Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: French Yule Log Entremet

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

This month was quite a challenge for me. It wasn't hard to make, it just had a ton of steps and took 2 days to make. Generally, I only make this kind of entremet for paying customers. Fortunately, this
was an easy challenge to make gluten free. It was also really great that I already had some of the components pre-made from things I had made earlier in the week. I always love that :)

A really nice addition to this challenge was that we were given multiple formulas for each component, so we were able to choose the flavors we wanted to highlight. I chose chocolate and almond :) Love it! So, without further ado, my Buche Du Noel (Yule Log)...

Recipe (quite a doozie!):

1) Dacquoise Biscuit I actually used French Macaroons for this, which are essentially the same thing, since I had already made them.
2) Mousse
3) Ganache Insert I used Ganache that I made earlier.
4) Praline (Crisp) Insert
5) Creme Brulee Insert
6) Icing I used more ganache to enrobe the cake instead of making glaze :)

The assembly will essentially be a Dacquoise Biscuit at the bottom, and the inserts inter-layered with mousse, with an icing finish.

Element #1 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

Preparation time: 10 mn + 15 mn for baking

Equipment: 2 mixing bowls, hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, spatula, baking pan such as a 10”x15” jelly-roll pan, parchment paper

Note: You can use the Dacquoise for the bottom of your Yule Log only, or as bottom and top layers, or if using a Yule log mold (half-pipe) to line your entire mold with the biscuit. Take care to spread the Dacquoise accordingly. Try to bake the Dacquoise the same day you assemble the log to keep it as moist as possible.

2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) almond meal
1.75 oz (1/2 cup / 50g) confectioner’s sugar
2Tbsp (15g) GF all-purpose flour
3.5oz (100g / ~100ml) about 3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar

1. Finely mix the almond meal and the confectioner's sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).
2. Sift the flour into the mix.
3. Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.
4. Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.
5. Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.
6. Spread the batter on a piece of parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc...) and to a height of 1/3 inches (8mm).
7. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden.
8. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Element #2 Dark Chocolate Mousse

Preparation time: 20mn

Equipment: stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment, thermometer, double boiler or equivalent, spatula.

Note: You will see that a Pate a Bombe is mentioned in this recipe. A Pate a Bombe is a term used for egg yolks beaten with a sugar syrup, then aerated. It is the base used for many mousse and buttercream recipes. It makes mousses and buttercreams more stable, particularly if they are to be frozen, so that they do not melt as quickly or collapse under the weight of heavier items such as the crème brulee insert.
In the Vanilla Mousse variation, pastry cream is made to the same effect.
In the Mango Mousse variation, Italian meringue is made to the same effect. Italian meringue is a simple syrup added to egg whites as they are beaten until stiff. It has the same consistency as Swiss meringue (thick and glossy) which we have used before in challenge recipes as a base for buttercream.

The Whipped Cream option contains no gelatin, so beware of how fast it may melt.
Gelatin is the gelifying agent in all of the following recipes, but if you would like to use agar-agar, here are the equivalencies: 8g powdered gelatin = 1 (0.25 oz) envelope powdered gelatin = 1 Tbsp powdered gelatin = 1 Tbsp Agar-Agar.
1 Tbsp. of agar-agar flakes is equal to 1 tsp. of agar-agar powder.

2.5 sheets gelatin or 5g / 1 + 1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1.5 oz (3 Tbsp / 40g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp (10g) glucose or thick corn syrup
0.5 oz (15g) water
50g egg yolks (about 3 medium)
6.2 oz (175g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream (35% fat content)

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.)
2. Make a Pate a Bombe: Beat the egg yolks until very light in colour (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).
2a. Cook the sugar, glucose syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F (118°C). If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature.
2b. Add the sugar syrup to the beaten yolks carefully by pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream while continuing to beat the yolks. You can do this by hand but it’s easier to do this with an electric mixer.
2c. Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.
3. In a double boiler or equivalent, heat 2 tablespoons (30g) of cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
4. Whip the remainder of the cream until stiff.
5. Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup (100g) of WHIPPED cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe.
6. Add in the rest of the WHIPPED cream (220g) mixing gently with a spatula.

Element #3 Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert

Preparation time: 10mn

Equipment: pan, whisk. If you have plunging mixer (a vertical hand mixer used to make soups and other liquids), it comes in handy.

Note: Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it to facilitate piping it onto the log during assembly. Please be careful when caramelizing the sugar and then adding the cream. It may splatter and boil.

1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp/ 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
5 oz (135g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened

1. Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color (for most of you that means darker than last month’s challenge).
2. While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.
3. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
4. Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.

Element #4 Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert

Preparation time: 10 mn (+ optional 15mn if you make lace crepes)

Equipment: Small saucepan, baking sheet (if you make lace crepes).
Double boiler (or one small saucepan in another), wax paper, rolling pin (or I use an empty bottle of olive oil).

Note: Feuillete means layered (as in with leaves) so a Praline Feuillete is a Praline version of a delicate crisp. There are non-praline variations below. The crunch in this crisp comes from an ingredient which is called gavottes in French. Gavottes are lace-thin crepes. To our knowledge they are not available outside of France, so you have the option of making your own using the recipe below or you can simply substitute rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K for them. Special note: If you use one of the substitutes for the gavottes, you should halve the quantity stated, as in use 1oz of any of these cereals instead of 2.1oz.
If you want to make your own praline, please refer back to the Daring Baker Challenge Recipe from July 2008.

To make 2.1oz / 60g of gavottes (lace crepes - recipe by Ferich Mounia):
1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk
2/3 Tbsp (8g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup – 2tsp (35g) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp / 0.5 oz (15g) beaten egg
1 tsp (3.5g) granulated sugar
½ tsp vegetable oil
1. Heat the milk and butter together until butter is completely melted. Remove from the heat.
2. Sift flour into milk-butter mixture while beating, add egg and granulated sugar. Make sure there are no lumps.
3. Grease a baking sheet and spread batter thinly over it.
4. Bake at 430°F (220°C) for a few minutes until the crepe is golden and crispy. Let cool.

Ingredients for the Praline Feuillete:
3.5 oz (100g) milk chocolate
1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) butter
2 Tbsp (1 oz / 30g) praline
2.1oz (60g) lace crepes(gavottes) or rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K I used Rice Chex *celebrates again that Rice Chex are GF*. I also added some homemade hazelnut praline from the July challenge recipe.

1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
2. Add the praline and the coarsely crushed lace crepes. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.
3. Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.

Element #5 Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert

Preparation time: 15mn + 1h infusing + 1h baking

Equipment: Small saucepan, mixing bowl, baking mold, wax paper

Note: The vanilla crème brulée can be flavored differently by simply replacing the vanilla with something else e.g. cardamom, lavender, etc...

1/2 cup (115g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
½ cup (115g) whole milk
4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean

1. Heat the milk, cream, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.
2. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).
3. Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.
4. Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (whatever shape is going to fit on the inside of your Yule log/cake) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 210°F (100°C) for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.

Tartelette says: You can bake it without a water bath since it is going to go inside the log (the aesthetics of it won't matter as much since it will be covered with other things)....BUT I would recommend a water bath for the following reasons:
- you will get a much nicer mouth feel when it is done
- you will be able to control its baking point and desired consistency much better
- it bakes for such a long time that I fear it will get overdone without a water bath
Now...since it is baked in a pan and it is sometimes difficult to find another large pan to set it in for a water bath, even a small amount of water in your water bath will help the heat be distributed evenly in the baking process. Even as little as 1 inch will help.
5. Let cool and put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly.

Element #6 Dark Chocolate Icing

Preparation time: 25 minutes (10mn if you don’t count softening the gelatin)

Equipment: Small bowl, small saucepan

Note: Because the icing gelifies quickly, you should make it at the last minute.
For other gelatin equivalencies or gelatin to agar-agar equivalencies, look at the notes for the mousse component.

4g / ½ Tbsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream (35 % fat content)
2.1 oz (5 Tbsp / 60g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50g) water
1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.
2. Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling.
3. Add gelatin to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.
4. Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gelify), use immediately.

How To Assemble your French Yule Log

Depending on whether your mold is going to hold the assembly upside down until you unmold it or right side up, this order will be different.
You will want to tap your mold gently on the countertop after each time you pipe mousse in to get rid of any air bubbles.

1) Line your mold or pan, whatever its shape, with rhodoid (clear hard plastic, I usually use transparencies cut to the desired shape, it’s easier to find than cellulose acetate which is what rhodoid translates to in English) OR plastic film. Rhodoid will give you a smoother shape but you may have a hard time using it depending on the kind of mold you’re using.

You have two choices for Step 2, you can either have Dacquoise on the top and bottom of your log as in version A or you can have Dacquoise simply on the bottom of your log as in version B:

2A) Cut the Dacquoise into a shape fitting your mold and set it in there. If you are using an actual Yule mold which is in the shape of a half-pipe, you want the Dacquoise to cover the entire half-pipe portion of the mold.
3A) Pipe one third of the Mousse component on the Dacquoise.
4A) Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.
5A) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
6A) Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.
7A) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
8A) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
9A) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight eidge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
10A) Close with the last strip of Dacquoise.
Freeze until the next day.

Unmold the cake/log/whatever and set on a wire rack over a shallow pan.
Cover the cake with the icing.
Let set. Return to the freezer.
You may decorate your cake however you wish. The decorations can be set in the icing after it sets but before you return the cake to the freezer or you may attach them on top using extra ganache or leftover mousse, etc...
Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly depending on the elements you chose.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Daring Bakers: Pizza

October's challenge was hosted by Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums, in memory of Sher, who passed away in July. I really appreciate the opportunity all of the Daring Bakers had to remember Sher, and the contributions she made to the blogging community.
Now, the challenge to making this pizza crust was to learn how to stretch it by tossing it in the air. For all of us gluten free bakers, I know we were all thinking the same thing: Get Real! No gluten = falling apart. So this is a challenge where I did what I could, which was rolling and patting out the dough by hand. I made my favorite homemade sauce on the stove and moved right along.

The original dough recipe came from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart. Of course, I made plenty of changes to make it gluten free, but it is not so difficult. I also added some Italian herbs to the dough, just for kicks :)

We love pizza around here, so this challenge was nice, especially since it is something that I make on a semi-frequent basis anyhow.
Our toppings included Chicken, Onions, Spinach and Cheese.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Uno's Chicago Grill and Where Have I Been?!?

OK, starting out, I promised that I would give my review of Uno's Chicago Grill. As I mentioned before, they have gluten free options a-plenty! The really nice thing is that not only can you find these options on their website, but they also have a nutritional info kiosk in their lobbies as well as having printed gluten free menus. The only disappointment I found with all of these resources is that they did not match each other. The printed menu did not match the kiosk, and the kiosk dis not match the website info. Needless to say, I was worried about weather my meal was truly GF or not.

I ordered the Mahi Mahi with the Mango Salsa along with steamed broccoli and mango nut rice. I have to say that everything was so good! I did suffer a little disappointment when I saw my husband's Chicago-style pizza, but he said he didn't like it a whole lot, so it made me feel better! LOL :) Maybe he just said it to be nice to me, but the look on his face sure didn't lie. They forgot the sauce on his pizza (how does anyone forget the sauce on a Chicago-style pizza??), and even when he did get the sauce, he just didn't like the flavors. Maybe the cook was just off that day. Anyhow, my fish was cooked perfectly, and the rice and veggies were delicious. The meal was light enough that I decided to try one of their GF dessert options. I went for the Strawberry Shake. After eating, I was feeling pretty good, so I was fairly certain that my food was GF, but once I drank the shake, I felt horrible! First of all, it tasted like fake strawberry. It tasted like the nasty strawberry flavoring from some candy that I would have loved when I was 8, but not now. I was not happy with it at all. I stood up and just felt sick to my stomach. I don't know what was in that thing, but it was not good.

I guess my conclusion with Uno's is that the food is pretty good, and expensive. But, I can make it all at home for much less cost and with a whole lot more flavor. And my strawberry shakes will have real strawberries in them, and I won't feel sick afterwards.

Results: Eat at Uno's at your own risk.

Nextly, you are probably wondering where I have been. Aside from at Uno's. Or maybe you haven't wondered. Either way, I'll tell you :) As most of you know, Celiac Disease can cause infertility in certain individuals. Apparently I am one of those individuals. Mark and I have been married for 3 1/2 years, and we wold just love to have little mini-me's running around. Unfortunately, my body cannot support a child right now, so we have decided to try alternate avenues. So I would like to announce that we are adopting (yessss!), and that is what we have been up to. We have been working on this since May, but just recently got super busy with it all. Neither of us have had much time to make a creative meal at home, let alone throw something from a can onto the stove. Most of our meals have come from a cereal box or from our neighborhood Chipotle. So I hope that none of you are offended that I have not been around to visit your blogs lately, and that my blog has been void of anything new. I hope to have some more time to blog soon, but we will see how everything goes :)

Oh, and if you happen to know anyone who is looking for an awesome couple to adopt their child to, please think of us!!! :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Uno's Gluten Free Options

As I was perusing the different articles on Health.com, I found an article entitled "America’s Healthiest Restaurants: Our List of the Best Casual Dining Spots". This website is a great resource for those who like to keep up on nutritional info, so I enjoy checking it out every so often.

Anyhow, I was reading the list of healthiest restaurants, and found this little blurb on Uno's Chicago Grill: "Another reason Uno’s is at the top of our list: You know what you’re eating. In the lobbies of most of the restaurant’s locations, there are Nutrition Information Centers that detail ingredients, fat and sodium contents, and calories and fiber of every item, in addition to gluten-free options."

How awesome is that!! I love that some restaurants are making this information more readily available, and a big high five to Uno's for providing Nutrition Centers in their lobbies for everyone to look through! Mark and I have decided to go scope our local Uno's out this weekend, so stay tuned for the review :) Yesssss!

Foodbuzz Publisher Community Launches


San Francisco – October 13, 2008: Foodbuzz, Inc., officially inaugurates its food blogger community with more than 1,000 blog partners, a global food blogging event and an online platform that captures the real-people, real-time power of food publishing in every corner of the world. At launch, the Foodbuzz community ranks as one of the top-10 Internet destinations for food and dining (Quantcast), with bloggers based in 45 countries and 863 cities serving up daily food content.

“Food bloggers are at the forefront of reality publishing and the dramatic growth of new media has redefined how food enthusiasts access tasty content,” said Doug Collister, Executive Vice President of Foodbuzz, Inc. “Food bloggers are the new breed of local food experts and at any minute of the day, Foodbuzz is there to help capture the immediacy of their hands-on experiences, be it a memorable restaurant meal, a trip to the farmers market, or a special home-cooked meal.”

Foodbuzz is the only online community with content created exclusively by food bloggers and rated by foodies. The site offers more than 20,000 pieces of new food and dining content weekly, including recipes, photos, blog posts, videos and restaurant reviews. Members decide the “tastiness” of each piece of content by voting and “buzz” the most popular posts to the top of the daily menu of submissions. Foodbuzz currently logs over 13 million monthly page views and over three million monthly unique visitors.

“Our goal is to be the number-one online source of quality food and dining content by promoting the talent, enthusiasm and knowledge of food bloggers around the globe,” said Ben Dehan, founder and CEO of Foodbuzz, Inc.

The Foodbuzz blogger community is growing at a rate of 40 percent per month driven by strong growth in existing partner blogs and the addition of over 100 new blogs per month. “The Foodbuzz.com Web site is like the stock of a great soup. The Web site provides the base or backbone for bloggers to interact as a community, contribute content, and have that content buzzed by their peers,” said Mr. Dehan.

Global Blogging Event

Demonstrating the talent and scope of the Foodbuzz community, 24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs offered online food enthusiasts an international, virtual street festival of food and diversity. The new feature showcased blog posts from 24 Foodbuzz partner bloggers chronicling events occurring around the globe during a 24 hour period and included:

“24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs” captures the quality and unique local perspective of our food bloggers and shared it with the world,” said Ryan Stern, Director of the Foodbuzz Publisher Community. “It illustrates exactly what the future of food publishing is all about – real food, experienced by real people, shared real-time.”
About Foodbuzz, Inc.

Based in San Francisco, Foodbuzz, Inc., launched its beta Web site, foodbuzz.com, in 2007. In less than a year, Fooduzz.com and its community of over 1,000 exclusive partner food blogs have grown into an extended online property that reaches more than three million users.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Lavash Crackers

This month's challenge was hosted by Natalie of Gluten A Go Go and Shel of Musings From The Fishbowl.

It's been a long time since I have made lavash crackers (think culinary school-5 years ago), and I had forgotten how easy and tasty they are! I'm glad to have had a reason to make them again, for they shall surely become part of my regular menu! I have listed the recipe and directions below, and the cool thing about it is that they are already gluten free, so I didn't even have to make any changes! Score!!

I made mine with 2 separate toppings: half with cinnamon-sugar and half with kosher salt. We were also required to make a dip that had to be gluten free as well as vegan. I only made one dip, which is meant for the cinnamon crackers. Technically, it's not even a dip, it is an icing. I just whisked together about 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar with a splash of soy milk and about a tsp of vanilla. Easy shmeezy!

One thing I recommend is to use 2 silpats to roll the dough between if you have them, as wax paper really stinks to peel off of the crackers. I try to avoid wax paper at almost all costs. Also, gluten free dough hardly rises with yeast, so don't expect it to double in size, like the recipe says. It will still work just fine :)

On to the directions....

Here's a simple formula for making snappy Armenian-style crackers, perfect for breadbaskets, company and kids...It is similar to the many other Middle Eastern and Northern African flatbreads known by different names, such as mankoush or mannaeesh (Lebanese), barbari (Iranian), khoubiz or khobz (Arabian), aiysh (Egyptian), kesret and mella (Tunisian), pide or pita (Turkish), and pideh (Armenian). The main difference between these breads is either how thick or thin the dough is rolled out, or the type of oven in which they are baked (or on which they are baked, as many of these breads are cooked on stones or red-hot pans with a convex surface)...

The key to a crisp lavash is to roll out the dough paper-thin. The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking. The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets.

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers*

*1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to pre-cut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Grain Fed Meat

I recently had someone ask me if it is safe for me to eat grain fed meat since the packaging doesn't specify what grains the animal eats. I had to stop and wonder, because in all of my research, I have never found anything talking about it. I don't know the answer to that question. I never even thought about it.

So my question for you today is if anyone knows if grain fed meat is safe for a gluten free diet. Please leave a comment and tell me your thoughts on this!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Shrimp Mac

This is a fairly classic dish that is so easy to make, and super delicious. I'm not a huge shrimp eater, but my husband loves the little buggers, so I try to surprise him sometimes. They are a bit expensive here in Colorado (I'm sure you can figure out why), so they are definitely a treat in our home.
This is a basic recipe that you can change up to fit your liking. I almost never make the same thing twice because I always change the ingredients to go along with what we have around the kitchen and what we are in the mood for. Go nuts and see what you end up with!

Shrimp Mac

1/2 Lb of 41/50 peeled and de-veined shrimp
1 lb of GF pasta (we like the Ancient Harvest Quinoa Veggie Curls here)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil (Extra Virgin is nice)
1 small Onion, diced small
1 or 2 cloves of Garlic, minced
2 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Cup Milk
a couple of handfuls of Spinach
2 Tbsp Corn Starch mixed with water to form a slurry
about 5 slices of Bacon, cooked to a crisp and chopped into bite-size pieces
Parmesan Cheese, sliced with a vegetable peeler
Salt and Pepper to taste
any herbs you like, we used rosemary, thyme and oregano

Cook your pasta according to the package directions. In the meantime, heat up the olive oil in a skillet, add the chopped onion and begin to sweat it (not caramelize). Add the minced garlic and cook for just a minute or two, then add the chicken stock and milk. Simmer for a few minutes, and add the corn starch slurry to thicken. Add the spinach (fresh or frozen is fine) until it is completely wilted. Season with the salt and pepper, as well as with your choice of herbs. Add the shrimp in and let them simmer until cooked. They only take maybe 5 minutes tops, until they are pink and a bit curled. Over-cooking will make them chewy and rubbery.

Toss the pasta and sauce together, sprinkle the bacon and parmesan slices over the top. Voila, pasta perfection!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Arepa BBQ Sandwich

During the summertime, my craving for BBQ sandwiches increases. This is my first summer eating gluten free, so it has been an adventure trying to convert all of my favorite recipes. I knew what I wanted, but was not feeling up to making sandwich buns. Enter the Arepa. This little puff of corn goodness is so easy to make, and is more than satisfactory in place of a bun. I used the same technique to make the Arepas that Shauna taught us, so I will not re-post a recipe for that, since she has done such a good job on it. The only change I made was instead of cooking them on a skillet or flat top first and then baking them in the oven, I just lightly oiled the outsides and popped them straight into the oven on a baking sheet. Super simple. I baked them for maybe 20 minutes...pretty much the time it took me to cook up the BBQ pork.
Arepa BBQ Sandwich

Technique for Arepas HERE

For the BBQ pork, I just took a pound or so of cubed pork and cooked it up with some sauteed onions, and added my favorite GF bottled BBQ sauce along with some salt, pepper and garlic powder for some extra spice. So easy! I then split the arepas with a thin knife and piled on the pork!! MMM, so tasty!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Ecliars

I am sorry to the Daring Bakers that I ran out of time in August to make the little puffs of golden goodness that are Eclairs. I will absolutely make the September challenge, however :) On to September!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Toffee Studded Brownies

My sister's brother in law was mistakenly diagnosed with Celiac recently, and upon discovering that he was mis-diagnosed, they decided to send me all of the special food they bought. I am super grateful, but I'm not sure why they didn't just keep it and eat it. It's not like gluten free specialty food is cheap. And it sure doesn't taste bad. They didn't even make me pay for it, either!

Either way, I was happy to take it and see what I could do with it all. They sent me a Whole Foods Brownie Mix that I wanted to mess around with, and I remembered seeing a Paula Deen Recipe for Symphony Brownies that looked so good! I decided that I would make my own toffee, complete with toasted almond slices to layer in the brownies. What a grand treat!

Toffee Studded Brownies:

So rich and delicious, it's quite obvious why we could only eat one at a time! Scoop some ice cream on top for a nice summertime treat.

Toasted Almond Toffee

1/3 C Water
1 1/4 C Sugar
2 Tbsp Butter (preferably unsalted)
A couple of handfuls of Toasted Sliced Almonds

On medium heat, combine the sugar and water then bring it to a boil. Wash the sides of the pan down with a pastry brush dipped in water to prevent the sugar from crystallizing. Cook until you have reached your desired caramel color. Add in the butter and stir quickly to combine. Please remember that this mixture will be upwards of 300* and will burn you if you are not careful. Mix in the almonds quickly and pour onto a Silpat lined sheet tray. Once cooled, break the toffee into pieces.


Follow the directions on the back of the box, or make your favorite homemade brownie recipe. Once the batter is made, grease up a square pyrex dish and line it with parchment paper. This is super important-do not skip the parchment paper!! Pour in half of the batter and smooth it out. Lay the toffee pieces over the batter in an even layer. Make sure to fill all of the empty spots with little toffee bits. Pour the 2nd half of the batter over the toffee and smooth it out. Bake according to the package directions. My brownies needed a little bit longer in the oven to bake through.

Once finished baking, let the brownies cool for a bit. Run a knife around the edges and flip out onto a cooling rack. Pull off the parchment and eat 'em up!

*Make sure when cutting to use a sharp knife to get through the toffee easily.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

Although this challenge had a lot of time consuming components, it was much easier to convert to gluten free than the last challenge. I saw the challenge and had to sigh with relief! The only special item I had to finally break down and buy was a food processor. I have wanted one for so long, and I finally had an excuse to get one! Yippee!

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

The only ingredient I had to change was the small amount of flour in the cake. I also left the Xanthan Gum out (by accident!) as well as the alcohol (not by accident!). Everything else stayed the same. I do have to say that I didn't like the buttercream recipe. I have my standby Swiss buttercream recipe that I love, and this one didn't cut it for me. I also thought that the finished product was too sweet. I think I must like more bitter tastes, because everyone else who tried it loved it and thought that it had just the right amount of sweetness. I brought it to a church function, and everyone who tried it (non gluten free eaters), loved it!

We were also supposed to decorate the top of the cake with a beautiful piped design using the praline buttercream, but my house was literally 92 degrees, and the buttercream was separating inside my piping bag as I tried to make the design. Although, I could not use the buttercream on the top, I feel that I was able to elegantly substitute the design with a beautiful flower made from gum paste rose leaves, filled with toasted filberts (hazelnuts) in the center. I also used some leftover praline powder to mask the sides of my cake. It turned out beautifully and I may make it again with less sugar and my own buttercream recipe in the future.

This month, I am not going to post the entire recipe, but if you are interested in making it, the recipe originally comes from Great Cakes by Carol Walter.

Friday, July 25, 2008

New Award

Thanks to Sandra over at Hey, I Can Eat That for the "You Make My Day Award"! Check her out, she's got some great recipes!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lemon Herb Chicken with Vegetable Brown Rice

When times are hard, cooking becomes not only a talent or hobby, but a therapy as well. It allows you to plan and execute an entire meal while forgetting about your worries. All thoughts are on your food. Once complete, there is a certain satisfaction in seeing your food, tasting it and sharing it.

This meal was exactly that for me. Relatively quick to make and super tasty, it allowed me to focus on one goal--making dinner for my family, and to let all of my other stresses and worries aside for a few minutes. To me, cooking is a different world, a respite from life and its challenges. At the end, what a wonderful reward!

Lemon Herb Chicken with Vegetable Brown Rice

This meal is simple to make while also being refreshing on a hot summer's night. The lemon and herbs go beautifully together, while the veggies add a nice crunch. If you wish, you may shred the chicken from the bone and toss it together with the rice.

5 large pieces of bone-in Chicken, breast and thighs
1/4 C Olive Oil
Zest and juice of 1 large Lemon
Herbs: Thyme, Red Pepper Flake, Fresh Basil, Salt and Pepper-all to taste, and a couple shakes of your favorite chicken grill seasoning (optional)
1 cup Brown Rice
1 cup Chicken or Veggie Stock
1 cup + 1 Tbsp Water
assorted veggies, I used Carrot, Zucchini and Onion--all diced small
Salt and Pepper to taste

If you have bone-in chicken with the skin still on, you may want to remove the skin. It's your call (I did). Set your chicken on a broiler pan, and broil them about 5 inches away from the heating coil for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. In a bowl, whisk the oil, lemon zest and juice and herbs/spices together well.

Begin the rice by bringing the liquids together in a medium pot to a boil, then add the rice, lower your temp to medium low and cover with a lid. Once the rice begins to soften, maybe after about 10 minutes, add the veggies to soften with the rice with the lid on. Once finished, stir in the salt and pepper.

Once the chicken is finished broiling, let it rest on the counter for a few minutes, then toss the pieces in the lemon herb sauce. Plate up the chicken over a bed of rice, and using a ladle, drizzle the rest of the lemon herb sauce over each plate.
Cozy up to the one you love, and enjoy the new window air conditioning unit you just bought...hehe!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Blogging Awards and NO Recipe??

Hey everybody! Go visit Elle over at Elle's New England Kitchen...she is the 'bestest' ever!! Not only does she have a super rad blog, but she is so nice!! She was so kind as to give me the "I Love You This Much" award!

She also made a new award--the "Hard Working Food Blogger" award, which she has awarded to all of her readers. How super cool is that?!?

Anyhoo...It is now my turn to pass these along :)

For the "I Love You This Much" award--
1. Emilia at A Gluten Free Day
2. Lizzie at The Good Eatah
3. Melissa at Gluten Free For Good
4. MsC at My Sweet Cupcakes
5. and last but not least, my favorite Denverite: Steve at Gluten Free Steve

Then for the "Hard Working Food Blogger" award--
1. T .W. Barritt at Culinary Types
2. Kate at Gluten Free Gobsmacked

Technically, anyone can have the "Hard Working" award, but these two are my special picks, because they put so much work into their blogs, and they are some of my all time favorites. :)

You are all so great!!

Next...I have no recipe today :( Sorry. I've been working on a recipe for a while now that I am really excited to post, but alas, it still tastes gross. Haha! It's funny, but true. So, hopefully things will come together and I should soon have a new recipe up. Anyhow, I hope that my awarded bloggers enjoy those shiny new awards. Oh, and keep eating!!!

See you all soon!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Restaurant Review: WaterCourse Foods

"WaterCourse Foods is proud to serve a 100% vegetarian menu. Our style of comfort food has won over the hearts and stomachs of people from all types of dietary backgrounds. The greatest compliment we hear (and we hear it often) is when a initially reluctant patron, who was dragged in by their spouse or kids, says they never thought they would eat vegetarian food and now WaterCourse is their favorite restaurant."

Last night Mark and I made the trip out to Downtown Denver to try out Denver's most popular vegetarian resaturant: WaterCourse Foods. I had heard nothing but good things ablout this restaurant for years, so we decided to give it a try. Visiting their website before heading out, I was comforted by their statement "We speak fluently about allergies, just let the wait staff know of your special requests". Their menu covers breakfast, lunch and dinner and is mostly comfort food, but very eclectic.

I was pleasently surprised that although they do not specify the gluten free items on their website, the gluten free items on their menu are clearly marked with a 'squiggle' next to the name. Yippee! Our server, Carly, was very pleasant and was well versed in the menu and what was what. I ordered the Polenta Crusted Portobello Cap, which was crispy and delicious, covered with a chipotle aioli served along side cooked carrot 'fries', brown rice, home made pico de gallo and sliced avocado. Every bite was delicious, and I was satisfied, but not over-stuffed at the end. Mark-o decided to step outside his (and my) comfort zone by trying the marinated Tempeh Scallopini dredged and fried in it's own mushroom gravy, served along with mashed potatoes and steamed chard. At first, Mark was unsure about his dish. His first comment was 'this tastes like earth'. I had to laugh at him and then try it out for myself. I dug in and was really surprised...it tasted great! I even offered to trade him plates, but he decided to stick through it. By the end, he was happily saying that the tempeh had grown on him, and he really enjoyed the nutty flavor and texture. The one thing he consistantly did not like was the steamed chard, which he said tasted bitter.

"Polenta Crusted Portobello Cap"

WaterCourse foods also has a full service bakery that supplies their desserts. On the website, it boldly states: "WaterCourse Foods Bakery has employed pioneers and scientists, dreamers and career bakers. In order to create a baking program that matched the innovativeness and quality of WaterCourse Foods Restaurant, we went through much trial and error to come up with the incomparable product we now offer. Our highly skilled and motivated bakery staff is the industry leaders in gluten-free and vegan baking".

We decided to take home one of their gluten free 'Scout Cookies', made from coconut and chocolate (and I think some nuts). It wasn't until I made the comment "this looks just like a Samoa girl scout cookie" that I realized that's the reason it is called the Scout! Haha! We got home and gave it a try. Eh...it was ok. I guess I was expecting the real girl scout cookie taste, which I did not get. Unfortunately, the flavors were a bit dull and muddled together. I never like to say the phrase 'for being gluten free and vegan, it was ok', but in this case, it fits. I want gluten free and vegan to taste better than the original. Sometimes I think my standards might be too high.

Anyhow, we love WaterCourse, and we will absolutely return. I highly recommend them if you are in the area!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Quick Little Ditty: Cool Broccoli Caprese Salad

The other night, my family invited us over for pizza and root beer-our traditional Friday night celebration. I was asked to bring a salad, but I had very few 'salad' ingredients available to me. I don't like going to the grocery store on a Friday night-it's way too busy, so I threw together a few ingredients to make this wonderfully delicious salad. It was so easy to make, and consisted of things I had already in my fridge.

I sauteed up some frozen broccoli, just to take the bitterness out, then stuck it back in the fridge to chill. I then added some minced white onion, diced mozzarella, grape tomatoes, torn fresh basil leaves and drizzled balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Toss that together with some kosher salt and pepper, and voila! You have a lovely, quick, tasty salad! It went perfectly with our pizza, and the colors were beautiful.

I think that tonight for dinner, we will toss the leftovers with some quinoa and maybe a grilled chicken breast. It is so easy and versatile, who wouldn't want to try this?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Surprise Jamba Muffins

You may wonder why I call these 'Surprise Jamba Muffins'. As you may recall, I have mentioned the dry heat we experience here in Colorado in past posts. As our house does not have air conditioning, or any kind of cooling system, I really hate to turn on the oven if I don't have to. Sometimes though, I really want to bake. I really want eat a tasty home made cookie or muffin. So what should I do? Bake it on the grill, of course! Surprise!

I started off with the idea of following a recipe, but then just ended up throwing random ingredients in. Once the batter was all mixed up, I couldn't get over how much the aroma reminded me of how Jamba Juice smells! I think Jamba Juice has more locations than just Colorado, so at least some of you know what I'm talking about...I hope :) At Jamba Juice, they are always squeezing fresh oranges. Add that smell with all the other fruit smells they have in there, and it smells sooo yummy! Well, my batter smelled just like that to me, so that's also where I get the name.

After baking these off, they taste not so "Jamba-y" and more fruity muffin-ish. They are some of the best muffins I have ever had, and much healthier than most other recipes to boot! I know this will be one of your favorites :)

Surprise Jamba Muffins

1/2 C Agave Nectar
1 C Coconut Oil
1 Egg
1 1/4 C Sylvan Border Farms AP GF Flour (or whatever flour mix you like)
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
1 1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum
2 Tbsp Flax Seed
pinch of Salt
2/3 C Soy Milk (or any milk you like)
splash of Vanilla
zest of 1 large Orange
1 1/2 C fresh or reconstituted dried Cherries
a couple handfulls of sliced and toasted Almonds

Preheat your gas grill to 350* f (or your oven). It helps if you have a thermometer on your grill lid. Mix all ingredients except the cherries and almonds together, but do not over-mix. Mix until just combined. Gently fold in the cherries. Scoop into muffin tins lined with paper cups, sprinkle the toasted almonds on top and push them in a bit so they stick. Bake on the top rack of your grill, with the lid down, for 15-25 minutes- depending on your altitude. Mine took about 2o minutes.

To test for doneness, bop your finger on the top of a muffin, and if it springs back up, they are done. Or you can stick a toothpick in to see if it comes back out dry. Once out of the grill/oven, remove the muffins from the pan and let them cool on a cooling rack for a few minutes.

A really great thing about these is that if you store them in a zip top bag, then they do not dry out for like 4 or 5 days (if they even last that long!). I gave out the muffins to random friends and family, and I got a great response from everyone! Even my glutenous (not the same as gluttonous, silly!) friends thought they were awesome! Success!!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


OK, so I dont usually like to do meme's, but I saw a great one done by My Sweet Cupcakes that is really fun so I decided to indulge a bit and do one myself. I think it is pretty neat :)

1. Madam Tiffany, 2. Macarons, 3. Gold all over the ground, 4. spotted or striped anywhy..fashion!, 5. who dey?, 6. When life gives you lemmons..., 7. Prenent un Bany. Taking a Bath., 8. Crème Brûlée from Berry Milk, 9. pop up, 10. Takidani Train Station 5 (re-do), 11. Friday Fun Socks (day 81), 12. Untitled

If anyone comes across this and wants to do one themselves, here's the rules:

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.

The Questions:
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name
Stay tuned for a great recipe you wont want to miss...here on Life After Gluten. (Sounds like a soap opera, huh? [Like sands through the hourglass...]) LOL

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Danish Braid

This is my first month as a Daring Baker, and when I saw the challenge, I was more than a bit concerned. In fact, my first thought was 'Oh no! I can't make that'! But in fact I can, and I did! This month's challenge is hosted by Kelly of Sass and Veracity and Ben of What's Cookin.

The last time I made a laminated dough was when I worked at Restaurant Kevin Taylor in Denver as the assistant pastry chef back in 2004. That was pre-celiac days, and it was a long time ago. The last time I made specifically Danish dough was in pastry school in 2003. That was even longer ago! The only thing that saved me in this challenge is my professional training, and that I know the science behind this. It is a very technical and time consuming pastry to make, and each step must be followed perfectly or else you will end up emulsifying the butter into the dough and then it wont be flaky and tender. If that happens than whats the point in working so hard in the first place?

It is actually not as difficult as it seems, as long as you follow the rules and treat the dough very gently...it is gluten free! No gluten=easy tearing. Just treat it and braid it as you would if you were working with pie dough.

I changed my filling from the original recipe to go along with the fruit I had available in my kitchen, so you are welcome to do the same if you wish. Also, the changes I made to make this GF are in blue.

The one thing that I was a little bummed about was that it never really rose much. I proofed it in approx 90* temps for about 2 hours, and it didn't budge. That's gluten free bread for ya ;) Other than that, I am pleased as punch!

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough
For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1- 2/3 cups Sylvan Border Farms GF All Purpose Flour
1- 2/3 cups Pamela's Wheat Free Bread Mix
1 tsp Xanthan Gum
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup Sylvan Border Farms GF AP Flour

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.


1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.

2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with Sylvan Border Farms flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky note and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight (I didn't do this...again, there is no gluten to rest). The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. GF Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 2 days. Any longer than that, and the Xanthan Gum will make it dry as sand and tough.

Makes enough for two braids

2 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
2 Mangoes, peeled cut from the seed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss all ingredients in a large sauce pot and simmer until reduced into a thick caramely goodness :) Pour the filling onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid. (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) It will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet. After it has cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.

Makes enough for 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves

For the egg wash:
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface (Sylvan Border Farms), roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. Place the dough on the baking sheet.

2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you've already made.

3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends. Be very gentle while braiding.

Egg Wash

Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking

1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.

2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 day, or freeze for a couple of days.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Grilled Chicken Breast with Sauteed Peppers and Mozzarella

It is quite hot and dry out here in my corner of Denver. For the past week now, we have been expecting 'scattered thunder storms', but they never seem to materialize in our neck of the woods (or plains, I should say). Along with our poor dead lawn, and our garden we are fighting to keep moist, we do not have any sort of cooling system in our home, aside from 2 ceiling fans; one which has never worked.

To combat the heat indoors, we decided last night to have a grilled dinner. This meal was fabulous, and I have to give my husband at least partial credit, because we came up with it together. It seems that our best and favorite recipes are almost always created together. One of us comes up with a starting ingredient, and then we alternate throwing things in. It seems to work out well; at least in this case it did!

Grilled Chicken Breast with Sauteed Peppers and Mozzarella

One of our favorite flavor combinations is basil, mozzarella and peppers. This recipe combines them into a fabulous and beautiful meal that no one could resist...unless your a vegetarian.

2 Chicken Breasts, butterflied, lightly rubbed with Olive Oil and salt & peppered on both sides
Red, Yellow and Orange Bell Peppers, or any pepper you like, sliced into strips
1/2 large White Onion, sliced into strips
1 or 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Buffalo Mozzarella, sliced
Fresh Basil leaves

Fire up the 'ol Char-Broil and let it pre-heat with the lid down. If you have a side burner on your grill, use it to saute your onions and peppers in the olive oil with a cast iron skillet (or whatever you have). If you don't have a side burner, you can put the pan directly on the grill; just make sure to leave the pan's handle over the edge so that you don't burn your hand by touching it. While sauteing the peppers and onions, place your chicken on the grill and flip it to the other side about half way through. Your chicken is done when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160* to 170* f. Just make sure there is no pink inside--remember, I like you, and I would hate for you to get a nasty bug :) Once the veggies are sauteed and the chicken is finished cooking, place the chicken on a plate, lay the mozzarella along the top to begin melting, lay the veggies over the cheese and place a few basil leaves on top.

Voila, your ready!

Another idea is to use your food processor to make a sort of 'bell pepper pesto' by throwing peppers, onions, garlic and basil into the processor and whirling them up with a bit of EVOO. You can then stuff the chicken breasts with the mixture, along with the mozzarella. Use a wooden skewer soaked in water to 'sew' them shut and grill them that way. Either way, they are as tasty as can be ;)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Not-So-Red Velvet Meringue Cupcakes

The other day was my husband Mark's birthday. One of his favorite cakes is a red velvet cake, so being the loving wife that I am, I decided to make it for him. I decided that it would be nice to make cupcakes instead because, well, I think they are cooler :) Cupcakes are better than full cakes. They are the perfect portion, and you cant argue with that. Cupcakes rock. I pulled all of my mis en place together and made sure to check the ingredients lists for anything questionable. The only item that I was unsure about was the red food coloring. I'm just not down with the Modified Food Starch, so I kicked it out of the recipe...hence the name "Not-So-Red".
I wanted to make them special and a little bit different; something that he has never had before, so I thought it would be cool to incorporate a meringue disk inside the cupcakes. It's something that I learned in culinary school back in the day, and it is classic in a lot of European tortes to include meringue disks as a layer. Thinking about it a bit more, I decided that instead of splitting each cupcake to add a disk inside, I would use the meringue in place of the cream cheese frosting. I would make meringue "kisses" if you will. It was very simple, I measured the top of the muffin rounds with a corresponding round pastry cutter to find the right size. I then placed the cutter onto my silpat lined baking sheet and spooned the whipped egg whites into the cutter. I pulled the cutter off and used the back of a spoon to kind of mound a 'dollop' shape, or a 'kiss'. I then baked them off in a 200* oven until they dried out.

Once the cupcakes were baked and cooled, I cut the tops off to make a flat surface. I then spread just a bit of raspberry ganache on them, sort of as a glue if you will, and then I placed the meringues on the top. Voila! They turned out beautifully, and so delicious! It made for quite a nice dessert with different textures. Paired up with some ice cream and a few raspberries, it lightens it up quite nicely.


Not-So-Red Velvet Meringue Cupcakes

2 whole Eggs, room temp
1/2 C Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 1/4 C Sylvan Border Farms GF All Purpose Flour
2 tsp Xanthan Gum
1/2 C Butter
1 1/2 C Sugar (or Agave/sugar substitute)
1 tsp Vanilla
1 C Buttermilk (or soured milk)
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp white Vinegar
1/2 tsp Salt

Preheat the oven to 350*. Sift together the flour, xanthan gum and salt. To make sure there is no lumps, it is very important that you don't skip the sifting part. Cream the butter and sugar together in a separate mixing bowl. Add the vanilla and then each egg, one at a time, until each is incorporated. Turning your mixer on low, add in the cocoa powder. Alternately add in the milk and flour, making sure to end on flour. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar, then add it into the batter. Mix thoroughly.

You will have enough batter to make 24 big cupcakes or 2- 9" cakes. You could also make 12 cupcakes and 1- 9" cake. Whatever combo you want :) The batter will be turbo thick...the vinegar has an effect on the eggs, and it begins to coagulate them fairly quickly, so be patient and work quickly while spooning them into your pans. Bake them for about 30 minutes or so. Depending on your altitude, it could take less or more time. I would check it after 20 or 25 minutes, and watch it after that.

*Cooks Note- If you have red food coloring that you would like to use, just mix a couple Tbsp in with the cocoa powder to make a paste and incorporate it into the batter as directed.

-recipe inspired by Ruth Lendrick, off of the Food Network site
1 1/2 # Milk chocolate
1 C Heavy Whipping Cream
1/2 C Raspberry Jam

Place the chocolate into a large glass bowl. Bring the cream up to scalding on the stove, while mixing the jam into it. Once scalding, pour the cream/jam mixture over the chocolate. Let it sit there, without stirring for about 3-5 minutes. This is to allow the heat from the cream to melt the chocolate without incorporating air into it, and will create a more glossy and fine appearance to your ganache. Using a rubber scraper (spatula), gently and slowly stir the ganache together. Work in small circles, and do not incorporate air. Refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes,basically until your cupcakes are cooled.

4 Egg Whites
6 Tbsp Sugar

Using a mixer, beat the whites and sugar together until medium/stiff peaks are formed. Proceed by following the directions in description above.

*Cooks Note: Humidity will soften your meringues, so it is best to eat these the same day, unless you live in Nevada and it never rains. Then they will last for a few weeks! :)


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Quick Little Ditty: Basil Cream Fruit Salad with Mango Crisps

Sometimes I just want something quick, really good, light and refreshing to eat. I don't want to put a ton of time or effort into it, but I do want it to taste good. And I don't want to feel guilty about eating it either :)

This is the perfect recipe for a time like that. It is simple, quick, and super tasty. Use whatever you happen to have on hand, and it makes for a perfect treat. Sometimes I even mix fresh with canned. I'm talking about fruit salad, of course!

There is no right or wrong fruit to put in, just toss in what you have and what you like. My fruit salad happens to have fresh watermelon, orange wedges and cherries with canned (drained and rinsed) peaches and pears. On top, just a dollop of lightly agave-sweetened whipped cream and a chiffonade of basil. For a perfect sweet/tart crunch, sprinkle over some dehydrated mango chunks (Just Mango).

The perfect treat for a hot June day (or any day for that matter) !

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mango Creme Brulee

You may be wondering where I have been. We did get back from Mexico in May, and you have read all about that already, yet I have not posted since. Well, I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I have been sucked into reading the Twilight series. And now I am addicted to those darn books! I had to finish them, no matter what or who else suffered. I didn't even create anything to blog about! This whole time, either Mark has made dinner, or I decided that cold cereal would suffice. I'm just as obsessed with this series as any teenage girl in this country is, except for that I'm 25, so I feel pretty lame.

Since I have been so out of touch and lazy, I decided to post an awesome recipe that I have been meaning to mention for quite some time. I promised Melissa at Gluten Free For Good forever ago that I would post this. This was back when she was talking about mangoes, so that says how long ago it was :) Anyhow, it is so easy and sooo delicious, and I'd be willing to bet that you will make this more than once.

Mango Creme Brulee

3 Mangoes, small diced
2 Cups Cream Cheese
1/2 Cup Plain Yogurt, strained through cheese cloth overnight
Juice and Zest of 1 large Lime
1 Tbsp Agave Nectar
2 tsp. ground Ginger
Turbinado Sugar (or just brown sugar)

Beat all of the ingredients together except for the mango and sugar. Once combined, fold in the mangoes. Divide between 3-4 ramekins or coffee mugs, whatever you have. Chill overnight with plastic wrap completely covering them. If you do not have time to chill overnight, at least chill for a few hours. Once ready to serve, sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the surface evenly and, using a torch, caramelize the sugar until bubbly and golden, but not black. Once cooled, serve!

For those of you who are dairy free, why not try silken tofu in place of cream cheese and yogurt?

Elle, give this a try with raspberries and lime! Let me know what you think!!!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Greetings From Mexico!

Well, we have arrived back to good ol' Colorado safe and sound! Mark and I had a great time on our vacation to San Jose Del Cabo! Some of my special GF food made it through customs, and some did not; but all in all, I was not disappointed! Along with eating; we snorkled, went fishing (we caught Mahi Mahi!), shopped and sat on the beach!

I was worried that I might have to survive on Lara Bars, but thanks to my Triumph Dining Cards and the fact that Mexican food is commonly GF, I did alright! I discovered that the more touristy restaurants were more risky. The more authentic we went, the better off I was. (Of course I knew that before hand, though.) The day we got there was my birthday, and my best friend Shealyn brought along the Pamela's White Cake Mix and the Pamela's Sprinkle Frosting Mix to make me my favorite cake GF! How thoughtful is she! Nobody actually believes that my favorite cake is a boxed Funfetti, but it is true! This Pamela's stuff comes so close to the real thing, I wanted to cry!

I did end up having a problem with some chips that were fried in a common frier, but other than that, things went pretty well. Listed below are a few of the restaurants we went to and dishes I ate.

Marco Polo Restaurant (Inside the Royal Solaris resort)

I ordered the 'Tepid Provoleta with Thin Vegetables, Fine Herbs and Balsamic Glaze' which was a simple dish of sauteed veggies with broiled Provolone cheese over the top, Fine Herbs sprinkled a bit and a sweet Balsamic glaze. It was simple, but sooo delicious! Who wouldn't like eating a plate full of crispy melty cheese!

Second course for me was the simple 'Grilled Mahi Mahi over a bed of Parmesan Risotto and julienned veggies'. The name says it all, and it was sooo good.

Dark room, sorry about the picture!!

Desert was a 'Mango Creme Brulee' which was a bit disappointing. Before even starting the meal, I had the server and the chef both have a look at my dining card (it was a bit difficult since it was an Italian restaurant with Spanish speaking employees!), and they reviewed each of my selections to make sure they were ok. Well, I get the dessert, and the waiter says "by the way, it has a cookie on the bottom". I looked at him and said "I cannot eat a cookie"..."Sorry", he said. Well, at least he told me before I dug in!

We also ate at a place called Cactus Taco, which was a very authentic, off the beaten path kind of place. I am kicking myself for not having my camera at the time to take a picture! They were surprised to see us there, they kept looking at us very confused as to why we were there! We only saw Mexicans there, the menus were all in Spanish and only one employee spoke very little English...it was great!!! Fortunately, our friend Alison speaks Spanish well, and was able to help translate. All of their menu items contain strips of cactus in them, looking similar to strips of green peppers. A bit crunchy, too. I ordered the chicken cactus tacos the first day, and the chicken cactus combo plate the next day. They were so simple, but absolutely the best Mexican food I have ever tasted. Full of onions, cactus, jalapenos, chicken, etc with a little bit of authentic queso blanco over fresh made corn tortillas. In the center of the table, we got little bowls full of 3 different sauces. One was a pineapple salsa with habanero peppers (I couldn't handle it!), a milder pico de gallo and a very liquid guacamole. I noticed that all authentic taquerias have very liquid guacamole, only the tourist areas had chunky guac. I'll have to learn more about making this, it was really good! We also had some great homemade Horchata.

We were able to buy some concentrated horchata at the grocery store there, and somehow, we were able to get it past customs-- but only just barely! They almost confiscated it. I'm glad they let us have it, it is the best!

Most of our other meals we cooked in our kitchen ourselves. We did visit a buffet some days, but I had to be sooo careful there, so I didn't eat anything too exciting. I mostly ate tropical fruits with plain yogurt. I am not complaining, I cant get that fruit here for less that $3 each!

All in all, we had a wonderful time!

Do you have a recipe for homemade Horchata? I would love to try it!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mushroom, Onion and Provolone Steak Sandwich

Pretty much since early this year I have been craving a sandwich. Not just any sandwich, but a good sandwich. I wanted a sandwich with a substantial roll that tasted like real bread, not just a sub-par gluten free substitute.

Earlier in the month, my husband's grandma (my grandma in law??) who lives in Utah found a shop that sells a bread mix made by a small company near her home called Grandpa's Kitchen. I don't think that they even have a website. Just a small mom and pop operation doing all of the work from a small kitchen. Anyhow, she of course saw it and thought of me, so she sent it right out! I love that lady, she really is very sweet and thoughtful! Anyhow, I got it and gave it a try. It consists of Corn Starch, Potato Starch, Rice Flour, Tapioca Flour and Xanthan Gum. It is a very liquid dough once it is mixed up with yogurt, egg, vegetable oil, baking powder, baking soda, salt and yeast. I wasn't sure of how I was going to get a bun shape with such a moist dough. It is meant to be poured into a loaf pan. I thought for a while and had the idea to pour it into my french onion soup bowls- which are oven safe, and let the dough rise in there. It worked so well! I couldn't believe how high the dough rose just sitting there- and then with the baking soda and powder, it rose even higher. It was awesome! Once out of the oven, I split them and then toasted them up back in the oven. They were so dreamy! :)

Then all I did was saute up some mushrooms and onions, stir fry some thin cut steak strips in some oil, salt, pepper and garlic salt. I smeared some Spectrum GF Mayonnaise on one half of the bun, topped it with the steak strips, onions and mushrooms and then placed a slice of provolone on it. It was so simple and soooo tasty! It really hit the spot!

I'm not going to list a recipe because it is more of a method than an exact recipe. Use what you like for any kind of sandwich filler...I am just super stoked about these buns and how well they worked. They are soooo much better than the nasty buns from the store with those strange absorbent bead packs in them. Does anyone else think that is creepy and gross? I'm not down with that.

Anyhow, I am going to try to duplicate the bread mix. It has all very simple and accessible ingredients, I just need to experiment with the quantities of each flour/starch. I'll let you know how it goes when I figure it out :)

If you are interested in trying out the Grandpa's Kitchen bread mix, which can also be made lactose free, please email them at grandpaskitchen at gmail dot com.

More bread than anything else-- but really, who cares!!!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Colorado Chocolate Festival

Saturday morning my husband and I made the drive over to my family's house to celebrate Mother's Day. The plan was to make Lemon Lovers' Ricotta Pancakes and Blueberry Sauce for brunch. We hadn't really planned anything after that, and decided to figure it out as we went. I had read about a chocolate festival happening in north Denver that day and had secretly planned to somehow trick everyone into going. ;) It didn't end up being very difficult...everyone was super excited to go! Somehow, I don't think I was the persuasive one...the mention of free chocolate would convince even the most stubborn person!

So after finishing up the dishes for my lovely step mom Rose, we piled into the 'ol family minivan and headed out. In my mind, I was picturing opening the doors to the Denver Merchandise Mart where the festival was held and being overwhelmed with the luscious smell of high quality melted chocolate. For those who have had the experience of entering a high quality chocolate shop where they make their own in house, you know the smell I speak of. Unfortunately that was not the case in this instance. We entered in the double doors and were immediately given free Pop Rock filled candy bars along with our $8 tickets. Well, I wasn't so sure about the 'unspecified starch' contained in these long chocolate nuggets, so I handed it over to my husband who can eat as much unspecified starch as his heart desires. Not only was this conference room filled with chocolate vendors, but there were also other vendors that had nothing to do with chocolate whatsoever. I'm not sure why they were there. It bugged me in fact. I did have to chuckle when I found that Denise Nickerson, the original Violet Beauregard in the old Willy Wonka movie was there signing photos. (Apparently she lives in Denver?)

Now I don't want you, my lovely reader, to think that I was disappointed. Oh no, it was quite lovely! There were plenty of booths with all of the chocolate samples I could want. The only problem was, of course, which ones were GF? Well I fully intended to find out, because there was no way I was going to refrain from eating free chocolate! Below are my findings:

Divine Organics Sacred Cacao
Raw Cacao Brittles
"Divinely decadent healthy chocolate"

This chocolate, sold by Transition Nutrition rocks! I loved it. The lady at the booth presented me with a taste of the raw macadamia nut brittle. I wouldn't necessarily call it a brittle in the sense of the kind that you eat during the holidays: nuts surrounded in a thick, crunchy caramel bed; because they are actually nuts and fruit enrobed in a bar of chocolate. Oh my golly though...I could taste the natural fruitiness and flowery essence that comes naturally when you eat true, minimally processed chocolate. It was a high percentage of pure dark chocolate, and the macadamias added a fabulous flavor. This aint no Hershey's bar!

Next up: Oliver Kita.....

"Buddha would want you to bite the head off so he could laugh from inside your belly" -Cat Stevens

Oliver Kita Fine Confections
"Objects of Desire"

This man's chocolates are sooooooo good! Just one problem. I discovered that the chocolate peanut butter truffle is NOT GF. Nope. I discovered this after the chef, Oliver Kita, told me that they were. No doubt about it, he said. Absolutely. So I ate one. Oh baby. I had never tasted one so delicious. I even went as far as paying $8 for a bag of 6 truffles. They were that good. I am still feeling the effects of the gluten, and I am so disappointed. I took a bite in front of him and stopped mid chew-"what are the crunchies?" I asked. "Oh, that is organic crunchy peanut butter inside. The crunch is the peanuts". So I ate more. I ate another when I got home and thought to myself, "this is not a peanut kind of crunch. This has to have something more". So, I did what any detective would do. I shoved my pinkie in the filling and dug. I knew what I was looking for, and I found it. Pate Fuilletine. Little crunchy goodies that pastry chefs add to candy to add that special crunch without getting soggy. They are comparable to mini corn flakes. I was so mad! What a waste of money. So much for asking the chef.

Next up: Izzybelle Chocolate Sauces.....

Izzybelle Chocolate Sauces
"The taste makes the difference"

Based in Castle Rock CO, Izzybelle is the product of 30 years refinement. And it shows. The sauces come in Original Chocolate, Toffee, Raspberry, Orange, Peppermint and Peanut Butter flavors. I looked through all of their ingredients, and as far as I can tell, they are totally GF. They use natural, organic and local ingredients as much as they can. Truly a delight. Forget Nutella. This is the stuff right here. All natural ingredients, nothing strange on the labels, really, really good stuff.

Well, although of course I tried many, many more chocolates, those were the best. Oliver Kita does use GF chocolate, and if you buy his chocolate Buddha or any other figurines, I'm sure you will not be disappointed! He uses very high quality ingredients, so please don't be deterred from checking out his web site!
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