Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chef's Gluten Free Pizza

Chef's Gluten Free Pizza

This weekend we ordered dinner from Chef's, which has become a habit for us lately, which is fine by me. My husband has been eating at Chef's for years and a few months ago saw they started serving gluten free pizzas.  We were happy to find out they are one of the least expensive of the local pizzarias to serve gluten free pies, a plain pizza runs about $8.95, where other places charge as much as $15.95 for the exact same thing.  One other simple reason we love Chef's is that my husband can pick it up on his way home from work.

As far as the actual pizza goes, it's good, I probably think it's better than it is because I can get a decent gluten free pizza, not far from home at a good price, that will make almost anything taste better.  Realistically the crust is a little cardboard like, I assume that is due to it being made off site, frozen, and shipped to Chef's.  I do really enjoy the sauce they use, it has a nice little kick to it, working well with the pepperoni and olives that I typically order.  I do wish they would offer some gluten free pasta dishes on their menu but I can be happy with the pizza for now.  I would like to acknowledge a few things that Chef's does correctly in regard to serving the gluten free pizzas.  The pizzas come on a little aluminum pan which they leave it in when the slide it into the oven so as not to cross contaminate the pizza with any thing that may be laying in the bottom of the oven previously.  Next, when I watched them cut my pizza into slices I saw that they thoroughly wiped down the pizza cutter before applying it to my pie.  Tim also over heard the manager speaking to the staff during his last pick up about the procedures of cooking and serving a gluten free pizza safely.  A few small steps that I appreciate them taking the time and effort to make a safer meal for me.

Overall I'm very happy to eat a Chef's gluten free pizza, hopefully as I said previously they can expand their gluten free menu to include pasta and entrees.  I'll let you know as soon as I do if that happens.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gluten Free Devil's Food Cupcakes: Ceci's Birthday Treats

Gluten Free Devil's Food Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting, in shape of Mickey Mouse symbol

Ceci doesn't love sweet things, so I decided to make a cake that my husband and I prefer to eat.  I think Ceci would have been happy if I had served chips and pretzels with a candle in it.  We love chocolate in this house so it made perfect sense to have devil's food cupcakes with a rich chocolate frosting, and let me tell you!!!  Oh man!  I particularly enjoyed them out of the fridge when the frosting was nice and stiff.  I'm drooling just thinking about them, maybe next time I will freeze some left overs for just such a craving.

Gluten Free Devil's Food Cupcakes

1/4   Cup Soy (or Chickpea) flour
1      Cup Sweet Rice Flour
1      Cup Tapioca Starch
1      tsp Xanthum Gum
1/2  Cup Unsweetened Cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4  tsp Salt
1/2  Cup Butter
1 3/4 Cup Sugar
1    tsp Vanilla
3    Eggs
1 1/3 Cups Cold Water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).  Line 22-24 cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside.  Mix flours, xanthum gum, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl and set aside.  In a stand mixer beat butter on high for 30 seconds, add sugar and vanilla and beat until well combined.  Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each.  Add dry ingredients and water alternating and beating on low speed after each addition until just combined.  Be careful not to over mix the batter it will make the cupcakes tough.  Pour batter into cupcake papers, fill cups 2/3 full leaving room for the batter to rise.  Drop pans flatly onto counter to force out any air bubbles left in batter.  Bake in 350 degree (F) oven for 17-20 minutes until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Coll on a wire rack completely before icing.  Makes 22-24 cupcakes

Chocolate Frosting

1/2    Cup Butter
1/2    Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/3    Cup Milk
4       Cups of Powdered Sugar
1       tsp Vanilla

Microwave butter on high until melted (about 1 min.)  Stir in Cocoa until smooth; microwave on high until mixture boils (30 sec-1 min.)  Add milk and sugar and using a hand mixer or transfer to a stand mixer beat together.  Beat slowly while adding sugar so as not to throw it around the whole kitchen.  When sugar is fully incorporated add vanilla and beat on high until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency.  I placed this frosting in a piping tube and my wonderful friend Sheri swirled it on top of each cupcake for me.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ceci's Birthday Treats, Gluten Free Sugar Cookies

At Ceci's 2nd Birthday party I wanted to provide fun activities for the kids so I got some aprons for them to decorate with markers after I added Mickey Mouse designs to them.  Once the aprons were done and we had eaten some dinner I broke out the cookies for the kids to decorate with royal icing which I colored and we had sprinkles, marshmallows, and raisins.  The raisins were a huge hit that I didn't expect.

I previously used this cookie recipe last winter when I held a cookie swap at the house, everyone said it was so good and disappeared quickly at their own home.  So I figured it would be a good one for the kids to use, and it's deliciously plain and a good way to deliver icing and other treats to your mouth.  Because as far as I'm concerned that's one of the most important functions of a good cookie, how much frosting can it structurally hold and get into my mouth.

Gluten Free Rich Sugar Cookies

2     Sticks of Unsalted Butter
2/3  Cup Sugar
1     Egg
1/4  tsp Baking powder
1/8  tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/3  Cup Soy Flour
1    Cup Sweet Rice Flour
1    Cup Tapioca Starch
1    tsp Xanthum Gum

Cream butter and sugar together in mixer on med-high speed for a minute, add in Egg, Baking powder, salt, and vanilla, mix until combined.  Scrape down sides of bowl and mix again if needed to thoroughly incorporate ingredients.  In a separate bowl, mix flours and xanthum gum, add flour mixture to butter mix one cup at a time, with mixer on low.  Once flour is entirely mixed in, run mixer on medium high for about a 30 seconds to make sure everything is blended in.  Turn off mixer, remove bowl from machine, split dough into two portions and wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap.  Place dough in fridge for about an hour.
While waiting for dough to chill, collect desired cookie cutters, rolling mat, rolling pin, spatula, extra flour (I prefer Sweet Rice flour), cookie sheet, silpat (I can't live without mine), and wire cooling rack.  Yes, sugar cookies are a lot of work, but I figure they are worth it.
Remove one dough ball from fridge. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).  Generously flour rolling mat, and rolling pin with extra flour.  Press out ball of dough onto mat and roll out with rolling pin, rotating and flipping dough every few rolls.  Work until dough is about 1/4 inch thick, begin cutting out cookies and placing on cookie sheet (with silpat in sheet, if you have one).  Place cookies about 1 inch apart to accommodate for spreading in the oven.  Bake cookies for 6-9 minutes until golden brown around the edge.  Place on a wire rack to cool.  Scraps of dough can be combined and rolled out again for more cookies, be aware that continuing to add more flour for dusting can result in a tough cookie.  I usually only recycle my scraps 1-2 times before giving up on them.  Repeat the process for the other ball of dough until all dough is made and you have a bunch of delicious cookies.

Wait until cookies are completely cooled before icing, you can use either a royal icing if you like a thicker layer of frosting, or I like to use a powdered sugar icing with food coloring to make all sorts of fun designs.

Christmas cookies, Ceci had a blue cast at the time.

Powdered Sugar Icing

2   Cups Powdered Sugar
1 1/2 Tbs liquid (milk or orange juice, I like the flavor of orange juice with the cookies)

Mix in a bowl until smooth.  Adjust consistency as needed by adding more powdered sugar or liquid.  Add food coloring and place into a piping bag, or a zip top bag with a bottom corner cut off.  Decorate cookies as desired, and ENJOY!

Some decorating inspiration:  I warn you I am not very good at decorating perfectly.  Some of the really "interesting" ones were decorated by Ceci and her friends.

Blue duck with hidden sprinkles (Ceci's)
Can you tell Ceci loves sprinkles?

Raw cookies with colored sugar
Stained glass cookies, sort of

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ceci's 2nd Birthday Mac and Cheese

Gluten Free Shells, with Cheese sauce

My sweet baby turned 2 this year and we decided to celebrate at home with friends.  We decided since it was Ceci's birthday we would make food that she loves, the menu consisted of Hebrew National Hot Dogs, Mac and Cheese, cookies, and cupcakes.  All Gluten free without question!  There were of course chips, and veggies, but Ceci wasn't too worried about those.  If I haven't mentioned it before I should, Ceci Dislikes all vegetables, she loves fruit, but will not touch any kind of veggie, if I get her to put it into her mouth, she takes it out and hands it back to me, Thanks!  So we kept it simple, so that children and adults could enjoy the cuisine together.

For dinner we served Hebrew National Hot Dogs, and Chicken Apple Sausage, and my husband marinated two different concoctions of chicken drumsticks.  All of which were devoured by kids and adults.  For a side dish I made a huge batch of cheese sauce for Mac and Cheese, because we had such a large population of gluten eaters we made two pots of noodles and just dispersed the sauce accordingly.  My husband was able to warm the mac and cheese on the side burner of his massive grill so it was wonderfully cheesy warm for all to enjoy.  I love making my own roux for cheese sauce, since I have mastered this, we can't stand the thought of eating mac and cheese from a box.  Don't get me wrong I still have a box in the house for a rainy day, but if I can plan ahead I prefer to have home made roux and cheese sauce.  I think I have figured it out sort of, the biggest ingredient that I have to include is patience, which is unreasonably difficult for me to remember, but I'm getting better at it.  Here are the other physical ingredients you will need to make yummy Mac and Cheese.

Mac and Cheese Sauce

1  Tbsp butter
1  Tbsp Cornstarch
1  Cup Milk (warmed)
2  Cups Shredded cheese  (we prefer 1/2 Monterey Jack, 1/2 Sharp Cheddar)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Melt Butter in a medium sauce pan, add in Cornstarch and stir until cornstarch blends into butter, now wait for cornstarch to start to brown within the melted butter.  I find this gives it a bit of a nutty taste and allows the cornstarch to develop to it's proper ability.  While waiting for the cornstarch, place the milk into the microwave and warm for 1-1.5 min, adding cold milk to the roux will take longer for the cornstarch to reach the point where it "works", by warming the milk you do not shock the warm mixture, you coax it to work together.  The milk does not need to be hot, just no longer cold.  Add the warm milk to the mixture and stir frequently, once the sauce begins to thicken, add all the shredded cheese.  Allow the cheese to melt and mix into the sauce, add salt and pepper to taste, I prefer to add these at the end because some cheeses are saltier than others.  Serve over warm noodles and try not to eat the entire pot yourself!

Melted butter and cornstarch

Finished cheese sauce 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My favorite Gluten Free Bread

"Brown and White Bread" I found this recipe over 10 years ago in a Red star yeast pamphlet I picked up in the aisle of Bob's Red Mill and have kept it close by ever since.  I also had the great fortune of my parents buying me an amazing bread machine when I graduated from grad school, it's a Zojirushi bread machine that has a "home made" setting that you can program yourself.

The most important suggestion I can make about a bread machine is to invest in a very good strong machine.  Gluten free flours tend to be heavy and dense and will tear up the motor on cheap machines.  I have used a cheap machine years ago and I found I had to mix all my ingredients in a stand mixer and then pour the batter into the bread machine, which then only saved me the trouble of kneading, rising, and baking the bread.  It seems like an okay process, but when you spend the money on a machine you want it to do the work for you.  Especially for me when I make a loaf of bread almost once a week, adding extra steps, and items to clean in the end, is not fun.  So if you can splurge on a machine, do so, it's worth the extra money now in what you will save, no longer buying pre-made bread from the market.

I have tried some of the other recipes in the pamphlet, but I keep going back to this one, it tastes the best to me.  I also like their "Favorite White Bread" recipe.  I find it's difficult to keep all the components on hand to make any bread I want, on the spur of the moment which is why I always fall back to the "Brown and White Rice Bread" recipe.  I prefer to use Bob's Red Mill Brown and White Rice flours when making the recipe I think the coarseness of the stone ground flours works well for this process and are not at all grainy in the end result.

Some of the problems with this and all gluten free bread recipes are that they contain little to no preservatives and are not at all shelf stable.  I prefer to store my finished loaves in the fridge, I let them dry out over the course of the day I made them and that evening I slice it up and put it back into it's loaf form and put it into a zip top bag.  This way I can just grab a slice or two when I need them without having to get out the cutting board and knife.  My other suggestion is that you toast the bread after taking it out of the fridge, if you go without toasting it, even lightly the bread will crumble the second you try to pick it up.

This is directly copied and pasted from the Red Star Yeast Web site.  If you would like other recipes, please click on the link at the beginning of this post and it will show you several of their bread recipes.

Brown and White Bread

Wet Ingredients

Water  1+2/3 cup
Egg  3
Vegetable Oil  1/4 cup
Cider Vinegar  1 tsp

Dry Ingredients

White Rice Flour  2+1/4 cup
Brown Rice Flour  1 cup
Xanthan Gum  2+1/2 tsp
Salt  1+1/2 tsp
Dry Milk Powder  1/2 cup
Sugar  3 TBSP
Active Dry Yeast  2+1/4 tsp


Combine wet, room temperature ingredients; pour into baking pan. All dry ingredients, including the Active Dry Yeast, should be thoroughly blended together before adding on top of the wet ingredients. Mixing them together in a bowl with a wire whisk or shaking them together in a gallon size, self-sealing plastic bag is suggested. Gluten-free flours are very fine and need to be well blended before liquid is added to them.

Select a NORMAL or BASIC cycle; start machine. For bread machines with a BAKE ONLY cycle, select the DOUGH cycle for mixing and rising. Press STOP when the cycle is complete; then select the BAKE ONLY cycle to complete the bread. After the mixing action begins, help any unmixed ingredients into the dough with a rubber spatula, keeping to edges and top of batter to prevent interference with the kneading blade.

When the bake cycle is complete, remove the pan from the machine. Allow the bread to remain in the pan for approximately 10 minutes, then invert pan and shake gently to remove the bread. Cool upright on a rack before slicing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Happy Celiac Awareness Day!

Here is a great article from about the man primarily responsible for the Gluten free diet, and it's positive effects on celiac patients.  It's amazing how listening to a mother, a Doctor can learn so much.  My mom trusted her instincts that something was wrong with her baby girl, and fought until she found a Dr to help.  It constantly reminds me to trust my instincts with Ceci.  Thank you mom!

Willem-Karel Dicke: Pioneer in Gluten-free Diet in the Treatment of Celiac Disease

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Delicious Contraband!

The other day I was given an amazing gift of Gluten Free Bisquick, from our wonderful friends who have a direct access line to the General Mills Corporation.  I was utterly curious about the product and couldn't wait to find out how it would taste, work, and come out in a dish.  I decided to make a project for Ceci and I one afternoon before dinner and make the biscuit recipe on the box (there are about 8 different recipes on the box).  Projects help us pass the day and keep Ceci happy and occupied, and who doesn't love having warm biscuits as the end result of a "project."
It was a really quick recipe and didn't need any rolling or kneading, we were able to make the batch in a mixing bowl with a rubber spatula for stirring, no mixer needed.  Oh, sorry we did use a pastry cutter and the only change to the recipe I made was to substitute butter for shortening, we were out of shortening in the house.  They baked really quickly, 15 minutes, and at minute 16 I was trying not to burn my fingers while picking one up to eat.
These biscuits were amazing!!  Tender, flaky, delicious!  Perfect!!!!  I want to get my hands on a pallet of this stuff.  I want to make all the different recipes, heck I could just make biscuits every day and be happy.  There were some biscuits left over in the morning, so we decided to make sausage egg and cheese on a biscuit for breakfast (which is the picture I included at the top).  Considering I've never eaten one at McDonald's, ever, this was outstanding.
The Gluten Free Bisquick is a huge boon to the gluten free community, I hope it is able to make it through the test processes to market, because it is a great product.  I know many people who have been recently diagnosed, and are missing so many bread products, and yet they are intimidated to mix flours or attempt to make baked goods.  If the Gluten Free Bisquick product was commercially available in the grocery store I think so many people would be scooping it up.  I know I would keep several boxes in the pantry for when I feel like a quick easy baked treat.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pesto.... mmmmmm

If you read the previous post "Sheri's Garden" you know that I was given a gigantic shopping bag filled with fresh basil sprigs from my friend Sheri's garden.  I used them to make an enormous batch of Pesto, one of my now favorite summer dishes, partly for the easy prep, and mostly for the delicious flavorful taste.  I found a very easy recipe sometime last year, most likely off the food network website where I access many of my recipes.  I keep this one posted on the fridge so I don't have to hunt for it when I need it, although I think I almost have it memorized.
This time I had Ceci sitting at the table eating her dinner when I got out the food processor to start making the pesto, and Ceci had a fit.  She demanded that I get her down from the table and let her help make the pesto.  She loves to run the food processor, to the point I often have to unplug it while she is helping to keep her from turning it on.  I should also mention that lately she climbs right onto the island counter to help with any and all projects I am working on.  This day was no exception, she climbed right up and grabbed a basil sprig and started very carefully picking leaves off and placing them into the food processor.  I have to say she was probably more selective than I was, maybe I should just let her cook our dinners from now on and take a break.  She also decided to control how much olive oil I used while we were running the food pro, by placing her hand at the bottom end of the bottle and not letting me retract it when I felt there was enough in already.

I hope you enjoy the pesto as much as we do over a bowl of nice warm noodles.

2 cloves of garlic
1/4 Cup Pine nuts (or walnuts)
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 Cups fresh Basil leaves
1/3-1/2 Cup Olive oil Drizzled in

Place all ingredients, except the olive oil into the food processor and turn on, drizzle olive oil through top of processor as it's working.  Mixture will loosen up as the olive oil incorporates, mix until desired consistency and turn off food pro.  Open up and eat IMMEDIATELY over warm fresh cooked noodles. The Pesto will oxidize very quickly making it look brown and unappealing, this has no bearing on the flavor and should be totally ignored.
If you would like to enjoy Pesto outside of the summer time, you have a couple of options, you can freeze the leaves and then defrost them and make the pesto when you want.  Or you can make the pesto without the Parmesan cheese, and freeze, defrost when ready, and add Parmesan before you eat it.

Sheri's Garden


This weekend I attended a professional conference and my husband had to go out of town leaving us in deep need of childcare.  I am fortunate enough to call an amazing woman my friend who took Ceci for two days of the weekend.  Not only did she care for and love Ceci, but she also fed us a very delicious dinner, on Sunday night, but gave us enough left overs and pickings from her garden to have more fantastic dinners for the next couple of nights.  
  Lets start with Sheri's baked ziti that we ate on Sunday night, one of Ceci's favorite meals in the world.  Have I ever mentioned that this child would live on pasta and sauce with a little cheese if I would let her?  This version was a light red sauce over Tinkyada brown rice penne with melted cheese on top, baked in the oven to finish.  After Ceci and I both polished off a big bowl each, we had some very happy tummies.  And if that wasn't enough, we were also treated to bread related treats from Bare Naked Bakery and Cafe, including a pepperoni roll, a chicken roll, and a baguette, which Sheri doctored up with some garlic, butter, and herbs.  Sadly many of Bare Naked Bakeries products retain a very over powering flavor/after taste of yeast, which was the case again here.  I can say that the spiciness of the pepperoni in the roll was enough to cover up the yeast based crime, but the chicken could not hide the flavor.
  When dinner was over Sheri invited me to her small but over productive garden to take home some veggies and herbs.  She sent me home with a shopping bag filled with basil, 4 good size tomatoes, 1 huge cucumber, and a handful of cherry tomatoes (that are not the size of cherries, but rather apricots).  
  I sliced up one tomato for my lunch sandwich and realized I had forgotten how good veggies SHOULD taste.  This gave me inspiration for tonight's dinner, I already knew the basil was destined for a huge batch of pesto, which has become a favorite dish of my husband and I.  But the fresh tomato and cucumber intrigued me.  I decided to chop them into large bite size chunks and toss them together, which was delicious in it's own right.  You will find as you follow this blog, that I'm mildly incapable of seasoning food on my own, so I leave this to my husband Tim.  He added Kosher Salt, ground Tellicherry pepper, and dried dill.  The tomatoes took on a sweet velvety texture, while the cucumbers became more lemony, and retained their crunch.  I probably could have eaten the whole bowl by myself, but I managed to control myself and eat only a big portion.  
  It was sooooo good!  And so super simple to make.