Friday, December 31, 2010

GF Makeover: Nigella's Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

It wasn't all that long ago that I fell in love with the perfect chocolate cake which I made more times than I can count last summer. It goes with ice cream and whipped cream and fresh berries and makes a delightful bit of breakfast if the truth be told. This was one I was really sad to think of going without once I got my gf sentence. I know there are all kind of flourless death-by-chocolate cakes but those tend to be way too intense for me. I loved this cake for being simultaneously light and dense and for its slightly chewy texture.

This is the first time I've been really happy with a gf makeover of an "old" recipe. Sometimes the recipes written specifically to be gf have been fine but I wanted to take something I loved before and see how it would fare without gluten and it turns out this was a great test subject.

I've already learned that to replicate the qualities of gluten you need to blend grain flours and starches or baked goods will be heavy, dense, and weird. GF baking books are full of complicated formulas and recipes for various flour blends and right now I am trying out as many possibilities as I can. I have already decided that even thought we love, love, love Bob's Red Mill, their all purpose gf flour is too beany and leaves a weird taste in almost everything. I have heard good things about Pamela's baking flours but they are really spendy. My friend Anhata made me some delicious holiday cookies using the all purpose flour mix from Gluten Free Cooking School and I loved the whisper of corn from the masa harina in the blend. But it wasn't what I wanted in a chocolate cake so I reached for the flour blend than is increasingly becoming my favorite: Gluten Free Mama's Almond Flour Blend. This stuff looks and feels like "real" flour and has no weird aroma or aftertaste. I have had good luck using it in muffins and quick breads and we were able to switch it out 1:1 in my son's chocolate chip cookie recipe (along with 1/2 t xanthan gum) and there was much rejoicing in our home. Just make sure to whisk all your dry ingredients together really well before adding to the wet as it does tend to get a little lumpy.

For this cake, I used the same amount of gf flour as regular flour in the original recipe plus 1 t xanthan gum which helps hold it all together. The only noticeable difference was the gf version took longer to cook (maybe 10 minutes past the original recipe) but has that same rich chocolate flavor and slightly chewy texture.
Definitely a gluten-free success! I've rewritten the recipe and I hope you'll give it a try. If you use a different flour blend, let me know what worked for you.

I've been buying my Gluten Free Mama's Almond Flour Blend through Azure Standard but they have it at as well.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Meal Plan Monday

Here's another week of meals. My kids will be gone for two nights which means we might take advantage of some of Portland's dining options and take a break from the kitchen.

We have dear guests coming one night and New Years Eve and Day this week so there will be sparking drinks, delicious ice cream, and a couple of new year traditions: Hoppin' John has a long history in the South and Golden Fruitcake is our family's new year tradition. Here's to a happy, healthy 2011!

December 26-January 1

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Meal Plans

I'm guessing you all have heard about The Economy, right? So you know what I'm talking about when I say hard times have come to our home. It's not the end of the world and I know things will turn around soon but meanwhile we've been needing to cut way back on spending and with food being a big budget item, it's definitely an area where we can trim some fat.

Also, since I've started this whole gluten free thing the days of easy, on-the-go snacks are over. I really need to think about what I'm going to eat and when and what I need to pack to get through a busy day out.

These two factors have combined to nudge me in the direction of a habit I really should have developed years ago. I am finally starting to make weekly meal plans with corresponding shopping lists. It is hard for me to sit and focus on a week's worth of meals but it sure makes a difference in how much time and money I spend at the grocery store.

It took me a while to come up with a system that works for me. I don't do well with paper and I am forever losing lists. I need to be able to see my meal plan on my computer, allowing me to link to recipes. I use an online shopping list which syncs with my phone and I have my meal plans bookmarked on my phone's browser. You'd think someone would have figured out how to put this all together but I haven't found anything but my cobbled together system works for me.

I am guessing that those who are naturally better organized are able to keep meals and ingredients in their heads but I need all the help I can get so I'm not running to the store over and over again.

I've been at it pretty consistently for quite a few weeks now and it seems to be working. I am going to try and have my meal plan ready to share here every week. Ideally I would love to see what others are cooking because that's the fun part, isn't it?

This week's meals

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On the Go

One thing I am learning about gluten, the very substance I am supposed to avoid, is that it's in everything easy. Seriously. When you're out and about and you need a quick bite, what do you reach for? A sandwich? A bagel? A slice of pizza? A roll and a slice of turkey? Right now it seems like everything quick and tasty involves gluten.

And so....more planning--a thing which I already fail to do well but perhaps with more practice? I can dream, no? Anyway, I have always been quite lackadaisical about our frequent running around days, figuring I can always munch on a scone, right? Wrong. And so I need to be prepared. Prepared with healthy, tasty, satisfying food I can pack with me and eat on the run. Some things that work: Lara bars, nuts, hard boiled eggs, Nut Thins with cheese, and recently discovered quinoa-fruit bars.

They aren't very pretty, I know. But they are satisfying, nutritious, and just sweet enough. They are sturdy but not nearly as tough as they look and I have found a ziplock bag of them to be just the thing to ward of hunger-induced panic attacks.

I found the recipe in Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood which is a fantastic book full of great ideas for making the most of this amazing little seed. I find quinoa really tasty but I haven't really done much with it past my favorite quinoa dish. This book has page after page of fantastic-looking recipes, most of which are gluten free. Oddly enough, this recipe wasn't written gluten free but I've made them so using first Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour and Gluten Free Mama's Almond Flour Blend. I found the latter flour a bit lighter and tastier but the first wasn't bad at all.

If you'd like to give these a try, my recipe is here. Let me know what you think.

I'm back...and I'm Gluten Free!

Way, way back when I started this little food blog I had hoped that, along with sharing tasty recipes with my readers, the blog-making would help me get re-inspired in the kitchen. Well, isn't it funny how things come around again? Here I am, four years later, re-examining my diet and looking at my food with new eyes as I just received test results indicating strong gluten sensitivity.

While I swore I'd never go this route, there's been some crazy health stuff going on in my body. I won't bore you with the details but the short version is that my Grave's disease just hasn't been getting better. While I've always been horrified at the thought of a gluten free diet, that horror pales in comparison to things like thyroid surgery and/or radiation so I'm going to give this a try. And I'm hoping you'll come along for the ride with me!