Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Last weekend was our church Christmas Party/potluck and after much deliberation on what I should take I decided to try adapting a banana cake recipe to be gluten free.  The results were amazing!  The cake was moist and flavorful and the cream cheese frosting was perfect for making this could be snack cake into something a bit more fancy and party worthy.  I used this recipe  as my jumping off point and changed it around to make it gluten free.  Here's what I came up with:

Gluten Free Banana Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon xanthum gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk or sour milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 9x13 inch cake pan. 
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter, white sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in the bananas, sour milk and vanilla. Add baking soda, xanthum gum, salt and gluten free flour.  Mix on low until just combined.  Increase mixing speed to med high for one minute. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until knife inserted in middle of cake comes out clean. Remove from oven, and cool before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Cream butter and cream cheese together until smooth.  Stir in vanilla.  Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until creamy.

Impossible Pumpkin Pie - Gluten Free

  • Pie crust is fine, but I often find myself scrapping half of the filling off of it anyway, so when I can across a no crust needed pumpkin pie I knew it was a must try.  This recipe originally calls for bisquick baking mix which I swapped out for Pamel's gluten free baking mix.  It was so easy to make.  By the time my oven was pre-heated to 350 degrees I had everything mixed and ready to pour into the pie pan.  It's in the oven right now and I'm going to let it set overnight before trying it, but it smell delicious and I am so excited to try it!  
Impossible Pumpkin Pie
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup Pamela's GF Baking and Pancake Mix baking mix
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin puree
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Dump all of the ingredients into a blender and mix until well combined (about 2 minutes).  Pour into a greased 9 inch pie plate and cook for 50-55 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.  Cool before eating.
**Update**  The pie was a success!  I loved it and will be making it again!

PIZZA! PIZZA! October Daring Bakers Challenge

3 years ago this month I was diagnosed with celiac disease.  That means it's been 3 years since I've had a great slice of pizza...until now!  I'm excited to announce that I've found a pizza crust that I love.  So much in fact, that we've had pizza 3 times in the last two weeks.  Hurray for pizza!

I've based my recipe off the one used by Emeril in a recent episode of Emeril Green.  I played with the flour types a little and came up with the following:

Gluten Free Pizza Crust
(makes 2 18 inch pizza crusts)
1 1/2 cup warm water (120 degrees F)  
1 tablespoon sugar  
2 tablespoons active dry yeast  
1/2 cup soy flour  
1/2 cup corn flour  
1 cups millet flour  
2/3 cup instant non-fat dry milk powder  
3 teaspoons xantham gum  
1 teaspoon salt  
3 tablespoons olive oil  
2 eggs

Combine warm water, active dry yeast and sugar in a small bowl and let it sit 5-10 minutes until it's nice and foamy. If it doesn't foam, your yeast is bad and you'll need to start again with new yeast. Spray two large baking pans or pizza stones with vegetable oil and set aside. Combine the remaining dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix well. Add the yeast mixture, olive oil and eggs slowly to the dry ingredients and mix on low until the mixture is well incorporated. Increase the speed to high and continue to mix for 4 minutes.  The dough will be sticky.

Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and divide into two balls. With damp hands gently press each dough ball into a circle about 1/4 inch thick, leaving the edges a bit thicker to prevent sauce from dripping onto the pan. Heat oven to 100 degrees and place pizza crust in the oven to rise for 10-15 minutes until double.
Without removing the pizza crust, turn up oven heat to 400 degrees and cook the crust for 10 minutes (including the time it takes for oven to heat). Remove from the oven and top with pizza sauce and your favorite toppings. Place back into the oven and continue to cook until the crust is golden brown and crispy, 15 to 20 minutes longer. (Note: if the baking pan is not liberally greased, the dough will stick. If this happens, use a flat metal spatula to separate the dough from the baking pan.)
Enjoy and eat often!

Grandma DuPaix's Chocolate Chip Cookies gone Gluten Free

It might seem silly to post a picture of cookies on a newspaper, when in fact, in doing so, I'm actually sharing one of my favorite cookie making tips.  I always place my cookies on newspaper to cool.  I learned this tip from my sixth grade home-ec teacher and after trying everything from dish towels to cooling racks this is the way I prefer and here's why:

Dish Towels:  Growing up we always placed our cookies on dish towels to cool.  This works fine, but the fabric absorbs oils from the cookies which can stain the dish towel leaving even the cleanest dish towel looking dirty and gross.

Cooling Racks:  I registered for cooling racks when we got married.  I'd never used them but knew they were a necessity because all of the great bakers use them.  I quickly learned that cooling racks, with their neat little square grid, encourage crumbs all over your work surface and occasionally leave the bottoms of your cookies stamped with a nice grid design -- not very attractive.  These metal cooling racks are also a pain to clean and when placed in the dish washer on the energy-saver drying cycle can emerge with (gasp) rust spots!  They are also a little awkward to store.

Newspapers:  I know, it sounds so strange to use newspaper to cool your cookies.  First off, newspaper is really quite sanitary coming right off the hot printing press.  I always use the inside section of the paper that rarely gets looked at or touch, like the want ads. The newspaper absorbs any excess oil from the cookies (kind of like dabbing a napkin over your pizza to soak up the grease a eliminate fat), and it contains the cookie crumbs, making it easy to clean up.  

There you have it!  The secret to my cookie baking success.  It's funny, looking back at my observations and opinions you can see that I'm strongly influenced by the ease of clean-up! When it comes to cleaning I choose the path that gets me out of there the fastest! (My family still teases me about always having to go to the bathroom when it was my turn to do the dishes!)

Grandma's Chocolate Chip Cookies - Gluten Free

2/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda mixed with 2 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon xanthum gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups gluten free flour blend
2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Cream shortening and sugars together.  Add eggs and vanilla, beat until fluffy.
Add baking soda, xanthum gum, salt and flour.  Mix until well blended.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.  Drop teaspoons of dough onto cookie sheet 2 inches apart.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Store in an airtight container.  These freeze well.

Gluten Free Triple Berry Crisp

In the Sunday coupon section of the newspaper I found a picture for Triple Berry Crisp along with the website Needing little more encouragement than the grumble in my tummy I headed for my computer. Much to my delight I had all of the ingredients and I set to work on this amazing dessert. I won't be surprised if this finds it's way onto the Thanksgiving's as good as or better than a berry pie and it's so much easier to make. I followed the recipe pretty closely, substituting gluten free when applicable. I also omitted the almond extract and some sugar called for because my berries were sweet and delicious on there own. Here's how I made it:
Gluten Free Triple Berry Crisp

1-1/3 cups frozen blueberries
1-1/3 cups frozen blackberries
1-1/3 cups frozen raspberries
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup butter softened
1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1 cup gluten free quick oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix berries, sugar, cinnamon and corn starch in a large bowl.
Add water and lemon juice. Pour mixture into a 8-inch square baking dish.

Combine butter, brown sugar, quick oats, gf flour and cinnamon
in a medium sized bowl with a pastry blend er until butter is in small pieces. Sprinkle over top of berries.

Bake for 45 minutes until fruit is bubbly and topping is browned. Serve warm or at room temperature. Delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Daring Bakers Challenge: Gluten Free Crackers and Dip

I would have never thought of making homemade crackers if it hadn't been the DB challenge, but I am so glad I did.  These crackers almost taste like wheat thins (one of my favorite crackers that I can no longer eat) and it only took 5 minutes to mix them, roll them and stick them in the oven.  I will be making these again and I'll probably play with the recipe a little to see if I can get them a little closer to the wheat thin flavor I remember -without the wheat. Either way I am happy to have crackers!
Salsa verde is the dip I chose not only because it's gluten free and vegetarian, but it's also one of our favorites.  I don't use a specific recipe - I go by taste.  My friend Concha, who is from Puebla Mexico, taught me how to make this.  I'll try to write down the recipe the next time I make it.

Gluten Free Crackers

1/4 cup gf flour blend
1/4 cup millet flour
1/4 cup minus 1 teaspoon water
1 Tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon salt
salt for sprinkling

Mix until combined.  roll out paper thin between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Lift off top parchment sheet use pizza cutter to cut into desired size crackers. Mist dough with olive oil and sprinkle with salt or other seasoning.  (you don't need to separate them, they will bake into crackers and any still connected are easily broken apart.)  Slide parchment paper with dough onto cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Favorite Gluten Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

In my mind, fall weather and oatmeal cookies are the perfect pair (along with football, sweaters and jackets!)  Growing up I always used the recipe on the back of the Quaker Oats container, so that's where I turned when I woke up in the mood for oatmeal raisin cookies.  Although I can no longer eat Quaker brand oats, (due to cross contamination with gluten) the recipe so easily transforms into a gluten free version you'll cry tears of happy joy.  Seriously, all I did was swap out the flour for a gluten free blend, add a bit of xanthum gum and use gluten free oats. Voila!  C'est Magnifique! (I don't speak French, but if I did that's what I'd say.)

GF Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. xanthum gum
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups gluten free quick cooking oats
1 cup raisins

Heat oven to 350°F. Beat shortening and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; add to butter mixture, mixing well. Stir in oats and raisins; mix well. Dough will be nice and thick.  Drop by rounded tablespoons onto cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes. 

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies - Gluten Free

 I love sugar cookies and have been sorely disappointed in the gf sugar cookie recipes I have tried.  Don't get me wrong, the cookies, for the most part, turned out okay and most had a descent flavor.  That being said, they were nothing like the sugar cookies I made before going gluten free and the dough was usually so sticky that I ended up making drop cookies out of it.   This can be pretty frustrating - especially when you've got your Christmas cookie cutters all dusted off and ready to go!   Not everyone has the same taste in sugar cookies, but mine leans toward a soft cookie that's a little puffy but not flour-y.  I don't like an overly sweet cookie because I usually eat them with frosting, but I do like the cookie to have a great flavor and be sweet enough that I can eat it without frosting if I choose.  And most important, I don't want anyone to say that it tastes gluten free!

I made a goal for 2008 to find the perfect gluten free rolled sugar cookie recipe.  I've been unsuccessful at finding one, so I've created my own.  I think I've found a winner.  If you have the same sugar cookie preference as me, you've got to try this recipe.  Let me know what you think!

Meredith's GF Rolled Sugar Cookies

1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup sour cream (not low-fat or fat-free)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthum gum
1 2/3 cup GF flour blend

sweet rice flour for dusting work surface and rolling pin

Cream shortening, sugar and egg until smooth.  Add sour cream and vanilla and mix. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Scrape down sides of bowl and mix on high for 1 minute.  Place dough in an airtight container and chill in refrigerator for several hours or overnight.  When dough is chilled, liberally dust work surface (I use parchment paper) and rolling pin with sweet rice flour.  Place 1/2 of your dough on the floured surface and dust dough with sweet rice flour. Return unused dough to refrigerator.  Roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut out to desired shapes.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes.  Repeat with remaining dough.  When cookies have cooled, frost with your favorite frosting. Makes about  20 medium cookies.

Sister in Denial...

My sister Angi was diagnosed with Celiac Disease this week.  I talked to her yesterday to see how she's doing.  Our conversation went something like this:

"How's the new diet going?"
"ummm..." uneasy laughter, "my work brought in lunch today so I haven't started my gluten free diet yet."
"Angi, when that happens you have to tell people that you can't eat gluten so that they'll pick up something you can eat."
"But I wanted pizza!"
"You're impossible!"

Complete denial!  She hasn't even posted her diagnoses on her blog - for any of you that know her, that's really saying something!  So Angi, this post is for you.

Gluten Free 101:

First of all, gluten is poison to your body. POISON!  The real deal -  skull and crossbones included! Remember that health movie when they show someone sneeze and they magnify it and show all the droplets in fluorescent colors so you can see where it lands?  Gross, I know, but that is how you have to think of gluten.  It's so easy to get gluten through cross contamination, so wash your hands constantly.  It can get a little crazy when you're trying to feed your baby and feed yourself, but even if you have to wash your hands 50 times a day it will be worth it if it keeps you healthy.  (Keep lotion on hand - all that washing can be brutal, especially in the winter!)

READ YOUR LABELS!  Even if it's a product you've bought before, double check that the manufacturer hasn't changed any of the ingredients.

After saying all of that, being on a gluten free diet really isn't that bad or that hard.  Sure you'll have bad days, but if you live in a state of preparedness those days will be few and far between. To help you get started here are some of my favorite things to eat that are naturally gluten free and can easily be found at your regular grocery store.  I'm only doing this because I love you and don't want to keep seeing you get sick!

Remember the chili you ate for dinner last night with french bread?  Next time try eating it with some crunchy fritos.  I love those with chili!  and they're gluten free!

Quesadillas - I started eating these on my mission and still eat them almost every day for lunch.  Most corn tortillas are gluten free (always check labels on everything) and you can use different cheeses for variation.  My favorites are mozzarella, colby jack and pepperjack.

Refried and black beans - eat with quesadillas

Corn Chips and salsa.  I love the mango salsa from Costco.

Salsa mixed with cottage cheese.  Eat with corn chips.  This is easy to pack for lunch and filling too.

Apples and peanut butter

Fruity Pebbles (check Label)

Dora Cereal Cinnamon Stars (check Label)

Trix (check Label)

Rice Chex

Popcorn, Cracker Jacks

Most Ice Cream

snickers, reeses peanut butter cups, m&m's

String Cheese

Yogurt (check Label)

Rice Crackers and hummus (check Label)

Cozy Shack Rice Pudding (I love this stuff!)

Trail Mix -store bought or make your own (check Label)

Trio Bars, Lara Bars (granola bar type snack)

And of course all of your fresh fruits and veggies! Eggs, chicken, pork, beef etc... Watch out for meats that are marinated.

This is a pretty good list to get you started.  Please don't put it off any longer - your body will thank you!  When you're ready for Gluten free 201: a crash course in gluten free baking, let me know.  I've got all sorts of recipes that you're going to love!!!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake...Plate Optional

Caught red handed with my fork in the cake pan my husband had to take this picture.  My friend Camille posted a recipe for her chocolate zucchini cake and with the surplus of zucchini growing in our garden I knew I had to try making it gluten free.  As you can tell from the picture, it was a success!  This cake is moist and delicious and since it has vegetables in it you can almost not feel guilty going in for another piece.  I swapped out the flour cup for cup with my gluten free flour blend and added a 1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum.  Other than that I followed the recipe exactly.  Here it is:

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup oil
2 cups zucchini, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon  salt
1 1/2 cups
gf flour blend
1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tablespoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients together and bake in a 9x13 in cake pan ( I sprayed it with pan) for 25-35 minutes at 350 or until toothpick comes out clean. Frost with favorite chocolate frosting. 

Daring Bakers Challenge - Gluten Free Chocolate Eclairs

I was so excited to see that this month's challenge was chocolate eclairs.  Eclairs are one of my favorite desserts, and I've made the glutinous version many times.  It has been almost 3 years since I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and started a gluten free diet and it was well past time for me to make a gluten free version of this delectable treat.  The recipe we used comes from the book Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme.  The pate a choux recipe was easily made gluten free by substituting the flour with a gluten free flour mix and adding 1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum.  The pastry puffed up nicely.  The thing that really set these eclairs apart was the chocolate pastry cream.  I usually fill my eclairs with vanilla pastry cream and was anxious to see how they'd taste with chocolate filling.  I was not disappointed.  The chocolate pastry cream was silky smooth and delicious.  I used a combination of Ghiradelli milk and dark chocolate (my husband doesn't care for bittersweet chocolate) I also reduced the sugar by 1/3 since I was using sweeter chocolate.  The flavor is divine!  These little morsels of heaven reminded us of the chocolate pastry "religiouse" that we had in Paris.  I think a dollop of whipped cream on top will make these perfection!

Here's the recipe:
Pate a Choux (gluten free)
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g)gluten free flour mix plus 1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum • 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium
and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wo
oden spoon. The dough comes together very
quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You
need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough
will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
hand-mixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,
beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do
not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you
have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it
should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs or cream puffs.

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with
waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.
The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the
handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the
oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue
baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking
time should be approximately 20 minutes.

Chocolate Pastry Cream 
• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil.  In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavybottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled.  Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium h
eat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an icewater bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it  remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the icewater bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the icewater bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is n
ow ready to use or store in the fridge.

 In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

 Assembling the éclairs:

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the
bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms
with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the tops onto the pastry cream
and wriggle gently to settle them.
Top with your favorite chocolate glaze if desired.

Tomato Spaghetti Sauce

Our garden is bursting with tomatoes and we so love it! I spent the morning making freezer spaghetti sauce from a recipe found in the slow cooker cookbook Fix it and Forget it. My slow cooker was filled to overflowing, and I ended up with several bottles of spaghetti sauce to stock my freezer for the winter. As is, this recipe serves about 6. I usually triple or 4 times the recipe so that I have a lot to freeze.

Tomato Spaghetti Sauce

1 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds fresh tomatoes peeled and chopped
6 oz can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons better than bouillon beef base
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker except for the cornstarch and water. Cover and cook on low 10 hours or high 5 hours. Remove bay leaf. Combine cornstarch and water. Stir into sauce. Cover and cook on high until thick and bubbly (about 25 minutes).

This sauce freezes well. Thaw and reheat over stove or in microwave. Add browned hamburger, veggies, frozen meatballs (Aidell's sun-dried tomato meatballs are gluten free but always check package before buying.) or anything you like and serve over pasta.

Fresh Tomato Risotto

This is one of our favorite ways to use the tomatoes from our garden.  It's a recipe taken from the cookbook Cucina Rustica and is naturally gluten free.  While risotto is a relatively easy dish to make, it is time intensive.  This usually takes me an hour to make start to finish.  The original recipe calls for wine, but since we don't drink alcohol I use additional broth instead. I hope your family enjoys it as much as ours!

Fresh Tomato Risotto
  • 6 cups chicken brothtablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 8 medium tomatoes - peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  1. Heat the chicken broth in a medium size pot or saucepan until it's very hot. Turn off the heat but keep a lid over the broth so that it stays hot.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the olive oil in a heave 2 quart saucepan. Add the onion and cook over low heat until it is tender.  Add the garlic and when it starts to smell fragrant (about 1 minute) add the tomatoes.  Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes break down and form a sauce.  Add the rice, turn the heat to low, and cook slowly until all the tomato sauce is absorbed.
  3. Begin to add the hot chicken broth one ladleful (about 1/2 cup) at a time, stirring frequently. Wait until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next ladleful. Once you've added about half of the broth, add salt and pepper to taste.  Continue cooking risotto adding one ladleful of chicken stock at a time letting the liquid absorb before adding more. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender but still slightly chewy.
  4.  Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, and the basil. Stir vigorously until all the butter and cheese are absorbed.  Serve immediately.

Dutch Oven Blueberry Cobbler

We went blueberry picking a couple of weeks ago at Tammen Farms just south of Joliet, IL.  When compared with the price of blueberries in the store, you can't beat putting forth the effort to pick your own and paying only $1.75 per pound.  We picked 17 pounds in about 3 hours and have been enjoying the fruits of our labors ever since.  

When I  was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2005 I pretty much gave up the idea of eating dutch oven cooking.  For one thing, our dutch oven was contaminated with gluten and since we don't use it very much I didn't think it warranted buying one that we could designate "gluten free".  Secondly, dutch oven cooking is laden with glutinous shortcuts (cake mixes, cream soups, refrigerator biscuits, etc...)  It wasn't worth the effort - until we picked the blueberries.

I knew that many of these blueberries were meant to be baked into a good old fashioned cobbler and I wasn't about to deny them (or me) their mouthwatering and delicious destiny! We came across a cobbler recipe that didn't involve the use of a cake mix.  From there it was a cinch to change.  After triple lining the dutch oven with foil we were all set.  I hope you love it as much as we do!

Dutch Oven Blueberry Cobbler
1/2 stick butter
cake batter:
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups gluten free four
1 teaspoon xanthum gum
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk
Blueberry Topping:
4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoons cinnamon plus more to sprinkle on top
1/4 cup water

Pouring in the cake batter

Adding the blueberry topping

Served up with some homemade raspberry ice cream. YUM!

As an additional note, I've shared this with some friends who wanted to make this in the oven.  I had them use a 9x13 cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.  It turned out great!

The Daring Bakers July Challenge - GF Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

Wow!  This challenge almost got the best of me!  It comes from a recipe found in Great Cakes by Carol Walter.  I was excited to bake a cake made with hazelnuts and chocolate, one of my favorite combinations, but felt pretty overwhelmed by all the steps.  My husband stepped in as sous chef just to help me make sure I didn't forget something! And did I mention the dishes? Even with the use of my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and my electric beaters and my food processor, I still needed them all at least twice so I was washing dishes as fast as I was using them.  But the real test, that first bite resulting from my laborious project, was it really worth it? Will I make this again? I really want to say yes, but in all honesty the jury's still out on this one. The ganache, which I love, was just a little too much for this cake.  The hazelnut flavor was weak and the flavor from the peach glaze was nonexistent.  Don't get me wrong, the cake was delicious, but I can get similar results with a lot less work.  I'm hoping that a night in the fridge will help enhance the flavors so I'll be able to post an update about how amazing this tastes 24 hours later.  We'll see.

Even though this didn't turn out the way I hoped, I learned so much throughout the process and I'm happy that I took the challenge.  Some things I did for the first time during this challenge were clarifying butter, roasting hazelnuts and removing their skin, and making Swiss Buttercream.  Now I won't be so intimidated the next time I come across these things in a recipe (although I'm still a bit scared of the Swiss Buttercream!)

I followed the recipe as direct substituting a gluten free flour blend for the flour and adding a 1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum to the cake batter.  I also did not use any alcohol flavorings and I used a peach glaze as opposed to the apricot used in the original recipe.  You can find the entire recipe here.

Pasta Fresca

This is my spin on the Pasta Fresca dish served at Noodles and Company.  Not only is it delicious, but it's a great way to use some of the zucchini and cherry tomatoes we have growing in our garden.

Pasta Fresca
(serves 4)

8oz GF pasta (I like Trader Joe's organic brown rice pasta)
1 medium zucchini cut into bite size pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 cup baby spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon better than bouillon chicken base
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Get your pasta water going first so that you can get everything else prepared and cooked while the pasta is boiling.  Cook pasta as directed on package.  Steam zucchini for 5-7 minutes (while the pasta is cooking so they finish together.  You could boil you zucchini with your pasta if you'd like, but sometimes it gets a bit mushy for my taste.)

In a saute pan on medium heat, heat oil and add minced garlic.  Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  You don't want the garlic to burn.  Add onion, balsamic vinegar, water, and bouillon. Reduce heat and simmer until onions are soft, about 7 minutes.  Add red pepper flakes.  Season with salt and pepper if desired.  

When pasta is cooked, drain water.  Add pasta, zucchini, tomatoes and spinach to the balsamic vinegar mixture and combine. (Spinach will wilt from the heat). Serve with parmesan cheese.

Cucumber Alert!

Our garden is being overtaken by cucumbers!  While we enjoy a good cucumber now and again we’re running out of ways to eat them.  Vinegar cucumbers makes a refreshing side but gets a little old after serving it 3 days in a row!  Please share your ideas before we run into a cucumber emergency!!!

Santa Fe Quinoa Salad

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) has a very similar size and texture to couscous. This recipe is from Donna Klein's cookbook "The Gluten-Free Vegetarian Kitchen" and it's our go to salad for summer BBQ's and potlucks. It's fresh and flavorful and especially delicious with home grown cherry tomatoes. I follow the original recipe with one addition- the juice of 1/2 a lime. It adds a bit of freshness and brightens up the salad quite nicely.

Santa Fe Quinoa Salad

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup mild or medium picante sauce
1 cup quinoa, rinsed under cold water
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups frozen corn (sweet white tastes best)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 green onions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon canola oil (I don't usually add this)
juice from 1/2 a lime (not in original recipe)

In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine the water, picante sauce, quinoa, cumin, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand 5 minutes. Uncover and toss with a fork.

Transfer to a large bowl and let cool slightly. Add remaining ingredients to the quinoa, tossing well to combine. Serve slightly warm or let cool to room temperature. Alternatively, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days and serve chilled.

Sticky Caramel Popcorn

This ooey, gooey, sticky, and oh so delicious recipe hails from my friend Ellen who happens to be one of the best cooks I know! It's quick and easy too!

Sticky Caramel Popcorn
1 Cup brown sugar
1 Cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter (1 cube)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 Cups popcorn kernels

Bring to boil over medium heat brown sugar, corn syrup and butter. Boil for 1 minute, turn heat to low and add sweetened condensed milk. Meanwhile pop popcorn kernels and place in a large paper sack or very large bowl. Pour caramel sauce over popcorn and shake/stir until caramel is evenly distributed. Store in a covered container.


I'm a bit of a banana snob. I eat a sliced banana with my corn crunch-ems every morning for breakfast and when I take each bite there is a specific flavor that I am anticipating. I won't eat green bananas in my cereal and if there's even a touch of brown on the peel it's past it's breakfast due date. Two things I learned growing up with 9 brothers and sisters are #1 bananas rarely are around long enough to go bad and #2 with 12 mouths to feed there is no wasted food (a mantra that I still live by , much to my husbands chagrin!). I've got a pretty good banana system going for me. Green bananas sit on the table until they reach the perfect yellow shade. At this point I've got 2-3 days (4-5 in the winter) to eat the bananas and then the day I can tell is their last before brown spots appear I peel and freeze whatever is left for smoothies. Because the bananas are frozen at the peak of ripeness sugar is not needed for a delicious smoothie. And don't worry, banana bread is one of my favorites so any banana that starts going brown still has a beautiful ending to look forward to!

Here are my two favorite smoothie recipes:

Banana Berry Smoothie
1 cup milk or vanilla soy milk
1 frozen banana
1 cup fresh or frozen berry of your choice (blueberry is my favorite)

Put ingredients in a blender, mix until smooth and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Smoothie
1 cup mil or vanilla soy milk
1 frozen banana
1 Tablespoon peanut butter
2 Tablespoons chocolate protein powder

Put ingredients in a blender, mix until smooth and enjoy!

DB 1st Challenge - Blackberry Danish Braid

When they say challenge, they ain't kidding! I about bowed out when I saw that we were making a Danish Braid, but being on a gluten free diet has really helped me to come out of my comfort zone and embrace baking challenges. I find it so rewarding when my baking is met with success and when it's not, instead of feeling despair I'm met with a stronger determination to try again. It must be that stubborn streak in me coming out of hiding!

I found this challenge to be immensely rewarding and my fear of pastry dough has even dwindled a bit. My Danish braid was flaky and delicious - an overall success. My only disappointment was that the dough barely rose, but after cooking gluten free for over three years I wasn't really expecting it to! I'm anxious to check out some of the other gluten free daring bakers to see how they fared and what tips I can glean from their experience.

The recipe we used for this challenge comes from Sherry Yard’s "The Secrets of Baking". Everyone doing the challenge was to strictly follow the recipe for the Danish dough and than fill the braid with any topping of your choosing as long as you make it yourself. The only exception is for those on alternate diets who can make slight modifications to accommodate their diet. I swapped out the flour cup for cup with a gluten free flour blend and added 1 tsp xanthum gum. Otherwise I followed the recipe as written.

DANISH DOUGH - Gluten Free
Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough
Ingredients for the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom or pumpkin pie spice
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups gluten free flour blend
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons xanthum gum
sweet rice flour for dusting sticky dough

Ingredients for the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup gluten free flour blend

DOUGH: Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt and xanthum gum with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

BUTTER BLOCK: 1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.

2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Blackberry Topping 1/2 cup water 6 tablespoons sugar 4 1/2-pint containers blackberries, divided

Stir 1/2 cup water and sugar in heavy large saucepan. Add half of berries and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until syrup thickens, mashing berries with back of fork, about 12 minutes. Pour into medium bowl; gently stir in remaining berries. Cover and chill until cold, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.

DANISH BRAID Makes enough for 2 large braids Ingredients 1 recipe Danish Dough 2 cups filling, jam, or preserves

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.

2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.

3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking

1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.

2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.