Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Series: Gluten Free Jalapeno Cornbread

So, it's that time of year again - Thanksgiving is going to be around the corner before we know it. This is going to be our first gluten-free Thanksgiving, so it's a pretty big deal. We've always had the usual, traditional trimmings in the past: turkey with stuffing and gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, cornbread, creamed white onions, applesauce, a selection of pies, and, at least personally, a longing to get back into my skinny Seven for All Mankind jeans for at least a week afterward.

Well, the good news is that a lot of this stuff is naturally gluten free - turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables, sweet potatoes, gravy (we've always used cornstarch), and applesauce are all good. And since my hubby isn't a fan of the onions, or the pecan or pumpkin pies that leaves a short list of things to try to make gluten-free:
  • stuffing
  • cornbread
  • apple pie
Now my original plan was to go apple picking, and make a gluten free apple pie with fresh granny smith apples - unfortunately due to the lovely Upstate NY weather that was postponed for a week or two. So, I did the next best thing and tried my hand at cornbread. I picked up a package of Arrowhead Mills organic yellow cornmeal, and found a recipe on the back of the package for a jalapeno cornbread (it's since been removed from their recipe page).

Here's the recipe, for your reference:

  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped (I didn't measure but used 1 medium sweet onion)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour (I used the same amount of white rice flour with 1 tsp xanthan gum)
  • 1 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (I used regular, iodized salt)
  • 1 cup soy milk or milk substitute (I used skim milk - I wonder if that made a difference?)
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil or butter (I used butter)
  • 2 eggs or 1/2 cup liquid egg substitute (I used 3 eggs)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 1/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I used extra sharp)
  • 2-4 jalapeno peppers, chopped (I used a handful of canned jalapeno slices, certainly not as many as the recipe called for)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Prepare an 8x8 pan with cooking spray
  3. Sautee the onions in the 1 Tbsp oil until just limp, about 5 minutes, and set aside
  4. Combine the dry ingredientsg
  5. Seperately beat together the milk, eggs, oil/butter, and honey. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just moistened
  6. Stir in the onions, 1 cup cheese, and jalapenos
  7. Pour into prepared pan, top with the remaining cheese
  8. Bake 20-25 minutes or until top is crusty brown (it took about 20 minutes in my oven)

Now - the cornbread turned out tasty, but if I decided to make it again I think I'd make some changes:
  • The dough came out very thick and the top of the cornbread was lumpy and unattractive. I think the dough needed more liquid or a couple Tbsp less flour
  • I love spicy food and would prefer to use fresh jalapenos next time - however my hubby hates spicy food and probably wouldn't eat the cornbread!
  • There wasn't enough cheese. I would probably put the entire 1 1/4 cup in the mixture, and top the dough with another 1/2 cup or so

Anyway, that's all for now - let's hope the weather's better for apple picking this weekend so I can try my hand at a pie!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Apple Cider Doughnuts - Gluten Free!

Well, it's officially fall. I've put away most of my summer clothes (keeping optimistic about an Indian summer), wear a sweater or jacket most mornings, have semi-retired the grill and started thinking more about cooking in the house. And of course, given the season that means cooking with seasonal goodies like apples, pumpkins, and roasts.

With an eye on apple picking in the near future (as soon as Red Delicious apples are available!), I decided to attempt apple cider doughnuts. They were one of Vince's favorite autumn treats. We used to have a tradition of going apple picking at Bowman Orchards every year, filling up two bags with Red Delicious, Macintosh, and Granny Smith apples for eating and cooking, and stopping by their bakery and store where we'd pick up gourds, caramel/candy apples, fudge, and of course a wide variety of apple cider doughnuts, apple turnovers, apple fritters, apple pie ice cream, etc. Yum!

Well, I still have my heart set on apple picking, but obviously the pastries were out this year. I found this apple cider doughnut recipe though, and it looked easy enough, so I decided to modify it and try it. The thing is, I don't own any doughnut cutters - I hadn't even heard of one before this recipe - so I decided that my first try would be a cross between doughnut holes/Munchkin lookalikes and a flat pancake-shaped disc. Hey, don't knock the way it looks if it tastes good, right???

First thing Sunday morning, I boiled down the apple cider, mixed together a combination of white rice and tapioca flours instead of the all-purpose flour the recipe calls for, and heated canola oil on my stove. When I started handling the dough, it didn't feel particularly solid and I was dismayed to see that it fell apart as soon as I put it in the oil! Aargh! What was missing?

Well, it's probably glaringly obvious, but the issue was that in my coffee-deprived state I forgot to add xanthan gum to my dough. I smacked myself on the forehead and added a Tablespoon of my now-favorite stabilizer, and immediately the dough felt better when I tried to shape it into a flattened disc, it didn't fall apart in the hot oil, and I mentally composed the Ode to Xanthan Gum.

Here's the (very slightly) modified recipe:

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (I didn't have buttermilk so I tried the good ol' milk-and-lemon-juice trick)
  • 1 1/2 cups tapioca flour
  • 2 cups white rice flour
  • 1 Tbsp xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Cinnamon sugar for coating

  1. Boil the apple cider for about 8-10 minutes until there is only 1/4 of a cup.
  2. Beat the sugar with the shortening until smooth.
  3. Add the egg, beat, then add buttermilk and mix well.
  4. Sift together flours, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Add to wet mixture. Mix just enough to combine.
  5. Transfer dough to lightly floured board and pat to about 1/2 inch thickness. (I used rice flour and sugar on the board).
  6. While cutting with a 3 inch doughnut cutter per the instructions in the original recipe is probably ideal, I shaped them by hand into small, flattened round discs.
  7. Add enough oil to fill a deep pan 3 inches. Heat to 375 F.
  8. Fry several doughnuts at a time, turning once or twice, until brown and cooked through. The recipe says that this takes about 4 minutes, but mine (probably due to the shape) was more like 2-3 minutes or else they'd burn.
  9. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon.
  10. Toss doughnuts in plastic bag with cinnamon sugar; serve warm.
We ate them warm for breakfast and they were amazing - they may not have looked like real doughnuts but I couldn't tell the difference in taste from "regular" apple cider doughnuts. There were no leftovers - I'll definitely be making these again!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sherry Lynn's Temporarily Closed

This has been reported in several places, but just in case you haven't heard, Sherry Lynn's is temporarily closed.

The message on their website:

"Sherry Lynn's Bakery & Cafe is closed until further notice. due to a structural failure in our building. we apologize for any inconvience this may have caused you. we are working very hard to get back up and running."

Hopefully this doesn't negatively impact their plans to move.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fast Food Rant

I have probably mentioned this before, but it bears significant repeating. One of the hardest adjustments my husband and I had to make with our conversion to a (mostly) gluten free household was giving up the vast majority of fast food and takeout. Now, I love to cook when I have the time - and I make the time now - but let's be honest here. Sometimes you just don't want to be bothered. And while there are plenty of restaurants with gluten free menu options, who can afford dining out every night? A $10 pizza or fast food meal is sometimes just the best way to go.

Now, before I go any farther, I know that fast food is junk, not good for us, and we're probably eating a lot healthier by sauteeing chicken, etc. That's not really my point - it's a guilty pleasure that we sorely miss. And many gluten free convenience foods have just about the same nutritional value as fast food, but they're more expensive, not always good, and you still have to make them at home!

I do have to say that most of the major fast food chains are great about posting allergen information right on their web sites. It's so handy to be able to go to a website, download the allergen information and make an informed decision about whether or not to go there. And I'd especially like to call out Boston Market. They are the only fast food restaurant where it's possible to get a full meal - chicken, starch and vegetable - that's completely gluten free. That's amazing, and thank you!

That said - if you're craving Mexican, you're just about out of luck.

First, I checked Taco Bell. Like most fast food restaurants, they are kind enough to post their allergen list online. As you can see, there are exactly three "safe" items on the list: pintos 'n cheese, mexican rice, and tostadas. That's it. No tacos or anything with meat, because their seasoning mix contains wheat flour. I'm sorry, but that does not make up a meal! I was slightly irritated and e-mailed them asking for more gluten-friendly menu choices. My response was a snail-mail letter a few days later, informing me that my e-mail was a "product suggestion" and therefore could not legally be considered. Thanks a lot, guys.

Next on my list was Moe's. I had Googled for their allergen chart and found it, but since it wasn't hosted or linked to directly by their web site, I e-mailed them for confirmation and an up-to-date allergen list. Instead of a generic blow-off letter that I took as a "heck with you," I had an e-mail dialogue with a customer service representative for the company. I found out that the only items containing gluten were their chicken, steak, and every/any variety of corn/flour tortilla, shell or chips. After additional e-mails back and forth between the customer service representative, we had the following exchange:

Now on one hand I have to give Moe's props for thoughtful customer service. They seem to "get" allergens and cross-contamination and while I have to say I'm sorely disappointed, I can't exactly blame them for not having a dedicated fryer for every ingredient, can I? So, it looks like if my hubby and I want Mexican in the future, we're either making it at home, or visiting El Loco's for a sit-down dinner. Certainly not bad options, but it would sometimes be nice to have more choices.

There is not gluten of any form in our corn chips or corn tortillas. However, we
do fry our chips and taco shells in-house. We also use the same fryer for our
salad bowl, which is a fried flour tortilla (contains wheat gluten). Since they
are being fried in the same oil, we have to list those items as containing
gluten, due to cross-contamination in the frier. Have a great day!

[Moe's Rep]

-----Original Message-----
From: [Kat's GF Kitchen]
Sent: Tuesday, September 09, 2008 3:07 PM
To: [Moe's Rep]
Subject: Re: Moe's Customer Service CRM:0004926

Hi, and thank you for your response to my e-mail.

I was surprised to see that absolutely none of your wraps or chips are gluten
free. I would expect that your soft flour tortillas would be off-limits, however
the fact that your corn tortillas and chips are not safe is extremely
disappointing. There are several commercially available varieties of corn
tortillas and chips that are safe for celiacs and others with gluten allergies
and intolerances, without sacrificing any taste. From my point of view, if I
have a choice to go out and only eat taco fillings or make food at home, I'd
stay at home.

Please consider modifying your menu to provide at least one option for pure corn
tortillas, with no wheat or gluten.

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.

I haven't even started on Chinese food - but if I could find a good
Chinese restaurant that used gluten-free soy sauce - and better yet,
rice flour - I would be in heaven. (Again, I know PF Chang's is gluten
free, but they just don't compare to Pearl of the Orient).

That said - does anyone know of other good, gluten free fast food
choices? I know things like the fries at Five Guys are gluten free -
but a meal is not made on french fries alone. Are there any places
worth going for a quick, cheap meal when we do need to grab something on the go?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Recipe: Semi-Sweet Chocolate-Hazelnut Buttercream Frosting

My father's birthday was a couple of weekends ago, and I was asked to provide a gluten free dessert that everyone could enjoy - so I decided to bake gluten free yellow cupcakes, with choices of buttercream or chocolate frosting. The first thing I did was research online, where I found this recipe. I was extremely happy with the results - though it's important to note that you have to be sure to use superfine white rice flour to make sure the cake isn't too gritty.

The buttercream frosting I used was pretty simple and straightforward - I used a modified version of Betty Crocker's recipe, with the following ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup melted butter (I never, ever use margarine here)
  • 4 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
However, the piece de resistance was the chocolate-hazelnut buttercream frosting recipe that I created. For inspiration I took the above buttercream frosting recipe, and the back of the Hershey's baking chocolate box.

Semi-Sweet Chocolate-Hazelnut Buttercream Frosting

Disclaimer: Vince does not eat chocolate so I did not verify that Nutella is actually gluten free.

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar (this really is semi-sweet - I'd recommend using 4 cups if you like sweeter frosting)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup nutella
  1. Mix butter, shortening, until fluffy. Add sugar 1 cup at a time until everything is well blended.
  2. Add cocoa, salt, vanilla extract, whipping cream, mix. Add Nutella. Add additional whipping cream by the Tbsp if necessary. Beat on high speed until fluffy.
The cupcakes turned out very well - everyone enjoyed them and other than a slightly chewy consistency it was hard to tell they were gluten free. The semi-sweet chocolate frosting also went over well - my parents aren't big fans of super-sweet chocolate.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Review: Conte's Gluten Free Cheese Ravioli

Paradise sells some Conte's pre-packaged, frozen dinners. My hubby liked their ravioli so much that he asked me to write about it. Being the born-and-bred Italian that he is, he wasn't thrilled with the sauce (he was spoiled with his mother's tomato sauce recipe growing up), but he really liked the taste and texture of the pasta and the cheese.

His one complaint is the fact that, when microwaving the dish according to the instructions on the package, "stirring gently" often breaks up all the raviolis which still taste good, but isn't as aesthetically pleasing. The 20 oz. frozen dinner is in the ballpark of $10, and relatively small for a whole meal. Still, it's a nice option to have in the freezer for something quick, especially when he's on his own for lunch or dinner.

I checked on their web site and in addition to their pre-packaged dinner, they sell their frozen cheese raviolis online where you can add your own sauce. That looks like a nice idea for the occasional gluten free comfort food treat!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gluten Free Pizza, As Promised

Well, I believe I've finally started to adjust to working full time and taking evening classes, and what better way to come back to blogging -- and the football season -- than a post about gluten free pizza? I've been owing my co-worker Joan this post for a while now -- I've got a recipe that my picky hubby loves and that I keep adjusting and playing with. Here's the latest incarnation:

  • 1/2 cup + 4 tsp potato flour (or 1/3 and 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 1/2 cup amaranth flour
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dough enhancer
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast (1 packet)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 egg whites (or 1 egg)
  • 2 Tbsp EVOO + liberal amounts of EVOO for rolling, brushing, etc.
  • 1 cup lukewarm H2O
  • Desired Toppings
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix sugar, dough enhancer and yeast in lukewarm H2O. Set aside to foam.
  3. Mix potato flour, potato starch, amaranth flour, xanthan gum, salt. Add water/yeast combination, egg whites, and olive oil and mix until everything is well combined.
  4. Coating hands and pan with olive oil, knead the dough for several minutes. I like to do this manually and keep pulling and shaping. Eventually when the dough feels stretchy, shape it and place it into a pizza dough pan that's been greased with EVOO.
  5. If you want a thicker crust, cover and let the dough rise. I like thinner crust pizza though so I usually skip this step.
  6. Bake in preheated oven 5-10 minutes, until done. My oven usually takes about 5 minutes. When it's done it will smell like potatoes and the bottom will just start to turn brown.
  7. Take out the dough and let cool. This is usually when I start preheating my pizza stone.
  8. When the dough has cooled off and the pizza stone has preheated, transfer the dough to the hot stone. Brush the dough with EVOO, add sauce (I usually doctor plain Ragu with oregano, marjoram, onion powder, crushed red pepper and a liberal amount of garlic), mozzarella cheese and any other desired toppings (Hormel pepperoni now says gluten free right on their label!). Preheat the oven to broil and place the pizza in the oven until the cheese is melted.
That's all there is to it -- it goes wonderfully with buffalo wings and Bard's Tale gluten free beer!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Review: Against the Grain Bagels

OK, I'll admit it. My hubby and I are total suckers for gluten-free products that look good. That's why, the first time we checked out Paradise Natural Foods on Western Ave, we acted like kids in a candy store in front of the freezer. There were all sorts of yummy-looking gluten free foods, including frozen bagels made by a company called Against the Grain Gourmet.

The bagels were slightly smaller than the huge bagels you can find in bakeries, but they were a decent size and looked really appetizing. We brought them home, nuked and toasted the bagels according to the directions on the package, and dug in!

Now, at first glance I have to say we were dismayed - the inside of each bagel looked like a crater! There was a lot of empty, hollow space inside the bagel. Still, the bagels smelled good, so we shrugged it off and spread fresh butter on the bagels. And I have to say, they were absolutely delicious. I thought the consistency was more like a croissant than a bagel, but the bagels just melt in your mouth.

Given the consistency of the bagels, one bagel by itself probably isn't enough for breakfast. I'd suggest making sure you have fresh fruit or something to go along with it, though my hubby is very content making breakfast out of two bagels! (He also has an enviably fast metabolism). We were very happy with the discovery of these bagels - they're not going to hit the spot if you're craving Bruegger's, but they're extremely good nonetheless. In fact, I couldn't review the first package we bought because my hubby polished them off so fast!

According to the Against the Grain Gourmet website, the company makes several other products, including rolls, baquettes, and pizza/pizza dough. We haven't noticed other products in health food stores, but we're certainly keeping an eye out. According to their website, Against the Grain Gourmet products can be found in the following Capital Region locations:
  • Dean's Natural Foods, Albany
  • Green Grocer, Clifton Park
  • Honest Weight Food Co-Op, Albany
  • It's Only Natural, LLC, Albany
  • It's not on their website but I've bought their bagels at Paradise Natural Foods
Happy breakfasting!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

CIA Gluten Free Baking Class

The Culinary Institute of America is holding gluten free baking classes on October 18, November 1 and December 13.

Here's the blurb from their page:

Dreaming of fresh-baked, gluten-free treats that don't sacrifice flavor or texture? Now you can indulge. Thanks to Chef Richard Coppedge, Certified Master Baker and gluten-free baking expert, you can enjoy delicious favorites such as yeast-raised breads and pastries, cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, quiche, and pizza.
In this new, hands-on course, Chef Coppedge will demonstrate how to create sweet and savory recipes straight from the pages of his just-released cookbook, Gluten-Free Baking. You will discuss and use unique gluten-free flour blends, and learn tips on working with and storing gluten-free baked goods, as well as baking techniques that are comprehensive and easy to master.
The day includes a light breakfast and lunch, informative lecture, hands-on baking, and, of course, lots of sampling. To conclude your experience, you (and a guest or two*, if you'd like) will attend a specially prepared gluten-free dinner including such dishes as polenta lasagna, roasted pork loin, grilled salmon, quinoa, and seasonal local vegetables with a complimentary glass of wine. You will also receive an autographed copy of Chef Coppedge's book to take home.
Whether you live a gluten-free lifestyle or know someone that does, you're sure to enjoy the day.

Click here to view their page and register for the class.

Sounds yummy! I would love to attend, though at $325 (and an additional $55 per dinner guest) it's pretty pricey - that's a pair of Stuart Weitzman pumps!

Has anyone registered for this class yet, or taken other gluten-free classes at the CIA?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Happy Labor Day!

Hello and I hope you're all having a happy and gluten-free Labor Day weekend!

Posting will likely be light this week. I've decided to pursue a graduate degree and my first class starts next week. I'm really excited to go back to school!

There are some interesting posts queued up though - including:
  • Correspondence with and new products from Enjoy Life, after my last blog entry
  • Amazing (and easy!) gluten-free pizza
  • Store-bought gluten-free bagels that melt in your mouth!
So I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and I'll be back very soon!