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.

 

Cauli-Power Fettuccine “Alfredo”

cauliflower

I was filling out an interest survey today for a class, and one of the questions was, “Where is your favorite place and why?”.  Interestingly enough, one of my favorite places in the world is at our family’s dining room table.  Not just because my parents make amazing food, but because its my one hour in every day where I can relax and be with my family.  Sometimes our schedules are so jam-packed that the only topic that gets covered is the “family’s” schedule.  Other times I end up laughing so hard that I cry, because we are just that funny.  And then there are times where we just catch up with one another or have another family over for dinner, and those are both great too. I just love that precious hour (longer on the weekends), stenciled into my schedule every day, that I spend with them just sitting at the table.  I remember the moment in elementary school that I found out that other kids my age didn’t eat dinner with their families every night.  I was mind blown, completely and absolutely astounded.  It seemed so normal and comforting to me; this new revelation about them made them seem almost alien to elementary school me.  I felt bad for them and wanted to invite them over for dinner, so that they could eat dinner like I did and see how wonderful it was.  I still feel bad for those people who don’t eat dinner with their families on a regular basis; they don’t know what they are missing.  I encourage you to start small this week by trying to eat dinner with your family for just one night, if you don’t normally do so.  The memories and positives that come out of it will far outweigh any negatives.  Go ahead, you could even try it with the new recipe I am posting below.  I would suggest that you could cook it together too, but I don’t want to get too crazy.

With my enjoyment of the dinner table and all it brings, it only seems natural for me to like cooking and baking new things for us to eat.  And I do.  Cooking and baking are therapeutic for me.  So, consequently, I like to try new recipes and experiment with old recipes.  This recipe was an adventure for me.  It was vegan, soy free, and sugar-free.  And it required nutritional yeast.  I had no idea what in the world nutritional yeast even was.  As far as I was concerned there was only one kind of yeast-the kind you put in breads to make them rise.  Boy, was I wrong.

Anyway, I actually found this recipe on Buzzfeed (which lead me to Oh She Glows-link at bottom) , but it appealed to me because it was dairy free.  When I started my freshman year, my immune system fell apart.  I was sick almost every month with colds that wouldn’t completely go away for around two weeks.  It wasn’t until last year that my dad and I discovered that running cross-country put so much stress on my body that it couldn’t defend itself against the common cold AND eating dairy made me more susceptible to colds and intensified them.  After that discovery, I limited my running, giving my body time to fully recover from the colds, and I began to transition off of dairy products.  The result was I got sick less often and felt way better because I wasn’t congested all the time!  Now, after reducing my dairy intake to little to none, when I cheat and eat it, I get a nice stomach-ache.  A long story to say, I am trying to find healthy dairy free foods so that I can avoid the stomach-ache.

My first attempt at photographing my own food! Please excuse the lighting, our kitchen suffers from bad lighting.
My first attempt at photographing my food! Please excuse the lighting, our kitchen suffers from bad lighting.

Wow, I have taken so long to just get to the review of the recipe.  Overall, this was really good.  I over sautéed the garlic once, Facetimed my dad to double-check that it was burnt, and started over.  TIP: Only sauté the garlic until just golden brown, on medium low heat.  DON’T TAKE YOUR EYES OFF OF IT!  The nutritional yeast is surprisingly good and has a nice flavor-make sure to get the powder/flake form and not the pill form(seems like common sense but they sell both).  I added an extra garlic clove, and used the larger amount of pepper and garlic  powder- the result was a pretty spicy sauce.  Next time, I am going to tone down the garlic, both clove and powder, and pepper.  I can always add more after the sauce is blended if it needs it.  I threw in some mushrooms on top to garnish with the parsley. NOTE: I wasn’t a big fan of the parsley garnish at all- it looked pretty though! I suggest saute-ing the mushrooms and then putting them on top at the end.  One could also add bacon to this if they were looking for extra flavor, but it certainly doesn’t need it.

 

Cauli-power Fettuccine “Alfredo”

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 heaping cups cauliflower florets (1 small/medium cauliflower)

  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (from 2 med/lg cloves)

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened and unflavored almond milk (or nondairy milk of choice)

  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste

  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon pepper, to taste

  • Fettuccine pasta of choice (I used whole wheat)

  • Fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Add cauliflower florets in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a low boil. Once boiling, cook for another 3-7 minutes until fork tender. Drain.

  2. Meanwhile, add the oil into a skillet and sauté the minced garlic over low heat for 4-5 minutes until softened and fragrant, but not browned.

  3. In a high-speed blender, add the cooked and drained cauliflower, sautéed garlic, milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Blend until a super smooth sauce forms. If using a Vitamix use the tamper stick as needed. The key here is to get a really smooth sauce so don’t be afraid to let it run for a minute or so. Set aside.

  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add your desired amount of pasta and boil for the time instructed on the package. Drain pasta.

  5. Add cauliflower sauce into the pot (you can use the same pot!) and add the drained pasta. Heat over low-medium until heated enough to your liking. Salt again to taste (the pasta dilutes the flavour).

  6. Serve with fresh minced parsley and black pepper. Feel free to add in your favourite sautéed or roasted vegetables. I think peas, spinach, or broccoli would work very nicely! I added mushrooms, but I wasn’t overly crazy about them in this dish.

Read more: http://ohsheglows.com/2014/01/20/cauli-power-fettuccine-alfredo-vegan/#ixzz2s8gs81Q3

Sweet Potato and Chorizo Tacos

I haven’t written about my passion for food before on this blog, but if you didn’t know; I love food.  Homemade meals are my favorite thing ever, and goodness knows what I am going to do when I have to leave for college.  I hope this post will be the beginning of many posts about my food adventures as I try new recipes and dishes.  My english teacher encourages us to always “try the peanut butter pie” meaning if you are given the choice between trying/eating/doing/etc. something you know you like and something unknown, to try the unknown because that is how you develop new favorite things.  Thus, this new section of Life as a Fish out of Water will be called “Trying the Peanut Butter Pie” and it will represent the adventurous foodie side of me.

I have hated sweet potatoes for as long as I can remember.  Every year on Thanksgiving, I would eat a mandatory tablespoon size bite of them, just to avoid “the look” from my mother and to respect my grandma, who lovingly made them every year, much to my dismay.  My grandma loved them, to her they were the best thing about Thanksgiving(food wise anyway, family was always her favorite aspect of the holidays).  I never understood why she liked this mushy, orange, gloppy, mashed potato-impostor thing, called sweet potatoes.

These were my thoughts up until two weeks ago, when I had my first baked sweet potato.  I was instantly addicted and wondered, “Why did I hate this amazing veggie so much?” It was simple, baked in the oven, cut open and served with a light sprinkling of butter and brown sugar.  All of the objections I have to regular baked(and streamed) potatoes were gone.  It was moist, flavorful, and nutritious. Since that eye-opening day, I embarked on a sweet potato craze.  I have tried them in many forms(even pancake form), but my favorite so far has been Sweet Potato and Chorizo Tacos.

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/sweet-potato-chorizo-tacos-50400000133216/
http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/sweet-potato-chorizo-tacos-50400000133216/

My sister found the recipe in the Sunset Magazine, and decided that we HAD to try it.   We didn’t have chorizo on hand, so we substituted in a spicy sausage(not in link form, more like ground beef consistency) that we had in the freezer from a friend in Wyoming.  Like I said before, they are amazing, and certainly have become a staple in our household.

Here is the recipe(from Sunset Magazine)

Ingredients

  • 1 small white onion
  • 1 medium orange-fleshed sweet potato (often labeled “yam”)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound Mexican chorizo*, such as Silva brand, removed from casing
  • 12 corn tortillas (6-in. diameter)
  • 6 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 2 ounces cotija (crumbly white Mexican cheese)* or feta
  • 2 firm-ripe avocados

Preparation

1. Peel onion and sweet potato and dice into 1/2-in. cubes. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onion, potato, and salt and cook until onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potato is just tender, 8 to 9 minutes.

2. Increase heat to medium-high and add chorizo. Cook, breaking up sausage with the back of a spoon, until cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat tortillas in an oven or a microwave, or char over an open flame until warmed and softened. Wrap in foil or a clean kitchen towel to keep warm.

4. Stack and thinly slice lettuce; combine in a bowl with juice of a lime half and cotija. Halve, peel, pit, and thinly slice avocados; put in another bowl and toss with juice from remaining lime half.

5. Spoon about 3 tbsp. chorizo-sweet potato mixture into each warm tortilla. Divide lettuce and avocado among tacos.

*Find Mexican chorizo and cotija at well-stocked grocery stores and Latino markets. Avoid the very soft, bright orange chorizo–it’s too oily.

*Find the original recipe at  http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/sweet-potato-chorizo-tacos-50400000133216/