Sunday, December 1, 2013
Now that Thanksgiving has once again come and gone, it’s time for a moment of re-evaluation. Perhaps you tried some new recipes on your Thanksgiving table. (The Foodie family was very pleased with my Green Chili Creamed Corn, but the Foodie children weren’t so fond of a new attempt at making pumpkin pie. We’ll go back to our old favorite next time around.) Perhaps you had a motely crew of friends and relatives at your Thanksgiving table and have vowed to do the same thing again (or, as it sometimes happens, never again.)
Or perhaps you, like me, find yourself wondering: what am I going to do with all those cans of pumpkin still sitting in the cupboard?
Every year, I fall prey to some version of a supermarket scam. Buy one can of pumpkin, get one free. Buy two cans of pumpkin, get a can of evaporated milk. Buy three cans of pumpkin, get a can of green beans. Never mind that I’ve only ever needed one can of pumpkin–I’m always thinking the others will come in handy. In case the pie fails. In case one can was somehow compromised in transport. In case we find ourselves in need of a second pumpkin pie. (Hey, it happens. And I am here to serve the Foodie family’s pie-eating needs.)
Should you, like me, find yourself with extra cans of pumpkin in the pantry after Thanksgiving, this is an excellent way to use them up. Its super simple nature comes from the use of baking mix–I’ve become a great devotee of gluten-free Bisquick, which has never done me wrong, but feel free to use whatever brand you have on hand. Its flavor comes from a mixture of molasses and pumpkin pie spice. Best of all, it stays moist for several days–almost unheard of, when it comes to gluten-free baked goods, but I promise you it’s true. That means you can bake a loaf of pumpkin bread and have a little home-made something on hand for the early risers, mid-morning snackers, or the afternoon tea crowd.
The holidays are difficult enough on their own. Do yourself a favor and keep the baking super simple.
Super Simple Pumpkin Bread
1 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1 can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
2 T. molasses
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups baking mix
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 1-pound loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, and sugar. Add the sugar and whisk again. Using a spatula, stir in the pumpkin puree, molasses, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla. Stir until well combined.
Add the baking mix 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition. Turn the batter into the prepared loaf pan and let it rest for about ten minutes.
Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted at the crown of the loaf comes out clean. If the bread starts looking too dark on top, cover it with loosely tented aluminum foil at the 45-minute mark.
Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out on a cooling rack and let it come to room temperature before slicing.
Saturday, November 2, 2013
A little more than two years ago, when I started trying out a gluten-free diet, it was pretty difficult to find prepared gluten-free foods at my regular grocery store. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it was virtually impossible. Finding a loaf of gluten-free bread required a trip to a small health food store. Finding more specialized items–like gluten-free bread crumbs, pastas, and gluten-free baking supplies–required another trip, to a full-service grocery store with a wide selection of foods geared toward special diets. Grocery shopping quickly became a chore I had to schedule into my busy week, rather than the enjoyable experience it had always been for me.
Fast forward two years, though, and you’ll find me happily shopping at my regular grocery store, picking up gluten-free bread in the freezer case, gluten-free pasta on the pasta aisle, and gluten-free baking mixes for everything from bread to brownies. Head toward the cold case and you’ll find me picking up a tub of this excellent gluten-free chocolate chip cookie dough from Pillsbury.
That’s right. Poppin’ Fresh gluten-free cookie dough, right off the shelf. It’s almost too much to believe, but the world is finally catching on to the fact that there are many of us who need to lead a wheat-free life.
A tub of this cookie dough costs $4.39 at my local store–not cheap, in comparison to regular (i.e., not gluten-free) prepared cookie dough, but it’s not something I’m going to buy on a regular basis. When I’m in the mood to make a quick batch of cookies, this is an excellent option. It’s cheaper than the prepared gluten-free cookie dough from Immaculate Baking Company, which I’ve also tried and liked, but the real advantage to this product is that it comes in a tub, rather than in pre-formed cookie buttons. Tonight, The Boy made 18 cookies from this tub, using the scoop we always use when making cookies from scratch. Had he tired of baking before he made it through the tub, he could have put the lid back on it and saved the rest for another day. And, of course, a tub full of dough lets you decide how large or small your cookies should be. That’s always a plus.
These cookies bake up golden brown and bumpy, just like your average wheat-based treat. If you’ve experimented with gluten-free baking, you know the pasty, flat appearance of many gluten-free cookies is just plain unappetizing. But look at these:
Tell me you aren’t tempted. Tell me you don’t want to grab one of those crispy, chewy, crinkly babies off that plate. I’m not sure how the folks at Pillsbury are doing it but, as I mentioned in my review of their gluten-free pizza dough, that toasty brown appearance is a huge selling point for these products.
Best of all, though? These cookies can be eaten while they’re still warm. Most gluten-free baked goods fall apart until they’ve cooled completely–not to mention the gluey texture of warm rice flour, which sticks to your teeth. Not so with these guys. Once they’re cool enough to handle, they’re ready to eat. I’d just resigned myself to the thought that warm cookies were a thing of the past, and then the Doughboy brought them back to me. Thank you hardly seems adequate.
These past two years of gluten-free eating have sometimes made it difficult for the Foodie family to enjoy a snack or a meal together, but I’m happy to report that Pillsbury is making that project a little bit easier. While The Boy agrees that these aren’t as good as cookies baked from scratch–and, let’s face it, no prepared product ever compares to home made–he also agrees that these are just as good as those he’s made from a regular tub of prepared cookie dough. And when The Boy gives a product his seal of approval, you know it’s good.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Finally, finally the weather is cooling down in south Texas. Turning on the oven no longer seems like the height of lunacy. Warm dinners actually sound appealing. So, after seeing butternut squash making an appearance in my grocery store again, I made a batch of Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque. That wasn’t enough, though–my craving for the sweet, earthy taste of butternut squash hadn’t yet been satisfied. (We were not squash eaters while I was growing up, for reasons I really can’t imagine–lord knows we ate everything else that usually grows in a backyard garden–and that might be why I’m a little squash-crazy as an adult.)
I decided to try something new. Something adventurous. Something cozy, creamy, and cheesy.
This is a cross between a recipe for a casserole and a recipe for enchiladas. Rather than stuffing and rolling tortillas, I tore them into pieces (the way I would when making King Ranch Chicken Casserole.) Rather than using a traditional enchilada sauce, I used a version of the creamy sauce I’d use for Veggie Enchiladas. But I did use the traditional spices I’d use when making a Mexican entree–chili powder, cumin, garlic, and cilantro.
You’ll note that this recipe calls for roasting the squash, corn, and onions before you layer them into this casserole. Roasting the vegetables brings out their flavors and softens them up, so all you’re doing when you bake them in the casserole is re-warming them, not letting them cook through. If you have other vegetables on hand that you’d like to add–red or yellow peppers, for instance, or zucchini, or even potatoes–go ahead and add them to the veggie mixture while it’s roasting. Very firm vegetables (like potatoes) need to go in with the squash; softer veggies (like zucchini) can be added later, with the corn.
Like most casseroles, this one comes out of the baking pan looking slouchy and comfortable; it won’t win any prizes for presentation, and it’s probably not a company-worthy dish. The Boy looked a little suspicious when he found it on his dinner plate. After a few bites, however, he said, “It’s actually good. I like that it makes dinner simple: veggies and protein and everything all in one place.” The Hubs went completely wild for this recipe. He’s a huge fan of the black bean and corn combo, and adding butternut squash to the mix could only make things better.
If you find the prospect of chopping up a butternut squash rather daunting, you might do what I did today–buy a package of peeled and chopped butternut at Costco–or look at this terrific tutorial from The Kitchn. I promise, it isn’t nearly as hard as it looks like it will be.
Butternut and Black Bean Enchilada Bake
3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup corn
1 can black beans
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 can (4 oz.) diced green chilies
1 T. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 T. dry cilantro
1 1/2 cups light sour cream
8 ounces Monterrey Jack cheese, grated
Corn tortillas (about 9)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the butternut squash and onions with a small amount of olive oil, making sure to coat the vegetables. Turn the mixture onto a baking sheet; sprinkle with chili powder and dry garlic. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring once. Sprinkle the corn over the squash and onion mixture, then return the baking pan to the oven for 10 more minutes. Allow this mixture to cool for about 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven, and turn the oven down to 350 degrees.
While the veggies are roasting, grate the cheese and set it aside. Then make your sauce: melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Allow this mixture to cook and thicken for about five minutes; whisk in the milk until you have a smooth sauce, then stir in the green chilies, chili powder, cumin, and cilantro. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the sour cream. Set aside (on a cold burner) until you're ready to use the sauce.
In a large bowl, combine the roasted veggies with the black beans. Stir in 1/2 cup of the sauce until everything is combined.
Coast a 9 x 13 pan with non-stick spray. Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the pan; then tear the tortillas into pieces and layer them over the sauce. (It takes about three tortillas to make a layer.) Top the tortillas with half the squash mixture, a third of the cheese, and a third of the remaining sauce. Repeat these layers: tortillas, squash mixture, cheese, sauce. End with one last layer of tortillas, then top with the remaining sauce and cheese.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the casserole is browned and bubbly on top.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Perhaps you were as excited as I was when, a few months ago, the people at Pillsbury announced that they would soon be selling gluten-free versions of their ready-to-bake pizza crust, pie crust, and chocolate chip cookie dough. (I’ve tried Immaculate Baking Company’s Gluten-Free Chocolate Chunk Cookie Dough, and it’s quite good, but hey–you can never have too many options, when it comes to cookie dough.) Perhaps you will understand the little thrill I felt when I discovered that these Pillsbury products have finally made their way this far south.
At my local grocery store, the pie and pizza crust dough are $4.69 each. A little pricey, yes, but that’s to be expected when it comes to gluten-free products. My big question was whether they’d pass the Foodie family taste test.
I started taste-testing with the pizza dough, which seemed like the easiest thing to try out, since it was Friday and that’s officially Pizza Night in the Foodie household. The instructions on the package call for pressing the dough out into a large circle, pre-baking it slightly, then covering it with your favorite toppings and baking off the finished pizza. Easy enough. I pressed out the pizza on a cutting board, with the intention of transferring it to the pizza pan once I’d finished.
Bad idea. The pizza crust started to tear the minute I picked it up–no stretchy gluten, as you’d have in wheat-based dough, so it really had no choice. My mistake. But I just balled up the dough and tried again, this time pressing it out directly on the pizza pan. Then I pre-baked the crust and loaded it up with jarred sauce (bought ready-made at the store–it was Friday night, people, and even the Foodie has to cut corners once in awhile), cheese, and fresh basil from the back yard. Here’s the pizza before baking:
And after a little more time in the oven:
What surprised me most about the pizza crust was how nicely it browned. Gluten-free baked goods often suffer from a deeply unappetizing pallor, but this crust came out of the oven looking nice and toasty. The edges were crisp and the crust held up well under the sauce and cheese, becoming just a little chewy but not, thank goodness, soggy.
The Boy prefers a thicker crust on his pizza, so he wasn’t impressed. The Hubs and I, however, were very happy with this pizza. It tasted home made, which was the goal. And now that Pillsbury has made it easy enough to keep Pizza Night at the Foodie household gluten-free (at least for the Foodie, if not for The Boy), we’ll most certainly be buying this product again.
Friday, August 16, 2013
It’s time for a confession: I’ve had some trouble getting my Foodie mojo working this summer. In part, that’s because I’ve been distracted by all the big changes taking place in the Foodie family: The Girl getting ready to move away from home and go to college, The Boy learning to drive (and spontaneously deciding to become a vegetarian. That’s right, Mr. Cheeseburger has decided there will be cheeseburgers no more.) In part, it’s because the very hot weather in South Texas makes spending any time in the kitchen sound less than appealing. And, in part, it’s because I’ve been pulled in many different work-related directions, which puts Foodie matters on the metaphorical back burner.
But. One thing I have managed to do this summer is to perfect this recipe for gluten-free banana bread. My mom is the queen of banana bread–whenever she comes for a visit, the Foodie children rejoice in the fact that she will no doubt make them a loaf (or two, or three) while she’s here. No one makes banana bread like hers. It’s moist, light, almost more like cake than bread. But, sadly, her recipe just doesn’t work with gluten-free flours. I’ve tried to bend it to my will, but finally I had to resign myself to the fact that a new recipe was in order.
That’s where this one comes in. I’ve tried several different versions: one made with Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend (which contains guar gum as a binder), one with half Pamela’s blend and half King Arthur Multi-Purpose Flour (gluten-free, but without guar gum or xanthan gum), and one made with the King Arthur flour blend and a little additional xanthan gum. The Foodie family found all three versions very tasty, but we liked the texture of the last batch the best. The first batch was a little more bouncy than what we prefer, and the second batch was a little crumbly. The third provided a happy medium. (However, if the gluten-free flour blend you typically use has guar or xanthan gum already added, go ahead and use it. I tend to keep the Pamela’s blend on hand, simply because it’s ready to go and easy to use in place of wheat flour.)
One slightly unusual ingredient in this recipe is coconut extract, which isn’t entirely necessary–it’s just there for flavor. I really like the combination of coconut and banana, but if you don’t have the extract on hand, don’t worry about leaving it out. Just use vanilla and your bread will still be delicious.
However: be sure to combine all the dry ingredients and stir them into the wet ingredients a little at a time as you’re making the batter. Bananas are wet and heavy, which means they’ll settle to the bottom of the baking pan unless you’re careful to incorporate them thoroughly.
Gluten-Free Banana Bread
3 ripe bananas, mashed well
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. coconut extract
1 3/4 cup gluten-free flour blend
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 tsp. xanthan gum (leave this out if guar or xanthan gum is included in your flour blend)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Preheat the oven the 350 degrees. Lightly coat a large loaf pan with non-stick spray and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas, oil, and eggs. Add the extracts and stir to combine. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Use a dry whisk to mix these ingredients.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time, stirring to incorporate the dry ingredients after each addition. When everything has been combined, pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Your pan should be about 2/3 full of batter.
Bake for one hour, until the top of the loaf is nicely browned. A knife or toothpick inserted at the center of the loaf should come out clean, or with only a few moist crumbs sticking to it. As with all gluten-free baked goods, let the loaf cool completely before cutting it into slices, or the texture will be crumbly.