sausage links (or patties if that's what you have)
1 tablespoon cilantro to garnish (omit if you want)

Heat a pan on medium heat Beat the eggs with a fork and slowly sprinkle in the chili powder until combined. Pour the egg mixture into the pan. Once the egg has set a bit, put in the beans, corn and sausage. Continue to move around the mixture until the egg is cooked to your liking.

Serve by itself or with some salsa on top.

Coming soon: my obession with mini-kitchen tools brings me a mini-banana bread.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Good Eatah's Food Review

I can be lazy sometimes. Well, I can be lazy quite often, so it's good to know that there are some convenience foods that I can rely on when I don't feel like preparing a meal from scratch.

I very distinctly remember my mom stocking up on anything "Bell & Evans" from the grocery store. According to her, and many food critics, they have the Best. Poultry. Ever. And I firmly believe it. So, when I discovered that they created a gluten-free, breaded chicken tender, I immedietely purchased and consumed. They are awesome and they remind me of the chicken tender that I would get as a special treat and that I loved as a kid.

They're super simple to prepare -- either in the oven or stovetop. I pan fry mine in a bit of olive oil and dip in ketchup. It reminds me of being a kid again.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Just had to share

So, I'm a pretty athletic woman. I workout quite a bit. I currently play competitive soccer twice a week, played tennis in college and managed to get voted "most athletic" in high school and never before have I been so impressed by one simple exercise.

While preparing some chili and carrot-coconut soup yesterday morning, I was watching a segment on the Today show with wellness expert Jorge Cruise. The title was called "shrinking your waist" which turned me off a bit, but his ideas and the simplicity of the exercise hooked me. I tried this simple sit-up and did ten reps, and now my stomach has been twitching ever since. Most people might find a twitching stomach annoying, but I think it's pretty darn cool because it means that the exercise is working and has exhausted my abdominal muscles and is therefore building more muscle. I'll keep at it daily, and see if I notice a change in the upcoming weeks.

Click on the video segment to see the sit-up: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/22465951/

I'm alsmost tempted to videotape my twitching stomach so you all can see, but that might be a little too much information.

Photo Phriday


Mt. Washington, Summer '07

I hiked the Tuckerman Ravine trail with two of my good friends and former roommates. We heard horror stories about the weather changing drastically during the hike, so I was ready for anything with my four layers of clothes. However, it turned out to be a really hot day and wasn't terribly chilly at the top. It was a great time.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Ohhh Sugar & SPC

Sugar. I eat too much sugar. It's in the almond milk I drink. The cereal (Puffins, Honey Rice are awesome) I eat. It's in most of the sauces I use. And, of course, the desserts I make. For (one of) my New Years resolutions I will attempt to cut back on my sugar intake. Mind you, when I go grocery shopping and am purchasing processed foods, I always strive to buy foods whose sugar intake per serving is under ten grams, but that doesn't mean that I then eat one serving per day. I probably end up consuming thirty grams of sugar a day -- which is no good. Well, it's time for a change (I feel like I've been hearing that phrase a lot lately... weird). This recipe below -- SPC -- was my last super-sugary-side before attempting to cut the sugar. It was a good way to go...




Sweet potato casserole. The word casserole always conjures up the unppetizing to me: tuna casserole (warm tuna fish? yuck), green bean casserole (a buttery, fried mess), low-tide casserole (reminds me of, well, the smell of low tide -- in a dish -- covered with cheese). While those might all taste delightful, there's something about casserole that makes me wince. Mixing a bunch of ingredients together and creating something with the texture of soggy bread is what comes to mind. Maybe it's the relationship that fifties housewives had with casserole's and the opression that was put on those women to make casserole's and have babies that makes me angry. There I go -- off on a tangent, but this brings me back to the dish; it will be referred to by it's abbreviation: SPC.

INGREDIENTS
4 cups cooked sweet potato (I just zapped mine in the microwave until tender -- about 5 min per potato)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons Earth Balance (use butter if you can tolerate dairy)
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons Earth Balance
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix the sweet potato, sugar, eggs, margarine, almond milk and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Once combined, put in one of those dishes most people put casseroles in. Combine the brown sugar and pecans and cut in the margarine until the mixture is crumbly. Now, top the casserole (uh, I said it) with the mixture and bake for thirty minutes.

Holler.