Five Years Gluten Free and Fabulous!

Today is a milestone for me.  Five years since I went gluten free. Five years since I gorged on regular pizza, bagels and pasta like an idiot.  Five years of tummy being mostly pain free. Five years of learning how to cook gluten free. Five years of figuring out gluten free baking. It has been great to be mostly free of gut pain, anxiety, and a host of other issues that have dogged me much of my life. I still eat well. I still love to bake. I feel I have adapted fairly well to this new diet. Lots of cooking though, as the premade stuff is expensive, not that tasty and full of crap I don’t want to put in my body.  I still make a pretty awesome pie I have to say. I have created incredibly yummy gf cookies and muffins. My mom doesn’t really think a lot of the baked goods are gluten free as they are too tasty in her mind! So far so good in the cooking realm.

kitchen sink cookies

blueberry ricotta tart

Writing this blog has been a wonderful experience. It will be five years for that in a week or so. I still enjoy this process of writing and sharing. I plan to keep at it for the foreseeable future.  Honestly, I often look up favorite recipes on my blog and cook off my tablet propped up in the kitchen.  It’s a very handy resource for me.

 

My family has been very supportive of my new diet. They bend over backwards to cook safely for me or to find safe restaurants for dinners out. I so appreciate their efforts and unstinting support.

chocolate-chip-pumpkin-muffins-011

My man has been awesome about it. Never complains, always supports me and seems to thrive on the meals I cook for him. He always wants baked goods to take home with him. He ca be somewhat finicky so I know they must be tasty if he wants leftovers! I appreciate his support more than I can express here.

flowers 005

Most of my friends have been really helpful and supportive. Countless tasty meals and thoughtful snacks. I am lucky to have them in my life.

barra rossa pizza

So I am already thinking of the new things I will cook and bake in this next gf year. Stay posted for some changes to my blog in the coming weeks. It’s gonna be awesome!

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Super Simple Cloud Bread

 

Finding or baking decent gf bread can be problematic.  Poor texture (think crumbly), slightly odd flavors, big holes in the middle of the loaf, leaden or brick like baked products, high prices and lots of ingredients which must be compiled exactly according to the recipe.  It adds up to a fair amount of stress as to just having a sandwich.

A year ago I made some really interesting bread/rolls.  The name is “cloud bread” (also called oopsie bread) and it has no flour, no oats nor any grains.  I was intrigued when I saw this cloud bread popping up in my support group messages and just had to try it. My recipe has five ingredients but three should be in your pantry already.  It was very easy, quick and yes; tasty.  So it made a super bread for a ham and cheese sandwich and a ham/turkey and cheese sandwich.  I ate one warm out of the oven, also enjoyable. Great with a little jam or jelly on top.  Posted it back last March and sharing again so you who missed it can give it a try.

I added a couple toppings which add a lot to the flavor and look of it.  I recommend them but it sure can be made plain.   You have to use full fat cream cheese to make it work, only a few tablespoons so don’t get all freaked out over that issue!

Cloud Bread/Rolls

3 eggs, separated

3 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. honey

Pinch salt

Toppings; sesame seeds and a tbsp. of chopped fresh rosemary.

 

Directions

Beat the egg yolks with the cream cheese until it is very smooth, lemon yellow. Add the baking powder and honey, beat in.

Beat the egg whites until foamy, add a sprinkle of salt. Beat until stiff peaks form.  Fold together with the yolk mixture until mostly blended together.

While the egg whites were beating I lined a big baking sheet with parchment paper and sprayed it lightly with Pam.  Heat oven to 300 degrees. Some people heat the pan in the oven before spreading the dough; I didn’t bother but feel free to preheat your pan.

Using a big spoon spread the bread mixture on in six big circles spaced 1-2 inches apart.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and or finely chopped fresh rosemary. Bake until golden brown between 20 and 30 minutes.  Using a spatula separate them from the parchment paper. Let cool.  Store in a ziplock bag overnight; they will get soft and be ready for sandwiches.  Keep them in the fridge. I put slices of wax paper between them to avoid sticking.  They keep about 3 days there and a week in the freezer.  Wonderful for sandwiches: I used one for the top and a second one as the bottom of the sandwich.  Did I mention they are virtually no carbs in this bread? Yeap; great for my low carbing friends!

Originally published in 2016. Minor changes to text.

Barra Rossa Restaurant: Great Philly Eatery

We went to Philadelphia this past Saturday to see the Terracotta Warrior exhibit at the Franklin Institute. It was awesome. I loved every moment. Highly recommend it. Afterwards we went out to dinner in the neighborhood of  TJ Hospital a few blocks to the east of Center City. I thought I was picking a new restaurant but it turns out that Stella Rossa changed their name; due to similarity to another restaurant so we were there a while ago, maybe two years ago. As we got to the front door of Barra Rossa we looked at each other and said “We’ve been here before!”

   barra rossa lights

I remember how great their gf  pizza was so I had another pizza; different toppings; smoked mozzarella, red sauce, prosciutto, and a touch of arugula.  It was very tasty although I couldn’t hardly taste the smoke in the cheese until I ate my leftover slices for lunch. Go figure.  I didn’t think to take a pix until I had eaten some pizza; pardon the casual two slices gobbled down shot!barra rossa pizzaMy glass of California Riesling was very smooth and fruity; perfect!  We shared an appetizer of lump crab, portabella mushrooms and basil oil which was utterly delish.  Someone thought I had eaten more than my fair share!  I also had the arugula and pear salad with candied walnuts. The pears were kinda hard and it was a lot of arugula.

I only chose items marked gf on the menu and made the server aware of my gf needs as a celiac.  Yet once again I got mildly glutened.  Upon reflection. I remembered that  I had that same salad last time.  And the same mild feelings of having eating a tiny bit of gluten. I am strongly feeling that it was a matter of the candied walnuts. I know for myself that buying nuts is very problematic as often the cross contamination issue rears it’s ugly head.  Nuts are often processed on the same equipment as wheat and that is a problem.  Restaurants probably feel that they don’t need to worry about gluten in any food ingredient that normally does not contain gluten. If my issue was less serious this wouldn’t be the problem it is.  Some of us with celiac do react to tiny amounts of gluten from this sort of cross contamination while natural ingredients like nuts or dried fruit are processed.  It’s hard to believe until you experience it but this is a reoccurring problem for many celiacs. So, in this case, I have resolved not to eat nuts or dried fruit while eating out. They are just too problematic.

anjoOne more reflection, pears….they are a favorite fruit of mine but an unripened pear has no place in a salad. Slightly under ripe is okay but hard pear is virtually flavorless and the skin can be bitter.  If your pears are not ripe enough or are over ripe, use a crisp apple instead.  Just unfair to sprinkle hard wedges of pear in a salad. No one can enjoy that.  My guy does not care for pears. My best guess is that he has never had a perfectly ripened pear. Overripe they not have an enjoyable flavor.  We got some small pears at Walmart the other week and they seemed to just rot from the inside out. Ugh! Normally I like to get Anjou pears at Valley Farm Markets in a six pack and let them ripen in a bowl at room temperature. A perfect pear is a delicate, sensory treat of texture and juicy flavor. If you don’t like pears; well then, I think you haven’t had a good one yet.  Keep trying!

I do strongly recommend this restaurant. Their gf pizza is the bomb and that crab appetizer was just amazing. If you are in Philly; this is an excellent choice for a meal.  Just avoid the nuts if you are gluten free and be wary of unripe pears!barra rossa bar

Aldi’s Update February 2018

Today I have an Aldi product update to share.  A few totally unrelated items that I recently purchased and want to comment on.  First, their grapefruit seltzer; ridiculously cheap and mixes perfectly with kombucha tea or fruit juice. The label says PurAqua.  Caffeine and sugar free. Just carbonated water and natural flavoring. Great to have a new flavor choice for a mixer.                            grapefruit selzer

Secondly, their SimplyNature house brand organic fair trade light brown sugar. Soft, moist, great flavor and cheap. And it is organic and sustainably grown by small farmer cooperatives according to their label. Can’t get much better than that.  I am busy using my bag of Aldi’s organic sugar in my baking efforts. It does seem to add a better flavor than regular granulated sugar. It is far cheaper in Aldi’s than in the local Giant grocery. brown sugar

For snacking I am enjoying their Casa Mamita Chunky Salsa, mild version.  It tastes very fresh and is yes, chunky.  They have spicier versions; see picture below! Great with Aldi’s Blue Corn Dipper chips. Clancy Dippers are decent but the blue corn dipper is just amazing in flavor and crunch. Cheaper than what I can find at my big box local grocery store too!

I like their own brand organic ground cinnamon. Great flavor and far cheaper than organic cinnamon usually is.  I wish they would get in even more spices and that they would label them as gf. Ah the typical celiac lament!

Finally, their Red Lentil Rotini is back; I loved cooking with it when I found a box quite a few months ago. I look forward to using it again!  Cheap, organic, high in protein, iron and fiber. Win Win!

red lentil

My friend Josh says I need to work for Aldi’s as I write about them so often…. I write about this company often because their food is wonderful. If there is an Aldi’s near you; what are you waiting for? Great food, great prices and lots that is gf for folks like me who have celiac disease. Enjoy!

Delish Apple Galette

If you don’t have enough apples for a pie or the time necessary for that project you can make this quick and delightful free form apple galette. I made it round but you could go oval. It only takes 3 apples and no need for a top crust. It is the same crust I always use but I did leave out the sweet rice flour which gave it a bit more firmness; up to you whether you use it.

Please use Granny Smith; you need a firm baking apple that will hold its shape for a long bake. You could leave off the sprinkle of coarse sugar but why? It adds a great crunch and looks perfect; finishes it just like a bakery might.   This might be my favorite new dessert; easy, low on the sugar and oh so delightful.  Still,  you could use less sugar if you want; maybe cut to a third of a cup. I used organic sugar and I think it made it taste just a tiny bit better for that!

Delish Apple Galette

 

Crust:

1 c plus 2 Tbsp. brown rice flour mix (at bottom of recipe)

2 Tbsp. sweet rice flour (I left out)

1 Tbps. granulated sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp. cinnamon

6 Tbps. cold butter cut into 6 chunks

1 lg egg

2 tsp fresh orange or lemon juice

Line a 15 inch pizza pan with parchment paper.  Can used a thick cookie sheet; preferably with edges. I used my silicon sheet cover but frankly it got all covered with dark brown hard sugar from leaks; a pain to clean it; go with the parchment paper!

Mix dry ingredients in bowl of stand electric mixer.  Add butter and mix until crumbly and resembling coarse meal.  Add egg and juice.  Mix until it comes together into big chunks.  Shape into a ball with your hands. Put it on a crust sized piece of wax paper (14 x 14 inches more or less), flatten the crust ball some; put on top of it another piece of wax paper and chill it all in your fridge 15-20 minutes.  Then roll out and put on the parchment lined pan; put back in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Filling:

3 large Granny Smith apples

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

½ cup sugar

½ tsp. cinnamon

Sprinkle nutmeg

Zest of ½ a lemon

1 Tbsp. white rice flour

1 medium or small egg; beat up to make an egg wash

1 Tbsp. coarse sugar

Directions: Peel apples, cut in quarters, remove cores, cut each quarter into 3 or 4 slices. Place in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice.  Mix the dry ingredients in a cup; pour over the slices, toss with a big spoon; sprinkle with the zest.

Get out the tart crust and sprinkle it with the white rice flour, just in the area you are going to lay out slices; not the edges.  Then lay out the apple slices in a big circle0  Leave 1.5-2 inches of crust around the slices, put slices in the center too. One layer only.. Fold up the edges of your crust and pinch together to create the galette shape. Try not to let it crack at the bottom; pinch and fix those cracks! Use a pastry brush to brush the crust and fruit with the egg wash. Sprinkle the coarse sugar over it all including the crust.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes in a 350 degree oven. The crust should be lightly browned and filling bubbling. If sugar leaked out just break off the brown bits before serving. Let your tart rest a bit; don’t serve hot but a warm slice will be awesome.  Slice and top with a big dollop of crème or yogurt if you like that sort of thing.  We ate it plain – just my favorite way to appreciate the flavor and texture of this awesome tart. Enjoy!

apple galette slice

Brown Rice Flour Mix (same as King Arthur basic gf blend)

2 c brown rice flour

2/3 c potato starch – not potato flour!

1/3 c tapioca flour

The crust recipe is from Annalise Roberts great cookbook, GF Baking Classics, Second Edition.

Kitchen Sink Energy Cookies

Always on the lookout for tasty, low sugar, gluten free snacks I made these kitchen sink cookies the other day. It was not a gf recipe but I made it so with a few adjustments and additions to suit my taste.  I used half sunflower seed butter and half chunky peanut butter. This produced a faint peanut buttery taste which I liked: I didn’t have that much sunflower seed butter on hand. They are fairly interchangeable in baking cookies. I used blueberry flavored dried cranberries. They are just one of the many flavors in these yummy treats. I suggest you can swap things out for similar quantities of additions. Or leave something out that you don’t care for.  They blend remarkably well into a delightfully tender result. I was delighted that they were not heavy from all those trail mix sort of ingredients. One cookie is just enough to hold me for a while until an actual mealtime is there…keeps the blood sugar fairly level.

I froze most of them for future enjoyment. I wouldn’t freeze for more than 2-3 months.

kitchen sink cookies

Trail Mix Cookies

Yield:  2 ½ dozen

Ingredients:

1 cup sunflower seed butter or half cup each of that and peanut butter

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup dates, chopped, I chopped whole soft dried figs

¼ cup sunflower seeds or slivered almonds (I used almonds)

½ cup raisins

¼ cup maple syrup

1 extra large egg

½ tsp vanilla

1/2 cup gf flour mix (I used King Arthur Basic Mix)

1/2 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1-2 Tbsp. chopped crystalized ginger (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350⁰F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicon liners.

Place all of the ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on medium speed until the ingredients are well incorporated. Drop generous tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheets or. Bake for 12—14 minutes until cookies are set, but still soft.  Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet.  Store in airtight cookie jar or freeze in appropriate freezer containers; for no more than 3 months. Enjoy!

Great GF Pretzels;Gotta Travel!

I buy gluten free pretzels at Giant and at Aldi’s.  Both are okay but a tad too crunchy and hard for my tastes but I crunch on as I sure miss pretzels. Did get some awesome milk chocolate covered gf pretzels at Aldi’s early this fall, keep looking for them….no luck. Not until my sisters went to Queen’s Nut Shoppe in Allentown did I find some really great gf pretzels.  They are small and in the traditional twisted shape. Made by Gratify Foods in Israel. Yeap, you got that right! Made overseas in the country of Israel, go figure. They are of course parve… About $4 for 14.1 ounces (400g): a good price for gluten free pretzels and called Sea Salt Twists. I live in eastern Pennsylvania, home to Utz Pretzels (my old pretzel love) and Philly pretzels as well as a few other tasty pretzel brands.  This is pretzel country! But, no one local (read Pennsylvania) makes a decent gf version, so…to get delicious gluten free ones; head to Queen’s Nut Shoppe (a health food store) in the eastern side of Allentown, not far off of Union Blvd. if you want to try these addictive little treats. My favorite way is to dip them in peanut butter; just a tiny dab. Ahh pretzel heaven is mine!

Update: the Wegmans on 248 near Nazareth has them too!pretzels