King Arthur Cookie Mix

IMG_8041I love chocolate chip cookies.

No, really, I LOVE LOVE LOVE chocolate chip cookies. You get the point.

Cookies are my weakness….and brownies too, but that’s for another experiment.

It’s a real bummer that I’ve taken it on myself to try all the different cookie mixes and review them. Oh darn…. 😉

Today, I decided to try the King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Cookie Mix. It’s base is rice flour blend, which I’m learning is my favorite gluten-free blend.

The was as easy as any other mix…pour in a bowl and add a bunch of stuff to it. The recipe called for 1/2. butter/oil, which I substituted 1/4 c. applesauce for half of the oil. The mix is a cookie mix, so you can technically add up to 3 cups of your favorite mix-ins. I was thinking this recipe would be great with walnuts, cranberries, and white chunks. But I didn’t have all that and was in the mood for chocolate.

So, chocolate chip cookies was the final out come. I used the Enjoy Life dairy-free chocolate chunks.

Final verdict on the cookies: PURE AWESOMENESS! Excellent fluffy cookies without the “gluten-free” flavor. Basically, it tastes like the ‘real thing.’

These are not sugar-free, but they taste great for the occasional gluten-free treat. I do NOT however, like the price for the mix. Ugh! I think its was over $4.50! Ah, all for the sake of the blog… 😉  Back to my quest for the perfect homemade flour blend!!! 🙂

Kelly

Step by step: How to make homemade Rice and Oat Flour

Making homemade Oat and Rice Flour….let my mistakes be to your benefit! No, honestly, it wasn’t that bad. Here are some step-by-step directions, with pictures, to show you how easy it really is.

IMG_8026Step 1: Gather all your supplies. Food processor or blender, rice and oats. I used jasmine rice but I think next time I’m just going to use regular ol’white rice. Let’s start with Oats. Pour in Gluten-free Oats into processor and hit “on” button.

 

 

 

IMG_8028Step 2: Pour ground oats into a container, label, seal, and store in a cool, dry place. I put mine in the freezer.

 

 

 

IMG_8029Step 3: Pour rice into food processor and hit “on” button.

 

 

IMG_8030Step 4: Realize that the food processor really isn’t the right tool to grind up the rice. Not sure why…..Anyways, stand back and scratch your head and look around the kitchen for another tool. I used my hand wand mixer. I think the Nutribullet would’ve handled it too.

 

 

IMG_8031Step 5: Take the hand wand mixer out while still running and spray rice all over the kitchen. (note: you are welcome to make this step optional. It’s only recommended for the die-hard kitchen cleaner types.)

 

 

IMG_8035Step 6: Finish grinding rice and pour it into a container, label, and store in cool, dry place. Again, I store my in the freezer. This helps it from becoming rancid.

 

 

 

IMG_8037Step 7: Enlist a munchkin to help clean up from problem on Step 5. Thankfully, (or weirdly) he loves the taste of raw rice and was happy to help.

 

 

 

*Update since trying this: I found that my Nutribullet, using the grinder, worked AWESOME on the rice

Happy Baking!!
Kelly

Making homemade flours

Another wonderful gift I received for Christmas was a food processor. I got this from my 4 wonderful children and husband. (LOVE! XOXO!)

Since we are a family of six, on a budget, I like to keep our food costs down. I’ve mentioned before that buying pre-made mixes and flour is expensive, but it is still cheaper than buying a pre-made gluten-free product. So I justify it, to a certain extent.

My quest has been to start making my own flours. Before I got my fancy new tool, I was limited on the flours I could make. Oat Flour was super easy and my blender could handle grinding it up small enough to bake with. But I was limited on the other flours I could make.

….until now….

I’ve been researching making how to make my own rice (brown and white rice!) flour, bean flour, almond flour, etc…. and what exactly to do with it all to make a product that my family and I would want to eat. (More to come on all that…)

So, I’ve made oat flour —EASY!

And now, thanks to my new food processor, I’ve moved up to making my own rice flour! I’m off to Sprouts to buy some bulk rice, and from everything I’ve read, making the flour is as easy as: pouring the product in, hitting “on,” and storing in the cool place until used.

Anyone else experimenting with homemade flours?

Experimenting the gluten-free way

Baked goods in my house go way too quickly. I don’t make them all the time, but when I pull out a batch of chocolate chip cookies…forget it…it’s gone by that night. Yes, six people really can eat 24 cookies in a day! So, I save the baked things for special times, or when I’m feeling in a “sweet kind of mood.” (um, yes, women, you understand!)

Since September of 2011, I’ve been experimenting with various different gluten-free flours and baking mixing. I shared with you about Pamela’s, which is my first go-to choice for mixes. But I try to have an open mind.

When we started our adventure, I baked solely with coconut flour. I liked the flavor and texture of the finished product, but hated the fact that coconut flour required so much liquid and eggs!

So, I slowly started moving to almond flour. My husband loved my baked goods with almond flour, but he’s a “fat lover”…and I’m a “carb lover.” So whenever I ate an almond flour cookie, I was left unsatisfied.

After almond flour, I was discouraged and just started following other peoples ideas from their recipe books. I also discovered the line of Bob’s Red Mill products. I realized very quickly that I hated the Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free products. I couldn’t figure out why. Then recently, I realized, it was the sorghum flour that I dislike….VERY MUCH SO! *bleh!* Apparently, I’m the only one in the family that can taste the sorghum flour.

Anyways, I have gotten away from Bob’s Red Mill and started experimenting with Pamela’s, King Arthur, and also Betty Crockers Gluten-Free line. I have learned the flavors that bake up nicely, have a great texture, and also have a wonderfully great taste! I noticed my top picks for all my pre-made mixes all have “rice-flour blend” for the base. I think I need to readjust my thinking on flours!

Whenever I try out a new mix, these thoughts go through my mind:

  1. Does it taste like the wheat-flour alternative?
  2. Does it bake nicely?
  3. Is it easy to make?
  4. Does the smell in my kitchen make me want to devour every last bit of it?

If I answer “yes,” to all the above, it get the “Kelly Seal of Approval.”

From trying the pre-made mixes, I have learned what I like to bake (and EAT!). The pre-made mixes can be expensive, especially for a family of six. I feel like all of our experimenting has helped me learn the World of Gluten-free….so maybe my next mission will be to make my OWN gluten-free flour blend!!

But everyone has different taste buds and cravings.

Would love to hear your favorites!!

Kelly

(picture from: whats4dinnertonight.wordpress.com)

What’s THAT?: ‘Xanthan gum’?

I am fairly new to having this in my pantry. I bought my package back in September…I think…and even though I’ve been slowly using it (when the recipe calls for it!), I still have most of the package left. That is because when a recipe calls for it, I only have to use 1/4 teaspoon or less!

So what in the world is this stuff?

Xanthan gum is a fancy little ingredient that food companies put in products to make the ingredients bind together. It’s in salad dressing, crackers, chewing gum, toothpaste, spices, ice cream, etc, etc. You get the point? It’s everywhere!

In short, it’s the sticky stuff that holds your food together.

Why is it in your pantry?

Well, in regular wheat flour baking, gluten holds the bread, muffins, etc. together. But in gluten-free baking, there is not much holding the baked product together. By adding xanthan gum, it helps stabilize your cookies and make them chewy…without all the crumbs.

How much do I use?

One of my books, “Simply Sugar and Gluten-free” by Amy Green, says: “My general rule for using xanthan gum is 1/4 teaspoon per 1 cup flour when making cupcakes, cookies, and muffins, and 1/2 teaspoon per 1 cup flour for cakes.”

If you add too much to your recipes, you will end up with a rubbery sort of mess. So it’s kind of a chemistry project!

Kelly

Pamela’s Gluten-free mix products

I’m not big on buying premade gluten-free stuff. I do buy the boys gluten-free animal crackers for school, but that’s about it. In August, on a trip to Colorado, I discovered Pamela’s Baking and Pancake mix. And oh my gosh, it is the…BOMB! 😉

It is more expensive than regular wheat baking and pancake mixes, but for a gluten-free mix this stuff tastes and acts very similar to wheat products. And it’s still way cheaper than buying the products pre-made. You can get it in most stores, but I buy it from Amazon (3- 4lb bags for $47.49). It lasts our family of six about 4 months. I make cookies, pancakes, waffles, and muffins with it.

Pamela’s has another product I’ve been really enjoying….especially lately!….Gluten-free Bread mix. Our family doesn’t eat much bread, but it is nice to have a bread mix around for the occasional “hey, I feel like a PB&J today.” The bread made from this is awesome! It holds up really well, and in a tastes test against regular white wheat bread, I bet I could fool you! 😉 Anyways, I want to try to make pizza crust with it sometime. More to come, I guess!

(No, I don’t get paid commission by Pamela’s…I just really love their products!!) My last recommendation is Pamela’s Chocolate Brownie Mix. Another great product with great results. This is great for the quick “Oh no, I’m suppose to bring a dessert!” mix. Two great things about this product: 1. No sugar. It uses honey and molasses; 2. On the packaging there is several different options to make up the brownies. If you want less fat, follow this direction. If you want egg-less, follow this direction. If you want cake-like, follow this direction…and so on. Anyways, great product. Love, love me some chocolate brownies!!

Happy Baking!

Kelly

Emergency Turkey Day Kitchen Substitutions

This handy chart came across my email from WearEver. I thought it was helpful and useful, and wanted to pass it along.

Enjoy!
Kelly

Cooking Emergency 411:

1 cup honey = 1 1/4 cups sugar + 1/4 cup liquid

1 cup whole milk = 1/2 cup evaporated milk + 1/2 cup water

1 tsp. lemon juice = 1/2 tsp. vinegar

1 cup butter = 1 cup margarine or 7/8 cup vegetable oil

1 cup yogurt = 1 cup buttermilk

1 Tbsp. flour (for thickening) = 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch or 2 tsps. quick-cooking tapioca

1 cup buttermilk = 1 or 2 Tbsps. lemon juice or or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup

1 Tbsp. fresh herbs = 1 tsp. dried herbs

1 square unsweetened chocolate = 3 Tbsp. cocoa plus 1 Tbsp. shortening

1 tsp. baking powder = 1/3 tsp. baking soda plus 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

1 cup all-purpose flour = 1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup brown sugar = 1 cup white sugar plus 2 Tbsp. molasses

1 egg = 1 heaping Tbsp. soy flour plus 1 Tbsp. water

1 cup self-rising flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tablespoon of dried minced onion = 1/4 cup raw minced onion

Happy Thanksgiving….2009!?!

Two weeks from today is Thanksgiving. The holiday is meant to be a time of Thanksgiving—meaning giving THANKS for the blessings God has provided for us.

Thanksgiving also means a time a feasting (a.k.a. over eating), watching football, time with family and friends, and parades (my hubby hates watching parades, so I had to throw this one in because I love watching them!).

Whether your Thanksgiving is just you or 20 family members and friends. Or if you celebrate with a “tofu-turkey,” regular ol’ turkey, fried turkey, tur-ducken, or whatever….chances are we all will bond on that day with the same old feeling after indulging in a large meal: naptime!

I have been host of our family’s Thanksgiving for several years now. It’s a wonderful time to have all my side of the family stayin’ cozy in our house and eatin’ lots of good food. Our Thanksgivings have changed over the past few years. I am a geek and have actually kept my menu planning notes from all the Thanksgivings I’ve hosted. (Please don’t make fun of me…) I decided to share a few:

Happy Thanksgiving 2009

Menu:

  • Turkey with stuffing (oven baked with skin on and stuffed with Pepperidge Farm Stuffing.)
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Green bean casserole
  • Rolls
  • Carrots (probably soaking in butter…)
  • Sweet potato pie (the ones with the marshmallows)
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Pumpkin Cheesecake
  • Schwans Pecan Pie (*gringe!*)
  • Pumpkin cookies

The menu probably wasn’t much different than most Americans.

Well, in 2011, I decided to change it up a bit. Our menu looked a little different because Shawn and I had made some diet changes. It really would’ve been a great blogging opportunity…”How to Celebrate Thanksgiving without Several Traditional Items on the Menu.” I checked first with the family to make sure it was okay to change it up. They all said they were okay with it, so I pushed forward:

Happy Thanksgiving 2011

Menu:

  • Turkey (oven roasted without stuffing)
  • Mashed potatoes with gravy (using arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch)
  • Sauteed green beans with onions
  • Butternut squash
  • Mashed sweet potatoes (minus the sugar and the marshmallows!)
  • Cranberry sauce (using maple syrup for the sweetener)
  • Cranberry bread (using coconut flour)
  • Pumpkin pie (using a grain-free crust)

The point wasn’t to buck-traditional items and make them taste funny, it was to see if I could do it. It was my personal challenge: could I really make a healthier Thanksgiving dinner that tasted awesome.

My personal feelings on Thanksgiving and eating off the normal diet has not changed. I believe it is okay to have one day, or meal, of indulgence. It is the continuous indulgences that make the scale go up…not just the one special Thursday meal.

I have two weeks to plan the big day, and I plan on continuing my personal challenge, to make a healthier Thanksgiving dinner.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving?

Kelly

 

Recipe: Granola Bars

Today, I decided to catch up on some baking. The kids were happily eating lunch, so it was my quick 5 minute “window of opportunity.” (If your a mom of young kids, you know exactly what I’m talking about!)

I had checked out from the library “Happy Herbivore” by Lindsay Nixon. I found several recipes in the book that were easy to whip up and were quite tasty. However, sadly, the book had to be returned after 3 weeks.

A few months later, Amazon came up with a suggestion for me to buy (isn’t that convenient for them?) “Everyday Happy Herbivore: On the table in 30 minutes or less!” by Lindsay Nixon. Well, Amazon won that day, and I purchased the book.

I’ve tried several things from her book so far. Tonight I’m making the Veggie Lo Mein. But by far, my most favorite thing from her book has been the granola bars. I cannot say enough of how EASY these were to put together, stay together, healthy, tasty, yummy, fast…..should I go on? I would really have to challenge these bars against Chewy brand on taste. (They are similar in texture and taste to the brand.)

Today, I made three different flavors in about 15 minutes (plus, baking time). I’m not about spending all day on recipes unless it’s in a crock pot. 😉

The recipe calls for “instant oats.” If you don’t have instant oats or want to use rolled-oats, the chefs notes on the page say “you can send rolled oats through your food processor [or blender] to grind them down into instant-oat consistency.”

Another item I used in my granola bars was the Enjoy Life chocolate chips. They are soy, nut and dairy free. (If you go to their website you can download a coupon for $0.55 off one of their products.) I like using the chocolate chips for a number of reasons, but one is that they don’t melt as much when baking as regular chocolate chips. The taste pretty much the same, but I think because they are lacking dairy, they don’t melt like regular ones. Anyways, they hold up really well in the granola bars so they don’t make a gooey mess.

Anyways, long intro, but here is the recipe! Enjoy. 🙂

Granola Bars (taken from “Everyday Happy Herbivore” by Lindsay Nixon p. 23)

  • 1 c. instant oats
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 Tbsp agave nectar
  • 2 Tbsp chocolate chips
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp raw sugar (optional: I didn’t use it…it was plenty sweet enough)

1. Stir all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. They will appear too dry at first, by they’re not—keep stroking

2. Once combined, let the batter rest while the oven preheats to 325F

3. Grease a bread pan [or use parchment paper] and pack mixture down firmly and tightly

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden, firm, and light brown around the edges

5. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before cutting

Variations:

1. Peanut Butter Granola Bars: substitute 1 tablespoon of peanut butter for 1 tablespoon of applesauce. Combine peanut butter with applesauce and heat in microwave for 10 seconds so peanut butter softens. Whisk together and use as directed.

2. Use dried fruit instead of chocolate chips. Today I used dried cranberries.

Makes 5

Recipe: Vegan Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins (or Bread!)

Last week, a good friend of mine challenged me to find or come up with a recipe using cranberries. I have to admit, in the past, cranberries have never been my favorite. I have always passed over the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving feast. Even laced with huge amounts of sugar, they still tasted too tart for me.

Well, all that has changed, and I have actually learned to love cranberries! Last Thanksgiving, I did without the sugary cranberry sauce and made a pretty awesome Roasted Maple Syrup Cranberry sauce. Anyway, that’s for another time…. 😉

So, my challenge: recipe using cranberries!

A friend of my friend (follow me here….) sent a recipe to me for Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins. It really looked great and very tasty. But alas, it called for “2 cups of sugar, white flour, oil, and eggs.” The title of the recipe really drew me in….cranberries and pumpkin….ahh! it just sums up this whole fall season! I knew I had to make it so my family could eat it.

I decided to use spelt flour. Spelt is an ancient wheat and is closely related to wheat. It also is equally measured in recipes to wheat. Our family has mostly avoided spelt because of it’s close ties to wheat and it does contain gluten. But, I decided to use this recipe as an experiment of tolerance. (I plan on remaking this recipe, in the future, using a true gluten-free wheat-free flour alternative.)

Vegan Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins (or Bread!)

  • 3 cups spelt flour
  • 1 T. cinnamon
  • 1 t. nutmeg
  • 1/2 t. cloves
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 cup stevia/cane sugar mix
  • 15 oz. canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1/3 cup oil (I used coconut oil)
  • 4 T. chia seed gel
  • 1/2 c. orange juice
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped

1. Chop up the fresh cranberries and soak them in the 1/2 cup orange juice for 20-30 minutes. This will help lessen that tartness of the cranberries.

2. Mix together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together canned pumpkin, applesauce, oil, and chia seed gel.

4. Blend together wet ingredients and dry ingredients. Using a hand mixer or mixer, blend for 2 minutes on medium.

5. Gently stir into muffin batter, cranberries and orange juice mixture. Stir until blended.

6. Pour mixture into muffin cups, makes about 30 muffins

OR

Pour mixture into 2- 8×4 inch loaf pans to make bread.

7. Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes for muffins, or 45-50 minutes for bread. Insert a toothpick to check to see if it’s done.

This recipe does make a lot. With a family of six, left overs is never a problem! But, if you do have left overs and can’t eat this much, freeze them! 🙂 Bake and then store them in a freezer ziplock bags. Defrost them when your ready to eat them.

 

soaking the cranberries in orange juice

 

Waiting for the muffins to be finished

Enjoy,
Kelly