Posts Tagged With: gluten-free

Macaron Madness

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I got hit with the macaron bug. When I tried them a few years back, I didn’t like the taste. I thought something was wrong with me because they look so beautiful and dainty and so are expensive that they MUST taste amazing! After multiple attempts at trying them (even 2 macarons in France when we visited) I gave up. Fast forward a few years: my friend made some, I fell in love, and decided to make some myself. Since I went gluten-free, most of my baking went out the door. This macaron adventure allowed to me to bake and experiment with a plethora of flavors and recipes and ideas.

Lots of recipes were successful, some not so much. My biggest problem was wanting to experiment too much, and macarons are finicky where don’t always approve. I’ve had many fails, here, look:

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But a lot of macarons turned out beautifully.

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However, I would encounter random batches of hollows, or explosions, or whatever, and knew that the recipe wasn’t perfect. Here is a recipe that FINALLY renders consistent results.

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115 grams almond flour (about a cup)

115 grams powdered sugar (about a cup)

99 grams egg whites (about 3 large eggs)

80 grams granulated sugar (about 1/3 cup)

pinch of salt

I highly recommend using a scale to weigh ingredients because egg whites can range A LOT! Also since I sometimes grind up my own almonds, it really helps the amount be accurate and consistent.

Sifting business: the worst part of this whole process. I tried skipping it, I tried whisking it as a shortcut, I tried to throw in the almond flour/powdered sugar into grinder (it’s a tiny coffee grinder) and none of that seemed to do the trick for me. Sifting must be done.  Sometimes I’ll add a few extra grams so whatever doesn’t make it through the sifter can be tossed out or saved for later without me having to grind it & then sift it.

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The egg whites are to be at room temperature, whether they sit out overnight, a little while in warm water, or even having the egg whites microwaved for 5-10 seconds, depending on your microwave. BTW the microwaving helps a lot when it’s a humid day: the moisture gets sucked out after microwaving so there aren’t much problems with the shells drying.

Beat egg whites on medium high for about 30 seconds until foamy, pour in the sugar (& pinch of salt) slowly, increase speed. Beat for another 2-3 mins until it looks like this:

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Make sure to not overbeat where the egg whites start falling apart. It looks like a broken sand castle at that point. BTW if you reach that state, don’t stress too much, just add some egg white to the mixture and take out a bit of the over mixed portion (try to keep it about the same amount) and mix it in. It usually fixes the problem.

Add about half of the flour mixture to the egg whites, gently mix it in with a rubber spatula. Once it’s somewhat incorporated, add the other half and do the same thing. When all the dry ingredients are wet, you can mix/fold more vigorously. The macaronage process is the official fancy term for this. I take the spatula and drag out the batter against the sides of the bowl, then scrape it back in and repeat a few times. When the batter starts looking beautiful you want to slow down. It will flow slowly off the spatula. If it’s flowing too fast, yeah I’m sorry, too bad: the batch is ruined. You’ll get flat macarons that will still taste good but they won’t look like they’re supposed to. It’s supposed to be like thick pancake batter. I have never seen lava in real life so I can’t say it needs to have lava-like consistency (which so many macaron blogs state).
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Pour/scrape the batter into a pastry bag or zip lock bag.

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Pipe out circles onto parchment paper or silpats. I printed a template of circles for myself that I made in Word and use it underneath the mats. Parchment paper bakes macarons a minute faster.

IMG_0270After they’ve been piped, tap the sheet a few times against the counter to flatten out & eliminate any air bubbles and then WALK AWAY. Let the macarons rest until they’ve hardened and have a little skin on tip. Basically when you touch them, it’s dry, and won’t leave any batter on your finger. Sometimes this takes as quick as 15 minutes, other days it could an hour. If it’s super humid, expect to wait over 2 hours for them to dry. Thus the microwave trick for the egg whites when you know it’s humid outside. Then preheat the oven to 295. My oven temperature is inaccurate; I actually set it to 275 but the thermometer reads 295. Buying the thermometer saved me lots of trouble. It costs about $4 at Safeway. Bake the macarons for about 13-14 minutes. When you try to lift if off the parchment paper and it lifts up, it’s done. On the silpat you won’t be able to lift it so don’t try that method to test if it’s ready. Wiggle the top of a macaron; if it’s very wobbly then it’s not ready, if it’s quite sturdy then it’s done. Let them sit and cool off on the pan before taking them off.

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Fillings can be numerous! I’ll have another post for several different kinds of fillings, but the main point is to fill the macarons, put them in an AIRTIGHT container and stick them in the fridge. They need to mature to have the flavor fully take over the macaron shells. Eat them the next day!

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Spicy BBQ Beef Lasagna

So I had been wanting to make lasagna for the longest time, and I FINALLY found some gluten-free lasagna noodles. I began following a basic lasagna recipe but then ended up with a whole different twist.

I cooked some beef in the slow cooker with spicy BBQ sauce until it was very soft and pulled it apart. The next day the leftovers went into this lasagna.

 

  • 1 package lasagna noodles, cooked
  • BBQ beef, pulled apart (approximately 2 cups I think)
  • 3 cups pasta sauce
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 (15 oz) container ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups shredded mixed cheese
  • Montreal steak seasoning
  • cheddar cheese slices

 

Mix the bell pepper, pasta sauce, and beef together. Mix ricotta cheese, egg, shredded cheese and the seasoning together. Place about a third of meat sauce mixture into a pan. Layer with noodles, cheese mixture, meat sauce mixture. Again, noodles, cheese, meat sauce. Finally top with noodles, whatever is left from cheese mixture and place cheddar slices on top.
Cover with oiled foil, bake for 45 mins and remove foil; bake for 15 mins more. I like to turn the oven to Broil the last few minutes to get the final crispy cheese texture.

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I made 2 smaller lasagnas so I could freeze one for later.

photo 3Not a photogenic food item but oh so delicious!

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Curly Guy Cake

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I have no clue how this cake got it’s name but that’s what we called it in Ukraine.

Here is the list of ingredients:

Cake

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 200 grams sour cream (a bit less than 1 cup)
  • 1 tsp baking soda, with a few drops vinegar
  • 1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cup flour (I used my gluten-free mix from Costco)

Frosting

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 375.

Mix everything and divide batter in half. Add a spoon of cocoa to one half, mix. Pour into two pans (really it’s up to you what shape, how big, etc.)

Bake for approximately 15 minutes (depending on size of pans and how much batter is in them), until the white batter is golden and slightly puffed up. Check by inserting toothpick in center and if it comes out clean, it’s ready.

Cut up one of the cakes into pieces, dip into frosting mixture and pile on top of the other cake. Drizzle with chocolate syrup or caramel and sprinkle toasted chopped nuts on top. Refrigerate.

*Note: I forgot to check if I had all the ingredients before I began making this, and apparently I was almost out of sour cream. I replaced the rest of what I needed with the Fage Greek yogurt and it turned out perfectly delicious!

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I poured a bit more into the cake that will be chopped into pieces.

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The smaller the pieces the more frosting will be needed; I think I had to make a bit more than what was called for in the recipe.

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Layer the pieces.

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Final assembled cake. I love the fact that I didn’t need to put in effort into decorating it! It’s supposed to have a messy look 🙂

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Banana Nut Muffins

I ran into a tasty-looking banana pecan muffin recipe online:

http://verascooking.com/2014/03/02/banana-pecan-muffins/

Lo and behold, I had some extra bananas so I made them, only with gluten-free flour.

  • 1 c. flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 c. toasted pecans
  • 2 bananas
  • 5 Tbs milk
  • 2 Tbs melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • (I didn’t use vanilla or flax seeds since I had neither)

Mix dry ingredients, wet ingredients, combine, bake at 375 for 20-25 mins. I made 6 large muffins & 6 mini muffins. Without liners there is more crunch which I enjoy more 🙂

Purchased at Costco

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Brazilian Cheese Bread

So far the only food I’ve been “craving” is Brazilian Cheese Bread. I was first introduced to this deliciousness at a Brazilian restaurant. They brought a little tray of fluffy, light, breaded goodness, that I WAS ALLOWED TO HAVE! Instead of wheat flour, it was made with tapioca flour.

Then my husband discovered a Brazilian cafe a few miles away, so whenever the opportunity presents itself, off we go to get me some Brazilian cheese bread.

After googling for recipes, I discovered they are also called Pão de Queijo, or Brazilian cheese balls, or puffs. I found a recipe here, and this is the recipe I followed:

 

1 egg, room temp

1/3 cup olive oil

2/3 cup milk

1 1/2 cup tapioca flour (bought at Safeway)

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put all ingredients in blender, blend. Generously grease muffin pan and pour in batter. Bake 15-20 mins.

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Very runny batter.

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Nicely rising halfway through.

 

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Completely puffed up! (Yes they are hollow inside because of this)

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The final product. I cannot explain how tasty this is: it’s cheesy, light, and the perfect amount of parmesan flavor. The amount of batter I had was enough for at least 2 batches of mini cupcake forms.

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Pregnancy News

So the major update on this blog is that I am expecting a baby girl at the end of the year! Few things that I experienced and learned (so far):

  • Mentality and everyday things change, perspectives are different, start to think ahead about how I would handle certain situations.
  • First trimester is tough: feeling nauseous, extreme food aversions, ridiculously tired. All of this without really telling anybody until I’m in the “safe zone”. I could not drink coffee, at all. My addiction just miraculously ended, only to return during the second trimester, but only for small amounts. Anything coconut makes me gag, which is sad because I need to use coconut oil for my hair every few days… What a nightmare at nights when I use it. My sense of smell is super strong even now, at 20 weeks. During the 1st trimester I took it easy with subbing, slept A LOT, and didn’t do any exercise at all. Walking around the house was almost too much to handle. First trimester weight gain, hmm about zero.
  • During the 2nd trimester, my energy returned, I began exercising. I do some Jullian Michaels videos and go walking in the park and do lots of squats. Total weight gain so far: hm about 5 lbs. Belly is finally slightly visible.
  • Food-wise: I am not sure what it means to really crave something so much that you just need to wake up in the middle of the night for it. I “craved” Hagen Dazs vanilla ice cream bars with chocolate and almonds, but when I would eat one, I would get nauseous for a few hours. So that quickly got eliminated. I craved something greater, like pursuing music again. So got an electronic upright piano which I am practicing on almost daily. Something I also really enjoy is Brazilian cheese bread, so whenever I have a chance to drive by their cafe, I stop by and get some. Perhaps that is a craving?
  • Immune system is totally weakened. I got sick with a cold: coughing, sneezing, congestion, etc. It took me about 2 weeks to get over it. I was nervous and thought I might have bronchitis (judging from the amount of coughing that was taking place) and so I called the nurse who told me to take some Robitussin. Didn’t help, and what finally helped was a few home remedies. The first was brewing a large cup of herbal tea and breathing in the steam through the nose and mouth. The second one was a lot messier (and stinky!): put organic honey on heated up cabbage leaves, place on chest/throat area, cover up with a towel, wear a tight shirt on top to hold it all in place, and go to sleep. Very unpleasant way to sleep but the results were amazing!
  • People want to give you all sorts of advice. Some of it directly contradicts what I’ve been reading, so I’ve been learning to accept it “graciously” and being thankful for the “help” I’m getting.
  • Vitamins: I take prenatal gummy vitamins because I don’t like how the other ones taste. The gummy ones don’t have any iron, so I make sure to eat meat during the week. Apparently it works wonders, because my blood test showed high levels of iron (which apparently most women have low amounts of especially during pregnancy). I’ve spoken to a few people about it and they say they had prenatal vitamins with iron, and ate lots of cereal (which is fortified with iron) yet their levels were still low. This made me question the whole concept of how meals are influenced by the culture. Absorption of iron is best when taken with Vitamin C. Calcium inhibits iron absorption. Yet here most people are encouraged to eat low fat milk with whole grain cereal. The calcium in the milk inhibits the iron that’s in the cereal and no benefit at all is taken from that meal. This confirms how my iron levels were high: most of the meat I eat is with veggies, which is full of Vitamin C, so it helps absorb the iron. And also, I cannot prove this, but read somewhere that grains inhibit absorption of most vitamins as well, so it’s almost like we aren’t even supposed to be eating grains with anything, except maybe by themselves? Go figure. I don’t care to make a conclusion on that just yet.
  • Vitamin D: super low levels. My prenatal vitamin provided 100% (400 IU). Doc told me to start taking 5000 IU per day! I went and bought some that same day and then proceeded to research about Vitamin D deficiencies, especially during pregnancy, etc. The shocking information I found was that women who were deficient in Vitamin D had a much higher risk of having babies born with autism or muscular dystrophy (and a few other conditions, but that’s what I remembered). Something about the fact Vitamin D helps the immune system and with making other vitamins “work”. Best way to get Vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight. After more research, I was able to determine that the benefits of sunlight far outweigh any risks associated with sunlight exposure.
  • And last but not least, another one of my conclusions: being gluten-free for a while is what helped me with conception, otherwise I don’t know how much longer I would have had to try or give up. My sensitivity seems to have increased during pregnancy: before I was able to consume very small amounts (example: 1 tsp soy sauce, or chocolate containing wheat [not the crisp or crunch, but inside chocolate itself]) but not so now. I ate a few bites of chocolate which had wheat, and was fine for a few hours. And then the itching on my stomach and back began, and it was just so intense! The “scabs” occurred because of that itching and took over a week to only begin fading. I need to come up with another way of avoiding potential glutenous items at people’s houses. Most of our friends are aware of my condition and serve options I can eat, but not everyone knows to what extend most food has wheat as an ingredient. I am working on thinking up some “diet” where I don’t eat after 6, or whatever a particular circumstance may require. Eh.

    Well this was a long post! I think I covered most of what I was trying to say.

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Carrot Cupcakes (GF)

We had an enormous bag of carrots that was having difficulty being emptied. After eating shredded carrots with sugar, putting plenty of carrots into chicken noodle soup, and eating plain carrots as a snack, I wanted something more. I found a recipe here which I slightly improvised and made into cupcakes.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/4 cup sweetened toasted coconut
  • 1/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the sugar & eggs, add oil. Mix the dry ingredients and add to the first mixture. Then add nuts, carrots, coconut and raisins. Grease mini cupcake pans and fill 3/4 full.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes, depending on how dark you want them. Insert toothpick in center to ensure doneness.

I enjoyed eating them just like this, without frosting. Later I used the Betty Crocker can of cream cheese frosting, whipped it up, and decorated the top.

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My Version of Borscht

The reason I say “my version” is that it’s not quite like how my mom used to make borscht, or my mother-in-law, or anybody else for that matter. Borscht can be quite versatile since ingredients can be increased or decreased depending on your tastebuds. Since I like to take shortcuts in cooking, I created my version of borscht!

  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced, added to pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and then add
  • 4 cups of cabbage cole slaw mix (or you can slice up 1/2 a cabbage).
  • 1 beet, peeled and grated – add to pot

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Heat up frying pan and add

  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced. Keep on medium heat until golden, then add
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots (I use baby carrots since they’re already peeled)

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Mix it up, let it simmer for ~5 minutes, and add

  • 4 Tbs tomato paste, mixed in with 1/2 cup water (or use tomato sauce; I didn’t have any)

Simmer for several more minutes.

Meanwhile, add to the pot

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  • 1 can (12 oz) roast beef
  • 1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 1/2 Tbs salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Pour in the onion/tomato paste mix into the pot, mix, allow to boil, and add

  • a sprinkling of parsley 
  • a dash of Montreal Steak Seasoning (I add this to everything)

And that’s it! By this point potatoes should be cooked through so turn off heat and enjoy a bowl of borscht!

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Coconut Nests

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Coconut Nests (for Easter or Spring)

 

2 egg whites

pinch of salt

2 tsp vanilla

1 can sweetened condensed milk

about 10 oz sweetened coconut

2 Tbs rice flour

chocolate robin’s eggs (I used speckled M&M’s = gluten-free)

 

Preheat oven to 300. Beat egg whites with salt, add vanilla and condensed milk. Stir in coconut and flour. Drop balls onto sheet (I dipped teaspoons into water to shape the dough balls better) at least an inch apart from each other. Make an indent in the center. Bake for about 20 mins. Place M&M’s into nest. Eat and enjoy!

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Peanut Butter Cookies

Super quick and easy peanut butter cookie recipe.

 

1 egg

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup peanut butter

4 Tbs quick oats

1 Tbs dark cocoa

 

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix everything in order, drop by spoonfuls onto sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Let cool on pan before transferring to wire rack.

 

Enjoy! It’s a challenge you to stop at just one 🙂

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