Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegan)

In 2007 when I was first venturing into the world of gluten free all I really wanted was to eat something that had even the slightest recollection of a "normal" tasting cookie.  Back then there were very few options for gluten free even at places like Whole Foods. And the options they did have tasted mostly like cardboard. This is what spurred my passion for gluten free baking.  Before then I really did not care to bake. Baking seemed so rigid with all that measuring and what not and quite frankly, I thought it was boring.  Fortunately, I discovered that gluten free baking was anything but boring.  In fact, I felt more like a mad scientist than a baker. And let's just say "mad scientist" fits my personality better than "baker".

Gluten free has come a long way since 2007 with so many different products to choose from. Some still have that cardboard like flavor but many more do not.  There is still nothing better than baking something from scratch especially when it comes to home baked chocolate chip cookies. This cookie recipe is one of my all time favorites and it's gone through an evolution as I've perfected my craft over the years. Yet it still reminds me of that very first venture into the art of baking gluten free.

Chocolate Chip Cookies:
1/2 Tablespoon flax meal
2 Tablespoons water
6 Tablespoons (84g) vegetable shortening (I use Earth Balance brand)
1 cup (150g) light brown sugar
1/2 (60g) cup tapioca flour
2/3 cup (81g) brown rice flour - Authentic Foods Superfine Brown Rice Flour - 3lb
1/3 cup + 1 1/2 Tablespoons (60g) white rice flour - Authentic Foods Superfine White Rice Flour - 3lb 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 Tablespoon coconut milk-Native Forest Organic Classic Coconut Milk, 13.5-oz. Cans (Count of 12) 1/2 cup chocolate chips --I use Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, Gluten, Dairy, Nut & Soy Free, Mini Chips, 10-Ounce Bags (Pack of 6)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line one standard size cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the flax meal with the water in a small bowl and set aside. In a mixing bowl cream together the vegetable shortening with the light brown sugar by mixing on low for a few minutes. In a separate bowl combine the tapioca flour, brown rice flour, white rice flour, salt, baking soda and xanthan gum.  Whisk these dry ingredients together. Add the flax meal and water mixture to the creamed vegetable shortening and brown sugar mixture along with the coconut milk. Mix on low until fully combined. Then gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet.  Mix on low until all the ingredients are fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.  It should look and feel just like cookie dough.  Finally, add the chocolate chips and mix on low for about 15 seconds. Use a spoon or scoop to make round balls about 1-1 1/2 inches in size. Space cookie balls about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.  Flatten each ball so they are the shape of cookies (they will not flatten much on their own during baking). Bake on the middle rack for 10 minutes or until cookies are easy to remove with a spatula.  If they are still soft bake for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on a cooling rack.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Simmering Summer Chimchurri Sauce

Chimichurri sauce is my new best friend of the sauce world. Especially now with it being summer and all, we often have something grilled for dinner.  And this gives almost any flavor an extra kick in the pants! I also love that it is made without gluten or dairy OR nightshades!  So, I don't have to futz around my kitchen trying to figure out how to substitute ingredients.

Surprisingly, I recently discovered this delicious sauce/marinade at a friend's house.  It was so good I put it on everything! Steak, corn chips, name it! I was eager to make my own concoction immediately after and have now ensured that I always have a batch stowed away in the fridge for when I have a hankering.

I have used this on grilled chicken, as a dip for vegetables and chips, as a salad dressing, the list goes on.  Warning: it does have a strong garlic flavor so if you are not a fan of garlic then only use half or less than what I use.  And if you have plans for a date with that special someone, well, bring a few packs of breath mints with you.

You will need a blender or something similar in order to puree it into a sauce.  If you do not have one of these you can still make it.  You will just have to finely chop all the ingredients and mix by hand.

Chimichurri Sauce (gluten free, dairy free, vegan):
1 cup tightly packed fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons vinegar (can use cider, white, or red wine)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients into a blender--I use something similar to Magic Bullet Blender, Small, Silver.  Blend into a puree mix, pour into your favorite serving vessel and enjoy!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Coconut Cream Filled Cupcakes (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegan)

I have been dreaming about this day. The day I could recreate a classic childhood treat, a.k.a. Hostess cupcakes, only without the gluten and dairy (and no animal products either!).  Things went nearly without a hitch until I randomly decided to make a chocolate ganache for the topping.  Meanwhile, I have never in my life even attempted to make a chocolate ganache (nor do I even really know what “ganache” is).  I heated up the chocolate in the microwave until it was a nice liquid consistency.  Then I added two tablespoons of COLD coconut milk.   The whole bowl seized up into a stiff clumpy mess.  No worries. I would just cool it all down and then slowly heat it up.  I mean, I’ve made my own chocolate before.  I’ve dealt with the ol’ tempering chocolate phenomenon before.  No luck.  I had used all my chocolate too and didn’t have time to run out to the store just for chocolate.  Luckily, I had made my own white chocolate not too long ago and kept it in the freezer to use someday.  This time I didn’t mess around and slowly heated up the chocolate in the microwave.  I coated each top of my cupcakes about 3-4 times until the tops were a solid white color.  I just so happened to have some leftover strawberry frosting as well (when you bake a lot, keeping leftovers can come in handy on days like these) and added a small flower to each top.  I made these for Easter so the white chocolate with little flowers were right in sync with the holiday.

Unfortunately, all the cupcakes got eaten before I could get any photos.  So the picture above is when I actually had time to go buy some of the darker chocolate. I also had some leftover vanilla frosting which I used to mimic the classic Hostess cupcake.

This cupcake is a conglomeration of three different recipes previously posted on this site.  My chocolate cupcake, coconut whipped cream and vanilla frosting recipes.  Below is the technique in how to make it all come together.

Coconut Cream Filled Chocolate Cupcakes (gluten free, dairy free, vegan):

This recipe basically requires making the cupcakes first, letting them cool, then cutting the centers out (save the tops of the centers for later) and freezing them for a couple of hours. While waiting for the cupcakes to freeze you can make the coconut whipped cream. Just make sure you have chilled your coconut milk one or two nights before.  Once the coconut whipped cream is made and filled into a pastry bag, place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This will allow the cream to stiffen up a bit.  Then you can make the vanilla frosting.  You really don’t need that much or any at all, but it does give the cupcakes it bit more pizazz and helps counter all that chocolate flavor with sweet vanilla.

Assembling the Cupcakes:
One of the most important parts of assembling the cupcakes is cutting the center of the cupcakes out with this Wilton Treat Corer.  I find that cutting the centers out right after they have cooled from baking is the best time.  Do not discard the centers though because you will want to put the tops back on once you have filled the centers.  Filling the centers is easy.  Just squeeze the pastry bag of whipped coconut cream into the center of each cupcake until you see it come to the top.  Then place one of the tiny cutout tops over the cream.  Once you have filled all the cupcakes and topped them, place them into the freezer for at least 30 minutes.  While you are waiting for the cupcakes to freeze you can make the vanilla frosting.

Once the cupcakes are frozen melt your favorite chocolate for the topping.  I use Enjoy Life brand chocolate chips.  One bag will cover about 12 cupcakes.  I start with half a bag and pour the chocolate chips into a small bowl.  The bowl should be wide enough for you to dip a cupcake into but not too wide.  You need about ¾ of an inch of melted chocolate.  Place the chocolate chips into the microwave and heat on high for 30 seconds.  Remove and stir with a spoon or fork.  Repeat until the chips completely melt into a thick soup.  WARNING: DO NOT OVERHEAT! Overheating the chocolate will cause it to seize up and/or burn! If this does happen you may be able to save it by immediately putting it in the freezer for a few minutes and then trying it again for less time in the microwave. Unless it is burned.

Dip each cupcake top into the chocolate and hold upside down until the chocolate stops dripping off of it.  Then carefully turn it right side up and set it somewhere on a level surface. The chocolate should start cooling right away. Depending on the type of chocolate you use, you should only have to dip each cupcake once.  Some chocolates may be thinner than others and multiple dippings may be required. Make sure to freeze the cupcakes in between each additional dipping.

Wilton Treat Corer

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Nightshade Free Red Sauce (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegan)

I didn't get my Valentine's Day recipe ready in time so this is the next best thing, only several weeks late. This recipe is a godsend for anyone who suffers from nightshade intolerance but longs for Italian food. That has been my dilemma.  I loooove Italian food so was determined to make myself a "tomato" sauce of sorts. I came across a paleo recipe for "Nomato Sauce", made some tweaks and voila.

It's pretty easy, just throw everything into a large skillet and let it simmer!  Then puree and enjoy!

Nightshade Free Red Sauce (gluten free, dairy free, vegan):
1 small beet, cut into 1" pieces
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
3 large carrots, cut into 1" pieces
11/4 cup stock or water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons lemon juice

In a large skillet sautee the garlic, olive oil and onion for 1-2 minutes then add the beets, carrots, stock, italian seasoning and salt.  Cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the beets and carrots are soft. Turn off the heat and pour the entire mixture into a blender/mixer.  Add the basil and lemon juice.  Puree until the mixture becomes sauce.  Pour over pasta and bon appetit!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Perfect Pie Crust for Any Occasion (gluten free, dairy free, vegan)

Pumpkin pie?  No problem.  How about a chicken pot pie?  Check.  Blueberry?  Apple?  Minced meat?  Yep, yep and um, sure why not. This pie crust is not only versatile (save a few ingredients between savory and sweet) the only way anyone will know that this is a gluten free, dairy free and vegan pie crust is if you tell them.  It is that good.  Forget those nasty cardboard tasting pie crusts that they sell at the store. You can actually enjoy this one!

For best results invest in a scale to measure the ingredients by grams. It is the most accurate and when baking gluten free, it is really important to have the right ratio of flours.

Please note: Always check labels and manufacturing processes to ensure there is no evidence of any food allergens you may be sensitive to.  

Sweet Pie Crust (gluten free, dairy free, vegan):
1/2 cup (63g) brown rice flour --I use Authentic Foods Superfine Brown Rice Flour - 3lb
1/4 cup (43g) white rice flour --I use Authentic Foods Superfine White Rice Flour - 3lb
1/4 cup (30g) quinoa flour --I use One 18 oz Ancient Harvest Quinoa Flour
1/2 cup (60g) tapioca flour --I use Bob's Red Mill Tapioca Flour - 20 oz
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons cane sugar --I use Florida Crystals Organic Cane Sugar - Jug - 48 Ounce
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum--I use Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Xanthan Gum, 8-ounce 
1/2 cup unsalted shortening, room temperature -I use Spectrum Organic Shortening -- 24 oz
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
2 Tablespoons coconut milk --I use Native Forest Organic Classic Coconut Milk, 13.5-oz. Cans (Count of 12)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Up to 4 Tablespoons ice cold water

Makes one pie crust.

In a large mixing bowl combine the brown rice flour, white rice flour, quinoa flour, tapioca flour, salt, cane sugar, xanthan gum and cinnamon (if using).  Whisk together until all ingredients are blended well. 

Using a fork or knife "cut" the shortening into the flour mix to create a crumb mixture.  If using a fork and your shortening is soft, hold the fork sideways and cut through the mix like a knife as opposed to mashing. You can also use a pastry blender like a Cuisinart CTG-00-DB Dough Blender  if you have one handy.

Once you have your crumb mixture, add the lemon juice and coconut milk and continue to cut it into the dough.  Your crumbs should be getting larger but you should not have actual dough at this point.  Then add the cold water one tablespoon at a time until the crumb mixture starts to stick together into a ball.  It is important not to add too much water as your dough should be firm yet malleable. You can use your hands to form the dough into a ball.

Using wax paper or parchment paper, line a flat surface with it to roll out the dough. Form the dough into a disk and lay it in the center of the paper.  Cover the top with more wax/parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is about 1/8 inch thick.  Remove the top sheet of paper and flip your dough into the pie pan.  Alternatively, you can lay your pie pan face down in the center of the dough. Then with one hand on the pie pan and one hand under your dough, flip them over together.  Make sure the dough sits nicely in the pan and then shape the edges using your fingers or with a fork.  Voila!

I recommend freezing your pie crust and filling it while still frozen.  I have not had to pre-bake it before use and have only used it frozen.  I've made both a pumpkin pie and a chicken pot pie (double the recipe to make a top crust) and both have come out beautifully! 

For a savory crust simply omit the sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice and add 1 teaspoon of vinegar. I also use Earth Balance instead of palm shortening as it has salt in it and then I reduce the amount of salt to 1/8 teaspoon.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Butternut Squash Soup (gluten free, dairy free, vegan option)

In my backyard there is not a doubt that fall is here.  We have a few very large deciduous trees and it seems as though the leaves decided to fall off all at once!  I have yet to start raking them all up.  I guess I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed.  What do I do when I'm overwhelmed? Make something in the kitchen!

I love this soup.  It is so rich yet light and goes nicely with just about any meal.  It's surprisingly not too difficult to make either, unless you don't own a blender.  Then that will be hard.  I got this recipe from a couple sites, one being the food network. The other from a fellow blogger. Of course I always do a bit of tweaking to suit my own tastes and needs.

This recipe yields 6-8 servings and is an easy way to impress family and friends with your culinary skills.  Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup: (gluten free, dairy free, vegan option)
1 butternut squash (about 3lbs)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cups chicken stock (use vegetable stock for vegan)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup coconut milk --I like to use Native Forest Organic Classic Coconut Milk, 13.5-oz. Cans (Count of 12)
1 Tablespoon salt

Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and peel off the skin. Then cut into small cubes about 1 inch across. In a large, deep pan on medium heat saute the olive oil and onion for a few minutes. Add the squash, chicken stock and only half the salt. Cook at a low boil for about 15-20 minutes or until the squash is tender. Then remove from heat.

Carefully scoop about half of the squash mixture into a blender and puree.  Pour out pureed mix into a large serving bowl or pan.  Puree the other half and add to the already pureed mix. Stir in the coconut milk* (*use less coconut milk if the soup already looks thin) and slowly add the ground nutmeg and remaining salt until preferred taste.

I like to top my soup with some type of garnish like a few roasted sunflower seeds, a pinch of brown sugar or just a simple sprig of parsley.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ghostly Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes! (gluten free, dairy free, vegan)

I've been racking my brain this week to try to make something festive for Halloween and then I remembered these cute little ghost cupcakes I made last year. They are not only perfect Halloween party treats, but they are soooo delicious!

Now I'm not one of those people who loves anything and everything pumpkin flavored but I do love a good pumpkin pie and of course, these little pumpkin cupcakes.  They are not overbearingly pumpkiny or spicey so even the most persnickety of kids will like them (my persnickety one certainly does).

This recipe can make up to about 54 mini cupcakes so if you don't need that many you can halve the ingredients. You can also make regular sized cupcakes but I find it is easier to make the ghosts when they are smaller. The directions below are for 48 mini cupcakes as most cupcake trays hold 24 mini cupcakes per tray.  There may be extra batter so you can add it to the 48 or heck, eat it raw!  It's vegan!

For best results invest in a scale to measure the ingredients by grams. It is the most accurate and when baking gluten free, it is really important to have the right ratio of flours.

Please note: Always check labels and manufacturing processes to ensure there is no evidence of any food allergens you may be sensitive to.  

Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes: (gluten free, dairy free, vegan)
3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons (98g) tapioca flour
2 1/2 Tablespoons (30g) potato starch
1 cup (130g) white rice flour
1/3 cup (42g) brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
6 Tablespoons (84g) vegetable shortening, melted (I use Earth Balance, organic)
1 cup (200g) cane sugar (use organic for vegan)
1/2 cup + 1/2 Tablespoon (50g) apple sauce
1/3 cup + 1/2 Tablespoon (85g) pumpkin puree (I usually use canned organic)
1/4 cup + 1 teaspoon (80g) maple syrup
2/3 cup (150g) coconut milk (I use Native Forest brand)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Line two mini cupcake trays (they should hold 24 cupcakes per tray) with mini cupcake liners (Halloween themed ones are best!). 

Melt the vegetable shortening in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or using a hand held mixer, combine the melted vegetable shortening, cane sugar, applesauce, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, coconut milk and apple cider vinegar in a large mixing bowl. Mix on low for about one minute. In a separate bowl whisk and combine the tapioca flour, potato starch, white rice flour, brown rice flour, salt, baking soda, xanthan gum, baking powder, cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground ginger. 

Add a couple of large scoops of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the mixing bowl. Mix on low to medium until all of the dry ingredients have been incorporated then mix on high for about 20-30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula and mix on high for another 20-30 seconds. 

Scoop batter into the cupcake trays.  Make sure batter is evenly dispersed and comes to the top of each cupcake liner.   Place cupcake trays on middle rack in oven and bake for 16 minutes.  Then remove from oven and test the centers with a toothpick.  If batter sticks to the toothpick bake for an additional 2 minutes.  Retest with a new toothpick.  When the toothpick comes out clean the cupcakes are done.

Let cupcakes cool on cooling rack for a minimum of 20 minutes.  

Vanilla Frosting: (gluten free, dairy free, vegan)

1 cup (178g) vegetable shortening, room temperature (Spectrum Brand Palm Shortening)
3 3/4 cups (370g) powdered sugar (use organic for vegan)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup (50g) coconut milk (Native Forest brand)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Sift the powdered sugar using a sifter or with the blunt end of a butter knife through a metal mesh strainer. Combine the salt, vanilla extract and coconut milk in a small bowl and set aside. Place all of the vegetable shortening in a large mixing bowl and add one large scoop of powdered sugar. Using a stand mixer or hand held mixer, mix on low and slowly add half of the wet ingredients.  Continue to slowly add the powdered sugar along with the wet ingredients while scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Mix on low until the frosting is smooth. 

How to make cute little ghost toppers:  Fill a plastic pastry bag or large freezer bag with vanilla frosting and then cut the tip (or corner of freezer bag) about 1/2-3/4 " across. Make sure there is no air in the bag and then twist the opening of the bag closed causing the frosting to build up pressure and start coming out the tip.  For a video tutorial on how to frost the cupcakes click here and fast forward to 5:00 minutes.  The woman in the video uses a frosting tip which is helpful but I didn't have one on hand so went without. 

For the eyes and mouth I used Enjoy Life chocolate chips.