Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Let's Start a Roasting Revolution

I have been hearing a lot of talk of New Year’s resolutions and it’s gotten me thinking about all my past resolutions. Some worked, some didn’t. Some I whole heartedly tried to follow through with and others I figured

if I said it out loud that would make enough of a difference. We all want to drop those pounds, and eat healthier, and take up YOGA and Japanese and whatever outlandish opportunity we feel we need to embark on. It’s not that I am being pessimistic people. I think it GREAT to think BIG. But what we end up missing is the BIG picture. What are you going to do to stay on track? What is going to motivate you? Who is going to make sure you stick to it?

We want to make all these BIG changes. But what we really need to do is look at the little things we can do to make a BIG change. Let’s face it. I am probably not going to be fluent in Greek by next January (sorry yiayia) but it wouldn’t hurt to learn some useful conversation that doesn’t involve cursing. See, baby steps.

So with all that mumbo jumbo from the heart and off the subject of food, which is I hope why you are really here and taking the time to read my blog, I will get to my point. My new year’s resolution is to be as happy and healthy as I can be, and my baby steps will be through my cooking dear readers. As I am writing this I can see the words of my last few blogs about cookies and Christmas time just drenched in sugars and sinful seduction. We all have to indulge every once in a while though. I think I will make that part of my “happy life” resolution. No worries, the cookies will keep coming.

Onto the healthy food part of my resolution, I am going to start cooking more with vegetables, and have them be the main star of the show on my plate. I’m going green in my kitchen! I love meats so therefore they tend to rule the menu, but after much research on healthy eating and a healthy diet, I have decided that little drumstick needs to be downsized. Snacking on healthy foods between meals is a must as well and I am on a hunt for a plethora of choices that are easy to grab and go, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack.

Today the lunch item/snack is roasted edamame. I picked my lunch up from whole foods the last couple days and sampled some of their vegan options to get some ideas.

I ran across these green little health monsters and boy did they WOW me! I had to go find that recipe. Unfortunately the exact one was not on their website, but I found one that is quite close. Add some roasted red peppers and green olives to this recipe and you have a match made in heaven.

Roasted Edamame

•2 teaspoons olive oil or 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
•1/4 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
•1/2 teaspoon chili powder
•1/4 teaspoon onion salt
•1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
•1/8 teaspoon paprika
•1/8 teaspoon black pepper
•1 (10 ounce) package ready-to-eat soybeans, thawed if using the frozen variety (fresh or frozen, edamame)

Preheat oven to 375°F. In small bowl, stir together oil, basil, chili powder, onion salt, cumin, paprika and black pepper. Drizzle mixture over soybeans and toss to coat well. Arrange beans in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Roast, uncovered, for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring once, until soybeans begin to brown.
Serve hot as a vegetable side dish or cooled as a snack.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Very Cherry Christmas

My husband has been craving all things cherry the last few weeks. Cherry shakes, cherry cobbler, cherry this and cherry that. So of course when the

local newspaper featured a huge story on the 12 days of Christmas cookies, my husband zoned in on, you guessed it, the cherry icebox cookies. Shocking I know.

Now those of you who have followed my blog know that gluten free baking and I have had our showdowns in the past and that I have been sticking to cookie dough that steers clear of substitutions that potentially forecast a doughy flood in my oven. I make non gluten free goods for him all the time, but I was feeling rather brave yesterday. Maybe it was because I had my son home with me and he is always willing to fearlessly dive into whatever project I come up with that day. I decided that I needed to woman up and take whatever consequences this adventure threw at us. Plus my son would no doubt get a kick out of the mess that was likely to ensue on my counters and in my oven. What we mothers do to bring a smile to our little one’s faces.

After returning from the store with our ingredients and new found spunk towards the wintery afternoon’s culinary exploration, we tied our apron strings, laid out our tools on the counter, and began a sweet discovery into cherry bliss. Which of course started with breaking into the cherry jar and popping two or three in our mouth at a time. Hey, we needed all the energy we could get!

After the prep work had been finished , our aprons and faces sprinkled with sweet rice flour, and the dough nestled into saran wrapped cocoons in the refrigerator to cool, we kicked up our feet and admired the first round feat.

A couple outdoor games, art projects, and one Polar Express movie later, the cookie dough had cooled and the two us got our hands dowsed in dough once more as we sliced and situated our cookies on the pan. 9 minutes later a taste test.


Sweet Perfection that melted in our mouths. Oh, these cookies will for sure make Santa’s cheeks a little pinker and the twinkle in his eye a little brighter this year. This recipe makes enough cookies to satisfy Santa, the reindeer, and most the elves so expect to be sharing! Tis the season for that anyways though right? They would make darling presents for coworkers or friends. Just jazz them up in fun holiday trimmings and make everyone’s spirits bright!

Cherry Icebox Cookies

•1 cup butter, softened
•1 cup sugar
•1/4 cup organic packed brown sugar
•1 large organic egg
•4-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
•1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
•3-1/4 cups sweet rice flour
•1/2 teaspoon baking soda
•1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•1/2 cup chopped walnuts
•1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries
•1/3 cup maraschino cherry juice

In your mixing bowl cream your softened butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Then beat in the egg, cherry and lemon juices. Slowly add your vanilla. Pour all dry ingredients in a separate mixing bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. Then gradually add to the creamed mixture and mix on medium until well combined. Remove from your mixed and carefully stir in walnuts and cherries.

Divide the dough into 4 even parts and roll into a cylinder shape. The dough might be pretty thick. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 3-4 hours or until firm.

Remove dough just before baking. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Unwrap a roll and cut into quarter inch slices. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

This recipe makes about 6 dozen cookies depending on how much dough actually makes it to the oven!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Easy G~Free Cookie Recipe

With Christmas caroling its way into our daily agendas, I am constantly surrounded by all sorts of treats. Christmas cards, Christmas candy, Christmas cookies…and therefore Christmas LBs.

But hey, it’s an excuse to indulge right? As long as I can hide out in my Christmas sweaters I will be a jolly ol’ Indie.

Christmas parties have been in full swing, and potlucks have popped up all over my calendar. So the question arises, “What goodie will I bring to this fete that I can eat, and I won’t subject my friends to unfamiliar grounds?” I always made sure that I brought something equally as healthy as it was pleasing. Now I have to add in the factor of of being able to devour my own dish as well. Appetizers, main dishes, sides are no sweat.

It’s the dessert my friends. The perfect ending to a meal.

The easy, go-to dessert to be exact. And what USED to be my favorite things to make? Cakes, cookies, and cupcakes. Even if I bought a boxed start to my desserts, I jazzed it up with added ingredients or my own toppings. But my dear friends, the easy grab a box off the shelf days seem to be over. At least I have not really had success with the pre mixed concoctions that I have purchased. In the four I have tried (I will leave names out as I do appreciate the company's consideration)they don’t bake right, taste grainy, or have a mudslide consistency. Maybe I am just not used to the stuff, but I don’t have the time or money this season to try every gluten free box of potential potluck pound cake.

I could make a homemade dessert that I am sure will turn out lovely, but when you are on the clock you don’t have time to spend collecting 20 different little ingredients that you will pay five bucks a piece for, need one tsp, then not need to use the ingredients for another couple weeks. By then, you are worried that the baking agents won’t hold up as well. Or maybe I am just paranoid about it's shelf life and what little I honestly know about it right now. In my own defense I took a big hit on the dessert front when I was diagnosed and havoc ensued. But that is here nor there, and I still need a dessert with less than 20 ingredients.

Much research again brought me to another “Duh, why didn’t I think of that” moment.

I have made sugar cookies and peanut butter cookies PLENTY of times in the past, and some don’t require any flour at all! Duh, Duh, Duh Mrs. Indie. I am a natural blonde, if you couldn’t tell.

Anyhoo, with those two cookie bases, my options are once again endless. An egg, sugar, vanilla extract, and some peanut butter, and I am back in the game my dears! I can top my cookie concoctions with peppermints, chocolate, nuts, fruit,assorted candies, sprinkles, frosting… I digress. My sweet tooth began to buzz.

Below is a go to peanut butter cookie recipe with holiday topper ideas

that will bring you holiday cheer, and have you smiling from ear to ear. Oh dear, Christmas has this blogger rhyming too much now I fear.

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies
•1 large free range organic egg
•1 cup sugar
•1 cup organic peanut butter
•1 tsp kosher salt
•1 tsp vanilla extract (optional but I like what it brings to my baking)

Preheat you oven to 350.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Roll into balls and place them on a greased baking sheet. Press a fork dipped in sugar in criss-cross pattern (your cookies will be slightly flatter).

OR take advantage of cookie cutters! Instead of rolling your dough into balls, flatten out your mix on a sheet and press away with holiday designs!

Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

If you plan on topping with candy:
Let cookies cool on a wire rack until they are just a little warm. You don’t want to melt your topping, but you also want it to press far enough into the cookie to stick.
Press your candy into the cookie and serve!

If you plan on icing or sprinkles:
Let cookie cool completely before adding your iced decorations. I like to buy vanilla icing and add green or red food coloring. To make your own icing piper:I mix my frosting and food coloring in a bowl, then spoon it into a ziploc bag with a spatula. Press the frosting into one tip, and then snip a little off the corner depending how thick you would like your piping. This allows you to have more fun with your icing details and look like a pro!

CHRISTMAS COOKIE TOPPERS (because I am ALWAYS in theme right?)
•Mini candy canes (whole or crushed)
•Hershey kisses
•Peanut butter cups
•Apple slices with cinnamon
•Red and/or green icing
•Red and/or green sprinkles
•Dried cranberries
•Red/Green holiday m&m’s (peanut or plain)
•Walnuts (go crazy and candy them!)
•Shredded coconut (snowy pb cookies)

Monday, December 13, 2010

I'm Not Settling, I'm Substituting!

When I found out I couldn’t eat gluten one of the things that really tugged my heart strings was that I had just gotten involved with baking and gourmet cooking. Take a look at your recipes at home, and you see flour added to the majority of dishes. Whether it is a thickening agent, main component, or sidekick, flour dusts itself all over the cooking world.

But that alarming circumstance immediately got me thinking and researching. I was restricted to only 2 flours in my cooking, and there is a flour world out there I have never even thought of touching. Flavorful flours that can bring something new to the table. Why couldn't I just substitute a flour I COULD eat in for the flour that I was allergic to?

Simple enough right? But with substituting comes unexpected outcomes. So with much experimenting and research, I have become much more comfortable over the last 6 months substituing different agents into my meals.

So with that said, I will give you the flour list that I have taken so much advice from in my baking adventures. Gluten free or not, I encourage you to expand your horizons in cooking! Any ol’ john doe can just reach for the white or wheat flour…

Potato Starch Flour
This is a gluten-free thickening agent that is perfect for cream-based soups and sauces. Mix a little with water first, then substitute potato starch flour for flour in your recipe, but cut the amount in half. It can be purchased in a health food store.

Tapioca Flour
This is a light, white, very smooth flour that comes from the cassava root. It makes baked goods impart a nice chewy taste. Use it in recipes where a chewy texture would be desirable. It would work nicely in bread recipes such as white bread or French bread. It is also easily combined with cornstarch and soy flour. It can be purchased in a health food store.

Soy Flour
This nutty tasting flour has a high protein and fat content. It is best when used in combination with other flours and for baking brownies, or any baked goods with nuts or fruit. It can be purchased in a health food store.

This is a refined starch that comes from corn. It is mostly used as a clear thickening agent for puddings, fruit sauces and Asian cooking. It is also used in combination with other flours for baking. It can be purchased in a health food store.

Corn Flour
This flour is milled from corn and can be blended with cornmeal to make cornbread or muffins. It is excellent for waffles or pancakes. It can be purchased in a health food store.

This is ground corn that comes from either yellow or white meal. This is often combined with flours for baking. It imparts a strong corn flavor that is delicious in pancakes, waffles, or simple white cakes. It can be purchased in a health food store.

White Rice Flour
This is an excellent basic flour for gluten-free baking. It is milled from polished white rice. Because it has such a bland flavor, it is perfect for baking, as it doesn't impart any flavors. It works well with other flours. White rice flour is available in most health food stores, but also in Asian markets. At the Asian markets it is sold in different textures. The one that works the best is called fine textured white rice flour.

Brown Rice Flour
This flour comes from unpolished brown rice. It has more food value because it contains bran. Use it in breads, muffins, and cookies. It can be purchased in a health food store.

Kamut and Spelt Flours
These are ancient forms of wheat. While they aren't appropriate for gluten-free diets, they are excellent substitutes for plain wheat flour as they add wonderful flavor and consistency.

Substituting Gluten
Wheat flour contains gluten, which keeps cookies, cakes and pies from getting crumbly and falling apart. It is what makes baked goods have a good texture because it traps pockets of air. This creates a lovely airy quality that most baked goods possess when baked with traditional wheat flour. In order to help retain this structure when using non-wheat flours, gluten substitutes must be added to a gluten-free flour mixture. For each cup of gluten-free flour mix, add at least 1 teaspoon of gluten substitute. Here are three very good substitutes for gluten.

Xanthum Gum
This comes from the dried cell coat of a microorganism called Zanthomonas campestris. It is formulated in a laboratory setting. This works well as a gluten substitution in yeast breads along with other baked goods. You can purchase it in health food stores.

Guar Gum
This is a powder that comes from the seed of the plant Cyamopsis tetragonolobus. It is an excellent gluten substitute and it is available in health food stores.

Pre-gel Starch
This is an acceptable gluten substitute. It helps keep baked goods from being too crumbly. This, too can be purchased at most health food stores.

Substitution is the solution
If you are ready to try some recipes, start with recipes that use relatively small amounts of wheat flour like brownies or pancakes. These turn out lovely and the difference in taste is minimal. Here are two gluten-free flour mixtures that are suitable for substituting wheat flour cup for cup.

•Gluten-Free Flour Mixture I
1/4 cup soy flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour

•Gluten-Free Flour Mixture II
6 cups white rice flour
2 cups potato starch
1 cup tapioca flour

**list from

Also check out your local whole foods store to find pre mixed flours!