Friday, November 14, 2014

Truffles, truffles and more truffles.....

Pumpkin truffles

Truffles....bite-sized pieces of amazingness!

I find baking a fun challenge, especially baking gluten-free.  There is something about baking that is thrilling when it is my first time trying something.  It is like I want to be able to prove that I can make something amazing, specifically when it is gluten-free.  You know the reactions you get at parties after you divulge the piece of information that you are gluten-free....either people feel bad for you, or people don't believe you, and just roll their eyes at you, or they even try to explain why it isn't really necessary. And that's ok.  You know why....because people will be so shocked with how good these little bite-sized treats are, they won't care if you are gluten-free or not, they will just want more!

Hot chocolate peppermint truffles

I got the idea to make the pumpkin truffles after a neighborhood children's Halloween parade.  There was a bake sale, and while I usually don't even approach the table, because I know I am not going to be able to eat anything, I decided to take a look, and I saw some adorable little cookie pumpkins.  It listed the ingredients, and while it looked safe to eat, I decided not to risk it, but couldn't wait to look it up when I got home.

White chocolate peppermint truffles

The closest thing I could find were Brazilian brigadeiro, which are little truffles popular at Brazilian parties.  I couldn't wait, I had to try them that night.  The ingredients are simple - sweetened condensed milk (one of the greatest inventions ever!), pumpkin, butter and sugar.  And, wow did they taste delicious. It is impossible to stop at one.  They are the perfect treat to bring to a party!

I couldn't stop there.  With the holidays around the corner and my love for peppermint, I was determined to make a wintery equivalent.

One key thing to keep in mind while making these truffles - you must stir!  And not stop.  So, put on some good music, a good TV show - you will be stirring until they are done.  It doesn't take long, but you can't walk away.  Don't walk away!  You don't want any stickage on the bottom of the saucepan.  Just keep stirring, and you will be pleased you did.

Pumpkin Truffles

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin
1 tablespoon butter
dash of cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
whole cloves (optional)

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly;

Stir for about 20-25 minutes until it thickens, and all comes together in a kind of pumpkin blob;

Remove from heat, and place in a glass bowl to cool in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes;

Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl;

When the pumpkin mixture is chilled, lightly wet your hands and use a teaspoon to scoop up a ball and roll in your hands, and then roll in the sugar/cinnamon mixture.  Add a clove stem if you would like (but remind people not to eat them);

Place in small paper candy cups.

Hot Chocolate and Peppermint Truffles

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup chocolate powder
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup candy cane sugar (recipe)

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly;

Stir for about 15 minutes until it thickens, and all comes together in a chocolate blob;

Remove from heat, and place in a glass bowl to cool in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes;

Place the candy cane sugar in a small bowl;

When the chocolate mixture is chilled, lightly wet your hands and use a teaspoon to scoop up a ball and roll in your hands, and then roll in the peppermint;

Place in small paper candy cups.

White Chocolate Peppermint Truffles

8 ounces white chocolate
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons heavy cream

1/3 cup candy cane sugar (recipe)

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly;

Stir for about 10 minutes until it thickens;

Remove from heat, and place in a glass bowl to cool in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes;

Place the candy cane sugar in a small bowl;

When the chocolate mixture is chilled, lightly wet your hands and use a teaspoon to scoop up a ball and roll in your hands, and then roll in the peppermint;

Place in small paper candy cups.

These are just 3 examples, but I think it would be really fun to try out different toppings - coconut, almonds, pistachios, pretty sugar toppings, the possibilities are endless.  Making an assortment over the holidays would be a great teacher or hostess gift.

Or, if you are really brave, have a truffle making party with friends!

Candy Cane Sugar

Candy Cane sugar.  It is the condiment of the holidays, and can be used on so chocolate, cookies, peppermint bark, sprinkle it on popcorn, ice cream...I mean really, peppermint is pretty good on a lot of things!

It is so simple that I am going to make this post just as simple as candy cane sugar.

You buy old school red and white candy canes.  

Unwrap them.

Put them in a food processor. 

Turn on until it gets to a consistency you like. I like finely ground. (If you have children or pets around, be warned, it gets loud!)

Put the "sugar" in a well-sealed jar.  Any moisture will make it all stick together.

Start adding it to everything!

candy cane popcorn

hot chocolate peppermint truffles (recipe)

white chocolate peppermint truffles (recipe)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Easy Peasy Refrigerated Oats

Who doesn't like easy and yummy? I am all about easy and yummy!  And here it is - refrigerated oats....there is no cooking cooking! How does this work?  Just mix a few items together, let them sit overnight, and viola!  You have breakfast, a snack, or even dessert ready to go!  I have really enjoyed these over the summer, but I will definitely continue to make these year-round.  I can't take credit for being the mastermind who came up with this sensational jar-sized snack, but as usual, I look at a bunch of recipes, and come up with my own.

These are individual 8-ounce servings, and work perfectly in small Ball jars.  I choose the plastic ones, they are cute, and I can take them to the pool.  You can buy plastic lids that fit specially on the glass version which is nice too.

I like preparing these at night, and then they are ready the next day as soon as I need a snack, and before I go for a handful of chips.  I like that these are full of fiber and protein, so they keep me going for a couple of hours.  Being gluten-free, and for the most part vegetarian, it can be really difficult to get protein throughout the day, and this solves that question.

One ingredient I love is chai seeds, one of today's "superfoods". They act as a thickener and are full of nutritious fiber and protein. And let's not forget, two words....chia pet.

The following recipe is for maple blueberry oats, but you can try any combination. I love blueberries, so this is my favorite, but I have also replaced the blueberries with raspberries and strawberries.  For my daughter, I replaced the blueberries with bananas, and the maple syrup with Nutella. She absolutely loved it. You could use cocoa powder, peanut butter, mango, agave, coconut, the possibilities are endless...

Maple Blueberry Refrigerated Oats
(recipe is for one 8-ounce jar serving)

1/3 cup uncooked old-fashioned gluten-free oats

2 teaspoons chia seeds
1/3 cup milk (I like to use almond milk)

1/4 cup 2% Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/4 cup fresh, washed blueberries

Combine the first 5 ingredients directly in the jar, cover and shake;

Add the blueberries, cover and shake again gently;

Place in the fridge overnight, and enjoy the next day!

I like to make several at once, and leave them in the fridge up to 3 days.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Perfect Omelette

This post isn't necessarily targeted just for those who are gluten-free, this little tidbit of advice is applicable to anyone who likes omelettes - like me!  I like to consider myself pretty decent in the kitchen, I can usually make things happen with yummy results, but I have never been able to master an omelette, it would always turn out to resemble more of a ....scramble, after trying to cook it forever on the stove.  I could never get one to stay together and look like they do in a restaurant.  It really was a complete mystery to me.  I can make a pavlova work no problem, but an omelette, that was apparently beyond my capabilities.

Then the other day, I heard a secret and I will share it...because it was miraculous, and best of worked!  I made an omelette (pictured above), that actually stayed together and I wouldn't be embarrassed serving to guests.  I guess all of these years I have been doing it wrong...I would whisk two eggs with some milk, and the result was never pretty.

The secret ingredient - sour cream.

I would never have thought of it, but it worked.  I whisked two eggs with a spoonful of sour cream, poured into a heated omelette pan, added my toppings, which happened to be spring onions, spinach and Parmesan.  It flipped easily and came out of the pan in one piece.  It was guest-worthy!  I would take a guess that Greek yogurt would work just as well as sour cream.

It might seem silly to have an entire post dedicated to the worthiness of an omelette that can remain intact, but being that I didn't know how to do this until I was 40 (ok, 41, but who's counting), is a pretty big deal in my book.

Happy breakfasting!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Black Bean Flourless Brownies

Yes, you read that correctly.  Beans and chocolate.  All right, all right, all right!  Bizarre combo...maybe.  Does it work..absolutely!  For the cynics....there will be no bean flavor in this chocolatey goodness.  My daughter gobbled these up, and when I tried to tell her I made them using black beans, she laughed and thought I was joking.

You might be skeptical, but I promise you, you will not be disappointed, and you will amaze your friends!  Just don't tell them until after they try them.

Black Bean Flourless Brownies

1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed)
2 eggs
3 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
handful of chocolate chips for topping

Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease an 8x8 baking dish;

Place all ingredients, except the chocolate chips in a food processor, and blend until smooth;

Pour batter into greased baking dish, and top with chocolate chips;

Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick/knife comes out clean from the center;

Let cool on a cooling rack for 30 minutes before serving.

Don't say I didn't warn you. These brownies are yum!

Can you trust it?

Having celiac, trust is something I think about often.

Can I trust the local taqueria where I have eaten countless times, to get it right again?

Can I trust my friend who vowed they only used gluten-free ingredients?

Can I trust the gluten-free items sold at the local farmers market without a list of ingredients attached?

Can I trust the caterer who says he is knowledgeable in the gluten-free diet?

Hmm......this is a tough one.  After several years with celiac, I have decided the risk is not worth getting sick.  I will avoid most situations to avoid that horrible feeling that happens after I accidentally ingest gluten...or the vomit extravaganza that is sure to follow.  Not to mention the damage it is doing to my body.  Not worth it!

It can quickly become a sticky situation, because you don't want to offend people, yet your health has to come before other's feelings.  I am sure I have insulted friends and family who really tried to go out of their way for me, but at the end of the day.....I can deal with that. What I cannot deal with is getting sick, and then not being able to function for my family, or myself.

You may ask...."why would my friends be offended if they know I have celiac, they should be understanding, right?"  Yes, you would think this, and I really do hate to hurt someone's feelings or make them feel like their efforts were not worth it, but let's look at a few examples, and then you tell me how you would handle it...

1. Dinner at friend's house.  They talk to you beforehand about what you can/can't eat.  When you arrive, they tell you they researched it, and are so proud of the efforts they made so you could all eat the same thing.  You then ask the prerequisite questions about what ingredients were used down to the spices.  Unfortunately, you find out they missed one.  They used soy sauce.  They didn't know that was even a consideration for containing gluten.  You thank them profusely for trying, but politely decline the soy sauce laden item.  You know your friend feels awful, but what can you do?

2. Friend bakes special treat just for you.  You have a friend who is excited to try out the gluten-free diet themselves, so they start experimenting with new recipes and alternative flours.  They tell you they came up with this fabulous new treat, it only contains X flour.  It sounds safe.  But you also know this person handles a lot of gluten in their kitchen on a daily basis, and don't feel completely safe eating something made in that environment.  They are excited to try the gluten-free diet, but they won't suffer if they make a mistake. You will.  You are grateful for their effort, but again...what do you do?

3. Dinner party catered by a someone knowledgeable in allergies/gluten-free diet.  A close friend organizes a dinner party, and instead of cooking the food themselves, hires a caterer.  Friend knows there are various allergies and dietary needs, so feels this will be best solution  in handling that situation.  After arriving, you talk to caterer personally, and he tells you the ingredients in everything he made, and points out what is safe.  Seems to be knowledgable.  Then we get to desserts and caterer points out the gluten-free items...yet, they sit on the same plate as the gluten-filled items.  You try to just avoid the dessert area, but eventually the caterer brings them to you and asks you to try them. You tell caterer you don't feel comfortable about them being on the same plate.  Caterer tells you to take one from the middle of the gluten-free side.  You still don't feel comfortable.  If serving them was not handled properly, what else was not handled properly the kitchen when preparing them?  You continued to decline and the caterer was clearly annoyed.  What would you do?

I am sure the I could come up with endless examples, but these are some situations that stick out from recent months.

What sticky situations have you encountered?