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Week 2: Day 5 – Banana-Blueberry Muffins (Gluten Free)

26 Jul

Week 2, Day 5:  Banana-Blueberry Muffins (gluten free)

Well, it is Friday and my last day in the kitchen this week!  I decided to make something I would enjoy eating over the weekend.  Rarely can you go wrong with pastries, so I settled on these banana-blueberry muffins, once again from the book Wheat Belly by William Davis.  These will definitely be gone within the next 24 hours!IMG_2851Ingredients

  • 2 cups ground almonds **(I bought this already ground into a flour.)**
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed (same as above)
  • sweetener such as stevia or splenda equivalent to 3/4 cup sucrose **(I used sugar, even thought that goes against the Wheat Belly book.  I felt okay with it.)**
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or coconut milk **(I used light coconut milk.)**
  • 1/4 cup walnut or coconut oil **(I ended up using olive oil, as I did not have either of the others on hand.)**
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen, or other berries **(I used fresh, because I had them on hand.)**

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Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease or use muffin cups for a 12 cup muffin tin. **(I did not use cups, and instead greased my pan.)**
  • Combine the ground almonds, flaxseed, sweetener, baking powder and salt. Mix well.
  • In a separate bowl, mash the banana. Add the eggs, sour cream or coconut milk and oil. Mix well.
  • Add the banana mixture to the almond mixture and mix thoroughly.
  • Fold in the blueberries.
  • Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling them to just about halfway.  **(I had enough batter to fill more – so I did.)**
  • Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry.  **(My oven is way too hot, so mine only took about 20 minutes.  Definitely keep an eye on them!)**
  • Cool in the tin for about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

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Outcome

The muffins were delicious!  They were moist, sweet, but not over sugary, and the blueberries kept them fresh.  They were a bit hard to get out of the tin, but by using a knife to slide them loose around the edges, they came free!  These will be a great treat after dinner, or a wonderful breakfast on the run!  In the past I made muffins that were not quite as good gluten free as they were when full of gluten, but these were different!  (They are almost gone!)

Thanks for visiting.  Have a great weekend!

Week 2: Day 4 – Granola (Gluten Free)

25 Jul

Week Two, Day 4: – (No More Chips!)  Granola (Gluten Free)

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After my experiences with chips this week, I decided to throw in the towel and move on.  I wanted to make something I could enjoy throughout the remainder of the week – knowing that I would find success (yes! surprise! sometimes I play it safe!)  I turned to a recipe I found a while back from the book, Wheat Belly by William Davis.  I read this book a few months ago, after I already started my gluten free diet.  The book was scientific by nature, and validated why I was no longer eating wheat products and why I was already feeling a change (better?!)  In the book there were several gluten free recipes for readers to try out – this being one of them.  I am glad I tried it out today!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup quinoa flakes or old-fashioned rolled oats **(I used rolled oats.)**
  • 1/2 ground flaxseed **(I buy flaxseed already ground.)**
  • 1/2 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1 cup chopped raw cashews – separate **(In order to chop, I placed in a plastic sandwich bag and crushed them with a rolling-pin.  It worked beautifully.  I am sure there is a certain tool I am missing here.  Add it to my list.)**
  • 1/2 cup sugar-free vanilla syrup **(I don’t think mine was sugar free…whoops.)**
  • 1/4 walnut oil **(I used extra virgin olive oil, but will add this to my list of “Abby’s wants”.)**
  • 1 cup chopped pecans **(In order to chop, I placed in a plastic sandwich bag and crushed them with a rolling-pin.  It worked beautifully.)**
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 dried fruit – i.e. – raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, etc.  **( I used dried cranberries.  They suggest unsweetened, I used what I had.)**

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Directions

  • Combine the oats, ground flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup cashews, vanilla syrup, and oil.  Toss to coat.
  • Spread the mixture in an 8 X 8 inch baking dish and press down to make an even layer that is about 1/2 inch thick.
  • Bake until nearly dry and crispy, about 30 minutes.
  • After removing from the oven, let the mixture cool in the pan for an hour.
  • Meanwhile, combine the pecans, almonds, dried fruit, and remaining 1/2 cup of cashews in a bowl.
  • Break the cooled oat-flaxseed mixture into little pieces and stir into the nut-fruit bowl.

It is ready to be eaten!  And, boy did I eat it!?!

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Outcome

Success!!!  This was yummy!  The granola was sweet, without being overly sugary and had a subtle vanilla flavor.  Crunchy and chock-full-o-nuts, it was not exactly the granola I am used to buying from the store, but instead fresher and somehow tasting more “natural”.  I enjoyed mine for breakfast with some ice-cold almond milk!  This will definitely be a recurring recipe in my kitchen, as it has less sugar and all unprocessed ingredients!

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Week 2: Day 3 – Baked Sweet Potato Chips

24 Jul

Okay – Chips, Day 3.

Today I decided on making sweet potato chips.  The potato chips worked pretty well, aside from maintaining their crunchiness, so I figured a sweet potato might be my next best bet!  I found this recipe on Martha Stewart’s website, again.  I adapted it to make it my own, which you will see below.

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Ingredients

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes **(I only used one so that I could experiment – and not waste food!)**
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, preferably sea salt
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving **(I did not use.)**

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Slice the potatoes into 1/16 inch slices.  **(I used a knife, but feel that a mandolin might work better.)**
  • Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt, toss, and spread in a single layer divided between 2 baking sheets.
  • Bake until centers are soft and edges are crisp – approximately 22-25 minutes.  Flip the potatoes one time during the baking process.  **(I kept my potatoes in the oven for almost 40 minutes.)**

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Outcome

They were definitely delicious when they came out of the oven.  Some were crispier than others, no matter how long I kept them in.  Many of the sweet potatoes had to stay in the oven for almost 40 minutes, and were still not crunchy or crispy.  Baked sweet potatoes almost always taste wonderful, so on the one hand they were a success.  On the other hand, they were not chip-like.  Also, like my regular potato chips, they did not make it through the night.  In the morning they were quite soggy and rubbery.  In the end, I will have to say that these were not a complete success.  If I would have eaten all of the chips yesterday within a few hours, it would have been a more successful cooking session.  But, unfortunately, I did not.  Oh well!  I may just have to wait until I buy a dehydrator to make any more chips.  Tomorrow, on to homemade granola!

Week 2: Day 2 – Baked Potato Chips

23 Jul

Week Two, Day Two: Baked Potato Chips

After yesterday’s beet chips catastrophe, I wanted to try to redeem myself and my ability to make chips.  I decided on the potato.  Again, there are a ton of recipes online for baked potato chips, but I settled upon adapting Martha Stewart’s Baked Potato Chip Recipe combined with this recipe from iVillage.

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Sliced potatoes using a knife, not a mandolin.

Like yesterday, only three ingredients were on my list; potatoes, extra virgin olive oil, and salt.  I could do it!

The recipe is as follows.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium waxy potatoes, peeled or unpeeled (I used unpeeled – I like the skins.)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spread parchment paper on two baking sheets.
  • Using a mandolin (I don’t have one – I used a knife) slice the potatoes to approximately 1/16 inch.
  • Pout the olive oil into a bowl.  Using a pastry brush (I used my fingers), lightly coat the potatoes with the oil.  (Add a pastry brush to my “Abby would like” list)  Sprinkle with salt.
  • Arrange potatoes in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheets.
  • Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until the potatoes are crisp and golden brown.  About 30 minutes.
  • Take out of the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Chips will continue to crisp as they cool, and should stay fresh in an airtight container for several days (see my reflection below).
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Baked Potato Chips fresh from the oven.

Outcome

Today was a much better day!  The chips tasted as wonderful as I expected!  Most of the chips crisped nicely and tasted like a potato chip.

Several learning points:

  • Buy a mandolin, even a cheap one, to see if it works better.  I just googled them online and found a cheap one for $10.
  • The chips will finish at different times, as they are cut at different thicknesses (no matter how hard I tried!)  That means you must keep a steady eye on the chips, removing them as they crisp.
  • Try next time with different seasonings.  Barbeque, rosemary, sour cream and onion?

The one thing that was upsetting was that my chips did not stay crunchy through the night.  I am not sure if it is because it is summer and close to 100 degrees outside, therefore making my apartment quite steamy?  Or whether the container I stored them in was not “airtight” enough.  Possibly I should have let them cool for longer before storing them.  Who knows?!?  Tomorrow I will be making sweet potato chips and will experiment with some alternatives and will keep you posted. (get it?!)

My thought: I am going to make a different type of chip each day this week to see which, if any, work best.

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Thanks for reading!

Week 2: Day 1 – Beet Chips

22 Jul

Week Two, Day One: Baked Beet Chips

I’ve started making hummus on Sundays so that we have a big container for the week (if it makes it that long!)  Since embarking on a gluten-free diet, crackers are hard to come by, so we have been using a lot of vegetables for dipping.  Once I began thinking about recipes to make at home, instead of buying, I thought, how about chips?!?  They would be great with some hummus!  I scoured the internet and found that people make just about everything into chips – potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, apples, taro, kale, etc.  Now, I don’t have a dehydrator, which would make this task significantly easier, but I figured why not try them in the oven.  This recipe only needed 3 ingredients, what could be easier?!?!

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I found recipes on many websites, but ended up using this recipe from A Cozy Kitchen, which was adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 medium beets (I only used 2)
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Peel beets and slice 1/16 inch thick with a mandolin.  **[This will have to be added to the “Things Abby needs in her kitchen” list.  I didn’t have one, so I didn’t use one.  Instead I cut thin slices with a knife (see outcome below.)]**
  • Toss beets with extra virgin olive oil.  The beets should not be drenched in olive oil, but simply have a fine coating.
  • On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange beets in a single layer.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  **(I used two baking sheets and placed parchment paper down first.)**
  • Stack another rimmed baking sheet on top of each beet sheet (like that rhyme?)  Bake until the edges begin to dry out, about 20 minutes.  Uncover and rotate sheets.  Bake 10 to 20 minutes more, removing chips as they become lightened and paler in color.  **(I only covered one sheet with an extra baking sheet, because I only have 3 in total.  I did find the covered sheet doing better than the uncovered sheet.)**
  •  Transfer to a wire rack; chips will crisp as they cool.

IMG_2808Outcome

I did not find success with this recipe.  As easy as I thought it would be, my chips were not very good.  To start,  a mandolin would probably have helped making the chips thinner and easier to crisp.  My chips took a lot longer to bake (crisp)  than I thought they would.  When they finally came out of the oven, some were crispy, others were flimsy and still the consistency of a beet (chewy and flexible.)  Even the ones that were browning did not seem to have the proper consistency.  The chips that were crispy definitely tasted good, although a bit salty.  I will definitely try these again, because I do believe they have potential.  I did not get to dip them in hummus, so tomorrow I will use veggies!

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Of course, thanks for stopping by!

Week 2: Items You Usually Buy – Made at Home – A Reflection on a Trip to Vegas

21 Jul
Eifel Tower Vegas

No, it’s not Paris – it’s Vegas!

I spent all of last week in Las Vegas for a Teachers’ Math Conference.  Despite never wanting to go to Vegas, I had a great time.  There is something there for everyone – shows, gambling, food, pools, spas – you name it.  As a teacher, this was most likely my first business trip, as well as my last – but I was glad that it afforded me the opportunity to go to Vegas and to see how truly unique it is. Teachers do not get to travel frequently.  Our job is local; in the same room everyday, with the same students every day, eating the same lunch everyday.  Being somewhere as “magical” (very subjective) as Las Vegas while working was certainly a treat.  What was not a treat was the price of the food.  Staying at the Palazzo – you are in the midst of a “fancy” hotel, with glamor, glitz, and three televisions in one room (yes, that includes the bathroom!)  Now, I wake up each morning craving my large cup of coffee, and I was excited to see the familiar coffee shop at the bottom of my hotel.  On the way to my first session of the week, I stood in line to order my usual coffee and small yogurt, and upon arriving at the counter, the young man asked me for $8, give or take a few pennies, which was not my usual price.  The young gentleman said, “Welcome to the Palazzo” as I was picking my jaw up off of the floor.  Now, I am a New Yorker (via Philadelphia) making me used to absurd prices, but this was like a punch to the stomach.  After handing over my money (each and everyday) I began thinking about my blog for the upcoming week (I had to skip last week).  Maybe I could focus on items  you usually buy at a store, making them at home, allowing you to take them with you wherever you go.  So this week, I will be making items that you could buy at a store – but why would you?!?!  You can make them at home!

Aside

Overview of the Week

15 Jul

Overview of the Week…What will I take with me?

  • Baking with lavender, a wonderful herb, adds depth, flavor, and a subtle floral hint that is far from overpowering.
  • So far, gluten free flours can be substituted for regular flour in many recipes.  Sometimes the product is a bit flakier, but still quite delicious.
  • Unsalted butter should be used in baking (even if you have to go to a second supermarket to find it.)
  • Making homemade versions of many of the products I used to run to the super market to buy is in fact quite easy.
  • Having the perfect tools/ingredients in the kitchen is not a requirement.  Flexibility is key.  It is possible to use a colander instead of a sieve, a potato masher instead of a pastry cutter, and milk and lemon juice instead of buttermilk.  There’s always a substitute available.
  • Cooking and blogging on a daily basis takes a lot of effort and hard work, but is fulfilling in many ways.  It provides meaning on a daily basis, allows me to explore the kitchen and new recipes, and lets me share good, homemade food with friends and family.  At the same time, it opens the door to a bit of fear and vulnerability as others are eating and reading my products!

It has been a week full of growth (and eating!)

Below are some photos from this past weekend.  On Saturday morning we woke up and breakfast was ready – no preparation needed!  With our coffee, we had lemon lavender scones, lavender lemon curd, and peach lavender butter.  Quite delicious if I say so myself.

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On Saturday night we went to a party at a friend’s place and brought my homemade guacamole.  There are 5 avocados in here!!!  It was gone in an instant.  We also brought a plate of the lavender fudge from Day 3.

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Sunday night, after a day outside in the heat we were looking for a light summer meal.  I made hummus, falafel, an Israeli salad, and sweet potato fries.  Plenty of leftovers for the week!

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