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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Love and cupcakes...

Love and cupcakes…
There is something special about a cupcake. It’s personal. It’s individualized. It’s just for you. It’s not just a 1/12 slice of a whole other thing. It’s yours. You feel special about a cupcake. And you should. They take extra time to make, and because one is making 12 little cakes, and not one big cake, extra time in baking usually is equal to putting extra love into the baking.
This week love and cupcakes came together in a wedding. I (along with the help of a dearly devoted friend) created hundreds of cupcakes for a bride in lieu of a wedding cake. And it was an appropriate fit. These two people who married had true, genuine love for each and every guest who attended, and so the cupcake– one for each and every guest–I think, truly complimented their sentiments. They wanted each and every guest to feel special, important, and loved. (I don’t think the almond buttercream hurt either :O)

These cupcakes are divine. The recipe belongs to Ina Garten, and it lends itself brilliantly to being GF. The buttercream whirl on top is all mine. And while you don’t have to decorate yours with a big whirl, or with the buttercream at all. It’s the little tad of added love right on top.

 Cupcakes: (Makes about 12 cupcakes)
1/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 (16-ounce) can chocolate syrup (recommended: Hershey's)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup Tom Sawyer gluten free flour (or your GF flour blend)

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in the chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Don't over beat, or the cupcakes will be tough.
Line muffin pans with 12 paper liners. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Don't over bake! Let the cupcakes cool thoroughly in the pan.

For the ganache glaze:
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces chocolate (these can be chips, or a great dark bar)
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (optional but recommended!)

For the ganache, heat the heavy cream, chocolate, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler, or very gently in the microwave on short 1 minute cycles until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Once warm and melting, whisk until all chocolate comes together into the cream and makes the ganache.
To glaze, invert the cupcake, holding it from the bottom and dip the top of each cupcake in the ganache. Dip an twist, and then upright and you will have a perfectly smooth top! 

For the buttercream: (optional, but yummy and special)
1 stick room temperature butter
1 stick (or equal amount) shortening
1 1b. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 tbs water

Whip all ingredients in a mixer until combined. Increase the speed and whip for 2 minutes until super light and fluffy.

Note: When these are refrigerated they take on a new texture. Very dense and fudgy. While equally as delicious, if serving within a day, leave covered on your counter until serving.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Steak house salad (gluten-free & guilt-free)...

The steak house salad reinvented. So, we all love those steak house salads; think bleu cheese, bacon, crispy-crunchy romaine. Ah—yes, but A) they are expensive, and how often do we all go out to steak houses? And B) they really are not that healthy for you.
So, I make them at home, but I reinvent it for every-week eating, instead of once-a-year anniversary dinner eating.
You use super crisp romaine (same as the original), the hearts are the best. Then add sliced, GF smoked turkey breast (adds meatiness and smokiness that the bacon used to lend), add sundried tomates (they are a bit chewey and crispy like bacon, and they add a deep-rich flavor that is as pronounced as the bacon-plus a richness that you had with the bleu cheese), and top it with a creamy drizzle of your favorite dressing (also adds creaminess like the bleu cheese did).
So while the flavors vary, the textures and subtle notes in richness and notes of flavors like smokiness are still there. All in all, this salad is just as equally as satifying as the once-a-year original, but is super healthy and can be indulged anytime, even once a week.

Ingredients: Makes 4 salads.
  • 1 head of romaine/ or 2 hearts of romaine
  • 1 cup sun dried tomatoes (I dry my own from the garden, buy a dried kind not packed in oil)
  • 1/3 lb. sliced smoked turkey breast (Boar's Head brand is all gluten free! Get it from the deli)
  • 8 tbs. of a gluten free creamy dressing of your choice
  • Rings of red onion sliced thin (this is optional)

Chop the lettuce and divide into four bowls. Dice the turkey into slices or pieces and divide into the bowls. Add 1/4 cup of sundried tomatoes to each bowl (dice smaller if too large). Drizzle each salad with 2 tbs. of dressing.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gluten Free Chocolate Fudge icing...

What to do on a rainy Arizona afternoon with a bored 11-year old? This was our cure today. We made some cookies, but I want to talk about the icing. This icing is so simple and so good. Thick, fudgy, rich enough, but sweet enough, with just enough bitter notes of the cocoa...its perfect!
What I love about it too is its versatility. Make it thin for a glaze, medium for cookies, or thick and whipped for a cake!
Here is how. This makes about enough to frost 1-dozen cookies. Scale it up for more cookies, or for a cake.

1/4 cup powdered sugar

2 tbs cocoa powder
Milk (make this dairy free by using soy, almond, rice, or coconut milk)

With a fork, mix the sugar and cocoa in a bowl. Start adding the milk 2 tsp. at a time. Stir, and as the milk begins to moisten the icing it will come together. Depending on your climate, it could take more or less milk, so just keep adding and stirring until it comes together.

What you see on the cookies is a medium thickness, this took about 6-7 tsp. of milk.

For cakes:
Use less milk and make it thick. Put it in a mixer with a whisk attachment and whip it for several minutes until thick and fluffly.
For cookies:
Spread it right on from the bowl for a fudgy icing.

For glazes or a nice fudge sauce:
Add more milk until it will drizzle from the spoon. Warm it to use as a hot fudge sauce.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gluten Free Pizza (2)...

No, it's not delivery....I had posted my pizza crust before, but I tried it a little different this time and it turned out really well. So I thought I would post those modifications...both recipes still work great though.Plus, I added this pepperoni pizza recipe here for you.

Again, this base for this recipe comes from Tom Sawyer's site and his famous GF flour (that you all know I use). This time, I used part Bob's Red Mill for the flour, and it worked well. The crust was more yellow, and more 'crumbly' in the crumb. It was still very good. So really, it is a preference, or if you want your Tom's flour to go farther, use this recipe. The technique in letting rise is a bit different too, so read that part too.

Gluten Free Pizza Crust (2)
2 tsp sugar
¼ + 3 tbs warm water
1 pkg rapid dry yeast (or 7 grams by weight measure if you buy the big bag of yeast from Bob's Red Mill like me)
1 cup Tom Sawyer Gluten Free Flour

¾ cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour
1 tsp Italian seasoning (optional)
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder

2 tbs olive oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vinegar

Pepperoni Pizza Toppings
1 can tomato paste

1 cup water
1 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt and Pepper
Lots of pepperoni (use as much as you like to taste)
1 bag of grated Mozzarella (about 2 cups)
x sugar with the warm water and yeast and let sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. (Make sure yeast is at about 100-105-degrees, hot tap water).
Mix the gluten free flours,Italian seasoning, salt, and baking powder. Then in a seperate bowl blend the oil, eggs, and vinegar, then add that to the yeast mixture.
Pour the wet mixture into the dry and mix with a fork. The dough should be very wet and sticky. Gluten free yeast dough must be very wet and moist in order to rise. It will not be like a standard pizza dough. Because climates vary, if your dough is not very wet and sticky, add more water, 1 tbs at a time until it is.

Next: let it rise in your pizza pan. You can use a round deep dish, or a flat cookie sheet.
Generously oil the bottom of the pan (2-3 tbs of oil) and spread it around with your hands. Then take the sticky dough and using floured hands, gently press it into the pan and into shape (round or square).
Now, place this in a warm spot to rise while you prep the rest of your toppings. You will notice in about 30-minutes it will be puffed and risen.
Mix the tomato paste with the water until a thick sauce comes together. Add the italian season and salt and pepper to taste. This makes a thick and rich sauce and keeps all the toppings on the pizza (other sauce is too thin, and everything avalanches right off your pizza crust!).
After your crust has risen, gently spread the sauce on the dough. Add the cheese and layer on the pepperoni.
I bake mine in a preheated 425-degree oven. That may sound high, but it give a nice crisp crust. It takes about 18 minutes, but watch it, as every oven varies.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Glulten free Double Chocolate Chip Cookies...

What makes valentines day special In our house? This year it was these. Some espresso, candles, and this...a treat not indulged in very often! The ice cream and toffee chips are from the grocery, it’s the cookies I want you to try (we decided to make them into these ice cream sandwhiches for our Valentine's day dessert).
These are chocolaty, and rich and chewy and soft and…well you get the idea.
Intentional additions, of course are the cocoa (antioxidant) and the 60% cacao chips (antioxidant) and flax meal (for Omega-3…it’s really in there, but you never know!) The rest, well, you don’t do this every day–right?  :O) The texture of these cookies is absolutely indiscernible from a non-GF cookie.
The big scoop makes mondo-sized cookies, and the small one makes normal sized cookies.
This recipe doubles beautifully, so double if you like.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies...
1 cup Tom Sawyer Gluten Free Flour (or your GF flour mix*)
1 cup white sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
5 ounces 60% cacao chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)
1 stick butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup flax meal
1 tbs espresso powder or instant coffee granules (optional, however you don’t taste the coffee, but it really deepens the intensity of the chocolate flavor, so I highly recommend it.)

* Bob’s Red Mill works good here, however the raw dough (you know you will take a spoonful) will have a distinctive ‘bean’ taste from his flours. This taste does bake out and you taste none of it in the final cookie. Tom Sawyer imparts no flavor from the flour as it is flavor neutral.)

Heat oven to 325-degrees. Line baking pans with parchment paper or use Silpat (silicon) liners. Cream butter and sugar in a mixer. Add salt and eggs and vanilla. Add instant coffee granules to 1 tbs of water and stir. When dissolved, add to butter mixture and mix in. When mixed well, add cocoa powder, GF flour, and baking soda. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix until well blended. Add chocolate chips and flax meal and blend just to combine.
It’s a wet sticky dough, but that makes a chewy cookie.
Spoon onto a pan, and leave room because they spread. Use a scooper or spoons. Place in the oven and bake 15 minutes. When they come out they will be very soft, but they firm as they cool. Leave them to cool on the pan a good five minutes (have a few pans ready to rotate in and out of oven). Remove them from the pan and let cool on counter or a wire rack. They firm up but stay chewy and moist.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chemical free home...Part II

Here is where I left off in the last post about chemical free home...

If you feel like you cannot go full-boar chemical free, pick one product and convert it. Then after a while pick another...ease into it. Soon, it will be like a normal thing to use those products for everyday use.

6. Furniture/wood polish. Mix 1/4 cup alcohal, 1/2 cup vinegar. Mix in 2 tablespoons lemon juice and about 2 tsp olive oil or jojoba oil. Mix this one well before each use, as the oil will seperate in between uses. Decant from a pop top lidded bottle like a shampoo lid bottle where you can squirt the liquid into a rag for use. Spray bottles do not have enough pressure to dispense the oil.Dust first, then place a little on a soft cloth and polish.

7. Leather cleaner and conditioner. Mix 1/4 cup vodka or rubbing alcohol with 1/4 cup white vinegar. Add 1 tsp jojoba or olive oil.  Decant from a pop top lidded bottle like a shampoo lid bottle where you can squirt the liquid into a rag for use. Shake very well, and squirt mixture onto a soft rag and rub into leather. Do not rinse. Buff well for best results.

8. Disinfectant. Use straight Hydrogen Peroxide 100% right from the bottle. Use on all solid surfaces; counters, sinks, bathrooms--anything you need to disinfect. It must be kept in a brown light-free bottle like it comes in the store, so purchase a sprayer top, or find an old Windex sprayer that fits (most bottles are universal), and screw it to the top of the Peroxide bottle. Spray surface and let sit for a minute or two and wipe dry, or simply allow to dry on the sruface if you want.

9. Dish Soap. This is the only thing I use. Dr. Bronner's 100% Organic Castile soap. It is made only from olive oil, is all natural and not harmful in chemicals. Now, Dr. Bronner is a bit of an activist, and while I don't prescribe to all that, his products are PHENOMINAL! They are readily available now, even my SuperTarget sells it. Its a concentrate, so you mix it with water to use.

10. Sponges I love! Twist-you throw them away and then they decompose!
In addition: scrubbies–use wadded up tin foil. Seriously! it works, wont scratch teflon and is magic on cast iron. Then, it goes in the recycle bin. A close 2nd eco-friendly I get at target is the 3M scrubbie.

Note: Ok, what I do for this and the washing machine may not be for everyone, and I know that, but you will at least know that it works--I think good enough--to be chemical free of all the things dishwashing and washing machine detergents leave behind for us to absorb or ingest.

11. Dishwasher. Before running, add 1 cup white vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher, add enough to fill the detergent dispenser, and fill the rinse agent area. Then run the cycle on hot and use a hot dry cycle. This is all you need! The heat cycle degreases the food, and then the heat dry is a sanitizer. The vinegar does the rest. Now, depending on how good your dishwasher is, will be how good your results will be...however--I find this works good for me, and I use no chemicals.

12. Washing machine. Believe it or not, i use no detergent. Nope, none at all. Again, 1 cup vinegar in the detergent area, and I wash on hot. Arm & Hammer recommends 1 cup of baking soda in with your clothes, and we do this too, though not each time. The clothes are clean, as clean as with detergent (I did a test). You can pretreat stains if you need to however you feel like it.

13. Dryer. I use nothing in the dryer. Please read up on the internet about dryer sheet usage, it is something to be educated about...and then most liklely choose for yourself or family to not use them.

Well, that is how we went chemcial free. I feel good about it because there is no worry while cleaning about breathing or ingesting chemicals. Or any residue on my clothes, or its way more economical! Costco sells the huge jugs of vinegar for about $2.50, the 5lb. baking soda bags for $5 and alcohol, and peroxide are 99-cents each. Much more economical than a $4.99 bottle of cleaner.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chemical free home...Part I

This edition of chemical free home is for cleaning. There is alot to post, so I will post it in parts...I will post another later too for body products.
But for products Part I.
A while back we went chemical free. And honestly, it was not that difficult a transition. I could talk about why, and all the reasons to minus out the unecessary chemicals we expose ourselves to and how the body absorbs them...but you can do that research yourself and make your own decisions about your home and choices. You could also just choose to go chemical free in an effort to save money and create less waste (in the way of plastic bottles you throw away from home cleaners.)

Here is my lineup...
Packaging and containers.
 Recipes for cleaners.
  1. All purpose scrubbing cleaner - Baking soda.
    Cleanser for all tasks; sinks, toilets, showers, pots, pans, anything!
    Decant in a shaker-top jar of any kind.
  2. Floor cleaner for tile, wood laminate or vinyl floors.Mix 30% water with 70% vinegar. Add ½ cup rubbing alcohol. Add 1 tbs lemon juice.
    Put into a spray bottle (like a Windex bottle) for use. Spray onto the floor and mop with a terry-cloth mop (you can wash the terry-rags) so there is no waste or trash.
  3. Streak free mirrors and chrome. Mix 40% rubbing alcohol, 40% vinegar, 20% water. Put into an atomizer or sprayer like a windex bottle. The alcohol evaporates the other liquids quickly resulting in streak free mirrors.
  4. Windows and all purpose. (Counters, toilets, stoves, general use.)
    Mix 30% water and 70% vinegar. Put into a spray bottle for use.
  5. Fruit and veggie wash.Mix 50% hydrogen peroxide and 50% vinegar. Put into a small spray bottle for use and store in your kitchen. Vinegar is an antibacterial cleaning agent and peroxide is a disinfectant . Spray fruit or veggie liberally and let sit for 2 minutes. You can rub with your hands to loosen dirt. Then rinse.
Remeber use rags for cleaning, then wash them in the washer. The only time I use papertowels are when sanitation is an issue (think raw chicken juices on the counter...) I will post disinfectants (all natual) next time... stay tuned!

That is a good place to start...I will post more later this week!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Grow sunshine, bring bees...


The bad weather is over here in AZ. Record rain ever for our state. The wind put some of my sunflowers sideways, and they are still that way! But they are also still looking up to the sun and happy. I planted them all over the yard last season, instead of just in one or two spots. I was trying to promote bees in the yard to encourage pollination and produce more veggies. Its working! So far we have seen great things from everything this year, better than last. …And we’ve had about 6 bees off and on in the house when we've left the back door open to enjoy the sunshine days, so I would say they have a definite presence.

I've included lots of pictures today, because I couldnt decide on just one for this post. I encourage you, when the weather permits, to plant sunflowers. They are unbelievably easy to grow, and will grow really anywhere at all. Just buy a packet at your local grocery or nursery, poke them into the soil and wait! You will not be disappointed, I promise. They germinate quickly, and just grow and grow. Grow a lot...that way you will have plenty to bring inside in a vase, and plenty to leave outside.


There are many varieties, but I recommend a cutting variety, to cut and bring indoors, and I also recommend a seed producing variety. These are tall and grow large heads that produce the sunflower seeds we all know. When the heads are ready, you can dry roast the seeds yourself for eating, or simply lay them out for the birdies, they pick them right out of the head! Any brand of seed will do.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Gluten free cinnamon-orange 'quick' scones...

I call these quick scones, because they are faster than my traditional scone recipe I have posted before. Plus these are a bit more muffin like…but really, they are a scone. But you can make them in a muffin tin, and do not have to cut into triangles, so they are more everyday (or every other weekend) friendly. They are crispy on the outside, and tender and soft on the inside.

I made these for our special friends in town visiting and staying with us this week. They are cinnamon orange scones.
This is Fannie’s (Farmer)** basic muffin recipe, but I added some intentional goodness and replaced butter with olive oil and milk with buttermilk. Buttermilk lightens the crumb and makes things like this more tender. Olive oil cuts the cholesterol. The orange zest (citrus zest in general) is known for its super cancer fighting limonene. Added flax seed meal gives these Omega-3 boosters, and oats add fiber.

2 cups Tom Sawyer gluten free flour*
1 tbs baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 tbs sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
3 tbs olive oil
Zest of 1/2 orange
½ cup oats, not instant
¼ cup flax seed meal
1 tsp cinnamon + ¼ tsp divided

2/3 cup powdered sugar
Juice of orange
Zest of 1/2 orange

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Line a pan with muffin papers. Combine the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon zest, oats, and flax meal in a mixing bowl. Then combine in a separate bowl the buttermilk, egg, and olive oil. Add wet ingredients in to dry and mix to just combine. Do not over mix.
Scoop into muffin cups, using a ice scream scoop or mounding full. (They do not rise or change shape much in the oven.) Bake for 20-25 minutes until just slight golden brown on top. Set aside to cool.

Make glaze: mix powdered sugar, zest, ¼ tsp cinnamon and juice to create a glaze. Adjust thickness by adding more sugar or juice to your desired thickness.
Spoon over scones once completely cool.

* I recommend Tom Sawyer for this which is flavor neutral. Bob’s and others may impart a mild flavor from it's flours. But it will work with other GF flour blends.

** If you have not yet bought her cookbook, you need to! Fannie never fails!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gluten free breakfast on the go...

I am ever on a quest for a fast to-go breakfast bar that is all things–nutritious and meaningful in the “good-stuff-in” category, and equally transportable and delicious. This is for those mornings when you cannot find time for even a 5-minute breakfast, I grab this and I head out the door. I have tried many things. I don't feel I am at the perfect one yet. This one is close, but I think it is good enough to post. It's nutrition packed– with oats (whole grain), flax (omega-3), coconut (fiber, iron), cocoa (anti-oxidant), milk (calcium)..ok and the sugar…I cannot get past the high sugar in the sweetened condensed milk. However, I have not found a substitute that provides a good enough binding to bring it all together, so until I do, I will resolve myself to the other good things in this bar making up for the sugar. The calorie heft comes from the sweetened milk, and at over 300 calories, adding a piece of fruit to this will give you a full rounded breakfast and that is all you will need. This bar is chewy, chocolaty and a little sweet.

Makes 9 bars
2.5 cups uncooked rolled oats
1/2 cocoa powder
1 cup shredded (unsweetened) coconut
1/2 cup flax meal
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Combine all ingredients in a mixer. Line an 8x8 square baking pan with parchment paper on the bottom, and leaving two overhangs and 'handles' to lift out later.
Press the mixture into the pan using your fingers, wetting your fingers first helps tremendously.
Place it in a 250-degree oven for one hour. Remove and let sit for about 20-minutes. Then lift out and cut into 9 bars.