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.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Everyone has addictions, whether they want to admit it or not.


Mine are actually quite simple. Though some of them have been known to keep me away from this site - by the time I realize I had intended to post, the addiction has locked me in its tight-fisted grip on my hair, preventing me from reaching my wireless keyboard (I can't type for shit on a laptop keyboard, you know).

Addiction Number One.

This is a biggie that controls many of my non-working hours. I do this in the morning. I do it at night. On certain days, I do it all day long. HIDDEN OBJECT COMPUTER GAMES.

Oh, God. The secret is out. I bow my head in shame.

Addiction Number Two.

Reading - I love to read. I was one of those kids that started reading early and never looked back. I read the entire C.S. Lewis Lion, Witch & The Wardrobe series in third grade - over and over and over. I still have those somewhere. I should look for them.

I remember being yelled at by a parental figure more than once because I was curled up with a book on a beautiful day instead of being outside - which says a lot because I grew up with a pool 20 feet out my back door.

The true addiction here? Romance novels. While I love to read anything...history, geography, fiction, true crime...give me a romance any day of the week. But it's got to be a modern romance; historicals bore me with all the Lords and Viscounts and all that court crap.

Addiction Number Three.

Food magazines, no matter how cheesy (such as the Kraft Food and Family that arrives in the mail), sit in piles in our third bedroom until I make the time and then gather the motivation to flip through each one a second time (or ninetieth time) to rip out what I want to keep for The Vault. I figure there's about 6 months worth stacked up in there now.

Addiction Number Four.

Smoking. All right, I admit it. I fell off the wagon in October due to Haunted Barn stress during the week of opening. I was on and off until the middle of November when I finally gave up. I tried several times since then to quit again but can't stick. I have the nicotine inhaler and have used it a few times; I have managed to get down to 5 or 6 cigarettes a day now. I am hoping that cutting back slowly instead of just quitting like I did the last time will help me kick the habit forever.

Addiction Number Five.

Cherries have been my favorite fruit since childhood. My mother used to make cherry pie filling from fresh cherries and freeze it; when looking for a snack, I would often open the freezer door and search frantically for one of those clear bags with the nummies in it.

Addiction Number Six.

Can one call herself a "foodie" (I am not really sure if I even like that term or if I consider myself one!) if she is never without a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos? Thank god they're gluten free because that's one of the few carryovers from my gluten days.

Addiction Number Seven.

I rarely eat them out of hand, but I sure do love to bake with almonds. Or stir them into my cream of rice. Or eat them in granola.

Addiction Number Eight.

Oh my. I am rarely without a Glad container full of Jelly Belly jelly beans, regardless of the time of year. I am packing them in right now, between sentences.

Addiction Number Nine.

The smell of baking bread often drives me to make some, even though I really don't need another loaf hanging around. I try to not eat much of it because - well - carbs. I eat too many of those as it is, thanks to Addictions Six and Eight.

Addiction Number Ten.

Sweets with cherries and almonds together. The Vault has a lot of cherry recipes just hanging out, waiting to be tried for the first time here at Just Not Dinner. Many of them were ripped out of a pile of magazines that had accumulated around the house. Some came from family and friends. Not sure how to categorize the rest of them.

I have been eyeballing this Vault recipe for a while now. I finally decided to make it last night because I had decided it was time to feed Addiction Number Ten. Naturally, I couldn't wait to hack into it very long; I drizzled the glaze on before the pan's contents had completely cooled and started in with a knife.

I was a little worried because when I ate the first piece, it was almost too-almond-y for me. But I had a piece with my lunch today and it settled in quite nicely.

I cut the original recipe in half and used a smaller pan than the halved recipe would have required because I wanted the bars to be thick.

Cherry Bars

Adapted from The Vault

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 + 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 + 1/4 tsp almond extract
2/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1 21-oz can cherry pie filling or make your own
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 to 1 1/2 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9"x9" square baking pan and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1/8 tsp almond extract.

Combine the brown rice flour, tapioca flour, cornstarch, coconut flour, xanthan gum, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the creamed mixture and mix until combined.

Spread 2/3 of the batter in the bottom of the prepared pan. Very sticky, just to warn you! Spread the pie filling over the top of the batter. Sprinkle the almonds. Drop the remaining 1/3 of the batter by teaspoonfuls over the pie filling and almonds.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes (depending on how thick your bottom layer is) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack while preparing the glaze.

To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, remaining vanilla and almond extracts, and milk; whisk until smooth. Drizzle over the cooled bars.

So now that I have aired my dirty laundry, what are your addictions?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Little girl grown up

Funny how time flies, isn't it?

I pissed away several hours tonight putting this together. Too bad I was still so wiped out on March 1st that I didn't do this on her actual birthday...

Happy birthday to The Gidge.

Chicken all boozed up

I combined several recipes I had in The Vault to come up with this one. Really hit the spot on a Sunday night.

Chicken Marsala
From The Vault

1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp finely chopped shallot
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp olive oil
10 oz crimini mushrooms
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh sage
1/4 tsp salt + a pinch
1/8 tsp black pepper + a pinch
1 cup brown rice flour
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup Marsala + 2 tbsp
2/3 cup half and half
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Bring the chicken broth to a boil over high heat, then continue to boil, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced to about 3/4 cup. This will take about 20 minutes or so.

Over medium heat, saute the shallot and garlic in 1 1/2 tbsp butter and 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil until shallot and garlic start to lightly brown. Add the mushrooms, 1 tsp sage, salt and pepper; cook until the mushrooms release their liquid, it evaporates, and the mushrooms are soft - 8 to 10 minutes max. Turn off the heat.

In a wide bowl, combine the brown rice flour, pinch of salt, and pinch of pepper. Pound the chicken breasts down to 1/4" thick.

Heat yet another skillet with 1 1/2 tbsp butter and 1 1/2 tsp olive oil. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour, then place them in the skillet. Only turn each piece once - cook until just cooked through (4 to 5 minutes). Transfer the cooked chicken to an ovenproof baking dish (in a single layer) and place in the oven to keep warm.

Add 1/2 cup of wine to the chicken skillet and boil over high heat; scrape up all those yummy bits on the bottom of the pan. After a minute, add the reduced chicken broth, half and half and mushroom mixture and then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened (8 to 10 minutes). Add the lemon juice and remaining 2 tbsp wine and the last of the sage.

Place the chicken in the sauce; spoon sauce over the top. Serve with your favorite pasta and French bread.

A girl's best friend

Who needs diamonds when there's CHOCOLATE? Not me, that's for sure. I will admit to having a few of them, but when it comes to jewelry, I am a colored-stone girl.

But back to the chocolate. I made a double batch of these, chopped them up, wrapped them, and stuck them in the freezer. Seeing as The Man hates brownies (oh, the horror...) that means that they are ALL. FOR. ME.

I better find the Leslie Sansone walking DVDs...soon.

Milk Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from a recipe found on Epicurious

1/2 cup unsalted butter
8 oz milk chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 tapioca flour
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder plus more for dusting
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9" square baking pan and dust with unsweetened cocoa powder.

Combine the butter and half of the milk chocolate in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring, until the butter and chocolate are melted together and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and cool to lukewarm. Add the brown sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, until the mixture is glossy and smooth.

Combine the remaining ingredients and then stir into the chocolate mixture. Stir in the remaining chocolate. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a tester come out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Two of my favorite things

Blueberries and cornbread. Yum. Put them together and you get a tasty treat. Keep in mind that these are not sweet at all. If you would like them sweeter, add another 1/4 cup sugar.

Blueberry Corn Muffins
From The Vault

1 cup skim milk (original calls for buttermilk, so if you'd like, use that)
2 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup amaranth flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tbsp flaxseed meal
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 half-pints fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners.

Whisk together the milk, eggs and canola oil. Set aside. Combine the cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown rice flour, tapioca flour, amaranth flour, xanthan gum, and flaxseed meal. Add the blueberries and toss to coat. Add the buttermilk mixture and stir just until combined and all ingredients are moist.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a tester inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Over the past few weeks, I have compiled a slew of recipes and pictures that need to be posted. I have been spending the bulk of my spare time lying around like a slug, just trying to get my groove back. I think I am finally caught up at work, so maybe now I will have the motivation to start updating this site again.

I hope.

The real problem is finding the pile! Stay tuned until this evening...