Beyond Zucchini: Spiralize Your Apples!

 

Like most people I know, the stories and accompanying photos of the wonders of low-carb spiralized zucchini sold me on the Paderno spiralizer. I bought one and for the longest time used it only for zucchini pasta. Then I graduated to sweet and russet potatoes for curly fries.  Even with this change, however, I was caught in a spiralized vegetable rut. One day, however, I decided to see how the spiralizer worked with fruit. I had a large apple with which I experimented, using all three blades of my spiralizer (incidentally, I hear that the new, improved Paderno spiralizer has four blades). What happened next was a revelation: the spiralizer churns out apple spaghetti as easily and prettily as it cranks out zucchini spaghetti! Moreover, the flat blade turns out a beautiful, thin apple ribbon! Continue reading

Help! Gluten-Free Coconut – Pumpkin Spice Cake, Delicious Disaster!

Anyone who spends enough time baking and cooking in the kitchen will occasionally have

kitchen_disaster

credit: 25andfly.wordpress.com

both minor and epic failures in what they are trying to achieve with each dish. Sometimes even dishes one has made dozens of times will turn out a failure for some reason or another. Fortunately even famous chefs have their  less than stellar kitchen moments. Julian Child, apparently lacking the courage of her convictions, famously failed in her attempt to flip some potatoes she was browning in a pan. Chef Emeril Legasse confesses to having “blown up” a pineapple-upside-down cake he was baking for a dinner. Knowing that the most skilled of chefs and cooks have mistakes helps to ease the pain of personal kitchen disasters a tiny bit; however, the time and expense that goes into making a dish, especially a gluten-free baked item, makes the failure an economic concern as well as drag on one’s ego. Finding a way to repurpose the failure into something successful (and edible) is a sure way for a cook to turn a challenging day in the kitchen to a triumphant day. Today, I’m having one of these challenging days in the kitchen, and I’m looking for help in turning it into a triumphant day! Continue reading

Why, Yes! That Gluten-Free Pasta Is Made With Mesquite Flour!

Mexican Chocolate Filled Vanilla Bean Mesquite Ravioli With Caramel Sauce

mesquite chocolate ravioli3

I recently taught a gluten-free pasta-making class , in which one of the attendees recounted her growing up years, when she and her siblings gathered fallen mesquite pods from the ground to be given to a Hill Country rancher who used them to feed his livestock. For most of its existence in Texas, however, the tenacious mesquite tree has been the bane of Texas ranchers and farmers. The mesquite tree spreads like a weed, absorbs much of the water from the ground in which it grows, and causes other vegetation to die. Long before this hearty tree gained its bad reputation, the mesquite tree was valued as a important food source among ancient peoples in South America, Mexico, and the Southwestern region of the United States. As I explained in past post about mesquite flour, these people used the dried, ground mesquite pods and beans for drinks, as well as for breads, tortillas, and porridge. Continue reading

Cassava Flour and Gluten-Free Baking: A Love Affair

This post is about relationships. Yes, it is also about gluten-free baking and delicious peanut butter cupcakes 10gluten-free baking, and gluten-free cupcakes so tender, moist, and flavorful that they will make you cry, but it is most definitely about relationships. What is cooking, baking, and eating, after all, if not about relationships? We have relationships with the ingredients we favor in our cooking, and relationships with the foods we choose to cook, and relationships with people for whom we prepare food and with whom we share food. We even have relationships with our kitchens and the tools we use to produce the foods we cook, bake, and serve (who doesn’t have a favorite kitchen gadget – that steady, reliable go-to device for which one loves to find uses – my favorite is my immersion blender: a brilliant, versatile invention if ever one existed).  As of the past few months, I have developed quite a personal, loving relationship with cassava flour. As I’ve moved more toward grain-free, gluten-free eating, for health purposes (a personal decision I would never presume to recommend to everyone in general), I’ve been paying more attention to the nutritional values of the flours I choose to use. Continue reading

Gluten-Free Cookie Coated Peppermint Truffles

Another January arrives; another Christmas now lives on in memory and hearts, only. Christmas time is christmastruly the best time of the year. The weather, though not exactly frigid, is less harshly hot. Houses and lawns sparkle with brightly colored lawn decoration and lights. Selections from Handel’s Messiah flow through the air in random places. My favorite Bible verses from the books of Isaiah and St Luke are highlighted in the liturgical readings of Advent. I can finally watch the original The Bishop’s Wife (1947), the original Christmas in Connecticut (1945), the original Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Scrooged (1988), A Christmas Story (1983), and Elf (2003) openly without comment from family and friends. Limited edition Christmas products show up on store shelves, and we indulge in delicious, favorite foods we cook, bake, and eat only during this most glorious of seasons.

This year, we added a new treat to our canon of Christmas comestibles: gluten-free cookie coated peppermint truffles. For years I’ve made truffles by hand, but only at Christmas time. I used a fairly easy truffle recipe, rather unsophisticated but easy enough for Jacob, Christopher, and Elizabeth to help with the making and rolling when they were younger. Over the past year, however, I have devoured and re-devoured a used copy of  Alice Medrich’s combination memoir and cookbook Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate (2003). Inspired by Medrich’s work to create classic ganache truffles, I decided to use her technique and recipe to make some classic truffles for Christmas. Beginning in November, I made a couple of practice batches. I wanted to know what I was doing, come Christmas time. For my first attempt at truffle-making, I made a dark chocolate cognac ganache, which I coated in dark chocolate, then rolled in pumpkin pie spice. These turned out pretty well, actually; the centers were velvety and the flavor combination was scrumptious . Continue reading

Gluten-Free Peach Pie With Whiskey Smoked Brown Sugar

Smoked brown sugar is a mystery to me. That old adage is a saying for a reason: where one finds smoke, smoked peach pie 2one usually does find fire. Fire emits heat, and sugar melts when its heated. How, then, does one get smokey flavor into brown sugar without melting the sugar? Until a few months ago, I’d never even heard of smoked brown sugar. I discovered it last Christmas, while perusing the Net for interesting ideas for meat rubs. The menfolk in my family are difficult people for whom to buy presents. They are pretty content where they are and with what they have; they have few, and simple, desires. One can only give so many running shirts and socks for birthday and Christmas presents. I was bereft of ideas for Christmas presents. Since all the men I love happen to love grilling and smoking meat, I decided to make meat rubs for them as Christmas presents. I searched for rubs for beef, chicken, and pork that require interesting ingredients. One recipe I found called for smoked brown sugar. I was intrigued by the thought of smoked brown sugar, so I ordered some. It’s pricey stuff (about $16 for 8 oz). Just my luck, I LOVE using smoked brown sugar in all kinds of dishes. The smokey flavor adds a pleasant, interesting depth to all foods in which the sugar is used. I thought I was in trouble; I knew I’d be buying this expensive ingredient often. Continue reading

Gluten-Free Floral Pastry Recipes: Orange Lavender Shortbread, Cherry Rose Empanadas, and Strawberry Peach Hisbiscus Pie

I recently ate lunch at an authentic Afghani restaurant. This

Cherry Rose Empanadas and Orange Lavender Shortbread

Cherry Rose Empanadas and Orange Lavender Shortbread

particular day I actually ordered dessert, which I rarely do; however, I could not resist the one gluten-free dessert on the menu, which was rose ice cream topped with frozen rice noodles and a sprinkling of finely chopped pistachios. The rose flavor in the ice cream was perfectly balanced. It was barely there, yet very present: noticeable but not over-powering. While enjoying this simple, yet elegant, dessert, I remembered why I love to use floral flavors in my baking from time to time. Floral notes in a food take that food beyond the tangible use of the senses to the realm of the transcendent. Dishes with a hint of such floral flavors as lavender or rose actually feel luxurious. Who doesn’t like to feel spoiled and pampered by eating something that tastes exquisite as well as delicious? Continue reading

Classy and Romantic: Strawberry Rosemary Balsamic Ice Cream Drizzled With Cabernet Sauvignon Syrup

Another rainy Sunday, of which we’ve had plenty this year. With the weekend chores mostly strawberry ice creamfinished yesterday, and my long run checked off the list this morning, I’m ready to sit down a while: to slow down the day’s pace a bit. The dark clouds and rain outside make staying inside rather cozy. With Frank Sinatra’s smooth, sultry voice floating through the house, Phillip relaxing in the chair next to mine, and tiny Rex curled up against me, I think the time is right for a bowl of the ice cream Phillip made yesterday. Definitely, strawberry-rosemary-balsamic ice cream with drizzled with Cabernet Sauvignon syrup and Frank Sinatra are perfect complements, just like a chocolate milk shake perfectly complements music by the early Beach Boys, and pecan pie perfectly complements music by Robert Earl Keen. Frank Sinatra’s voice and music are completely classy, a bit jazzy, and a bit romantic. As Frankie, with the help of the Count Basie Orchestra, fly me to the moon and fill my heart with song, I think about the classy flavor of strawberries, jazzed up with a hint of balsamic vinegar reduction, made somewhat romantic by the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon syrup lightly drizzled over the perfectly round, creamy delectable scoops of ice cream in the bowl. Continue reading

Red Wine Caramel Sauce: Naturally Gluten-Free

Image by Kate Donahue: honestcooking.com

Image by Kate Donahue: honestcooking.com

May is Celiac Awareness Month. Making people aware of Celiac disease is important. Often when things are busy and eating out would be more convenient than eating in, we choose to eat in; on days when I’ve not had a second to sit, the task of eating safely at a restaurant seems overwhelming. I still get answers from restaurant employees, when I ask questions about gluten in the establishment’s dishes, that indicate a continuing wide-spread ignorance concerning what gluten is, and which foods contain it. Two such instances remain fresh in my mind. While perusing a menu posted on the patio of an Italian restaurant, Phillip asked the hostess standing at her post if the restaurant offers any dishes without gluten. She answered “Not many,” and then recommended the French bread appetizer as being very delicious, and probably free of gluten. Another time I called ahead to a restaurant to find out if the place offered gluten-free pizza crusts. The young man who answered the phone told me that he was not sure whether the pizza crusts were gluten-free or not; they are all made with wheat flour, though, he explained. Continue reading

By Special Request: Gluten-Free Limoncello Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

My oldest son, one of our children who cannot eat gluten, chocolate limoncello cheesecake 2recently sent (via text message, naturally) a special request. He discovered Perugina Dark Chocolate Limoncello candy bars, a flavor combination he thinks sounds pretty delicious. The candy bar’s ingredients, however, are as follows: sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, natural flavors (wheat), sunflower lecithin, artificial flavor. Could I, he wondered, come up with some dark chocolate, limoncello treat that is also gluten-free? Perhaps cheesecake, he added? Those proverbial wheels started spinning in my mind and I drew from various cheesecake recipes I’ve made in the past to come up with the dark chocolate limoncello cheesecake I made for his birthday this month. Continue reading