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Archive for February, 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Yes, that is a gluten-free, heart-shaped onion ring atop a ketchup-covered hamburger.  Yes, I made it.  Yes, it was delicious!  (Yes, I will post the recipe someday soon!)

I love Valentine’s day!  I think it is wonderful that much of the world has a holiday devoted to expressing the love that we feel all the time but often forget to mention.  I love making cards (though mine are going to hit the mail a little late this year…I’m extending the celebration!), cooking fun foods, and spending time with family.  On top of all that, at what other time of year is it appropriate to wear a plethora of shades of red, pink, and purple all in the same outfit???

People are designed to love.  God is love, and we are made in His image!  The love He has expressed for us is far greater than any cute card with hearts on it (or even a hamburger with an onion ring heart) can ever convey.  Now is a great time to remember how much God loves us, and what He did to show us that LOVE!

Here’s a few of the many verses I came across while making cards and thinking about this…

“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4:9-10

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!  And that is what we are…” I John 3:1

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ lay down His life for us…” I John 3:16

Isn’t this AMAZINGLY GOOD NEWS???  The Creator of the Universe LOVES YOU!  He came to earth, lived and died, all for YOU!  For me!  To give us an overwhelming, indescribable gift:  Eternal Life!  A Home in Heaven!  To be called His children! 

We who have accepted this incomparable gift He offers have experienced the lavish graciousness of God, and it is thrilling to share His blessings with others!  Our Father knows how to give good gifts!  (See Matthew 7, Luke 11)

One of the things God has blessed me with is the time, energy and motivation to research, test, and play with gluten-free recipes.  The love He has given me, I now pass on to you in a small way with this sweet recipe for gluten-free, dairy-free cream puffs!  As you share them with your loved ones, remember to also share the sweet story of God’s love for us.  It is the recipe for Eternal satisfaction!

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Cream Puffs

1/2 cup water (omit for dairy-free)
1/4 cup butter 
(for dairy free, use 1/4 cup grapeseed or light olive oil AND 1/2 cup coconut milk)
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
7 tbsp flour (white rice flour, sweet rice flour, or your favorite mix)
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 375F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a saucepan, bring water, butter (or oil and coconut milk), vanilla and salt to a gentle boil. Stir in rice flour all at once and stir until mixture is smooth and cohesive.  (Dairy free note:  Don’t worry if it looks a little greasy at this point)

Remove from heat and cool 2-3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to a smooth dough between each addition. (I mix by hand, in the pot, with a wooden spoon.  You can use a mixer, if you prefer.)

For cream puffs, use two teaspoons and shape into small balls. For éclairs, use a pastry bag and pipe into 4″ logs onto a parchment lined baking sheet, making sure to leave plenty of room between each. (They puff up a Lot.)

To make swans: (picture coming as soon as I find it!)
Make bodies in the same manner as cream puffs (but slightly larger).  For heads/necks, use a pastry bag to pipe question-mark shapes on a second baking sheet.  (Make a few extras, in case any break.)  To assemble, slice “body” puffs in half horizontally and fill bottom half with cream filling.  Slice remaining tops in half vertically.  Poke a “neck/head” piece into the filling so it stands up.  Place 2 halves of puff tops on the cream filling like folded wings.  (a Google image search for “cream puff swans” will yield a plethora of examples!)

Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes (until slightly brown on top).

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

This recipe can be doubled!

Note: It is essential to either line your baking sheet with parchment, or butter it well. These will stick to the sheet otherwise, and you will lose the bottom half of each one. I recommend parchment—easy cleanup!

 Filling
1 cup whipping cream 
sugar to taste (powdered sugar works best)
Beat together on high speed until stiff. Refrigerate.
(Optional: fold whipped cream into one prepared box of vanilla pudding)

I have yet to find a really good dairy-free whipped cream substitute.  RiceWhip holds its shape decently, and tastes okay.  HealthyWhip (made by the same company that makes Mimicreme) is amazing in pies, and might be good in these also.  A homemade dairy-free pudding would be lovely, too.

Optional Topping
4 oz. good quality semi-sweet chocolate
Melt chocolate in a bowl set over simmering water. Stir until smooth.

Allow pastry to cool. Carefully dip each in chocolate to coat the top. When the chocolate has set, fill each with whipped cream either by splitting each in half with a knife or by pressing a round tip of a pastry bag gently through the side and piping full. Or, fill with cream, then drizzle chocolate over the tops in a pretty pattern.
Once filled, these can be frozen until wanted. (If you can stand not to eat them immediately!)

Other tasty fillings for these lovely shells:

  • Lemon Curd, Butter and Whipped Cream
  • Butter and JamFruit and Whipped Cream (like shortcake)
  • Egg Salad, Tuna Salad or other savory, even Taco Salad
  • Ricotta cheese, mixed with Meyer lemon juice, zest, and a touch of sugar

Enjoy!
~With love, from your Valentine!

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I love to cook!

Being in the kitchen, surrounded by flavors, scents and textures is an experience that is at once envigorating and relaxing for me.  I like to try new things, and I like old “standards” that can be depended on to always come out right.  For me, cooking is like music or art–creative expression. 

I am often thankful that God made so many different foods!  When you have to make radical changes in your diet (as my family did a few years ago), you are doubly grateful for the “interesting” foods most Americans have not heard of.  “Weird food” becomes everyday normal, and in the process, your appreciation of God’s creativity and bountiful generosity expands! 

Anyone who lives with a restricted diet either eats the same five things all the time, or does a lot of experimentation in the kitchen.  When a recipe turns out great, we revel in the enjoyment of it.  When an experiment goes awry…we laugh and say, “that was interesing…on to something else!” 

Have you heard Laura Story’s song, “Blessings”?  Part of the chorus says “What if Your blessings come through raindrops…What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?”  Having to radically change one’s diet is a difficult trial, but through those “raindrops” comes the incredible blessing of discovering a wealth of foods you may not have ever experienced otherwise!

Case in point….Buckwheat.

Have you had it?  Outside of a pancake?  It’s a pretty neat grain.  Contrary to it’s name, Buckwheat is not wheat.  It is a gluten-free grain!  Buckwheat groats can be toasted (called kasha) and eaten as a hot cereal, or they can be ground into flour and used in baked goods.  Using Buckwheat flour alone, or mixed with other gluten-free flours, I have made delicious bread, crackers, and muffins! 
The result of my most recent foray into the Buckwheat Realm was these noodles….

One of my favorite food-related memories has its roots at the Oregon State Fair.  My parents and I would go to the Fair every year, and our lunchtime tradition was to acquire warm paper plates piled high with yakisoba noodles and delicious lemony chicken, an elephant ear or two, and some cold lemonade and sit down to enjoy!  Some years we chose a spot at one of the long outdoor tables and listened to whatever act was performing on the stage (I recall several bluegrass bands, a troupe of square dancers, and a hypnotist).  Most times, however, we chose to retire to the quiet calm of the nearby horse arena and watched draft horses pulling sleds, or tiny ponies pulling carts.  It was always a relaxing, enjoyable time. 

Ever since we started cooking gluten-free, I have wanted to recreate that Lemon Chicken.  I was thrilled to learn that soba noodles are traditionally made with….you guessed it!….Buckwheat!  Off I scampered to an Asian market!  Only to be disappointed, because nearly all the soba noodles commercially available are made with mostly wheat flour.  Some didn’t contain any Buckwheat at all!  😦

Well….Yakisoba got put on the back burner for a while, while I tackled other experiments like Strawberry Shortcake, Pie, Cream Puffs, Bread-Worth-Eating, and Pizza. (among other things…)

Here we are, 8 years after beginning to experiment with gluten-free cooking with my family, and about 2 years after having to completely eliminate gluten from my own diet….revisiting Yakisoba.

This makes me smile.  I cannot tell you how much. 🙂  🙂  🙂

These noodles are yummy.  They are chewy, and take on the flavor of whatever sauce you dress them with.  They are a first attempt experiment, which means they’re not perfect…yet.  But they are a beautiful beginning!

Making these noodles takes time and energy.  It took me about three hours from mixing flours to boiling noodles.  The good news is, the recipe makes a LOT of noodles, so the next batch will be super fast!

I read a lot of recipes before deciding to try making soba.  I watched a lot of chefs on Youtube.  Finally, I decided to just go ahead and try it!

Most recipes called for buckwheat flour, with a little wheat flour added.  I decided to use a little gluten-free flour mix I had on hand (thanks to my lovely sister who mixed up a big batch at Christmas time for our baking!) to replace that wheat flour. 

I mixed the flours by hand.  Most of the chefs I watched do it that way, and it is fun!  Be aware, Buckwheat sticks to the skin as tenaciously as Pacific Northwest sand.  It took me a few minutes of washing to be rid of all the tiny particles clinging to my hands!

Ordinarily, I’d have measured all the ingredients by weight, since that is a much more accurate way to cook than using volume.  However, I didn’t have the right size battery for my kitchen scale, so I had to resort to the “before-I-knew-better” method and measure with cups.  🙂

Next comes the kneading!  This is the part that is incredibly relaxing, provided you don’t mind getting VERY sticky!  I couldn’t take a picture because both my hands were mired down with gooey dough.  Imagine the mudpies you made as a kid, mixed with sand.  Kinda like that!

Just when you begin to despair of ever having anything dough-like…it miraculously all comes together!

The dough feels amazingly soft and pliable…reminiscent of brand-name playdough (but not so smelly, and gluten-free!).  I had so much fun working with it!

Time to roll the dough!  Really take the time to roll this as thin as you can, and you’ll be happier with the noodles.  You’ll also make more noodles than if you leave the dough too fat.  After the dough is rolled into a rectangle, you can fold it up to make cutting easier.  (I recommend watching a video of a chef doing this.  It is much easier to understand than written directions!)

Even after rolling the dough thicker than I should have done, and cutting my first set of noodles a bit wider than I wanted, I still ended up with oodles of noodles!

I cooked some of them right away, but I dried the rest on a clean sheet in the guest bedroom.  I spread them out all over the sheet and left them until they were completely dry (about 12 hours).  Then I gathered them up into a gallon-sized baggie to save for later!

To the freshly cooked noodles, I added mushrooms, scrambled eggs, garlic, ginger and onions, with a splash of gluten-free soy sauce and a dash of red pepper flakes on top.  Delicious!

Next time, Lemon Chicken! 🙂

Buckwheat Soba Noodles

Ingredients:
4.5 cups buckwheat flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1.5 cups gluten-free flour mix (I used the recipe in Silvana Nardone’s book, Cooking for Isaiah.)
1 cup Potato Starch (plus extra for dusting kneading surface)
2 cups hot water

Method:
1.  In a BIG bowl (you need lots of room for mixing), mix together the dry ingredients with your hands (or a whisk)
2.  Add about two thirds of the water and mix with your hands (or a spoon, if the water is too hot at first).  You want to make sure all of the flour is moistened.
3.  Add the rest of the water and knead like crazy!  The kneading process takes a long time.  Take handfuls of dough and squeeze them, then break up the dough into pebbles.  Squeeze and press, squeeze and press.  At first, the dough will seem too dry.  Then, all at once, it may seem too sticky!  Persevere.  Squeeze, press, start to bring the dough together into a ball.  Keep kneading!  After a while, it will become a beautiful, soft dough.  When it becomes enough like a ball to stay together, turn the dough out onto a surface dusted with potato starch and knead a bit more until it is lovely and soft.
4.  Separate the dough into 4-6 balls.  Return all but one to the bowl and cover them with a damp cloth to prevent drying.  Roll the dough into a rectangle, about twice as long as it is wide and 1/8 inch thick. 
5.  Dust the top of the dough with a tiny bit of potato starch and fold in half lengthwise (the “hot dog” way).  Dust with more potato starch and fold again, widthwise (the “hamburger” way).  Depending on the size of your dough, you can fold again if desired.
6.  Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 1/8 inch wide strips.
7.  If cooking immediately, add pasta to plenty of boiling, salted water.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, until al dente.  (Noodles should be slightly chewy.  Be careful to not overcook or they can fall apart in the water!)
8.  If drying noodles for later use, spread them out in a single layer and leave until completely dry.

Enjoy!

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