Saturday, May 10, 2008

Follow me....

To the new home of It's Just Not Dinner Without Cat Hair!

Update those links, peeps!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Calling my name

Temptation can be a terrible thing.

Yesterday, I baked cream cheese and gluten-filled chocolate cupcakes for one of the people I cook for. The smell that filled this house was amazing; I couldn't even get away from it outside. When whipping up the batter, I got a hint of the olfactory pleasure to come and managed to catch myself a nanosecond before it was too late... I had gotten some of the batter on my finger and without thinking, I had gotten that finger about half a centimeter from my mouth before the rest of my head suddenly flew out of my backside and shrieked HEY!!!It wasn't that I wanted a taste of the gluten-filled cupcake batter. It was all about losing control due to scent. Ever have that happen? The wonderful smell of chocolate (this stuff really should be an illegal drug - it's my crack) controlled my hand and forced it toward my face. Really. It did - I have witnesses.

After I made my delivery, I sat in the living room and chewed on pizza while mindlessly flipping channels, trying to figure out how I was going to make me some cupcakes, too. Because it was after 9 PM, there was no way I was going to start baking again. I had to be able to function at work. I shelved the thought, grabbed the furbabies, and went to bed.

I have an annoying habit (oh, hush - I know there's more than one). I wake up, all by my lonesome, without at alarm clock, by 5 AM every day - and I am immediately wide awake. If I sleep until 5:30, I consider myself to have slept in.

This morning, I woke up with an idea and a drooly pillow.

I ripped through The Vault and figured out which recipes to use when, coming up with temptation. I suffered through my work day, did some running after I closed the office for the day, and then finalized it all in my mind while preparing some din-din.

I seriously had to put these away, on a different floor (the basement fridge) or I was going to EAT. THEM. ALL.

On a side note, watch for big changes ahead (thanks to Natalie at Gluten Free Mommy for her input). I have been working on those big changes for the last two weeks, which is why I haven't been around here. Stay tuned, people. I promise it will be swell.

Note that I bit into it to show the innards- no way was I dinking around with a knife.

Temptation Cupcakes
(or Devils' Food Cupcakes filled with marshmallow and topped with whipped ganache)
Adapted from The Vault

For the cupcakes:

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup skim milk (there's got to be SOMETHING healthy in here)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a standard muffin tin (12) with liners.

In a mixer bowl, beat the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In another bowl, sift together the brown rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, sweet rice flour, xanthan gum, cocoa, and baking powder. Stir in the salt.

Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until the flour is mostly incorporated. Pour the milk into the butter mixture and stir just until blended. Add the remaining flour mixture and stir until incorporated.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, filling the cups nearly full. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan to a cooling rack. Continue to cool for another 30 minutes before filling.

For the ganache:

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp corn syrup
4 tbsp butter, cut into pieces

In a 2-quart saucepan, whisk together the cream, sugar and corn syrup over medium-low heat until boiling. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Whisk briskly until the chocolate melts and the mixture is fairly smooth. Add the butter and continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth.

Pour the ganache into a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until very thick. I actually throw it in the fridge and just peek in every 5 minutes to give it a stir because hey, I wasn't waitin' for no chocolate.

When ready to frost what you're going to frost, use the whisk attachment on your mixer to whip some air into that stuff until it gets nice and fluffy.

For the filling (Just so you know, this makes twice as much as you need. I am thinking ice cream topping, maybe. Or more cupcakes.):

2 tbsp hot water
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1-7 oz jar marshmallow fluff
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine the salt and hot water in a small bowl; set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat together the fluff, shortening, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add the salt water and continue to beat until combined.

OK. Now the fun begins.

Remove the liners from the cupcakes and to make life easy, set them on their tops. Using a thin-bladed knife, carefully cut a plug of cake out of the bottom. I try to keep it cone-shaped. KEEP THE PLUG.

Fill a plastic zipper bag with the filling, clip a small section of a bottom corner off the bag, and start squeezing a dollop of filling into each cupcake hole. Break off the tips of the plugs, shovel the tips in your mouth, and then place the shortened plug back into the hole, on top of the filling. Press gently to seat and then flip the cupcake over so it is right side up.

When all of the cupcakes are filled, bring out the whipped ganache. Scoop it into a pastry bag (or plastic zipper bag) fitted with a star tip. Pipe the desired amount of frosting onto the top of each cupcake.

Makes 16 reasons to for me to go to the basement.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A childhood friend revisited

When I was more wee than I am now, I loved Strawberry Shortcake. You know, the dolls. I had quite a few of them. I even preferred them over my Barbies. I adored how the dolls smelled like their names (strawberry for Ms. Shortcake, blueberry for Blueberry Muffin, etc., etc., etc.).

In my organic delivery this past Wednesday, I received two clamshells of strawberries. I ate over half of them out of hand but wanted to do something simple but special with the remaining fruit. After rifling through The Vault for about an hour, I found an old recipe for brown sugar biscuits. Strawberry shortcake coming right up!

As always, I cut the recipe in half so that if I had a big 'FAIL' I didn't waste a bunch of flour. Lord, I hate it when that happens. Happily, this conversion was a success and I made myself sick while gorging.

I gave one to The Man but he didn't like the texture. I simply looked at him and said, "this isn't angelfood cake, dumbass. It's a biscuit. REAL strawberry shortcake." His response? "Oh." I got the same reaction from another gluten-eating friend. They said it was very good, but they're used to strawberry shortcake with angelfood cake or those little dessert cup jobs you can buy in the grocery store. Naturally, that's what they prefer.

Me? I prefer this.

Brown Sugar Biscuits
Adapted from a Vault recipe

2/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
4 tbsp butter, cut into pieces and chilled
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp heavy whipping cream + additional for brushing biscuits
1 tbsp turbinado sugar

Whisk together the flours, xanthan gum, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and use your fingers to rub the butter in until it becomes a coarse meal. Gradually add the cream, tossing with your fingers until moist clumps form. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the fridge and gently pat it into a round disk about 3/4" thick. Using a 1-1/2" to 2" biscuit cutter, cut 4 rounds (gathering scraps and forming the disk again as needed). Place the biscuits on the prepared pan and brush the tops with cream. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before serving.

Like I said, I stuffed two of them with mashed strawberries and whipped cream last night, but I ate one with jam this afternoon and damn, was that good.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Since I am sitting here, at 7:23 in the morning, in a pair of ratty sweats instead of work clothes, because our f'ing sewer backed up AGAIN and I am waiting for someone to come and rod the line, I should respond to Lynn's tag.

The only good thing about hanging out right now is that I am cranking out a loaf of bread. I stink after cooking all day yesterday, I can't brush my teeth...ugh.

So. Six descriptive words for me.

  1. OCD. Not one word, technically, but it's true to an extent. For example, I will check The Gidge's lead 3 times (every time) before I open the door to let her out.
  2. Reliable.
  3. Trustworthy.
  4. Batshit.
  5. Musical.
  6. Creative.
  7. And one more, just for giggles - temporarily stinky.

Now I can tag people, too: Shannon, Dianne, Natalie & Ellen.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Back to bran

Rice bran, that is.

I used to eat a lot of wheat bran, back in the old days. I loved me a bran muffin for breakfast and ate one nearly every day. And then we had the whole gluten issue.

I have had this recipe for years and years. I actually had forgotten about it because while it's a Vault recipe, it wasn't stored with the rest of them. I was flipping through my Joy of Cooking the other day and came across it, folded up and marking a page I can't recall at the moment.

I was totally excited because like I said, I had forgotten about it. I had picked up a box of rice bran the last time I was at the natural foods store, so I had everything on hand. I gave them a whirl yesterday morning and they turned out pretty well.

Just don't be greedy and eat more than one at a time. I learned that the hard way. Obviously I don't eat enough fiber.

Apple Cranberry Bran Muffins
Adapted from a Vault recipe

1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup arrowroot starch
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup rice bran
1 egg
1/3 cup skim milk
1/3 cup spiced apple butter (I used my own homemade stuff)
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tbsp molasses
1 cup finely diced peeled apple
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a standard muffin pan with muffin liners.

Place the cranberries in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in the rice bran.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, apple butter, agave syrup, oil and molasses until blended.

Drain the cranberries.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, but do not combine yet. Add the chopped apple, cranberries, and walnuts to the pile and then stir all together, just until combined. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan - fill those cups FULL.

Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 22 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then move the muffins to a cooling rack.

Creating my own busywork

I keep a binder for all of my gluten-free recipes, as well as ones I want to try. It was a little disorganized, to say the least. I had been shoving the printed versions into the front binder pocket for months, so there were papers sticking out everywhere - and finally, yesterday morning, I dropped it. Imagine that.

I really needed something to organize all those pieces of paper. So I broke down and bought MasterCook 9.0 and started copying and pasting from Just Not Dinner, copying and pasting, copying and pasting. All day long. The really scary part of all this is that I now know what the nutritional content is for all of these recipes, and oh boy.

How did I stay at 108 pounds for 2 years?

Since I collapsed my dress orthotics with the extra 20 pounds I have put on since October or so, I guess I better pay attention to what I am putting in my mouth for a while and see how I do. I downloaded a nutrition program for my PDA and have been entering everything I shove in my mouth in there every day. Ladies and gentlemen, I have been eating far too much crap and not enough of the good stuff, like I used to.

I figure that a good part of not cooking healthy for myself is that whole cooking-for-other-people thing. On Sundays, I cook for a minimum of 7 hours. One other day of the week, it's about 4 hours. Both people I cook for are...particular...about the foods they eat. So while I love-love-love to cook, it's sometimes hard to have fun when it's the same stuff over and over again. But that's okay. I love that I am helping two people important in my life eat healthy and well.

I am trying to find the old me in the kitchen again. I need to stop taking the easy route of a pizza or sandwich for dinner instead of a wholesome meal. And I need to stay away from the damn Jelly Bellys and Doritos.

That being said, I am now closing the container of Jelly Bellys I was noshing on while typing the last few paragraphs. Someone take these away from me, please.

I made a truly delicious meal on Friday night, reminiscent of the dinners I used to make when I was in control of my snackiness. Saturday saw another Vault muffin recipe converted to gluten free (I will give the recipe in another post).

When I got home from work on Friday, I had no clue what to make for dinner. The Man wasn't home (a shocker, I know) so I knew I could putz and play and cook what I would like to eat, not what he would be willing to eat. Out came the savory Vault binder. I opened up the section for chicken and rapidly flipped through the page protectors in hopes that something simple would jump out at me.

I don't know if this qualifies as simple, but it has two bonuses - once I adapted it to what I wanted, I didn't have to go to the store to get additional ingredients (everything was in the pantry and fridge) and it was damn tasty.

Chicken with Sugar Snap Peas & Asparagus
Adapted from a recipe by Eating Well, found in The Vault

1 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 healthy pinch of salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tsp + 2 tbsp white rice flour
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup fresh sugar snap peas
1 cup fresh asparagus spears cut into 2" pieces
3 tbsp minced fresh chives
2 tsp champagne vinegar

In a small bowl, whisk together the broth, mustard, salt, pepper and 2 tsp flour until smooth. Set aside.

Using a mallet or rolling pin, pound the chicken breasts until they are between 1/4" and 1/2" thick. Sprinkle both sides of each chicken piece with the remaining white rice flour.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (I actually used a large chef's pan for this, which worked well) over medium heat. Cook the chicken until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the cooked chicken breasts to a plate and cover with foil to keep them warm.

Using the same skillet; stir the broth mixture and add it to the skillet along with the peas and asparagus. Simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and continue to cook until the peas and asparagus are just starting to get tender (5 minutes or so).

Return the chicken to the pan, squeezing it between the vegetables to get them into the sauce so that it can return to temperature. Continue to simmer for 3 to 5 minutes (until completely heated through).

Remove the chicken and place it on a serving plate. Add the chives and champagne vinegar to the skillet and stir. Serve the sauced vegetables with the chicken. I made sour cream, chive and cheddar mashed potatoes to go along with the meail.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I firmly believe that things happen when they happen for a reason.

For example, something very exciting for me happened a couple of weeks ago. After years of searching (apparently in the wrong damn places), I found someone that was instrumental to my childhood years. I lost track of this person after my freshman year of college (18 years ago - oh. my. god.) until two weeks ago or so when on a fluke, I found this person's father's name on the web.

Honestly, if this person and family hadn't been in my life, I would swear more like a sailor than a truck driver. Amazing, considering that we were only together (although joined at the hip whenever possible) for two years, one of which we didn't like each other the whole time because of....A BOY (gasp!). Now I need to ask if she remembers the boy's name.

Once we get to know each other again, I will see how this person feels about my talking about our relationship here.

However, I do have to share this. She moved many miles away one summer and we didn't get to see each other again for YEARS. But we did keep in touch, writing letters, making the occasional phone call. I can't remember which school year it was (I know it was at least 8th grade but may have been 9th), a local family was going to visit her family and invited me along for the ride. I remember her brother driving us batshit the whole time...and I remember her mother buying us matching magenta sweaters, black leggings (hot back then, I tell ya), belts, and hair accessories so we could hang out as twins for Halloween.

Have mercy on me. I kept that sweater until 1995, and EVEN WORE IT ON OCCASION, until a rather large hole finally worked its way through the left armpit. Even then, I cringed as I disposed of it.

(giggling uncontrollably over here)

I wonder if she still has a picture of that. If so and I can get a copy, I promise I will share, if she agrees.

Anyway. Back to things happening for a reason.

Something made me give The Gidge a puppy cut on Sunday evening, because I felt that 8 hours on my feet JUST. WASN'T. ENOUGH. For those of you that don't know what a puppy cut is and have a long-haired dog, ask your groomer for a puppy cut the next time you go and watch the eyebrows rapidly fly toward the ceiling before the groomer tries to talk you out of it.

You've seen The Gidge - she's usually pretty fluffy due to her mixed breeds of shih tzu and papillon. This is an already-starting-to-grow-out puppy cut.

She was mad at me for a good 24 hours, seriously. And cold. Very cold.

(giggling like a loon again)

Bad momma. Bad momma.

Anyway (again), when I got to her hind legs, I found nasty mats that the comb had missed, primarily because The Gidge hates to be brushed or combed. She barely tolerates a regular plastic comb like my dad used to use and refuses to be touched by a slicker brush or any other type of brush that would be used on a normal dog. Normal being the operative word, of course.

Something told me I needed to make my dog nearly bald and when the haircut was nearly over, I found bad mats that would have most likely needed to be cut out, anyway. So there you go.

And finally. I had intended to attempt the recipe below last night, but when I got home later than normal thanks to having to pick these up:

(Am I officially old now? These replace my dress orthotics, which gave out on me)

I just didn't feel like cooking anything and ate leftover pizza for dinner instead. Naturally, I didn't decide that I didn't feel like cooking until I had taken two chicken breasts out and defrosted them.

I forgot about the chicken breasts hanging out in the sink. Until this morning.

So, without further ado, here's a tasty and light lunch or dinner for ya. It makes a lot, so cut the recipe in half or you better like leftovers. A lot.

It's similar to primavera, so that's what I am running with for the name.

Pasta Primavera with Cannellini Beans

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup carrot coins
1/2 cup zucchini coins
1/4 cup sliced onion
1/2 cup fresh or frozen green beans
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1-15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups uncooked rice pasta
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
1/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 tbsp fresh basil, torn into small pieces
Salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, boil the carrot coins until just tender. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter and olive oil over low heat in a large, deep skillet. Add the garlic and onion and cook until garlic just starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the green beans and zucchini; increase the heat to medium and cover the pan. Saute for 5 minutes or until the beans are just starting to get tender. Remove the cover and add the cooked carrots and drained beans.

Now is a good time to start cooking the rice pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Pour in the chicken stock and wine and stir in the tomato paste; bring to a boil and then continue to cook over medium-high to high heat until the liquid is reduced by half. Turn off the heat; add the tomatoes, cooked pasta, and cheese and toss to coat. Sprinkle with basil, salt and pepper, and serve.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Disappointing successes or successful disappointments

It all depends on how you look at it.

For Easter, I converted two Vault recipes to gluten free. The banana cupcakes turned out okay, but the frosting I used was *gag*.

The carrot cake was based on a recipe by Alton Brown. The cake was so moist that it was TOO MOIST, like I had loaded the batter up with pudding. But it sure looked pretty. If I try this again, I will cut back on the carrots - there were a lot of them and I think that's why the cake had the texture it did.

What DID work? Well, let me tell you!

Back before Bob's Red Mill began selling gluten-free oats, I attempted to adapt my absolute favorite blueberry "power" muffin recipe by using rice bran to replace most of the oats. Big mistake. These muffins are supposed to be heavy as they are meant to be used prior to or after a workout, but the rice bran turned these into bricks. Not good.

Now that I have oats, I attempted them again. The second try was a delicious success. Next time, to make them more "powerful," I think I am going to try splitting the amount of sweet rice flour with flax seed meal to see what happens.

Now remember, if you try these, that they are meant to be a bit heavy.

Blueberry Power Muffins
Adapted from a Cooking Light recipe

1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup teff flour
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup skim milk
1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp egg substitute
3/4 cup fresh blueberries (I used wild blueberries, so these are chock-full - if you use wild berries, cut back to 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup slivered almonds, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a muffin pan with muffin papers.

Combine the flours, xanthan gum, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.; stir together with a whisk. Make a well in the center of the mixture.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk, oil, vanilla and egg. Add the yogurt mixture to the flour mixture; stir together until all of the flour is just moistened. Fold in the blueberries and almonds.

Spoon 2 rounded tablespoons of batter into each muffin paper.

Bake for 18 minutes or until a tester inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove and serve.