Thursday, December 06, 2012

Nice To Meet You: Have Some Pesto Alfredo

Hello and salutations to my newest victims of GF cooking. No, no, I don’t mean to imply that my food will be frightfully experimental or disgusting, only that the delicious allure of sugary or fatty goodness may be to your detriment and ultimately your heavenly demise…

My kitchen is very special to me. I have recently learned that Ali did not start out with a passion in the kitchen but had to learn how to use it so she could survive being gluten free.  I on the other hand have enjoyed cooking in the kitchen as far back as I can remember (I was often my Dad’s little helper, especially when he did large batch cooking for any events within church or family).  I will admit that I never tried to alter a recipe and thought the idea was scandalous to deviate from what was written until after I dated my good chef friend, Joseph.  I've been gluten free for almost 2 years now and find myself experimenting out of necessity, especially for those beloved food items I could once eat at restaurants and they don’t seem to realize their food would be just as good without MSG(I’m talking about you, Olive Garden!). 

As my first recipe to share I find it somewhat appropriate to introduce you to pesto alfredo, especially because pesto was the very first recipe Ali ever posted to her blog for one of her beloved Stewarts.  I don’t know when the inspiration came to me but it has been one of my most well received dishes by every guest I have served it to.

Pesto Alfredo
½ cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp Butter
6 ounces Fettuccine
¾ cup Parmesan
1 breast diced chicken
1 Tbsp Italian herbs
1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Recipe Pesto
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp salt
1½ cups fresh basil (a little less than 1 ounce)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup parmesan
Ground pepper to taste
  1. Add all ingredients to food processor and blend.
  1. Allow cream and butter to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.
  3. Dice chicken into ¾ inch pieces.  Heat olive oil in frying pan over medium high heat. Season chicken with Italian herbs and cook until white all the way through.
  4. Drain pasta. Return pasta to sauce pan; add cream, butter, pesto, and parmesan cheese.  Stir gently until pasta is well coated.  Dish it out on plates and top with cooked chicken. Enjoy rich flavors and tell Olive Garden to suck it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

That's So Anita

I've decided to add a partner in GF blogging crime, so to speak. For two reasons, a.) my life has been busy and I've been pre-occupied, and b.) two of my sisters have gone GF and my youngest sister (there are four of them), Anita, has been at it long enough that she's a big an expert in the kitchen as I am AND she's an amazing cook. She's not afraid to experiment and share ideas. I think she will give this blog back the zest it used to have and will hopefully re-spark my interest in experimental cooking for the blog.

Additionally, I expect you'll really enjoy her quirky and smart sense of humor. I hope you enjoy her take on GF cooking and eating as much as I do.

Welcome, Anita!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Graham" Crackers: Gluten-free

After a neighbor friend of mine was complaining of the horribleness of the few GF "graham" crackers on the market (I believe sandpaper was used to describe a bite of the fakers), I decided once and for all to figure out what the essence of a graham cracker really was and how to achieve it on my own.

While, yes, a true graham cracker is centered around graham flour, which has a higher content of wheat germ than traditional wheat flours, the graham crackers that we think of today are more like a sweet wafer used to build smores or keep kids from pitching fits at inopportune times. And according to my food scientist cousin, Joseph, the inventor of the original graham cracker would roll over in his grave if he knew how much sugar we've added to these treats.

I wanted to determine what was building the flavor, as well as the texture of what we think of today as the graham cracker. After doing some research, I discovered that at it's core, it has a subtle molasses and cinnamon flavor, with the sweetness of sugar, but not overwhelmingly so. It seems like a graham cracker is a not too distant cousin of the gingerbread cookie. It's just a bit less soft and less spicy. A gingerbread cookie has more molasses, ginger, and nutmeg, which change things just enough to create a very different experience than the graham cracker.

After combing the interwebs, I settled on an Alton Brown recipe, which had to be thoroughly made over for both the gluten problem and the way he does his measurements, which were in weight (ounces) for precision. The recipe is pretty easy to follow and the only real trouble I had was getting the dough to roll thin enough. Rolling GF dough is much trickier than a traditional gluten-filled dough.

These "graham" crackers certainly smell like a traditional graham cracker while baking, and they tasted so much better than I expected. The texture is wonderful for a GF baked good, they definitely crack like a cracker without falling apart. They are not overly dense at all. They are actually crispy, which is an impressive GF feat. I give this make-over recipe two thumbs up, but I would be hesitant to do this much work just to turn it into graham cracker pie crust, although it would taste very good as one. The whole process was easy and took about an hour, including bake time.

1/3 cup plus 1 tsp. all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 1/3 cup potato starch
2 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
6 TBSP of unsalted butter, chilled and sliced into pats
1/4 cup plus 1 TBSP of molasses
1/8 cup milk or cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a medium to large mixing bowl. Put your pats of butter in the bowl with the dry ingredients, and blend together with a pastry cutter or large food processor until it's mixed well enough to resemble very, very course corn meal (some pieces of dough will be as large as a green pea). Add the wet ingredients and continue to mix with the pastry cutter until the dough starts to pull together in a ball-like manor (you'll never get the perfect dough ball with GF baking). Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350F. Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray or coat with butter, then adhere a piece of parchment paper to the moist sheet. Put your chilled dough blob into the papered pan and cover in plastic wrap. Push it as flat as you can with your hands and then use a rolling pin to even it out and spread the dough to fit the cookie sheet as flatly and evenly as you can. Take a pizza cutter and cut squares or rectangles into the dough and poke the centers with a fork. Bake on the middle shelf for about 25 minutes, when the edges start to brown. Pull it out and transfer the crackers on the parchment to a cooling rack and let them cool thoroughly. When cooled, they should break apart easily at the seams you cut prior to baking. Store them in a sealed container for up to two weeks.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ye Olde Gluten-Free Bake Shoppe

This holiday season I got the bright idea to make different fun fruity flavors of cupcakes and give them out to my friends and neighbors. I used the pumpkin spice chocolate cupcake recipe, but ditched the cocoa, amped up the xanthan gum, and used pureed organic fruit with a little juice for each flavor (apple is the least overpowering). I also ordered some flavor drops online to give the flavor a little boost. I bought all the cupcake boxes at my local craft store and downloaded and made the tags from here.

The "Not Your Mother's Fruitcake" GF cupcake flavors are strawberry chocolate surprise (the surprise is a chocolate kiss baked inside), apples and caramel, orange creamcicle, and peachy keen. I put candy pearls on top for a little holiday cupcake glamor and I used food coloring to make the cupcake flavors easy to identify and added a hand written key to the side of each box. I found twine at my local grocery store and tied them up. So far, all deliveries have been a smashing success, or people are too polite to say otherwise. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

GF Sticky Buns (Cinnamon Rolls)

And here is your Thanksgiving weekend surprise, for when you're sick of cooking, but you still want a little something special for breakfast with your family. The directions make it seem like a lot of effort, but they are actually pretty easy to make. They are pretty fluffy all things considered. Enjoy!!

2 tablespoons shortening or butter
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup of milk, luke warm
1 packet yeast (about +1 tablespoon)
1 egg, room temp
1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP canola oil
1/2 cup potato starch
1 cup corn starch
1/2 cup all-purpose GF flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons xantham gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 - 2 tablespoons sugar (for sprinkling on your plastic wrapped pastry board)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/3 - 1/2 cup chopped nuts - optional
3⁄4 cup powdered or confectionary sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
milk to thicken
Measure warm milk and add yeast to milk. Whisk well to fully dissolve, cover and set aside for about 10-15 minutes (you may need to re-whisk prior to using). Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts in a small bowl and set aside.
In mixing bowl, combine shortening and sugar. Mix well. Add milk/yeast to sugar mixture. Add remaining ingredients. Mix very well, being sure to remove all lumps. Dough will be quite soft and hold well.
Take a piece of plastic wrap and lay it out so it covers a 12" x 16" rectangle. Sprinkle sugar on the wrap. Lay ball of dough on top of that. Then pull out another sheet of wrap and gently lay over the dough. Pat the dough down into a roughly retangular pancake (reposition plastic wrap if needed). Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough in between the two layers of wrap. Remove top piece of wrap. 

Spread filling evenly across dough's surface. (Note: Leave about a 1 1/2" sugar free on three outside edges -- two short and one long -- because when you roll the dough all the sugar shifts and fills this in; otherwise all the sugar spills out). Use the bottom piece of wrap to lift the edge of the dough and start to roll it up forming a long cylinder. Start with the sugary edge, which will be the center of your roll and roll toward the sugarless edge. 

Cut off or trim up the irregular ends of your "log". Then cut into eight to ten slices of similar size, about 1-1 1/2" wide. Place rolls into a greased round glass pie pan.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake approximately 20-30 minutes, until tops are lightly browned and bottoms are thorougly cooked.

Combine powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk to make glaze. The amount of milk you use will depend on how thick you want the glaze to be. Stir until all lumps are dissolved. Drizzle over warm rolls if desired.

You can make these buns the night before and stop short of baking them (make the glaze while baking). Wrap them up in their dish and leave on the counter or fridge for the night. The next morning bake them and they come out just the same (leaving them out over night let's them rise a little bit).
*Yields eight to ten rolls