Monday, January 18, 2010

chocolate chip cookies

Pre-celiac, I loved to bake. The Joy of Cooking chocolate chip recipe was my favourite. There is something comforting about the smell of freshly baked cookies filling the house.

For the first six months of gluten-free eating, I focused on meals and cooking - not baking. There were a few recipes I would try (like the lemon squares) but I wasn't ready to attempt recreating my favourite cookie. In December, I attended a Living Gluten-Free Community event about adapting recipes. I was inspired and finally felt ready to tackle my favourite cookie.

(Check out the links section to connect to the Living Gluten-Free Community)

I jumped right in and decided to adapt the Joy of Cookie recipe. The cookies were too liquid, they spread and then cooled to a crispy, flat strange thing. And 'thing' is the best explanation. I cannot say they tasted bad exactly, but they weren't what I remembered either. It felt like a failure and I wondered if I was ready. I wish I took pictures of the depressing little things. Plus I would never want readers to think that everything turns out the first time around!

I've been testing out new baking treats on my dad's office. Today I stopped by and a few people asked if more cookies were coming soon. I came home and was about to remake a recipe but decided to search through some borrowed cookbooks to see if I could find a new recipe.

And I found something perfect in Gluten-Free Cooking by Anne Sheasby. The recipe is simple and quick (and I adapted it slightly to use butter instead of margarine). Plus don't they look great? I've already had four by the time I sat down to write this up.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

6 tablespoons softened butter
1/4 cup light soft brown sugar
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup rice flour
3/4 cup gluten-free cornmeal
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
pinch of salt
2/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Lightly grease two baking sheets.

Place the butter and sugars in a bowl and cream together until light and fluffy

Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Fold in the rice flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt, then fold in the chocolate chips.

Place spoonfuls of the mixture on the prepared baking sheets, leaving space for spreading between each one. Bake 10 - 15 minutes until the cookies are lightly browned.

Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool before transferring to a wire rack.

For the dairy free, try with gluten-free/dairy-free margarine and dark chocolate chips or substitute.

They may not be exactly how I remember chocolate cookies but this recipe finally converted me to a new favourite. Bake and enjoy...and at this rate, I will be making another batch for the office as the first batch is going to disappear quickly.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

beef, broccoli & mushroom stir-fry

Stir-fry, pizza and risotto are three of my favourite things to make for dinner. It is the best way to cook odd vegetables that sitting in the fridge and they are meals that allow for tons of creativity. I call these three dishes the refrigerator cleaners and I mean that in the best possible sense!

For stir-fry, I always have rice noodles (preferably brown rice noodles) and gluten free tamari in my house so I can cook something quick and easy. I may purchase chicken, beef, bok choy or seasonal vegetables to add to my basics. I have a chicken recipe that has a slightly more complex sauce and will post later but for a quick weekday meal beef, broccoli and mushroom stir-fry is a perfect dinner.

When I went gluten free, I was surprised by all the hidden wheat, barley, oats and rye in foods and especially sauces. I have always been a fan of teriyaki sauce and soy sauce and wasn't sure how I could flavour my meals now that these items were off limits. After a few weeks of eating plain vegetables and meat, I knew I had to find a solution.

Have you heard of tamari? I did not know what is was or how it was different from soy suace when I first started reading about making my own sauces and salad dressings. It is apparently made with more soy beans than soy sauce resulting in a thicker product. Traditionally, it is not made with wheat but many brands thicken it with wheat so buyer beware.

I use Amano tamari that is labeled wheat free on the green label. Amano also makes a blue labeled tamari that contains wheat so read carefully. Nothing worse than cooking a great meal and realizing you contaminated it yourself!

If you do not have cornstarch, rice flour should work just as well to thicken your sauce. Cornstarch is a great thickener and is not expensive so you may want to invest in some for future cooking. Otherwise, rice flour or potato flour work well for this purpose.

Beef, Broccoli & Mushroom Stir Fry

2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons gluten free tamari
2 garlic cloves (or more if you are an extreme garlic lover like I am)
1 inch piece of ginger root peeled and finely chopped
12 oz lean beef, cut into thin strips
1 red pepper
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
salt & pepper
brown rice noodles (or brown rice)

Soak the rice noodles in hot water. It does not need to be boiling water. Let soak for 8 - 10 minutes and then drain and set aside.

Blend the cornstarch with the tamari in a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a wok, add the beef, garlic and ginger and stir-fry over a medium heat until the beef is browned all over.

Add the red pepper, broccoli and mushrooms and stir-fry until the vegetables are just tender.

Add the cornstarch mixture and salt and pepper to taste than cook until the sauce thickens.

Add rice noodles to the wok and mix with the meat and vegetables. Serve immediately.

If serving with rice instead of noodles, serve the stir-fry over the cooked rice.

Be creative. Change the vegetables with your other seasonal favourites...zuchini, green or yellow peppers, bok choy, various types of mushrooms, or cauliflower. I like to choose vegetables that make the meal more colourful but choose what is in season and what you love for the best results!


frosted lemon squares

The type of food I really wanted to eat the weeks after my diagnosis were desserts, except most of what I would eat as dessert was now off limits. A good friend of mine, who happens to be a celiac and dietitian, gave me my first cookbook as the starting ground for cooking. The book Healthy Gluten-Free Cooking by Darina Allen and Rosemary Kearney. What I loved (and still love) about this book is the simplicity of the recipes and the limited use of gluten free flours. Most of the book depends on rice flour, tapioca flour and xanthan gum for the recipes which are all easy to find. I flipped through the book trying to decide what to try to make and decided on making my first dessert.

One of the reasons I wanted to bake so quickly after my diagnosis was to be able to eat the new foods with memories of my old eating in order to see if I could tell the difference. I feared that years down the road I would be serving inedible gluten free food to friends and they would be too polite to tell me it just was not the same. I also have always loved baking.

The recipe is simple and I have made these many times since to rave reviews by friends. They are a moist, not too sweet treat perfect for a light dessert or a cake with afternoon wine or tea.

Frosted Lemon Squares

1.5 sticks (6 oz) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup (3 oz) rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1.5 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum

For the frosting:
Freshly shredded rind and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup superfine sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF

Put the butter, sugar, eggs, rice flour, tapioca flour, gluten free baking powder, and xanthan gum into a bowl and mix together. I do this by hand but a food processor or mixer would work perfectly too.

Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 25 - 35 minutes or until pale golden brown. My pan is a rectangle that makes for thin squares.

Meanwhile mix all the ingredients for the frosting in a bowl. As soon as the biscuits are cooked, spoon a little of the frosting over the top at a time, allowing it to soak through before pouring on more. Leave to cool in the pan. Cut into squares.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

the beginning...

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, I entered a week-long slump of barely eating because I could not figure out what I could eat without getting sick. It was a bit melodramatic and did not last long. Thankfully, my family and friends offered a lot of support and I was soon cooking and eating better than I had in months.

After testing out my new cooking skills on friends, I was encouraged to write a blog. But who would read it? Who really cares? How will it stand out in an internet filled with blogs? I put it off but after posting a few photos on facebook, requests came in for the recipes to match the pictures. The blog idea was reborn. But I put it off until last week, at a fabulous Italian dinner party with homemade pasta (I brought my own corn pasta), encouragement came from strangers and I was finally pushed over the edge.

So here it is Fabulous Gluten Free. The title is inspired by one of my favourite television character's excessive use of the word 'fabulous' as she stumbles through love, dating and writing in New York City. I figure what better way to stumble through learning and re-learning to cook, bake and eat gluten free.

The site is also conscious of budget. A lot of gluten free products (who am I kidding? all gluten free products) are significantly more expensive than their gluten counterparts. I have some gluten free blogs that I loyally follow but wanted to include the budget savvy element here. We all want to eat well and it is possible without breaking the bank.

I hope you enjoy the food!