Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls

Post image for Quick Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls
Photo from Celiac Teen because mine was awful.

I've been craving cinnamon rolls lately.  I'm not sure why, but I just had to have some.  I was pleasantly surprised when I came across this great blog and recipe at the same time.  These cinnamon rolls are fast, easy, and delicious.

I followed Lauren's recipe pretty closely, so I'm just going to share the link with you if you want to make them.  As you may have noticed, I don't buy different flours yet, so instead of all the flours she listed, I used an all purpose gf flour mixture along with rice flour.  I didn't use xanthan gum, because as I mentioned before, I'm too cheap to buy it and haven't really felt that I need it.  I also didn't use cloves, but that's just a matter of preference.  I don't know what a silpat is, but I used wax paper and it worked just fine.

When I mentioned to my dad that I wanted to make cinnamon rolls he asked me to fedex him some if I did.  I think he may have been joking, but I'm going to overnight him some tomorrow.  I hope he is pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

(Birthday) Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes

My lovely friend Madeline came to New York this weekend to hang out with me for my 25th birthday - which is tomorrow.  Naturally, we had to make some birthday cake.  I wanted to make these cupcakes that I used to make back in college before I was gluten free.  Simple, all I did was switch out the four.  They are chocolate cupcakes with a cream cheese and chocolate chip center, and a cream cheese frosting.  They are just as delicious as I remembered.  I wish my Montreal roommates were here to help me eat them. 

Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

3 cups all purpose flour - gluten free all purpose flour for me
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup applesauce
2 cups water
2 tsp vanilla

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 cups confectioners suger
2 tsp vanilla

To Do:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl mix together the flour, 2 cups sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.  Stir in the applesauce, water, and vanilla.
  • In a smaller bowl beat together the cream cheese, egg, and sugar of the filling.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Fill the muffin tins half full with the chocolate batter.  Put a spoonful of the filling in each muffin cup and cover with more of the chocolate batter.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool before frosting.
  • To make the frosting, beat all frosting ingredients together until smooth.

Easy and delicious.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

I Don't Want Your Crappy Gluten Free Products

I don't want my bread to look like this.  You don't either.

Most of us that are gluten free have had some really bad gluten free products.  I mean really bad.  Cookies that have the consistency of wet sand and bread that crumbles at the slightest touch.  We also know it doesn't have to be this way.  So why do these bad products even exist?

My theory is that people who make crappy gluten free products are not gluten free themselves.  Let me tell you why.

I was at a farmer's market earlier this week and this man had several tables filled with his wife's baked goods.  Included in these baked goods were some gluten free products.  I was very excited.  He had chocolate chip cookies, sandwich bread, and a banana chocolate chip loaf.  He gave me a free cookie to be nice.  It was pretty terrible, but I appreciated the gesture.  Despite the dry cookie, I planned to buy either the bread or the banana loaf because I like trying different products.  I asked him which he thought was better and he said, "Well, I'd say the loaf, but you know, it's hard because... well, they are gluten free."  I gave him a very understanding look and said "Yea, I know".

Well let me tell you something else.  This banana loaf was terrible.  It was dry, tasteless, and wouldn't stay together once I cut into it.  It crumbled into a million tiny, dry, tasteless pieces.  But the thing is, I know it doesn't have to be this way.  I know because I've made gluten free banana bread myself and it was delicious.  So, what I think the man really meant is "This gluten free stuff is never going to taste any good at all.  Too bad for you, you have to eat it."  And since his wife is a professional baker and she made such crappy gf products, she must feel the same way.  They eat all their delicious gluten filled treats and make this crap for the rest of us.  But why even bother?  We don't want your gross banana loaf.

My point is, if these people HAD to eat this way, they wouldn't settle for their own products.  They just wouldn't.  They'd keep trying until they had something better.  Something edible.  This goes for all gluten free products that suck.  So, thanks for making us feel included, but please, unless you'd happily eat this yourself, don't make it for us.  We don't want it.  We can do better.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I Thought I Was So Smart...

Maybe I was, maybe I wasn't.

Tonight I'm in Albany for work.  I have an event at 9am tomorrow morning so I came up tonight and I'm staying at the lovely Holiday Inn Express in downtown Albany.  Before my trip I googled gluten free restaurants in the area.  I didn't really come up with anything.  Since I wasn't going to get in until around 8, I decided to just bring gluten free snacks on the train so I wouldn't have to worry about being hungry (and grumpy) on yet another road trip.

Munching away on rice crackers, Cabot cheddar cheese, and carrots and hummus on the train, I thought I was so smart.

Hunkering down in my king sized bed upon arrival I opened the guest services directory as I do at all hotels just for fun.  What did I open it up to?  A few take out menus in the inside pocket before all the useful(less?) hotel information.  Four pizza menus and a chinese.  Not that I was really hungry, but I was sitting and thinking about how I couldn't eat a single thing off those menus when I came across this:

Damn it.  It boasts that it's gluten free pizza crusts are made for them by Laurie's Gluten Free Goodness in Scotia, NY and that each gf pizza is baked separately from their other pizzas on gluten free pans.  I want to try it!  It's too late now.  Just Me Pizza closed one minute ago.  I also don't need an entire pizza for myself and there is no mini fridge in this room.  Not to mention the exuberant price of the pizza - fortunately it'd be on my company (sorry nonprofit company).

Anyway, no pizza for me tonight.  Health wise this is probably for the best.  Hunger wise, those crackers and cheese have worn off and I wish I had a slice - or two.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gluten Free Agave Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

After bringing baked goods to my brother's event a few weeks ago, a woman wanted to hire me to make a carrot cake for her daughter's birthday!  She wanted it gluten free and refined sugar free.  Yikes.  I knew I could use agave, but I had never baked with it before.  I got started on test batches immediately.

It turned out to be very easy to substitute agave for sugar.  According to advice I read on various websites, I ended up using 1/4 a cup more flour and 1/3 cup less sweetener than my original recipe called for.  This is to compensate for substituting a liquid sweetener for a solid one.

I bought agave from Trader Joe's.  It was less than half the price of the agave at my local health food store ($3 vs. $8 per bottle).  You'll need 2 cups total of agave for this recipe, which is two of these bottles:

This is a really easy recipe.  I like it because it only requires one bowl.  I do not like it because you have to grate a pound of carrots.  Don't let this deter you, that's the hardest part by far.  This recipe is for a 10 inch round cake, but you can make it a different size and simply alter the cooking time.

4 eggs
1 cup applesauce
1 pound grated carrots
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour (I used 1 1/2 cups Bob's All Purpose GF Flour, and 3/4 cup rice flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/3 cup agave

1/4 cup butter (1/2 a stick)
8 ounces cream cheese (I used low fat, but it works either way)
2/3 cups agave
1 tsp vanilla

To Do:
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Stir together the eggs and applesauce
  • Grate the carrots and add them to the bowl
  • Add the vanilla and stir
  • Add the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and agave.  Stir.
  • Pour the batter into a greased 10 inch round cake pan and bake for 45 minutes
  • Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting
  • To make the frosting: beat together the butter, cream cheese, agave, and vanilla until smooth
Not only is this recipe gluten free and made with agave, but I like to pretend it's healthy because it has applesauce instead of over a cup of butter.  The applesauce and agave make it really moist.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gluten Free Cocktail Party?

Not quite.

Tonight I volunteered at a cocktail-ish party for work.  It was pretty fun.  I only had to work for an hour and I got free food and drinks.  Sort of.  There were hors d'oeuvres in abundance, but very few of them were gluten free.  I didn't eat dinner first because I went straight from work.  I meant to stop and get a snack on my way but I was feeling a bit pressed for time.  Not stopping was a mistake.

I had never noticed how most finger foods are gluteny until I couldn't eat them.  Spring rolls, mini pizzas, pigs in a blanket (what a silly food), mini grilled cheese, mini quiche, crab cakes, filet mignon on little toasts, tuna tartare on crackers, and various other things.

The things I could eat: chicken on a stick, and smoked salmon on cucumber.  Too bad I don't like smoked salmon.  One of my coworkers apparently told one of the waiters I was gluten free because the waiter came over with the smoked salmon platter for me.  I didn't like it the first time I tried it, but it was such a nice gesture I had another one.  He then told me the chef was going to make something for me.  He came back with two spoons of the tuna tartare without the cracker.  How nice of him!

How many chicken skewers and  tuna tartare can you really eat though?  I must admit, in my state of hunger, and slight drunkenness (strong cocktail on an empty tummy - not my fault!), I cheated a little bit.  I had two of the filet mignons plucked off the toast.  This was only cheating a little because I didn't eat any gluten, but they were touching the toast before I ate them and therefore a no no.  The real cheating was the 3 mini crab cakes I ate.  Those definitely had some breadcrumbs in them.  Oops!

I left hungry and ended up making some gluten free cornmeal pancakes when I got home.  They weren't very good either.  At least I didn't get sick from the cheating though.

How to survive cocktail parties of the future?  Always eat first and stick to the cocktails.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gluten Free DC

My friend Katherine moved to DC around the time I was diagnosed with Celiac disease.  I went down to visit shortly thereafter for her birthday and she assured me ahead of time that we could eat lots of gluten free things.  I took the bus down ready for a weekend of fun and safe eating.  For her birthday dinner with me and a few other friends from college, Katherine, bless her soul, had chosen an Irish pub.  There wasn’t a single thing on the menu I could eat.  Everything was breaded, fried, or served between two pieces of bread.  Internalizing my pity party, I decided to make it work.  How about a burger without a bun and some fries?  Turned out the fries were coated in some gluteny goodness.  Ok, no fries.  I ended up having a beef patty with a side of broccoli.  It was sad.

Needless to say, I was still hungry after dinner.  Katherine, a big fan of the 711 by her apartment, suggested we stop in to check out their gluten free options.  It was here that we stocked up on potato chips, corn chips with salsa, and M&Ms.   A gluten free meca of junk food, we also could have gotten popcorn, flavored rice cakes, trail mix, various other chocolates, and ice cream.  It wasn’t quite a balanced meal, but this is where I first learned that in a pinch, I could always rely on these junk foods to hold me until something more filling came along.

The next night, not sure what gluten free food we could either get within a 10 block radius or delivered, we decided to just make dinner – baked chicken with risotto and a big salad.  This is where I learned about Trader Joe’s perfectly sized frozen chicken breasts as well as how to make risotto.  While this, and the 711 junk food discovery were both great learning experiences…next time I think I’ll google some restaurants ahead of time.

Gluten Free Saratoga

This weekend I had to go upstate for work.  I needed to be in Glens Falls early Sunday morning, so I took the train to Albany Saturday night, rented a car, and stayed in lovely Saratoga Springs overnight.  My good friend Sean said he’d drive all the way from our hometown in Vermont to visit and have dinner with me.  It was very exciting.

Before leaving the big city I googled gluten free places to eat in Saratoga.  A few sites suggested a restaurant named Wheatfields (unfortunate name for a restaurant with such great gluten free options), which was conveniently located right down the street from my hotel.  I checked out the gluten free menu and decided to give it a go.

With a separate gluten free menu, Wheatfields offers gluten free appetizers, salads, pizzas, pastas, entrees, and desserts.  Sean decided to be gluten free for the night and ordered scallops with risotto off the gluten free menu.  I was torn between that and the rice linguine with bolognese sauce.  I decided to go with the pasta, but since Sean also went gluten free, I was able to try his and they were both really amazing.  Not just amazing for gluten free, but really and truly delicious.  We then split a gluten free chocolate moose for dessert.  It was light, creamy, and just about perfect.

There are several other things on Wheatfields gluten free menu that I’d like to try.  I wish this restaurant was located in New York City.  No wonder there was an hour wait at this place, it is clearly a favorite by gluten and nongluten eaters alike.  If you live in the Saratoga area, or ever find yourself that way, I highly recommend it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

Yes, that is steam rising off the top.

I adapted this recipe from Robert Landolphi's Gluten Free Every Day Cookbook.  The only change to make this soup gluten filled or gluten free is the kind of broth you use.  I, obviously, used gluten free.

This soup is really easy to make, especially because I take the lazy route.  I buy pre-sliced mushrooms, pre-diced veggies, and pre-minced garlic.  The Mirepoix mix of onions, celery, and carrots from Trader Joe's is just about the best thing you can buy.  For $2.99 you don't have to cry while chopping onions, have left over celery in your fridge for weeks, or dice those tricky round carrots.  If you go this route, don't worry about measuring them out - just dump this container in, that's what I did.

4 cups (gluten free) chicken broth
1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
4 tablespoons butter
10-12 ounces sliced mushrooms (whichever kind you'd like)
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
2 cloves minced garlic (or 2 teaspoons of the pre-minced stuff)
1 tsp dried rosemary
1tsp dried thyme
2 medium or 1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
1 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium pot, combine 2 cups of the stock and the rice.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 30-40 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed.

While this is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms and cook until golden brown and tender, about 5 minutes.  Put them aside.

In the same large pot, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and saute the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, rosemary, and thyme for about 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes, remaining stock, and cup of water.  If you have another cup of stock and want to use that instead of water, great, but the broth I buy comes in a carton of 4 cups.  Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.  Add the mushrooms back in.

If you like your soup blended, blend it now.  If you like it more chunky, don't blend.  I stuck my immersion blender right in the pot and blended just a little.

Add the cooked rice and salt and pepper to taste.  I hate when people say "salt and pepper to taste", what does that even mean?  Well, I have no idea, so I just shook in a bunch of each and it turned out just fine.  Simmer over low heat for another 15 minutes.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Restaurant Review: Friedman's Lunch

Update May 30, 2014: Friedman's now has a second location at 132 West 31st Street.  It's also great.

Photo stolen from their site

I am a little obsessed with Friedman's.  It's called Friedman's Lunch, but they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I've been four times now: three times for dinner, today for lunch, and I just saw they have gluten free pancakes with Vermont maple syrup so I will be back soon for breakfast.

Friedman's is located in Chelsea Market.  It's a cool space with lots of cute little shops, restaurants, and bakeries.  I recommend Friedman's for gluten and non-gluten eating people.  The menu is full of healthy food as well as comfort foods, and most of the menu can be made gluten free.  I've had gluten free spaghetti and meatballs, a turkey burger with avocado aioli on a gluten free bun, a chicken salad sandwich on gluten free bread, turkey chili, and brussels sprouts with honey and pecorino cheese.  These brussels sprouts are delicious and I've had them as a side dish every time.  Everything else was really good too.

Today my brother, an avid gluten eater, had buttermilk fried chicken and mac and cheese.  He was happy.  With my delicious meal I was only slightly jealous of his mac and cheese I couldn't eat.  The pulled pork sandwich (which can be GF, as can the fried chicken) also looks amazing.

I will definitely be back to Friedman's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The High Price of Gluten Free Living

Besides generally sucking, being gluten free is really expensive.  This just seems rude to me because I don't even want to do it.  Here is an example to demonstrate the high price of gluten free living: flour.

Flour is a basic staple in everyday life.  It is the base for bread, pasta, pizza, and most desserts.  A 5 pound bag of regular all purpose flour in the grocery store runs for around 3-5 dollars depending on the brand.  This seems reasonable.

I recently purchased Namaste Gluten Free Perfect Flour Blend.  It is a mixture of sweet brown rice flour, tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, sorghum flour, and xanthan gum.  A 3 pound bag cost me $14.99.  I couldn't bare to buy this myself and put it on my mom's credit card (thanks mom!).

I also bought Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour.  It is a mixture of garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour, and fava bean flour.  A 1 pound 6 ounce bag cost me $6.99.  This also went on the credit card.  $22 for less than 5 pounds of flour is just absurd.
Pure foods, the house blend gluten free flour from Risotteria is a mixture of corn starch, brown rice flour, tapioca starch and potato starch.  A 2 pound bag cost me $9.  I don't have a picture of this, sorry.

The very first gluten free flour I bought was Arrowhead Mills Organic White Rice Flour.  This is just white rice flour and a 2 pound bag costs around $6.  This is the most reasonable of the bunch, but do not use this flour on its own.  It is very gritty and needs to be mixed with other flours if you are baking.

Because flour is the base of so many foods, and gluten free flour is so much more expensive, most gluten free products are therefore much more expensive than their gluten-filled counterparts.  Also, because it's such a niche market, the creators of these products can get away with their absurd prices because sometimes a girl just needs some bread.  (I love Tu-Lu's, but their loaves of bread are $10 - who can afford that!?)