Friday, July 31, 2009

Gluten Free Vanilla Extract

I have decided to embark on a little project to make homemade vanilla extract. I know this is not a ground breaking venture, however, it's something I've never attempted before. I first saw this over at Joy the Baker and decided it looked easy enough for a firefighter to handle. Not to mention this is an opportunity to use up some vodka that has been collecting dust in the cupboard.
I ordered some vanilla beans online from the Boston Vanilla Bean Company. According to their website, 24 grams of beans are needed to make 8 ounces of extract. So I ordered 24 grams of extract quality beans. As I looked for more extract recipes online, most called for 3 beans to make 8 ounces of extract. When my vanilla beans arrived there were about 9 beans in the package equalling 24 grams. I decided to use 4 beans. 80 proof alcohol is needed for the extract. Rum and vodka are usually the alcohols used in making extract. Theoretically vodka is neutral and does not alter the vanilla flavor. We had some 100% potato vodka in the cupboard, so that is what I used. To make the extract; slice the vanilla beans down the center leaving about a 1/2 inch at the top and bottom intact. Place the beans in a sealable jar and add 8 ounces of alcohol.

Store in a dark place for about 2 months. Shake the bottle periodically to mix up the extract. I'll report back on the progress of my extract. You should buy some beans and join me! Take care.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gluten Free Pasta Salad

Well, we made it back from our trip to Wallowa Lake in Eastern Oregon.

My daughter and her cousin enjoyed feeding all the chipmunks and squirrels from atop Mt. Howard overlooking the lake. There is a gondola that takes you to the top.

We tried our luck at fishing for the first time. We didn't catch anything, which probably wasn't too bad. I'm not sure what would have happened if my animal loving daughter saw a fish attached to the line she just reeled up.

I'm feeling kind of guilty lately. I haven't been posting as often as I would like. I'll blame it on summer. Here in Portland we are in the midst of a brutal heat wave. It was 103 yesterday and 106 today. Tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter. For the average, mild, rain soaked North Westerner, the heat is almost paralyzing. My family and I headed for the beach yesterday to avoid the hot hot weather. It was a rare moment on the Oregon coast where the ocean water actually felt refreshing and not just ice cold. So there it is, I've been a slacker lately. A hot kitchen is not the best place to hang out in the summer.

Summer or not, I still have to eat, so I present you with a gluten free pasta salad. I don't really follow a recipe for this, but I'll approximate amounts.
Pasta Salad
1 box of Ancient Harvest Quinoa Rotelle Pasta (prepare according to box-drain)
1/4 pound Italian dry salami (cubed)
1 medium cucumber (cubed)
3 Tbs sun dried tomatoes (diced)
4 ounces Feta cheese crumbles
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/3 cup Italian salad dressing
Mix all ingredients thoroughly and refrigerate for about an hour prior to serving. Feel free to add any of your favorite ingredients. Olives and red onion would be a great addition.

Friday, July 17, 2009

S'more Than Meets the Eye

My family and I are getting ready to travel to Wallowa Lake in Eastern Oregon for a few days of much needed rest and relaxation. Our daughter will get to spend time with her cousin and grandparents. This of course actually brings a little hope of truly being able to relax while grandma and grandpa chase after a three year old. Since Celiac doesn't lend itself to convenience while traveling, I've been busy preparing various gluten free foods for the trip. Lets face it, what would a summer trip to the lake be without s'mores? It's time to make some gluten free graham crackers.
Gluten Free Graham Crackers:
3/4 cup butter (1-1/2 sticks softened)
1/4 cup honey
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups brown rice flour
1-1/2 cups gluten free flour mix
2 Tablespoons soy flour (I used 1 TBS Garfava Flour)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2-3/4 cup water
Bake at 325 degrees F for 25-30 minutes

Start by creaming together: butter, brown sugar, honey, and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine: brown rice flour, gf flour mix, soy flour, xanthan gum, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder.

Alternate adding flour mix and water to creamed butter/sugar mix. Add just enough water to hold the batter in a soft ball. I used about 1/2 cup of water in mine. Divide the dough in half, press into a flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Next, lay out a piece of parchment paper on the counter and dust it with brown rice flour. Roll the dough very thin, about 1/8th of an inch thick (it will rise slightly in the oven.) After rolling out the dough, move the entire sheet of parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to trim off the edges of the dough to make a fairly even rectangle shape. Then use the pizza cutter or knife to cut the rectangle of dough into smaller square crackers. Don't try to separate the dough into squares, just make the cuts for the size of cracker you want.) Finally, take a fork and pierce the squares several times.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. The crackers will be soft until they cool down. Once they are cool you can break them along the lines you cut. I have the luxury of being able to eat non GF food, so I can compare how a gluten free item stacks up against the real thing. I can honestly say these are better than the store bought glutinous version. You can't get a fresh from the oven graham cracker out of a box. There's nothing left to do at this point except toast a marshmallow and throw in a piece of chocolate bar for the best gluten free s'more ever. Enjoy!!!
P.S. If you happen to have leftovers, you can freeze them for eternity and use them for graham crackers crusts. I hope I have enough left for a cheesecake.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Gluten Free Spring Rolls

When I came across this recipe at Use Real Butter, I knew I had to try it. These gluten free spring rolls are a combination of fresh ingredients wrapped in a tapioca spring roll wrapper, and accompanied with a peanut dipping sauce. The flavors and textures in the spring rolls are incredible. Aside from a little prep work up front, spring rolls are an easy meal to make. Use any fillings you like. I used: lettuce, red bell pepper, jicama, and cucumber.

On this plate; cilantro, scallions, mung bean sprouts, basil

I also added shrimp and chicken. I marinated the shrimp using the following marinade:
juice from 2 limes
2 Tbs brown sugar
4 Tbs fish sauce
2 cloves of garlic (pressed)
1-1/2 tsp chili paste
Marinade for about an hour before grilling

To make your spring roll; fill a shallow dish with warm water, place the tapioca wrapper in the water until it becomes soft and pliable, (about 10-20 seconds) pile on the filling.

Roll the wrapper tight, similar to making a burrito.

Slice and dip in soy- peanut sauce:
Peanut Sauce
1/4 cup GF soy sauce
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 Tbs rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic (pressed)
1 tsp chili paste
warm water
Mix all ingredients thoroughly, add just enough water to achieve the desired consistency.

Eat and Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix

I've been thinking a lot about local products lately. It amazes me how many products or services are right in my backyard. Bob's Red Mill is just on the other side of Portland and several local restaurants are adding gluten free items to their menus. In fact, I can't believe it's taken me this long to let you in on a local product that my wife and I discovered years ago. Laurel Hutton runs a gluten free business called Laurel's Sweet Treats. I first met Laurel around 2001. At that time she was selling gluten free cakes and cupcakes out of her home in a neighboring Portland suburb. In fact, she even made a small gluten free wedding cake for my wife to eat at our reception. Laurel has since moved her business out of her home and has branched out to selling prepackaged mixes in several stores around the Portland area, including New Seasons Markets. Laurel's Sweet Treats are also available for purchase online. One of mine and my wife's absolute favorite mixes from Laurel's Sweet Treats is her Mom's Chocolate Cake mix. Simply add some eggs and oil, mix and bake. We use Pillsbury Vanilla frosting to top it off. The mix makes a 9x13 cake, which is perfect for my wife and I to split. Ok, Ok, maybe we don't split a 9x13 cake in one sitting. But seriously, this is an incredible cake that doesn't last long. The best part is the convenience of having a great mix available when you don't feel like making something from scratch. If you're not in the Portland area, check out Laurel's Sweet Treats online. There are several mixes available and you can't go wrong with any of them.
What local products, gluten free or not, do you have nearby? Let me know.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Gluten Free Onion Rings

It's a great time of year. There are so many fresh fruits and vegetables available at local farmers markets and road side stands. While I enjoy eating the fresh fruits and veggies, one particular vegetable just begs to be coated in batter and thrown into some hot oil. Walla Walla Sweet Onions are known well beyond the Northwest for their amazing flavor. Walla Walla Sweet Onions got their start over a century ago when a French soldier brought Italian sweet onion seeds to the Walla Walla Valley in Washington State. Today, my particular Walla Walla's end up as tasty gluten free onion rings. As I searched for the proper recipe, I realized that there are as many onion ring recipes as there are stars in the sky. I took a combination of recipes and mixed and matched them. Here's what I came up with:

Start by cutting some thick rings of Walla Walla or any other sweet onion.

Soak the raw onion rings in buttermilk for at least an hour.

Mix together about 1 cup of gluten free flour mix, seasoned with 1 tsp salt and any other spices you like. Shake off excess buttermilk and dredge the onion through the flour.

Next, dunk the ring in batter:
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
mix together thoroughly
Send the battered ring for a dip in a pool of canola oil heated to 350-375 degrees F until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.

Drain and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Breakfast for Dinner

For this week's breakfast themed What's for Dinner? Wednesday I made omelettes. I have only tried to make omelettes once or twice in the past and the results were not that good. It was either too runny, overcooked, or it stuck to the pan. Recently though, I stumbled across a technique that made all the difference for me. The possibilities for omelette fillings are infinite. Here's how I made them:

Prep all your vegetables, meat, and cheese. I used red and green bell peppers, spinach, bacon, green and white onions, and extra sharp cheese.

In a small bowl, combine 3 eggs, 2 tbs of milk, and a pinch of salt and pepper together. Mix well with a fork. Next use 1 Tbs of oil or butter to grease a 10" pan. Turn on the oven broiler set to high. Pour eggs into the pan and swirl around until the bottom of the pan is covered. Cook on the stove top over medium heat. Don't stir the eggs but tip the pan up after a few minutes to check the eggs, they should be cooked on the bottom and a bit runny on top. At this point, add all the filling ingredients you want. Remove the pan from the stove top and place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn.

Remove from the oven and fold onto a plate. Top with a little extra cheese and serve with hash browns. Quick and easy. Enjoy!!!