Saturday, June 26, 2010

Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip Cookies

A quick plug is in order here.  My mother sent me a box of Betty Crocker gluten-free chocolate chip cookie mix to try in Swaziland, and this weekend, I busted it out in honor of a Christmas in June party I attended.  The dough ended up very crumbly, and I was a little doubtful as I shaped it into small balls with my hands. I wasn't sure how convincing their cookie act would be as I watched them begin to rise and expand in the oven.  But, about 9 minutes later, they came out of the oven looking - and smelling - perfect.  Perfect.   As in, chocolate chip cookies exactly the way I remember them from my gluten days.  Slightly browned on the edges, deliciously buttery, warm and chewy on the inside.  This is the only gluten-free mix I've tried from Betty Crocker, and based on how fantastic these were (and how quickly they were gobbled up at the party I took them to),I would highly recommend them!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Melt-in-Your-Mouth Banana Chocolate Chip Macadamia Cookies

This is the kind of joy that can result when you are scrambling to get rid of ingredients in your kitchen before moving.  I found about six kinds of gluten-free flours I need to get rid of, and in my freezer, five frozen, ripe bananas.  A chocolate bar.  Half of a bag of almond meal.  

A friend and I were chatting the other day about substitutions for butter in cookie recipes, and I told her about substituting banana in my oatmeal cookie recipe a few weeks ago.  We wondered if that same substitution could work for any cookie, or if the oats made it work with their bulkiness.

Well, it worked for this one.  It really worked.  I feel absolved of guilt as I indulge in these cookies.

They aren't the kind of cookies that retain their shape in the oven, even after I stuck the dough in the freezer for an hour.  They spread.  But they remain so chewy, so delicious, and so addictive after they come out of the oven that you won't mind. 

Banana Chocolate Chip Macadamia Cookies

1 cup mashed bananas (3 medium ripe bananas, mashed)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg + 1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract OR 1 package vanilla sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder

3 cups gluten-free flour (What I used:  ¾ cup millet flour, ¾ cup tapioca starch, ¼ cup potato starch, ¼ cup brown rice flour, ½ cup buckwheat flour, ½ cup sorghum flour)
½ cup shredded coconut
¾ cup almond meal

100 grams crushed macadamia nuts
1 chocolate bar, chopped or 1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Cream together the mashed bananas and sugars.  Add the egg plus the egg white and beat to mix well.  Add the vanilla/maple extract and stir well.  

In a small mixing bowl, mix together the flours, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Add them, little by little, to the wet ingredients, mixing well.  Add the coconut and almond meal and continue to stir. 

Crush the macadamia nuts into smaller pieces and add them, along with the chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate bar) to the dough.

Place the dough in the refrigerator for an hour or two, or in the freezer for 30 - 45 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 F and place about 1 tbsp. of dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  These will spread a lot as they bake, so be conservative with the amount of dough you use for each cookie.  Bake for 10 - 14 minutes, or until the edges are just turning brown.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack before serving.  They'll harden a bit as they cool, so it's ok (even desired) for them to look a little undercooked when they come out of the oven!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Creamy Soy Ice Cream

Yes, it is freezing in Swaziland.  Frost blankets the landscape in the early morning, even after the first light has peeked over the top of the mountains.  Leaving the house without a coat and gloves is not an option.  In fact, even being inside the house without a coat and gloves is not a smart move, as the lack of central heating makes indoors just as cold, if not colder, than outdoors.

However, not even this can overcome my love of ice cream.  It is probably what I have missed eating most for the last 13 months here in Swaziland, as there are absolutely no commercial gluten- and/or dairy-free options available.  Watching crowds spilling out of KFC during the summer months clutching flaky cones stacked high with deliciously creamy vanilla ice cream was like torture, knowing that I was still months away from enjoying any sort of frozen treat.  I usually averted my eyes, mouth watering, and wanting nothing more than a big bowl of Trader Joe's So Creamy or Purely Decadent.

Recently, the small health food store in town let me borrow a cookbook for allergies and food intolerance, and when I found this recipe, I marched immediately to my kitchen and set to work.  I made vanilla and chocolate chip to begin with, and then later experimented with mint chip and maple flavors.  You can take this basic recipe and turn it into any flavor you want.  I used only one can of coconut cream (165 ml) instead of two to reduce the fat content, and while what I ended up with was not as creamy as regular ice cream, it was still delicious.  Still, if you're after a creamier texture, add that second can of coconut cream and see what happens.

I can guarantee one thing: While it may not be as convincing as some of the commercial brands in the U.S., if you are ice cream-deprived, this will definitely satisfy that craving.  Darryn and I sat shivering in our sweatshirts, under a huge blanket, next to the heater, with hot tea in front of us for damage control, enjoying every last bite of this ice cream.

Creamy Soy Ice Cream (Adapted from "The South African Cookbook for Allergies and Food Intolerance")

1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 medium egg, beaten
1 - 2 tsp. vanilla essence or 2 packets vanilla sugar
1 or 2 165-ml cans (1 1/3 cups) Shogun (or other brand) Coconut Cream OR 1 cup Cool Whip

Mix the sugar, cornflour, salt and a little soy milk until smooth.  Bring the remaining soy milk to the boil.  Stir in the sugar mixture.  Cook, stirring, over low heat for 1 – 2 minutes, until thick.

Stir some of the hot mixture into the beaten egg, then return to remaining mixture in the saucepan.  Stir in the essence.  Allow to cool. 

Stir coconut cream or Orley Whip into cooled mixture. Chill until ice cold. 

Churn in an ice-cream maker or freeze in a bowl in the freezer.  If you follow the second method, beat the mixture twice to break up the ice crystals before freezing until firm.

Serve topped with chocolate syrup, crushed gluten-free cookies, sprinkles, caramel, whipped topping, and a cherry!

You can substitute another type of dairy-free milk for the soy milk if you are avoiding soy; I'd recommend a thicker one like hemp milk or almond milk, but rice milk could work as well.

Some suggestions for delicious routes to take with this base of vanilla ice cream:

Coffee ice cream:  Mix 1 tbsp. strong instant coffee powder with 1 tbsp. boiling water.  Add to the cooked ice cream mixture after adding the essence.

Maple ice cream:  Mix 2 - 3 tsp. maple extract into the cooked ice cream mixture after adding the vanilla essence.

Chocolate ice cream:  Mix 4 tbsp. cocoa powder with boiling water until smooth.  Stir into cooked custard mixture after adding the essence.

Orange ice cream;  Add 1 cup orange juice and 2 tsp. finely grated fresh orange rind just before adding cream to the cooked mixture.  Omit vanilla essence.

Mint chocolate chip ice cream:  Add 1 - 3 tsp. mint essence (to taste) to the mixture in place of the vanilla.  Place in the freezer to cool for 10 - 20 minutes before adding chocolate pieces.  Take ½ dark chocolate bar and cut into small chips or pieces and add to the mixture, stirring well.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Quinoa Black Bean Salad with Roasted Corn and Fresh Avocado

I have a surplus of quinoa in my cupboard at the moment, and I have put myself on grocery lock-down, meaning I am not allowed to buy any more food until I have eaten what is in my kitchen already.  I am preparing to move out of my house, and - in fact - out of Swaziland in a matter of 2 weeks, and I can't stand the thought of wasting the food I've already spent money on.

So, I surveyed my cabinets.  Quinoa.  A can of sweet corn.  Half a bag of black beans.  Done and done.

This tasted even more fantastic with slices of avocado mixed in, but it was also very good on its own.  It's a simple salad, thrown together, and it's best chilled overnight after the flavors have had a chance to develop nicely. 

Quinoa Black Bean Salad with Roasted Corn and Fresh Avocado

1/2 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cup water (or vegetable or chicken-flavored broth if you have it), divided
1 15-oz can roasted corn
4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 medium green pepper, diced
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
1/2 large onion, diced
4 tsp. garlic paste
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. garlic powder (only if the garlic taste is not enough for you)
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. onion flakes
2 - 3 tsp. salt
1/2 - 1 tsp. pepper (to taste)
2 - 4 tbsp. lime juice (from concentrate) or juice of 2 fresh limes
Fresh avocado slices (optional)
Salsa (optional)

Put the quinoa with one cup of the water or broth into a pot and a pinch of salt and cook according to directions on package.  When done, set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Drain the can of corn well and place in a large bowl. Drizzle about 1 - 2 tbsp. of olive oil and 1 - 2 tsp. salt and toss to coat.  Spread across the baking sheet and place in the oven.  Stir the corn every 10 minutes and cook until it has been roasted and turns dark, about 30 - 40 minutes.  When done, set aside.

Meanwhile, place the onions in a small saucepan with the olive oil.  Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes, and then add the garlic and stir to coat.  Cook for another 2 - 3 minutes and then add the chili powder, garlic powder, basil, oregano, onion flakes, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Stir to coat and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Add the black beans and stir to coat.  Add the remaining 1/2 cup water or broth, stir, and let simmer for 5 - 10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.

Place the cooked quinoa into a large bowl or pot and add the roasted corn, diced green peppers, and the black bean and onion mixture.  Toss to coat and season with salt and pepper according to taste.

Serve with slices of fresh avocado and salsa, if desired.  You could also wrap this salad in a crepe or wrap for more of a sandwich experience.

Almond Quinoa Crackers

I tried a recipe from The Gluten-free Goddess' website for my first attempt at crackers, and I was very happy with how they turned out. I don't have a rolling pin at the moment, so I just pressed them down with my hands, which made them a bit thicker than regular crackers, and also a bit softer than regular crackers.  But they were still delicious.  I ate some spread with peanut butter, and some with tuna salad spread over them.  And some of them, I just ate plain, appreciating the wonderfully grainy texture and the slightly sweet aftertaste.  Store these in an airtight container for several days, and keep them in the fridge to make them last longer.

Find the recipe here.  I used a real egg instead of the Egg Replacer and made half with the onion/garlic powder and half plain.  Both were great, but for spreading something like peanut butter or jam, make the plain ones.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Buckwheat Millet Griddle Scones

These could not be easier, really.  You toss the ingredients together, stir, and plop dollops of the dough onto a hot pan.  Flip.  Done!  They're essentially pancakes, but somehow, magically, they turn into scones in the pan.  They are slightly sweet (made less so depending on how much sugar you want to add) and beautifully grainy, turning golden and crumbly as they cook.  I used a combination of buckwheat and millet flour, but I think you could try it with any other grainy gluten-free flours (such as sorghum).  They even hold up pretty well; I was able to cut them in half and make an egg sandwich out of one, and it didn't fall apart in my hands as so many gluten-free breads tend to do.  I made them a bit sweet, so they turned out tasting like more like a teatime snack than real bread, but they were delicious nonetheless!  Perfect drizzled with honey or with strawberry jam spread over a piece hot from the stove.

Buckwheat Millet Griddle Scones  (Adapted from "The South African Cookbook for Allergies and Food Intolerance")

½ cup buckwheat flour
½ cup millet flour
¼ cup fine maize meal
Dash of salt
1/8 – ¼ cup raw brown sugar, depending on how sweet you want them to be
¼ tsp. baking powder
100 ml water
15 ml oil
1 medium egg, beaten

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine the water, oil, and egg and mix well.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix to form a soft, sticky dough.

Heat a nonstick frying pan on high until hot.  Rub a little oil into the palms of your hands and shape 6 flat cakes from the dough.  Place 3 at a time in the frying pan and close the lid.  Reduce the heat to medium.  Cook scones for 3 – 4 minutes and then cook on the other side for another 4 minutes.  Serve piping hot; split and serve as preferred.  You can also store these in the fridge

Maple and Vanilla Almond Macaroons

I've ended up having to give most of these cookies away by now out of fear that I would end up consuming them entirely on my own.  That is the occupational hazard of living alone and loving to cook and bake, I suppose.  You end up with lots of delicious food that you want to eat, but then comes the inevitable sense of guilt and gluttony as you lose count of the number of freshly baked, soft, and wonderful cookies you have eaten as you stand waiting for the rest of the cookies to bake.

These are delicious little gems, small and light enough that you can eat many without feeling too bad about it.  I tried making them with maple extract and vanilla extract, but you could also experiment with any other flavors/essences you might enjoy.  You could even try them with ground hazelnuts instead of almonds.  Try placing a few chocolate chips onto the cookies straight from the oven for another twist, even though they are just as good plain as they are with icing.  They are soft and chewy right from the oven, but they harden a bit when cooled (but remain pleasantly chewy).  I baked them for exactly 15 minutes, turning the tray in the oven halfway through, and removed them from the hot pan immediately to cool. 

Maple and Vanilla Almond Macaroons

1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla essence OR 1 packet vanilla sugar
1 - 2 tsp. maple extract (if desired)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup icing sugar
1 - 2 tsp. pure lemon juice OR 5 ml finely grated lemon rind
2 cups ground almonds

For icing toppings: (optional)
10 – 15 ml icing sugar for decoration
50 g dark chocolate + 2 tbsp. soy milk

Beat egg, essence and cinnamon together.  Gradually add the icing sugar, still beating.  Beat the mixture until fluffy.  If you are making maple macaroons, add the 1 - 2 tsp. maple extract, depending on your own taste.  If you are making plain vanilla macaroons, omit the maple extract.  

If you are using lemon juice instead of lemon rind, add it to the wet mixture now; otherwise, mix the lemon rind and almonds together.  Add to the egg mixture bit by bit, beating well after each adition.  The mixture will become crumbly.  Knead the crumbly mixture until pliable.  Cover and leave for 15 minutes. 

Roll into walnut-sized balls.  Place on a greased and lined baking sheet.  Press the balls down slightly, allowing space for spreading.  If desired, sift a little icing sugar over macaroons.   

Bake at 180 C/350 F for about 15 minutes, until crisp.  Allow to cool.   

For chocolate topping:  In a small bowl, microwave the chocolate pieces with the few tablespoons of soy milk until completely melted.  Spread onto the cooled vanilla macaroons and allow to cool and harden completely.  

For maple frosting:  In a small bowl, combine icing sugar, water, and maple extract until a thick paste forms.  Spread over the maple macaroons and allow to cool and harden completely.
Store in an airtight container. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn

This recipe makes me think of the enormous kettles of popcorn produced at autumn festivals, where a large man stands wrapped in a heavy flannel jacket stirring a cauldron full of steaming, sugary popcorn with a spoon as tall as me.  That was the inspiration for this recipe.  I have to give credit to my friend Lisa, who suggested adding the sugar at the beginning of the process instead of after the popcorn had already popped.  So in this recipe, the brown sugar is cooked right into the popcorn, creating an addictively crunchy coating, and is balanced perfectly by the salt added at the end.  It's hard to stop eating this - really hard.  Even when the bowl is empty, it's so tempting to make another batch.  I have eaten batches (yes, plural....) of this in lieu of dinner before.  Not my proudest or healthiest moments, for sure, but I can't say that they were my worst, either.  This popcorn is great to make for movie night, or for a snack to have out for company.  And it's so simple to make! 

Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn

4 - 6 tbsp. sunflower oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1/3 cup raw brown sugar
salt to taste

Pour enough oil to coat the bottom of a thick-bottomed pot and add 4 popcorn kernels and place over high heat.  Wait until one of the kernels pops, then add the rest of the popcorn kernels and the brown sugar.  Stir well together, and then place a tight-fitting lid onto the pot.  Get ready to shake....

Take a thick towel and grab the pot by its sides, and - being sure to hold the lid down tight - start shaking the pot every 30 - 45 seconds to avoid burning the sugar.  Each time, after you've shaken the pot for about 5 - 10 seconds, replace it immediately back onto high heat and continue to cook.  Continue doing this even when it starts to pop, until the kernels are no longer popping.  Remove immediately from the pot and place into a large bowl.  Add salt according to taste and let cool for about 5 minutes to allow the sugar to harden.  Break the pieces apart with your hands and serve!

Can be stored in an airtight container for several days.