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

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Product Review: That’s It Bars


That’s It Bars are pretty new to the market, but they are also pretty awesome in their simplicity. They only have two ingredients: apple and whatever other fruit is on the package (apricot, pear, and cherry). They all have around 100 calories and 3g of fiber. They’re also gluten-free, vegan, and kosher.

What I like about these especially is that they’re like those fruit leather strips I love, but not so compacted, so they make for an actually-filling snack. They;re also pretty big for 100 calories. They remind me a bit of lara bars, which I love but are sometimes too high in cals for the amount you get, but without the nuts.

Just a little photoshop fun 🙂

My favorite so far is the apricot; oddly my least favorite is the cherry, which is interesting because dried cherries and I have a relationship. Perhaps it’s because they aren’t suing sour dried cherries, which are by far much tastier (lara uses them in their cherry pie bars). I’ve never had dried pears before, but the flavor is growing on me.

I’ve been taking these to work with me and eating them during my evening commute; they do a nice job of tiding me over till dinner. I also found that they make a good pre-workout snack that give you energy without side-aches; I think it’s probably due to the sugar/carbs from the fruit.


Someone kept sneaking into my photos…

So give these guys a try. [psst: if you want to order them try amazon because it’s almost always cheaper than grocery stores, and click the box below :^) ]

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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.

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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!

Gluten-Free Gingerbread-Orange Scones

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So I haven’t been around here for awhile, not because I’ve stopped eating/cooking/baking but because I’ve started working. Yes, folks, there is hope for those with a Master’s degrees in the humanities.

And now that I’m working, Sundays become something rather special to me, likely because they’re the last respite before the work-week begins.

These scones are great to whip up in the morning, and they are sturdy enough to munch on during your morning commute! I made them in wedges, but next time I might try using a round drop-scones method, because these don’t rise an extraordinary amount. Orange extract is not in the original recipe, but it ended up being very tasty, especially in the glaze. I also added a dash of cloves and nutmeg.

~* Gluten-Free Gingerbread-Orange Scones *~

adapted from here

Ingredients
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup cold Earth Balance
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup soy milk (try using unsweetened)
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • dash of cloves, nutmeg (if desired)
  • 1 egg, separated
  • sugar

1 In a large bowl or food-processor, combine dry ingredients; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In another bowl combine molasses, orange extract, soy milk, and the egg yolk; add into dry mixture until just moistened.

Knead dough gently on a floured surface about 8 times. Pat into a round circle and cut into wedges, or drop batter into mounds. Place on a parchment-covered or greased baking sheet. Beat egg white until frothy; brush over scones and sprinkle with sugar, if desired. 3

Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Once cooled, drizzle with icing or a glaze. Whip up a glaze by combining about a cup of powdered sugar, and a dash of soy milk, and orange extract.

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~ Happy Sunday! ~

Product Review: Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mega Chunks

1 Last week I received some goodies from the generous folks at Enjoy Life, among them were their new Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mega Chunks. Enjoy Life is a great company for those of us with food sensitivities and especially allergies, as they source ingredients that are completely gluten, dairy, nut, and soy free!

In the past I’ve used other brands of semi-sweet chips in baking, but I realize that people with Celiac’s have to be very careful about which brands they choose; even though they may not have gluten ingredients the company may use gluten on their equipment or even consider trace amounts inconsequential (and we don’t!). But with Enjoy Life you can be sure their products are free from gluten and the major allergens.

But we all know what matters is taste and performance! Here’s how the Mega Chunks stack up.

2 Inside the bag you will find big pieces of semi-sweet chocolate – no chips, though Enjoy Life does make a regular-shaped chip – that are great in baked goods or for snacking. I decided to try them in a meringue recipe I tested (found here) and they did very well – I’m not posting the full recipe here because I chose to make meringues on a humid day, so they didn’t come out quite right. (Oh, but they were goood out of the oven, like warm, gooey, chocolatey marshmallows.)

3 I did have to chop up the chunks a bit, as some of them are rather large, but they baked well, and actually the taste and texture was improved by baking. The larger size would be well-suited to chocolate chip cookies, though. The chunks stayed chewy after the cookies cooled, and were sweet without being overpowering. Their texture when melted is also very pleasing, and I imagine they would be great for dipping, decorating, etc.

Overall, I would recommend the Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mega Chunks to anyone who is concerned about allergens or gluten; they are proof that safely-made products are equal to their competitors in performance, and allow consumers to have confidence in the integrity of their ingredients!

Spotted: Gluten-Free Goodies at The Coffee Bean

314677_10100521913353283_3205146_57482142_1760422078_nLook, no fog!

Today was a very warm day in Sonoma county; so warm, in fact, that it was over 80 degrees in San Francisco. This, my friends, is rare.

But do you know what is also rare? Finding a gluten-free baked good at your regular coffee joint. How does this hot weather relate to this rarity, you ask? Business called me to the city today, and around 11am I was walking down Fillmore – which, if you didn’t know, has basically every coffee chain within a one-block perimeter. And as my boyfriend led us into Noah’s Bagels to pick up a toasty number for himself (lucky bastard), I fond myself sitting at a back-table, feeling rather glum; I was tired and a bit cranky, or in other words, feeling the need for some bagel love. Sadly, there is no gluten-free bagel love to be found at Noah’s.

imageBut there is hope: As we walked out of the cafe, I instinctively ducked into the adjacent coffee place, The Coffee Bean, to admire their case of pastries. And what did I find? In the upper left-hand corner, a gluten-free cinnamon bun. (!)

Now, wheat-eating folks cannot know the joy of this find. Too often are the gluten-free forced to look longingly at treats while we drink our coffee a la nothing. Even though we shouldn’t be eating those muffins and scones all the time (I favored the maple variety at Starbucks myself) sometimes you just need a freakin slice of coffee cake.

Anyway, a small victory, but it made my morning, so I’d just like to say thank you to The Coffee Bean, and thank you to whoever made the decision to stock those buns.

Of course, in a pinch, you can always tote one of these!

image

Creamy Vegan and Gluten-Free Potato Soup

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Yesterday I had lunch with my mom at Slice of Life, a vegan and vegetarian restaurant in Sebastopol, and we had a very tasty blended potato and vegetable soup. It was so tasty, in fact, that I decided to make my own version. 

This recipe has many lovely attributes: it’s gluten and dairy-free (of course), vegan, filling, low in fat, high in nutrients, and cheap economical. If you buy all these items in bunches, you can even get another full recipe out of it.

~*Creamy Vegan Potato and Veggie Soup*~

Makes a medium pot of soup, or around 2-3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • 2 small, fit-in-your-palm size yukon gold potatoes
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 1/2 of one large yellow onion
  • olive oil
  • soup seasoning mix, or veggie/chicken broth (obv. chicken is not vegan)
  • any other desired seasonings; salt, pepper, etc.

Peel and wash potatoes; cut russets into 2-inch pieces and yukon’s into 1-inch chunks. Chop peeled carrots and 3 of the celery stalks into 1-inch long pieces, and dice the remaining stalk into small pieces, the same size you normally use for aromatics. Slice onion so the layers are in 2/3 inch-long pieces. image

Drizzle a little olive oil over the bottom of your pan; sauté the diced celery and onion for a few minutes over high heat, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Once the onion starts to get transparent, add the potatoes and remaining veggies, along with a healthy sprinkling of your seasonings.

I used a no-salt mixture along with a seasoning/soup mix and water in lieu of a broth. My favorite kind of soup mix is Vegeta, which I was turned onto by my boyfriend’s Russian mother. You might have to go to a European grocery or store like World Market to get it, though I haven’t actually looked for it in the regular grocery. Per the directions, you add about a couple spoonfuls to the pot of water. It’s quite tasty, but you can use bullion or broth if you like.

Add enough water/broth to just cover the ingredients, and stir in the seasoning. Cover and simmer the soup over medium-low heat until the veggies and potatoes are soft and cooked, around 20-30 minutes. Check halfway to see if you need to add more salt, seasoning, etc. Tip: if the soup has too much of a salty-vegetable flavor add something sweet, like juice or a teaspoon of sugar.

1 To blend the soup using a blender, fill it up and add just enough  of the broth for it to blend; mix on high for a few seconds until it’s smooth. If you like your soup with a little bite like I do, only partially blend the rest of the soup so that there are still chunks of the veggies and potatoes, and mix it in with the smoother first batch.

There’s something about blending the potatoes with the veggies that makes this magic; it’s thick and creamy comfort food without that heavy feeling. And the best thing? Leftovers!

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Forget Ramen noodles and all that other cheap crap people are forced to eat when they’re short on cash; this is the kind of inexpensive food that not only fills you up, but keeps you healthy too!

Gluten-Free Date-Meringue Bars

19 It has been interesting around here lately, but some things are certain; the seasons will change, you will get that back-to-school cold (even when you are no longer going back to school), and you will get the urge to bake. And if you’re like me, that cold-thing will make you scour the cabinets for ingredients instead of making a trip to the store. 

It began with a bag of bulk-medjool dates. They have haunted my cupboard for longer than I care to admit, so I googled “date bars” and discovered this little gem of a recipe on food.com. Using online recipes is always a risk when there aren’t photos or many directions to go with it, especially when it’s on one of those huge submission-based sites. This recipe had only one review, but the person gave it five-stars so I figured I’d give it a go. The nice thing about these bare-bones recipes is that you can work easily with them once you’ve gotten familiar with your basic ingredients.

So the moral is, for every chocolate-coffee cookie flop (yep, that happened) you get lucky with a bar like this. I think I knew it would be fabulous when I caught a whiff of the dates in the saucepan; who knew dates were such chameleons? The result is a bar with the taste of pecan pie, the crunch of walnuts, and the fluffiness of a meringue topping.

In short, it tastes like Fall.

~ Gluten-Free Date-Meringue Bars ~

There’s something about the richness of the filling with the lightness of the meringue that is a match made in dessert-heaven.

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Ingredients

For bottom layer:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter substitute
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tbsp molasses (optional, but adds nutrition and deep flavor)
  • 1 1/4 cups GF flour (whatever mixture you like best; I happened to have about  1/4c sorghum, 1/2c tapioca, and the rest brown rice flour.)

For date filling:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup dates, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • handful of raisins

For meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (optional, but helpful if your whites ever happen to collapse of if you’re using a hand-mixer)

1 Beat together butter and granulated sugar, add egg yolks, vanilla, and molasses. Mix in flour and blend until batter comes together; it will look much like a shortbread dough.

3

Press into a greased 8 x 8 pan. Keep in fridge until filling is ready. 

6

Add water, chopped dates, raisins, and brown sugar into medium saucepan, cook over medium heat until bubbly and thickened (about 10 minutes).

 7 Once mixture starts to bubble about halfway in, add chopped walnuts. Mush up the dates a bit with your spoon; watch as your dried-out dates turn into sweet, gooey deliciousness.

10

Pour filling over bottom layer; spread evenly.

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For meringue: beat egg whites  and 1/4 tsp cream of tartar until frothy, slowly add brown sugar one tsp at a time. Once all sugar is added and you’re at soft peaks, add 1/4 tsp cream of tartar and crank up the speed!

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Beat to stiff peak stage, or when the meringue stand up on top of the whisk, and spread over filling.

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  [Image this peak flipping up and curling]

15

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. If meringue begins to brown too much, cover with aluminum foil partway through.

Let cool on a wire rack until meringue is cooled and starts to pull away from the pan; serve warm!

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Notes:

  • If you view the original recipe, you’ll see I added a few things to it, which you can just as easily take away if they;re not your thing. The molasses, however, is seriously delicious. Pecans could be substituted for the walnuts.
  • If you only have dates, increase amount to 1 1/2 cups and cut out raisins and walnuts.
  • Recipe calls for a 9 x 7 inch pan, but really who has that on hand? 8×8 is much more accessible, in my opinion.

 

Overall, not bad for a scrounged-up recipe, I must say.

Spicy Homemade Tortilla Chips

2As a child, I shunned spicy things – I would put my dinner in the fridge for a few minutes before eating so it wouldn’t be hot. I even had a very strange habit of dunking Chinese food in a glass of water – what I was  thinking on that one even I don’t know. What can I say; I had quirks, and a very obliging mother.

But in recent years, I have begun to love spicy foods, and really, what’s not to love? For one, spicy foods contain capsicum, which helps fight pain and improves blood circulation. I also read a study that proves spicy foods help rev up your metabolism and promote calorie burning (of course, this only helps if you make healthy spicy food; taco bell is probably not your best bet).

However, shopping for spicy chips is not always so successful; they’re either full of fat, full of dairy, full of gluten, or have those mysterious “natural flavors,” and who the hell knows what those are?  My very favorite brand is tasty, but threatens the fit of my jeans.

Solution? Take matters into my own hands. It’s seriously simple: all you need is a bit of oil, corn tortillas, and seasonings – no deep fryer needed. You can control how much oil and salt is used, and by baking them they’re so much better.

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Spicy Homemade (and Baked!) Tortilla Chips

Makes about 3 servings (or one really big one)  

3 large corn tortillas (about 90 cals each)

1-2 teaspoons of vegetable oil,

or a few generous sprays of Pam

For spicy version: 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tablespoon seasoning blend of choice (or Costco’s Organic  No-Salt Seasoning), salt and pepper to taste.

6

Mix oil and spices together in a large ziplock bag. Slice tortillas into triangles and throw into bag; shake bag until chips are evenly coated. Lay chips out on a baking sheet in a single layer, bake in a 400 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, until golden and not too soft in the middle.

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Eat!

Tips:

  • Three large corn tortillas will fill up a large baking sheet (I say 90-cal size because who knows what “large” could be).
  • If you want to use less oil you can lay the chips out, spray them  with oil, and sprinkle on seasoning.
  • For a non-spicy version, sprinkle oiled chips with salt and give them a squeeze of lime after baking.

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