Thursday, July 30, 2009

Free Betty Crocker Coupon



Call 1-800-446-1898 for a coupon that's good for a free Betty Crocker gluten free mix.

I called about this a few weeks ago but forgot to post! My friend reminded me today so you can all thank her.
Go do it!
Oh, and while you're at it, check out Be Free For Me for more coupons/ samples.

Outback Steakhouse

I've been wanting to try Outback for a while now, because I know they have a gluten free menu, and last night Chris decided it was time.

We asked about the gluten free menu, and there were no problems with the waiter knowing what we were talking about. I love that.

Okay, a quick word about the pictures. The restaurant was dark, except for annoying lights right above our heads that were a little too bright for how close they were.
It led to a discussion of why a lot of restaurants are dimly lit. I personally enjoy well-lit rooms and open windows, not just in restaurants but overall. It has always annoyed me and made me feel a little claustrophobic to walk into a dimly lit restaurant. We went through all the restaurants we could think of that are dimly lit, and came up with a lot. Someone must have done a study that shows people order less food in brightly lit restaurants or something. It's ridiculous.

Anyway, so the pictures were taken in horrible lighting, and I had to lighten them up a lot with my very limited photo editing skills. As a result, they are not great pictures. You can click on them for a larger image.

Our waiter was great. When he offered us bread, he acknowledged that it would only be suitable for Chris to eat. I thought it was funny and was delighted to get a waiter who knew what he was talking about. I ordered some kind of steak (I don't remember what kind), the garlic mashed potatoes, and some steamed veggies. It was all very good. I had a taste of the sweet potato side that Chris had, and that was tasty too; they sweetened it a little much for me, given that it's a side dish for a steak, but in a different context it would be perfect.



It was so good, in fact, that when the waiter came to take dessert orders, I was debating whether I had room to eat the Thunder from Down Under Chocolate Cake. He said that they have a small-sized portion, so then I said yes.


It tasted delicious, and I felt so strange eating a piece of chocolate cake in a restaurant. Usually that is forbidden.
Overall, it was a great experience. I didn't have to worry about my food for one second, AND I got dessert. I'd definitely recommend it, and I'd go there again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summer-friendly lunch

More chicken salad, this time with mayo & red wine vinegar, flaxseed meal, a touch of garlic powder, grapes, water chestnuts, spinach, cucumber & tomato. They haven't been really great this year, but I finally picked out a really nice, ripe, juicy cantalope.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Chicken Salad

Leftover chicken is great for chicken salad. There are about a billion different ways to make it.

Personally, I like to add something sweet, like apple or grapes, and I always add water chestnuts. They add such a nice, different crunch.

This time I added thyme and sunflower seeds, placed a bunch on a bed of spinach, and topped it with cherry tomatoes. Fantastic lunch.

Is there something unexpected or special that you add to your chicken salad?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pancakes

gluten free pancakes
I've been making these pancakes for years. Developing this recipe took time, and it's so worth it.

When I was 8 or 9 years old, my mom taught me how to make pancakes. It was one of the first things I learned how to cook. The first few came out a little rough, but I soon got the hang of it. I learned to tell that the griddle was ready when a few drops of water danced and sizzled around the pan. I learned the perfect moment to flip them, when the edges were set and little bubbles made their way through and popped in the middle.

So, I've been making pancakes for roughly 15 years. With that many years of pancake-making experience, why did it take me over a year to make a really good gluten free pancake?

Because. Gluten free pancakes are fickle. If you use too much starch, they come out sticky and gummy. If you use too little starch, they come out dense and grainy. If the batter is too thick, they won't cook in the middle. Too thin and you won't be able to flip them without them folding onto themselves. They need the right combination of structure and softness. After many tries, I finally came up with this recipe, and it's solid. They come out right every time.


This recipe yields a fluffy pancake cake with a good depth of flavor. If that sounds strange, just remember I've made a lot of bland gluten free pancake rejects. These kinda remind me of the ones I used to get at IHOP or Denny's, but not so heavy.

Pancakes

1/3 c. brown rice flour
1/3 c. sorghum flour
1/3 c. potato starch
1/8 t. xanthan gum
1 t. baking powder
1/8 t. salt
1 T. oil (I use extra light olive oil)
1 T. honey
1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 c. milk

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine the wet ingredients in another bowl. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix well with a whisk. You can mix the heck out of these; no worries about tough pancakes because there is no gluten! (Looking on the bright side here)

Preheat a griddle/ pan until water droplets dance around a few seconds before disappearing. (I use a nonstick pan on medium-low)

Ladle in about 1/3 cup of the batter and let it cook until you start seeing bubbles in the middle and the sides are set. Flip, and cook for a few minutes until the center is done.

Yields ~6 pancakes.

Happy pancaking!

P.S. Once you've made them plain, try them with strawberries

gluten free pancake

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Chocolate Cake

vegan gluten-free dairy-free sugar-free low-fat chocolate cake
My sister Suzy just had her gall bladder removed, so she is on a low-fat diet for a while. It also happened to be my other sister Ashley's birthday this weekend. Both Suzy and I eyed the german chocolate birthday cake on the table, unable to take a bite. I found a vegan chocolate recipe here that I've been wanting to try. I've also been trying to cut down on my sugar intake, and decided to go wild and modify it to be low-fat, sugar-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free. That's a lot of "frees."

It went okay, I just didn't use enough agave syrup so it was just not sweet enough. It was close, so I sprinkled some powdered sugar on top. It helped a little, and turned it into an almost sugar-free cake. The amount of agave I'm putting here is pretty close to what it should be. The cake was very moist, thanks to the applesauce and agave syrup. I'm probably going to make it again.

Chocolate Cake

1/2 c. brown rice flour
1/2 c. sorghum flour
1/2 c. potato starch
1/4 c. cocoa
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. agave nectar
5-6 T. unsweetened applesauce
1 T. vinegar
1 t. vanilla
1 c. water

Mix up the dry ingredients, then just plop the wet ingredients in and whisk it all together. Pour it into a 9x9 pan and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until it's done.

I'm trying to figure out an acceptable sugar, dairy, and fat-free frosting, but I'm pretty much getting nowhere with the ingredients I have. I can make it low-fat so Suzy can have some, but I guess frosting is just going to be sugary. It's not really something you eat every day, so that's okay. I did see a neat recipe that uses tofu, but I don't have any and I'm not that concerned about it. If you have any other suggestions, let me know!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gluten free english muffins

gluten free english muffin
Look! We have nooks. We even have crannies!
Gluten free english muffins have arrived! Good ones! Rejoice!

Please forgive the wonky pictures. I am not used to cooking and taking pictures at the same time

I initially was going to use Alton Brown's recipe, because he is just all kinds of awesome. However, I decided to change it up a little.

First thing's first. You don't need fancy pants english muffin rings, or even tuna or pineapple cans. Aluminum foil and paper clips do just fine. Observe:



English Muffins

1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1 T. olive oil

1 1/3 c. water, warmed
1 envelope yeast
1/4 t. sugar

2/3 c. brown rice flour
2/3 c. sorghum flour
2/3 c. potato starch
1/2 t. xanthan gum
1/2 t. baking powder

Comine the sugar, salt, and oil in a big bowl. Proof the yeast while mixing the rest of the ingredients in a smaller bowl. Pour the yeasty water into the big bowl, then mix in the dry ingredients. Stir well to remove lumps. I use a whisk.

This is more like a batter than a dough. Think of it as if you're making a really thick pancake. Same concept.



Let the batter rise for 30 minutes for regular yeast, 10 for rapid-rise. While it's rising, preheat a griddle to 300 degrees, or put a pan on medium low heat.

To make these babies:

Spray cooking spray inside the ring, including the ring itself. You don't want the muffin sticking. It's a pain in the ass to try and remove it if it's not greased. Sprinkle some corn meal inside. It will be bubbling and will smell awesome.


Use a ladle to pour in some batter. Use your discretion for how much, but remember they rise quite a bit. Sprinkle corn meal on top, too. Cover the pan and let them cook for 5-6 minutes. Here's how they look before cooking:


The only thing about english muffins, is they are time-consuming. I have started putting a movie on to watch while I'm waiting. You can also play with your [apparently] attention-starved cat, brush your teeth, change out the laundry, update your facebook status, do the dishes, etc. Just make sure you have a timer going.

Another thing: In-between batches, cover the bowl full of batter. The yeast will continue to rise, and the muffins will get more nookier and crannier. Yum.


Once one side is cooked, flip them. I use a spatula and kinda tilt the pan towards the muffin while I flip. You get the hang of it. They will look kinda like this.


Cover and cook them on the other side for 5-6 minutes. When they're done, remove them from the pan to a cooling rack. The ring should come off easily, ready to use again. Here is the finished product. They look like real english muffins!! The taste and texture are spot-on. So. Good.

gluten free english muffin
I had to make these one-by-one, but if you have the means, go ahead and do it up in bigger batches.

Once they're cool, split them with a fork, not a knife, and enjoy them immensely. This recipe makes about 6 muffins.

Oh, I also found another praise-worthy recipe here at I Am Gluten Free, but have yet to try it.

Regardless of which recipe you use, you HAVE to make these. It's been way too long since you've enjoyed a good english muffin.

See, being gluten free isn't so bad. :o)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Crock pot chicken & dumplings, and "sopapillas"

I know it's hot and sticky outside, and the last thing you're thinking about for dinner is a hot bowl of soup. But, I had to use up some chicken, and the thought of dumplings made my mouth water. Tuck this recipe away for the first really cool day of fall. Or, crank down your AC and make it now. The crock pot cooking method does keep your kitchen cooler, though.

A little disclaimer: the lighting in my kitchen always makes my pictures of soup look funky. It looked more appetizing than this, I promise.

crock pot gluten free chicken and dumplingsThis recipe fits my 2 qt crockpot, and makes 2-4 servings.

Here's what you do:

Preheat a pan on medium high heat.
Add 1/4 cup each of chopped celery and carrots to the crock pot.

Take a baggie and put about 1/2 c. of gluten free flour in there. It doesn't really matter what kind, but starches will thicken the soup more. Sprinkle in some thyme, pepper, rosemary, and garlic powder to your liking. Close the bag and mix it up.

Then, add in three raw chicken strips or whatever kind of chicken you need to use up. Close the bag and coat the chicken. Brown the chicken on both sides, and add it to the crock pot. Dump in any remaining flour from the baggie that didn't stick to the chicken.

Put a little chicken broth on the hot pan to loosen up the browned bits of goodness, and add that to the crock pot. Fill the crock pot with enough chicken broth to cover everything, plus a little more. Stir it all up well.

Let that cook covered on low heat for about 4 hours, or until the chicken and veggies are done. My chicken was fall-apart tender and juicy.

Once that's done, it's time to make the dumplings:

2 T. each brown rice flour and millet flour
1/4 c. potato starch
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 T. shortening, warmed
1/4 c. rice milk or milk
1/4 t. xanthan gum

Mix the dry ingredients together, then smoosh in the shortening. Make a soft dough with the milk. Either drop the dough by spoonfuls into the crock pot, or flatten it out and cut it into strips like I did. Put the crock pot on high and cook until the dumplings are done. They were perfect and slightly chewy. Oh, I was supposed to add peas towards the end but I forgot.

Now, I had a little bit of dumpling dough left over that I couldn't use or I'd crowd the pot too much. Rather than toss it, I sprinkled them liberally with cinnamon & sugar, then pan-fried them. I sprayed a pan well with cooking spray, then put it up to medium-high heat. I put the dumplings on the pan, sprayed with some more cooking spray, and covered the pan for about 5 minutes. They came out crispy and gooey at the same time. I drizzled honey over them. They reminded me of sopapillas, only not puffy.


gluten free sopapillas
There you have it. It was a longg day and I'm thinking a glass of wine sounds really nice.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Peanut butter chocolate cookies

I originally was going to try those white chocolate chip chocolate cookies again, but I ran out of white chocolate chips. I did have some peanut butter chips, so I tried those. Fabulous cookies. I brought them to a housewarming party to share, or I would have eaten wayy too many.


gluten free peanut butter chocolate cookies
Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

1/3 c. crisco
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 t. vanilla
1/3 c. brown rice flour
1/3 c. potato starch
1/3 c. millet flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
scant 1/3 c. cocoa
1 1/2 c. peanut butter chips

Cream the crisco and sugars. Beat in the egg. Stir in the vanilla. Mix the dry ingredients except for the peanut butter in a separate bowl, and stir them into the wet mixture. Stir in the peanut butter chips. Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Oh, YUM. These rich cookies have a great balance of peanut butter and chocolate. They're slightly crispy on the edges and soft in the middle.

NEXT time, I will make them with white chocolate chips.

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ice-cold Topo Chico with Lime


Nothing like a refreshing beverage on a sweltering summer day.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Agave Nectar & the FDA

I came across this article regarding agave nectar. The article did not provide directly researched sources, so I'm not entirely sure of its accuracy. Thoughts?

Agave Nectar Does Not Comply With FDA Labeling Laws

Agave nectar is an alternative sweetener used in health food bars and sold as a replacement for sugar, honey and maple syrup. Alternative health writer Ramiel Nagel has announced today that agave nectar does not contain a correct label as required by FDA labeling laws. "Agave nectar contains 70%-75% highly chemically refined fructose-more than is present in high fructose corn syrup-and most consumers don't know this," explained Mr. Nagel.
Once eaten, refined fructose appears as triglycerides in the bloodstream, or is stored as body fat. Elevated triglyceride levels, caused by consumption of refined fructose, is one of the factors responsible for the hardening of human arteries.
Further, metabolic studies have proven the relationship between refined fructose consumption and obesity. Fructose in agave nectar is a man-made synthetic sugar produced through a complex process of enzyme hydrolysis which converts non-sweet starches and sugars into a highly refined sweetener, fructose.

Russ Bianchi, Managing Director and CEO of Adept Solutions, Inc., a globally recognized food and beverage development firm, explains, "By eating high fructose syrups, you are clogging the arteries, creating inflammation, and increasing body fat, while stressing your heart. This is in part because refined fructose is foreign to the body, and is not recognized by it."

A confidential letter from the FDA explains that agave nectar is supposed to be labeled as "hydrolyzed inulin syrup," to reveal its true nature. Yet as of today, no agave manufacturers comply with the FDA's labeling requirement. These manufacturers are not adhering to the law, and as a result, consumers are unaware of the high fructose content of agave nectar.

Nagel's research reveals that due to its high fructose content agave nectar may not be safe for pregnant women, and that when used frequently it may cause body chemistry imbalances that can promote poor health, in the same why high fructose corn syrup would.

Please contact us to learn more.
Source Ramiel Nagel

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/156397.php

Today's post-workout snack


Cheese cubes and dried cranberries. (And some peanut butter celery)

If you plate it, you're less likely to mindlessly gorge yourself.

Gotta tell ya, I'm feeling pretty good!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Nutty butterscotch cookies

gluten free butterscotch cookies
Nutty Butterscotch Cookies

1/4 c. shortening
2/3 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 T. applesauce
1/2 t. vanilla
1/3 c. millet flour
1/3 c. brown rice flour
1/3 c. potato starch
2 T. sweet rice flour
1/4 t. xanthan gum
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. chopped almonds
1/2 c. butterscotch chips

Cream the shortening and sugar until it's well-incorporated. It won't be as creamy as normal cookies. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and applesauce. Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and stir the mixture into the wet mixture. Stir in the nuts and butterscotch, and bake on a greased cookie sheet at 375 until they're done.

This recipe makes soft, cakey cookies with a yummy butterscotch flavor. You can also get crispier cookies by baking them a little longer.

4th of July picnic



Perfect for a light picnic & fireworks in the park:

apple slices (with orange wedges squeezed in there to keep them from turning brown)

strawberries

cheese cubes

celery sticks with peanut butter in a baggie (just cut the tip of the bag and squeeze the peanut butter onto the celery for a no-mess method)

Mi-Del ginger snaps (sooo good!)

Fireworks + a picnic + some nice breezes + free live music from the awesome Houston Symphony = a pretty darn good Independence Day celebration.

Friday, July 3, 2009

When the moon hits your eye...


My sister took my camera to Warped Tour today and is still holding it hostage. The camera on my phone doesn't do this pizza justice. It was freaking delicious.

I don't know if my taste buds are becoming acclimated to gluten free foods, but this crust had an awesome texture and a great flavor. The sauce was so badass. It came from a container in my freezer labeled "pizza," and it had tons of flavor as well. I wish I could tell you what was in it but I have no idea.

I can, however, tell you what was in the crust. I think it's modified from a recipe I found in some cookbook, but it's gotten to the point where it's scrawled on a piece of paper. It makes a small pizza- just enough for little ole me, with lunch leftovers that are yummy reheated with the broiler.

Pizza Crust

1/4 c. (heaping) brown rice flour
1/4 c. millet flour
1/4 c. potato starch
3/4 t. baking powder
3/4 t. xanthan gum
1/4 t. salt
1 t. italian seasonings

1/2 t. sugar
scant 1/2 c. warm water
1/2 T. yeast

2 T. egg beaters, room temp
1/2 T. olive oil

Proof the yeast in the sugar and water while you mix up the dry ingredients in a bowl. Dump the wet stuff in all at once and stir it into a wet dough. Plop the dough on a greased pan and spread it out with a spoon to form a crust with raised edges. Let it rise for a few minutes- it won't take long.

Spread on your pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, green bell peppers, pepperoni (Hormel is GF), or whatever you want onto the pie.

Bake it at 425 for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is melty and the crust is lightly browned. Let it sit for 5 minutes before cutting and chowing down.

Central Market (HEB) Blueberry Buckwheat Waffles & a short guide to grocery stores in Houston


As grocery stores go, some of the HEB stores around here offer a pretty decent selection of gluten free fare. The only store I've had horrible luck with is Randall's- at least the one at Shepherd and Westheimer. Even Walmart carries rice noodles, but the last time I was there, that store had zilch. Shame on them.

Anyway, some of the HEB stores carry their store brand frozen waffles... which are gluten free! A store brand making a gluten free option? Radical dude.

I can usually find them right next to the Van's frozen waffles, and I think they're better. They're less dry than Van's, and they are cheaper too! I think I picked up this box for $1.89, while Van's run me anywhere from $2-4. Not that Van's are bad. I mean, a frozen waffle is pretty much a frozen waffle.

But, not all of the stores carry them. I've found these at an HEB in Katy, somewhere around Mason and Westpark Tollway. I've also found them at the HEB at Hwy 6 and Austin Parkway. The last time I was at the HEB in Alief, they didn't carry them.

While I'm at it, let's talk about Kroger. That store has always carried a fairly decent number of products. The one in Rice Village is mediocre- it has a GF section but it's not very big.
The Kroger at Hwy 6 and W. Airport is pretty good. I shop there a lot, and they put their stuff on sale.
The Kroger in First Colony on Sweetwater near 59S is the absolute best. They have an enormous section, and they even have a designated gluten free frozen section. You can find a lot of items there that you can't find at any other store, except for maybe Whole Foods. And even then, I've found things at that Kroger that I haven't seen at Whole Foods.

Target carries mostly mainstream gluten free products- like Chex and a few Amy's meals in their health food section. To their credit, that was the first place I found the Chex when it became gluten free.

Walmart is the same way, but I'm randomly seeing special GF products, like noodles, on their shelves.

Fiesta is awesome. The one in Rice Village has a great GF section, and their ethnic aisles carry a lot of GF options. That's where I initially found the Thai noodle bowls, and they also have CHEAP tapioca and sweet rice flour. I go there to stock up every once in a while. You can always find something neat there.

There's an asian store I went to on Bellaire near the Beltway, and I found huge 1-pound bags of Fiber-J brown rice noodles for 99 cents. 99 cents! I'll have to ask Jen about that one.

Of course, I wrote about Ranch Creek Natural Foods earlier.

I think I've covered it, but I might have missed something. Hopefully this will help someone!