Friday, December 24, 2010

Gluten Free Product Smackdown: Chocolate Chip Cookies

My sincere apologies for being so lax in posting--between various job searches, short-term contracts, and finally new full-time job, I have been swamped. But I have a week break coming up, so there should be some new recipes and photos soon.

In the meantime, let's talk about something near and dear to most people's hearts:

Chocolate chip cookies.

They're yummy, in both dough and unbaked form. They can be used crushed up as an ice cream topping. They have zinc! (Okay, chocolate has a minor amount of zinc in it. Please do not eat a metric ton of chocolate chip cookies, gain 500 lbs and then tell your doctor you did it for the zinc content, and then blame me. Hey, even Cookie Monster is now declaring cookies a "sometimes food").

As with all GF prepackaged foods,some are better than others. Here's the scoop:

Pamela's Products-Chocolate Chunk Cookies:
These cookies are really good; more soft than crunchy, with nice, big chunks of chocolate. They come in a tab-top box with a slide-out tray, and each cookie is separated by a paper circle. They are usually my go-to cookies when I'm looking to make crumbs for a cheesecake. The average size is about 3" in diameter, maybe a teeny bit larger than a Chips Ahoy cookie. There are two downsides though; they are pricier than several other brands, and they have a tendency to crumble very easily. In fact, it's a rare occasion that I find a box with unbroken cookies upon opening. Rating: 4.5/5 for taste, 3.5/5 for packaging.

Glutino Chocolate Chip Cookies:
So far I have only found them at Whole Foods, but they're a good find!They come in an overwrap with a slide-out tray, which makes it easier for them to get stale, so you'll have to eat them relatively quickly! These cookies are smaller than the Pamela's; I can fit 2 or 3 into my hand. Crunchy and tasty, with nice bits of chocolate. Rating: 4/5 for taste, 3/5 for packaging.

Mi-Del Chocolate Chip Cookies:
These cookies are small and very crunchy, with not too much flavor. They come in a heat-sealed bag, which means the cookies will get stale very quickly if they are not either eaten right away or the bag is not properly re-closed with a chip clip or rubber band. Maybe it's a local supply thing, but for some reason, this brand seems to be much more readily available than others I have seen. I'm pretty sure even Trader Joe's brand GF chocolate chip cookies are really just private labeled Mi-Del. The price of Mi-Del is lower than most of the other GF cookie brands. To be honest, I'd buy them if I had a strong cookie craving and there was nothing else immediately available, but they wouldn't be my first choice. Rating: 3/5 for taste, 2/5 for packaging.

Kinnikinnick Chocolate Chip Cookies:
I have yet to find something Kinnikinnick makes that isn't really good. These cookies I believe are direct competitors to the Glutino brand (roughly same size, same packaging, same price). You can taste the vanilla in them, and the chocolate pieces are pretty large. I think this would be my default snacking cookie if they were easier to find. Rating: 4.5 for taste, 3/5 for packaging.

Enjoy Life Foods Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies:
In a word--ew. Just as I have yet to find a Kinnikinnick product that isn't yummy, I have yet to find an ELF product that is; and that makes me sad. I have traded a few tweets with their CEO and he seems like a really nice guy. I'm sure the company means well, but honestly, these cookies are a mealy, chewy mess. The best thing I can say about them is that they come in a tab-top box for easy access and freshness preservation. Rating: 1/5 for taste, 4/5 for packaging.

Liz Lovely Gluten Free, Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies:
These cookies are enormous (be forewarned, the serving size on the back of the package is actually only half a cookie), delicious, and come in cellophane-wrapped packs of 2. They are soft, moist and crumbly, with a flavor more reminiscent of cookie dough than fully baked cookies. I rate these the best for flavor, but the size and packaging make the overall eating experience very cumbersome. Unless you have somebody to share them with or can really eat an entire package of 2 cookies in one sitting (in which case, you would probably feel pretty sick afterward), inevitably you end up putting big chunks of cookie back into the bag and resealing the bag with a twist tie, which is kind of messy. Furthermore, the cookie's softness (which for me is typically an asset) becomes a liability when you're storing the bag, because they can very easily get misshapen or squished. You can't just toss these cellophane bags into a backpack, purse or other place where they'll get jostled and expect them to come back out in the same condition. Rating: 5/5 for taste, 1.5/5 for packaging.

What brands am I missing?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Roll with it, Baby!

I just got accepted into the Foodie Blogroll community, so now my blog will be included in the ranks with other awesome people who cook and eat a lot, and then tell the entire world about it-yay!

Tonight, I think I'm going to make a baked pasta primavera casserole with chicken. Recipe and pix to come.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gluten Free Moroccan Vegetable Stew (Vegan)

Finally, a recipe that will satisfy my adventurous foodie friends as well my veggie/vegan, hemp-wearing, protest-of-the-week, if-it's-not-on-NPR-I-have-no-idea-what-you're-talking-about friends! Woohoo!

Additionally, I thought I'd throw out another reminder that all measurements are approximate. I know that pretty much every professional chef will cringe when I say this, but I love the spontaneity of just throwing in spices and seeing what comes out (also, I'm kind of lazy when it comes to cooking and measuring stuff would just mean more things to clean).

1 bag frozen white rice
1 can chickpeas, water drained out
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 cup veggie broth (or chicken broth if you're not into the whole vegan thing)
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (your choice of color-I like orange and red, personally)
2 big handfuls baby spinach (or more if you really like spinach)
1 container firm tofu, cubed
3/4 cup dried apricots, diced
2/3 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup honey
2 tsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp crushed garlic
2 tbsp crushed ginger
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cayenne (adjust to your level of spiciness)
1 handful fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large pan to medium, add a teeny bit of oil, and lightly fry the almonds until fragrant.
Put the almonds aside.
Saute the onions and peppers in the oil. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook until the onions are translucent.
Add the tomatoes, broth, apricots and rice. Cook for 4-5 minutes.
Add all the spices and the almonds.
Simmer on low for 15 min or until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Just before serving, mix in the honey, salt and pepper. Garnish with cilantro.

Serves 4.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Gluten Free Honey-Infused Mascarpone Pot de Creme

I went to Baraka Cafe in Cambridge with my DH and some friends this past weekend. If you get the chance to go there, by all means DO. It's Algerian/Tunisian, with lovely authentic decor, in an intimate setting that is perfect for a date. And the food...OH. MA. GAWD. Soo good!

For dessert, we had the daily special: a honey-lavender infused mascarpone pot de creme that was simply amazing. It was lighter than regular cheesecake, with a wonderful creamy texture and a hint of honey flavor. This was truly unlike any cheesecake I've ever had, so I made it a challenge to try to recreate it as best I could. The result, while not an exact duplicate (I had no lavender), was probably about 85-90% of the way there. It is truly fabulous, and so easy to make!

1 8 oz tub mascarpone cheese
2 large egg + 1 egg white
1 8 oz container of honey flavor, Greek style yogurt (I got nonfat to keep it reasonably healthy)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
3 tbsp honey

Combine all the ingredients and pour into 6 slightly greased ramekins. Put the ramekins in a baking pan and fill with boiling water until the water level reaches about halfway up the side of the ramekin. Bake at 325 for about 35 minutes or until set. Run a knife around the circumference of each ramekin to loosen. Cool in the fridge until ready to serve.

The photo shows a pot de creme garnished with strawberry preserves and a sliced strawberry, but there are lots of options. Some suggestions:

poached figs or apricots
chocolate ganache
candied ginger
fresh mango
sweetened coconut milk and finely diced pineapple

Enjoy this delicious (and as far as desserts are concerned, relatively low-fat, low-cal) gluten free treat

Monday, March 1, 2010

Gluten Free Chocolate Cinnamon Rugelach

Happy belated Purim!
I was going to make hamentaschen, but then my friend Dena brought me some that she baked last night. They were awesome! So, I figured this was also fairly traditional. Perhaps my mom won't nag me as much now about my total lack of religious observance (I mean, as far as I'm concerned, most Jewish holidays basically amount to "they tried to kill us, they failed, let's eat", so making rugelach is kind of in line with that, right?)

1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1 egg
1 brick cream cheese (I used lowfat Philadelphia)
1 stick butter
1 tbsp stevia (or sugar)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 packet instant hot cocoa mix (no marshmallows!)
1/3 bag of very small chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life Foods)

Mix the flours, stevia and vanilla together in a food processor.
Divide the cream cheese brick in half, and cut one of the halves into 4-5 chunks.
Put the other half-brick aside.
Cut the butter into chunks. Add the cream cheese and butter to the food processor, pulse a couple of times, and then blitz the mixture until it looks like large lumps.

Take the mixture and form two medium-sized dough balls. Wrap the balls in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge for about 2o minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining half brick of cream cheese, cinnamon and hot cocoa mix until thoroughly blended. Add the chocolate chips and thoroughly mix.

Take each dough ball out of the fridge and roll into a flat rectangle shape (or as close to a rectangle as you can get.) The dough should be 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Slather the filling (don't you just love the word slather?) onto the dough, leaving about an inch on each side, and carefully roll into a log. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the two logs on a lined baking sheet, and brush them with an egg wash. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Wait until the logs are cool (or mostly cool) before slicing them into cookies.

Makes about a dozen rugelach.

Another filling variation is to use the preserves or jam of your choice. If you do this, I would thicken the jam with a little cornstarch, and go easy on the filling--otherwise it will have a tendency to ooze out while cooking, making it look more like rugel--uccch than rugelach.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Poll Positioning!

Today, I am playing with Javascript! At the same time, I would love to know what kind of content to put up here in the future. Your participation in this poll is greatly appreciated!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Asian Style Veggie Summer Rolls with Soy-Peanut Dipping Sauce

For those of you who know me, this is the famous MasterChef audition summer roll appetizer that I stood outside in 15 degree weather for 4 hours to present, only to be told that while the taste ranks a 5/5, I apparently have a face for radio and not reality TV on Fox. So, Fox, while I extend a certain appendage in your general direction, I will happily munch away on these summer rolls, which clearly have more taste than you do. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

1 package of large rice spring roll wrappers (found at most Asian groceries)
1 package pea shoots (optional, but recommended)
1 red bell pepper, sliced into matchsticks
1 package shredded carrots (or use 1 carrot and shred it yourself)
1 shallot, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into matchsticks
1 package shiitake mushrooms
1 cucumber, sliced into matchsticks
1/8 cup Cormier's Gold ginger-garlic sauce
1 overflowing tsp crushed ginger
1 overflowing tsp crushed garlic
1 pinch crushed chili pepper
1 tbsp sesame oil

Sautee the shiitake mushrooms and shallot in the sesame oil for 1-2 minutes, then add the ginger, garlic and chili pepper and stir fry for another minute or two. Then add the Cormier's Gold sauce and cook until the most of the sauce is evaporated (the mushrooms should still be a little saucy, but not necessarily wet). Set aside.

Carefully separate the spring roll wrappers, and soak them briefly in hot water (you can either dunk them in a bowl filled with hot water, or carefully run them under the tap, whichever is easier for you) until they become soft and easy to handle. Place the spring roll wrapper onto a large plate or other flat surface for rolling. You can use two wrappers at a time if it makes it easier for you--this will also provide a bit more strength, so that the wrappers will be less likely to tear.

Starting about 1/3 of the way in, place the veggies in thin horizontal stripes in the following order: yellow pepper, cucumber, mushroom mix, carrot, pea shoots. Fold the left and right ends of the rice paper in. Then, holding tightly, roll from bottom to top. Use a wet finger to seal the rolls shut.

Slice the rolls in half on the diagonal, and serve over mixed greens. If you really want to be a fancy show off like I was for this audition, then you can also decorate the plate with some sliced bell peppers and half-moons of brie. But don't expect bonus points from the judge.

Makes about 4 large rolls.

Soy-Peanut Dipping Sauce

4 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp gluten free soy sauce
1/2 tsp crushed ginger

Combine all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Gluten Free Veggie Turkey Meatloaf

I grew up in what some of my gourmand friends refer to as a "Shake n' Bake family", meaning that most of what I ate came from either a box, a can, or the freezer. On top of that, my dad was pretty much your typical meat and potatoes guy--in fact, whenever we went to a restaurant and his meal offered a potato and a vegetable as side dishes, he asked for two potatoes. Based on this history, it's pretty obvious that an actual fresh vegetable was a rare occurrence in my household. However, rebellious little pain in the butt that I am, I insisted that when I did the cooking we would have some "real food" in the mix--I therefore often hid the veggies in the meatloaf, as it was the only way I could get my dad to consume them. It's amusing how many cookbooks these days are dedicated toward hiding healthy items in the food for the benefit of children--I'm betting that there is an entire market segment of aging Baby Boomers who would appreciate the hidden nutrition just as much.

1 package ground turkey (if possible, use organic, free-range turkey. It tastes better, it's more humane, and the dose of smugness that comes with purchasing it is even better than salt!)
1 onion, diced
1 package frozen peas & carrots mix (hey, old habits die hard)
1 crown broccoli, cut into small pieces
3 tsp olive oil (or whatever oil you prefer)
3 tbsp gluten free ketchup
1 heaping tbsp crushed garlic
2 tsp basil
1/4 cup gluten free breadcrumbs (I use Dr. Schar brand)
2 tbsp brown sugar
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the frozen peas and carrots in the microwave one minute less than whatever the package directions indicate (this will assure that the veggies are no longer frozen, but won't be overcooked later in the process).

Sautee the peas, carrots, broccoli and onion on medium-high. Add the garlic, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Cook until all ingredients are combined and the onion becomes translucent. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix the turkey, ketchup, breadcrumbs and basil until combined. Add the veggies and mix thoroughly. Put the meat mixture into a Pyrex baking dish (or ceramic, if you prefer), press with a spatula until evenly distributed, and bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Serves 4.

If you are not lactose intolerant or keep Kosher, some mozzarella or cheddar mixed in with the meat is a nice variation. Another is to add a bit of marsala wine to the meat mixture.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Garlic-Soy Japanese Eggplant

If you're on a gluten-free diet, then you probably know about San-J soy sauce, because as far as I know, it's the only one readily available. Luckily, that's not entirely true. Cormier's Gold makes soy-based gluten free stir-fry sauces that are seriously amazing. I can easily go through a bottle per week of the ginger/garlic sauce, though the double garlic, orange teriyaki and jalapeno sauces are also fantastic. I actually used some of this sauce to stir-fry the shiitake mushrooms for my super-fancypants summer rolls, which I submitted for entry into the MasterChef competition. Apparently, I have a face for radio (or so the supermodel-esque judge would have me believe), but the rolls themselves got a 5/5 for taste.

Cormier's Gold is only available in the New England area, as far as I know, but I am hopefully going to work with Mr. Cormier to get the wonder-sauce the national exposure it deserves. Okay, enough sucking up--onto the recipe

1 Japanese eggplant per person
1 tsp crushed ginger
1 small pinch crushed hot pepper
oil for stir-frying (I prefer sesame), about 1tbsp
1 cup Cormier's Gold ginger/garlic stir-fry sauce
2/3 cup water per eggplant


Cut the eggplants lengthwise, and then cut horizontally into small half-moon pieces.
Heat a frypan on medium-high, and add the oil.
Add the eggplant and stirfry until the oil is absorbed, the eggplant gets a little soft and you start to see it begin to brown.
Add the water, ginger and hot pepper. Continue cooking until water is absorbed.
Add the Cormier's gold sauce, and toss until all the eggplant is coated.

Pastaless Veggie Lasagna

I love lasagna, or pretty much any combination of tomato sauce and cheese. Unfortunately, although there are gluten free lasagna noodles available (DeBole's rice noodles), I have found that they either tend to fall apart, or otherwise become too firm and never fully soften. So, this time around I eliminated the pasta entirely, with some pretty happy results.

2 zucchinis
1 cup mushrooms
1 package firm or extra firm tofu
1 jar gluten free tomato sauce (I like Organic Valley)
1 bag shredded mozzarella cheese, or Italian cheese blend
1 bag gluten free breadcrumbs (I like Schar)
1 egg, beaten
basil, garlic powder, onion powder (to taste)
Olive oil for frying (vegetable oil works, too)

Mix the herbs into the breadcrumbs.
Slice the zucchini and tofu into lengthwise strips.
Dip the zucchini (and tofu as well, if you like) into the beaten egg and roll into breadcrumbs to coat.
Fry the strips about 1 minute on each side, or until the crumbs become a golden brown. Put the fried strips on a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

Layer into a pan (I like to use mini-pans, but use whatever you like) the ingredients in the following order: sauce, zucchini, tofu, sauce, cheese, mushroom. Repeat until all the veggies are used up, then top with a final layer of cheese.

Bake at 375 for 45 min to an hour (half hour if you're using mini-pans), or until the cheese becomes bubbly.