Sunday, April 28, 2013

Blue Cheese and a Huge Thank You

I LOVE blue cheese, always have...even as a little kid. I'm so happy to read that blue cheese IS gluten-free.

I thought I had to give up my blue cheese since I thought it was made from wheat mold. Thank God I have been reading "gluten-free girl and the chef" . It's a wonderful book packed with cooking tips, trivia, yummy recipes, and more.

One very significant piece of information found on page 155 on the Ahern's book is that in 2009 the Canadian Celiac Association conducted tests to different types of blue cheeses from all over the world. The results were NO gluten is found in blue cheese. Thank you Shauna for posting this bit of trivia in your cookbook.

The Ahern's cookbook "gluten-free girl and the chef" is more than a cookbook for those with celiac or gluten intolerance. It's a love story...a very well written and sweet story of their lives together. I'm so happy that my first google blog  search on living gluten-free produced their blog at the top of the search list. Their blog and cookbook are so refreshing, unpretentious, and simple sweet. Thank you Shauna and Danny for sharing! I'm looking forward to reading more of your outstanding pieces of works.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Chocolate Chip Challenge

Making a tasty gluten-free chocolate chip was one of my first goals when I found the time to bake for myself after the Christmas Holidays this past year. When I googled recipes, the first recipe that came up was the one from Land O'Lakes. Back in January, I made that recipe, and I posted the results on my quilting blog since I hadn't started this blog. Those cookies were yummy and had the texture that I liked in a chocolate chip cookie. Here is a photo of that first batch.

A month later, I was craving chocolate chip cookies again. So, I made another batch using the same recipe which baked into a flat mess with chips as the peaks. I was so disappointed since they were not the same consistency. Plus, they had turned into a crumbly mess the next day.

A month later, I decided to borrow numerous gluten-free cookbooks from the library. While reading, I bookmarked the chocolate chip cookie recipes that I would try. Well, I made a batch of Hasselbeck's recipe (left cookie), and I made Karen Morgan's recipe (right cookie).

Both of the cookies tasted good, but the texture and consistency that I liked was Karen Morgan's recipe from her Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free cookbook, a soft cakey cookie loaded with chocolate chips.

Two nights ago while skimming through Shauna James Ahern & Daniel Ahern's cookbook Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, I came across baking tips on page 201. The one tip that interested me the most was the information about not to over cream the butter and sugars for gluten-free cookies . I read that paragraph again to reflect on what they were informing the reader. Ahern states to just mix until combined to prevent spreading. Wow, that was the cause of my flat cookies! Now I knew what I had done wrong. That was what I had done with the Land O'Lakes recipe on the second baking and same with the Hasselbeck's recipe, I had over creamed the butter and sugars.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Strawbery-Almond Cake

I followed this recipe that I found on the internet:

Well, I almost followed it exactly. I couldn't find the Solo pure almond paste; so, I substituted the pure almond paste for the Solo almond cake and pastry filing. That may have been mistake #1.

I didn't use the Manischewitz potato starch because I couldn't find that either locally. And the potato powder that I purchased from the Asian was granular in texture which might have contributed to mistake #2. Normally that potato powder is very fine.

Mistake #3 was baking the cake too long. The cake was a bit dry and hard at the edges. Next time, I'll cut the baking time down and watch the baking more closely.

The recipe calls for 2 cups of heavy whipping cream and a quart of strawberries. I don't know how many strawberries makes a quart since I didn't purchase a quart of strawberries; I had a larger container. I layered the cake with 2 cups of sliced strawberries. And then smothered the strawberries with the rest of the whipped cream, placed top cake on, and dusted top of cake with powder sugar.

 This is a wee bit too much whipping cream. Where's the cake?

The photo below is of the author's cake, while my cake is the above cake. I did use all of the whipping cream that was called for in the recipe. Looking at the difference in the photos makes me wonder if the author used the total amount of whipping cream that they suggested since their slice looks like less whipping cream.

Lessons to be learned: follow directions...well almost, just minus some cream, omit the grated lemon rind(I didn't like that flavor with the almond), and cut down on the bake time. Will I try this recipe again? You bet! Smother anything with tons of whipping cream and it's delicious enough to eat.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Shepherd's Pie

This is easier than dealing with pie crusts, loaded with veggies, and so yummy that everyone will enjoy.

Shepherd's Pie

6-8 potatoes
sour cream
1.5 lbs boneless chicken thighs
garlic, allspice, thyme
button mushrooms
pepper, cayenne pepper, parsley, paprika
cheddar cheese

Boil potatoes then peel.
Add 2 Tbps sour cream, 2 Tbps butter, and 1/4 tsp pepper then mash.
Set aside.

Cook about 1.5 Lbs of boneless chicken thighs with 4-5 cloves of garlic, 5-6 whole allspice, 1/2 tsp thyme, and enough water to cover chicken. Cool and cube meat.

Cook 1 large diced onion
Add 8-9 sliced mushrooms.
Add sliced carrots (I used half of a small bag of the baby carrots) and 1/4 of a small head of cabbage sliced. Cook until just done.
Add frozen peas (or fresh) and cube cooked chicken.

Add 1 cup of the chicken broth (from cooking the chicken) and 1/2 cup of milk.
Add pepper, cayenne pepper, fresh parsley, cooked garlic cloves, and paprika to taste. Cook until bubbling, then add cornstarch paste (3 Tbps of water and 2 Tbps cornstarch) to thicken.

Fill a deep-dish glass pie pan with veggies and meat mixture.
Spread mashed potatoes over top of mixture, then top mashed potatoes with shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until top is golden brown.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


This recipe is always a hit in my house. It's basically a cabbage pancake. My version of the pancake is loaded with cabbage, less batter, and lots of goodies on top. One can make it with more batter and less cabbage.

First start by thinly slicing a quarter of a medium size cabbage. I use a mandolin to slice the cabbage very thinly. Then add shredded carrots and mix. Set that to the side while mixing up batter.

The original recipe calls for flour, salt, and baking powder, but I'm making mine gluten-free.

Gluten-free batter dry ingredients:
4 Tbps rice flour
2 Tbps millet
2 Tbps potato powder
1 Tbps tapioca flour
1/2 tps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Mix ingredients together. Then mix in 1 egg and 1/4 cup of dashi or chicken broth. If dashi contains wheat, then substitute with chicken broth. Add this to cabbage and let rest for 5-10 minutes.

Fry out bacon and cut into small pieces. Drain off the bacon grease so that the pan is just lightly coated. Add cooked chicken, if you wish. Add 1 cup frozen peas that have been thawed, and sliced spring onion.

Before adding cabbage mixture to pan, mix the cabbage mixture once more. Then place cabbage mixture on top of meat and pea mixture to cover entire skillet. Do NOT mix. Place lid on top of frying pan and cook on medium heat until bottom browns. Remove lid, and flip pancake over by taking a large plate and flipping pancake onto the plate and then sliding pancake back onto the pan. Cook until underside is brown about 5-10 minutes. Slide pancake onto large plate and serve with gluten-free condiments to taste.

Sauces and condiments to use as final toppings, just make sure they are gluten-free:
Okonomi Sauce (most likely not gluten-free)
soy sauce
dried bonito flakes
red pickled ginger, minced
aonori (powdered seaweed)

If you want a pancake with more batter, then follow a good gluten-free pancake recipe, but omit sugars, milk, or buttermilk; and use 2 eggs and 1 cup of dashi or chicken broth.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Korean Rice Cakes and Beef Stroganoff

Why rice cakes? And how do I prepare them since they are hard as a rock before cooking? These were just some questions that came to mind when I first saw a package of rice cakes at the Asian grocery store. Rice cakes can easily be used as substitute for wheat flour pasta in many dishes, but how does one cook with them.

Preparing Rice Cakes:
The directions on the package can be a wee bit confusing, but not daunting.
These are my directions, taken from what I could figure out from the package.
Soak the frozen rice cakes in cool water for about 10 minutes. While they are soaking, boil a huge pot of water (same as if cooking pasta). Once the water is boiling, drop the rice cakes in and let them cook for just about 1-2 minutes (until just soft). Now the rice cakes are ready to add into soups, pan fry, or other dishes. I made Spicy Ground Beef Stroganoff with rice cakes.

My Spicy Ground Beef Stroganoff recipe.

1-2 lbs ground beef
10 large white button mushroom, sliced (I like to slice mine with an egg slicer)
1 large diced onion
~8 oz. sour cream
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cayenne red pepper
1-2 tsps. chile garlic sauce
1 cup peas
3 sliced spring onion

Cook ground beef with salt and pepper, then remove beef and leave fat and juices (that adds the liquid needed and flavor).
Cook diced onion until clear in color, about 5 minutes.
Add mushroom and cook to your liking.
Add cooked beef to onion and mushrooms.
Stir in sour cream, cayenne, chile garlic, cook for 5 minutes.
Add more spices if needed, to your taste.
Mix in peas and prepared rice cakes, cook for 5 minutes.
Top with sliced spring onions.

The Spicy Garlic that I used for this recipe I purchased in Asian grocery store. I didn't see any wheat on the list of ingredients. There is corn starch used as the thickener. I'm fine with that since I'm just gluten sensitive, but for those that are Celiac I would omit using this product just to be on the safe side. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rice Porridge for Breakfast

This is an easy meal that can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but in my house it is served mainly for breakfast. Start with leftover rice, then add enough water, ~2-3 cups, and cook the rice into a porridge.

Sometimes I add seaweed and leftover salmon.

I always add an egg by dropping it into the porridge to cook.

Soft rice porridge is so simple to make and a healthy morning start.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Red Velvet Cake

This is the second time I have made this Red Velvet Cake recipe. It has been a hit both times with everyone, even those that prefer eating gluten and have no issues eating gluten. My father-in-law loves this cake so much that my sister-in-law purchased for me this bottle of Red Velvet after I had made the first cake, just a hint to make another cake.

I followed this recipe: Instead of cupcakes, I made a layer cake. I like to frost my cakes with  8 oz. of mascarpone mixed with a 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. This dense and moist cake is so yummy!

Vitamin D

I was reading from The Gluten Connection by Shari Lieberman again today. She has a section that talks about lack of vitamin D and a metabolic bone disease, osteomalacia.

I presently don't have this disease, although I may be showing some symptoms.  I have been told twice that my vitamin D levels were low. My doctor has twice put me on weekly high units of vitamin D, 50,000 units for eight weeks, with then a daily 1,000 units for maintenance. The doctor thinks it is due to the lack of not getting enough sun exposure since I use suntan lotion. I walk daily for at least 30 minutes to an hour. I rarely use suntan lotion just because I forget to put that goop on (but don't tell my doctor that). I live in the San Francisco Bay Area where the sun shines lots, my daily dose of vitamin D, minus the cloudy days in winter.

I have also recently had had a colonoscopy in which two polyps were found and removed. The note from the doctor doing the colonoscopy to me was this: "At this time, the cause of colon polyps is generally not known. It has been suggested that exercise and a diet that is high in fiber, low in fat, with calcium supplementation is helpful in preventing polyps."

I eat high in fiber, I exercise, I consume calcium, I eat yogurt,...dang...I eat healthy.

This next paragraph is taken from page 46 of The Gluten Connection.
" People may lack this vitamin (vitamin D) because they do not get enough sun exposure or because their diets are deficient and they do not take supplements for it.  But the condition (osteomalacia) is often caused by the lack of absorption of the vitamin into the body's system. That lack of absorption may be caused by gluten sensitivity or celiac disease."
Now this make sense! This just might tie the two issues, a lack of vitamin D and having polyps, together into what may be the cause of my problems. Vitamin D is important in helping the body absorb calcium.

Later in the book, page 56, the author talks about a person with celiac disease.
"When a person who has celiac disease eats food containing gluten... the body sets off an autoimmune reaction that damages the small intestine. The result is that the food is not properly digested and malabsorption may also become severely malnourished and anemic and ultimately suffer from a number of other autoimmune disorders.  The disease may also leave your vulnerable to some types of cancer."

Polyps lead to cancer if left untreated.

My mother has numerously told me the story of the two of us riding a bus in Germany when I was around five years old. A woman on the bus that had been watching me finally asked my mother how long has that child been sick. I must of not only looked malnourished back then, but I was. My mother's response was that the child eats well. Yes, I did love my bread back then with the crust cut off and smeared with butter and sugar. I also loved blue cheese at that age too. Blue cheese is made from using bread molds, at least it use to be made that way.

Basically, I'm malnourished, or was. My gluten sensitivity has been causing my body to not absorb the needed vitamin D to help absorb the needed calcium that is needed to keep me healthy. I can live without wheat, rye, and barley to help keep me healthy and not malnourished. That's easy to do.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Just One Bite Left

While researching on gluten-free restaurants, I stumbled across Pica Pica in San Francisco. Their signature dish is the Venezuelan arepas. The photos of the arepas on their webpage looked so delicious that I had to try the one. So, of course I took a trip into the City. Well worth it too since the entire meal was delicious!

The arepas were so yummy and a novelty for me that I wanted to eat another the next day. So, after googling arepas recipes and watching numerous you-tube videos on how to make them, I decided that I could make my own. I just had to hunt down the proper corn flour that is needed. Lucky for me, I didn't have to hunt too far.

This corn flour is different from the masa harnina, a flour that is ground corn treated with lime and used to make tortillas.  P.A.N corn flour is precooked, ground corn flour that is used in Venezuelan and Colombian arepas.  A food that is served for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. They eat them throughout the day with whatever they wish to add: butter, cheese, meats.

Well, I made two arepas for dinner tonight.  Yes, only two since it was just my son and I eating dinner. One arepa is quite filling.

I mixed 1 cup of corn flour to just slightly over 1 cup of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, which I let rest for 3 minutes. Then I pan fried the patties on a lightly grease skillet until each side was a golden brown. Patties then were placed in oven to finish off the cooking for about 15 minutes. Surprisingly there are different methods of cooking arepas. I believe the traditional method is this two step method of pan frying for the needed crunchy exterior and then baking them in oven to finish the cooking so that the interior is light and airy.

I ate mine with grilled salmon and melted Monterey Jack cheese. Sorry, just one bite left. I almost forgot to take a picture since I was busily enjoying the food.

After dinner, I read the packaging of the P.A.N white corn flour. Under ingredients it states that it may contain traces of wheat. I was under the impression that this was only made from corn. Looks like this corn flour is processed in a factory that also processes wheat flour. Luckily, I'm only gluten intolerant and not celiac. I'll have to hunt for another brand. Hopefully, there is another brand that is truly gluten-free since I wish to enjoy these yummy breads again.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I Liked It!

I would have never thought I had something in common with Elizabeth Hasselbeck, other than being a woman.  I'm not a fan of hers. She's too blonde and conservative for my liking. So, when I came across her cookbook, Deliciously G-Free, at the library, I reminded myself to be impartial and just read the book. Surprisingly, I liked it!  I loved her story about her family, the layout of the book with beautiful photos of yummy looking food, and her suggestions on prepping flour mixes to have readily on hand. It's a simple cookbook, not daunting, for the beginner cook or someone with busy schedule just starting to deal with cooking gluten-free.

Since I had some bananas that were extremely ripe and millet flour on hand, I made the Banana Bread recipe from her book. I liked it! I omitted just one ingredient, the 1/3 cup of water in step three since the batter already seemed very wet and runny.  The brown rice and millet flour blend is a delightful flavor that complements the bananas and walnuts, much better than wheat flour. If you want the recipe, you will just have to borrow the cookbook from the library. Recipe can be found on page 213. Enjoy! Oh, and the blueberry muffins look scrumptious too.

Reading Nails

Nails do reveal a lot about one's health, at least that is what I have been told.
It's just difficult for layman like me to read nails.

I don't ever recall having pretty long nails. I remember as a teenager trying to grow my nails by painting them with nail polishes, only to have them break and split immediately after polishing. I gave up on nail polish long ago. I just thought that I inherited weak nails from one of my parents, and that my gardening work without using gloves caused my nails to break. I accepted the fact that my nails were never going to be pretty.

I recently came across The Gluten Connection by Shari Lieberman at the library and read it. The relationship of gluten to many different illnesses are discussed in this book through personal stories that the author compiled. While reading one story, the person described that not only did all her symptoms clear up, but also her nails had grown for the first time after removing gluten from her diet. I stopped reading, looked down at my nails, and was totally surprised. It has been four months since I have been off gluten, and I can proudly say that I have nails...healthy, strong nails that are pretty.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Gluten-Free Blueberry Pancakes

I recently came up with my own buckwheat pancakes recipe. I took some leftover flour blend from another pancake recipe that I had made earlier and added some buckwheat to make a fluffy pancake. These are yummy!

My own blueberry buckwheat pancake recipe:

1/2 cup Flour Blend*
1/2 cup Buckwheat Flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
Fresh blueberries

*Flour blend 3/4 brown rice flour, 1/4 tapioca starch, 1/4 potato starch

Combine flours, baking powder, and salt. Add egg and buttermilk and mix well.
Let sit for at 5 minutes. Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto hot griddle or pan. Add a handful of blueberries to top of pancakes. Cook until bubbles form on top. Then flip and cook until just golden brown on bottom. Serve with maple syrup.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

That's right, no flour in this recipe. I found numerous recipes like this on the internet. This recipe is so simple to make and tastes so peanut buttery...yummy!

1 cup of creamy peanut butter
1 cup of sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder

Mix all ingredients.
Spoon 1 teaspoon of mixture onto un-greased baking sheet, flatten mounds with the tines of fork coated in sugar to make cross-hatch pattern.
Bake 350 degree F  for 10 minutes. Cool before transferring to cooling racks.
Makes around 24 large cookies or 36 small cookies.

Simply Perfect!