Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Product Review: Gluten Free & Fabulous Macaroni & Cheese




You know, a great way to start off any evening is with a nice package of macaroni and cheese. Kids love it. Adults love it. It has such a salty, sweet flavor that will make any of us beg to go back to our childhoods, even for just a day.

I grew up on Kraft Mac n' Cheese, or the store brand, whatever was cheaper, as most kids did and still do. One of my friends down the street had a mom (whom I still love dearly) who would not even let her think about touching the stuff because she was a purist - make it from scratch or don't make it at all. I agree with her now. But back then, no way. I wanted that creamy soft goodness right out of the box. Orange food coloring and all.

Now, I can barely think about even entertaining that idea, let alone eat mac n' cheese that isn't natural or gluten-free. I've tried a few brands, but as I have given up nearly all dairy, I just don't eat it unless I make my own non-dairy version. However, one day, while strolling down the aisle of one of my favorite natural stores, I came across a new package sitting on a shelf. Without realizing why I would even want to check it out, I flipped the little blue and yellow package around to see that not only was it gluten-free, but it was made primarily with quinoa flour.

Very intriguing. The front of the package never even alluded to this, so this little chance happening was quite welcome.

As most of you know, I love quinoa, millet, and pretty much most ancient grains that are me-friendly because they're superior in nutrition to rice or wheat. So, to find a package of hidden gem gluten-free mac n' cheese made with quinoa, well, I had to buy some.

Not an easy feat at $6.79 a bag.

I nearly choked at the seven dollar price tag, but the idea of being able to consume pasta made with quinoa and rice flour was too intriguing. I bought a bag, no doubt spurred on by the little kid in me who liked to sit outside and play with the dogs or hide in laundry baskets while Mom cooked up some pre-packaged easy feed. I could nearly smell the aroma of Kraft filling the air.  

I have one little comment for the quinoa connoisseurs. For those of you who love gluten-free stuff, I know there is a company out there that makes quinoa pasta. I can hear you yelling at your computers now. My problem with that company is the other flour in the pasta is corn. I rarely eat corn. Not me-friendly.

So, the idea of quinoa and rice, that was exciting. I mean, seriously, think about the sheer nutrient factor and then add in the complete protein factor. AND I get to have mac n' cheese? It was worth breaking my no-dairy rule to just try it once.

And it was so worth it.


Hands-down, my favorite rice pasta is Tinkyada, but Gluten-Free and Fabulous is definitely pulling in close behind. The texture was perfect. I cooked it to al dente, leaving a slight chew, then added the rice milk (I know, kinda pointless, but I don't buy anything cow-related, so bear with me here), Earth Balance Soy-Free Margarine, the packaged cheese (which looked quite a bit like Kraft's), and heated them all together until they became the beloved food of my childhood. Oh, yes. It was good.

As always, when you cook rice pasta of any kind, leave it al dente when you pour out the water. The pasta will still continue to cook after the water is gone. This will make the texture just right when you get ready to eat it; not mushy or falling apart. This is true of wheat pasta too, by the way, except wheat goes gooey and overly chewy.

The other tip I have for this little gem is be patient when you add the milk, butter and cheese back into the pan with the pasta. They use cornstarch to thicken it (which was a bit of a downer for me, but millions of people will rejoice in having a great gluten-free pasta with or without corn products) and it takes a little time. It will thicken. I promise. Just be patient and attentive. Give it some love while you're waiting.

When the finished product comes out of the pan and onto your plate, it is heavenly. It smells great, the texture is just right and the sweet and salty creaminess of the cheese is everything you remember, sans all the chemicals and colorings.

For those of you craving a little extra something, add a couple rounds of sausage (uncured beef was my choice), some parsley on top and you have a slightly more grown-up version of a classic childhood favorite.

The plant used for manufacturing is dedicated gluten-free, so you can feel at ease when you eat these tiny little elbows of deliciousness and enjoy every last bite knowing that you and your children are eating better, healthier and wiser without even knowing it.

You, too, can be gluten-free and fabulous.

Happy eating!

Product Review: Soyatoo's Rice Whip (Whipped Rice Topping)




Who doesn't love whipped cream? Everybody, right?

Well, that's partially true. Most of us love whipped cream, but cream and the milk of the cow is not everyone's friend. Several companies have come up with various alternatives for cream, the most notorious are those made from soy. But as those of us who are body sensitive know, soy is not for everyone either. Soy, along with wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, milk and eggs are the top 8 allergens across the board - which is why you see them listed as potential allergens on every single FDA-approved label on the market. Soy is a problem for many of us.

So, what's a girl to do? Can't have soy, can't have cream. No whipped delight on top of our pies and sundaes then, right?

Well, put away the hankies kids, Soyatoo has created a rice version that is ultra-allergen friendly. With the exception that it is packaged in a plant that uses the same equipment to package milk and nuts, it really is a marvelous feat of consumerism.

Made primarily from rice milk, coconut oil, sugar from rice and a few other standard ingredients (all easily pronounced and I know what they do and why) with several ingredients even made organically, this new concocotion is quite exciting.

So, how does it taste?


Well, that is answered in a multi-layered response. The texture is creamy and absolutely reminiscent of our dairy-filled standards you find in any spray can at Safeway, but the taste, is well, sort of different. Nothing is ever the same and anyone who loves food will tell you cream is cream and soy is soy and rice is, well, rice. But Rice Whip is definitely making headway on a soy and cream-filled monopoly. For me, vegans and dairy-free eaters all over the globe, Rice Whip is definitely something to savor. On its own, it has a slightly bitter, ricemilky aftertaste. Consumed with something like cookies or pie, the flavor completely intermingles and you wouldn't be able to tell it was Rice Whip or Reddi-Whip, the regular kind. The coconut oil gives it a nice creamy and slightly smooth mouth-coated feel without any coconut flavoring or aftertaste. It really was quite nice, if you're only sort of expecting Reddi-Whip. Be open. That's my advice whenever trying something new.

My second and final criticism to the makers of Rice Whip is the issue with the can. I saw it on the shelf at Whole Foods and immediately dropped one in my basket. It wasn't cheap at a mere $5.49 a can, but neither is Soy Whip. The alternatives just aren't cheap, but for those of us searching for some sort of pre-made relief, we're willing to ditch the few extra bucks to give it a try.

The can looks like any other whipped cream spray can with a nice label and pretty lid. I didn't bother to read past the ingredient list until I was secretly sitting in my car and itching to try it. A little pop of the good stuff in my mouth would give me all the information I need to know, right?

Well, wait another twenty minutes and then you can. What?

Since I purchased the Rice Whip out of the dairy case, it was cold, as it should be. However, the can states that because of the type of propellant they use and the design of the can (and I'm sure because of the various types of ingredients that must be used without chemicals as used to make standard spray whip), which happens to be relatively natural and for that I am grateful, the steel can and its contents must be at room temperature to work right.

They aren't kidding.

I punctured the seal to see if it would work (I just had to have a taste!) and followed the directions to shake it up and loosen the inner goodness. I hit the nozzle. Nothing. I hit it again. Some gas came out. No whip. Disappointed, I set the can onto my car seat and drove home knowing the fifteen minute drive would just about work out right.

Finally getting home, I drop the rest of the groceries and bust out the can again.

It's been awhile since I've had whipped cream. Can you tell?

After following the clearly labeled six steps (yes, six steps to freeing my creamy delight), I was able to finally squirt some onto my fingertips and taste the first safe faux cream in a can I've had in years.

Sweet, creamy, nice mouth-feel. Pretty good. Slightly weird aftertaste, like burned rice.

Okay, try it with a cookie. Ah, better. No aftertaste.

The next interesting feat was that the can has to be stored in the fridge upside down and you are supposed to clean the nozzle each time you use it. Coconut oil will clog up the workings. I am guessing also that the type of propellant used is not strong enough to push out the gunk that clogs up the nozzle, unlike what they use in the chemically-laden store brands. It's been a while since I looked at the back of a package of Reddi-Whip so I don't remember what propellant they use, but I can tell you the list of ingredients on the back have some rather unsavory things in there. So, I was willing to go to the extra effort for something a little more body-friendly and natural. Well, as natural as fake whipped cream in a can can get.

I continued to use the can and its contents over the next day or so, not really using very much, but wanting to really see what I thought of the flavor and the complicated can maneuvers. And to my surprise, it was empty after only a few uses. I could hear liquidy stuff rolling around inside, but for the most part, I knew it was empty. Maybe the gas ran out. The can is still sitting on my table as I write this review and I shake it hearing the cream slosh around inside and there's no way for it to get out.


That is a disappointment. I kind of thought I'd get more for my money here. The label states that you can get 66 tablespoons out of one can at a mere 5 calories per tablespoon (which is quite nice), but there is no way my can produced that much. I can't prove it, but I can tell you I was disappointed. Maybe there are twenty or thirty tablespoons still inside the can.

This part was actually the biggest let down. If I was having a party and wanted to offer this as an option for a topping, I'd have to buy several cans. And at nearly $6 a can and the fact that I'd have to leave them on the counter upside down not knowing how much each one would produce, I doubt I would even bother.

I appreciate the effort Soyatoo, but I'm not sure I will go to the effort. It's just not that good. If the flavor was remarkable, maybe. But with the aftertaste issue, the can craziness, and the small amount you get, I think I'll just settle for going cream-less.

Unless come Thanksgiving, I just can't stand not having some for my pie. Or maybe Christmas with Mom and the D. We'll see.


Happy eating!

Aromatic Rosemary French Toast with Sage and Spices





Breakfast in the morning should always be an event. It's the first welcome of the day to get your body going and it should be revered as an exercise in bringing joy into the rest of your day. So, I say, eat and eat happily!

This morning I woke up craving some marvelous french toast. Ordinary french toast is always welcome, but today, I wanted something a little different. So, I pulled out my day-old rosemary baguette and started slicing. Throw in a few spices here and there, and - wa-la! - breakfast is served.




Aromatic Rosemary French Toast with Sage and Spices



Serves 2


4 slices rosemary gluten-free bread, one or two day-old preferably

2 eggs

1/3-1/2 cup milk of choice

¼ tsp rubbed sage

¼ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground cloves


Using a fork, poke several holes on both sides of all four slices of bread and set aside. In a medium bowl, wide enough to place at least two pieces of bread side by side, whisk together eggs, milk, and spices until fully combined.

Pre-heat cast-iron skillet or medium fry pan on medium-low heat.

While pan is heating, soak two slices of bread in egg mixture making sure to flip over and get both sides. Let bread sit in egg mixture and soak it up while pan is heating up.

Place a droplet of water on surface of pan to test if it’s ready. Water will begin to dance and spatter when ready.

Spray a little non-stick cooking spray or olive oil in pan or skillet. Lift soaking slices out of egg mixture, letting excess drip off and back into the bowl. Gently set both slices onto pan.

Place other two slices in egg mixture, coating both sides and soaking while the ones in the pan cook.

Allow to first two slices to cook until the egg begins to set and the bottoms begin to brown. You will begin to see egg set around the edges of the bread. Lift slices to see if bottoms are browning nicely and flip to cook other side, using more olive oil or spray, as necessary. Cook for another 2-4 minutes, until second side is brown. Remove and place on a covered plate (or place in warm oven to keep food warm). Spray a little more oil in pan and repeat with remaining two slices.

Serve with maple syrup or maple agave nectar (my favorite) and a little turkey bacon on the side.

Enjoy!


Happy eating!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Baked Marinated Salmon on a bed of Herbed African Millet with Curry and Sage

Today, I had the inspiration for something simple and delicious. My cupboards are a bit bare, as I need to journey to Whole Foods or the like, so while rummaging around, I realized I had some fantastic marinated salmon from Costco (gluten-free, of course) and as always, I have plenty of herbs and millet - one of my staples.
You know, I love millet because of its crunchy and unique texture, its nutty aroma and flavor and well, because it's incredibly good for me. With plenty of iron and zinc and vitamins of every imaginable kind, millet is a little powerhouse of nutrition. If I had the choice, I'd choose this little tiny yellow ancient grain over rice any day.

Don't get me wrong. I love rice. Really.

I just love millet more.

And here's why: Millet is a highly sustainable and incredibly self-sustaining little powerhouse grain that has nearly faded from our global diet simply because we favor what's cheap and easy: rice, wheat, and anything in a package. Millet is still the staple for many cultures outside North America and there are many good reasons why. First, millet is a grain that can be re-grown in the same soil for three cycles, unlike the single farrow of wheat (meaning, the soil must be replenished and renewed every intermittent cycle because wheat drains the soil of nutrients, which is interesting because if you look at the nutrient composition of millet versus wheat, you'd never believe that to be true); second, millet is a powerhouse of nutrition with tons of protein, iron, zinc and phosphorus, B vitamins of many kinds and so much more - in comparison to wheat and rice, millet is a better choice because it's nutrient-dense (meaning you get more for your money and have to eat less to feel great); and third, millet's cheap. Yes, that's right. It's cheap, easily accessible at most natural health food stores and it costs less than rice most of the time. At my local health food store, the millet flour (which I use for almost everything) is almost fifty cents cheaper per pound. Why? Supply and demand. People just don't know what to do with millet.

And that's where I come in. I am not afraid of any little yellow grain. It's savory and it can be made sweet. It has a slightly nutty flavor that is enhanced if you toast it first, but that's not even necessary to get a great quality flavor. It will sit on your shelf or in your food storage for years without degrading and you could even plant a few and grow it easily, if you lived where it was dry enough. Millet likes arid conditions to grow and interesting enough, we Americans do grow it. It's virtually everywhere, you just don't know it.

Go outside. Sit on your back porch. Take a glass of tea or chardonnay with you and watch the clouds pass by. Now, look at your bird feeder. Are there any little chickadees or finches fighting for seeds and grains? How about any little yellow grains about the size of a pin head?

Look familiar?

It should. That's millet. Some farmers call it hershey - not to be confused with the chocolate creators in Pennsylvania - and the birds love it. So do cows and sheep and goats and many, many other animals. The farmers across America grow it to feed to our animals because, you guessed it, it's cheap, easy to grow, highly sustainable and incredibly nutritious. The animals live better and longer eating millet than oats and wheat. Hmmm. We should learn from that.

Why are we feeding this little yellow deliciousness only to our beloved animals? Time to feed ourselves that kind of nutrition too.

So, what do you do with millet?

Well, there are lots of things you can do with millet. Make it into a flour and bake with it, which I do often. Or buy the flour and use it to thicken sauces instead of wheat flour or cornstarch for a little extra nutrient punch without any difference in flavor. Use the grain instead of rice in stuffed squashes and peppers. Make a nice side dish to complement any type of meat, poultry or fish. Use it to make a breakfast cereal with a little extra added sweetness like they do in Africa. But be forewarned, you may come to love this ancient little grain. It has been around for thousands of years and it's about to come back into style.

Baked Marinated Salmon on a bed of Herbed African Millet with Curry and Sage



Serves 4


4 marinated salmon fillets (I used Morey's Marinated Wild Alaskan Salmon from Costco), thawed or frozen

1 cup whole grain millet

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp rubbed sage

2 tsp oregano

1 tbsp butter, natural margarine, or olive oil

3 cups water

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp honey, agave nectar or maple syrup

Salt to taste


Bake fillets according to package directions. (If cooking 4 frozen fillets, wait to start millet until fillets are about 25 minutes from being done.)
Wash millet in a fine mesh strainer under cool water until the grain runs clear about 30 seconds or so. Place millet in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add curry, sage and oregano and toast millet and spices over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

When spices become aromatic, add butter, margarine or oil until melted and mix thoroughly. Add water and salt and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook millet, stirring often, until all water is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.

When water is fully absorbed, remove millet from heat and stir in honey, agave or maple syrup. Add salt to taste.

Make a bed of herbed millet on each place, placing one salmon fillet on top. Sprinkle on a little parsley, if desired, and enjoy!


Happy eating!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Travel Review: Seattle's Own Woodland Park Zoo


Ah, Woodland Park Zoo. Home to a menagerie of beasts, humans and animals alike, Woodland Park Zoo sits nestled between groves of variant trees, city parks and people's homes.

Yep, it's right in the middle of the suburbs.

Gorillas, elephants, flamingoes, and even red pandas live their daily life in exhibits that are visually appealing and as natural as possible - for tigers and zebras living in the Northwest. The zoo has come a long way from its inception in 1887 when a gentleman by the name of Guy Phinney had a vision to create a peaceful place for people and animals to mingle. He did just that, even so much as threatening to kill a dog on sight for invading the peaceful place. That's quite a legend to live up to.

And Woodland Park Zoo has done just that.

They have won numerous awards for the living spaces they have created, as well as been the forerunners in several categories of green and eco-friendly awareness. Their rose test garden is the only test garden of its kind to use nothing but earth-friendly measures to bring its blooms and blossoms into the light. Pretty remarkable for a place that must rely on memberships, daily visitors, and generous donors, along with some government funding, to sustain itself. They even go so far as to sell Zoo Doo (the poo of many, many, many animals and sometimes their used bedding) to homeowners and garden-lovers to raise money and awareness. Keeping it green and clean should be their motto.

Okay, onto the review.

The park itself is wide and expansive, with neat trails and sitting spots, and great places for picnics. Parking at the zoo is also quite broad with the main entrance in the south, which also tends to be the most congested. The north lot is usually pretty open and there's a great play place for the kids to burn off any extra energy they didn't already spend at the zoo. Along the west entrance, there are two little side parking lots with a few spaces here and there, but they also tend to be available, depending on what time of day you go. Parking along the streets can be a challenge, as most residents must have city-accepted vehicle tags that allow them to park in front of their homes for more than a few hours at a time. This method of parking to avoid the $5 parking fee can make for more of a headache than the five dollars is worth.

Pay it. It'll save you the pain.

Not to mention the agony of walking back pushing strollers, tired kids, and goodness knows what else weaving through traffic, sidewalks and side streets just to save five measly dollars. You did just drop nearly twenty to get in.

And that's just for yourself.


Yep. It's $19.95 bucks for adults to gain entry into the zoo, during peak season. May seem like a bit much, but you know it is going to a good cause - animal awareness and education - not to mention, the fun of a great day. During the off-season (October-April), fees fall a bit lower at a mere $13.75 for adults, but the kiddies have it a little cheaper: Kids (3-11) are $9.25 a head in the off-season and $12.25 during the peak and toddlers aged two and under are always free. Seniors 65 and up, as well as anyone disabled, qualify for an automatic $2 discount. You can also print out a $2 savings coupon online or find coupons in the Chinook Book or Entertainment Book each year.

The best bet is just to buy a membership if you live in the area, plan to go more than once during your visit, or live somewhere that has a reciprocal zoo membership. That's right. A reciprocal zoo membership. I purchased my membership earlier this year because I knew I wanted to go more than once (plus, I live here) and I also knew that there are several other zoos nearby who offer this great reciprocity deal. Here's how it works: if the zoo is on the list, you get in free. Awesome, right? And with a membership, all the kids are included, you can put your spouse on there and if you have a friend who wants to join you, they can get in half-price (or you can use one of your freebies, if your membership has them). It's really a great deal and so worth the money. You might even want to spring for the AquaZoo Membership which includes entrance to any number of aquariums, as well as the zoos, around the country and in Canada too.

I have used my membership to visit Portland's zoo and in the spring, I hope to check out British Columbia's zoo that's also on the list.

So, now that we've got you in, let's take a look around. Depending on where you enter, you might just start out on the Northwest Trail (northern entrance), take a spin on the antique carousel, safari around Africa (the southern entrance) or visit the rare red pandas and smelly flamingoes (western entrance). Either way, it doesn't matter where you enter, you'll find that the entire park weaves in and out in a circular pattern so where you start is where you'll eventually end up. Hours and hours later, if you look at everything.

Frankly, this zoo is huge.

I've been to many, many zoos around the country and Woodland Park's is one of the finest. It's easy to get around, has lots of great stopping places, benches and even options to rent scooters and strollers (which I may take up one of these days), and really great food. The exhibits are clean and easy to access and yet, you feel as though you are spying on the creatures, not staring at them through bars. Some living spaces still have that caged feel, but Woodland Park has done away with most of them. Back in the day, when it was all the rage, and really, we all know it was because they just didn't know better and our animal education was severely lacking, the animals lived in metal cages with concrete bottoms.

Not a pretty sight or pleasant for anyone.

And definitely a thing of the past.


Woodland Park Zoo has worked hard to overcome that appalling display of animal cagery and has filled its bulging insides with tree-lined paths that feel more like trails with places for us to poke our heads through to try and see something. It's us who has to do the work. They just live there. And that's the way it should be.

On a recent visit to The Wild Animal Sanctuary outside of Denver, I learned that big cats become stressed and severely territorial when people are allowed to walk along their cages. They spray and become aggressive because they think we're invading their territory - or that we might. And who can blame them? That's how we would feel if someone kept walking up to our house and staring in at us through our front window. We'd be ill at-ease too. So, this particular animal protection site created a walkway that goes above the cats - and they have a lot of them - and just like that, stress is gone. The cats were rolling around like kittens with their bellies up and paws in the air, not a care in the world that we were standing high above them. They felt safe and at peace. Something all zoos should be aware of.

Speaking on that topic, that is one of my few beefs with Woodland Park Zoo. Their cat enclosures are at eye-level to the big cats and one Siberian tiger always seems to be on edge. The jaguar exhibit has the same problem and the one cat in there paces and paces and paces. Their demeanors were nothing like what I witnessed at The Wild Animal Sanctuary. I will have to tell you more about that later. Amazing place.

Back to the zoo.

But before I do, I have one last comment on this particular topic. I know. I keep saying that I'll move on. I promise. Just one more comment. A friend and I went to the Oregon Zoo down in Portland and had the most unusual experience there. We walked up to the mountain lion exhibit and there was a large glass window where she made her den. The huge (and I do mean HUGE) female cougar walked right up to the glass, sniffed it, stared at all of us staring at her, and laid down like she could have cared less. I have never seen a big cat with that kind of attitude, except at The Wild Animal Sanctuary, and that cat was also a puma, aptly named Romeo. Quite remarkable. I must read more about them.

Okay, back to Woodland Park Zoo. See, I told you.

Above and beyond all the great, natural animal settings, the zoo also has a fantastic food court. They offer a variety of natural, organic and free-range options, as well as vegetarian and locally sourced treats. It's quite phenomenal what they offer when you think about the main fare as being burgers, fries and shakes. They also serve everything on compostable plates with compostable glasses and silverware and you will not find one single straw anywhere in the zoo. Why? Because people throw them into cages, that's why. We're irresponsible and because such things are incredibly dangerous to those animals, we just have to do without. So be it. Until we learn better.


My favorite part of the zoo is, of course, the animals. And Woodland Park Zoo has some truly unique ones. They have African and Asian elephants; lions, tigers, and grizzly bears (oh, my); emus, and kangaroos; arctic foxes and wolves (which I finally saw for the first time ever on my most recent visit); a beautiful eagle enclosure with both baldies and goldens; a bird-feeding habitat (where you buy bird seed on a stick for a buck and stick your hand out hoping someone won't poop on you before they eat all the seed); the rare snow leopard and her cubs (which are a treat and quite exotically rare, especially breeding successfully in captivity, which they have most recently done); a lively and all-too-human gorilla troupe (with a grandma gorilla who likes to sit in front of the glass and watch all the kids make faces at her. I don't have any pictures of her, but all the pictures in this review are from Woodland Park Zoo); siamangs (which make the most lovely and laugh-inducing sounds early in the day); zebras and hippos that eat pumpkins on YouTube; pink flamingoes and free-roaming peacocks; and so, so much more. It is a place you could spend all day and then some.

Go back and then go back again. It's really a great place and a lot of fun to be.

Visit www.zoo.org for more information.

Happy travels!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Product Review: Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix



Ah, the elusive chocolate chip cookie. A favorite for fall, Halloween or any time of year, really, and the great thing about them is they're fast, simple and delicious. Everyone seems to love chocolate chip cookies.

Except us gluten-free babies.

Those little wheat-filled, soft and gooey delicacies you find in bakeries, on store shelves and in packaged mixes are a major source of sadness for so many of us. We love 'em, but do they love us back? Not so much. Soft or crisp, chocolate chip cookies are a problem.

Add to that the lack of a good mix for those days when you just don't have it in you to break open all the flours and sugar and make your own. Nobody seems to care about us gluten-freers and making our life easy.

Not true anymore.

In the spirit of meeting the needs of a growing population of gluten-free eaters, Betty Crocker has branched out and created a line of gluten-free baking mixes. Made in a dedicated gluten-free processing facility, the Betty Crocker baking team realized they had a problem with their traditional mixes, right in their own kitchens. Two co-workers had varying degrees of problems with gluten, so they started by creating four dessert mixes: Brownie, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Cake, and Yellow Cake.




I haven't had the opportunity to try all of them yet, but I had to start with the cookies, of course. I bought my mix for about $5 at my local Central Market. We can all hope that someday they will make it into the Safeways, Albertsons and King Soopers of the world, and being they are Betty Crocker, they just might actually make it onto the shelf. But until then, check the website to find great recipe ideas and retailers selling these mixes.


Sidenote: There is an incredibly mouth-watering recipe for Gluten-Free Cookie-Brownie Bars on their website and I just had to show you the picture here. Doesn't it look yum? Swirls of gluten-free brownie goodness interlaced between chocolate chip cookie dough baked into a bar. Oh, my. I'm trying that next.

Okay, onto the review.

The little yellow Betty Crocker box contains mostly rice flour, chocolate chips (sans dairy, yeah!), two types of sugar, potato starch and flour, some leavening agents and salt. Pretty simple and basic, but nice to have all ready to go. You just add 1/2 a cup of softened butter or natural margarine (I used Earth Balance Soy-Free Natural Buttery Spread), a teaspoon of vanilla and one egg. Mix together and bake on a sheet for 8 to 13 minutes, depending on size, removing from oven and leaving on the baking sheet for an additional two minutes.

The cookies come out soft and gooey, looking like a regular, delicious chocolate chip cookie. The taste is pleasant and sweet, with a hint of chocolate softness melting between bites. I might add a bit more vanilla or get crazy and add some cinnamon, nutmeg or peppery heat to make a Mayan Chocolate Chip cookie next time, but other than that, they were quite good for any basic package mix.

I cooked two batches of small cookies for ten minutes and another two batches (also small) for a few minutes longer. I personally liked the ones cooked longer better. Here's why: the slightly undercooked (and usually resulting in a softer, chewy cookie) had a slightly funky texture and flavor from the potato flour being undercooked. You could taste it and I wasn't a fan. I prefer a soft, chewy cookie, but this batter didn't seem to allow for that in flavor and texture because of the potato flour flavor. The ones I cooked longer were crisp and buttery and the texture was perfect - for a crisp cookie. The funky flavor and texture were gone and they were just great. I'd personally recommend this mix used this way because of the addition of the unique potato flour flavor.

Please don't confuse potato flour and potato starch. Both are used in this mix, but for different reasons. Potato starch adds lightness and chew to baked goods (I use this often), while the flour is used - I'm guessing here because potato flour is not used often and I use it for special things like soft pretzels and sometimes bread, not cookies - for texture, flavor and to enhance the rice flour and its lack of gluten. They don't use xanthan gum in this mix, so I am guessing that's why they chose potato flour, plus potatoes tend to be pretty allergy-friendly. Not always, but quite often, in comparison to so many other flour or starch choices. The downside is potato flour (not starch, which has no real flavor) has a very distinct flavor and I think works best in savory goods. Too much potato flour has a slightly sour flavor when you can taste it. In a soft pretzel or bread, it's perfect because it adds just a hint of sour like a gently sourdough. In a cookie, it's sour meets sweet - and not in a good way. So, bake this mix longer to get the best flavor integration.

Another slight oddity in the recipe is what it says after you mix all the ingredients together. The box states that the dough will be crumbly. Uh, okay. That turned out to be true, but they don't tell you what to do about it. It goes on to tell you to then drop the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto the baking sheet. Big question mark here. This is nearly impossible feat based on their directions. I don't see how what I mixed together would ever have stayed together on a spoon or stayed together long enough to actually bake into a cookie. That part thoroughly confused me.

Luckily, I happen to know something about gluten-free baking and well, baking in general, but mixes are supposed to cater to those who don't like to bake or just don't know how to do gluten-free baking. I think this step could cause a huge problem for gluten-free toe dippers. After I mixed the wet and dry ingredients, the dough was a slightly glorified bread crumb mixture. If I had seen this and was trying to go gluten-free, I would have become incredibly discouraged and would have probably thrown the dough away or tried to add things not knowing what else to do. The one exception would be if I had used a stand mixer. Since I don't have one, I relied on the old-fashioned spoon and arm method. I mean, it is just a cookie mix after all.

I think the mix would have come together better with a stand mixer, but the biggest distraction was that on the box they tell you the mix should be crumbly. And they don't tell you to use a stand mixer.

Serious problem. And I completely disagree with the directions here. I should have taken a picture so you could see what I saw.

My description will have to suffice. Crumbly, crumbly mixture. Fall apart, bread crumb, cobbler topping-type mixture. Messy and not really functional. So, I did the next best thing.

Dropped the spoon and stuck my hand into it.

I started to mix the dough with my hands to really squish all the various components together until, yes, it turned into cookie dough. Real, honest to goodness cookie dough. Looked like cookie dough. Tasted like cookie dough. Baked like cookie dough.

Problem solved. We need to alert Betty.

From here, I rolled the dough into little balls and cooked them two inches apart as the rest of the recipe calls for. The rest of it came out just fine. I believe, however, that Betty Crocker needs to make an adjustment to their recipe and make it clear that a stand mixer will work best and if not, then you need to work the dough just until it is really mixed well and holds together. Once I was done, the dough was not crumbly or falling apart. It looked and felt like any other cookie dough, wheat-made or not. I don't see why they didn't just state that. It would relieve a lot of gluten-free newbies and even us old hands.

On my gluten-free goodness scale, I give Betty Crocker's Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dessert Mix a 4 out of 5 for taste and a 3 out of 5 for ease of use for slightly confusing directions and the potato flour that needs to be a little overcooked to golden brown to get the best flavor.




Happy eating!

A Healthy Alternative to Hamburger Helper

So, the other day, my mom, who works a lot, and my stepfather had a funny conversation. My mother is realizing she has some issues with wheat and gluten, as I do (well, it is quite possibly genetic, after all), but my stepfather can consume it all he wants. It can be somewhat of a unhappy compromise for one to watch the other eat donuts, breads and the like with no recourse.

That's where I come in.

In an effort to alleviate her gluten-free woes, I have been looking for alternatives for what they tend to eat regularly. (I've been at this for many years and in the beginning, the challenge is to not feel deprived. If you can get over that, you will find success, health and happiness in what you eat. This is usually what drops people off the wagon and back into ill health until finally their body breaks and they have to do something. It no longer becomes a choice.)

When Mom stated she was going to do her best to go gluten-free, my stepdad piped in, "Does that mean no more Hamburger Helper?" On the days when my mom works, my retired stepfather tries to cook them something fast and simple. He doesn't really like to cook, so it is usually something out of a box and into a pan. Not always the best choice for gluten-free eaters and on top of that, my mom has blood sugar issues and my stepdad has his own set of ill-health issues.

Hamburger Helper is a staple for many families and I grew up on it. It's not all bad. It's just, well, not great. There's a lot of preservatives in it and lots of wheat, fillers and flavorings that are less than natural. It's cheap food. Most middle-of-the-grocery-store foods are.

However, I made a bit of a discovery last night. I wanted something fast and body-friendly and I happened to have a packaged mix of Seeds of Change Whole Grain Blends*. It's basically quinoa, millet, rice and some herbs and seasonings. No wheat, no dairy, no fillers and no fuss. I use it as a quick side dish usually, but last night, as I stared at my ground beef, a half-cut onion and a handful of green peas, I got to thinking. Would this work? Let's find out.

So, I chopped up the onions and browned them in some olive oil and sea salt. I added the ground beef and browned that as well. When the beef and onions looked just about right, I dumped in the rice mixture**, seasonings, and 2 cups of water. I let it boil, then turned it down to a simmer, covered it and let it go for about 25 minutes, stirring on occasion. Once the water was just about absorbed, I dumped in several handfuls of frozen organic peas from Costco and let it finish cooking. The finished product was fantastic! Not only was it more healthy, higher in nutrients and vitamins of all sorts (from the millet and quinoa), the flavor was delicious. There was a nice crunch from the texture of the various grains intermingling together and the slightly sweet and savory spices added just the right hint of flavor to bring out the earthiness of the meat. It was scrumptious.

For anyone out there looking for a fast, quick and easy fix to feed your family, one box of Seeds of Change Whole Grain Blends,one pound of lean ground beef, and a little onion and some veggies will go a long, long way.

Say goodbye to Hamburger Helper and say hello to Seeds of Change Hamburger Healthiness.

FYI - There is a great coupon for $1 off a box of Seeds of Change Whole Grain Blends on their website. Go print one out and give one of them a try!

Happy eating!

*Some Seeds of Change blends have wheat, beans, and soy in them, so please read the package if you are gluten-, bean-, or soy-free.


**The package called for toasting the rice mixture before adding the water. Since I already had beef and onions in my pan, I took a separate pan and gently toasted the grains and herbs on low-medium heat for about 2-3 minutes. This extra step brings out a little more flavor in the grains and herbs, but doesn't have to be done. It's personal preference.

Bread. Wonderful Bread.



Oh, bread. How I love thee. Let me count the ways. The gluten-free ways!

Gluten-free bread has come so far in its creation and really what has happened is better bakers have needed to go gluten-free and have created the most amazing recipes because they needed to.

And we get to reap the benefits.

I subscribe to a wonderful gluten-free culinary magazine - the best around in my opinion - called Living Without. There is a lot of discussion about the name because it implies that we have to live without all these wonderful things and must get by. Don't let the name fool you. Inside their pages, you will not go without anything. You will not want for anything. In fact, they celebrate living without various things to make our lives better. Maybe they should call it Simplify or Enjoy or Eat and Be Free because you will do all those things. Every time a new issues comes to my doorstep, I rush out and read through the entire thing in about twenty minutes. The articles are fantastic, the recipes are outstanding and they have substitutions for just about every allergy known to mankind. And then some.

Sidenote: Check out their website for a whole bunch of great recipes that are usually in the magazines. Not all of the magazine recipes are included there, but quite a few show up. Invest in the magazine if you can (it's really not that expensive) and sign up for free recipes in your email. Lots of options here. http://www.livingwithout.com/

Almost all their recipes are adaptable to fit each dietary requirement and they really strive to bring cutting edge research about such body-specific needs into your home. It's the best gluten-free/allergy-friendly magazine out there. In my opinion.

I like to try lots of their recipes as soon as they come out from the presses, but as most of us gluten-freers know, breads and baked goods are the most challenging.

Not anymore.

The culinary gods have smiled upon us. This recipe for French Baguette in the Oct/Nov 2008 issue is something I've been wanting to try for a year now. Why haven't I? I suppose I haven't because I don't want to be disappointed. None of us do. We want to eat and love our food and really enjoy ourselves, no matter what our bodies like. And we want to please our bodies into healthy happiness. It's not a compromise; it's a quest for healthy wholeness. We want to be free to enjoy our food and be healthy, right? Well, now, my friends, you can. The baguette from this recipe was just like I remembered it. Fresh and warm, soft on the inside, crunchy and crispy on the outside. Oh, yes. So deliciously good, I ate a whole baby loaf yesterday. By myself.

I don't care.

It was good.

The above picture is actually day two of the second loaf and it was still just as soft on the inside and slightly less crisp, but still crunchy on the exterior. I am controlling myself today. I know. Why, right? But I am.

The best part of this bread is how ridiculously easy it is. I was a little intimidated at first because bread is like chocolate - slightly temperamental and you do kinda need to know what you're doing or something will go terribly wrong. I have learned much from my bread baking friend, Hannah, and I will share some of my simplifying tips as we go on.

Okay, onto the recipe. But before we go there, I have one more little sidenote to share. I have a bit of a butter issue. I love the flavor and it is necessary in some instances like for making caramels and such, but I don't do dairy. Can't do dairy. And many of the natural margarines include things like soy and whey and other things that my body just says a resounding 'no' to. So, for the longest time, I was using Whole Foods' 365 Natural Margarine. It was the only thing that wouldn't make me sick. It tasted good, no hidden hydrogenation or partially-hydrogenated scariness, I could read and pronounce all the ingredients, and worked for just about every recipe I needed it for.

And then I went in to buy some two days ago.

The location it normally sat in was filled with something else, so I scoured the area looking for it and a label of some sort to tell me it was on order and they were just out for the day.

Nothing.

Panic. Cringe. Cry.

Okay, so no tears came, but I thought, What am I going to do? I can use palm oil for some stuff, but it has no flavor and my body isn't super fond of it. And the other natural margarines, well, most of the other brands make me sick. Literally.

Crap.

I hunt down a stocker and inquire about the missing margarine. She informs me to my dismay that Whole Foods will no longer be making it because it just didn't sell.

What? I should have bought more.

I stalked back over to the dairy case, peering in, sadly, at my choices. Some of the dairy-free margarines can't be used in cooking and some just taste icky. Earth Balance tastes good and is virtually everywhere, but my body disagrees with the consumption. I will not eat stuff that makes me sick. So, what's a girl to do?


Hmmm. That's new. When did they start making that? Could that work?

I pick up the red and white tub and scrutinize the ingredient list. Seems okay. They replaced the soy with other things that seem potentially favorable. I won't know until I try it. I also read that it can be used for baking, frying, sauteing, spreading and cooking. Very important. Some of them can't be used in cooking or baking and well, that's just annoying. I'm all about simplifying and making things easy. I look at the tub for a long time. Hopefully, nobody was standing there watching me frittering over a small tub of fake butter and wondering who the crazy girl was panicking in the dairy aisle. Finally, I decide that most of the Earth Balance brands have a nice flavor and well, what have I got to lose? I have to find a replacement to my beloved 365.

Make sad face.

I purchase the tub along with a few other goodies and head home. Eager to try it, I pull out some Food for Life Millet Bread and take a little taste. I don't want to overdo it in the event I have a reaction not uncommon between my body and Earth Balance.

Tastes good.

So far, so good.

I eat a little more and settle back to see if my body approves or not. I watch a little TV and try to hope everything will be fine. To my amazement, it is.

The next morning, I pull out the tub again and make some pancakes. I need to know if the reaction is going to come or not and it might as well be today. The day passes without so much as a reaction and I am rejoicing! I have found my butter replacement and it is good. Thank you, Earth Balance! You have made my day. You have no idea.

Now that we have something to put on our toast, let's get to making that bread. Oh, the delicious bread. Yes.

This recipe is slightly adapted from Living Without's. I chose slightly different flours than theirs, but with the same basic properties, and I did some old-fashioned hand-mixing because I don't own a stand mixer and well, trying to beat this with a hand-held mixer just seemed daunting. I'd rather just get in there and infuse my food with some love.

So, I did. Try it. It's really fun and isn't it so true that when we get food filled with love, it just tastes better? They so do. You can taste the love and passion in every spoonful. Or in this case, in every lovely, crunchy and sweet, soft and supple bite. Aaahh, bread. Real, true bread. Just like the wheat connoisseurs make.

Only better.

Happy eating!

Gluten-Free French Baguette





Makes 2 baguettes


This bread is best eaten within two to three days. To crisp and freshen, place the bread in a preheated oven (350 degrees) for 5 minutes. It will keep up for two months in the freezer. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and again in foil.

1 cup white rice flour (not sweet rice flour)

1 cup millet flour

½ cup potato starch

½ cup arrowroot starch

2 tsp xanthan gum

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp active dry yeast

1-2 tsp dried rosemary, dill or herb of choice (optional)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 ½ cups warm water (110-120 degrees)

Rice flour for dusting


1. Grease or lightly spray a double French bread pan and dust with rice flour.

Note: I used a regular heavy baking sheet with a silicone baking liner, like Sil-Pat (or parchment) because I don’t have a bread pan. I laid the two baguettes side by side. It worked really well, but be aware the bread will spread out as it proofs. I didn’t bother to grease or dust because the silicone would prevent it from sticking. Grease and flour if you like.

2. Sift flours, starches, xanthan gum, salt and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add yeast and herbs (if using). Mix to incorporate ingredients.

3. Blend olive oil and warm water (110-120 degrees) into dry ingredients and mix on high speed for 4 minutes.

Note: I used a spoon to incorporate the ingredients together and then just shoved my hands in there and started kneading the dough. I got rough with it for about 3 minutes, infusing my cooking love, leaving it in the bowl because it’s sticky and you’ll have to flour the countertop to knead it there. I didn’t want to add any extra flour and putting my hands inside the bowl wasn’t that big of a deal.

4. Spoon half the dough into each loaf pan, spreading dough into shape of a French loaf. (The dough won’t fill the length of the pan. It should be approximately 10-12 inches long.)

Note: Since I don’t have a French loaf pan, I used the silicone liner and a baking sheet, pulling the dough into 12-inch-long tube shapes and placing them lengthwise side by side, evenly apart on the pan. I didn’t smooth the tops or sides of the dough and this made for nice, little crags and crooks in the bread, but if you want a smoother top, just lightly oil or butter a piece of plastic wrap and smooth down the top and sides to your liking.

5. Place a clean kitchen towel over the dough and place in a warm, draft-free area to rise for approximately 35 minutes. The middle of each loaf should rise to the top of the pan and be double its original size.

Note: My baker friend, Hannah, taught me a little proofing trick: Heat your oven to 200 degrees and place the bread on the middle rack for the length of time you need to proof it. No towel is needed. Just set the pan in the center and proof away. When the time for proofing is done, just turn the oven up to whatever temperature you want to bake at and set your timer. If you can, don’t even bother to open the oven door unless you have to move the bread or don’t have a window to look in and check it. This works well in wet and humid Seattle where it is never quite warm enough to get a good proof and the breads, bagels, and pretzels come out fabulous. Thank you, Hannah!

6. Preheat oven (or just turn it up, if using Hannah’s proofing method) to 400 degrees.

7. Bake bread in the lower third of preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. After the first 20 minutes, check the bread for browning. If it’s well browned, cover it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil. When finished, bread sounds hollow when tapped and registers 200 to 220 degrees on an instant read thermometer.

Eat and enjoy!

Adapted from Living Without Oct/Nov 2008

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Eggs, Zucchini, Bacon and Onions. Oh my.



This is one of those times when they tell you to put all your eggs in one basket and you should. This delicious new recipe that I conjured today took into account the many, many egg salad sandwiches I have eaten in my lifetime. Not to mention every hard-boiled egg, every deviled egg, and certainly every color-tainted easter egg. The hard-boiled egg is a very delicious thing.

So, in making something new, I decided to keep it simple and let the ingredients do the talking. I chose some nice hard-boiled eggies, some succulent zucchini ripe off the vine and some meaty, healthy, all-natural (and I do mean natural - hormone-free, antibiotic-free, everything - but deliciousness - free) pre-cooked turkey bacon from my local PCC. Mix them together with organic carrots and a little bit of basil and mayo and wa-la, you have today's favorite.

This new recipe isn't really all that new - it's just something new to enjoy. There are a million variations of egg salad and I had a desire to create one for my friendly corn maze outing tomorrow that add some raw veggies into my diet without all the crunch and munch. Instead, you get a lightly crunchy, soft and chewy egg salad with a pack of flavor and tons of nutrition. I am big on both. You can't really enjoy something - I mean, truly enjoy it - if you know it's going to be less than favorable in the end. It just loses its appeal.

So, I tossed in a group of ingredients I had waiting in my fridge and made something fun for lunch tomorrow. How great is that? Life should be simple and enjoyable and so should our eating experiences. Pleasurable, savory without a ton of fuss. That's what we pay the pros for.

Before we get to the cooking and the sampling, I have a couple of tidbits to share with you.

One - I didn't fry my bacon first. I know, I know. Bacon that's not fried? How could I, right? Well, I did and for a good reason. The bacon would lose much of its crispiness by tomorrow and it wasn't really necessary. You could, but you don't have to. There are plenty of other things in there to crunch it up.

The turkey bacon I used this time was Garrett County's Uncured Turkey Bacon. I switch between this brand (also known as Wellshire Farms) and Applegate Farms which I get at Whole Foods. I am not a fan of some of the less flavorful turkey bacons found in most mainstream grocery stores. They have fillers and not a lot of flavor. It's worth the time and effort to find really good, meaty turkey bacon that will make you drool every time you use it. And I promise you, you will find uses for it just to sneak it in. It's that good. Low-fat, low-cal, high-protein and delicious and safe in so many ways - can you ask for more?

Yes, you can.

Wellshire makes an array of other healthy meat cuts including a very interesting Uncured Beef Bacon. For you beef lovers out there, this is something of an interesting treat. The bacon fries up much like pork bacon, but has a distinctly beef texture and flavor. It's quite unique and worth the try. Beef lovers will rejoice, as will many people for who pork is decidely becoming a health issue. I'm a turkey girl, but the beef was a nice alternative.

Two - For those of you who eat meat, I highly recommend checking out your local Whole Foods, if you have one. They have a wide variety of fish, seafood, and meats to accomodate just about any palate. I am most impressed with how stringent their meat production requirements are. It's not perfect, but by far, it's better than almost any other food retailer I know. I once asked if they carried rabbit for a recipe I was making and the butcher told me they stopped carrying it because the manufacturer couldn't agree to the 'no antibiotics' rule. Good. Good for us. Good for Whole Foods. Now, I want them to make manufacturers provide strict humane practices for all animals - fresh water, fresh food, sunlight, free space to roam and graze (if they do that) and act like what their species acts like. Cows that eat grass; rabbits that roam freely; and chickens that peck and scratch at the ground, not each other. So, if you're into meat, it's worth asking them about their strict manufacturer requirements. It's eye opening.

And third - the bread I choose most often is Food for Life's Millet Bread which I can buy at almost all natural stores where I live. I am also a big fan of Udi's Gluten-Free Breads, but because they are based out of Denver, I cannot get them here. Both are equally delicious and for those of us who are gluten-free they are such an amazing improvement over some of the truly uneatable 'gluten-free' breads out there. Those are not bread, my little kid inside says. Not bread. Some of them are cardboard in a plastic bag. And that is really giving gluten-free a bad name. If you're not gluten-free, eat on. If you're gf-curious, try one of the two above brands. You might truly be surprised. For those of you who are gluten-free, take heart. There is a whole culinary world out there working to make the best possible products for us and some of them are down-right delectable. We are no longer second-class eaters. Gluten-free is becoming the next green.

Okay, onto the deliciousness!


Michelle’s Open-Faced Egg Salad Sandwich





Serves 2-3

4 hard-boiled eggs, diced

2 slices cooked turkey bacon, diced

¼ cup raw zucchini, diced

¼ cup raw carrot, shredded

¼ cup onion, minced

1 tsp fresh basil or dried basil

3 tbsp Vegenaise grapeseed oil mayonnaise (or mayo of choice)

2-3 slices bread of choice (for gluten-free, I recommend Food for Life’s Millet Bread or Udi’s Bread)


Place eggs, bacon, zucchini, carrot, onion and basil in a medium bowl and gently stir together. Add mayo and gently fold ingredients together stirring as few times as possible to keep egg pieces intact.

Toast bread lightly and place half to 1/3 of mixture on top. Sprinkle a little basil on top and enjoy!


Happy eating!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Heavenly Cinnamon Rolls (Gluten-Free)



These little cinnamon babies are just the thing when the gluten-free girls are needin' a fix. So, tonight, with the aid of my trusty friend, we baked cinnamon rolls. I haven't had a really delicious cinnamon roll since I went gluten-free. They are tricky to make with wheat, let alone wheatless. But thanks to an adapted version from Roben Ryberg's The Gluten-Free Kitchen, the sweet smell of cinnamon has come home in the morning. Or in the evening. Or any time at all. Cinnamon rolls should be eaten whenever you feel the need. Or just want to.

Oh, yeah. So good. Everyone deserves a little treat now and again, right? You absolutely do. So, get out the bowls and pans and make yourself a batch and these, guilt-free.

Enjoy this fun recipe and play with it. There's so many variations on these light, little, fluffy pastries that you can play for days. I am going to find a way to make sticky buns out of these and as soon as I do, you'll be the first to know!

Happy eating!


Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls


Serves 8 or 9


INGREDIENTS

2/3 cup of milk, slightly warmed

1 packet instant active yeast (about 1 tablespoon)

2 tablespoons shortening, butter or natural margarine

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup light olive oil

1/2 cup potato starch

1/2 cup arrowroot* or cornstarch

1/2 cup millet flour or quinoa flour*

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3 teaspoons xanthan gum

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


TO SPRINKLE ON BOARD COVERED WITH PLASTIC WRAP

1 - 2 tablespoons sugar


FILLING

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 -1/4 teaspoons cinnamon or nutmeg

1/2 cup chopped nuts, raisins or craisins- optional


GLAZE

¾ cup powdered or confectionary sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

milk to thicken


DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round or square pan. Using a glass pie pan works best.

Measure warm milk and add yeast to milk. Whisk well to fully dissolve and leave to proof for a few minutes. In medium bowl, combine shortening and sugar. Mix well.

Add milk/yeast to sugar mixture. Add remaining ingredients. Mix very well, being sure to remove all lumps. Dough will be quite soft – very soft. Don’t be alarmed. It’s supposed to be this soft. Dough should hold together in a very loose ball, but incredibly sticky to touch.

Combine filling ingredients and set aside.

Take a piece of plastic wrap and lay it out so it covers approximately a 13" x 13" rectangle. Sprinkle sugar on the wrap. Lay ball of dough on top of that. Then pull out another sheet of wrap and gently lay over the dough. Pat the dough down into a rectangle. Lift the top wrap up and then reposition it, if necessary. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough in between the two layers of wrap. Occasionally you'll have to lift and reposition the wrap because it gets stuck under the edges. When you’re done, you should have about a 13x13 inch filled plastic rectangle.

Flip over so sugared side is facing up. Remove top piece of wrap. Spread filling ingredients evenly across dough's surface.

Use one of the long sides of the bottom piece of wrap to lift the edge of the dough and start to roll it up forming a long cylinder. Once the cylinder is complete, cut into 8 or 9 slices of similar size, about 1-1/2" wide. Place rolls into greased pan. You can place them next to one another or leave a 1-inch gap between rolls; the dough will puff and fill it in.

Bake approximately 20 minutes, until tops are lightly browned.

Combine powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk to make glaze. The amount of milk you use will depend on how thick you want the glaze to be. Stir until all lumps are dissolved. Drizzle over warm rolls if desired.


*Millet and quinoa flour can be purchased online and in some natural food stores. If finding it deems impossible, you can use white rice flour, brown rice flour or simply double the arrowroot. Arrowroot can also be purchased in natural stores or online.

Adapted from Roben Ryberg’s The Gluten-Free Kitchen