December 27, 2006

Chocolate Chip Muffins Gluten-Free

My kids are very considerate. They always offer me tastes of their gluten bakery items, even if they know I will need to turn them down. Unfortunately, most pastry shops don't service gluten-free customers.

The last time we were at a local pastry shop, my children wanted to try some of their chocolate chip muffins. My daughter was worried that I wasn't going to get anything, but this particular pastry shop is a veritable bonanza of wheat - it's even in their meringues. So she made me promise her that I would make chocolate chip muffins that I could eat too.

On our previous visit to this pastry shop, I asked the clerk if they had anything that did not have wheat in it. She said, "No." They had meringues in the case, so I asked her if the meringues were wheat free. She said, "Yes." Hmmmm..... So, I bought one just to check it out. The clerk was right the first time. They put wheat in their meringues. Ignoring gluten and focusing on taste alone, a meringue cookie with wheat and nuts and then sprinkled with wheat (no, it wasn't powdered sugar) is pretty disgusting. It makes you want to act like your kids and wipe your tongue with a napkin. Yuck.

So, on to tastier things. After looking through my cook books, I selected the Fanny Farmer Cookbook as my source of inspiration. Their basic muffin recipe is an excellent base that allows the extra ingredients to shine. Hoping that this same quality could be transfered to my gluten free version, I set to work. This is what I did:


2/3 cup brown rice flour
2/3 cup oat flour
1/3 cup sweet rice flour
1/3 cup almond meal
3 Tb arrowroot flour (You can use almond meal instead)
1 Tb baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 1/2 tsp kudzu powder, dissolved in the milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips, regular sized
(Optional: 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, add to dry ingredients before adding liquids)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the insides of a cup cake pan with paper liners. In a sauce pan, melt the butter. Remove it from the heat and add in the milk, beaten egg and kudzu powder. Make sure to blend the kudzu powder. In another bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together. Pour the liquid mix into the dry ingredients and blend. Do not over mix. Keep it a bit lumpy. Resist the urge to blend well.

Fill the cup cake papers 2/3 full. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the tops of the muffin batter. Press lightly to make sure the chips stay attached to the muffin tops. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 1 dozen muffins.

How did they turn out? Beautifully. They are a lovely golden brown with just a slightly sweet taste, which allows the topping (chocolate chips or crumb) or filling (such as nuts or fruit) to shine. My daughter didn't really care for the muffins. She wanted them to be sweeter and have chocolate chips inside the muffin, not just on top. My husband and son thought just the opposite. They liked the chips on top and weren't too sweet. I agree with them. They are delicious...just like a muffin is supposed to be.

December 21, 2006

Mesquite Pumpkin Bread - Gluten Free

With Christmas only a few days away, I wanted to have some nice gluten-free sweet batter breads around the house for breakfast. Pumpkin Bread is a family favorite and I had a can of organic pumpkin, so the decision was made. Next step was trying to figure out which flours to use in the recipe. While I was contemplating what flours I had in the pantry, I remembered my bag of mesquite flour and realized that the light caramel-like of mesquite would go beautifully with pumpkin.

The basic wheat version of this recipe for Mesquite Pumpkin Bread comes from a church cook book that belonged to my mother. Her dear friend shared this recipe with their church community and now I'll share it with you.

Mesquite Pumpkin Bread

1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin (fresh or canned)
2/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup mesquite flour
1/3 cup oat flour
1/3 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup water with 1 1/2 tsp kuzu powder dissolved in it
Optional: 1/2 cup nuts

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a bread pan with parchment paper. Cream the shortening with the sugar. Then add the eggs and pumpkin. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Bake for 1 hour. Remove and cover with aluminum foil. Return to the oven and bake until a stick comes out clean. Approximately 90 to 120 minutes total baking time for one loaf. Allow to cool before cutting.

Alternative: Divide dough into two parchment paper lined bread pans. Bake at 325 degrees until a test stick or toothpick comes out clean. Approximately 1 hour. (Note: I would make this recipe as two loaves rather than one. It takes a long time for the one loaf version to bake all the way through.)

The bread turned out a warm shade of dark caramel and smelled divine. Just the aroma brought back so many memories of pumpkin pie and holidays. I had just set the bread to cool on the counter, when in comes my son looking for snackage. "Ohhhhhhh," he says when he spies the bread, "I want that for my snack." Out comes the bread knife (actually a cake fork might work better) and away I went fixing up servings for my salivating critics.

The family critics voted this recipe as yummy, to be repeated, and there won't be enough to have for Christmas morning. Not to worry, I told my daughter I'll make some more. By the way, mesquite flour and pumpkin are very good together. Now, where's the cream cheese.....

Black Bean Soup - Gluten Free & Vegetarian

I've been looking for some nice hearty gluten-free soup recipes for the winter. Soups that can slowly cook in the crock pot, while we're out building things in the snow or going to activities. My kids will eat a wider variety of vegetables in soup, so I was thinking this would be a great place to start. Plus, I've wanted to find tasty vegetarian or low meat soup options.

I've found a couple of soup recipes that are pretty good, but for some reason they haven been what we wanted to add our to family cookbook. Either my family hasn't enjoyed some of them or some recipes are too high on the Glycemic Index and need to be modified before I cook them again.

One of my crock pot soup successes was a gluten free Black Bean Soup, although this version does have green salsa, a nightshade plant, in it. It's very easy and makes enough for left overs.

Black Bean Soup Recipe

2 cans Black Beans
1 1/2 boxes of Vegetable Broth
1 chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
2 Tb grapeseed or olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup green salsa
1/2 tsp black pepper
salt to taste
Optional: sour cream as a garnish

I put all the ingredients in the crock pot and set it to 250 degrees. At this temperature, you can start it to cook in the morning and serve in the evening.

So as to my goal with broadening my children's vegetable horizon...didn't happen. They said it had too many onions. (Insert - parental sigh) My husband and I thought it tasted great. We added blue corn tortilla chips and Monterey Jack cheese and it tasted wonderful. I had some Gouda cheese that we tried on our left overs and that was a nice option too.

December 19, 2006

Why Am I Sheltie Girl?

The day I started my blog, our four year old blue merle shetland sheepdog was hard at work protecting us from the dreaded Storage Stealer's (see story below). I was laughing with my husband about how our sheltie treats us as though we are a flock of sheep to be protected from wolves. We agreed, it is the nature of the sheltie...constant vigilance.

Take a moment and step into our lives in the Land of Sheltie:

I live in the land of Sheltie. It's a wonderful land...full of trees, squirrels, rabbits and the occasional skunk. Our population is small and consists of two older sheep, two lambs and a sheltie.

Life in Sheltie is never dull, whether it's running off with the lambs kick ball, chasing squirrels who snitch our nut crop or warding off an attempted invasion by the evil giant brown. At the center of our country, we have a cozy capitol building that is full of soft beds and yummy food. Life is good in Sheltie. So good, that we are in peril from numerous outside forces.

Our sheltie is the lone member of the Department of Homeland Security. The threats are real and they are stalking our country daily. Our small country has woodland on three sides and the Sea of Road on the other. Our main attacks come via the sea route, which requires constant vigilance.

Our main threats come from the forces of the evil Giant Brown, the Grass Grazers and the Storage Stealer's. Almost daily, we are stalked by the evil Brown's minions. They are a fearless bunch that sweep the coast in large clanking ships. If our country is the target of their attack, they will dock at our port, swarm from the deck and leave bombs at the entrance to our capitol building. Then just as quickly, they will rush back to their ship and wait for the bomb to explode as they sail away.

The Storage Stealer's are bold force that sneaks in to our country every few days. They prefer to attack when the sun is barely faint rays on the horizon. Sneaking up to our outdoor storage silos, they will grab some of our uneaten food stores and hurry off to their mini-ship. Then hugging the coast, they will travel to other countries to steal their stores rather than grow their own food.

The Grass Grazers never attack our country, however they constantly prowl our borders. They look for a way to enter and swarm across our grazing lands. They look to steal grass and nut crops from us, but have been thwarted by the vigilance of our Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The greatest challenge of the DHS is predicting the arrival of the Leaf horde. Loud and fierce, these fiends hug the coast of the Sea of Road sucking up every country's leaf crop. To date, they have proven to be an unstoppable force and we lose our leaf crop every year.

Even with all these outside threats, the Land of Sheltie is a good place to live. The sheep are well cared for and the sheltie is sweet, loving and brave.

December 14, 2006

Rolled & Cut-Out Sugar Cookies - Gluten-Free

One of my biggest challenges in cooking gluten free was making sugar cookies. Many recipes were too bland for my taste or the dough ran during baking and the shapes wouldn't hold. A tasty gluten-free sugar cookie recipe was becoming very important at our house as Christmas was drawing nearer. Many little batches of gluten-free sugar cookies were made, testing the various classic ways of making sugar cookies. This recipe is the winner of our little bake-off.

Traditionally at our house, Santa is left a plate of Christmas sugar cookies and a mug of hot chocolate. My kids really get into the spirit of Christmas. Not wanting the reindeer to feel left out, they require that a reindeer cookie is left for Santa's team. They very thoughtfully rearrange the living room so that Santa's snack is left on a small table by the tree. This arrangement is the best way for Santa, because he can snack while he puts out presents. Creative aren't they...

I've been stalling on making this batch of cut-out sugar cookies, as I wanted to go slowly so I could document and make pictures along the way. I've tried other methods to shorten the process, but without the same level of success. Although it takes a while, this method makes the best cut out cookie.

To begin, I got myself into a comfy cooking mood and set up some mental entertainment. My family joined me and we watched Redwall - Season 1, while we cut-out and baked cookies.

Gluten Free Sugar Cookie Recipe

1/2 lb butter
1 1/2 cups cane sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tb cream with a rounded 1 tsp kuzu powder dissolved in it
2/3 cup brown rice flour + 2 Tb
2/3 cup oat flour + 2 Tb
2/3 cup sweet rice flour + 2 Tb
1/2 cup almond meal + 2 Tb
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

Note: Freezing or chilling the rolled dough packets comes before baking. Wait to preheat the oven until you are cutting out the cookies and placing them onto the cookie sheets.

Cream the butter, and then gradually adding the sugar. Add the egg, vanilla and cream with kuzu powder in it. Beat thoroughly. In another bowl, mix the all the dry ingredients together. Add this slowly to the butter mixture and blend well. If your dough is too soft add a little extra oat flour to stiffen the dough.

Divide into larger balls that you place in between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll the balls until the dough is between 1/8" and 1/4" thick. Then freeze the sheets making sure that they are lying flat in your freezer.

When the dough is firm remove from the freezer (one pack at a time) and peel the top layer of parchment paper off the dough. Put the top layer of parchment paper on your work surface and flip over the dough onto it. Then peel off the bottom layer. Proceed to cut out cookies. Work quickly before the dough thaws. The dough will probably stick inside the cutters. Use your fingers to ease the cookie shape out of the cutter. (Note: detailed cookie cutters may not work as the dough is still soft and may stick in the corners.)

Once you have cut out the cookies and placed them on the parchment paper lined cookie pan, roll the left over dough into a ball and place it between the previously used layers of parchment paper. Roll to a uniform thickness and then freeze again.

Make sure that the cut out cookies that are on the cookie sheet are still chilled and the dough isn't warm. When the warm cookie dough is baked it spreads more during baking than will the frozen dough and you will lose the cut out shape.

Bake at 325 degrees for 12 - 14 minutes or until golden brown.

The cookies are now ready for frosting and decorating.

As soon as the first batch of cookies cooled, my family swarmed the stove and at least left the parchment paper uneaten. I kept baking and here are some for you to see.

How did they taste? Great! The four family voters all thought the same thing. Our sheltie girl didn't get to vote except on the dough, which she thought was quite tasty. She kept hitting my leg with her head to remind me that she was patiently waiting for more.

Anyway, the cookies turned out with a nice crisp texture and the edges were just slightly blurred. I had trouble with the more detailed cookie cutters (i.e. snowflake, reindeer, angel), but the less detailed ones (i.e. gingerbread man, star, candy cane) worked just fine.

Hmmm...I'll have to work on getting the reindeer cookie for Santa.

December 13, 2006

Time For Gluten-Free Holiday Cookies

I've been looking for some gluten-free sprinkles so I can start my marathon baking of cut out sugar cookies. I just wanted to say...I've been successful! The sprinkles are called "lets go...Sprinkelz". They come in two types that I've found so far. The pastel Sprinkelz are called Carnival and the chocolate Sprinkelz are called Chocolatey.

I purchased my boxes at Whole Foods, but Gluten Free Pantry sells them as well. You can find them under the baking supplies at the Gluten Free Pantry's website.

More Gluten Free Oats

Another location that you can purchase gluten-free oats is the Gluten Free Pantry. You can find them under the Cereals section of their website. They sell rolled oats in two sizes from Cream Hill Estates. Or you can buy their oat flour which is located under the baking supplies. You can find the Gluten Free Pantry at:

You can also order direct from Cream Hill Estates. Their website is:

December 5, 2006

Corn Bread Stuffing - Gluten-Free

After making gluten-free corn bread (see previous post), I began preparing to make my stuffing for Thanksgiving. This recipe is from my Mother, but I've modified the spices which makes for a zipped up version.

First I took 2/3 of the pan of corn bread and crumbled it up onto a cookie sheet with sides. I did grease the pan so that the corn bread wouldn't stick. I toasted it in the oven for about 20 minutes on 325 degrees. Make sure to keep an eye on it so that it doesn't brown too much or burn.

In a large bowl I combined:

corn bread, crumbled and toasted
5 stalks of celery, chopped
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
3 shallots, chopped (or 1 small onion)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp ground sage, or to taste
1/2 tsp ground thyme, or to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
1 stick of butter, melted
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

In a sauce pan melt the butter in the 2 cups of broth. Pour over the stuffing mixture and blend together. Then pour it into a 6 x 10 greased pan. Cover and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Then uncover to allow to brown for 10 to 15 minutes.

Stuffing is one of my family's favorite holiday food items and always gets rave reviews. My kids love this recipe. It's savory yet mild enough for most kid's.

December 1, 2006

Corn Bread Gluten-Free

For my family, Thanksgiving feasting isn't the same if there isn't cornbread stuffing on the table. So I pull out my old Quaker Oats Corn Bread recipe and started modifying it to be gluten free.
My first gluten free attempt at baking was corn bread. It was so dense and heavy, it could have been used as an anchor. Given that it was somewhat tasty, my family encouraged me to go ahead and make it into stuffing rather than make it a donation to the local dump.
This is a double recipe made for a 9 x 12 pan. That way we could have enough for munching and stuffing. So, this is what I did:

Gluten Free Corn Bread

2 cups Corn Meal
2/3 cup + 4 Tb Brown Rice Flour
(4 Tbs added because mix didn't seem thick enough)
1/4 cup Arrowroot Flour
1/3 cup Oat Flour
1/3 cup Sweet Rice Flour
1/3 cup Almond Meal
4 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
2 cups Milk
1/2 cup Vegetable Shortening
2 eggs
1 tsp Kudzu Powder dissolved in 1 Tb Water
2/3 cup Sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9 x 12 baking pan with parchment paper. Mix ingredients together. Bake for approximately 40 minutes.
My family said that this was the best version of corn bread that I have made yet. The kids were thumbs up and said make it this way again. My husband and I enjoyed it, but were slightly more critical. As Southerners we both prefer a corn bread that is slightly sweet, so my recipe has more sugar. However, we both agreed that it had a bit too much sugar, so I cut back on the sugar in the recipe above. The almond meal and sweet rice flour add their own natural sweetness to the mix and the recipe didn't need as much sugar as it did in the original wheat recipe. This is a nice corn bread recipe.
The Arrowroot Flour in the recipe came from Bob's Red Mill. (