Thanksgiving: The (upside) run-down

Yes this looks almost the same as last year, but why mess with what works?

 

Whenever you cook a giant meal, somethings got to give, and depending on what that something is, you either have a giant success, or a giant mess. Before I tell you what this year’s “something” was, I will say, this year was a giant success.

 

Worth every OCD-inducing minute.

 

Here are some things I learned this Thanksgiving:

 

When you have an old oven, you must be prepared to sit there and watch as your oven thermometer goes up and down with no rhyme or reason, or concordance with the actual temperature-dial.  This oven assumes you have nothing better to do.

 

Even if you cook several things beforehand, there will be an hour when you are absolutely nuts, when you can’t stand people coming into the kitchen, and when you are a bit of a terror. It’s the price of a good cook.

 

Gravy – good, from scratch gravy – is a bitch. For those who like to have a complex savory-yet-sweet flavor, it is a long road. Also, gravy never comes out the same every year. You may find yourself putting odd things into it, but it really doesn’t matter – it’s your secret.

 

Getting baked.

 

No matter how many pies you make, they will be gone very quickly – if not that night, the next morning. (We are all animals when it comes to homemade pie. Especially pecan. Damn.

 

And finally, some things that are completely wrong come out completely right. Case in point: this year, I cooked the turkey upside-down. I shall explain: My turkey came in a bag that was hard to see through (spices and such) and when I shoved it in the oven at 9 am I must have missed the fact that it was in fact, face-down (breast-down? whatever). I didn’t notice it was thus until, whilst carving, I wondered why there was no breast meat on my turkey.

 

Ha.

 

BUT – as it turns out, this works. Cooking the turkey upside down ensures that the dark meat is done and that the breast meat is very moist – perfectly so. All the juices go to the bottom of the bag and hang out in the white meat. My fellow diners suggested that I should make this mistake next year. Who knew?

 

This year, I am thankful that my mistakes turned out to be blessings, and I had people I love to share them with – even if those people drove me crazy, I am thankful that it’s always a good day.

 

Coming up: a pie you need to make.

Gluten-Free Rum Balls (or Easter Eggs!)

These rum balls, while traditionally made around the holidays, are a perfect “adult” treat for Easter – if you’re feeling particularly grown-up you could even dip them in dark chocolate. This recipe is easily adaptable if rum isn’t your thing, though coconut rum sounds perfect for Easter!

 ~* Gluten-Free Rum Balls *~

Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan

A food processor is the quick way to go here, but if you don’t have one you could try crushing the  cookies/nuts with a mallet.

Best made a couple days in advance

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup gluten-free wafers (or other crisp gf cookie)
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup powdered  sugar, plus sugar for coating
  • 1/3 cup rum (spiced, coconut, etc.)

I doubled the recipe, hence 2 cups of crumbs

Begin by pulsing cookies (I used GF animal crackers in a pinch, though I think there are better alternatives out there) into large crumbs – make sure you do not crush them too finely! I made this mistake initially and it made for a very gooey rum ball that wouldn’t firm up until I added extra powdered sugar. You want large crumbs, not flour. Same goes for the walnuts – if you even just chop them with a knife that works too.

Once your cookies and walnuts are ready, assemble them in a separate bowl (again, if you process everything together it’s quicker but you run the risk of chopping everything too finely); add powdered sugar.

Pour in corn syrup, and slowly mix in rum, taking care that the mixture does not become too wet or sticky. (Conversely, if it’s too dry you can add more rum.) Using a teaspoon or small ice cream scoop, form the batter into small balls and roll in powdered sugar. Let sit on parchment paper to set. If you’re having trouble working with the dough, set it in the fridge until if firms up a bit.

Place rum balls in a parchment-lined cookie tin or container and – here’s the hard part – let sit for a few days for the best flavor. If you like a very firm rum ball, you can keep them in the fridge, though honestly they get better with time if they sit out on the counter.

How many is too many? Up to you!

If you’re making Easter eggs, roll balls into egg-shapes and decorate with chocolate. You can also add cocoa powder for extra chocolate flavor!


Yes I’m still alive, and here’s a recipe! (Gluten-free lemon layer cake)

Oh my, how the weeks fly by when you are busy. Sometimes it’s a blessing, other times… not so much. I haven’t had a day with nothing to do in quite awhile. But on a happier note, good things are going around and it’s nice to be employed and living in a beautiful place. And since I moved last weekend, I now have a new kitchen to play with – if I ever have the time! For now, here’s a recipe from a month or so ago…

~* Gluten-Free Lemon Layer Cake *~

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

 This recipe has a lot of steps, but it’s completely worth it. It works best if you make the cake and lemon curd the night before so everything has time to cool. Freezing the cakes overnight will help keep them from crumbling or falling apart during assembly (as some gf cakes tend to do). You don’t have to use greek yogurt here, but it adds tangy moisture to the cake. The lemon curd is absolutely fantastic- use it in any recipe for lemon tarts or with fresh scones! (put in link)

For the filling:

  • Zest from two lemons
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 6 lemons)
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 large egg yolks (reserve whites for the cake)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen

For the cake:

  • 1 cup sorghum flour, plus more for dusting cake pans
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup millet flour
  • 1 cup 2% Greek yogurt, at room temperature
  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons Earth Balance (or butter substitute) cut into tablespoons, softened

For the icing (“seven-minute” recipe):

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Tip: when working with lemons, always use non-reactive cookware and utensils!

 For the filling: Soften gelatin by measuring 1 tbsp lemon juice into small bowl and sprinkling gelatin over top. Heat remaining lemon juice, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high hear, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolved and mixture is hot but not boiling.

Separate 6 large eggs, saving whites for the cake. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and egg yolks together, temper the mixture by slowly pouring hot lemon-sugar mixture into eggs, and then return the mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with heat-proof spatula until mixture reaches 170 degrees. It should be thick enough to leave a trail on the spoon and across the bottom of the saucepan. Watch out for sputters once the curd gets hot!

Quickly remove pan from heat and stir in frozen butter until melted; continue to stir until smooth. Pour filling though a fine-mesh strainer into a non-reactive bowl – definitely don’t skip this step! A smooth curd is especially important when you’re using it as cake filling. Cover surface directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate till its firm enough to spread; at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease and flour two nine-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper (trust me, with a sticky gf cake you do not want to skip this step!)

Whisk together Greek yogurt, egg whites, and vanilla. In the bowl of a standing mixture, mix flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt at low speed with the paddle attachment. With the mixer running at low speed, add butter one chunk at a time, and continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs with no large butter pieces (like a scone or biscuit dough). Add all but ½ cup yogurt mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed till batter is pale and fluffy, about 1 ½ minutes. With mixer running at low speed, add remaining 1/2 cup milk mixture; increase speed to medium and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium speed and beat 20 seconds
longer. Divide batter evenly between cake pans, even out tops.

Bake on center rake, rotating cakes halfway through, until toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes. Loosen cakes from sides of pans with small knife, cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert onto greased wire rack; peel off parchment. Invert cakes again; cool completely on rack. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze overnight if desired. (Freezing often improves gf texture)


Now, the fun part! To assemble: Mix chilled curd with spoon until spread-able. With a serrated knife, cut each cake into 2 even layers, taking care not to break layers. Brush off crumbs. Place bottom cake on cake plate/cardboard, and spread 1 cup lemon filling evenly on cake, leaving a ½ inch border around the edge. Gently add second layer, spread 1 cup filling on top. Repeat with third layer. Place fourth layer on top, smooth out any filling that has leaked out from the layers. Refrigerate while making icing.

For the icing: Combine all ingredients in bowl of standing mixer or large heatproof bowl and set over medium saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water (do not let bowl touch water). Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture registers 160 degrees, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and transfer mixture to standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and continue to beat until mixture has cooled to room temperature and stiff peaks form, 5 minutes longer. Using a spatula, spread frosting on cake, starting with the top layer, working icing down the sides.

Cake can be refrigerated up to one day before serving, and be aware that once the marshmallow-y icing sets, you won’t be able to smooth out any nicks.

A perfect Spring-y birthday cake!

Holiday Photo Overload!

qGluten-Free Rum Balls

photo4 Gluten-Free Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

1 Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookies

7The Before

m Gluten-Free Lemon Meringue Pie

photo 2    Gluten-Free Checkerboard Cookies

Recipes coming soon!

An Especially Tasty Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Casserole

dinner2I spotted this recipe on Oh She Glows, one of my favorite food blogs, last holiday season, and little did I know what an impact it would have on this year’s Thanksgiving! Seriously, it turns regular yams/sweet potatoes into magic.

It’s sweet, but not too sweet to be a side-dish, and the topping is crispy and delicious. It’s also pretty darn easy to make. Perfect for breakfast the next morning too!

While you can make this while your turkey is cooking, I baked it the night before and reheated it at 350 while the turkey was resting; it took around 30m – just keep an eye on it. You don’t have to add the pecans, but I firmly suggest you do; they lend a very tasty pecan-pie flavor.

~* Gluten and Dairy-Free Sweet Potato Casserole *~

(Vegan Too!)

adapted from Oh She Glows

Oven Temp: 350, Pan Size: 2 quart casserole dish

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cooked
  • 2 tbsp Earth Balance
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp fine grain salt
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon

Topping:

  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sorghum flour
  • 3/4 cups chopped pecans

cass2 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and boil sweet potatoes/yams until tender. Drain and mash the sweet potatoes with Earth Balance until smooth – leave a few chunks to keep it “rustic.”cass3

Whisk together the maple syrup, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon; add to sweet potatoes. Transfer mixture into a lightly-greased (with canola oil) casserole dish.

Using a fork (or your fingers), mix together the topping ingredients until well combined; it helps to have softened butter. Add pecans last. Sprinkle topping over sweet potatoes and bake for 50 minutes, checking to make sure topping does not burn. cass5

This dish is ridiculously versatile; it works for breakfast, brunch, potlucks, dessert. Dessert especially if you are someone who likes their desserts without overwhelming sweetness. Something about the twice-cooking/baking of the sweet potatoes really improves the sweet potato texture too.

And if, when shopping, you get confused about the difference between yams and sweet potatoes, usually what is labeled as a yam is actually a sweet potato. The USDA now requires the “yam” label to always be accompanied by “sweet potato.” It’s very unlikely to find a real yam here in the U.S. Bottom line is to look for the ones which dark orange flesh and reddish-brown skin.

2sweetpotatovsyam SweetPotato2

Gluten-Free Pecan Pie (No Corn Syrup Needed!)

pie4I don’t know about you, but I dislike corn syrup (those commercials claiming “corn sugar is the same as cane sugar” are such bull). I know that it’s unavoidable in some recipes, or when you’re making candy, but I don’t dig it. I have a problem believing that something is not horrible for you if there’s corn syrup in it – and yes, sometimes I do believe pie is healthy.

Beyond that, I never have it in the house. But lucky for me, and you, there is no corn syrup in this recipe! And I swear on all that is sweet and tasty, you will never miss it. You will not even notice it’s not there.

I discovered this pie last year, and it quickly became a holiday favorite. (And by favorite, I mean we can’t get out of the December without eating two one.) It’s perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and is super easy.

Also, the original recipe posted on allrecipes has 34,888 saves and over 1,000 positive reviews. Enough said.

~* Gluten-Free, Corn Syrup-Free Pecan Pie *~

 

For the crust (makes 2 crusts, either freeze half of the dough for later or halve the amounts)":

  • 1/2 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/2 cup millet flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup Earth balance buttery sticks
  • 6 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:

  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon sorghum flour
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

pie2

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare crust; see directions here. (Note that the types of flour in this recipe are a bit different than in the link .)

In a large bowl, beat eggs until foamy, and stir in melted butter. Add in the sugars and flour, mix well. Finally add the milk, vanilla, and pecans.

Pour into the pie shell, and place pie in the oven. Once the pie is in, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for 30-40 minutes. The top will crack slightly.

pie3

Enjoy with whipped cream/cool whip, etc!

I’m off to the gym to prepare for future pies – that’s why everyone works out, right?


19 days till Christmas!

Life Update and a Product Review: Enjoy Life Crunchy Cookies

Oh, I am a bit behind here. It seems that, in life, you are either behind in work/things that need to be done, or behind in everything else. I think this falls into the “everything else” category. My apologies. As some of you may know, I finished grad school in May and since I started working full-time (real-job time!) I haven’t had much time to write.

Also, in an effort to um, er, downsize, I have enacted a moratorium on baked goods, excepting those on Thanksgiving and Christmas (upon which there will be baked goods. I’m very excited to show you them). I did manage to sneak some pumpkin bread in there but I figure, if it’s made in the bread machine it can’t be all bad. And pumpkin is oh so good for you.

And since I didn’t technically bake these cookies I’m about to review, they don’t count – yep, I’m pretty sure they don’t. Plus, they were sent to me gratis, and therefore can’t be wasted.

So for the stats: these cookies come in four varieties: double chocolate, chocolate chip, vanilla honey graham, and sugar shortbread. They are indeed lightly crispy, and quite large for the typical boxed-cookies, which makes me happy, at about 100-120 calories a pop for two.They are free of all the allergens, as Enjoy Life products are.

(Tip: if you like your cookies less-crispy, open the box and come back in a few days; they will soften up a little)

These make a lovely snack, dessert, coffee-partner. I just tried the sugar version yesterday and even though the chocolate ones are very good, I think the big sugar crystals on these won me over. (Very bad tasty with Nutella.)

However, with the holidays coming up, I am confident that these cookies would be a great ingredient in recipes that call for a cookie crust/cookie crumbs, etc.  Their texture is very well suited for grinding, and firm enough to stand up in baking.

Another related tangent that I need to share: my grandma makes the best rum balls. Ever. In all creation. Every year she makes a whole batch of them and then they sit out in a big tin on the counter, getting better each day, as rum balls do. Since her house is about 10 feet from mine, I used to furtively sneak into the kitchen – when people were conveniently elsewhere – and shove a couple in my pocket for good measure.

If you aren’t familiar, they are basically crushed Nilla wafers, rum, powdered sugar, and walnuts. They are German, as am I. Many recipes call for cocoa powder, but I think they’re better without it. No need for baking, which keeps the alcohol…intact. They are amazing little spicy balls of cookie dough, and of course off-limits to me now.

As yet I haven’t tried to recreate them gluten-free, but this year I really want to. And I think I might have to try it with the vanilla honey graham version here.

Has anyone tried to make some sort of unbaked cookie with gf cookie crumbs? Let me know!

One week till Thanksgiving!

Happy Father’s Day (from a Blondie)

  DSCN7194   I have a small obsession with these.

DSCN7188

But they’re just so…compelling. All the chewy gooey-ness of a brownie but with a caramel, peanut-ey flavor. I might even venture that these are better than the chocolate version. Le sigh.

DSCN7199

I can’t think of a Father who wouldn’t like one of these; much tastier than a tie or a box of golf balls. And for a recent grad student looking for work, very cost-effective!

Click here for Blondie Recipe

  2

….from a Blondie

(bad joke)

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Coconut Cake!

DSCN6999

When I came across this recipe from Gluten-Free Goddess, I knew I had to make it. So I put in in my Recipe Folder until Easter came along, and it turned out to be a perfect accompaniment for the holiday!

While in the past I’ve used a GF all-purpose flour mix, I’ve recently started to mix my own flours, and the result is pleasing, I must say. This recipe has more flours than I usually combine. I left out the xanthan gum (it’s so expensive!) so the texture of the cake may have been a bit more crumbly, but frankly that doesn’t bother me – it was delicious!

* Gluten-Free Coconut Cake Recipe *

DSCN7012

Ingredients for the Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups tapioca starch
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
  • 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 free-range organic eggs, beaten,
  • 1/2 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 14-oz coconut milk (I used So Delicious Original)
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

DSCN6989Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Beat eggs together with wet ingredients and add into dry mix.

Beat until smooth – battery should be thick and shiny.

Divide cake mix into two cake pans and spread out evenly. Batter may appear low in cake pans, but it will rise!

Bake in preheated oven side-by-side for 30-33 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

DSCN6993 Cool completely on a wire rack. You may want to stick cakes in fridge for a bit before frosting.

Ingredients for the Frosting:

  • 1 cup Earth Balance or butter-substitute
  • 1 teaspoon pure coconut or vanilla extract
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • Flaked Coconut for topping (sweetened works best, it’s less stale)

In the bowl of a mixer (I used a stand-mixer, but you could use a hand one) beat the Earth Balance and extract till combined. Add in the powdered sugar and half the coconut milk, and beat until frosting is smooth and fluffy. Once mixed, beat on high speed until desired texture (the more air you beat in, the easier it will be to spread). Add the remaining coconut milk if you need it (I didn’t).

DSCN6996 Before frosting cakes, brush off crumbs. Center the first later top-down on a cake stand. place parchment clippings underneath edges to keep plate clean. Frost the layer with about 3/4 cup of the icing with a spatula.

Trim the top of the second layer, if you like, and place on top of first layer. Scoop most of the remaining frosting on top of second layer, and begin to work it out towards the edges, beginning to move frosting down sides of the cake. Use remaining frosting to fill in side-spaces between layers.

DSCN7001  Tip: If you go for the “artistic” look of frosting instead of the perfectly-smooth fondant look, you will make life easier!

Sprinkle with coconut.

DSCN7013

 Enjoy!

Happy (Gluten-Free) Easter to All!

Happy Easter!

Whether you’re religious or not, Easter is a wonderful excuse to consume delicious gluten-free fare.

On the menu today?

  • Baked herb-salmon with roasted red potatoes, sautéed asparagus and yellow squash.  
  • And for dessert, wonderful Gluten-Free Coconut Cake!

 

DSCN6999

I know that salmon is traditionally a Good Friday dish, but I’ve never been a fan of lamb, or duck, or ham. I like roast beef, but that’s a bit too much work, and it feels rather heavy for such a springy holiday. And since I’m cooking this year, salmon it is!

And did you notice that 75% of the meal was baked in the oven? It makes everything so much easier when you have people over; you can actually leave the kitchen (and avoid that whole-red faced thing).  

Watch next week for the recipes to these dishes, plus a few more treats I’ve cooked baked up this week!

 

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So…what are you eating today?

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P.S. Peeps are gluten-free!

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