Tag Archives: Gluten Free

Chai Cupcakes

I consider cooking and baking to be something of an art. Naturally, I am often asked why I got an art degree and what am I doing with it now (or why I’m “not using my degree”). I tell them exactly what happened. In my second-to-last semester of college I essentially discovered my love of cooking and baking. I found it to be a creative outlet in a very practical form (and I am a very practical person. Win-win!). What am I doing with my degree now?

I write, design, and photograph for this blog, for one.

I also experiment with things like… gluten free chai cupcakes.

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Part of being an artist involves being resourceful. Know what is available to you and turn what you have into something beautiful. A sculptor may not have access to the finest marble, but he may have clay, an old cookie jar, and some branches. Instead of bemoaning how he can’t use marble, the artist will turn what he has into something that, in the end, perfectly fits the ingredients of which it is made. One who views the sculpture would never know that what is displayed before them was anything other than the artist’s perfect, initial intention.

But that is never the case, is it? I started off drawing and painting in photorealism. What I created had to look EXACTLY like the original. But one thing that school, and time, taught me is that sometimes it is better to loosen the grip and allow the creative flow to take over. Now when I create, I don’t have exacting expectations of how my project will turn out. I instead take an idea, set it in motion, and see where it leads me.

During my elimination diet several months ago, I did my fair share of whining about my restrictive diet. But eventually I realized that it was far healthier (and tastier) to see this “obstacle” as more of a challenge. I began learning the complexity of gluten-free baking. I’d already become well-seasoned in conventional, low-calorie, and vegan baking, and I decided to use my diet change as an excuse to broaden my culinary horizons, if you will. A new frontier. I picked up my whisk and began to play.

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Very quickly I noticed how tricky gluten free baking could be. I also learned how overly-complicated many gluten-free recipes are. In my quest toward “real food” eating, how could I justify ingredients such as gums and pure starches making permanent residence in my baking pantry? I understand their place, and I have them sitting in my pantry right now, but these ingredients are not cheap, nutritious, or very easily accessible. But for some reason, every gluten free recipe I found seemed to rely on them. Since “gluten-free” is a big part of my current diet vocabulary, it can be understood why I would have such ingredients on hand. And they do come in handy! But then I had a realization. What about those who wish to bake for their gluten free friends and family? Is it fair to expect them to spend $50 on a cart-load of gluten free flours, starches, and gums just to have on hand when their gluten-free guest visits? How can I make gluten free baked goods simple, effective, accessible, and delicious? How can I relieve the anxiety surrounding gluten free baking? How can I make gluten free baking as fun and seemingly effortless as conventional baking?

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Well, I’m not there yet. There is still much to learn, and I’m by no means an expert. But I’m experimenting and discovering along the way what happens when you mix two or three colors, or ingredients, together.

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Chai Cupcakes
Adapted from Alton Brown’s Chiffon Cupcakes

I spent many an hour trying out recipes, adjusting ingredients, baking disasters, eating rogue unfrosted cakes, researching baking science, running out of ingredients, running to the store for more ingredients, trying, failing, trailing, flying (what?), and eventually…success on the fifth attempt. Through it all I found that yes, it is possible to get a moist, delicate yet structured, cupcake, sans gluten, gums, pure starches, or other strange texturizers. But it’s also not necessarily fool-proof or forgiving. After my third try, I finally secured my ideal pastry flour ratio (2:2:1 sorghum/brown rice/flaxseed) and decided that a recipe with whipped egg whites folded in for structure would be ideal.

I made it my personal mission not to give you cupcakes that were good for being gluten free. I didn’t want to show you cupcakes that were too dense, too gummy, too crusty, too cratered, too loose, etc. etc. and try to cover up the mess with frosting and say, “oh well. they’re gluten free.” No. Gluten or no gluten. These are some dang good cupcakes.

  • 5 1/4 ounces gluten free whole grain pastry flour*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp chai spice mix **
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 6 ounces brown sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

*Gluten Free Pastry Flour—It’s a 2/2/1 ratio of sorghum flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill Sweet White Sorghum Flour)/brown rice flour (Arrowhead Mills)/ground flaxseed (Arrowhead Mills, ground at home), measured by weight.

**6 parts cinnamon, 6 parts cardamom, 2 parts ginger, 1 part cloves, 1 part nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and chai spice mix.

Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the egg yolks together with 5 ounces of the flour for several minutes until creamy and smooth. Then add the water, coconut oil, and vanilla. Mix until well blended. Then slowly add the flour mixture, beating well as you add in the dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl (this is where having both a stand mixer and a hand mixer come in handy), whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar into a frenzy. When foamy, add the last 1 oz of brown sugar and mix until firm peaks form.

Gently fold the egg white foam into the rest of the batter in three parts, being careful not to overmix and destroy the air bubbles in the egg white foam.

Portion out into muffins tins, filling most the way full (since most the structure comes from the egg white foam, they really won’t rise much). Or you could use greased mugs! Your choice.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

For frosting, I tried several different options.

I initially tried this recipe for chai buttercream, but I honestly found it too heavy and cloyingly sweet for such a subtle cupcake.

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Personally, I found that I preferred a simple whipped cream adornment with just a sprinkle of leftover chai spice on top. It seems to harken more the idea of a chai latte, don’t you think?

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I hope you enjoyed this week’s installment of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies & Sweets. See you again next week!

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Orange-Cranberry Scones, Gluten-Free!

Welcome to this week’s edition of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies & Sweets!

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I started this week with an idea of making a cranberry-pear tart. Which I attempted. And while it was good, it wasn’t… finished. But then I woke up yesterday morning no longer inspired by a tart. Instead, I wanted to make muffins! No. Muffins are too breakfast-y. Scones? Yes! Scones! Yes, they are a breakfast food, but they also double as a sweet treat, especially drizzled in sweet vanilla icing! In fact, you can serve these for Christmas morning for your extended family, AND make some for a Christmas potluck!

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I love the combination of cranberry and orange. Sweet, tart, citrusy, fresh, and fruity. Perfect for the holidays!

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Gluten Free Orange-Cranberry Scones
Adapted from All Recipes

400 grams (roughly four cups) gluten-free flour mixture of your choice (I use a 2:2:1—by weight—ratio of GF oats, brown rice, and flaxseed flours)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, chilled and diced
1 cup fresh cranberries, roughly chopped
1 grated zest of one orange
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup orange juice
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a large bowl combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt with a whisk. Using a fork or pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until you achieve a fine meal throughout. Stir in the chopped cranberries and orange zest.

In a separate, small bowl, mix together the half-and-half, orange jusice, and egg until well mixed.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.

Dollop the batter into to two circular mounds on a greased sheet pan. Using a wet knife, “cut” the batter into wedges.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and firm.

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Serve with orange juice or a nice steaming mug of coffee! Smile

Aztec Brownies

Living in Texas, Christmas often makes me think of…Mexican food. Yep. Not ham. Not green bean casserole. Not sweet potato pie. Mexican food.

Growing up it was not unusual to go to a Christmas party and be served tamales. I know many people who opt for a Mexican feast on Christmas day, rather than ham, dressing, and all the fixin’s. And no, these people are not of hispanic descent!

It’s a regional thing. Mexican cuisine is a major contributor to the overall Texan culture. And this love of comforting Southwestern cuisine is what led me to Kakawa, an artisan chocolate house, this past August in Santa Fe. And while I was there I tasted and was entranced by the “Aztec Brownie,” which is a gluten free variety that included spices, chilies, and a combination of authentic Mesoamerican flours. I thought the combination of whole food ingredients they used was very creative and inspired me to make a variety of mine own!

Well let me tell you, there is something of a trick to making something really good with a just a few quality ingredients. Technique is key. And technique is the reason I’m posting this week’s 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies & Sweets edition so late. I kept failing on this! Then I realized it was my technique that was all wrong. So several trials, tribulations, and trips to the grocery store later, I finally have a really amazing recipe for you all.

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What you get from this recipe is a dense, fudge-like, rich brownie that isn’t too ridiculously sweet, but leaves you with a lingering tickle of chile and spice on your tongue. No, it is not “hot” and it is gentle on even sensitive palettes. The combination of spice and heat work very well mixed with this deep chocolate. Just try it!

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Aztec Brownie
Inspired by Kakawa

Makes 8-12 brownies

4 ounces butter
8 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 ounces agave nectar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 ounces almond milk
1.5 ounces almond meal/flour *
1 ounce blue corn meal
1/2 ounce quinoa flour **
1/2 ounce millet flour ***
1/2 ounce amaranth flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground ancho chile powder ****
1/2 tsp ground arbol chile powder
4 tbsp cocoa nibs, divided (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

In a double-broiler (or a glass bowl sitting on top of a pot of simmering water), melt butter over medium heat. Once melted (don’t rush this), add the chocolate pieces and stir until just melted. Do NOT turn up the heat. Allow it to take as much time as it needs. Once melted, take the chocolate off the heat and add in the agave nectar, eggs, vanilla, and almond milk.

In a separate, medium sized bowl, combine the flours, cinnamon, allspice, and chile powders together and mix thoroughly.

Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl of wet ingredients and stir well. Fold in half the cocoa nibs.

Pour the batter into a baking pan (11×7 or 10×10 may work best). Sprinkle the remaining cocoa nibs on top of the batter and lightly press them in. Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely. Then cut into 2-inch square servings.

Tastes amazing served with cold homemade almond milk. Smile

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* I like to make my own almond milk, and I repurpose the leftover grounds into almond meal/flour by dehydrating them in the oven for several hours at the lowest temp possible with the oven door ajar and quickly grinding them finer in a coffee grinder. Worked like a charm in this recipe!

** I grind quinoa in my coffee grinder, as I cannot find quinoa flour within an hour of my house. Plus, it’s cheaper.

*** You may use any combination of flours you have on hand, as long as you substitute one-for-one BY WEIGHT. The original Kakawa recipe contained mesquite flour, which I do not own, so I omitted it and used more of a different flour. I ground my quinoa, millet, and amaranth in my coffee grinder I dedicate exclusively to spices, grains, and chilies.

**** I’m sure somewhere you can find distinct “ancho chile powder,” but I actually buy dry ancho chilies, roast them a few minutes in a hot oven, pour out the seeds, and grind them in my coffee grinder. Same for arbol chilies. And for the love of all that is holy, do NOT use “chili powder!” That stuff has onions, garlic, and mystery ingredients in there that you do not want in your brownies!

Also, check out the other great recipes for this week’s blog hop!

Nutella Cookies!

Sorry this is a day late for my weekly Thursday editions of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies & Sweets, but I was sick with the plague on Wednesday and Thursday, but today I am better and I have a real treat for you!

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This recipe takes the flourless peanut butter cookie to a whole new level! These are flourless Nutella cookies! And they are so simple to make!

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Toss all the ingredients in a bowl…

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…stir well…

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Portion out onto a cookie sheet and smoosh with a fork al la peanut butter cookie.

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And bake!

Allow to cool and enjoy!

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I also love that because they are flourless, they are naturally gluten-free! My tummy thanks me tremendously! Smile

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Flourless Nutella Cookies
Recipe from St Petersburg Times

1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut spread, like Nutella (you could use Justin’s brand of chocolate hazelnut butter, but it probably wouldn’t be as sweet)
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (I’ve used “peanut butter spread” types like Peter Pan. OMG. Stay away unless you want fail cookies that taste totally off!)
1 heaping tablespoon natural cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Then portion out dough into 1 tbsp-size balls and place on a cookie sheet. Mash lightly with the prongs of a fork in a criss-cross fashion. Bake for about 10-12 minutes. Don’t overbake! You want them to still be soft when you take them out, because they will set outside the oven.

Allow to cool/set.

Enjoy!

Makes about two dozen cookies

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12 Weeks of Christmas Treats: Gingerbread Truffles

This recipe requires a little somethin’ special.

So turn on some Christmas music (October, Schmocktober).

Put on a frilly apron (heels optional).

Pour yourself a glass of wine? tea? coffee? cider? any choice beverage.

Pretend it’s cold outside. (It’s 80 degrees here)

And light the fire (or a candle) if it really is!

This recipe, while remarkable and completely delicious in its own right, loves a little ambiance.

And while Christmas may still be a little more than two months away, you can consider this practice for a low-stress, high-love holiday season.

Friends, we’re making gingerbread cookie dough truffles.

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I first made “cookie dough bites” about a year ago. My original recipes were basically a traditional cookie dough recipe with a few changes to make them safe to eat raw and then refrigerated until firm. This wasn’t a problem until I made a chocolate chip variety and they got really soft sitting in the warm dining room at a Christmas party. And shuffling them back and forth from the fridge to keep the right texture was far too much of a hassle.

So I changed up my recipe! Instead of depending on butter to be the stabilizer, I used dates!

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I played around with the food processor until I found the combination of ingredients I liked.

And drizzled them with sweet icing!

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Unlike the butter-based varieties, these stay at the same relative texture at room temperature. Sure, they do firm in the fridge, but they do not become the rocks that the butter kind did, nor do they become sloppy and droopy in a warm room. And this is a major plus, because who wants to babysit the dough balls and the fridge during a party? No one!

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Another plus for these is that despite being drizzled in icing, these are not cloyingly sweet like the original cookie dough recipe. I think they have the right balance of spice, sweet, crunch, and chew without leaving you with a toothache. Smile

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Enjoy!

Gingerbread Cookie Dough Truffles

Makes 20 truffles

12 pitted dates
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup ground flax meal
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 cup turbinado sugar (or other coarse sugar)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 tbsp blackstrap molasses
1 tsp vanilla

Grind the oats as best you can in a food processor, blender, or coffee grinder and pour it into a separate bowl. Set aside.
In a food processor, pulse the pecans until you get a coarse meal, but be careful not to blend is so much that it turns into pecan butter. That’s another show! Winking smile Add the pecan meal to the bowl with the oat flour.

In the food processor, chop the dates as finely as possible. Then add the oats, flax, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, sugar, and salt and process until well-incorporated. It will look pretty dry.

Add the molasses and vanilla and process again until well mixed. The mixture should be a little sticky but not wet. If you squeeze a bit of “dough” in your grip, it should stick together without leaving a molasses-y streak all over your palm.

Using a disher or a spoon, roll the mixture into 1/2-ounce balls and line on parchment paper. Can be enjoyed at room temperature or chilled! Or drizzled in icing!!

Simple Icing

1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp milk-type drink of your preference (I used unsweetened plain coconut milk)
2 cups sifted powdered sugar

Mix the vanilla and “milk” until well combined. Gradually mix in the sifted powdered sugar until smooth. This will take time. And don’t forget to sift or you’ll get clumps that look like curdled milk. Yum.

Check out the other awesome recipes for this week’s blog hop!


What is your favorite flavor of cookie?

Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies

Welcome to the 12 weeks of Christmas Cookies! I know, it’s not even October yet. But it’s just about 12 weeks until Christmas, can you believe it?

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The 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies is an annual blog hop series hosted by (this year) by Brenda at Meal Planning Magic, and at last count about 25 other bloggers are participating this this year’s series!

Every Thursday for the next twelve weeks, all we bloggers who have thrown our hats into the ring will share a new cookie/bar/brownie recipe for the quickly approaching holiday season! I understand today’s Friday and not Thursday, but better late than never, right? Winking smile

 

For this week’s installment, I’ve built upon the apple theme for this week and made Oatmeal-Apple Cookies!

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These cookies are granola bar meets apple pie meets cookie! And they’re vegan and gluten-free to boot! A tasty treat you can feel good about! And this recipe is perfect for the entire fall+Christmas season, so don’t feel like you have to wait!

 

Oatmeal-Apple Cookies (Vegan + Gluten Free!)

Adapted from Food.com

3/4 cup coconut oil (at room temperature)
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 “flax egg” (1 tbsp flaxseeds, ground, mixed with 3 tbsp hot water, and set aside)
1/4 cup rice milk (or whatever milk-type drink you prefer)
1.5 tsp vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste!)
100 g (roughly 1 cup) oat flour (I use an old coffee grinder to grind organic oats because I tolerate them better than gluten-free oats, but non-GF oats are heavily contaminated with gluten, so if you’re on a strict GF diet, use the certified gluten-free oats)
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg (the pre-ground nutmeg tastes and smells NOTHING like actual nutmeg! If you don’t want to use a whole nutmeg and grate it yourself, use pre-ground mace. It smells and tastes exactly like fresh nutmeg)
3 cups oats (I used organic rolled oats, but if you are on a strict GF diet, go for certified gluten-free)
1 cup finely diced apple

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, beat the coconut oil (which is more like a soft butter at room temperature) for about 10 seconds. Then add the sugar and mix that for about 10 seconds. Then add the “flax egg,” rice milk, and vanilla. Mix for an additional 20-30 seconds.

In a separate, medium-sized bowl, combine the oat flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl and mix until well incorporated. You will probably need to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl on occasion.

Using a spoon or spatula, fold in the oats and finely diced apple into the batter.

Spoon roughly two-tablespoon-sized mounds onto a cookie sheet, leaving about two inches between mounds. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown and the cookies are moderately firm.

Enjoy!

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Buckwheat Crepes

 

Ever since my 3-week elimination diet, I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with various flours. Gluten-free cooking can seem intimidating to many, especially considering the abundance of overly-complicated gluten-free recipes floating around on the interweb. Tapioca starch? Xanthan gum? Gelatin? Sure, all these ingredient can have their place, but is it really necessary in recipes that never require gluten in the first place?

One of these grain-based dishes that requires no gluten is crepes.

Basically they’re really thin pancakes with a greater ratio of liquid to dry ingredients. Ever recall being told not to over-stir your pancakes? That’s because you don’t want to activate the gluten. For pancakes (and crepes), gluten=bad.

Which makes gluten-free crepe-making a cinch.

Did you know most baking recipes can be broken down into ratios? I’ve been experimenting with Michael Rulhman’s ratios for baking, substituting different flours and liquids in my recipes. And every recipe I’ve developed based on these ratios has turned out far better than the original, individual recipes I’ve found! The basic ratio for a crepe is 2 parts liquid, 2 parts egg, and 1 part flour (ALL BY WEIGHT. DO NOT NEGLECT THIS OR YOUR RECIPES WILL SUFFER A HORRIFIC AND GROTESQUE DEATH). Additional stuff (vanilla, salt, etc.) added at whim over and above the initial ratio.

I decided to experiment with buckwheat crepes.

I started off by grinding (in a coffee grinder) 2 ounces of raw buckwheat groats into flour. Do not use pre-ground buckwheat flour. Usually that stuff is pre-toasted and has this really intense earthy (read: dirt) taste that overwhelms the palette. I usually find recipes that include it cut the total flour with regular wheat flour. We aren’t using wheat because we don’t need it. Right? RIGHT!?

 

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I then mixed in two eggs (eggs are about two ounces each), 4 ounces of rice milk, and a sprinkle of kosher salt.

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Mix until smooth. You don’t have to worry about over-mixing since it’s gluten free!

Now here’s the trick for crepes. You need to allow the flours to soak. Let the batter sit for a good 30 minutes. Your patience will be rewarded with a silky batter.

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Rub a non-stick skillet with oil and heat to about medium-heat.

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Ladle about 3-4 oz of batter into the middle of the pan and QUICKLY tilt the pan all around so the batter spreads to the edges of the pan. It will set quickly, so this must be done with haste.

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When the bottom is set (you should be able to lift the crepe off the bottom of the pan with a spatula), carefully flip with a spatula, taking care not to tear the crepe. Let it cook on the other side for about a minute.

 

I filled my crepe with Nutella, sprinkled it with powdered sugar, and called it good. But I imagine these would taste pretty awesome filled with herbed goat cheese and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.

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Ooh la la…

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Have you ever eaten a crepe? I had a banana-Nutella crepe in Prague. OMG.

A New Challenge

I must tell you what has happened since my last post.

I told you that I was making vegan muffins for my office party.

This did not happen. It did not happen for two reasons:

1) my vegan coworker happened to be on vacation in MACEDONIA. I had no idea.

2) my doctor, who I decided to consult due to some endocrine/GI/allergy issues, has since put me on a gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and corn-free elimination diet for the next three weeks.

WHAT.

Yes.

And since I’m going to Santa Fe in a few weeks on vacation, the last thing I wanted to do was have to forgo dairy and corn. One cannot go to Santa Fe on a quasi-foodie trip and not eat corn. It’s just not possible.

So I had to get this thing rolling as soon as possible. Before the office party.

So I brought the cluster of bananas I had sitting on my counter.

Dyoo yew vuhnder wvhut eet hawz been layke nawt eeteng glewt’n deez pahwst fyew dahyz?

Aye vuhl tyell yew.

Eet hahz beeen a toht’l drahg.

Ah cohmpleet buhzkeel.

(Mmkay. Yeah. I’ve been listened to too much Fiddler on the Roof)

Anyway.

It really hasn’t been too terrible.

Several of my lunches last week have simply turned from this…

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(Homemade Texas Caviar and avocado on homemade tortilla chips)

To this…

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(Homemade Texas Caviar, avocado, and arugula with black quinoa)

No big deal.

But eating out has been a big deal. I have to be THAT person and order the most pitiful salad ever invented. Or even worse, discover that they don’t have HAVE an allergy menu, and try to make as many substitutions as possible (on ANOTHER salad!), and still manage to get sick.

I have a new respect for people who live like this every day.

My baking is going to get… interesting, especially since for a long time I’ve been baking the majority of my bready goods at home. But after an alarmingly expensive grocery bill, and four attempts at gluten-free baked goods, I can say that I’m getting better! I’ll share more as this time progresses!

Every day I find myself reshaping everything I thought about gluten free baking (which was honestly not much to begin with). Today I found a blog that has also reshaped everything I ever thought about baking in general, gluten or no gluten! It’s Gluten Free Girl (or Gluten Free Girl and the Chef). I love that she approaches cooking with the same scientific detail of Alton Brown but the great passion and delight of a true culinary artist. She even challenges the use of gums and excessive starches and approaches gluten free baking with some consciousness and dedication of a true baker. I’m so excited to try her recipes!

Any other allergy-free tips out there? Smile

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