Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes (gluten free!)

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is next Thursday already?! Time is just flying by! Since starting my full time job as a registered nurse, there hasn't been a whole lot of cooking going on and even less time experimenting in the kitchen. :( I love my job, but I wish there were more hours in the day to do other things that I love too. I have been looking ahead to Thanksgiving and planning what I want to make. And I'm getting really excited about the holiday, especially because of something new we are starting this year. We are fortunately to live near our families and to have all of our family members with us. And we get to spend every Thanksgiving with one or both of our families, which is wonderful! But we have been wanting to create some of our own traditions without giving up spending the holiday with extended family. So this year we are trying something new.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving we are calling "Thanksgiving for 4". This will be our family's special day to spend the whole day together celebrating Thanksgiving. My husband and I are going to cook a special dinner. He and I are looking forward to spending some time together in the kitchen because we love to cook with each other and it has been a long time since we got to do that. Also, we are going to spend the day doing all the things the four of us love to do together, as well as spending some time focusing on Thanksgiving and being thankful. I think it is going to be a great day and we are all really excited about it!

So, in honor of Thanksgiving, I will be (re)sharing some of my favorite gluten free recipes that I have created over the last couple of years. The first one I want to share is my recipe for Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes. These little cheesecakes are one of my all-time favorites. So easy to make and so tasty! (The link to the original post about them is here.) This dessert is a great gluten free addition to your holiday meal. Enjoy!

 

Gluten Free Mini Maple Pumpkin Cheesecakes

1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs

1/4 c. brown sugar

1 pinch kosher salt

4 tbsp organic unsalted butter, melted

2 8 oz.containers of organic Neuchâtel cheese

15 oz. can organic pumpkin

3/4 c. pure maple syrup

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

 

To make the crust:

In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt and butter until all the crumbs are moistened. Line muffin tins with muffin paper and spray them with cooking spray. Then scoop the crumbs into the liners, 1 tbsp. into each muffin liner. Then with the back of the tablespoon, press the crumbs firmly into the bottom of the liners. Bake the crusts at 325ºF for 8 minutes.

 

To make the filling:

Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and blend until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl while mixing. Then add the pumpkin, maple syrup, vanilla and spice. Blend all together until the ingredients are completely combined. Add the slightly beaten eggs and mix in just until they are incorporated. Do not overmix!

Pour the batter into a liquid measuring cup to make the pouring easier. Then pour the batter into the prepared crust in the muffin tins. Pour the batter up to almost the very top of the muffin liners. Then place in a preheated 325°F oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the center of the cheesecakes are set and jiggle slightly when the pan is gently shaken.

Cool completely before serving.

Makes 22 mini cheesecakes.

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Banana Mocha Hemp Smoothie

20140627-222704-80824597.jpgBefore I tell you how to make this wonderful icy drink, there is a backstory. Until a few weeks ago I never drank coffee. I tried it a couple times and didn't like the taste. I always loved the smell of coffee, just not the taste. Now, my husband LOVES coffee! And he has tried to convert me numerous times to the dark side with no avail. He thought that when we had our kids and I was lacking sleep when they were infants that I would start drinking coffee. Nope! Then he thought surely when I was in nursing school and staying up late studying and still getting up early to get the kids ready for school that I would start. Nope! Instead it was one random day I tried it again and discovered that I actually like it now. Who would've thought?! And just in time for me to start working 3rd shift as a RN too. :D One morning this week he asked if I wanted a cup before he took the rest to work. I said "Sure!" But then I decided to exercise first since the kids were still asleep and by the time I was done with my Tone It Up videos I was quite warm and not interested in a hot drink anymore. That's when I thought up this recipe. I knew that chocolate, PB and banana taste awesome together and I had already discovered in my short time of drinking coffee how amazing chocolate and coffee are together. So I decided to try mixing them all together. I added a scoop of hemp protein powder too for an added protein boost. The result is an icy and tasty beverage. Perfect for the hot summer mornings!

 

Banana Mocha Hemp Smoothie

1 ripe banana

4 oz. black coffee with 5 ice cubes

4 oz. unsweetened or reduced sugar almond milk

2 tbsp. PB2 with Chocolate

1 scoop of hemp protein powder

 

Add all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

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Dairy Free Creamy Potato Soup

Last week I was squeezing in some last-minute shopping before the first big snowstorm of the season moved in. It was scheduled to start mid-afternoon and become really heavy during the rush hour. Which meant that my poor hubby would have a couple of hours of working and driving in the snow before he came home for the day. And to make matters worse, the snow was bringing with it some super cold temperatures. We were looking at -10 °F with the wind chill! We are used to winter in PA, but not that kind of winter. So while I was grocery shopping, I decided what we needed for supper that night was a warm and hearty pot of creamy potato soup. I love creamy potato soup! I grew up eating it every winter. To me, a bowl of creamy potato soup says "comfort". I thought that would be the perfect supper for a snowy, cold winter night. And then my husband could take leftover soup with him to work the next day as he worked in the subzero temps. I also knew that I had some potatoes at home that were starting to sprout so I really needed to do something with them soon. Making soup was the perfect choice.

When I make potato soup, we usually eat it plain. Occasionally we will top it with some shredded cheese or sour cream. But in light of the weather, I decided to bump up the toppings a little more and sprang for some bacon and green onions while I was at the store. Just to make supper a little extra special.

To make my soup, I start by sautéing some onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Then I add the potatoes with just enough water to cover them. And salt; don't forget to add the salt while you are cooking the potatoes. If you forget to add the salt while boiling the potatoes, you will never be able to add enough salt later when you are cooking or eating them. The same is true of when you make mashed potatoes. Always add the salt to the water and then boil the potatoes. Then later you will only need to season with a little salt.

Once the water comes to a boil, turn back the heat, cover the pot and simmer until the potatoes are soft. Then mash the potatoes with a hand masher until most, but not all of the potatoes are mashed. Then I add a little cornstarch to thicken, some almond milk to get the desired consistency and a little salt and pepper to taste. You could add a little butter now if you wanted to. Then heat up the soup until it starts to bubble again. And then it's done.

I think the olive oil that the soup is started with is enough fat to add flavor to the soup. I find that when I do add butter, I don't even notice the difference. So you don't need to add butter, especially if you want to make it dairy free. I also choose to use unsweetened almond milk instead of cow's milk. We don't drink cow's milk anymore because we don't think it is necessary, so we use almond milk in place of cow's milk. If you use almond milk, it is a delicious way to make a creamy and tasty dairy free soup.

All that is left is to dish it up and decided what toppings you want, if you decide to add toppings. It is a delicious soup without the toppings because of the hearty flavor of the potatoes, onion and garlic. But toppings make it a little extra special. And sometimes after a hard day's work in the cold and snow, all you need is a little extra special.

Dairy Free Creamy Potato Soup

2-3 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium to large onion, diced

4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

@ 3 pounds (or 7-8 medium and large) golden potatoes, washed, peeled, diced and rinsed

water, enough to cover potatoes in stock pot (@ 5 cups of water, depends on the amount of potatoes)

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. cornstarch mixed into an equal amount of cold water, stir to dissolve clumps

1-2 c. unsweetened almond milk (depends on how thick or soupy you like your soup and how much water you added)

dash of salt, if needed

black pepper, to taste

 

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add onion and garlic. Sauté over medium high heat until soft. Add potatoes and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium to medium-low, cover and simmer until potatoes are softened and can be easily pierced with a fork, approximately 10-15 minutes.

Remove from heat and semi-smash most of the potatoes with a hand masher. You want about half of the potatoes roughly mashed and the other half in whole pieces. Put pot back on the burner and turn back on to low heat. Stir in the cornstarch and water mixture. Stir mixture through all the soup. Add almond milk, salt and pepper. Heat soup until bubbly again, stirring regularly. Remove from heat and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

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Gluten Free Peanut Butter Blossoms

I made these cookies yesterday as a special request from my daughter. She loves these cookies at Christmas time. The funny thing is to see how they both eat the cookies just like I did as a kid too. Both my kids eat all the cookie around the kiss in the center then pop off the kiss, eat the rest of the cookie and finally the kiss candy last. These cookies are one of my favorites at Christmas time too. And since it is after Thanksgiving now, I'm okay with starting the Christmas music, decorating and baking now. :D

I am so happy with how the gluten free version of these Christmas favorites turned out! I start my recipe with an all natural peanut butter, which gives the cookie a really good peanutty flavor. Then I sweeten them with honey. PB, honey and butter! You cannot go wrong with that combo. :) To that, I add an egg, a little vanilla and the dry ingredients. Roll the dough balls in sugar and bake. Then top off the warm out of the oven cookies with kiss candies and you have a delicious traditional holiday cookie, minus the gluten!

I like to use dark chocolate kisses for my cookies or even just as a treat. Dark chocolate has more antioxidants and other healthy vitamins and minerals in it than milk chocolate. And personally, I find it really hard to stop eating milk chocolate. There is something about the creaminess that makes it very hard to stop eating. But with dark chocolate, I can eat a couple of pieces and be satisfied. So it's dark chocolate only in my house. :)

 

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Blossoms

1/2 c. unsalted organic butter, softened

1/2 c. natural creamy peanut butter

1/2 c. honey

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 egg

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 c. brown rice flour (I like Bob's Red Mill Brown Rice Flour)

1 1/2 tbsp. corn starch

1/2 tsp. xanthan gum

 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream butter and peanut butter together until smooth and creamy. Add honey, baking powder and baking soda and blend together completely. Add the egg and vanilla and mix together. Finally, add the flour, cornstarch and xanthan gum and mix just until combined.

Scoop out cookie dough, about 1 tablespoonful at a time and roll into a tight ball. Then roll the cookie dough balls in granulated sugar and place on baking sheet. Bake for 7-8 minutes until the cookies are set and light golden brown on the bottoms.

Remove the baked cookies from the oven and top with dark chocolate kisses, pressing the kisses down lightly into the cookie. The pressure will slightly crack the cookies, but that's what you want. Let them sit on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes then move to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Store in an airtight container. These cookies also freeze really well. I like to bake a batch and freeze half of them to eat later in the Christmas season.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

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Gluten Free Sage Sausage Stuffing with Cranberries and Walnuts

I decided to try my hand at making gluten free stuffing this year. I enjoy stuffing but I don't have to have it on Thanksgiving. I didn't really miss it last year. But I got to thinking that there are probably some gluten free friends out there who love stuffing and will miss it this holiday. So to all of you, this one's for you! :) I started with Udi's gluten free bread because I knew that they make a good gluten free bread. To be perfectly honest, I've only tried 2 brands of gluten free breads because when I went gluten free I decided to use that as an opportunity to branch out of the old standby at lunch, the sandwich. Udi's gluten free bread is stored in the freezer. I got it out and cut it up into large cubes while it was still frozen. No need to defrost first. I cut a slice in half, then each half into another half. Then I turned the slices and cut them across the slices in half, then those halves in half again. This created the right size cubes for stuffing. I got 16 cubes from each slice of bread. Then I baked the cubed bread in a 300°F oven for 20 minutes to dry the bread. Good stuffing comes from taking the time to dry out the bread first.

While the bread was drying, I chopped up my celery and onion and began sautéing in a little butter and olive oil. I chose to used butter and olive oil so that I could get the flavor from the butter without having to use all butter. I sautéed the vegetable until they were tender. Then I poured them into a large bowl and add the sage and black pepper.

Next I browned my sausage. We are rather picky about our meats and we buy all of our meat from a local farmer that raises grass-fed, hormone-free and antibiotic-free livestock. It is really good quality meat that we can feel good about eat and feeding to our kids. It is more pricy than cheap meat in the store, but about the same price or even a little less than the cost of organic grocery store meat. The local meat that we buy has a freshness and leanness that does not compare to the store. Try to find your own local farmer that is raising healthy livestock. It is worth the effort for you and your family. Anyways, back to the stuffing. :)

After browning the stuffing, I added it to the cooked veggies and spices and added the cranberries and walnuts. Then I stirred in the dried bread cubes and tossed it all around until it was mixed well and the bread was slightly coated with all the ingredients. Next drizzle on some organic chicken stock, just enough to moisten the bread. Then pour into a baking dish and bake until it is heated through and smells amazing!

I am so pleased with how this recipe turned out! It is savory and delicious. I took it to an extended family Thanksgiving dinner yesterday and every really enjoyed it, even the non-gluten free family members. That's a success! But I would love to hear what you all think about it. Let me know! :)

Gluten Free Sage Sausage Stuffing with Cranberries and Walnuts

14 oz. Udi's gluten free bread, cubedIngredients for Gluten Free Sage Sausage Stuffing with Cranberries and Walnuts

3 stalks organic celery, diced

1 large organic onion, diced

1 tbsp. organic unsalted butter

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. ground sage

fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 lb. fresh loose sage sausage

3/4 c. dried organic cranberries

3/4 c. walnuts

3/4 c. organic chicken stock

Dry the bread cubes in a 300°F oven for 20 minutes. While the bread is drying, heat the butter and oil in a sauté pan and add the diced celery and onion. Sauté the vegetables until they are tender, but not browned and overcooked.

Pour the cooked vegetables into a large bowl and add the sage and pepper; stir until evenly distributed.

Cook the sausage in the pan until browned. Then add the sausage to the vegetable and spices in the bowl. Add the cranberries and walnuts and stir to combine.

Add the dried bread cubes to the bowl and toss all the ingredients together until the bread is slightly coated with the ingredients. Drizzle the chicken stock over the cubes and stir together. Use just enough stock to moisten the bread.

Lightly spray a 9x13 baking dish and pour the stuffing in it. Then cover with foil and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 30 minutes or until the stuffing is heated through. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes to slightly brown up some of the stuffing.

Makes about 8 servings.

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Gluten Free Mini Maple Pumpkin Cheesecakes

After creating a gluten free pie crust last month, I was excited to make Pumpkin Pie this year for Thanksgiving. After not having any pie last year, I was quite excited to be able to eat pie again this holiday. And that was still the plan until about 5 days ago. But then I thought about how delicious a Pumpkin Cheesecake would be! And once I thought of cheesecake, I wasn't as excited about pie anymore. But now I had to quickly create a new gluten free dessert recipe. I decided to go for it and hope that it would turn out as well in reality as I imagined. So yesterday morning I jumped on creating and baking this dessert in time for an extended family Thanksgiving dinner yesterday at noon. I'll admit that I was taking a risk and cutting it close on time. But I figured that if it was a total disaster then I would just scrape the whole thing and no one would be the wiser since I hadn't told anyone that I was bringing dessert. And let me just say that I am so happy that I went for it. These little cheesecakes are tasty!

I used gluten free graham crackers for the crust. To sweeten the crust, I used a little brown sugar instead of the traditional granulated sugar. Then for the filling, I used organic Neuchâtel cheese, organic canned pumpkin (from a can that is BPA free), maple syrup to sweeten it and pumpkin pie spice. You could use individual spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, ect. But I had a container of pumpkin pie spice so I used that. I chose pure maple syrup to sweet the dessert because maple is a delicious, slightly healthier sugar option than granulated or brown sugar. Pure maple syrup has additional nutrients that sugar doesn't have. I like to use Neuchâtel cheese because it is 1/3 less fat than regular cream cheese and an easy substitution in baking. I used a 15 oz. can of pumpkin and only 16 oz. of cream cheese. Most recipes that use that much pumpkin also use more cream cheese. I really wanted to see if I could make the cheesecake with only 2 containers of cream cheese for two reasons. First, it is less cost and less cheese. And second, it's has more pumpkin in each serving. Pumpkins are a wonderful healthy addition to one's diet in the fall and winter months. So I really wanted more pumpkin in the dessert. The result is a cream pumpkin flavor, not as distinct of a cream cheese flavor and not as strong as a pumpkin pie flavor. I am really happy with the results.

The only thing that I will do different when I make them next time is to gently mix in the eggs properly at the end. As I said, I was in a hurry and I dumped in the whole eggs at the end of mixing all the other ingredients together and quickly blended it together on a medium speed with my mixer. Which is why when they were baking, they puffed up like little cupcakes and then promptly deflated while they cooled. That'll happen when you beat air into your cheesecake batter. ;) So make sure when you are making yours that you blend the cream cheese until smooth (that will be the longest step). Then add the remaining ingredients, except the eggs, and blend until completely combined. Take the time to scrap down the sides of the bowl so that you can blend it all together without blending longer than necessary. Then beat the eggs slightly in a small bowl, add to the batter and blend on a low speed just until the eggs are incorporated. Do it this way and you should have nice even and level topped cheesecakes.

As for my deflated cheesecakes, those little deflated centers were a perfect place to place a dollop of whipped cream, which I then sprinkled with a little more spice. When life gives you deflated cheesecakes, fill it with whipped cream! :D

Gluten Free Mini Maple Pumpkin Cheesecakes

1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs

1/4 c. brown sugar

1 pinch kosher salt

4 tbsp organic unsalted butter, melted

2 8 oz.containers of organic Neuchâtel cheese

15 oz. can organic pumpkin

3/4 c. pure maple syrup

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

 

To make the crust:

In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt and butter until all the crumbs are moistened. Line muffin tins with muffin paper and spray them with cooking spray. Then scoop the crumbs into the liners, 1 tbsp. into each muffin liner. Then with the back of the tablespoon, press the crumbs firmly into the bottom of the liners. Bake the crusts at 325ºF for 8 minutes.

 

To make the filling:

Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and blend until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl while mixing. Then add the pumpkin, maple syrup, vanilla and spice. Blend all together until the ingredients are completely combined. Add the slightly beaten eggs and mix in just until they are incorporated. Do not overmix!

Pour the batter into a liquid measuring cup to make the pouring easier. Then pour the batter into the prepared crust in the muffin tins. Pour the batter up to almost the very top of the muffin liners. Then place in a preheated 325°F oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the center of the cheesecakes are set and jiggle slightly when the pan is gently shaken.

Cool completely before serving.

Makes 22 mini cheesecakes.

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Gluten Free Granola Made with Coconut Oil and Honey

I want to share my granola recipe with you today. You would think that making granola would be simple enough; but actually, it has taken me some time to finally come up with a recipe that is exactly what we wanted. And this recipe is just that! It has enough crunch without being hard. It is lightly sweetened with honey, a great sugar choice. And the fat in it is a really healthy fat- coconut oil. Now that I've found exactly what we were looking for in a granola, I make this recipe all the time. Sometimes I switch up the nuts from almonds to walnuts. And sometimes I stir raisins into the warm granola after it is done baking. Other than that, we love this granola exactly as it is.

I feel like granola gets a bad rap sometimes because it always seems to be on one of those "healthy foods that aren't really healthy" kind of lists that you see around the internet from time to time. But I don't think that is true. I think granola is a great addition to your diet. And by "diet" I mean the food that you regularly eat, not a food restriction. I really dislike that this word as been robbed of it's original meaning and now whenever you hear the word, you probably think of calorie reduction. But, that's another subject for another time. :)

Anyways back to what I was saying, I think that it is the commercially made granolas that can be loaded with fat and sugar. But when you make your own, you can chose the amount and kind of sugar and fat you add to yours. And by fat, I am only referring to the oil added, not the nuts. People can get so hung up on the fat in nuts that they are afraid of eating them. But actually, nuts are load with good fats, the kind of fats that are beneficial for your brain, organs and skin. Nuts are filling too so they are a great snack. Sure, if you eat a couple cups of nuts in a day, that's too much. But this is a good example of if you eat intuitively then you will eat only what your body needs. Eating intuitively takes away the focus on the calories and serving sizes and focuses on listening to what your body needs and when it is satisfied.

Our favorite way to eat this granola is on top of greek yogurt with hemp seed hearts. Hemp seed is an excellent source of protein, omega-3's and 6's, thiamin, phosphorus, zinc, iron, magnesium and manganese. It is quite the wonder food! Have you tried hemp seed yet? It has a delicious nutty flavor. We've tried a couple and our favorite brand is Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts. So good!

Granola and hemp seed is good on fruit flavored yogurt. But my favorite way to eat it is on plain greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey and about a cup of frozen blueberries. Words cannot describe how delicious this is! I eat it all the time! It is a satisfying and well-rounded meal that is good for breakfast or lunch. I have even packed it to eat for supper when I am at the hospital for a clinical night for school. Great energy source!

Another one of my favorite ways to eat it is with a bowl of fresh fruit in the summertime. My favorite combo is fresh peaches, blueberries and strawberries topped with granola. That is summertime eating at its best!

Why not make some today? Then you will have it to eat on all week too. And if you are gluten free like I am, make sure that you are using a certified gluten free brand of oats. Oats are well known to be easily cross-contaminated with wheat. So make sure you are eating GF oats. I like Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Oats. They have old-fashioned, quick and steel-cut GF oat options. Not only are they gluten free, but they taste better too. I'm not sure how, but they definitely taste better than other brands of oats.

I hope you try this granola and love it as much as we do!

Gluten Free Granola Made with Coconut Oil and Honey

In a large bowl, stir together:

3 c. old-fashioned GF oats

1 c. steel-cut GF oats

1 c. sliced almonds or chopped walnuts

1/2 c. unsweetened flaked coconut

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tbsp. cinnamon

 

In a small bowl, stir together:

4 tbsp. coconut oil

4 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. vanilla

Pour over the dry ingredients and stir together with a spatula until all the ingredients are moistened and throughly combined. Pour the granola onto a cookie sheet. Place in a preheat 325 degree F oven and bake for 15 minute. When done, cool completely then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 

Optional:

1 c. organic raisins

When finished baking, pour the granola back into the large bowl and stir in raisins. Then cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 

Serve with greek yogurt and fruit or with a bowl of fresh fruit. Yum!

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Homemade Gluten Free Pie Crust

I am so excited to tell you that pie is back on the menu! Last year at Thanksgiving, I didn't have any pumpkin pie. And I missed it because I really love pumpkin pie. Since Thanksgiving is at the end of the month, I decided it was time to attempt to make a gluten free pie crust. I considered looking for a pre-made GF pie crust or pie mix, but I'm always happier with the results when I make it from scratch. So I decided to just go for it. I used the pie recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook as a guide. Then I adapted it to make it gluten free. I chose to use part butter and part shortening for the fat. Must recipes will tell you that butter give the crust a good flavor, but shortening is what makes it flaky. Some recipes suggest using butter flavored shortening to get the good taste and flakiness. But, if you have been following my blog for a while, you probably will know that I don't like "flavored" or artificial ingredients. I think it is better to use the real thing, which is why I bake with butter. So you know there was no way I was going to use a butter flavored shortening. As for shortening, it has only one redeeming quality in my opinion, and that is what it does for pie crust. I've tried making a crust with all butter and it doesn't compare to the one made with shortening. And the one made with all shortening doesn't have the flavor that the one made with butter does. So for this recipe, I decided to use both. And I am really happy with the result!

This recipe will be a little different that a traditional crust, after all it is made without wheat flour or gluten. But, I still think that it is a fine crust even if the edges don't crimp. Who likes to crimp anyways? :) Just press the edges with your fingers and put it in the oven. And soon you too will be eating delicious gluten free pie. How easy is that?

Now, comes the hard part; you have to decide what kind of pie to make. Pumpkin, apple, cherry, chocolate...yum! chocolate pie! Gotta go! I think I need to go bake another pie. Enjoy!

Homemade Gluten Free Pie Crust

1 1/4 c. brown rice flour

1/2 tsp. xanthan gum

1/2 tbsp. corn starch

1/4 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. shortening

2 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cutting into small pieces

4 to 5 tbsp. cold water

 

Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the shortening and butter. Cut it in with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly.

 

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Add cold water and mix in with a fork until all the flour is moistened and can be pressed together and form a ball.

 

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Form the pastry into a ball and place on a lightly floured sheet of wax paper. Roll out into a circle about 12 inch diameter.

 

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Roll the crust and wax paper around the rolling pin to roll the crust into the pie dish. The crust will crumble some. That's okay, just press it back together when it is in the pie dish.

 

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Fill the crust with your favorite filling and bake according to your pie recipe's directions.

 

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And if you want to make a double crust pie or two pies, just double all the amounts of the ingredients in the original recipe. This recipe doubles well and makes a delicious apple pie. Yum!

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Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls

Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls and Hot CocoaCinnamon rolls are a food that I thought I would never be able to eat again. Honestly, I wasn't sure how a gluten-free version of cinnamon rolls would taste because this is a food that depends so much on the taste of the sweet bread. I was not sure that could be translated into a gluten-free version. Imagine my surprise and delight when I attempted to make them gluten-free and it was a success! It took a couple of tweaks to the recipe to get it right, but now I am happy with the end result and I am super excited to share this with you!

I included lots of step-by-step pictures with this recipe because making cinnamon rolls was something that seemed a bit daunting to me when I was a newer baker. So I decided to included lots of pictures in hope that you all can see how unintimidating it truly is to make these.

So without further ado, I present Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls, just in time for cold weather and winter holidays! Please share this with all your gluten-free friends. Just because we can't eat gluten, doesn't mean that we can't indulge in a warm cinnamon roll with a cup of hot cocoa every now and then. :) And as always, let me know in the comments if you need any clarification or help with the recipe. Enjoy!!

Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 1 dozen rolls

Step 1:

1 c warm water (100-110 degrees F)

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 package of rapid rise yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)

Add sugar and yeast to the warm water in a small bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes in a warm, draft free place.

Step 2:

1/4 c. unsalted butter, softened

1/2 c. granulated sugar (minus 1 tbsp that is added to the yeast and water)

Cream together in a large mixing bowl.

Butter and sugar creamed for GF Cinnamon Rolls

Step 3:

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

Add to butter mixture and blend well. Then add the yeast and water mixture and blend together.

Step 4:

2 1/2 c. brown rice flour, plus another tbsp. or two for rolling out the dough

3 tbsp. corn starch

1 tsp. xanthan gum

1/2 tsp. salt

Mix dry ingredients into the wet. Mix until blended together. Don't over mix; mix just until it is all combined. Dough should be stiff and slightly sticky; use just enough of the flour so that the dough is only slightly sticky, kind of like cookie dough. It shouldn't be too sticky or too dry.

GF Cinnamon Rolls Dough

Step 5:

Place a piece of wax paper on the counter and dust with brown rice flour. Turn out dough onto wax paper. Pat together into a tight ball.

Ball of GF Cinnamon Roll Dough

Step 6:

Push out the dough into a flat disc with your hands. Then flour a rolling pin and roll the dough flat. Roll it out to a 12x20 rectangle. The dough will be about 1/4 inch thick.

Rolled out GF Cinnamon Rolls Dough

Step 7:

Make the filling.

Filling:

1/4 c. butter, melted

1/2 c. brown sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

Filling for GF Cinnamon Rolls

Step 8:

Pour the butter over the middle of the dough and spread around with a spoon. Then mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle all over the butter on the dough.

Filling on GF Cinnamon Rolls Dough

Step 9:

Roll up the dough at one of the short ends. If you have one side of the rectangle that is straighter, roll toward that end because a straight end will seal the roll together nicer than a jagged end. Roll the dough up tightly, slightly pressing the roll together as you roll.

Rolling up the GF Cinnamon Rolls Dough

Rolled up GF Cinnamon Rolls Dough

Step 10:

Cut the dough into 1 inch pieces. Use the length on your index finger from the end of your finger to the line at the first knuckle. This will ensure that all your pieces are the same size and will bake evenly.

Cutting the GF Cinnamon Rolls Dough

Step 11:

Spray pans with cooking spray. Place rolls in a 9x13 pan and another smaller pan.

Sliced GF Cinnamon Rolls Dough

Step 12:

Cover and place in a warm place and let the rolls rise for about 40 minutes.

GF Cinnamon Rolls Dough that have risen

Step 13:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes until slightly brown around the edges.

Baked GF Cinnamon Rolls

Step 14:

Cool for about 10 minutes then top with icing.

 

Directions for making the Icing:

2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

1/4 tsp. vanilla

1 c. confectioner sugar

2 tbsp. unsweetened almond milk

Stir until smooth. Spoon over the warm (not hot) rolls.
Icing for GF Cinnamon Rolls
Delicious on a cold day with a cup of hot cocoa!
Finished GF Cinnamon Rolls

Fluffy Gluten Free and Dairy Free Pancakes

20131026-092644.jpgAwhile back I posted a review for King Arthur's Flour Gluten Free Pancake mix and I said how much my family and I loved the mix. And that is still true; it is a delicious pancake mix! But I wanted to be able to make my own "from scratch" pancakes, like I used to make before having to go gluten-free. So after much experimenting and after more than a few duds, which my supportive husband and kids ate (at least most of them, there were a few that even the dog didn't want to eat). :D Finally, I came up with this version of the recipe and it has been a hit ever since. Whew! And do you know what is the best thing about this recipe? It doesn't take any longer to make these than it does to make pancakes from a mix.

At last, quick and tasty from scratch pancakes again! I hope your family enjoys these gluten-free, dairy free pancakes as much as mine does.

 

Fluffy Gluten Free and Dairy Free Pancakes

2 c. Bob's Red Mill brown rice flour20131026-092604.jpg

3 tbsp. granulated sugar

2 tbsp. corn starch

1 tsp. xanthan gum

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. nutmeg (Yes, nutmeg. Trust me!)

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

2 eggs

2 1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. vanilla

 

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl; whisk to mix. Add the wet ingredients and whisk just until combined. There will be a few lumps still. That's okay; you don't want to overmix your pancake batter or else you will end up with tough pancakes. That is true for any kind of pancakes. Let the batter rest for about 5 minutes while you heat your griddle to 350 degree F.

Once the griddle is hot, lightly spray it with cooking spray and pour on the batter. Use 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop out the batter. This will give you uniform, medium-sized pancakes. Cook the pancakes until the tops are slightly set with a few bubbles rising to the top and the edges are cooked; then flip to second side. This takes about 4 minutes. Cook on second side until the edges are completely set and the bottom is golden brown. This takes about 3 minutes. The top will spring back when lightly pressed with your finger when the pancakes are done. Try to flip your pancakes only once. Overhandling pancakes will make them tough also.

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Top with warm maple syrup and enjoy!

 

Variations:

We love to make these into blueberry or chocolate chip pancakes too. To make these variation, make the pancake batter according to the recipe. Then after you pour the batter onto the griddle, sprinkle blueberries or chocolate chips on pancakes. Then continue to cook the pancakes according to the recipe. The chocolate chip pancakes will take the same amount to time to cook, but the blueberry pancakes will take a little longer, especially if you are using cold or frozen blueberries. You are still looking for the same signs of doneness; however, it will take a bit longer. But it is SO worth it!! Blueberry pancakes are my personal favorite!

A Breakdown and the Best Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Best Gluten Free Chocolate Chip CookiesToday was a pretty rough day, at least the first half. I am almost 3 weeks into the first semester of the second year of nursing school and the pressure has been mounting and mounting. The instructors have made it clear that they expect a lot from us, from now until the end. We are going to be taking on more responsibility and more of a leadership role in clinicals. Talk about stress! Along with this pressure and stress came fear and anxiety. Fear and anxiety that I'm not going to do as well as I expect myself to do, that I might fail, that I might not ever figure out where I fit when I graduate, as well as a whole bunch of other little fears. All of this had been building for some time and it all finally came tumbling out of me this morning. I am so thankful that I have a husband who listens to my fears, rational and irrational, sympathizes with me, supports me, and helps me to see things with my cognitive mind when my emotional mind has taken over.

After a long talk and a lot of tears, I felt so much better. It was like someone released a pressure valve on me. It helps to be honest and say the things out loud that we are afraid of or stressed about. Oftentimes when we say them out loud, it gives our cognitive mind a chance to respond and helps us see when our thoughts are irrational or fear-based. When we keep all of it inside ourselves, the emotions keep churning and we continue to respond to all our emotion-driven thoughts as if they were all true.

So after getting everything out in our talk, I decided to take a shower before I started studying. By the way, why is it that the hot water always runs out right when I am about to start shaving my last leg? And it never gets gradually cooler; no, it seems to go straight to ice-cold. Brr!! :) Anyways, after my shower I decided to bake some cookies before I studied for the rest of the afternoon. The kids had been asking me to bake something all week, so I decided to take a little time and do it today.

Since I made the switch to gluten-free in July, 2012, I haven't made a GF chocolate chip cookie that I have been completely happy with. I've made a few recipes, a couple of box mixes, tried different flour mixes, different flour combos, and I had yet to find a chocolate chip cookie that I was completely in love with. I've made a few that were good, but they still tasted like GF cookies. So I decided to do a quick search and see if I could find a good recipe. Lo and behold I found a GF chocolate chip cookie recipe by Alton Brown from 2007! Alton Brown has a great understanding of food and the science behind it. He is my go-to chef when I am looking for a recipe. I have never made a recipe of his that didn't turn out well or that I didn't like.

So when I saw that he had a GF cookie recipe, I got really excited! And I was not disappointed. The cookies turned out perfectly! I loved them, the kids loved them, my hubby loved them. And the best part was that they did not taste like GF cookies at all. Which, after 6 months of eating gluten-free, was a very wonderful thing indeed. I have eaten many wonderful gluten-free foods over the last 6 months, but had not found the perfect GF chocolate chip cookie yet. To me, a chocolate chip cookie is the quintessential cookie. And sometimes, you just want to eat a chocolate chip cookie that tastes like the chocolate chip cookies that you used to eat. And this recipe does that for me. I have finally found it! So, although my day started off rocky, it ended very sweet. :)

You can get the recipe by clicking on the link here: Alton Brown's "The Chewy Gluten Free" from foodnetwork.com.

 

Bob's Red Mill Teff

Grains of TeffA couple of weeks ago, someone I follow on Twitter posted a recipe for teff. I had no idea what teff was so I googled it. Teff is an ancient grain from Ethiopia. It is the smallest whole grain in the world. And this tiny grain is packed with nutrients. In one serving, which is only a 1/4 cup, there are 180 calories, 1 gram of fat, 4 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein, 10% of calcium, and 20% of iron. That's a lot of good things packed into a tiny grain! After I read about what teff was, I decided that I wanted to try it. I saw that Bob's Red Mill sold the product on Amazon. I tweeted that I was excited to try this new grain that I just learned about. Someone from Bob's Red Mill saw my tweet and contacted me, saying that they would love to provide me with a sample. I was so surprised by their kind offer and quickly accepted it. A couple of days later my package arrived. The good folks at Bob's Red Mill sent me a full sized package of teff to sample, as well as a bag of their gluten free muesli! Imagine my delight! I opened the bag of muesli right away and tasted some. It was delicious. There is a recipe for muesli cookies on the side of the bag that I'm excited about trying. I'm hoping to make some this weekend. I'll be sure to let you know how they turn out.

I made a serving of teff for breakfast. I had no idea what it was going to taste like. It had distinct aroma while it was simmering on top of the stove. Based on that, I thought that the teff would have a strong flavor, but it doesn't. Teff is actually very mild flavored. After tasting a few bites plain, I followed the directions on the bag and sweetened my bowl with a little honey. I also stirred in raisins and sliced almonds for the dried fruit and nuts that it suggested. It was delicious! While I was eating, it kept reminding me of something that I couldn't place. Finally I realized what it was, it reminded me of cream of wheat. The mild flavor and the texture are very similar to cream of wheat, which of course I can't eat anymore because it contains gluten. Now I have a gluten free replacement for cream of wheat- a warm bowl of teff!

Bob's Red Mill Teff

Whether you can eat gluten or not, I encourage you to try this mild flavored whole grain. It is quick and easy to prepare, just bring it to a boil on top of the stove then simmer until the water is absorb. It is a warm and nutritious breakfast option for cold winter mornings. I would love to hear what you think about it. Let me know in the comments section if you have ever heard of this whole grain and if you have ever tried it or want to try it.

Bowl of Bob's Red Mill Teff with honey, raisins, and sliced almonds

 

Rating: ♥♥♥♥ (out of 5 hearts)

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

20130105-175114.jpgYou know that butternut squash that has been sitting on your counter for a while? The one that you grew for the first time or saw at the farmer's market or store and decided to buy for the first time, but now that you have it, you aren't sure what to do with it. This recipe is a great use for that lonely squash. This soup is creamy, filling, and comforting. Perfect for this time of year! This is another one of my husband, Ron's recipes. He likes to make a big pot of this soup on Sundays for his lunches during the coming week. It is a great option for a quick and healthy lunch on the go.

Butternut squash has become his favorite squash. He is planning on growing a lot of it this summer. In addition to the great taste, some other reasons Ron loves this squash is because it is easy to grow and it stores really well. Making it a great choice to grow for the purpose of storing and using over the winter months.

It's January; chances are where you live, it's cold outside or at least colder than you probably like. This is the perfect time to try out a new soup recipe. Why not try this one and make a pot of creamy, hot soup that not only is delicious, but also serves up a healthy dose of vegetables?

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

3 stalks celery, chopped

2 medium onions, chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 yams, peeled and chopped

1 butternut squash, peel with vegetable peeler, slice in half, remove seeds, and cut into large chunks

3 tbsp. butter or 2 tbsp. olive oil

12-16 c. stock, chicken or vegetable, more for a thinner soup and less for a thicker soup

salt and pepper, to taste

Method

1. Prep all the vegetables first, peeling and chopping.

2. Heat oil in a 8 quart stock pot then add the vegetables. Vegetables for Creamy Butternut Squash Soup3. Sauté until all the vegetables are soften, for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

4. Cover vegetables with stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until vegetable as very soft.

 

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5. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processor.

 

20130105-175055.jpg

 

Makes 4-6 servings.

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Gluten Free Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Okay, so there is really nothing "good" about these cookies, other than sometimes it is nice to have a yummy treat. And these gluten free cookies fit the bill perfectly! They are chewy and chocolatey with creamy peanut butter chips. You really can't go wrong with the peanut butter and chocolate combo in my opinion. And when those two flavors are combined in a soft, chewy cookie that is also gluten free, the result is wonderful goodness. The recipe for Reese's Chewy Chocolate Cookies from the back of the Reese's peanut butter chip bag is one of my daughter's favorite cookies. And since I only bake gluten free now, I was so pleased to create a gluten-free version of the cookie that tastes so much like the original and that my daughter still loves just as much. Like I said before, these cookies are not a healthy recipe but I think that it is important to enjoy everything in moderation. So with that being said, enjoy in moderation and don't make these too often because it's hard to only eat one or two. ;) Gluten Free Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Gluten Free Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients

2 sticks of butter, softened

1 c. white sugar

1 c. brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 c. *gluten free baking mix (if yours does not have xanthan gum, then add 1 tsp.)

3/4 c. dark chocolate or regular cocoa powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 package of Reese's peanut butter chips

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs; beat until combined and fluffy. Add the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; and mix only until the ingredients are combined. Stir in the peanut butter chips.
  3. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on the sheet for 2 minutes. Then move the cookies to racks to finish cooling. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

*Let me know if you have any problems with this recipe and the gluten free baking mix that you used. I have found that I get varied results with the different GF baking mixes regardless what I bake. For this recipe, I used my own GF baking mix that I created. I am very excited about the mix that I came up with because I have had good success so far with whatever I make with it. I would like to do some more recipe testing with it before I tell you anymore about it. In the meantime, I would like to hear if you have good success or not with the baking mix or GF flour that you use.

 

Quinoa with Tomatoes and Sautéed Veggies

I have a friend who recently discovered quinoa and loved it! She has been on the lookout for more recipes using this wonderfully versatile ingredient. So today I am posting this recipe for her and anyone else looking for a new quinoa recipe. If you are not familiar with quinoa, you should really put it at the top of your list of new things to try in 2013. It is a wonderful grain that is a complete protein and full of so many nutrients. To read more about the health benefits of quinoa, check out my recipe and post for Breakfast Quinoa with Fruit and Nuts. As I mentioned in that post, I use quinoa in place of any grain. It can replace pasta, rice, or couscous. And now that I'm gluten-free, it is an especially wonderful ingredient to have in my pantry. It is really quick and easy to make and can be a simple go-to grain for a quick breakfast, lunch or dinner. This recipe can be adjusted to utilize whatever produce you have on hand. If it is summer, use fresh tomatoes and corn in it. You really can't beat that flavor. But if it is winter, go ahead and substitute the fresh corn with frozen corn. Or any other frozen vegetables that you have. In winter, I skip the tomatoes because where we live there are no tasty fresh tomatoes. Instead of adding tomatoes, I add another vegetable, like peas or broccoli. It is still delicious that way. Whatever vegetables you add is up to you, just be sure to add a few varieties. This is a tasty way to get a variety of veggies in your day. Enjoy in good health!

 


Quinoa with Tomatoes and Sautéed Veggies

Quinoa with tomatoes and veggies

 

Ingredients

*Use as much of each ingredient to suit your taste preferences and how much you need for the number of servings you are making. For 1 serving for myself, I used about a cup of quinoa, 1/2 of a medium onion, 1/2 of a bell pepper, 1 ear of corn (or 1/2 - 3/4 c. of frozen corn, or any other frozen veggie) and 1 tomato.

For 4 servings:

4 c. pre-cooked quinoa, either leftover from another meal or made beforehand

2 medium onions, chopped

2 bell peppers, chopped, use any color of pepper or combination of colors you like

2-3 c. veggies (fresh or frozen corn, peas, or broccoli; if frozen, allow veggies to defrost a few minutes before using)

2 tbsp. olive oil (if you need more when sautéing, add a splash or two of water, instead of more oil)

4 chopped tomatoes, fresh is best here

salt and pepper, to taste

 

Method

  1. Heat the oil, add the chopped onions and peppers and sauté for a couple of minutes.
  2. Next, add the corn (or other veggies) and finish sautéing until all the vegetables are cooked but still crisp.
  3. Meanwhile, reheat the quinoa in the microwave and chop the tomatoes.
  4. When the vegetables are finished cooking, stir them into the warm quinoa and top it off with the tomatoes.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.

Tip:

Get the pre-washed quinoa if you want to save yourself some time. Otherwise it has to be rinsed well first to remove the bitter coating that protects the quinoa from birds eating it. And if you don't have something with small enough holes to rinse it in, it can be kinda annoying to rinse. The package will say if it is pre-rinsed or not.