Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kristy's Amazing Whipped Icing

Yesterday was my step-father's birthday.  To celebrate, he's coming over for dinner tonight (or he better or I'll clock him!).  Stew is in the crock-pot cooking away, smells delicious (I'll share that recipe tomorrow after I've tasted it and had a chance to properly photograph it!)

Anyway, I made my favorite gluten-free cupcakes, and when trying to decide if I was going to use frosting from a can, or make my good friend's amazing chocolate whipped icing, I decided on the latter (it might have been the kids screaming that they wouldn't eat the cupcakes without HER icing on it).  And lets face it, homemade icing is always better than the store-bought, chemically processed frosting.

Now, I need to share that when my friend gave me the recipe she just kinda said "Well, I throw some butter and shortening in a mixer, add this, add that….I don't really measure, I just mix until it tastes right and it has the consistency and taste I like"  CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!  And I should add that the precise nature of MY personality forced me come up with a recipe that would workout right every time.  

If you met us, you'd know that she is the more loosey-goosey of us, and I'm the more "rule follower" type.  :)  She's the unschooler, I'm the schedule schooler. I think it's why we love each other!  We balance each other out. 

This is what I do to replicate her amazing icing:

Kristy's Amazing Whipped Icing

1/2 Cup Butter, softened
1/2 Cup Shortening (confirm the brand you choose is gluten-free)
1 tsp Vanilla
2-3 Tbs milk (or more, you might like more for desired consistency, I like it very whippy, so I've been known to add more)
2 1/2 Cups - 3 Cups Powdered Sugar (again, use a trusted GF brand…most are, but some are sneaky!)
3 Tbs Cocoa Powder (or more to taste, I find this gives just enough chocolate taste without overdoing it and making it bitter)

In the mixer bowl of a stand mixer, whip together the butter and shortening on a medium-high speed until very fluffy.  Add tsp vanilla and continue whipping (same speed).  Slowly add the powdered sugar, start mixer on the lowest setting and gradually increase speed (unless you LIKE being covered in powdered sugar), continue whipping on a medium-high speed.  Add milk, and continue whipping.  Add cocoa powder (on low again), and continue whipping.  LOL :) (I know, I know, there's a lot of whipping going on!  It's a light and fluffy icing.) So continue to whip on med-high speed until very fluffy and the "crunch" of the sugar is gone.  Spread on YOUR favorite cupcakes or eat straight from the bowl.  Whatever makes you happy. ;)

Store unused portion in the fridge (and do what I do and eat a spoonful every now and then!!!)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Chocolate Pretzel Cookies

This post will be part recipe, part review of one of the ingredients.

First, this recipe is a gluten-free adaptation of a recipe published in the Family Circle Magazine in December, 2013.  I had intended to try the recipe as written before I returned to the gluten-free lifestyle and did not.

Second, this recipe used a new product that has come on the market in recent months: Snyder's Gluten-free Pretzel Twists.  I love pretzels.  Big, soft, fluffy Philly pretzels (sadly, there is no real gluten-free version of THEM!), small crunchy twists, big long pretzel rods, you name it, I was an equal opportunity pretzel lover.  The first time I was gluten-free, the only options out there (and available near me) were from Glutino, and from Wylde.  Both were okay, and passable, but still lacked that "pretzel" quality that would satisfy a craving.  When I returned to gluten-free, I perused the aisle at my local grocery store and found these.
I was surprised to see that a famous Pennsylvania snack company got into the gluten-free market.  They even built a separate facility and assembly line to accommodate.  Well, if you're going to make pretzels, you really should be a famous pretzel maker.  These pretzels are DELICIOUS, seriously crunchy, salty, and have that soaked-in-baking-soda-water prior to baking taste that you used to not be able to get from a gluten-free pretzel.  Not sure how far reaching the Snyders brand is.  If you cannot find it in your local grocery/gluten-free hot spot, Glutino or Wylde will work as a substitute.

Chocolate Pretzel Cookies

1 Cup King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour Blend (or equivalent, use your favorite blend)
1/4 Cup Gluten-free Cocoa Powder
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Xantham Gum
1/2 Cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/3 Cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Cup Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips (watch your brands on this ingredient!)
1 Cup roughly chopped Gluten-free Pretzels AND approx 30 whole pretzels for garnish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In a mixer bowl, cream together butter and sugars for about 2 minutes, until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla extract.  Pour in flour mixture and mix on low until just combined.

Carefully fold in chocolate chips and gluten-free pretzels (again, pretzel pieces are optional!)

Drop tablespoons full of batter onto baking sheet, 2" apart.  Press down lightly to flatten and press a whole pretzel piece into the top of each dough ball. (I used my 1.5 Tbs cookie scoop, which I love to use, so I got less than the recipe originally called for.  I got about 2 1/2 dozen cookies).

Bake for 11 mins.

Allow to cool on cookie sheet about 2 or 3 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.


NOTE:  Non-gluten free taste testers of this recipe had some reviews, which may alter how YOu want to make it.  My oldest loved them (well, actually, she said they were poisonous and that she would eat them all so that no one would have to die); my husband said that the texture of the pretzels inside the cookie were off-putting, but the taste was phenomenal.  Both tried while the cookie was HOT.  I prefer cooled cookies.  I liked them.  I might either break up the pretzel pieces smaller for the inside of the cookie, which I think would give them more of a "nut" texture, or leave them out of the inside altogether, but I'm concerned it would take some of the pretzel flavor away. :), the pretzel on the top stayed nice and crunchy.  I liked them.

Product Review - Udi's Gluten-free Hamburger Buns

I will say, after returning to the gluten-free lifestyle, I'm so impressed with the advances in products available!!!

Last night, I went out to dinner with a friend to a local restaurant known for clearly labeling their foods and accommodating the gluten-free patron.  I was so surprised to see that they would offer their burgers on a gluten-free bun!  I declined because I was concerned that the bun would be like that of buns in the past.  Dry.  Sticky.  Gummy.  Fall apart with the juices from the burgers.  So, I opted for a salad, but ordered a gluten-free roll to try on the side (instead of their signature ciabatta loaf they normally bring to the table).  They cut it in half and baked it in the brick oven, and presented with sweet cream butter.  It was delicious.

I nearly tackled our waiter to have him find out if they were a branded bun or a restaurant-made one.  He came back and said it was "Udi's"  OH YEAH!  Found some in my grocery store today.  I think I might try a burger tonight.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Happy Mixer - Gluten-free Bakery

Oh my goodness.

It is totally my luck that going back to gluten-free has come with the most amazing Gluten-free Bakery that opened up in the shopping center less than a mile from my house.

If you live in Southeastern PA - or southwestern NJ - or Northeastern Maryland, or anywhere within 100 miles of this place, it is certainly worth the trek.

The Happy Mixer at the New Britain Shopping Center in Chalfont, PA, is REALLY worth it.

Cookies and brownies and muffins, OH MY!!!!

My husband and son went first.  My husband says the Blueberry Muffin is delicious, my son loves the Peanut Butter Brownie (a fudge confection covered in a peanut butter frosting!). Another family favorite is the Fudge Brownie.  My non-gluten-free family members say that it is not possible they are gluten-free!  BUT THEY ARE!!!  Moist, fudgey, covered in an extra layer of chocolate to add to the decadence.  Then there's the Cream Cheese Brownie - the same brownie covered in the tangy sweet cream cheese frosting you just don't expect! The Peanut Butter Delights are also another favorite - think Peanut Butter Tandy Kake on crack!  Totally off the charts.  I also bought some of the Kiffles today, oh my!!!  Little pastry bites with the best gluten-free pie crust, touch of sweetness from the fruit and powdered sugar!  SO GOOD!!!!  ALSO, I bought a half dozen donuts the other day, too. My favorite was the cinnamon sugar, but I also got the traditional powdered, vanilla glazed, chocolate glazed and cream filled.  They truly did not last long.  Lastly, The Vanilla Almond Biscotti are a new addiction.  I have one every night with my pre-bedtime tea.  They also make a Chocolate Chip Biscotti that are also scrumptious.

What else?  This bakery does GLUTEN FREE BIRTHDAY AND WEDDING CAKES!!!! I am NOT kidding you!!!!   Are you gluten-free but haven't had an amazing bakery cake since giving it up?  You will be happy blowing out your candles on these beauties!

Anyway, I'm not kidding.  You need to drop everything you're doing and go to The Happy Mixer.  After you visit, I'd really love for you to comment here!  Oh, and don't forget to find them on FaceBook, they list all their specials and everything, too!

They have become my favorite twice weekly stop.  And I'm actually STILL down over 6 lbs since going gluten-free!


***I want everyone to know that I have received nothing for free in order for this opinion, this is completely voluntary and unsolicited….the logo above is the Happy Mixer's Logo - all rights reserved and copyrighted***

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Chinese Chicken & Green Beans

The first time I went gluten-free, one of the biggest things I lamented was Chinese Food.  I could still DO it, but I had to get it steamed, with no soy sauce, no sauce at all. :(  It was not satisfying.  I could make some at home that was very good.

While I was NOT eating gluten free most recently, my biggest obsession was Chinese Chicken with Green Beans.  Sooooo good.  In a nice rich brown sauce, over rice.  I adored it.

I was planning dinner tonight and was cutting up some chicken, and I got a craving so big for Chinese Food - like a pregnancy type "I MUST HAVE IT" craving.  Therefore, I made this.  It was so good and so satisfied that craving.

AS ALWAYS - make sure that ALL the ingredients you use are gluten-free.  If you are unsure, leave it out!

Chinese Chicken & Green Beans
2 Lbs Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breast, cut in thin strips
1 Lb Frozen Green Beans, thawed
1/2 Cup Teriyaki Sauce (I Used Fusia by Aldi, it was gluten-free)
1 Tbs Rice Wine
2 Tsp Dark Sesame Oil
2 Large Garlic Cloves
3 Tbs Vegetable Oil
2 Tbs San-J Tamari Wheat-free Soy Sauce
4 or 5 Scallions, thinly sliced
1 Tbs Sesame Seeds
2 Tbs Corn Starch
1/4 Cup COLD water

Prepare the chicken to marinade ahead of time, minimum 2 hours, maximum overnight.  To prepare the marinade mix teriyaki sauce, rice wine and dark sesame oil together in a container or ziplock bag.  Add the Chicken strips and mix well.

When ready to cook it all:

Prepare Wok by preheating on high heat.  Heat 3 Tbs Vegetable oil until hot.  Add garlic cloves, whole, into the oil and allow to cook for a few minutes until soft, then remove.  Add chicken and allow to cook until no longer pink.  Add sesame seeds and soy sauce.  Once incorporated top with the defrosted green beans and cover for 2 or 3 minutes.   Meanwhile, mix the cornstarch and water together.  Add to green bean and chicken in the pan and stir around.  Allow to thicken the sauce.

Serve immediately over your favorite rice.

Don't feel guilty, feel happy!  Don't need a cookie to realize your good fortune!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rudi's Bakery

Okay, so a couple years ago, this bakery found me via my blog and sent me free samples.  At the time, I was on my "out" of gluten-free life, but I attempted the items and liked them.  They sent me great coupons, and freebies that I was able to forward onto my friends who were also gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free.  Which was a blessing to them.  And they enjoyed the breads as well!

Well, I felt it only natural to make my first gluten-free product review of this product.  I've bought two, by far my favorite is the Multi-grain.  I like the texture a lot and can eat it without toasting it!  I do love it toasted, though, and I love it on my new panini press as well!  Ooooo, can you say "awesome grilled ham and cheese sandwich?"

I have found that I only defrost a day or two's worth and use that up before defrosting more.  I feel that it will last better as there are not a lot of preservatives in it.  Sliced nicely and evenly.

I can do gluten-free if I have a bread I can eat.  THIS is a bread I can eat!

I hope you take the time to check it out and enjoy it as much as I did!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Well, Gee, it's been a while since you've seen me….guess what!

Hey there.

It has been a LONG time since I've done any updating on this blog.  Boy has the gluten free world changed a bunch since I was last here!  I cannot believe the size of the GF sections in some grocery stores, now.  How amazing is that.

Well, as of January 1st, I am gluten-free again, so I hope to be posting more.  I have begun to feel pretty poorly again, and even my doctor said gluten-free, even if I'm not Celiac, is a good idea.  So here I am.

I'm probably going to start out with some GF product reviews of things that I've been doing.  I'm just getting back into the lifestyle, so I'm not sure recipes are good thing to start out with yet.

Be on the lookout for reviews on a few of the things I've discovered since being back.