Saturday, December 11, 2010

Let Them Eat Cupcakes

It's been a while since I've posted, and it's also been a while since my mad cupcake frenzy. Mad cupcake frenzy? you say. Yes... It all started when our department was hosting an open house. We decided that we would make cupcakes for the open house. Since there are several other people at work who are gluten-free, and because I wanted to be able to have some treats myself, I decided to take that as my challenge--gluten-free, egg-free cupcakes. 3 dozen.

That was followed shortly by my son's birthday. Every mom wants their child to be able to have a cake (or some such substitute) for their birthday. Yet another wheat-free, egg-free cake.

Then, a couple of weeks later, our church honored November birthdays during coffee fellowship after the service. Again, cake.

Add in a batch of experimental cupcakes, and that made 5 batches of cupcakes in less than a month. See, mad cupcake frenzy. Sure, I could have used cupcake recipes from one of my allergy cookbooks, except for the fact that I didn't have all the flours, and didn't have time to track them down. I also wouldn't have the satisfaction of successful experimenting, or a blog post chronicling those attempts.

For the sake of variety, I did three different kinds of cupcakes: Yellow, Devil's Food and White. Here are the recipes:

Yellow Cake

This one could be made vegan, by replacing the butter with a vegan substitute, but it really needs the yellow color, as the lack of egg yolks already makes it pale. If you want it more yellow, and don't mind food coloring, you could add a few drops of yellow coloring with the milk.

2 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1 1/4 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter or margarine
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 4 tablespoons water
1 1/4 cup rice milk

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 24 to 30 muffins cups with paper bake cups.

Whisk together flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat butter or margarine with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds, just long enough to cream it. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until well combined. Mix 1 1/2 teaspoons Egg Replacer with 2 tablespoons water. Add to butter mixture and beat until well combined. Repeat with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons Egg Replacer and 2 tablespoons water. Add dry ingredients and milk alternately to butter mixture, beating after each addition just until combined. This would be a good time to point out that this combination of ingredients tends to be thicker than traditional cake batter, and will tend to "crawl" up the beaters of a standard hand-held mixer. To avoid have cake batter forever rattling around in your mixer, use a sort of in-and-out motion when beating. Or, simple avoid the issue altogether and use a good stand mixer. This is what I'm hoping for for Christmas.

Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full. Again, the batter is thicker, slightly gelatinous (for lack of a better word). It will not "flow" off the spoon as easily.

Bake at 375°F for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in one of the center ones comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Devil's Food Cupcakes

2 1/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 1/2 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 6 tablespoons water
1 1/3 cups cold water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24-30 muffins cups with paper baking liners.

Whisk together flour, xanthan gum, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. A whisk is highly recommended for this; both the flour and the cocoa have a tendency to clump otherwise.

In a large mixing bowl beat shortening with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds, or until it is creamed. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until well combined. Mix 1 1/2 teaspoons Egg Replacer with 2 tablespoons water; add to shortening mixture and beat well. Repeat twice with 1 1/2 teaspoons Egg Replacer and 2 more tablespoons water, beating well after each addition. Add dry ingredients and water alternately to shortening mixture, beating after each addition until combined. See above warning about using a hand mixer.

Spoon into baking cups about 2/3 full. Again, the batter is thicker than traditional cake batter.

Bake at 350°F for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in one of the center cupcakes comes out clean. If using more than one cupcake pan, be sure to rotate half way through to ensure even baking. Cool on wire rack.

White Cake

I'm including directions for both cupcakes and layer cake here, as I made both. I made cupcakes for the coffee fellowship and an actual cake for my son's birthday.

2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening, butter or margarine (shortening will give you a whiter cake, and will also be vegan, assuming you use an all-vegetable shortening)
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 8 tablespoons water
1 1/3 cups rice milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. For layer cake, grease and flour two round cake pans. For cupcakes, line 24-30 muffin cups with paper baking cups.

Whisk together flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening (or butter or margarine) with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds, or until creamed. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until well combined. Mix 1 1/2 teaspoons Egg Replacer with 2 tablespoons water; add to creamed mixture and beat well. Repeat 3 more times with remaining Egg Replacer and water, using 1 1/2 teaspoons Egg Replacer and 2 tablespoons water each time. Add dry ingredients and milk alternately to beaten mixture, beating after each addition just until combined. Again, be wary of the batter "climbing" the beaters if using a hand mixer.

Pour into cake pans or fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake at 350°F for 30 to 35 minutes for cake layers, 20 to 25 minutes for cupcakes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool layers on wire rack 10 minutes, then remove from pans to cool completely. Cool cupcakes completely on wire racks.

For any of these, use your favorite safe frosting. For the devil's food, I used dark chocolate frosting (from a can). For the white cupcakes, I made white frosting and sprinkled them with coarse sugar.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

An Allergy-Free Thanksgiving: Sweet Potatoes

Thanksgiving could be a challenge for someone with food allergies. Think about all the classic recipes: green bean casserole with cream soup...sweet potatoes with a crumb topping...mashed potatoes with flour-thickened gravy...and let's not forget stuffing/dressing.

I'll tackle the sweet potatoes. There are yummy alternative recipes for the rest out there on the net, and in print. Living Without just did a holiday special edition with a whole spread of gluten-free, dairy-free Thanksgiving recipes (sadly, not all of them are egg-free, the major allergen in our house). The Gluten-Free Goddess also just posted a collection of gluten-free, mostly vegan Thanksgiving sides.

Anyway, the sweet potatoes. Our traditional recipe involves a lot of butter, coconut, brown sugar, and a crumb topping. A crumb topping made with flour and nuts. The thing I have noticed about gluten-free all-purpose flour (at least the brand I have been using), is that it sometimes has a, well, beany taste in its unbaked form. Licking the beaters after making a cake is not as sinfully delicious as it once was. I didn't particularly want to stake my Thanksgiving sweet potatoes on flour that might give questionable results in this usage.

With that in the back of my mind, and with an idea from the last go-round with food allergies, I decided to try sweet potatoes with apples. It's a blessedly simple idea, and comes together very fast. I fixed it in the twenty minutes I had one evening between the time I got home, and the time we had to leave for a community Thanksgiving dinner, although the sweet potatoes were already cooked. At that dinner, someone at our table raved about how good the sweet potatoes were, unaware that the harried cook was sitting across from them. I love unsolicited compliments!

Sweet Potatoes & Apples

2-3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cooked
4-5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
6 tablespoons butter or acceptable margarine, divided (I couldn't give up all the butter!)
4 tablespoons brown sugar

While 3 tablespoons of the butter are melting in a medium skillet, peel, core and slice apples. An apple corer-wedger makes quick work of this step. When the butter is melted, add the sliced apples and cook, stirring occasionally until the apples are softened and slightly caramelized.

While the apples are cooking, dice the cooked sweet potatoes. You can decide how chunky you want them. I made them fairly small, because I knew my 1-year-old, 2-toothed son would be eating them.

When the apples are done, add them to the sweet potatoes in a microwave-safe serving dish. Top with remaining butter and brown sugar. Microwave on High 1 to 2 minutes, until sweet potatoes are heated through and butter is at least starting to melt. Stir to coat sweet potatoes and apples with brown sugar and butter.

There you go. Super simple and quick. Yum.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Enchilada Lasagna

Since lasagna is pretty much out (at least without either driving an hour and a half to a Whole Foods Market or spending a fortune in shipping and hoping it gets here in good shape), I've been brainstorming a decent replacement. A craving for Mexican gave me an idea for somewhat of a solution. This won't replace classic Italian lasagna by any means, but it still turned out yummy enough that the kids asked to take it for "cold" lunch.

Ingredient notes: As always, read labels. Most corn tortillas (at least in my experience) do not contain flour, but watch just in case. Go for a minimal ingredient list--usually something along the lines of corn meal (masa); lard, shortening or oil; lime. If using a commercial enchilada sauce, again read labels closely. I used the recipe from Dining on a Dime, mainly because I didn't have any canned enchilada sauce in the house.

Enchilada Lasagna

9 large corn tortillas
4 cups cooked, diced chicken
16 ounces enchilada sauce (homemade or store-bought)
2-4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 small can black olives, sliced or chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8x12-inch pan.

Cover the bottom of the pan with corn tortillas (about 3). They will overlap, and there will be gaps along the edges. This is okay. Spread with 1/3 of the enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with half the chicken and a good handful or two of cheese. Top with 3 more corn tortillas. Spread with 1/3 of the enchilada sauce and sprinkle remaining chicken over. Top with sour cream. It's impossible at this point to spread the sour cream without ending up with a big saucy mess, but try to dollop it to cover as much of the chicken as possible. Top with remaining tortillas. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over all, making sure the top tortillas are at least moistened. Sprinkle 1 or 2 more handfuls of cheese over top, then top with black olives.

Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Let sit for a few minutes after it comes out of the oven to allow it to set up a little. This is good with Spanish rice or salsa rice, and corn.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tuna Casserole

One of my all-time biggest comfort foods is Tuna Casserole. My kids and I can clean out a whole 9-inch square pan, with no leftovers. However, the usual Tuna Casserole presents a problem for our new food-allergy-free diet. Our traditional recipe relies on cream of mushroom soup and egg noodles. With wheat and egg allergies, these are out. I had just about given up having tuna casserole as long as allergies were an issue, until a couple of things came together to inspire a solution.

For the first, my mother (who is low-carb) made a delicious casserole, with a sour cream base, cauliflower, sausage, chicken and celery. Yum. It was good, but it didn't really sink in to me that this was the start of a solution to the tuna casserole dilemma.

Until the second incident. I was on the way back to work after taking DS#1 back to school after a doctor's appointment, when I caught part of a show from our local(ish) NPR affiliate, KCUR (Kansas City, MO), on which Emily Farris, author of Casserole Crazy: Hot Stuff for Your Oven, discussed the 2nd Annual Kansas City Casserole Party. (You can find the podcast of the episode on KCUR's website, under Central Standard.) After listening to discussions of casseroles, including comments from a caller who was gluten-free, I realized that I did still miss Tuna Casserole, but now I had ideas.

Pretty much winging it, I decided it was high time for some kitchen experimenting. To my delight, it turned out delicious on the first try. The kids didn't even miss the cream soup and pasta, and once again, we cleaned the pan (or at least the kids did).

A note on the ingredients. I used Mr. Dell's Hash Brown Potatoes, which has the remarkably simple ingredient list: Potatoes. This could be made more cheaply with home-shredded potatoes, but I went for convenience here. The cooking time may need to be adjusted if you use fresh potatoes. For the potato chips, I used Lay's Classic, which again, has a pretty simple ingredient list. Sour cream and onion chips are also good.

Tuna Tater Casserole

2 cans (3 ounces each) tuna, drained
2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups potato chips, crushed

Put all ingredients except potato chips in a large bowl and mix well, then spread in a 8- or 9-inch square casserole dish. Sprinkle crushed potato chips over the top. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. This will get the hash browns "al dente"; for softer potatoes, cook for a few minutes longer. Makes 4 servings, or 3 if you have hungry boys.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"Ratatouille" Stuffed Peppers

One of the grocery stores had green bell peppers on sale this week, so I picked out three beautiful ones with stuffed peppers in mind. Traditional stuffed peppers, with egg-bound filling, are out for us, so I decided to improvise, using what we had on hand. It turns out we didn't have as much instant brown rice as I had thought, so we went heavy on the veggies. Onions, the tops of the peppers, a delicata squash that was sitting in the fridge, canned tomatoes and garlic. As I was mixing the filling, my middle son said, "It looks like ratatouille." (Yes, I have kids that actually know what ratatouille is, and even like it.) Although it doesn't have eggplant like traditional ratatouille--only because we didn't have any; it very well could--it seemed like as good a name as any. So, here it is, Ratatouille Stuffed Peppers.

Ratatouille Stuffed Peppers

3-4 large, symmetrical bell peppers
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small delicata squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
14 1/2 ounces canned diced tomatoes, undrained
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup instant brown rice, cooked

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut tops off peppers and scoop out the guts. Reserve the tops for later. Place in a steamer basket in a large pot with a little water. Bring to a boil and steam for 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside.

Cut usable parts from pepper tops and dice. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Add diced peppers, onion, squash and garlic, and sauté until veggies are tender. Scoop into a bowl and add tomatoes with their juice and cooked rice.

Arrange peppers in a small baking dish. Fill each pepper with the filling, pressing down slightly. If there is leftover filling, arrange it around the bases of the peppers.

Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until heated through. My kids decided that it really needed cheese, so they sprinkled Cheddar on top, but you could easily forego that and have vegan stuffed peppers. Makes 3-4 servings.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brownies 1.0

I made my first attempt at adapting a brownie recipe last night. It took a while to find a recipe for a fudgy-type brownie that did not call for unsweetened chocolate (which I did not have), but I finally found one that I felt was workable, and, most importantly, I had all the ingredients for.

The original recipe for Cream Cheese Brownies is from one of my favorite (non-allergy-friendly) cookbooks, Gifts from the Christmas Kitchen. It also has my favorite recipe for hot chocolate mix.

Here are my adaptations:
  • Used Ener-G Egg Replacer instead of eggs
  • Used Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
  • Added 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

For a first attempt, it came out pretty good. It probably could have baked a bit longer; to say that it was moist is an undestatement. But it did bear a decent resemblance to brownies, unlike the Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownies I tried to make subbing Egg Replacer. Even DS#1 liked it. This is definitely a starting point, and I will post updates on my quest for good wheat-free, egg-free brownies.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Baking Day!

Now that the weather is a little cooler, I decided it was high time to do some baking. Top of my list: bread and dessert. Both are things I've been trying to find decent recipes for.

First off was the bread. I made a quick bread, Rice- and Rye-Flour Bread. I was a bit dubious when I pulled it out of the oven and the top was an pale ashy blond, with prominent cracks. After it cooled a bit, I took it out of the pan, and the texture of the sides (not crust) was sort of grainy, almost like wheat-germ bread. I waited as patiently as I could before cutting into it. It is hard to wait patiently to try bread, when you haven't had decent bread in several months. When I couldn't take it any more, I cut off a small slice. Whoa. Any reservations I may have had were immediately dispelled. It was delicious! It turned out savory, buttery, which is interesting since there was no butter in it. Yup, truly vegan. I'm thinking this would be good slathered with butter, especially herb or garlic butter. I'm not sure they would hold up to toasting, but perhaps under a broiler for garlic bread. Mmm!

Next up were cookies. For these, I made Oatmeal Cookies.

Let me digress a moment here to sing the praises of my Magic Bullet. This little wonder is one of the few small appliances that actually lives on my counter. I had used it to make baby food primarily. Then I discovered that it could reduce oatmeal to oat flour. Hallelujah! A cheap source of oat flour! It's not superfine, by any means, but it works well. More importantly, I can get oatmeal in any grocery store cheaply. Oat flour is not to be found short of an hour drive away, and then in little bags at premium prices. Plus I can make up just what I need, thus depriving the mice of at least one temptation.

Okay, back to the cookies. This recipe could be vegan, depending on the type of margarine you use. It originally called for chopped walnuts or pecans, but I decided to use chocolate chips instead, for two reasons. First of all, they are slightly less likely to be cross-contaminated with peanuts than nuts. Secondly, I was really craving chocolate.

These turned out fabulous. Slightly crunchy, full of flavor. One of the best things about these is that because there are no eggs, I didn't feel guilty for eating a couple bits of the dough or licking off the spoon.

Both of these recipes came from an out-of-print book, The Egg-Free, Milk-Free, Wheat-Free Cookbook by Becky Hamrick and S.L. Wiesenfeld, MD. The title is a little misleading, as not all of the recipes are wheat-free, but it is still packed with a lot of good recipes. In some ways, it reads like a church cookbook, with lots of old-fashioned, homey recipes. It can be gotten cheaply on Amazon. Or you can check it out at the library, if you have a good library. I won't reproduce the recipes here because of copyright laws, but I do recommend that you at least browse through this book.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Gluten-Free Vegan?

Not quite. See, this project stems from my now-10-month old son's diagnosis with food allergies, specifically wheat, eggs and peanuts. Given that, we don't need to be gluten-free, but gluten-free stuff is usually labelled prominently, and if it's gluten-free, it's wheat-free.

Similarly, if it's vegan, it will be egg-free. We do still eat meat (though not as much as we used to) and dairy. The two older boys would run away from home to join the circus if I took away their meat and cheese!

The problem with a lot of the recipes I've found on the internet is that they are generally either wheat-free or egg-free, but rarely both. Given that there are no 100% substitutions for either, this presents something of a challenge.

I like challenges. I also like cooking and baking, which is a very good thing, because the readily available wheat- and egg-free convenience foods available locally are pretty much non-existent. (Kudos to one of the grocery stores, Country Mart, for at least having a small selection of Bob's Red Mill wheat-free flours. This makes life somewhat easier.) I am also blessed by having children who are pretty open to trying new things.

I encourage you to join me on my experiments in allergy culinaria! Feel free to post your own experiences if you make one of my recipes. This is one case where too many cooks may not spoil the broth!