Friday, April 27, 2012

Gluten Free Granola - A Great Way To Start The Day!

I don't know about you but BREAKFAST is my favorite meal of the day. If I don't have some food in my belly and coffee in my hand within an hour of waking up I start to get HANGRY- you know Hungry + Angry.

Because breakfast is a meal I NEVER skip sometimes I fall into a rut of eating the same thing day after day- yogurt...yogurt...some more yogurt... I mix up the fixings but still change is good right?

So two things happened last week First: My allergies were bothering me so much that a holistic healing friend of mine suggested I drop dairy from my diet for a week- YIKES! Second: I needed to make a yummy but fulfilling replacement for my yogurt.

My strategy for making granola basically consists of what I would like to eat and what I have available in my bulk foods shelve (yes I have one) to mix in.

These are a few jars from that shelve placed on my window sill for better lighting. Starting far left we have raw sunflower seeds, center is a mix of dried cherries and cranberries, and far right are almonds two ways- blanched and slivered and raw whole almonds. 

As the label says here is some organic Blue Agave for some wholesome sweetness! (and low glycemic impact) 

Now for some extra sweetness and flavor REAL yes R-E-A-L Maple Syrup. Please do me a favor- if you have any fake or imitation Maple Syrup stop reading this post, walk to the kitchen and throw it in the garbage! Growing up in the Catskills I was blessed and privileged to always have friends and neighbors who made the real stuff so I've sort of become a snob for the pure, wholesome golden syrup. 

I'm not excited about adding oils to my food but since the granola needs some saturation before the baking process I choose a healthier option over straight vegetable oil.

Now- the STAR of the show- the Gluten Free Oats! Honestly I do not know what I would do if I could no longer eat oatmeal or granola or oatmeal chocolate chip cookies made with oats- cry maybe?

Once I've raided my cabinets and collected all items I lay it all on the line. Notice I have no recipe for this granola rather an assembling of ingredients because I like to use my accurate and official eyeball/proportion method :)

The fun part about making your own granola is it's all about your preference- feeling nutty? Add more nuts- need more tart, sweetness in your life- add more dried cherries! Experiment and have fun with it! 

When the dry ingredients are in place it's time to SPICE IT UP ! For this batch I kept it VERY simple by adding a teaspoon of cinnamon- my favorite all-purpose spice. 

Pretend you are Tinker Bell and SPRINKLE it like fairy dust over the dry ingredients and TOSS all the ingredients to blend the spice.

NEXT - Pour the wet ingredients over the pile of soon to be granola- once again I eyeball this but if I HAD to put quantities I'd say a 1/4 cup each of the Maple Syrup and Blue Agave- then 1/2 cup canola oil.

Mix it all up- I prefer to use my hands because I enjoy the sticky, textured mess feeling between my fingers.

Once you have everything incorporated pat the mixture flat on a foil lined baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes. 

TIP: Spray foil with a nonstick spray to ensure the granola doesn't stick!

AGITATE the granola while baking! Mix ingredients every 5 minutes to ensure an evenly toasted awesomeness!

Mmmm the finished product, note the color change- not just my photoshop editing :) 

The last step of any recipe is to ENJOY it! The great part about granola is how versatile it can be, on it's own, over milk, under HOT milk, or mixed with yogurt. 

Featured above I took my new favorite breakfast fruit- Kiwi- along with a banana and some soy milk (since I gave up dairy) and enjoyed a wholesome diary and GLUTEN Free breaki! Yum! 

Happy eating!  

Monday, April 2, 2012

Adventures in Gluten Free Baking Take One

This is a story about a girl they call Dirty
A few years ago her tummy started to hurty
The doctors said they didn't know
But alas she was allergic to everything but Fro Yo...

Ok I'm clearly not making any money as a poet or rap super star but I may have some success with these new GLUTEN FREE SUGAR COOKIES. It's been a long time coming- I finally broke down yesterday and had my first trial at gluten free sugar cookies that could meet my standard of tasting as good as they looked!

Since my poetry is as bad as Kevin Costner's attempted British accent in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves I'll give a brief account of how my world was changed upon the wondrous discovery of being allergic to wheat. 

As mentioned above it started a few years ago when I had severe and I'm talking SEVERE bloating, to the point where you would think I was 6+ months pregnant. This was one of the first indications something was not right inside. Next would be bad reactions to food like pasta and pizza this lead to the assumption that my gallbladder wasn't working properly but after becoming radioactive for 3 days that was also ruled out (radioactive due to the testing done). It finally took the good sense of my general practitioner to test me for allergies...UREKA! I'm allergic to peanuts, walnuts, pecans, WHEAT, corn and just about everything else in the environment. My simple solution was to cut these products out of my diet. Take note wheat is easier to overcome than corn since corn is hidden in just about any and all processed foods, not to mention lots of gluten free yummies use corn flour and corn starch in their substitutions. Fear not said I ... and I've gone on learning the joys and benefits in living gluten and corn free!  

*NOTE TO ALL  GLUTEN FREE HATERS who claim it's just a preference and not a real problem... yes I can "cheat" and eat things on my do not eat list but as with the secret service in my favorite movie Wedding Crashers there are "consequences". What I've found is the longer you've gone from having a certain product like wheat or corn, the more sensitive you are when you accidentally or on purpose consume it... so better to stay away and live bloat and pain free ;) . Fun fact I worked at a regular bakery here in Albany and when my allergies in the environment were really bothering me, going into work became a problem because not only was I under attack outside, but I became even more sensitive and over come by the flour floating in the air dusting up out of the large mixers...yeah..that bad! 

Back to the Gluten Free Easter Eggs... I did some basic googling around and found a simple ( I always like simple) recipe. You will find when trying anything gluten free it usually takes a lot of weird mixtures of ingredients you have never heard of before but that's why I chose this recipe because it's ingredient list was painlessly short. 

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup (2sticks) softened butter
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (make sure its GLUTEN FREE)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 egg yolks (but save the whites for the royal icing!!!) 
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon (Dirty's Little Secret
  • 2 1/4 cups Gluten Free Flour Blend

The flour blend was easy and didn't have any corn! (often they do) It was 2 cups rice flour, 2/3 cup potato flour, 1/3 cup tapioca starch, and 1 teaspoon xanthan gum. 

Once you assembled all ingredients it's standard operating procedure cookie style. Since this was my first attempt at rolled out sugar cookies here are somethings I noted for future reference:

  1. When rolling the dough it cracks easy unless it is at the PERFECT temperature, this is something you need to use your bakers instincts to judge, just keep testing until it rolls without problems. 
  2. You will need to generously flour your rolling surface and make sure the rolling pin is continuously floured
  3. Once dough hits right rolling temp. be prepared for a smooth, silky smooth dough that becomes a pain in the butt to work with so be careful and keep all unused dough refrigerated until needed
  4. I would suggest trying Martha's method of freezing cutouts until hard to ensure they keep shape when baking
  5. Let cool on pan for a 2 minutes before attempting removal, if not it's disastrous for your cookies! 
  6. The consistency (I'm working on it) is a bit crumbly after so you can't toss them around like my other sugar cookies
Once I have them rolled and baked it's just like Dirty's other sugar cookie productions. Great part of this recipe is there is NO WASTE! The two yolks required for the dough leave two perfectly useable egg whites for the royal icing! Now technically I should not eat royal icing since confectionary sugar contains corn starch, however in the need to sample this new product I made an exception and tried one of my Eggs and it was YUMMY :) *Note my belly is still a little puffy---but maybe that was the other 5 Eggs I ate that I decorated with sanding sugar knowing I could certainly eat those... hmm... sadly I don't have a picture of them since I ate them! But do enjoy the few pictures I took of the final product! 

Hope you enjoy these Eggs-- wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Easter!