Sunday, March 31, 2013

Nutty Coconut Granola Bars

I've been meaning to try to make my own granola from scratch for a while now, but for some reason it always seemed so intimidating. Part of it had to do with the massive amounts of sugar involved. I just can't get myself to make something with over a cup of sugar in it. I have no problem consuming mass quantities of store-bought items, like the ridiculously sweet GF toaster pastry that I bought and devoured because I hadn't had one in ten years. To be honest, it wasn't even that good.

The difference here is that I have no choice but to look at the ingredients because I'm making it. I can't hide and pretend it doesn't exist. 

This morning, I found a great recipe with loads of helpful pictures on The Pioneer Woman Cooks site.  And once again, I couldn't add the cup of brown sugar. I had the brown sugar ready to pour, shook the bag a little, and then stopped and put the bag away. 

The recipe below is what I came up with. It's still got plenty of sugar, so I wouldn't go and call it a health bar, but I felt a little better about myself as I helped myself to the second bar. One does have to taste test. There's still plenty of butter and honey in there to make it crunchy and sweet.

Oh, and the ginger beer was totally an accident. The original recipe called for apple juice, but I didn't have any. I happened to be drinking some ginger beer, so I just poured it in and hoped for the best. It fizzed a little in the saucepan, but that was about all the excitement it provided. 

This was so easy that I have sworn off ever buying my own granola bars ever again. Plus I feel better about myself for making myself a somewhat healthy snack.  

Nutty Coconut Granola Bars

6 cups gluten-free rolled oats
4 Tablespoons butter, melted (I used Earth Balance)
1/4 cup rice bran oil
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup Reed's Extra Ginger Brew
1/4 cup molasses
2 tbsp brown rice syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
1/2 cup chopped almonds
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup coconut flakes

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Stir the oil and melted butter into the oats. Spread the mixture on two baking sheets and toast for 15-20 minutes.

Combine the sugar, honey, molasses, brown rice syrup, and ginger beer in a saucepan on low heat and stir until it is all nicely melted together. Add the vanilla.

Combine all the other dry ingredients and toss together in a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients. Stir.

Spread everything out onto a well-greased cookie sheet, pressing down firmly and reshaping when necessary. Bake for 20 minutes or until the granola is golden brown. Let it cool.

Here's the fun part. Take a large knife and cut the granola bars into whatever sizes you want. You can eat the bits that break off or save them for cereal.
Eric demos the knife.
I did manage to save some of the leftover bits for cereal, even with all the taste-testing. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pot o' gold brownies

These brownies aren't names "Pot o' Gold Brownies" just because it happens to be St. Patrick's Day--they also happen to be the most ridiculously expensive brownies I have ever made.

I found the recipe on Epicurious. I couldn't resist a brownie that claimed to be healthy and insanely good. It even had the broccoli icon next to it, so it had to be good for you, right?

This morning I got everything ready to bake and realized I had forgotten one of the key ingredients--8 oz. of dark chocolate. Eric had to go to school for something anyway, so he volunteered to stop by West Point Market and pick up some chocolate.

I pity him when he goes to the store. I know what the sales people see: a confused man wandering the aisles with a blank look on his face holding a shopping list written by his wife . They target him right away. "Your wife needs this," they say, holding up the most expensive version of whatever the list says I need. They know he'll say yes, no matter what the price, because he just wants to get out of the store and back to his dog.

This is how we ended up making brownies with $15.00 worth of dark chocolate. They are moist, decadent, delicious. I wouldn't go so far as to say they are healthy, but they're healthier than other brownies. Chocolate is supposed to help with coughs, so maybe this will help me get better.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Almost Challahpocalypse--or Challah 3, The Final Battle

Several hours ago, I cleaned the kitchen and got everything prepped for the third attempt at making gluten-free, dairy free challah. I decided give the first challah recipe that I tried two weeks ago another chance with a tougher mixer and the right yeast. That recipe at least tasted really good, even if the end result was dense and chewy.

It started off well enough. All the ingredients were at hand, all the bowls and measuring cups in the right place. Everything was great until I had to combine the wet and dry ingredients.

And then I remembered how much I hate mixing GFDF dough. 

Mixers weren't made to deal with substances that resemble like a mixture of sticky taffy and slimy wet clay. The dough, if you could call it that, kept trying to ride up the beaters. I had to stop the machine every minute or so just to scoop the dough off them and encourage everything to mix together. GF dough is incredibly sticky--most of the dough ended up stuck to the spatula or my hands. Some ended up on the coffee pot, the stove, my sweater, my hair. Towards the end, the beaters were completely stuck to the dough and I couldn't get them out without brute force and harsh language.

When it had finally all mixed together, I was so irritated with the whole process that I decided that today would be the last day I'd ever make GF bread. Ever. The whole process is just too ridiculously messy and complicated. As I washed the slimy dough off my fingers again, I considered going off bread entirely.

slimy dough

So instead of just finishing the challah that I'd actually started on, I decided to make another challah from a bread mix in the bread machine to see if that could do a better job of it. Then I'd call it quits. When Eric came downstairs he found me cursing like a mad sailor underneath the table, trying to find an extension cord for the bread machine.

But even the bread machine was having a bad day and couldn't mix it well enough. Once again, I had to mix it all together with my hands. Even so, the dough stuck to the sides of the container and wouldn't come off. I gave up, closed the lid, and let it do whatever it wanted to the bread. 

more slimy dough, but in a bread machine

After about an hour, I started rethinking my decision to give up bread, because the kitchen started to smell amazing. 

And it actually came out okay, after all that.

Of course, I had to try out a piece or two. This time it was much softer, a little fluffier. I'd say this is the best one I've done yet. It's still gluten-free, still not exactly challah, but I'm not making any more of this for a while, so this is as good as it's gonna get.

Oh, and the bread machine version was okay, but I wouldn't make it again. Not only does the rectangular shape make it look too much like it's trying to be real bread, but it was also fairly boring. It'll be fine as thick toast for breakfast. Or maybe challah French toast? I've heard that's really good. 

The challah saga may have ended, but I haven't given up the fight. I'm just resting for a while.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

GF DF Challah, Take 2

The last challah recipe I tried was high in protein, but very dense. By the second day I felt like I was biting into chewy hard tack.

The recipe I tried today is from Gluten Free Canteen.

While the last recipe had all sorts of ingredients, this one seemed a lot less complicated. It's true that it didn't take long to put everything together and mix it, but it took 4 hours to get the dough to rise properly. I had to cover it with parchment and let it sit in the oven for two hours over a pan of water, then take it out, punch it down, mix it again, scoop it into a baking pan, then let it sit for another two hours. The mottled texture on the top is from the parchment paper sticking to the dough after the second rising.

The four hour wait was definitely worth it. The finished product was light and fluffy, if a bit dry.  Butter helps. This one definitely tasted more like a bread--almost like a sweet sourdough challah, if that makes any sense. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

GFDF Challah, Take 1

A couple of people have asked me over the years if I knew a decent recipe for challah. I kept promising I'd work on something, but the recipes were always so daunting. Eventually I just forgot about it. But this week Eric decided that he wanted me to take the risk and make gluten-free, dairy-free challah. I'd tried challah a few times before I gave up gluten, but it was so long ago that I have no idea what it's supposed to look, feel, or taste like.

This weekend I decided to give it a go. I found four different recipes on the web and chose the one that looked the prettiest and most like challah from Living Without (If anyone wants the recipe, just ask and I'll email it to you). 

Right from the start, things went wrong. Even though it was right on my shopping list, I'd managed to forget to buy rice flour. Luckily, Eric was on his way back from the gym and picked some up for me. He called me from the store to see if there was anything else I needed, which was just about the time that I noticed that the packet of yeast I found in the cupboard had expired in 2008. I don't bake a lot. While I was waiting, I spilled potato starch all over the floor and the dog tried to eat it while I was sweeping it and I had to threaten him with the broom before he backed off. Who knew dogs liked potato flour?

As soon as Eric got back, I was ready to begin. Sort of. It was only after I got all the ingredients together that I realized why I hadn't tried to bake bread for years. Making GF bread is complicated and confusing. Sometimes it's just easier to bite the bullet and spend the extra money to buy it at the store. Let the professionals deal with complicated mixes of expensive, hard-to-find ingredients. But I'd promised Eric I'd try, so I did. I'd already bought rice flour, tapioca flour, chickpea flour, Dari-free powder and potato starch just to make this thing. No point in wasting it.

Then I realized that Eric hid my mixer. He has a habit of putting things away, which is nice, until you realize that what he really does is hide them somewhere in the basement, which involves washing the cobwebs out. I was in no mood to deal with cobwebs. Out came the hand mixer, which worked for five whole minutes until the thick sticky mass that was trying to become bread broke one of my beaters in half. Luckily the dough was so sticky that it didn't fly off and hurt anyone, although it did take a couple of minutes to extricate the half-beater from it. I bet regular challah with gluten in it never broke a beater.

I soldiered on. Out came the plastic wrap and olive oil for the dough-rolling, which felt like making one of those slippery water snake toys. It was too sticky for braiding easily, so I took the tubes that I'd made and wound them around the springform pan, twisting them a bit.

Not counting all the waiting time, it took at least an hour just to prepare the dough, then another 30-40 minutes to wait for the yeast to rise, then another hour to bake the thing. I'm ready for a nap.

End result? Eric said, "it tastes just like challah, but well, you know, it's still gluten-free." I'll admit it was pretty dense. He still ate two slices of it, so I know he appoved.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Compressed Rice with Smoked Salmon

I found a recipe for compressed rice with smoked salmon in a Japanese cookbook that I've been keeping. I didn't have the special equipment, so I put saran wrap over the top and put jars on top. Eric says that since it came out uneven, I should practice every week until I get it right. Maybe I'll buy the equipment. Maybe I'll just try out bigger jars.

You can find a similar similar recipe here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Crock-pot pumpkin oats and more

Today, everything is pumpkin.
Crockpot Pumpkin Oatmeal

Pumpkin Beef Stew with GF bread
Yesterday we realized that our neighborhood was celebrating Halloween in just a few hours, hastily bought and carved a few pumpkins, and bought way too much candy for the 10 or so groups of kids who dared knock on our door. We don't have any kids, so we don't think of these things until it's almost too late. One year we forgot completely and went out to dinner. We came home to smashed pumpkins in our yard.

After Eric and I eviscerated and knifed three innocent pumpkins, we threw the insides into a bowl stared at the mess, trying to figure out what to do with all that pumpkin. Jor-El, our trusty pumpkin-pie colored dog, stole a few bits of carved-out mouths and eyes and gnawed on them, but that still left me with a large bowl pumpkin bits.

Later, when trick-or-treating was over and the dog had settled down and stopped barking at everyone, we just wanted to sit down and enjoy being childless adults, so we covered the pumpkin parts in plastic wrap and went downstairs to watch James Bond and drink beer.

Today was a little more productive. I started the day off with pumpkin hot chocolate, then fished out all the seeds from the pumpkin brains and toasted them in tamari and ginger. The dog liked those too, but I only let him have the ones that dropped on the floor. Then I started the soup and the oatmeal, baked some GF bread (from a mix), and curled up in bed to read Cloud Atlas while Eric raked leaves in the rain. I told him not to, but he did anyway. By the time he came back inside, freezing and complaining of aches and pains, the soup was ready for him. I sent him upstairs for a long winter's (okay, autumn's) nap.

Crockpot Pumpkin Oats
1 cup steel-cut oats
2 cups fresh pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup almond milk
2 tsp chia seeds (optional)
2 tsp sprouted mung beans (optional)
1/4 cup honey
1 cup of dried berries/nuts (cranberries are good)
2 tbsp ginger syrup (optional)

Mix all ingredients together and put in well-oiled crockpot. I put it on high for an hour, then low for two and a half hours. By then it browned a little on the bottom. This will be my breakfast for most of this week. If anyone sees me look a little orange, it's just pumpkin overload.  

Pumpkin Beef Stew
I used a recipe for Beef and Sweet Potato Stew from Joy the Baker, substituting  pumpkin for the sweet potatoes. I'm pretty sure I poured a lot more than 1/2 cup of GF beer in there, but I drank the rest, so I couldn't tell. I also found a couple of sites that cooked the whole thing in the pumpkin. I might try that next week if I'm feeling adventurous.