Friday, April 29, 2011

Roasted Chicken and Potatoes with Rosemary, Garlic, and Lemon

This is a perfect example of the power of a few simple, strong flavors that come together, mingle, and become something amazing.  My kitchen smelled ridiculously good while this was baking, and the taste lived up to it.  My cousin had emailed me this recipe a while ago, and I dutifully bookmarked it.  I looked at it periodically and thought about making it.  Then I got busy and forgot about it.

But last week, when a good friend of mine was in town and I was looking for something to make for dinner, I came back to it.  I tweaked and adapted, adding a little more of this and a little less of that.  And it was so good.  It's pretty simple to throw together, and the resulting lemon-rosemary-garlic flavor is wonderful (but not too overpowering - and you can add less or more of any of those elements).  You can use boneless skinless chicken breasts like I did (because that's what I had in my freezer) or you can use bone-in chicken with the skin on, if you prefer.  This recipe will forgive you for adjusting the ingredients according to your own tastes.

It's one of those dinners that looks and tastes kind of fancy, but is really quite low-maintenance in its preparation.  Just be careful to bake it just until the chicken is a little crispy, but not for too long, lest it get too dry.  And if you have leftovers, you can sprinkle a bit more lemon juice over it before heating it up again to keep it from drying out. 

My friend told me she was drooling all the way from the driveway, as she could smell this wafting from my house as soon as she got out of her car.  So, you should totally try out this recipe and see for yourself.  Just be aware that anyone within a certain radius of your house might show up at your door, demanding a taste.

Roasted Chicken and Potatoes with Rosemary, Garlic, and Lemon
Makes 3 - 4 servings

6 small red potatoes, cleaned
4 small boneless chicken breasts (you can use bone-in if you prefer), cut into large chunks
2 - 3 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary + 3 more whole sprigs (to taste)
3 - 5 cloves garlic, minced finely (to taste)
Juice of 2 lemons
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. olive oil
10 oz. sliced button or portabella mushrooms

Preheat oven to 450 F.  Line a baking dish with foil.

Place the potatoes in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil.  Boil for 8 minutes (until tender) and drain.  Slice  into halves or quarters and set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the chopped rosemary, the juice of one of the lemons, garlic, salt, cayenne pepper, and olive oil.  Place the chicken pieces in the bowl and toss to coat well.  Dump the entire thing (including the juice) into a skillet and cook the chicken over medium heat for about 5 - 8 minutes, until browned on all sides.  Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for 2 - 3 more minutes.  If your skillet is big enough, add the potatoes.  If not, remove the chicken-mushroom mixture to a large bowl and toss together with the potato pieces.

Pour the entire thing into your baking dish.  Sprinkle the juice of the other lemon over the entire thing and add the remaining sprigs of rosemary, tearing off large pieces to evenly distribute it around the pan.  Bake at 450 for 20 - 25 minutes or until the chicken is nicely browned (stir it a few times to coat with the juice while baking).  Remove from oven and serve with rice, flatbread, or another vegetable side dish.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Matzoh Toffee Bark

So you've spent a week eating matzoh with anything you can think of (I have personally eaten it so far with various nut butters, tuna salad, charoset, and jam).  Maybe you've eaten more matzoh balls than you'd care to admit at this point.  Yet, somehow, seemingly still have matzoh leftover. 

So what to do with all that extra unleavened goodness?  Here's one very simple, easy, and quick way to turn it into something amazing.  Think of it as a Matzoh Makeover - you won't recognize it, I swear!  This toffee bark comes from a recipe that my friend Lisa used to make for us when we lived with three other roommates in college.  Lisa is an artist, which is perhaps why she has managed to turn even toffee bark production into an art form.  She knows exactly when the sugar and butter are juuuust browned enough to be done, without letting it get so browned that it burns.  She would work her magic and we would sit around the finished product, breaking piece after piece of this deliciously crunchy and sweet treat as we chatted late into the night.

While I admit the thought of burning the sugar was daunting to me as well, truly, the hardest thing about this recipe is letting it sit in your fridge long enough to get crunchy without eating it.  I think it took me 15 or 20 minutes from start to finish to make it, and 5 of those consisted of waiting while it was in the oven. And if you don't have matzoh, you can try it with your favorite gluten-free crackers instead.  Just try to use a lightly salted kind that will be as close to saltines or Ritz crackers as possible (Glutino crackers come to mind as a possible alternative, although I have not tried them in this recipe myself).

I won't lie to you.  This is really, really addictive stuff.  It has a wonderful sweet and slightly salty flavor (although I almost am tempted to add a bit of extra salt if I make it again since my matzohs were unsalted.  Chocolate + salt = heaven.).  The matzoh I used is thinner than most saltines - which is what the original recipe calls for - but it still worked really well in this recipe.  It gives it that lovely crunch you want it to have.  If you're feeling like it, drizzle some peanut butter onto the hot sugar and crackers before spreading the chocolate on.  That may be taking it a step too far for some people.  But for peanut butter fiends (we know who we are), it will make this even more of a treat.

Go ahead.  Indulge.  Breathe some life (and, um, butter and sugar) into that leftover matzoh.

Matzoh Toffee Bark
Makes an 8 x 8 tray of toffee bark

2 matzohs, broken into smaller pieces OR your favorite lightly salted gluten-free crackers (the best ones for this recipe will have the texture and taste of Ritz or saltine crackers--but gluten-free)
1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread (1 stick)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe's brand)
Handful of sprinkles (Let's Do....Organic sprinkles are gluten-free!) or chopped nuts (optional)
Sea sal to taste (for sprinkling on top)
Optional: 2 - 4 tbsp. slightly melted peanut butter

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Line an 8 x 8 pan with a sheet of parchment paper.

Break the matzohs into pieces and spread them evenly over the wax paper.

In a small pan, melt the butter and sugar together over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, then continue to boil for exactly 5 minutes.  Pour over the matzoh in the pan, spreading it evenly.  Place in the oven for 5 - 7 minutes, but watch it very carefully.  It should be bubbling and just barely brown around the edges when you take it out.  If you leave it in longer - even a few minutes longer - it might burn.  I left mine in the oven for exactly 5 minutes and 30 seconds.

Immediately upon removing it from the oven, spread the chocolate chips evenly over the hot mixture.  (If you're adding peanut butter, drizzle that on first and spread it around.)  If the chocolate chips don't melt right away, place the pan back in the oven for 30 seconds or so until you can spread them.  Spread them out evenly to form a thick layer of chocolate over the whole thing, and then sprinkle the sprinkles or mixed nuts evenly on top (if you are using them).  Let cool for a bit, but before it's totally cooled, sprinkle sea salt over the top (to your own taste) and then place in the fridge for several hours to chill.  Once it's chilled, flip it out of the pan and peel the wax paper off and break it into smaller pieces.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge for as long as they last!  You can also freeze them if you want to keep them for longer.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Flourless Mini Carrot Cakes for Passover

I am really on a roll with Passover food this year.  Usually I stick to a few favorites, but this year I've tried out several new recipes fit for the holiday, including this one and Flourless Orange Almond Cupcakes from last month.  The great thing about Passover food is that so much of it is naturally gluten-free.  It's kind of like our holiday, too.

I love carrot cake to begin with, and so when a friend of mine from school brought me a recipe for a flourless Passover version, snipped from the newspaper, I got really excited.  It only requires a few ingredients, and is sort of like a soft, lighter pudding version of the dense carrot cake I'm used to.  (Not that I'm disparaging the density of that cake.  I love that cake.)  This version, however, is seriously delicious ("a keeper," as one of my friends called it last night).

I halved the original recipe and made them into mini-cakes using my Fox English Muffin Rings.  This worked pretty well, although the batter is so runny that a little of it did escape from under the rings and onto the cookie sheet.  If you have any small custard dishes (about 4 inches in diameter), those would probably work better.  You could also use mini-loaf pans or a 9-inch round pan and just monitor it closely for doneness.  You could also make the original recipe by clicking here and making into a regular-sized cake as directed.  I added some pumpkin pie spice to mine and upped the cinnamon as well because I wanted it to taste like true carrot cake.  But that's really between you and your tastebuds.  I'll stay out of it.

If you like carrot cake, though, I hope you'll give this recipe a chance.  You won't be disappointed.

Flourless Mini Carrot Cakes (Adapted from this recipe)
Makes 8 mini cakes (can easily be doubled according to recipe in link above)

4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. white sugar
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup almond meal/flour (or substitute hazelnut flour)
1 1/4 cups finely shredded carrots

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, then arrange the 8 English Muffin rings on top and coat them all with cooking spray.  Or, prepare 4-inch custard dishes in the same way.

Separate 3 of the eggs, placing the egg whites and yolks in separate bowls.  Add the last (whole) egg to the egg yolks.  Using an electric mixer, beat them together.  Add the 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating.  Add the lemon juice and zest, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and vanilla.  Finally, beat in the almond flour and carrots.

Now rinse off your mixing paddles, and then beat the 3 egg whites and 1 tbsp. sugar together until stiff peaks form (about 2 - 4 minutes).  Gently fold the egg whites into the carrot-almond mixture.  Spoon equal amounts gently into each of the English Muffin Rings or custard dishes. 

Bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes, or just until set.  The tops should be slightly browned and should spring back when you push on them lightly, and a toothpick inserted into the middle should come out clean.  Remove from oven and let sit on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes, then slide the parchment paper off of the hot tray and onto the counter to cool the rest of the way.  Let cool for a full 45 minutes to an hour before serving.

Top with a light vanilla glaze or sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon to serve.  (Check to make sure that the ingredients you use for that are kosher if you want it to be a Passover dessert, though!)  Keep these in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Simple Vanilla Glaze
2 tbsp. Tofutti Vegan Cream Cheese
1/4 - 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 - 2 tsp. vanilla
Dash of cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together very well until there are no clumps.  Drizzle or spread over the mini-cakes in a thin layer. Sprinkle some cinnamon over the top for a nice visual.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Passover Charoset

Charoset (pronounced ha-ROW-set) is arguably one of the easiest Passover dishes to prepare, and one of the best foods of this holiday, in my opinion.  It is also one of the most varied, with recipes and ingredients ranging widely depending on the Jewish tradition, as well as the particular Jewish family.  Some use apples and dates, while others use figs and almonds.  Some people use cinnamon alone, while others use a wider variety of spices.  Check out the Jewess with Attitude's blog post, Charoset Medley, to find out more about the endless possibilities of this dish.  And the best part is that charoset is naturally gluten-free.  No modifications necessary!  Suffice to say, I have yet to find a charoset that I do NOT like.

Charoset is eaten as part of a traditional seder dinner and is a sweet paste made of fruits, nuts, red wine, and sugar, usually eaten as a topping for matzoh crackers. (And by the way, do you all know about Yehuda Gluten-free Matzoh crackers??  They are pictured in this post.)  The paste-like consistency symbolizes the mortar that Israelite slaves used to bind bricks together when they were building cities in Ancient Egypt.  I've seen it as a very chunky paste before (almost like a sweet, wine-infused salad), but also sometimes as a very thick, smooth paste, in which all ingredients have been very well-blended.  My own family's recipe is of the chunky variety, but you could easily puree this to make it more mortar-like if you want to increase the symbolic power of this delicious Passover treat.  What follows is the delicious recipe that I enjoy every year on Passover, but I encourage you to experiment with this and other charoset recipes to find one you love!

Makes enough for 3-4 moderately hungry seder guests

1 whole apple, peeled, cored, and very finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts or almonds (or as much as you like!)
4 dates, chopped into small pieces
Handful of raisins
Red wine to coat
Cinnamon (to taste)
White and brown sugar (to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Adjust sugar and wine to taste.  Chill until ready to serve.  Eat as a topping for gluten-free matzoh.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lemon Passover Cupcakes with Blackberry Jam and Lemon Glaze

This cake is not just for Passover, friends.  And it's not even just for the Jews.  I'm convinced that this is one that everyone will like.  I try to test out as many of my recipes as I can on my friends so that, by the time I post it to the blog, I have gathered as much (hopefully honest!) feedback as possible.  So last week, I brought this cake to my classmates and to several other friends (the brave souls who are willing to serve as taste-testers for all of you!). 

And the feedback?  They liked it.  Like, really liked it.  And I am so glad they did, because this is one of my favorite cakes.  It's got a lovely lemon flavor without being overpowering, which means it pairs perfectly with  jam (mmm, it's so amazing with jam!) and/or a simple lemon glaze.  It's light, airy, slightly spongy but not too spongy.  In fact, it's so light that you'll be tempted to eat 2 - 3 times the normal volume of cake you might normally consume - just a fair warning.

This cake is pretty minimalist in its ingredients and the batter comes together pretty quickly.  You can make it as cupcakes (I had trouble getting them to puff up as much in a muffin pan as they did as cakes, although they tasted equally delicious both ways), as mini cake loaves, or as an angel food-style cake (which will take considerably longer to bake).  Directions for each one of these variations is below.

It's true that this is a cake borne out of Passover restrictions.  And by all means, eat it at Passover - eat a lot of it at Passover.  Eat it completely plain.  Top it with fresh fruit.  Or fill it with jam and add a lemon glaze - whatever you like.  Just don't tuck the recipe away for a whole year once the holiday's over.

Lemon Passover Cupcakes with Blackberry Jam and Lemon Glaze
Makes 24 cupcakes, 5 - 6 mini cake loaves, or 1 regular angel food cake

7 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1 /2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest from one lemon
3/4 cup potato starch
dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.  If making cupcakes, grease two muffin trays with cooking spray or line with paper cupcake liners.  If making angel food cake, get out an angel food cake pan but don't grease it.  If you are making mini cake loaves, prepare 5 glass mini loaf pans by spraying them with cooking spray or greasing and then dusting with flour.  (You don't have to grease the angel food cake pan because you'll be able to cut it out of the pan when you take it apart, but if you don't grease the mini loaf pans, it will stick!).

Separate six of the eggs. Beat the six yolks and the remaining whole egg until frothy. Gradually add sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest, beating constantly and thoroughly at medium/high speed. Then gradually add the potato starch, beating constantly to ensure thorough blending.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff but not dry (it should form stiff peaks). Fold gently but thoroughly into the egg-yolk mixture.

For cupcakes:  Bake in at 350 F for about 15 - 22 minutes or until the cupcakes are lightly browned and spring back when touched gently with fingers.  Let cool completely before trying to remove; you may have to cut them out or use a fork to pry them out if you don't use paper liners.

For mini cake loaves: Bake in at 350 F for about 30 - 40 minutes or until the cakes are lightly browned and spring back when touched gently with fingers. Let cool completely before trying to remove; you may have to cut them out or use a fork to pry them out.

For angel food cake: Bake in at 350 F for about 50 - 55 minutes or until the cake is lightly browned and springs back when touched gently with fingers. Invert pan and cool thoroughly before removing cake.  Remove by running a knife around all edges to cut the cake out.

For the cupcakes pictured above:
When the cupcakes/cakes are cooled, use a knife to cut "slits" into it.  Fill the slits with a dark berry jam (i.e. blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, etc.).  Just make sure it's kosher!  Then drizzle some lemon glaze over the top.  Let the glaze harden before serving.

For lemon glaze, mix together:
1/2 - 1 cup powdered sugar (make sure there is no cornstarch in this if you want this to be kosher!)
1 tsp. potato or arrowroot starch (more if needed)
3 tsp. lemon juice
water to desired consistency

Drizzle over the cake and let harden before serving.

OR you can serve plain or as a base for fruit shortcake (with sliced strawberries, blueberries, or any other dark berries).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gluten-free Easter Candy

For those of you who celebrate Easter (or for those of us who just really like Easter candy), here's a great list of gluten-free Easter Candy.  I found this on 

Please note that I cannot independently verify that this list is completely accurate and encourage you to use your best judgment when purchasing and consuming anything on this list, but I thought it was at least worth sharing with you so you can see that there is still candy that is safe for us.  The list is coded as follows:

CL = Cleaned Production Line (no gluten ingredients, and made on machinery that DOES process other gluten-containing products.  However, the manufacturer states that they use good manufacturing processes to clean the equipment between products)

DL = Dedicated Production Line (no gluten ingredients, and made on machinery that only processes gluten-free products)

DF = Dedicated Facility (no gluten ingredients, and no gluten-containing products made in the same building)

Everyone's body is different and sensitive in different ways, and what one person is able to tolerate or is comfortable with may not be right for another.  If you're unsure how strict to be, please discuss this with your doctor.

But whatever you do, go enjoy some candy!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Banana Corn Muffins

Well, I thought that I had a favorite corn muffin.  But there's a new contender on the scene.  How does the saying go?  A lack of ingredients is the mother of invention - or something like that.

Yesterday, I went to an "April Fools" party at a friend's house, and since I knew there was a huge pot of chili waiting there, decided I'd make some corn muffins to share.  My go-to recipe for corn muffins is the Gluten-free Goddess' sweet potato corn bread recipe, which I dutifully opened in my browser.  Then I checked my pantry - no squash puree of any kind.  Ok - no problem.  This is why I buy bananas, let them get all brown and spotty, and then freeze them.  I took a few from the freezer, defrosted them, and then used them (with some applesauce) in place of the squash.  The result?  Deliciousness.  I still love the sweet potato version, but these make an excellent alternative.  They puff up beautifully and have a slight sweetness from both the banana and the cornmeal (so be forewarned that this is not the savory kind of cornbread that Southerners prefer!).  They were great with the chili, but you don't need chili as an excuse to make these.  These can stand on their own and would make a fantastic portable breakfast or snack, too.  And they come together so quickly, you'll be eating one before you know it.

Banana Corn Muffins (Inspired by, and adapted from, the Gluten-free Goddess' Sweet Potato Cornbread recipe)
Makes 12 muffins

1 1/2 small overripe bananas (a little more than 1/2 cup)
3 - 4 tbsp. cup smooth applesauce (the bananas and applesauce together should total 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca starch
     (OR 1 cup of your favorite gluten-free flour blend - just be careful to reduce the baking powder and baking
      soda if it's a self-rising blend)
1 cup stone ground cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking power
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Spray a muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the bananas, applesauce, and sugar, eliminating as many lumps as possible.  (You can do this by hand, but it might be easier to use an electric mixer.)  Add the eggs and canola oil and continue to stir until well-mixed.

In a separate bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients.  Add to the wet ingredients and mix well to incorporate.  Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin tins.  Bake for 18 - 22 minutes, or until golden brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean.  Serve warm from the oven, if possible.  If not, refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve, then heat in the microwave.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Flourless Brownies

I don't know if you can call these healthy perse, but you can definitely call them healthier than regular brownies. They are incredibly moist, chocolatey, and full of amazing flavor with every bite.  They are probably the healthiest, most protein-filled brownies you'll ever eat.

And now I'll tell you the secret of why that is.  These are black bean brownies.  I know, I know.  Beans.  In brownies.  I had never tried black bean brownies before and can say that at best, I was skeptical.  There's a reason I had avoided making them.  I don't like the taste of bean flour in baked goods, and I could not fathom that a brownie with black beans as the backbone of the entire recipe would NOT taste beany.  But....they really don't taste beany!  I swear!

I had to resort to some trickery to find this out, though.  You tell someone that you're giving them a black bean brownie, they are going to imagine that they taste like black beans.  So....I just didn't tell anyone.  I'd recommend calling these simply "flourless brownies."  Your friends will probably think they are delicious, moist, and full of chocolate flavor.  They might wonder how you made them taste so good.  But they will definitely not guess that the answer is black beans.  I promise.  

Right before putting these into the oven, I had one of my peanut butter-crazed moments, grabbed the jar off my shelf and drizzled it over half of the pan.  Then I added some of the homemade marshmallows I had left.  Swirled perfection. But they are fantastic plain as well, so feel free to leave the chocolate unmitigated.

Flourless Brownies (Adapted from this recipe)

1 15 oz. can black beans,drained and rinsed very well
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup melted Earth Balance Butter Stick, cooled slightly (so they don't cook the eggs)
1 tbsp. applesauce (or 1 extra tbsp. of Earth Balance)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup chocolate chips
Optional: 1/2 - 1 cup small marshmallows
Optional: 2 tbsp. peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease an 8 x 8 inch pan or line with wax paper.

Combine everything but the melted butter, chocolate chips, marshmallows, and peanut butter in a food processor and process until perfectly smooth, about 4 - 6 minutes.  As it is processing, add the melted butter a little at a time so the heat doesn't cook the eggs.  Once everything is combined, stop the processor and stir in the chocolate chips by hand.  Spread evenly into the pan and, if desired, swirl in peanut butter and marshmallows with a knife so that they are slightly mixed into the batter.  Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean (I baked these for exactly 29 minutes and they were still fairly moist, but I like my brownies that way.)

*Note: the original recipe called for 3 eggs, but I used only 2 because I like my brownies to be denser and richer.  But if you like yours a bit cakier, go ahead and add all 3 in!

**These are best made the same day that you want to serve them.  After a day or more, they still taste great but start to look less pretty.  Keep them in the fridge for best results!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Piña Colada Muffins for the Gluten-free Ratio Rally

I have been baking for as long as I can remember.  In fact, one of my first memories is standing on a chair next to my mom in the kitchen of our tiny house in St. Louis when I was about 3 years old, peering over her shoulder as she sifted flour into a large mixing bowl.  (Of course, part of why that memory sticks is probably what happened next - I got a little too engrossed in peering and toppled into the wall headfirst, ending up in the ER for stitches.  But the baking part is really clear to me, too, I swear.).  My childhood is full of moments like that, watching my mom bake loaf after loaf of fluffy braided challah early on the morning of our annual Hanukkah party, or cutting out cookies at Christmas, or stirring the thick batter of a cake just because she felt like making one.  It's no wonder to me that I grew to love baking too, and in a deeply therapeutic way.  I'm not good at painting, drawing, or really any other fine arts.  But baking is my escape, and my place of creation.

Woven into each of those memories, whether explicit or not, was almost always a recipe.  A map of ingredients and instructions.  Something passed down from a generation past, or found while rooting through the worn pages of a favorite cookbook, or even a recipe discovered online, rated and tweaked by dozens of other bakers.  I have always been slightly afraid of changing recipes for fear of destroying whatever internal balance has been so delicately constructed.  Even though I've done my fair share of tweaking recipes, it was always with trepidation, and without a clear understanding of what it really is that makes bread bread-y, a muffin muffin-y, and a cake cake-y.  I've experimented, yes - but I've always respected the recipe.  Feared the recipe, in a way. 

So when I was perusing my usual food blogs one day last month and came across the Gluten-free Girl's post on the Gluten-free Ratio Rally, I was immediately intrigued.  Here was a group of gluten-free bloggers breaking free from the bonds of recipes to get at what really underlies them all: a simple ratio.  Flour, liquid, egg, and fat - these ingredients appear in so many different kinds of baked goods, but without knowing how much of each one is in a pancake versus a biscuit, you'll have to follow a recipe.  Once you know the ratio at work, though, the world of gluten-free ingredients is your oyster.  As long as you measure each class of ingredient in the proper ratio by weight instead of volume (using ounces or grams instead of cup measures), you can create new recipes to your heart's content, using whichever flours and flavors you want.  You can reshelve your cookbooks.  That's right - you can create recipes.  Seriously.

The idea of baking from a ratio of weights makes so much sense when you think about it.  As bakers, we all measure things slightly differently.  The weight of my cup of flour may be quite different from your cup of flour, depending on how much the flour settles.  This is especially in gluten-free baking, in which so many different kinds of flours are used; the weight of 1 cup of sorghum flour will be very different from 1 cup of potato starch, for instance.  The amount of flour used in a recipe can therefore vary quite widely if it's measured by volume (cups) instead of by weight.

Last month, the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally bloggers took on pancakes as their challenge, and the recipes looked fantastic.  Just check them out and see what creativity can be unleashed when you're free to roam beyond the page of a cookbook.

So this month, I'm joining in the fun and have created my own recipe for you, for muffins.  Not just any muffins, though.  Really, really awesome muffins.  And what I can't get over is how I can honestly say that I created these.  Using Michael Ruhlman's ratio for quickbread and muffins (2 parts flour: 2 parts liquid: 1 part egg: 1 part fat), I just....made it up. 

I won't say that it was a seamless ride to the finish line.  These underwent a few different iterations before I finally settled on the recipe I'm posting here.  My first attempt was pretty tasty, but had a somewhat dense texture that I wanted to lighten up.  It also relied mainly on starches and refined grains, and I wanted to strike a healthier balance with whole grain flours instead.  The second attempt was an utter fail involving a fatal overdose of xanthan gum and too much liquid, which resulted in a gummy mess that puffed up nicely at first, tricking me in the first 30 minutes of baking, only to deflate back into itself, stubbornly refusing to rise again. 

But the third attempt - the third attempt was a keeper.  I kept several elements the same, using pineapple juice as part of the liquid (don't worry, it's not something separate you have to buy, as long as you buy crushed pineapple in 100% juice) and substituting applesauce for half the fat.  I did tweak a few things from the first recipe, though: reduced the xanthan gum, added some baking soda, and used a little less crushed pineapple in the batter.  I substituted brown rice flour for white rice flour.  I increased the amount of each extract, too, so that the piña colada flavor shines through unmistakably.  And I frosted them with a simple coconut-rum glaze and toasted coconut.

You could take my word for it and believe that these are amazing.  I had to give them all away for fear of eating every last one myself.  But in case the bias in that opinion is (understandably) too much for you, maybe I can share what my classmates and friends said when they tried these.  "Oh, my GOD," was the most common refrain of disbelief uttered after the first bite.  They couldn't believe these were gluten-free, and they all agreed that they tasted just like their namesake.  "DEE-licious!" read an email from another friend who tried these.  I could go on, but you get the idea.  They're good - really good.
For a healthier breakfast option, you can absolutely make these without the frosting.  If you do that, they'll look like this:

The inside came out moist, soft, and wonderful.  And they really do taste like a piña colada, with the rum, coconut and vanilla extracts complementing the sweetness of the real pineapple chunks perfectly.  These are seriously addictive, and so delicious that you can safely serve them to non-celiacs without any backlash about their being gluten-free and dairy-free (Now that I think about it, I believe I was the only celiac who tried this last batch, but everyone loved them!). 

So, because this recipe is the first one I've made up this way, I am especially excited to share it with you.  I hope that you enjoy them!

For a list of all the other fabulous recipes for muffins and quick breads that the Gluten-free Ratio Rally bloggers came up with this month, visit Sylvana's Kitchen.

*Note:  All measurements are given here in weight, but you only need a very inexpensive, simple scale to weigh these ingredients because they are all in multiples of 2 ounces.  I have a scale from Target that cost maybe $5 that I used for this.  Originally, I was measuring out approximations of how many cups each ingredient would have, but they were all such strange measurements (i.e. "somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 cup of sorghum flour") that I decided against including that here.  But suffice to say, overall, I ended up with about 1 3/4 cups of flour in the end using this combination.  I highly encourage you to weigh out each one for best results, though!

*One other note:  I bought a 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple in 100% juice for this recipe and used it for both the crushed pineapple and the pineapple juice.  I definitely had some leftover, but the smaller 6 oz. cans will not be enough.  So I'd recommend just getting the larger size and having the leftovers as a snack.

Piña Colada Muffins with Coconut Rum Glaze and Toasted Coconut
Makes 12 muffins 
Ratio for quick bread and muffins: 2 parts flour: 2 parts liquid: 1 part egg: 1 part fat

2 oz./57 grams sorghum flour
2 oz./57 grams brown rice flour
2 oz./57 grams tapioca starch
2 oz./56 grams potato starch
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. xanthan gum
4 oz./113 grams white granulated sugar or evaporated cane crystals
3 oz./150 grams shredded coconut (unsweetened or sweetened are both fine)
2 eggs (or Egg Replacer)
4 oz./113 grams pineapple juice (from drained can)
2 oz./4 tbsp/57 grams Earth Balance Buttery Stick, melted
2 oz./57 grams smooth applesauce
1 ½ tsp. gluten-free vanilla
1 ¼ tsp.gluten-free coconut extract
1 tsp. gluten-free rum extract
4 oz./113 grams crushed pineapple from can, completely drained

Optional: combine these ingredients in a small bowl to sprinkle over the muffins before baking:
2 oz./57 grams crushed pineapple
2 tbsp. shredded coconut
1 tbsp. brown sugar
¼ tsp. coconut extract
¼ tsp. rum extract

To make icing, whip the following ingredients together, adjusting for desired thickness of glaze:
4 tbsp. Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
2 – 5 tbsp. pineapple juice (depending on how thick you want the glaze to be)
½ tsp. rum extract
½ tsp. coconut extract
4 oz./113 grams powdered sugar

To be sprinkled on top:
4 oz. toasted coconut (about 1 cup)

Preheat the oven to 400 F (You'll reduce the temperature to 350 F after you put the muffins in, but this cushions it against the heat that escapes when you open the oven).  Line a 12-muffin pan with paper liners or grease with cooking spray.

Using a kitchen scale, measure out the sorghum flour, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, sugar, and shredded coconut.  Whisk together in a mixing bowl with the salt, baking powder, baking soda, and xanthan gum until well combined.  

Weigh the So Delicious Coconut Milk, pineapple juice, and applesauce and whisk together in a separate bowl with the eggs and melted butter. (Be sure to let the butter cool a bit before adding it so you don't partially cook the eggs!)  Add the vanilla, coconut, and rum extracts and continue to mix very well. 

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and beat by hand to mix until all ingredients have been incorporated.  Add the 4 oz. crushed, drained pineapple to the batter and mix in.

Pour about 1/3 cup of batter into each muffin tin, distributing the batter evenly among the 12 tins.  Sprinkle some of the pineapple-coconut-brown sugar topping on each muffin and press down slightly to get them to stick.  

Place the muffins into the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 350 F.  Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean (I baked mine for exactly 29 minutes, but your baking time may vary depending on the oven and altitude).  Remove from oven and leave in the muffin tin for another 5 minutes or so before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  If you try to take them out and they are still too delicate, leave them in the muffin tin until you can take them out without crushing/crumbling them.  

When the muffins are completely cooled, drizzle with the coconut-rum glaze and top with toasted coconut (if desired).  Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  If you can wait that long. 

Check out the rest of the amazing recipes from the other Ralliers this month:

Mrs. R of honey from flinty rocks made Lemon Lavender Muffins with Lavender Sugar
Alisha Austin of gfmostlyvegetarian made Sweet Potato Breakfast Loaf
Amanda Schaefer of Gluten Free Maui made Classic Banana, Oat, Pecan Bread
Amie Valpone of  The Healthy Apple made Gluten-Free Agave Apricot Quick Bread
Britt Hodges of GF In The City made Date & Walnut Bread
Brooke Lippy of Bell Wookie made Double Chocolate Cherry Muffin
Caleigh of Gluten Free[k] made Cardamom Banana Bread
Caroline Karasik of The G Spot Revolution made Orange Spice Bread with a Vanilla Glaze
Claire Berman of Gluten Freedom made Piña Colada Muffins with Coconut-Rum Glaze and Toasted Coconut
Danna Owens of Sweet Dees Gluten Free made Blood Orange Cardamom Muffins
Erin Block of Mysteries Internal made Strawberry Yogurt Muffins
Erin Swing of The Sensitive Epicure made Chocolate Chip Walnut Muffins with Streusel
Flo of Makanaibio made 2 Recettes de Muffins ou de Gateau Rapides
Gretchen of kumquat made Gingerbread Fig Loaf
Irvin of Eat The Love made Gluten Free Glazed Meyer Lemon Muffins filled with Slow Roasted Balsamic Red Wine Strawberry Jam
Jenn of Jenn Cuisine made Chestnut and Chocolate Quickbread
Karen Robertson of Cooking Gluten Free made Muffins
Kate Brabon of Kate Alice Cookbook made Raspberry Banana Crumble-Top Muffins
Kate Chan of Gluten Free Gobsmacked made Mocha + Chocolate Chip Muffins/Quickbread
Lauren McMillan of Celiac Teen made Cocoa Quickbread
Lisa of Gluten Free Canteen made Almond Cherry Berry Banana Muffins, Gluten Free
Lisa of With Style and Grace made Rosemary Lemon Quick Bread
Marla Meridith of Family Fresh Cooking made Strawberry Snack Cakes
Mary Frances of Gluten Free Cooking School made Cranberry Orange Bread with Cream Cheese Icing
Meaghan Cassidy of The Wicked Good Vegan made Vegan Gluten-Free Apricot-Orange Bread
Melanie of Mindful Food made Almond Joy Muffins
Nannette Minley of Nannette Raw made Chai Muffins
Robyn of Chocswirl made Brown Butter Apple Spice Muffins with Pecan Nut Streusel
Shauna of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef made Lemon Poppyseed Bread with Ginger Glaze
Silvana of Silvana's Kitchen made Chocolate-Coated Marshmallow-Topped Vanilla Cupcakes
Wendy Kirby of La Phemme Phoodie made Cheesy Apple Butter Bread with Garlic Powder
Winnie Abramson of Healthy Green Kitchen made Brown Butter Banana Bread

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pineapple Mint Tuna Salad

I don't know what came over me with this one.  I've never heard of tuna and pineapple being eaten together before.  But the other day, I found myself in the midst of round three of tweaking a recipe for piña colada muffins (the recipe is coming later this week!) and had some crushed pineapple left over.  Not wanting to let it go to waste, I started rummaging around my pantry for what I could combine it with for a simple lunch.  A can of tuna caught my eye and the wheels started to turn.  Then my copy of Culinary Artistry came out and I turned to the entry on flavor pairings for pineapple.  Mint and lime?  Check and check.  I drained the tuna and added the pineapple.  Added a teaspoon or two of vegan mayonnaise.  Tore off a few leaves of mint and sprinkled them in.  Drizzled in few squirts of lime juice.  Salted and peppered to taste.  And....done!  You couldn't really ask for a simpler, no-fuss meal than this.   I ate mine with the only thing I had in the house that was crunchy, some of Trader Joe's Flax Seed Corn Chips (which are delicious, by the way).  This made a very satisfying lunch, and the flavor was really quite good.  A lovely, citrus-y departure from your average tuna salad!

Pineapple Mint Tuna Salad

1 can tuna, drained
1/3 cup crushed pineapple, drained (can add a little juice for flavor if desired)
2 tsp. vegan mayonnaise (or regular mayonnaise)
1 stalk celery, chopped finely
3 - 4 leaves mint, in very small pieces
1 - 2 tsp. lime juice (to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Adjust seasonings to your own taste.  Serve with crackers or corn chips.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

Homemade. Marshmallows.  Need I say more?  I know what you may be thinking, because I am guessing your train of thought is similar to what mine was at first.  This is going to be complicated.  But no - it really isn't.  It's much simpler than you'd think - even simpler than making a cake would be.  Seriously.

And let me tell you - people will be very impressed with you when you offer them a homemade marshmallow.  You'll see it in their eyes.  They'll be even more impressed when they taste them.  Personally, this particular kitchen endeavor has given me pause to reflect on how I ever put up with commercial marshmallows all those years.  The vanilla flavor in these puts every marshmallow I've had up until now to shame.

The best part is that you can make these into any flavor you want; I will definitely be doing some flavor experimentation on your behalf, trust me.  (My friend Lisa, who taught me how to make these, made Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows, for instance).  For now, just know that we are not limited to vanilla alone.  And if you have kids, these would be a great project to do together; I am betting that they would love to help cut out the marshmallows (you could use cookie cutters to make them into fun shapes!).

The last piece of persuasion I will leave you with comes from the 5 year-old I babysit.  I brought her a heart-shaped marshmallow for her birthday, and she informed me with a grin that it was a "very excellent birthday gift."  Later that day, I received a thank-you card that read, "The marshmallow feels like a pillow with powdered sugar on it! Thank you!"  

Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

1 tbsp (1 packet) Knox unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cool water
1 cups granulated sugar
1/4 + 1/8 cup water (halved recipes lead to weird amounts!)
1 tbsp honey
1/8 tsp kosher salt

1 - 2 tsp. vanilla extract (to your own liking - and you can also use any other extract you like here)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup powdered sugar
optional: 1 tbsp cocoa to make them chocolate-coated

To prepare the pan, grease and dust an 8-inch baking dish or cookie pan with a rim.  Alternatively, you can line it with parchment or wax paper.
Combine cool water and gelatin in a large bowl.  Set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, combine water, vanilla sugar, honey and salt.  Bring to rolling boil; if you have a candy thermometer, cook til it reaches 115 C or 238-240 F (firm ball stage). If you're like me and don't have a candy thermometer, bring to a rolling boil and then set a timer for exactly one minute, stirring constantly. When the timer goes off, remove from heat immediately. 
Turn on an electric mixer on low speed. Very slowly, pour the hot mixture into the bowl with the gelatin-water mixture.  Mix on low speed until thoroughly combined, and then turn mixer onto high speed. Beat for a long time - about 12 - 15 minutes - or until it is very thick and stiff peaks form (similar to when you beat egg whites). 
Spread evenly into your prepared pan, and cool for at least 1 1/2 - 4 hours (or overnight) before slicing.  When you're ready to slice them, combine the cornstarch and powdered sugar in a bowl and dust a cutting board with the mixture.  Remove the entire sheet of marshmallows to the dusted cutting board.  Grease a very sharp knife or scissors, and cut into desired size.  This is the fun part - you can even use cookie cutters if you want to make them into fun shapes!  Toss with remaining powdered sugar mixture until all sides are evenly coated and no longer sticky.
These will keep for several weeks in an airtight container in the fridge, or you can freeze them for several months.