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Archive for August, 2012

I just heard that today is National S’mores Day!  Let’s make some!

What?  You haven’t had a marshmallow in years because you’re allergic to corn?  No problem.  Let’s make some!

After making these marshmallows a couple of times, I really wonder why anyone buys marshmallows.  When you make them, you can have any shape, any size, any flavor, any color you want!  They are pretty easy to accomplish, and taste delicious!  Plus, if you’re making rice cereal treats, you can save time by skipping the whole marshmallow melting step!  Let’s get started!

Corn-Free Marshmallows

You will need:

2 envelopes  unflavored gelatin
8 Tablespoons cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or other flavoring, if you don’t want vanilla marshmallows)
corn-free powdered sugar for dusting (or cocoa powder, for chocolate marshmallows)

You will also need:

a square baking pan, 8-9″
2 large mixing bowls
a large saucepan
an electric hand mixer or stand mixer
a cutting board
a sharp knife or pizza cutter

And now, the fun!

Spray an 8-9 inch square baking pan with non-stick spray, then dust with powdered sugar and set aside.

In a small bowl, soak the gelatin in the 8T of water.  (This is called “blooming”)

Combine the sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a large saucepan and melt over medium heat.  Stir this frequently to encourage melting and discourage sticking to the bottom of the pan!

When the sugar is completely dissovled, add the gelatin, stir to encourage it to melt, then bring the mixture to a boil.

Once it is boiling, remove from the heat.

Carefully (it’s very hot!) pour the contents of your pot into the bowl you will mix in–either the bowl of your stand mixer, or a large bowl (at least 3 times the volume of the liquid).  A bowl with straight sides works best for mixing.

Leave the mixture to cool slightly.  When it has cooled off some, but is still very liquid, add the salt and vanilla or other flavoring.

Now, beat!  Beat with your stand mixer (whisk attachment), or an electric hand mixer until it turns white and doubles in volume.  It will look like marshmallow cream at this point.  This step takes a while, anywhere from 10-20 minutes, depending on the temperature and humidity.  Just keep going, and it will whip up eventually!

When it is ready, pour the cream into your prepared pan.

Now is the hard part…you must wait!  Wait, wait, wait.  Wait until the top does not stick to your finger at all when you touch it.  This can take several hours.  I suggest you make these the day before you need them, so most of your waiting will be done while you sleep!  While you’re waiting, get a large bowl and put about 1/2 a cup of powdered sugar in the bottom.

Once the top is dry (yay!), sprinkle it with powdered sugar.  Sprinkle a cutting board with some more powdered sugar.  Turn the pan of marshmallows out onto the cutting board, and sprinkle the top (formerly the bottom) with more powdered sugar if needed.  Cut with a sharp knife or pizza cutter. (You can cut them right in the pan, but I find this way easier.)  Drop the individual marshmallows in the large bowl and use your hands to mix them up with the powdered sugar.  You may need to add more powdered sugar to make sure all the cut sides are coated.

Now, eat!  Or wait and toast over a fire, or under the broiler in your oven. 🙂

Variations:

For chocolate marshmallows, replace the powdered sugar with cocoa powder.  My favorite is Ghiradelli’s ground chocolate, which is sweetened.

For coconut marshmallows, replace the powdered sugar with shredded coconut and add coconut extract in place of the vanilla (or 1 tsp each coconut and vanilla)

What else can you do with this recipe???  Well….

Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Candies

                                               

Get yourself a candy mold in whatever shape you like.  It should be one that has some depth, because it has to hold chocolate and marshmallow.  In the photo above, I used an egg-shaped cupcake pan, but they were a little big to eat in one sitting! 

Melt some good quality chocolate in a double boiler.  If you want it to look nice at the end, you’ll need to temper it.  To do that, save a little of your chocolate out before you start melting (about 3 Tablespoons, chopped).  Melt the rest, then check the temperature of the melted chocolate.  (it is easiest to do this with an instant-read digital thermometer)  Let it cool until it reaches 90 degrees.  At that point, stir in the reserved chocolate.  From this point on, you must carefully monitor the temperature and do not let it rise above 90 degrees!  If you want to check that the chocolate is “in temper” before you proceed, dip the end of a table knife in the chocolate and place in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes.  Check for a slight shine, firm (not tacky) to the touch, and a little snap when you break it.

Once your chocolate is ready, put a small amount (how much will depend on the size of your molds) in the bottom of each mold and spread (with a spoon or paintbrush reserved for candymaking) around the bottom and up the sides of the mold.  You may need 2 coats.  Let the chocolate harden while you make the marshmallows.  If your candy mold is clear plastic, hold it up to the light and check for any gaps or very thin spots in the chocolate before filling.

When the chocolate is hardened, and the marshmallows are to the pouring stage, pour a little marshmallow cream (again, the amount depends on the size of the molds) into each chocolate shell.  Let the marshmallow set for an hour or so, then cover the top of each shape with more melted chocolate.  (so the marshmallow is completely encased in chocolate)  When the chocolate tops harden, turn the candies out of the molds and admire!

 
Candies, before the chocolate topping was added.

You could also…

Frost a cake!

Make the marshmallows up to the pouring stage.  As you mix, you can tint with food coloring.  Then, frost!  The great thing about marshmallow frosting is, the outside dries out, but the inside stays moist and yummy, which in turn keeps the cake moist and yummy!  The decorations on this Kirby cake are made of marshmallow fondant, using a recipe I found online (you basically knead a lot of powdered sugar into the marshmallow cream, then knead in the colors you want)! 

Or, you could make a sheep!


This sheep uses cocoa powder dusted marshmallows for some tasty wool!

Or a whole flock!

  
Ewe can find the shepherding you need to make these in the book, “Cookies, Cupcakes and Pie, Oh My!” by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson.

Enjoy your marshmallows!  What would you do with them?

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It’s summer!!! 

That means a lot of lovely things like swimming, popsicles, beach trips, or just relaxing in the shade.  It also means a warm house (even with air conditioning, sometimes!), and perhaps not so much energy for cooking.  Sometimes, it’s nice to go out and let someone else cook, right?  However, when you have food allergies, finding a restaurant you can eat at can be more of a hassle than cooking at home, heat or no heat.  A little research before hitting the road will save a lot of time and headache later.  Lucky you!  I’ve already done some of it for you!

Also, it is very important to ask questions.  Ask about subsitutions, cross contamination prevention, ingredients, etc.  The answers are important, but the attitude of the restaurant is equally crucial.  If the server, or manager, seems ignorant or uninterested in meeting your needs, be cautious.  Most places, I have found, are very willing to do what they can to serve you.  They want you to come back!

We don’t eat out too often, as the array of allergies in our family makes it tricky to find a place we can ALL eat, but just recently we’ve encountered a few places that fit the bill for us…

Burgerville

We’ve eaten at Burgerville more than any other fast food restaurant in the past few years, for several reasons.  First, they cook their fries in a dedicated frier, which means they are segregated from the gluten-containing onion rings and crispy chicken.  I like fries, and all of Burgerville’s are gluten free!  Secondly, they buy their meat from clean, local sources.  It is good quality, and free of antibiotics.  Thirdly, they have always been willing to do something special (like replace a bun with a lettuce wrap) to make the food safe for those with allergies.  In addition to all of this, Burgerville has just recently added gluten free hamburger buns!  Yes, that picture up there is a gluten free burger!  And it was delicious!

Taco Bell

Taco Bell isn’t quite as allergy-friendly as other places, but they do have some tasty choices for those who are gluten free.  This salad, for instance, is one of their new “Cantina Bowls.”  They are gluten free, but do contain eggs and dairy.  I just had this option recently, and I was impressed with its deliciousness.  Gluten free diners can also request a burrito without the tortilla.  A favorite in my family is the XXL Burrito, which can be further dressed up at home with extra veggie goodness:

Other gluten free options at Taco Bell are crunchy tacos, rice, and beans.

Cruise In Country Diner

This little restaurant, located in Hillsboro, Oregon, is a great option for gluten free diners.  (If you look them up online, you can see their whole menu.)  Their burgers all have a gluten free bun option, and they also have gluten free chicken strips!  At this time, the gluten free buns do contain dairy, but there is also a lettuce wrap option for dairy free people.  Fries are gluten free, cooked in rice bran oil, and come with free refills (when you get them in your meal basket).  The burgers are so thick and juicy, you may not have room for extra fries, though!  For drinks, their house rootbeer is delicious, and their milkshakes come the old fashioned way–with the mixing container!

PF Changs

For Chinese food, gluten free style, PF Changs is a good choice.  They have quite a few gluten free choices, including a dessert!  When you ask for a gluten free menu, your server also brings a tray of gluten free sauces for dipping/topping.  Your food even comes on a special plate, so you can be sure it is gluten free!  Their whole menu is available online.  If you order the gluten free chocolate cake, be sure to have a friend to share with or plan to take some home; it is incredibly decadent!

Around your town, there are probably many other little restaurants with gluten free options or who would be willing to make adjustments to fit your needs.  A little researching and being willing to ask questions can open up our culinary horizons beautifully!

What’s your favorite restaurant?

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 “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…”

I am bursting with things to say today! This past week has been so full of culinary adventures and discoveries, I’ve had a hard time deciding which ones to write about today and which I can stand to save for later!

To give you an idea of just how much God blessed this cooking hobby of mine, here’s just a part of my list:

-Doughnuts
-Dairy free chocolate mousse
-Mayonnaise
-Breadsticks
-Almond milk shakes
-Fried Chicken

I promise to write about them all, in time!

Today, I’m still thinking about comfort foods, and not forgetting my promise of an easy, homemade chili recipe.

This chili is the product of countless alterations-by-necessity. This makes it excellent for people with food allergies, because you can adapt to fit your specific needs and still end up with a delicious dinner! Sometimes we were missing an ingredient, and improvised with something else. Feel free to experiment!

When we first started making chili, we thickened it with cornstarch. When the need to avoid corn arose, we switched to arrowroot powder. Potato starch or tapioca starch will also work. However, I find that if you fill this up with enough chunky things, it doesn’t really need any thickening at all.

You may notice there are no beans in the recipe. Some of our family are legume-free, so I have never put beans in our chili. Feel free to add some if you like! Before some of us had to avoid corn, we often added frozen corn to replace the “mouth feel” of beans. Corn is tasty, but it’s also good without it.

Now….on to the recipe!

Homemade Chili

Ingredients:
2 boxes (8 cups) of broth (chicken or beef, whatever you like)
1-2 cans of chopped tomatoes (I like Italian tomatoes or fire roasted) OR about 4 diced fresh tomatoes
1-2 lbs of meat (hamburger or chicken)
cumin
garlic powder
chili powder
salt
pepper
cayenne (if you like spicy!)
onion powder

Optional toppings:
diced onion
shredded cheese
sour cream
guacamole

Method:

Cook up the meat in a frying pan. At the same time, warm the broth and tomatoes in a saucepan big enough to hold everything. If you’re using beans, add them now.

When the hamburger is done, drain it and add it to the soup. Now season!

Seasonings are a little tricky, because I never measure…

I usually sprinkle garlic powder and onion powder in a thin layer over the top.
Chili powder depends on your preference, so add some to start–probably about 2 Tablespoons.
Cumin, probably about the same or a little bit more.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Stir well, then taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Let it cook a little while to warm up, then serve.

If you wish to thicken…
I have thickened successfully with about 1/4 cup cornstarch, tapioca starch, or potato starch. They all work about the same. Arrowroot is another option. Introduce the starch the same way you do for gravy–mix the starch in a bowl or shaker with a bit of cold liquid (broth or water) until smooth, then add to the soup while stirring. Keep warming the soup and stirring (to keep the bottom from burning) until thickened.

Enjoy!

PS: You could also add a diced onion to the soup, but I usually save onions and cheese as optional toppings. Or, use salsa instead of diced tomatoes.

This chili is great as a meal by itself, with a side salad and bread or cornbread. Here’s a few other ideas…

“Fiesta” is chili served atop rice and/or corn chips with salad. Similar to “Frito Pie” or taco salad, layer individual bowls with chips, rice, chili, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, olives, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, etc.

Chili dogs!

Mix with creamy cheese (a homemade cheese sauce is best!) for a lovely chip dip!

What do you do with chili?

Which recipe would you like to see next?

…to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!”
(Ephesians 3:20)

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