Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Blueberry Bliss


This year marks nearly a decade since my daughter's diagnosis of Celiac Disease. At the time, I still had to comb the aisles of the health food stores and order GF oats online. Now, the chain supermarkets (and even big box stores like Target) have dedicated gluten free sections, as well as a plethora of products in every section bearing the GF symbol.  The many items like prepared cookies and power bars, baguettes and bagels that tastes very much like their "glutteny" version, and cake mixes have made my life much easier. 

There is a wonderful event called the Gluten Free Expo, #GFEFExpo, that occurs in several cities throughout the country this year, including one near me--Secaucus on October 14th and 15th. The tickets are very reasonably priced, and give you a great day out with your family sampling new products and learning more about new foods and lifestyle issues for those who are gluten free or with food allergies (in my family that's both)!  Please click this link to purchase tickets. Today is the last day to receive the early bird 30% discount off tickets (code: EARLYBIRD), and there is a 20% off deal until October 13th (code: ADVANCE). Checkout my twitter feed @glutenfreemaven, to win one of 5 free tickets I'm giving away.The best part of the expo for my kids was meeting others like them, and knowing the daily struggles with Celiac and Food Allergies are very real for so many others.

Summer fruits are my absolute favorite. Whether it's stone fruits, like peaches and plums, or berries of all types, I'm in fruity bliss in the summer. I incorporated some lovely end of season blueberries into a simple cake using a store bought mix.  I figured out a way to make the gluten free cake mix work for my family's allergy needs (no egg and no dairy) using a coconut vegan yogurt and margarine. I use So Delicious brand coconut milk yogurt. You may use any variety that works for you in plain or vanilla flavor.

This cake works well with a variety of fruits such as diced peaches, apples or pitted cherries. The fruit shouldn't be too wet (like a strawberry). Pat the fruit dry before tossing with other ingredients to reduce adding too much moisture to the cake, resulting in a gummy texture. If you use frozen blueberries, do not thaw before baking.  I used Betty Crocker brand Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix to prepare this cake.

Vegan Blueberry Bliss Bundt

1 stick non-dairy margarine (I like Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
1 box (15 ounces) yellow Gluten Free cake mix
2/3 cup soy or rice milk (use amount of liquid called for on package)
1 container (5.3 ounces) non-dairy yogurt, vanilla or plain flavor (I use So Delicious Coconut Yogurt)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup blueberries, washed and dried
1 Tablespoon corn starch (or potato starch or arrowroot)
Confectioner's sugar, optional

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees.  Spray a non-stick Bundt cake pan with non-stick cooking spray, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the margarine until fluffy.  Add cake mix and stir.  Add rice milk, yogurt, vanilla and cinnamon. Beat on medium speed for about two minutes until smooth and well combined. 

In a small bowl, toss together blueberries and corn starch.  Remove berries and shake off extra starch. Stir berries into cake mixture.

Pour mixture into prepared baking pan, and bake in pre-heated oven for 45-55 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the cake should come out clean.  Set pan on a wire rack to cool.

To Serve: When completely cool, turn cake out onto serving platter. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and garnish with additionally berries, if desired.

Serves: 10-12

Monday, July 3, 2017

"Nacho"ly Good!


Any holiday can be challenging if you're on a special diet, whether it be sensitivities or actual food allergies. No one wants to spend the evening sick after a great day out. With food allergies, there is no playing must always be vigilant! But there are many great options for both gluten free and allergy free snacks that will allow you to seamlessly enjoy your holiday barbecue or party without feeling deprived.

R.W. Garcia sent me some new gluten free snacks to sample. You must check each one, because some contain sesame seeds or were produced in plants with other allergens.  But the R.W. Garcia Red & Yellow and Yellow & Blue Mixt Bag Tortilla Chips were not only a hit taste wise with my family (Daisie especially loved them), they were extremely festive for a Fourth of July Nacho Buffet.  Some other new choices by R.W. Garcia which manufactuers tortilla chips and certified gluten free non-GMO crackers are the bright Sweet Beet and Kale 3 Seed Crackers.  They are a great choice for dipping with hummus or salsa.

To make a nacho bar, set out warm tortilla chips, cheese sauce or nutritional yeast cheese sauce (see below), chopped jalapenos, black beans and shredded cheese (for non-dairy cheese I recommend Daiya Shreds).  A small crockpot or warming tray is helpful to keep the cheese sauce warm.

Rosie has been using Bob's Red Mill Large Flake Nutritional Yeast and a recipe from their site to make the most amazing cheese sauce that I want to eat on everything. It's great for vegan mac n' cheese, nachos and over steamed vegetables.  Rosie is a bit of a connosieur of non-dairy cheeses and has found this cheese sauce recipe is the one to beat.  She's made a few changes from the original recipe on the website.

This recipe is adapted from the one by Dorothy Bates which can be found in its original form at this link. Feel free to spice it up as you like with the addition of hot pepper flakes, chopped jalapenos, or even diced pineapple for a personal twist at your nacho bar.

Yummy Cheezy Sauce

1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill Large Flake Nutritional Yeast
1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to 1-Baking Flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups cold water
1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread (or any margarine)
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried mustard powder (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (optional)

Whisk together nutritional yeast flakes, GF flour, and salt in a medium sized sauce pan. Place pan over medium-high heat and whisk in cold water.

Continue whisking as sauce thickens, bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat, cook about 3 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat.

Whisk in Earth Balance Buttery Spread and spices.

This may be stored in a tightly covered container for 1 week. It will thicken but may be reheated on low to return it to a saucy consistency.

Yield: About 3 cups of sauce

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Great Green Things


Need an easy side dish to bring to your Father's Day Celebration? Need a dish that won't make you feel like your house has been propelled Wizard of Oz style down to the equator? Then try this delicious roasted Haricot Verts (that's the skinny, French version of green beans) recipe. 

I purchase a big bag of them already trimmed at Costco, but I find they are also available in smaller cellophane bags at most supermarkets. If you want to make use of the summer's fresh bounty and are lucky enough to find regular green beans at your local farm stand, by all means use those instead. The plumper American beans are a bit tougher than the slender French ones though (yes, there's a metaphor there).

I prefer to prepare these the night before and serve them chilled. I don't like reheating vegetables that are meant to have a bit of crispness to them, and prefer to eat them cold rather than risk a limp, tasteless version of the veg. They may be prepped several hours in advance and kept in a plastic container or Ziploc bag. They're great for tossing on the grill (see recipe below), alongside your grilled chicken and burgers for a bit of an upscale BBQ side dish.

What I love best about this recipe is there isn't even a bowl to wash as it's all mixed on the baking pan in which it's cooked!

Garlic Grilled Haricot Verts (Green Beans)

1 pound haricot verts (these are available in a cellophane bag in the supermarket already trimmed)*
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves crushed or minced or 1 rounded tablespoon jarred, minced garlic
fresh sea salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Oven Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 420F degrees. 

Spread haricot verts in a thin layer on a large non-stick rimmed cookie sheet (I line baking pan with Reynold's Non-stick Foil for easier cleanup).

Drizzle beans with oil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Toss to coat evenly.

Bake in pre-heated oven for 20 minutes. Toss and bake an additional 10 minutes.

May be served hot or cold.

Barbecue Directions:
Prepare beans as directed above, except place in a 9x13 disposable aluminum pan. 

Heat grill to medium-high heat.  Place beans on grill and close lid.  Cook for approximately 15 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove from heat when beans are fork tender

*Note: You may substitute regular, fresh green beans; just rinse and trim ends.

Bonus Recipe:
If you have any leftovers make a delicious main course salad by tossing the roasted haricot verts with romaine lettuce, crumbled goat cheese, or seasoned tofu, and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds for crunch.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Dads and Grads


A small kitchen appliance or gadget is great gift for the Dad who dabbles in cooking, or the new graduate that will be moving into their own apartment.  But choose wisely, an ice cream maker or pasta maker may be infrequently used, and take up precious cabinet or counter space.

I love kitchen gadgets of every stripe, but I have  a very small kitchen without a lot of storage space. As  a result, I have to be judicious when choosing which gadgets I let into the coveted space. You will not find a specific container to store half an avocado, or a special gadget to slice watermelon---I have one, it's called a knife!  I always ask myself if this gadget will a) be frequently used and b) will it make my life qualitatively better?

My two new electronic gadgets answer both these questions.  One is the Capresso milk frother, which I purchased for just under $40 at Costco.  I've seen it online for as high as the $70.  I made a few passes by the aisle, came back another day, and finally decided to treat myself. And, it was a great buy. I use it almost every day, sometimes more than once a day. Besides making amazing frothy or cold, that seriously will put the foam at Starbucks to shame, I found it makes a mean hot cocoa. There is no silt at the bottom, and I don't have the messy bubble over like I do when I make hot cocoa from scratch in the microwave. If making the variety from a packet with water, I can mix and heat the water to a nice temperature at the same time...all in about 3 minutes.   An added nutritional bonus is that my kids are not big milk drinkers.  But, if I give them foamy milk (which looks like whipped cream to them, but is 100% sugar free) they'll drink it with breakfast.

My second purchase was the result of Rosie's recent avid interest in quesadilla's. We normally use a small fying pan, thus avoiding gadget clog up in the kitchen. But when I saw the Hamilton Beach Quesadilla Maker at Kohl's on sale (and having had a great coupon and Kohl's cash) it was only about $14. Less than the cost of lunch for two at a Mexican restaurant (although Margaritas are not included).  When Rosie makes quesadillas I have to carefully monitor her time at the stove, save burning tortillas in the nick of time, and pull it off the stove just in time for optimal cheese meltage. The electric quesadilla maker indicates 2-3 minutes of cooking time is perfect for the perfect quesadilla...and it is. If you use the recommended 7-8 inch tortilla (such as Trader Joe's Rice Flour Wraps or Udi's brand Large Plain Tortillas), the edges will seal nicely giving you 6 perfectly sealed little triangles bursting with filling. If you use the 6" corn tortillas the edges don't seal, so you have to check to make sure the melted cheese doesn't sploosh out.

This machine worked really well with the Daiya shredded cheese for a great dairy free quesadilla. It melted perfectly!

Either of these are great gift ideas for Father's Day next week or an upcoming graduation!

Check out my You Tube videos demonstrating these great products:

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Super-Yum Day


So Superbowl Sunday is once more upon us, and you may be asking yourselves how you can enjoy a Superbowl party on your gluten free diet. Well, easy, first make sure there are options if you're going to someone else's home, and of course if your at your own home-- you're in the clear! When my gluten free child is attending a party at a friend's house, or we're going to a meal outside our home, I first call in advance and say, "I'm happy to bring my own food for Lillie, but I wanted to check if you're serving anything she can eat first." That takes the pressure off them, stating from the beginning that basically they don't have to provide anything specifically gluten free.

If you're putting out a spread at home, you can certainly make it all gluten free. I find that a crock pot full of chili or soup is a nice centerpiece. Add some GF breadsticks or Jalapeno-Corn Muffins (see recipe below), gluten free franks in blankets and a deli spread are great.  Udi's French Baguettes are most  awesome for heros, hoagies, subs...or whatever you want to call them!  

If you wish to offer GF and "glutenfull" options, take a disposable green tablecloth and use white duct tape to recreate the lines and number of a football field. You can have the GF end zone and the gluten end zone, with the 50 yard line being the dividing point.  Make "Go Team GF" banners to pin to the gluten free end to avoid confusion.  

Whatever you choose to do, don't let food get in your way of fun. I always advise people on special diets, to focus on the fun, not the food when they go out to a party or meal. Plan ahead so you have something to eat, and will feel sated, but remember the point of a gathering is good friends and good fun! 

This recipe calls for cheddar cheese. If you would like it to be dairy-free, I suggest using Daiya Cheddar Style shreds (and soy milk). This can be made in a 24-cup mini muffin pan. Reduce baking time to 12-15 minutes. You'll have mini jalapeno-corn poppers!
Jalapeno-Corn Muffins 

1 large egg, beaten
1 1/4
cup buttermilk (or soy milk or cow's milk mixed with 1 Tablespoon vinegar)

cup canola oil

1 1/2 cups Gluten-Free Bisquick

1/2 cup gluten free corn meal (such as Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
tablespoon(s) jarred chopped jalapenos, drained (amount used depends on how spicy you want them)

Pre-heat oven to 400F degrees. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners. Spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray. 

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg and buttermilk. Whisk in oil, until well combined. Add Bisquick and cornmeal,  and whisk until combined. Fold in cheddar cheese and jalapenos until blended.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.  

Bake in pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then remove to rack to cool an additional 10-15 minutes. These can be served warm or cold...but are best warm!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Aqua Fabulous


So while perusing my favorite website, I came across a slew of new aquafaba cookbooks. This re-peaked my interest in the canned garbanzo bean juice cum egg substitute. 

When aquafaba first became a "thing" I decided to give it a try, as I will pretty much try all egg substitutes that come down the pike. I made a vanilla cake with the aquafaba and I was sorely disappointed. The cake was heavier than my normal results with vegan cake, and I didn't find the aquafaba added anything that made me change my practice of rinsing the excess liquid from a can of beans down the drain.

Then I came across Alton Brown's Magical Mystery Meringue Cookies, and I changed my tune. I knew I could trust Alton to have tested his recipe to the nth degree. Since baking in general is a science, but vegan baking is like astrophysics--I really needed a recipe I could trust. And it worked! Easily and beautifully, just as Alton said it would.

I made a human error and paid for the result. I used two baking trays and forgot to switch them (move one on top to lower rack and vice versa) halfway through baking time. As a result, the lower rack's tray was too soft IMHO when the buzzer dinged. So I decided to employ another meringue technique I knew and left them in the oven with the heat off (there's a recipe called "Forgotten Cookies" where you leave meringues overnight in oven) while I did the carpool run.  When I returned I found my meringues had gone from a pristine snowy white to more of a NYC snow light brown.  But they still tasted good! And a valuable lesson was learned...even better.

Alton lists a number of variations, I chose to sub almond extract for the vanilla in the recipe. My kids told me they would have preferred vanilla (:(   For a festive twist you can add 1/4 cup crushed peppermint candy sticks or 1/2 cup chopped chocolate. Fold these in gently after the meringue is fully whipped.  When meringues are cooled you can drizzle melted chocolate over the top with a fork for a lovely presentation, or dip one half in cooled melted chocolate, then in sprinkles or crushed peppermint candy.  To easily melt chocolate put 1 bag (10-12 ounces) chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl with 1 Tablespoon solid shortening (like Crisco or coconut not use margarine, it contains water which will make chocolate seize up) or 2 teaspoons oil.  Microwave on high 1-2 minutes, stir until smooth.

What I love most about these cookies is their versatility. They are good for those egg and dairy allergic, vegan and gluten free.  They can easily be made in advance and keep well for a week in an airtight container and make a great cheap and easy gift when put in a nice container.

I made somewhat larger meringues, about the size of a half a hardboiled egg, and it yielded about 4 dozen cookies. Alton recommends using low or no sodium beans, I used the regular variety and it

Magical Mystery Meringues

3/4 cup "aquafaba" – the liquid from one 15-ounce can of chickpeas* at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

  • Heat the oven to 200 degrees F and line 4 half sheet pans with parchment paper.
  • Whisk the aquafaba and cream of tartar on medium speed in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk until foamy – about 2 minutes. Gradually add in the sugar followed by the vanilla extract then increase the speed to high beat to stiff peaks, another 2-3 minutes.
  • Scoop the meringue into a gallon sized zip-top bag (or piping bag) and pipe into quarter-sized rounds. Bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours. The meringues may feel soft in the oven but will continue to dry as they cool.
  • Add 2 teaspoons instant coffee crystals and 6 drops of chocolate bitters to the batter before baking
  • Dip into tempered chocolate and cool
  • *Low-sodium or no-salt added recommended
  • YIELDS: Makes approximately 400 quarter-sized cookies

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Make and Take


Starting from before Thanksgiving and continuing until the end of December, I hear things like this in my house:
"I have a pot luck at work, can you make something?"
"What can you bring for Thanksgiving that will be "safe" for your kids?"
"We're having a holiday party, I don't know if there will be anything I can eat, can you make something?"
" much to do!" (o.k. the last one is me, and it's only in my head).

When you need to bring something to a festive meal, potluck, or even put something on your own table that is "safe" for those who have allergens/Celiac/food sensitivities, it can seem like a daunting task.  You have so much else to plan, shop and do this time of year, that a specialized dish seems onerous.  But I've come up with a super easy rice noodle salad that you only need one serving bowl or 9x13 inch pan to prep, cook and serve all in one!

My main caveat is to make sure the ingredients you are using are gluten free. With food items produced overseas, like most Asian rice noodles, you need to make sure there are no glutenny ingredients, and they are using pure rice flour. I found a great brand with US labeling standards called Gefen, and it's available at my regular supermarket.

There is a lot of leeway in this dish. If you don't want to use the dressing in the recipe, you can substitute one of the great gluten free Asian style sauces from San-J, or even do with a splash of GF soy sauce.  As well, you can mix and match whatever veggies or proteins you like in the dish. Throw in some protein if you want: leftover tofu, a handful of  chick peas, or some diced chicken.

So try to relax and enjoy your company and visiting and rest assured that your special guests will have something "safe" and delicious to eat.

Asian Rice Noodle Salad (vegan)

1 Pkg. gluten free thin, Asian style rice noodles (11 ounce pkg.)
1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup chopped scallions
 boiling water

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 crushed garlic clove
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons sesame oil (optional)
1 Tablespoon black sesame seeds (optional)

In a large mixing bowl or 9x13 ceramic or Pyrex baking pan, place rice noodles. Note: The noodles usually come in several blocks to a package, so lay them down in single layer, if possible.  Cover noodles with a generous amount of boiling water. Cover tightly with foil. Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes.  Drain into colander and set noodles aside.

In the same mixing bowl, whisk together dressing.  Add noodles and remaining ingredients.  Toss well to coat noodles and vegetables well.

This may be served warm, but I suggest chilling for 2 hours before serving.

Serves: 12