Gluten Free Culinary Perfection

Ever since day one, my family and I have had almost weekly dinner with our family friends(more like family) that live four houses down the street from us.  The meals are sometimes more elaborate, and sometimes its a “whatever we can make with what’s in both fridges” dinner.  Either way, the food is always great and I always look forward to it.

I can’t even count the times where we have called our family friends or vice versa and said, “Hey! We’re trying a new recipe tonight, would you like to join us for dinner?”  (I’m pretty sure normal people don’t invite people over for dinner when they are cooking a new recipe, just saying.)  The fun thing is that whenever we try a new recipe; there is always the possibility that we will have to call for pizza, and we are all willing to take that risk. In all my years of eating these creations, I can’t remember a night where the dinner has been so terrible that we actually have called for pizza.  That being said, this environment has always encouraged me to try new recipes, and wing it, even if you don’t have all the ingredients and are under a little pressure.

Over the weekend, my grandpa came down to visit and attend my sister’s soccer game.  We all completely forgot that he had recently(within the past two weeks) become officially gluten intolerant, and didn’t remember until he said, “This is amazing! It’s the first bread I have had in two weeks!” when we made him a sandwich.  He ate the sandwich, thinking it would be okay just for that meal, but it didn’t go over so well.  He told us what he had been eating and how much he was missing noodles and toast, and especially cookies.  He LOVES homemade cookies.  He wasn’t even aware that they made gluten-free substitutes for bread and noodles, and was blown away that I could make him some gluten-free cookies.

I, being the extremely resourceful person I am, googled some recipes, found a promising one, went to Sprout’s for the gluten-free ingredients, and embarked on a gluten-free cookie journey.

The reviews I read for this recipe were all very good, and praised it.  My goodness, I followed the recipe to a T and I ended up with gloppy, crinkly, soft, and gooey cookies that wouldn’t even come off the cookie sheet.

It was a mess. These are just the ones that came off the sheet looking at least a little like a cookie.
It was a mess. These are just the ones that came off the sheet looking at least a little like a cookie. The rest was only fit for ice cream toppings and/or immediate sampling.  Needless to say, there were several cookie fatalities that night.

 

I finally got so frustrated with it that I stuck the remainder of one sheet back in the oven to hopefully crisp up and be easier to remove while still maintaining the cookie shape.  Meanwhile, I ranted to my mother about school, checked Facebook, lamented the sad state of my cookie disaster, looked at another recipe-realizing I forgot to pick up half the ingredients, made an entire new batch of cookies after tweaking the recipe, got them all set up on the cookie sheet, turned on the oven, took a picture of my kitchen mishap, and finally looked at the oven to see why it was seemingly taking forever to heat up.  And this is what I found…

My First Ever Burnt Cookies :(
My First Ever Burnt Cookies :(

I have never, ever, burnt ANYTHING this badly. EVER.  It was terrible.  I burnt everything so much that the chocolate chips were crummy.  Boy was I frustrated.  I don’t really like failing at things I normally excel at.  Like I have said in earlier posts, I don’t mind failure, knowing that failure is the only way to learn, but seriously, I have been making cookies since I was old enough to be in the kitchen with my mom.  Thinking back on it, I think I was more frustrated that my cookie pride was hurt, not really that I had “failed”.  It wasn’t a complete failure as the undercooked ones tasted good, but just didn’t hold their shape.

Being my hardworking and stubborn self, I wasn’t going to let these cookies have the best of me, I put the newly altered recipe batch in the oven and watched them like a hawk.  The reward was SWEET REDEMPTION, both literally and figuratively.

Much Better
Much Better

Lesson learned, just like Aunt BethAnn has always said, don’t ever be afraid to make a dish, based on how it will turn out or how it did turn out; you can always order pizza and try again another time.

Professional chefs have had their share of meal mishaps and burnt food, and look where they are now.  Maybe burnt food and mishaps are just a step in the right direction towards culinary perfection.

Anyway, I almost forgot to include the recipe(the one I changed).

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 9-11 minutes

Total Time: 26 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups of your favorite GF all purpose baking/flour substitute
  • 1 teaspoon guar gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (for chocolate mint chip cookies, use 1 teaspoon peppermint extract)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) gluten-free chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375° F / 190° C

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly oil

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. In a large mixing bowl, combine egg and sugar and beat with an electric mixer on high until light and fluffy. Add butter and beat on high until combined. Add extract and beat briefly. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (optional).

For 1 dozen large cookies use a 2 tablespoon (1/8 cup) ice cream scoop or drop heaping tablespoons of dough on prepared baking sheets.

For 2 dozen small cookies use a 1 tablespoon ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoon.

Bake in preheated oven for 9-11 minutes or until cookies are crisp on edges and slightly soft in the middle. Cool on baking sheet.

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Sweet Memories- Dairy Free Ice Cream

ice cream quote

Growing up, my grandparents, aunts, and my family all went camping together over the 4th of July in Lone Pine, at the base of Mt. Whitney.  The campground itself is about six miles outside of Lone Pine proper; it is a dry campground, meaning pit toilets and spigots for water, and unless you bring a solar shower, y’ain’t showering.  We would celebrate my birthday on the 5th; side note: my grandma without fail would bake a cake and bring it up when she and my grandpa came(usually a day or two later after my family), just so I could have a proper birthday cake on my birthday.  We would hike and fish and play in the stream and go exploring and offroading in our Jeep.  There wasn’t cell service or electricity; it was pure uninterrupted bliss.  Midway through the trip, like clockwork, either my grandpa or my dad would decide we were going to go on an adventure.  My sister and I would ask, “Where are we going?”  to which he would reply, “Crazy.”  We would drive into town to the Frosty Chalet for soft served, hand-dipped in chocolate ice cream cones.   It was always such a treat to sit down to a cold, sweet, delicious ice cream cone, as we were all hot, sticky, covered in dirt, and probably some fish guts too.  Coming from our mutual love of ice cream, wherever we travel, we eat ice cream at least once.  It’s a tradition, just like cinnamon rolls and egg burritos are on Christmas Day.

With that being said, one of the biggest things I miss about not being able to eat dairy is, as you might guess, ice cream(cheese is a close second though).  I have tried the soy and almond variations of ice cream and liked most of them, but it is so expensive to buy.  I thought regular ice cream was expensive, and then I started buying dairy free and paying double the price for half the volume.  It is ridiculous.  Add that on to the fact that many ice cream places don’t have a dairy free option(I wouldn’t expect them to, but it would be awesome if they did), and it is kind of a bummer to go out as a family for ice cream to uphold the tradition, and not be able to eat any of the thing I love so much.

So being the resourceful young lady that I try to be, I decided that making my own dairy free ice cream must be cheaper than buying it, and it must taste better too because everything that is homemade tastes better!  I searched online for recipes, and found that a lot of them called for ingredients that I wasn’t so sure about like xanthan gum(where do you even buy that?) and others, but I finally came across one that looked relatively simple.  Cocoa powder, bananas, almond milk, and sugar.  It was simple enough and pretty healthy looking too, so I tried it.  The result was a great base to start with! I, personally, think it needs to be a little less banana flavored, but it still was really good.

 

Ingredients:

2 ripe bananas

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk

Directions:

  1. In a microwaveable bowl or cup whisk 1/2 cup almond milk with the chocolate cocoa and sugar until fully incorporated. Microwave for 40 seconds and then stir.

  2. Place bananas plus the remainder of the almond milk into a blender along with the cocoa mixture and purée for about 10 seconds.

  3. Place mixture in the ice cream maker and process for 20 minutes or until thick.

  4. Serve right away or store in the freezer for later use or to firm up a bit more if desired.

dairy free iC

NOTES:  I topped mine with chocolate chips and cinnamon, which made it better, but it still needs some help.  My sister and I decided that crushed Oreos, mini chocolate chips, or peanut butter cups could be mixed in as it is in the ice cream maker to give it a better and more ice cream like flavor.  Next time, I am going to try it with Silk Dark Chocolate Almond Milk instead of regular to see if I can intensify the chocolate flavor and get less of a banana flavor.

I hope to find and try a mint chocolate chip recipe soon; it is one of my favorite flavors.  If you have a recipe that I should try, feel free to comment with a link to it, otherwise I will make sure to make an update post once I perfect a couple different flavors.

 

Valentine’s Day: Corporate, Cute, AND Crafty?

For the entire month of February, I have thought about Valentine’s day; debating the pros and cons of it, and trying not to be too cynical about it.  I decided that while Valentine’s Day was cute and fun back in kindergarten and elementary school, where everyone bought Valentine’s for the entire class and handed them out, but now its just another day just with the added pressure of doing something extravagant or special for your significant other.  In short, I am one of those people who thinks Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday, created to stimulate the economy of cards, chocolates, stuffed animals, and flowers.

I mean, its great and all to tell and show your significant other that you love them, but really, we need a day dedicated to it?  Just in case I forgot on the other 364 days of the year?  I would much rather surprise someone on a random day to confess my unending love for them, then on Valentine’s Day, just because the spontaneity of it makes it that much more memorable and special.

On Friday, while I was brainstorming for this post, I thought, “Sweet, I have $10 bucks in my pocket! I’m going to go by the flower shop on the way home from school and practice to buy my mommy some flowers, cause I love her so much and I know that would make her week.”  Now, before you immediately think “Suck up” or “I wish my kids did that”, I must say I have had some great training.  My dad has been know to send my mom flowers on random days, especially when he is gone fighting fires for weeks at a time, just to say “I love you” or “Have a great day”.  I learned from the best.  Anyway, my mom was so excited and touched she really didn’t know what to say except “Aww, Linds” and “Thank you” and give me a big hug.

Now imagine if I had done the same thing on Valentine’s Day.  Though my mom would still think it was special, it wouldn’t have the same effect.  Lesson learned: spontaneous surprises are awesome. (Guys, take note)

 

That being said, I can’t bear to be completely bah-humbug about Valentine’s Day, because it has some pretty amazing and cute decorations. And it is super cute, so in as much as I think it is a silly day, I like it.  I am hosting a Valentine’s Day outreach event, and have scoured Pinterest, Etsy, YouTube, Google, and many other realms of the internet to find the perfect decorations and centerpieces.  And I found them.  They would work really well as creative flower substitutes(guys, thinking outside the box = great idea) or valentine’s to give to friends and coworkers.  Heck, they could be flowers for Singles Awareness Day as well, basically whatever floats your boat.

 

 

These are super cute and guaranteed to win anyone’s heart over(or make an amazing centerpiece).  But honestly, flowers and chocolate are pretty much the awesomest thing ever to a girl, so what could be better than combine the two? Gentlemen, don’t worry, these are super easy to make and inexpensive.  $12 dollars, a little time, and TLC and you will have yourself a beautiful bouquet of rose kisses.

 

Supplies:

  • Green floral tape- any craft store will have some

  • Tape

  • Hershey’s Kisses

  • Red Cellophane- I found mine in the dollar section of Target in a 6 sheet pack, but it was also next to the tissue paper in the gift wrap section

  • 9 inch wooden skewers-any grocery store will have them

  • Scissors

 

Instructions

Step One:  Pair all kisses together, taping them together at the base of each kiss(flat part to flat part) to form the rose bud shape.

Step Two: Cut out 4.5 inch squares of cellophane to wrap the kisses in.  Cut as many pieces as you want roses.

Step Three: Place the taped kiss pair in the center of one of the cellophane squares, with one of the pointy end of the kisses in the center of the square.  Bring all four corners up to the center, gather the cellophane and twist it to start forming the stem of the rose.

Step Four(the hardest part):  Take a 5 inch (ish) long piece of the floral tape and start wrapping it where you twisted the cellophane to form the beginning of the stem.  Continue to wrap it around until you have secured the cellophane over the kisses.

photo-9
This is the goal of Step 4.

TIP: If you stretch the floral tape out as you are wrapping, it sticks a little better.  I have no idea why, it just does.

Step Five:  Insert the skewer, pointy side in, into the rose bud and partial stem.  Be careful not to stab the chocolate.

Step Six: Take your roll of floral tape and begin to wrap from the flower down the skewer to form the stem.  Once you are at the bottom, cut the tape, smooth the end down, and you’re done!