Soft GF Pretzel Success Story

Something I had missed desperately was soft pretzels.  Just not to be found gluten free, at least not in my geographic area.  Maybe some frozen ones out there but I haven’t come across them.  Plus you know me, I Love to bake and prefer homemade to a bought baked good. So when I saw a soft pretzel picture in an email from King Arthur Flour I knew I had to give them a try. pretzels 011

The dough was very easy to make, dump and mix.  pretzels 006I did only a half batch because there is just me to eat them and I didn’t want a huge bag of pretzels in my freezer.  Rolling them out was a bit tricky but very do-able.  I sprinkled the dough with more flour and soon my pretzels were ready for their baths!  Yes – you read that right.  Pretzels get a bath in a special combination; this one was boiling water with baking soda and sugar added.  You drop them in one at a time and they lay on the bottom of the pot for 2-3 seconds before slowly rising to the water’s surface. Once they reach the surface you can scoop them up.  I have a flat wide spoon covered with small holes which is just perfect for pretzel scooping.  They get firm and less fragile in that 5 second bath…just lay each on the baking sheet.  pretzels 007If you want them with salt, sprinkle it on. I happened to have some actual pretzel salt; fat white crystals. Just sprinkle and bake about 18 minutes.  pretzels 009If you want cinnamon sugar leave them naked and when they come out of the oven brush each pretzel with melted butter and then with cinnamon sugar.

The recipe can be found at http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/gluten-free-soft-pretzels-recipe#

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The flavor and texture are great especially eaten as soon as they are cooled enough to handle.  Read pretty hot for me! I adored the cinnamon sugar and enjoyed the salted ones. If you want them soft, bake them the minimum time; check a minute early and pull then if they are to your liking.  pretzels 012

They do freeze well and when you warm them up in the microwave the pretzels are fairly close to how they were fresh.

Just do it: make them this weekend; you know you have been dreaming of a gluten free soft pretzel for years now……

Cherry Kefir Quick Smoothie

Sometimes I want a healthy snack that is in a drink format.  Especially if I am in a rush I can drink a glass of something while I change clothes, feed the cats, put out the garbage and then run out the door to my second job.  So a liquid snack is welcome.  I don’t want to drink ensure; not even sure it is safe for me so I thought of kefir. pots 003

I make my own kefir, a fermented beverage that is usually made with milk although you can use coconut water or even plain water, I think, in creating it. It is chock full of healthy probiotics that everyone could use in making a healthy environment in your gut, especially we celiacs. You can buy kefir at the grocery store in a bottle; a bit pricier than making your own.  They sell fancy flavors of kefir.

But my plain kefir can be boring after a while. I like to mix it with fruit juice like pineapple juice.  Then, the other day I had a brain storm and took some Ocean Spray Cherry Juice Cocktail (about 4 ounces) and mixed it in my blender with a banana, 2-3 ice cubes and some of my kefir (about 4 ounces); magically transforming the bland kefir into a fancy cherry smoothie.  cherry kefir and winter wonderland 001The resulting tall cold glass of pink yummy stuff was so much more healthy than soda or Gatorade and as quick to make as most smoothies.  The cherry juice drink has 55 calories for 4 ounces and your kefir’s calories will depend on what kind of milk you made it from.  The banana’s calories depends on it’s size; not much regardless. No added sugar by me either. Regardless, it is healthy, tasty and a great change of pace.  Try one made with your favorite juice beverage.  Let me know of any good combos you create!

Artisan Bread and Gluten Free…Yes!

Ever in search of the elusive tasty gluten free bread…. I saw a fb post that promised just that.  So I couldn’t resist the temptation.  I tested out the recipe.  Made the flour mix, yeap ANOTHER gf flour mix… OMG! I must have a dozen mixes stored in my house between freezer and cupboards.  This time, I told myself,will be different, this will be the best freaking gf bread I have ever made. Will it be worth the effort…I hope… Hope springs eternal in the breasts of all celiacs for bread that we can enjoy, bread without giant holes in it or that crumbles to an unholy mess when made into a sandwich.

Okay, one giant jar of flour mix later and one batch of sticky dough whipped up.  You keep the dough in the fridge and use a big chunk of it when you want bread.  I only made a half batch.  There is just me here and the dough needs to be used up in 5 days. Ten if you make it egg free but I read a lot of comments on how the egg whites are very important to the texture of this bread.  So egg whites in, tick tick my bread baking clock is running down….

The flour mix isn’t all that different from my favorite mix, has some sorghum flour which is the new darling around gf circles for making great texture and flavor in gf baking. It also has the xanthan gum already in it.  The big jar is still ¾ full after my mixing efforts.

I had made the dough mixture up Saturday but upon reading comments that it was best eaten within 2 days and that the refrigerator time contributed to a sourdough taste, I delayed baking a test loaf until Sunday.

Laid down a piece of parchment paper after Sunday lunch and scooped up half my squishy dough. Wet my hands and carefully formed it into a round small loaf.  It seemed a tad flat.  But I let it rise the required hour; added maybe 15 more minutes. You use a bread stone to bake the bread on; slide it in right on it’s parchment paper. Paper gets brown but doesn’t burn…hopefully anyway!

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Baked okay; not as high a rise as I might wish.  I let it cool a long while per the directions.  Took it with me to my mom’s assisted living.  We had it with the lentil stew I made earlier this past storm weekend. She adored the bread! It has a good outside crunch, close moist texture. Great artisan look and taste.  Score!

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Here is the recipe; way too long for me to post. http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/2014/11/03/master-recipe-from-gluten-free-abin5

Debating buying the cookbook…..maybe as there are a lot of other great recipes in it.

Anyway; if you miss that chew and flavor of artisan breads; this recipe is for you.  I have one more loaf to make; waiting until Thursday; I want to see if it gets like sourdough. Hoping!

Leeks, Bacon, Creamy Sauce = Yummy

Lots of you probably have never ever eaten a leek.  You might not know what the heck it is.  Imagine an overgrown scallion with a mellow onion flavor.  It is a member of the allium family: more information can be found at this site: http://www.culinate.com/articles/culinate8/meet_the_alliums. Sold mostly in the fall and winter – as it takes a long time to grow one.  So now is the perfect time to try this great recipe which is built around the humble leek.  Generally the deep green leafy portions of a leek are not used.  I use the white and the lighter green. Leeks can be sandy or grimy; careful cleaning is critical. I rinse them a lot as I cut and pull off outer leaves. Cut off the root remnant and then slice into 1/3 inch slices. Discard the outer deep green leaves.  They are too tough and don’t have great flavor anyway.  I try to grow leeks but not too successfully as they seem rather too needy: long growing season, rich soil and lots of water all much required.  Buy them at a farm stand if possible; freshest source and probably cheaper. This recipe is the perfect way to introduce yourself to leeks; they will melt in your mouth and match perfectly with the creamy sauce and the bacon.

Anyway, enough of the wonder of leeks: this is a pasta sauce recipe too! Yes, the leeks are the predominant flavor but another major flavor is the Canadian bacon, you can use ham, prosciutto or thick cut bacon. I love it just as I made it with Canadian bacon; great flavor, easy to cut into strips and less fat than other choices.  Plus it was the only gluten free hammy choice I could find that day.  A lot of ham sold has gluten – used in the spices or the added liquids.  Annoying to have to read the labels of something you might think was naturally safe for celiacs like me.

I used penne as I was serving it to an elderly lady who couldn’t manage linguine or fettuccini as the original recipe suggested. Use whatever pasta floats your boat; the peas were cute as they stuck inside the pasta tubes so I think it worked great.  If you are not needing to eat gluten free use your favorite pasta by all means.

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Best quality Parmesan means it is a chunk you have to grate fresh; small grater side.  Jarred grated cheese will not do, this recipe depends on high quality ingredients to show off the delicate flavors it is chock full of. If you are a shroom hater; by all means leave them out but I loved the earthy meaty flavor contrasting against the cream and leeks. Can you tell I adore this dish? It is going to be a favorite of mine for sure.  The original recipe came from Epicurious but I jiggered it a bit with the peas and mushrooms and subbed in Canadian bacon for more fatty traditional bacon.

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Angie’s Leek and Bacon Sauce with Pasta

Ingredients

3 tbsp. EVOL

2 tbsp. butter

3 leeks cut crosswise into 1/3 inch rounds; white and pale green only

1 8 ounce package Canadian bacon cut across into 1/3 inch wide strips

6-8 oz fresh mushrooms sliced (not too thin)

¾ to 1 cup frozen tiny peas

2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves pulled off stems

¾ cup heavy cream

1 box gf penne or linguine (12 ounces)

¾ to 1 cup just finely grated good quality Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Start a big pot of water to boil for pasta, add salt.

Melt 1 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. EVOL, add the leeks, saute slowly until soft; may take 10 plus minutes. It should practically melt in your mouth. Set aside; can put them in a container and store in fridge a day or two.  If making dish right away, in a clean pan add rest of EVOL and rest of butter.  Add sliced mushrooms and saute until cooked fully, 5-8 minutes.  While that cooks make the pasta in that pot of boiling salted water.  Do not overcook; try to time it so it gets done when you add the peas to the dish. Reserve a cup of the pasta water for thinning the sauce. Add bacon, stir a couple minutes.  Add the peas and thyme. Stir well.  Add the cream, stir and when it is warm but not boiling add the leeks and the cooked pasta.  Stir well, add some of the pasta water, stir more to blend. Add enough water to make the sauce the thickness you desire; I didn’t need more than half the water but you know how you like your sauce. Taste and make sure your peas are done then add three fourths of the Parmesan cheese.  Serve the rest of the cheese to sprinkle on top.  Dive into leek and bacon loveliness!

Blizzard Lentil Stew

Here’s a yummy stick to your ribs kinda soup recipe for this cold stormy winter day.  Make a big pot so  you have leftovers for tomorrow… Lentils are good for you and hearty in stew for chilly days. I took a basic Italian lentil soup and kicked it up a bit with some changes and additions.  My daughter loves the Italian sausage in it and I love the kale added to the mix.  Kale is very trendy these days but I have been using it for years; this is one of my favorite recipes to make with kale.  It increases the nutritional value and the flavor of a soup.  I also like how easily it goes together.  If you hate kale leave it out; spinach is really tasty too in it.  I prefer fresh kale, don’t forget to cut off any tough stems.  In this batch I used a mixture of sweet Italian sausage and hot spicy sausage.  Lots of extra flavor that way!

This stew could be made vegetarian; use vegetable broth and leave out the sausage.  I don’t always have the parm cheese on it but it is very tasty with it.

 

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Lentil and Sausage Soup

Ingredients

¼ cup EVOL

1 cup diced yellow onion

1 can diced tomatoes

2 tbsp. tomato paste dissolved in ½ cup water

2 cups dried brown lentils, washed after measuring

2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes

1-2 quarts chicken broth, I prefer Kitchen Basics.  If you don’t have that much broth just use water for part of it.

1 lb Italian sausage (sometimes I use a mix package of mild and spicy links)

1 lb fresh or frozen kale.  Fresh is best; chop it up but frozen will do

½ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, optional (for topping)

2 tbsp chopped parsley; can leave out if adding kale.

Directions:

Sauté the onion in the olive oil in a big heavy bottomed soup pot.  I use a heavy bottom as your soup will be less likely to burn.  Cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the sausage; push the onions to the pan’s walls so they don’t burn.  Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Add tomatoes and stir up well, add the tomato paste in water and cook 10 minutes.  Add broth and season with salt and pepper; remove sausage to a plate to cool. Bring the soup back to a boil and then add lentils.  Cook about 45 minutes to 50 until lentils are done to your taste, add the potatoes 20 minutes into the cooking time.  Stir pot occasionally so it doesn’t stick.  Add the kale and cook 5-7 minutes.  While the lentils are cooking you should cut up the sausage into rounds and add back to the lentil stew when they are done.    Let the soup stand at least 15-20 minutes once it is done.  Serve in a wide soup bowl with a good sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese on top.  Perfect on a cold winter night to warm you up from  your tummy to your toes!

Clarifications…FYI…

Just a few brief comments about my blog posts to clear up some issues.  Sometimes people ask if I have even made the recipe I just posted.  For the record: I never ever post recipes unless I have made them myself.  Also, I don’t post stuff that doesn’t taste good.  I do not post recipes I myself would never make again.  I don’t say it is yummy unless it is.  cranberry tartlets 001

Secondly: The pictures I post are almost always shots I have taken myself; they are pretty amateur so I doubt anyone will believe I got them anywhere but from my own camera! I do use pictures of food products or boxed gf products I find on line; better than pictures I could take of the stuff.

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Next, I do cook/bake the vast majority of the recipes I post over and over again.  I just made a batch of my granola the end of last week and I made homemade instant oatmeal this weekend.  The pie crust recipes I post are the two I use constantly in my own kitchen. Those muffins I post about often, I make muffins on a regular basis; about every three weeks.  I made my chickpea pasta soup this weekend; a post from last winter. To be honest I often cook right off my own blogged recipes; quick and easy to find them and my blog has all my changes to the dishes so I can best replicate tasty foods.

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Finally, I never post stuff I don’t enjoy eating or that is crazy complicated.  I don’t post stuff made of bizarre ingredients, yes some things may be a bit unusual but I avoid ingredients I can’t find easily in my small town; either in the grocery store or the health food store. I want my food to be accessible: tasty, affordable and easy to replicate. Foods you would be happy to serve to company or just eat yourself when you crave homemade soup. I live to post yummy food for you to make.  I really do!

Lemon Velvet Pie…Heavenly Treat

I hereby declare 2016 the Year of the Pie.  I plan to post a pie recipe every single week.  Well, maybe some of them will be tarts, galettes, tartlets and rustic tarts but all in the pie clan!  Since I want to eat less sugary desserts I am going to step away from cakes and turn to something my family all adores.  Pie.  It’s time to make more pies.  Full of fruit pies, nut tarts, citrus chiffon pies, jam tarts, and chocolate pies of all sorts.  Pie and more pie.  Sounds delightful doesn’t it?

My first entry is something out of my Farm Journal’s Best Ever Pie Cookbook published in 1981.  My dear sister Margie gave it to me a long time ago and I have baked a number of sweet pie treats out of it. This is a lemon pie but unlike any I have ever made.  It is called a lemon velvet pie.  I think of it as a puffy lightly lemon cloud of a treat.  Impressive and delicious. My guy is already bugging me to make it again for him and I just made it yesterday! Actually he saw the recipe and asked me to make it so I did.  It has a lot of elements to it but no step is that difficult to conquer. It might strike you as the offspring of the union of a chiffon pie and lemon meringue pie!  Anyway, it is melt in your mouth and delicate especially if you make it with Meyer lemon as I did.

Per my New Year’s promise I did cut the sugar down quite a bit.  This filling is naturally gluten free.  My wheat eating friends can use a regular pie shell to make this treat.  I am betting it might be also great with my cookie/tart pie crust. This pie will be the talk of your next gathering if you whip it up!

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Here are some impromptu shots as I made this pie: the crust, yeap I see those cracks! No matter…covered up by the pie filling. And yes; the top layer refused to totally spread out for me.  Next time I might warm it a tad so it spreads smoothly. But it is one tasty pie!lemon velvet pie 005

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Lemon Velvet Pie

2/3 cup of sugar (can add another 1/3 cup if you like it sweet)

6 tbsp. corn starch

½ tsp. salt

1 ½ cups cold water

2 eggs separated

2 tbsp. butter

1 tsp. lemon zest, grated fresh

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. (1 packet) unflavored gelatin

¼ cup cold water

1 cup light cream

A baked 9 inch pie shell

1 cup heavy cream, whipped with 2-3 tbsp. powdered sugar and 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Directions; bake the pie crust and let cool. See any of my past pie blog posts for a crust recipe.  I bake it about 20-25 minutes until it is light brown.

Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in 1 ½ to 2 qt saucepan, stir in water, cook over medium heat until it thickens and mounds when dropped from a spoon; stirring constantly. Might take 3-5 minutes.  Stir a couple of spoons of it into the two stirred up egg yolks. Add right back into pan and stir well, cook 2 minutes on low stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add butter, stir, add the zest, lemon juice and vanilla, stir well. Remove one cup of filling and set aside.

Soften gelatin in the cold water for 5 minutes.  Add to the remaining hot filling in pan, stir to dissolve it.  Gradually stir in light cream, cool slightly to firm a bit.

Beat egg whites until firm and glossy, using electric mixer at high speed.  Fold into the pan of cooling filling.  I used a rubber spoonula. Pour mixture into baked pie shell, Refrigerate 15 minutes.  Top with the remaining cup of plain filling you set aside.  It will be thick; I put small spoonfuls all over the top.  Chill in fridge at least 2 hours to set the pie.

Whip the cream, add some powdered sugar and vanilla to sweeten lightly and serve slices with big dollops of cream on top.