Pancake Perfection

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Last weekend I had two failed attempts at making gluten-free pancakes from scratch. You’re probably thinking, “How hard could it possibly be to make a gluten-free and dairy-free pancake?” It’s not as easy as one might think, especially when you’re out to make the perfect gluten-free and dairy-free pancake.

The perfect pancake has to have the right amount of fluff, a balance between sweet and not too sweet, and the texture cannot be grainy, rubbery, or any other horrid word that would describe the type of pancake none of us would want to eat, regardless of whether we had food allergies or not. It also has to look appealing, and absorb the butter (dairy-free of course) and the maple syrup just right.

It is imperative that a pancake have perfect texture.

This morning my husband is off  on his second wave of hang gliding lessons so it was a great time for me to tinker with more pancake experimentation.  It bothered me to no end that I had failed twice last weekend at concocting the perfect pancake recipe. This morning I started completely from scratch and went a whole other direction with the ingredients. Sometimes it just takes a little time to figure out which ingredients compliment each other.

Those of you who follow my blog on a regular basis know full well that I am not one to give up.

I’m the person in the grocery store or anywhere for that matter, that will forget anything else on my agenda to give you a half hour pep talk on living allergen free if you’re overwhelmed.

So watch out…I’m the annoying “you can totally do it!” chick stalking the gluten-free isle.

Do not settle for less. Ever. In any area of your life that you are able to improve. 

Perfect Sunday Pancakes

1/4 Cup Tapioca Flour/Starch

1/4 Cup Teff Flour

1/4 Cup Oat Flour (make sure it’s GF)

1 3/4 Cups Brown Rice Flour

1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 scant teaspoon Kosher Salt

1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum

2 Cups “Buttermilk” (Almond milk with 1/2 squeezed lemon, sit 5 minutes) + more almond milk for thinning if necessary

2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (melted, not hot)

2 Eggs, beaten with a fork

1 1/2 Tablespoons Raw Agave Nectar

1 1/2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

Add all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until combined. In a small bowl, add the buttermilk, coconut oil, beaten eggs, agave, and vanilla. Stir. Add to dry ingredients and mix with wooden spoon until combined. Allow the mixture to be somewhat lumpy and set aside.

Heat a large skillet on medium. Coat pan in dairy-free butter. Cook pancakes until they are golden brown on each side, do not over cook.

Serve with dairy-free butter and pure maple syrup.

A Spring Dinner To Remember

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Spring has finally arrived in the form of beautiful, sunny, skies and pleasantly warm weather! We had what seemed like an unusually long winter, but somehow I remember saying the same thing last year… not really sure if it’s true, but I think it is safe to say that we are all definitely ready for some warmer weather and sunlight.

While my husband was taking hang gliding lessons yesterday, I was planning a spring celebration dinner that we could enjoy in the back yard. It ended up being an incredibly gorgeous day and I cannot tell you how nice it was to sit in the back yard, listen to the birds, and soak up as much of the beautiful weather as we could. All of the tree buds are opening up and even the lilacs are preparing themselves for warmer days.

I wish this tree could stay this gorgeous all summer! By this afternoon it will be filled with hundreds and hundreds of honeybees.

I love to sit on the porch and listen to them all.

 This is one of three lilacs that I had to cut way back last year because they were having “issues”.  I was worried that they wouldn’t recover, but it looks like they are going to have a good year. Fingers crossed. I can’t remember the name of this one but it smells divine. It sits right off our back deck and if it blooms like it’s supposed to, soon the entire main floor of our house will be filled with its gorgeous perfume.

This is our favorite tree. It has 4 different stages it goes through to prepare for summer. This stage where it begins to bud, then a flowering stage which isn’t quite as pleasant because although it looks gorgeous…the flowers smell like cat pee at night. The third stage is when the flowers drop and large green leaves appear, and then in the final stage the green leaves darken to a beautiful deep purple that shades our hot tub and hides us from the neighbors.

Last night was the first time I’ve ever had swordfish. Not being a fish lover I was a little apprehensive but it was interesting to me to learn that they hold together well on a skewer as a kabob. Fish on a kabob? Why not!

For some reason “celebration” for me either translates into an array of decadent desserts or Mexican food. Even though it would be wonderful to have an array of desserts for dinner, I figured my husband would probably want a real meal after a work out of hang gliding and then mountain biking. So I came up with a nice little Mexican feast for us to celebrate such a lovely weekend.

Oh yes, I almost forgot…Swordfish is now my new favorite fish!

Swordfish Skewers with Spicy Kumquat & Mango Salsa for Two

For the Swordfish Skewers:

A little over 1 Pound of Swordfish Steak, cubed (about 10 pieces)

2 Pablano Peppers, cleaned and cubed

1 Small Red Onion, cubed

Olive Oil

1 1/2 teaspoons Chili Powder

1/2 – 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced

1 1/2 Tablespoons Cilantro, chopped

Pinch of Kosher Salt

1/2 Lime, juiced

Pat the fish dry and place in a small zipper plastic back. Drizzle with about  1 Tablespoon olive oil. Add chili powder, cayenne pepper, minced garlic, and a pinch of kosher salt. Seal the bag, gently massage for a few seconds and refrigerate.

Next, place the pablano and onion cubes in a large zipper bag. Add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of minced garlic, about 1 1/2  Tablespoons chopped cilantro, the juice of 1/2 a lime, a good pinch of kosher salt, and several grinds of pepper. Seal the bag, gently massage for a few seconds and refrigerate.

After the Swordfish and vegetables have marinated (mine marinated for 7 hours), layer the ingredients on skewers.

Set aside and allow them to come to room temperature. Heat gas grill to 425 degrees. Grill skewers for about 4 -5 minutes on each side until the Swordfish is almost cooked through and vegetables are grilled and crispy on the edges. It will go very quickly.

Top with the Spicy Kumquat & Mango Salsa.

 Spicy Kumquat & Mango Salsa: 

6 Kumquats, each sliced into 8 sections, seeds removed

1 Mango, peeled and cubed

2 Tablespoons Red Onion, diced

1/2 Red Bell Pepper, diced

1 Jalapeno Pepper, seeds and membrane intact

1 1/2 Tablespoons Cilantro, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons Raw Agave Syrup

1 1/2 Limes, juiced

 Place all ingredients in a bowl, stir, cover, and refrigerate. I allowed the fish, vegetables, and salsa to marinate for 7 hours.

Simple Tostadas

4 Corn Tortillas (You really only need 2)

Canola Oil (or whatever frying oil you like)

Kosher Salt

About 1 Cup Shredded Lettuce (I used iceberg because it was left over from the asian chicken wraps)

1 Tomato, diced

1/4 Cup Red Onion, diced

Dairy Free Cheese (I used Daiya Cheddar Style)

Refried Black Beans (I used canned low-fat Rosarita brand)

Pour about 2 cups of the oil in a small saucepan. (Make sure pets and kids are out of the kitchen…I’m sure I don’t have to give you lessons on how dangerous frying in oil can be.) Heat on medium-high. Fry tortillas one at a time until they are crisp and lightly browned on both sides. It only takes about 1  minute per side. Remove to a plate covered with a couple of paper towels. Blot lightly and sprinkle with kosher salt.

**I fried these right before I was ready to serve dinner. If you’re cooking for a larger crowd you can also buy them already crisp (make sure they’re gluten-free) or, you could fry them ahead of time, allow them to cool completely, and then place them in a zipper bag until dinner.

Plate the tostadas and spread a thick layer of beans over the top. Next, add the cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion. Serve with Tabasco and lime wedges.


Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

10 Strawberries

3 ounces of Dark Chocolate (Dairy Free)

Pretty much the easiest dessert on earth and always pretty. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, dip strawberries, and refrigerate until dinner is served. Allow to sit out and come to room temperature before eating. If you don’t, they will stick to the plate.

Lime Margaritas

1800 Silver Tequila (100% Agave)

Lime Juice (I used Simply Lime)

Limes, quartered

Kosher Salt

Granulated Sugar

Crystallized Lime (I used True Lime)

Ice

I’m not sure this can be truly categorized as a margarita. I don’t make a lot of mixed cocktails but of the 3 or 4 I do make, this is my favorite.

In a small ramekin add about 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 Tablespoon sugar, and 1 Tablespoon crystallized lime. Stir to combine and pour on a small plate. Wet the rim of a tumbler with a quarter of lime and dip the rim of the glass in the sugar mixture.

Add ice, I like to fill mine 3/4 full. Add tequila, I don’t measure… but I probably add 2 shots. Fill remainder of glass with lime juice. Squeeze a couple of pieces of lime and leave in glass as a garnish.

Yum!

Asian Lettuce Wraps & Lemon Buttercream Cupcakes

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Love, love, love, lettuce wraps.

This recipe makes a double batch. However, there are only two of us, so if you have a large family of 4 or more, the entire recipe will be perfect. We eat about half and I freeze the other half for another dinner or lunch.

Lettuce wraps are also great for an appetizer party. My aunt puts the meat in a crockpot and just places the lettuce cups next to it. Everyone can serve themselves.

Did you know that PF Chang’s has gluten-free lettuce wraps? They have an entire gluten-free menu if you’re interested. Make sure when you order that you double-check that the condiments they bring to the table are also gluten-free.

Asian Lettuce Wraps

*This recipe is adapted from my aunt, Judy Zumeks’ recipe.

14 Boneless, Skinless, Chicken Thighs (sounds like a lot but they are small – you can also use ground turkey or pork)

1 Green Bell Pepper, finely diced (I had green, you can also use red, yellow, or orange)

4 Garlic Cloves, minced

2 Tablespoons Freshly Grated Ginger

1 Jalapeno, seeds removed and diced

4 Green Onions, thinly sliced

1 8oz Can Water Chestnuts, drained and chopped

 8 Tablespoons Sweet Chili Sauce

3 Tablespoons Fish Sauce (make sure it’s gluten-free)

3 Tablespoons Sesame Oil

7 Tablespoons Soy Sauce (I use gluten-free Tamari sauce)

3 Tablespoons Sriracha Sauce

4 Tablespoons Fresh Cilantro, chopped

Olive Oil

Iceberg Lettuce (or any type of lettuce you like, I like the iceberg because it’s firm and crisp)

In two batches, place the chicken thighs in a food processor and pulse until “ground”.  I thought I had ground turkey in the freezer but I did not, so this is what I settled with and I am so happy I did! It’s incredibly easy to “grind” and less expensive than buying organic ground meat. I will never buy ground chicken, turkey, or pork again.

Place the ground meat (both batches) in a bowl and add the bell pepper, garlic, ginger, jalapeno, and green onions.

Stir to combine. Drizzle the olive oil in a large skillet and heat on medium-high. Add the chicken mixture and cook until meat is done. It will turn a pale color, don’t cook it until it is browned, the garlic will burn and the chicken will be tough. Once the chicken is done, add the chili sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, sriracha, water chestnuts, and cilantro. Stir to combine and simmer for 10 minutes.

This meal was incredibly easy so right after dinner I even had time to make my Lemon Buttercream Cupcakes for dessert. (Of which my husband and I ate 3 each and then were so loaded up on sugar we couldn’t sleep. Two is perfect…three might have been just one too many. But they were so good!)

Welcoming Spring

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I am happy to announce (probably not as happy as you), that you will no longer have to hear me whine about our horrible weather.

What was seemingly an infinite winter, has finally disappeared to wherever winter goes and spring has arrived. We spent the day enjoying every bit of the weather we could with a picnic at our favorite park and a nice walk with the dogs. It was so wonderful to soak up that sun and feel the warm breeze! And I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to hear that tomorrow is even supposed to be better than today!

Because we can finally see a light at the end of the winter tunnel, it won’t be a big deal if we get a little more rain here and there. The hope of sunny days ahead and the taste of today and tomorrow will tide us over, and in a couple of weeks I’ll be planting herbs on the deck and filling pots with flowers. Before we know it, we’ll be relaxing in lawn chairs, sipping cocktails in the backyard, and watching the sun set – one of our favorite weekend evening past times.

In honor of spring’s arrival today, I made us a lovely dinner full of spring colors. Did I also mention it was simple? Incredibly simple, fresh, and delicious. Perfect for the day after all of that Easter indulgence.

(*Serves 2) 

Pesto Bruschetta

6 Pieces of Left Over GF French Bread (This recipe makes 2 loaves. We always eat one fresh and then I freeze the second for bruschetta.)

6 Tablespoons of Vegan Pesto (When making this, I always try to make a double batch so there is plenty to freeze and use whenever I need it.)

About 12 Organic Cherry Tomatoes

About 2 ounces of Sheep’s Milk Cheese

Freshly Ground Pepper

Olive Oil

Balsamic Vinegar

Slice the bread and place on a baking sheet. Broil until toasted. Spoon about 1 Tablespoon of pesto on each piece of bread. Slice tomatoes in half and distribute evenly. Crumble sheep’s milk cheese evenly. Grind pepper on each piece and drizzle with olive oil. Place under broiler when vegetables are placed on grill. Remove when tomatoes are softened and cheese begins to bubble and brown. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.  

Vegetable Kabob & Grilled Zucchini

2 Small Organic Zucchini

1 Organic Red Bell Pepper

1 Organic Yellow Bell Pepper

2 Small Organic Sweet Onions

Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

Garlic Powder

Dried Parsley

Cut peppers and onions into large chunks and place in medium bowl. Remove ends of zucchini, slice lengthwise and add to bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, garlic powder and dried parsley, toss until thoroughly coated. Add to medium-high grill about 6 minutes after the chicken has been added. Add the zucchini a few minutes after the peppers and onions have been on the grill. It cooks very quickly.

Simple Grilled Chicken

2 Organic Chicken Breasts

GF BBQ Sauce

Rice Vinegar with Herbs

Rinse and dry chicken breasts and place in a medium bowl. Drizzle with about 1/4 cup BBQ sauce and 1/4 cup rice vinegar. Stir to coat. Marinate for 20 minutes. Place on medium-high grill 6 minutes before adding the vegetables to the grill.


Happy Easter

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Another beautiful Easter has already come and gone. My mom and our son joined us this year…I only had to cook for 4 people! I’m used to cooking for a crowd on special occasions at our house. It felt a little odd to not have to cook for days in advance, but it was such a nice, relaxing, visit. We were even blessed with a sunny day! Something we haven’t had in a long, long, time.

As we sat at the table gabbing and eating and eating and eating…I was thanking God for how blessed I am. Truly, truly, blessed in so many ways, they are innumerable. I love those quiet moments in your head where you can stop in the middle of the busyness to really take a look around and soak it all in. I hope you all were able to spend this day with some of the people you love.

I thought it was funny that it took me 43 years to realize that I don’t need to do Easter Baskets with that crazy grass that you end up finding in your house for the next two months…this year, I just did gift bags with tissue and it worked just as well. Silly how we stick to certain traditions even though there are parts of them we don’t like (like plastic colored grass). It’s a tradition yes, but we can change it up any way we like and make our own traditions, right?

Kurobuta Ham  (Japanese Black Hog)

This is the second time we’ve purchased a Kurobuta Ham to serve on Easter. Have you ever had one?  They are delicious, they’ve been dubbed the “Kobe beef” of pork. I’ve never had Kobe beef, so I’ll have to take their word for it and honestly, I can’t think of one reason to argue.

I wanted to prepare it the Bartolini Kitchen’s way…however, there were only two of us at the table that care for fennel. So I’ll have to wait until I’m cooking for a bigger crowd to try John’s roast pork with fennel.

I like to slather mine with Dijon mustard and then pack it with brown sugar. They are fully cooked so all you need to do is bring it to room temperature, heat the oven to 350 degrees and cook it for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until a thermometer is almost at 150 degrees. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Twice Baked Potatoes

8 Russet Potatoes

Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

Garlic Powder

Fresh Herbs Of Your Choice (I used a mixture of dried herbs for the outside of the potatoes)

Daiya Cheddar Style Cheese, about 3/4 Cup

Sheep’s Milk Cheese, about 1/4 Cup crumbled

Vegan Parmesan, about 1/8 Cup

Fresh Rosemary & Thyme, snipped

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Pepper

Almond Milk, about 1/2 cup

Place each potato on a square of foil, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, garlic powder, and herbs. Roll up in tin foil and bake at 350 degrees until done. Allow to cool.

Slice each potato in half. I only stuffed 6 and used the innards from the remaining potatoes to add to the filling. I always make 2 extra potatoes to add to the filling.

With a small spoon carefully spoon out the potato filling into a medium bowl. Leave enough potato in the skins so that the potato will stand on its own without collapsing in on itself. Place the skins in a baking dish.

Add the cheeses, rosemary, thyme, salt, and ground pepper to the potatoes. Mash by hand until combined.

Warm the almond milk and add slowly while mashing. Mash them to the texture you like. I prefer mine with a little body.

Fill each shell and bake at about 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until tops are starting to brown.

 I also served steamed, organic carrots and sautéed organic green beans with garlic and wine along with the ham and twice baked potatoes. And it wouldn’t be Easter without deviled eggs as a little pre-dinner snack.

Lavender scented candles set the mood for a relaxing meal.

 Mud Pie (Layered Ice Cream Pie)

3 Pints of Dairy Free Ice Cream

(I prefer Luna & Larry’s Coconut Milk Ice Cream – I used Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge, Dark Chocolate, and Naked Coconut)

2 Boxes of Dairy Free & Gluten Free Dark Chocolate – Chocolate Chunk Cookies (I prefer Pamela’s)

Organic Crunchy Peanut  Butter

1 Ounce of Dairy Free Chocolate, chopped

2 Ounces of Dairy Free Chocolate, melted

Sprinkles

Since I wasn’t having to cook for a crowd this year I hemmed and hawed over all of my dessert choices. In the past when we’ve had larger groups, I’ve made several types of cookies, pies, or cakes. I finally settled on this because it was out of the ordinary – well, out of my “ordinary” for Easter, and I knew my husband and son would love it.

This pie is a bit of a project not because it’s hard, but because it takes time. You need to freeze each layer, which means you either need a long morning or a long afternoon to complete it. I made it yesterday morning, so I wasn’t pressed for time today. You should also be forewarned about the cost. If you’re making this gluten-free and dairy free…it’s not cheap. As you may already know, a pint of dairy free ice cream is about $5.99, this takes three. Then it takes two boxes of dairy free and gluten-free cookies, also expensive. Then there’s organic peanut butter, chopped chocolate… I save this recipe for special holidays and birthdays.

Believe me, it’s worth it.

First, line a spring form pan with plastic wrap.

Next, place the cookies in a food processor and pulse until ground.

Turn the food processor on and drizzle the melted butter in until the mixture begins to come together.

 Spoon the cookie mixture into the spring form pan and with a piece of plastic wrap, press the cookies into the pan, scooting about an inch up the sides. Make sure it is firmly pressed.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer to set. Remove one pint of ice cream, remove the lid, and allow it to sit on the counter to soften for 45 minutes.

Scoop the ice cream in a bowl and stir. Spread onto the frozen cookie crust.

Cover and place in the freezer for 45 minutes.

Remove from freezer and spread with 1/2 jar of crunchy peanut butter. Return to the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove another pint of ice cream and repeat the same process as above.

On this layer (the third layer) chop one ounce of chocolate and sprinkle over the top of the second pint of ice cream that you’ve spread over the frozen peanut butter. Cover with plastic and freeze for 45 minutes. Remove the last pint of ice cream and repeat the process.

 Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, melt 2 ounces of chocolate. Drizzle over the top of the last layer and lightly cover with sprinkles.

Cover and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving. Will keep in the freezer for up to 5 days.

From my family to yours – Happy Easter and many, many, spring blessings to you!

No Bake Cookies – Sweet Satisfaction in a Pinch

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We’ve all had them.

They’re really no big deal, but they are quite tasty.

A simple cookie, made from simple ingredients that most of us always have available in our pantry.

Sometimes I need a little reminder that when I head to the kitchen to make something,

it doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out, adventure that requires 30 ingredients and five hours of my time.

The simple things in life are enjoyable too!

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Oats –  No Bake Cookies

*Makes about 20 cookies, depending on how small or large you like them

2 Cups Granulated Sugar

4 1/2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder

1/2 Cup Non-Dairy Butter (I use Earth Balance Soy Free)

1/2 Cup Almond Milk (I use Almond Breeze Unsweetened)

1 Cup Chunky Peanut Butter (I use organic)

1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

3 Cups Gluten Free Rolled Oats (I use Bob’s Red Mill)

Place a piece of waxed paper on the counter. In a medium saucepan add the sugar, cocoa, butter, and milk. While stirring, bring to a boil and allow to boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat. Add peanut butter and stir until combined. Add vanilla and oats and combine thoroughly.

Working quickly, drop mixture by the spoonful onto waxed paper and allow to cool.

Boule – Another Way

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A couple of weeks ago I decided that I would spend the next few months doing a bread “series”. Trying out new recipes, converting gluten recipes, and trying to find a variety of gluten-free breads that we can all like. The “series” has been a little on the slow slide, but only because there are only two of us and we can only eat so much bread. My goal is to try at least one new bread recipe a week, so hang in there.

Boule, is from the French for “ball”. It is a traditional shape of French bread resembling a squashed ball. It’s a rustic loaf shape that can be made of any type of flour. So I’m thinking that if I took this bread recipe and shaped it into a loaf, it would no longer be Boule. But that’s OK, we can call it anything we like. I decided today while I was eating it with my chicken salad lunch, that it reminds me a lot of the heavier loaves of artisan bread I used to buy in the bakery. Do you know which ones I’m talking about? Similar in texture and weight as the Asiago cheese bread, Kalamata olive loaf, etc. I didn’t really care for it with my salad. It was too heavy but would be fantastic with a nice Merlot, a good olive oil, aged balsamic, and roasted garlic. Will have to put that on my list for our Saturday snack nights in the back yard.

These mini Boule were made from the leftover dough from the other day. It keeps in the fridge for up to 7 days just fine. Another excuse to have fresh-baked carbs right at your fingertips!

Mini Boule

Boule Dough

Olive Oil

Fresh Rosemary

Fresh Thyme

Kosher Salt

 Drizzle a little olive oil in a baking dish or oven proof skillet. Brush to coat bottom of pan. Line with parchment. Scoop out a handful of dough at a time, forming a loose ball (or Boule) and place in the pan starting in the middle. Continue until all dough is used. (If you make a fresh batch of dough, you will have more mini Boule than I did. Mine was leftover dough after making a larger Boule.)

Drizzle each mound with olive oil, sprinkle with Kosher salt, herbs, and cover lightly with plastic wrap to rest in a warm place for 90 minutes.

 At the 70 minute mark, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees and add a small oven proof metal pan or skillet to the bottom of the oven.

When oven is heated, remove the plastic wrap from the bread, place the bread on the middle rack, and add 1 1/2 Cups of hot water to the pan in the bottom of the oven. Close the door quickly.

Allow to bake for 40-45 minutes. You can eat them warm, which I love to do. Who doesn’t love warm bread from the oven? But the ideal texture and taste is achieved when the bread has cooled completely.