Monday, July 25, 2011

First Attempt - Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

I want to make this blog not just 'another food blog', I want to make this a real life and true to form blog. We'll talk about food, recipes, mistakes that turn into disasters, mistakes that turn into wonderful new recipes like my veggie stew, about things that deal with gluten free life style that aren't just about food... heck I even have ideas about writing about some stuff that involved our pets!

Another of these ideas was that I would post my 'first attempts' at recipes or ideas. I won't post recipes with it yet but I will share my experience with it. There will be more first attempts posted and when the ones that succeed without needing to be changed or altered, I will include the recipe but for now this one although it did make the cut, there is still something not quite 100% to my liking and I want to experiment with it a bit more. With that said though, it won't be one I explore any time in the near future only because well lets face it, peanut butter + butter + baking = LOTS of calories and fat. So yea, I'll experiment with it again but much later.

This recipe came about because I just LOVE (did I mention LOOOOOOVE) peanut butter and chocolate. A couple of my favourite things when it comes to this are peanut butter cups (yea I have made these too so it'll be posted at some point!) and any thing that even comes close to peanut butter cookies. With this recipe, it takes all the work of waiting for cookies to bake every 10-15mins in god knows how many batches until the batter is gone. It all gets thrown into a cake pan and set to bake. I loved the idea so off I went!

My review so to speak of it is this. It's great that I don't have to wait for batch after batch to become finished because of the fact that they are bars and not cookies. I like the fact that they will all turn out the same look, texture and doneness simply because you won't have to watch each batch to ensure they are all the same. I don't know about you but when I make cookies, it always seem the oven just changes temps a bit too much to keep each batch of cookies cooked evenly... this annoys me especially when you get really under done ones or really over done ones and you didn't change a damn thing between sheets of cookies. The original recipe does call for an entire cup of peanut butter as well as 1 1/2 sticks of butter as you would expect from peanut butter cookies. That is the ONLY thing that puts me off this recipe to be honest. I LOVE cookies but I also don't like the fact that there is always so much damn fat in them unless you are purposely cooking/baking on the 'light' side of things... which hardly include cookies.... at least decent ones.

Now the side I found a bit down is even though followed to the ~T~ the recipe came out a bit dry and very crumbly. This is why I don't want to post it yet. I want to find what will make it a bit more moist and what will make it hold together better. I am pondering a bit more butter as a usual peanut butter cookie recipe calls for 2 sticks of butter and then I'm also pondering an extra egg to help bind it.

All in all though this is a keeper recipe. Crumbling and even a bit dry, me and my dear husband did still manage to finish the pan off in about 2days time (hangs her head in shame). Here is a photo of it just out of the oven. When I attempt it for the final showing, I'll be sure to get more photos as usual.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New Equipment - New Camera

A long while back I bought a Canon EOS 300D camera. It was a beautiful camera, took wonderful photos but sadly I bought it 2nd hand. Within about 400 photos I'd say it started in with the known mirror problem where one of the mirrors won't open and causing the photographer to only get half the photo. Well dear hubby, bless his heart, found a way to make the mirror work again for a few photos but in the process of that happening, it also lost it auto-focus ability. Sadly to say, that camera has been put on the shelf and collected so much dust I can write 'repair me' across it with my finger.

A couple of weeks ago now, thanks to my wonderful parents, I finally got a chance to replace that camera. Not only that but with a camera 100x's better (in my thoughts at least so far) with the Canon EOS 600D. Along with a 19gig memory card and a new bag to carry it all in. Yes I'm quite happy with this. It has so many functions that it's going to take me years to learn it all but it's something I've wanted to do for a long time. And even better timing since I just opened this blog as well! I have brought some wonderful photos to the blog already but I already have quite a selection on hand made with the new camera that it'll add such a touch of class to the whole thing I think!

I've placed a photo of a candy dish that I have always sitting at my computer desk that my husband took just out of experimenting with the camera but it came out so nicely that I didn't dare throw it away. And yes, well and behold, I found a place to use it! Here! Look forward to some hot, lovely, tasty and just mouth watering food porn coming your way soon!

Recipe - Veggie Stew

I came up with this recipe by complete accident to be honest. I was attempting to make a Minestrone soup but well it went terribly perfectly wrong. It ended up being a big pot of veggies and pasta with some liquid left over but not so much so to end up calling it soup. I have found this stew to be one of my most turned to comfort foods when the weather is cold, wet or just plain crap, yesterday would have been the perfect day for it except that I already have too much food in the house and no idea how/when I'm gonna do with it. Sprinkle some of your favourite cheese over your bowl and mmmm perfect. It's so hot when it's done being made and stays hot for a long time too that the cheese just melts so perfectly over the top. I can't wait for it to become weather again that I can make this! I tend to use some of the same veggies as I loved it so much this way but truthfully, use what you like! I can't see that if one loves the taste of bell peppers, why it wouldn't work or if you like to use peas (I suggest frozen in this case if you do though)... or corn... I could go on! Heck if you wanted to, add some ground meat to it (brown the meat first). It's all up to you, this is just the basic recipe as far as I'm concerned.

One note, in the photos, I've used canned kidney beans, normally when I have more time and haven't made this as a need something pampering, hot and quick but have planned it out I'd much rather use the non-salted dried version. If you use the dry version either you'll have to cook the beans before adding or let them soak over night in water.

Main Dish
 2 or 3 small to medium zucchini (cut length wise in half and then sliced about 1/2 inch thick)
 2 or 3 medium to large carrots (peeled, halved and sliced about 1/4th inch thick)
 250grams (8 to 10oz) snap pea pods (ends snipped and cut into about 1/2 inch pieces)
 250grams (8 to 10oz) package mushrooms (washed and cut into 1/2inch pieces)
 250grams (8oz) package dried gluten free macaroni pasta
 16 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
 2 chicken bouillon cubes
 2 16 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
 2 cans kidney beans (drained & rinsed)
 2 to 4 TBS dried basil, oregano and garlic powder (adjust according to your tastes)
 Your favourite shredded cheese

This is one of those 'couldn't be easier to make' dishes. Simply start out with a large non-stick soup pot over a medium to high heat. Coat the bottom with olive oil, toss in the zucchini and carrots. Let fry for a few moments to start to softening.

Toss in the snap peas, mushrooms and kidney beans.

Pour in the large cans of diced tomatoes along with their juice, add the bouillon cubes and then fill the pot until about a 1/4th from the top with water. The photos I took later on of this recipe was made using a no-salt added version of diced tomatoes that I found later on and they are in a box rather then can.

Add the seasoning but do NOT add any more salt! This is not the time to taste this for salt as it's not even close to being cooked and with all the canned items you just added along with the bouillon cubes, trust me, it won't need more salt.

Give this mixture a good stir. Cover, reduce heat to low (so it still simmers and slightly boils) and let cook until you have the desired softness to your veggies. Remember to stir every so often as well to keep it from sticking to the bottom. And yes I actually keep huge containers of a few dried herbs in my kitchen. They are stock items for me.

At this point you can do 2 things in terms of the pasta addition. You can prepare the pasta as par the directions in another pot or do as I do, about half way into the simmer process, just dump the pasta in and let the juice/water of the veggie mix cook the pasta. This works best to be honest but also will work better with macaroni pasta. If you use something like spirals, cook them first and add after. Macaroni for some reason just holds up better to being boiled to death then other shapes.

Tada... dish done. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with your favourite cheese, find a good movie, grab a blankie and enjoy! (will get more photos when I make this again myself)

Editors Addition September 9th, 2011
Made this again not too long ago and got some great photos... have removed the 2 old ones and replaced them with my new ones. ENJOY!

Pre-made/Processed Gluten Free Foods

What a week. The weather has been terrible, it feels like it's the beginning of fall instead of the middle of summer, it mentioned yesterday (and today) that it was suppose to be 'party cloudy' and a 20% chance of rain. OMG I haven't seen so much rain in the last 2 days then I have seen in the last 2 months I think! To top it all off my mother-in-law ended up either fainting or indeed falling (I suspect fainted and found herself on the floor) last night sometime just around midnight so she went to the hospital by way of emergency just past midnight and this time without being able to fight because it was a '911' style call. She had called my brother-in-law (he has the spare key) telling him she had fallen and couldn't get up, we found that she had taken at least 2 if not 3 days worth of her medications within 24hrs or so of time. She's 80+ and the last few months has been really going down hill... not remembering to eat right, not being able to remember how/when to take her meds, how to clean/able to clean (herself, her apartment, taking care of her cat ect). Either she's had another stroke (had one already) or she is getting more and more and quickly into the dementia stage.

I sit here this afternoon writing this, wondering what the next stage will bring. Will she be allowed to come home at all with the down hill spiral that has been happening the last couple of months and if she will what will happen then? Now we at least have the standing that she fell/fainted and that she took too many days worth of meds together to hold our case better that she needs help. I think in the last month or 2, if, she's even lost about 20pounds. Not that it's a bad thing since she was a bit over weight any how but now she is again looking very lost, scared and just.... I dunno... not good. I wish her my best, she is part of the family I have chosen out here but in the same I hope for her sake and the sake of her kitty that someone listens to this and forces some help on her. I think tomorrow I shall go to the local cat shop and get a new litter box, litter, food and toys and take her kitty in with me and my 2 other ones. I know it'll be a big big thing but with the way she is no longer able to take care of herself, I think it's only for the best. A kitty is still another life and he needs to be loved and watched over also.

BUT! This is not a 'family' blog... above brings me to the posting today. I know in the few posts already I mention about how I try to stay away from the pre-processed foods as much as I can but there are still times when it's needed due to even say lack of time or even just sure want for something fast and easy. I still have my favourites and I still have processed stuff such as lunch meats, bread, chips and what not.

Keeping in mind that I live in a country that is very limited on it's supplies in the gluten free department being that until the very last couple of months were only able to be found at speciality shops like bio stores or stores that specialize to diet needs. Only recently did one of the major chains of grocery stores start making their 'own' brand of gluten free stuff but I have to admit, it's shit... it's dry and to me flavourless.

Why do you ask does the start of my post bring me to this, because one knows that in this busy world that stuff happens and sometimes soooo much that there just isn't time to sit down to plan meals much less be able to find the time to cook them or even just to find a quick snack.

I have my favourites too! I'm very fond of chips, almost any chip will do as long as it's not really spicy or any where near being sweet. I expect it to be salty and crisp not hot and soggy. My favourite still stands that I have and always will LOVE Doritos but sadly they have started to make a recipe out here that even included wheat flour in their ingredient list. So now my next best is flavoured Lays.

A while ago, my sweetness of a husband, took my to one of these stores that specialize in diet needs, gluten free being one of them. I was in heaven. I bought over 100euro (130USD) of 'new' items, new to me and well most of them new at least. From cookies to pasta to pre-made meal in a dish to even frozen small cheese pizzas! I was in a gluten free lover's heaven. From that experience I have come away with knowledge though more then any thing else. Pre-made 'meals' gluten free are 2 things...

1) They are NOT worth the COST of the product! For a 'stick in the microwave' dish with some pasta & sauce cost me over 5euro ($7USD) and I think wouldn't fill even a kid much less an adult.
2) They do not have nearly the flavour or spices that you would get if you made your own at home.

It would have taken me less time to get a bag of dry pasta out of my cupboard (usually on stock), cooked it up and add a jar of what ever sauce I wanted, a bit of cheese (can't have a good pasta without cheese!) and micro'd it again to ensure it was hot from the jar of sauce added to it then it would have taken me to go to this store, found the item/s I wanted, paid for it, got home and then only got to removing it from it's packaging and microwaving it. Oh and not to mention if I had done it myself, I would of had like 4x's more food for the cost seeing as a bag of 250grams dry gluten free rice based pasta is less then 4euro ($5USD) and less then 1euro ($1.50USD) for a jar of some sort of sauce, even adding some cheese it's still cheaper.

This is why I try to stay away from pre-processed foods to be honest. Is it nice to just grab something off the shelf and micro it, sure. Is it nice to know there is something just able to had and not worry about when how or what ect, oh yea. Is it worth the cost or effort to find these items to start with, oooo heck no.
I also do know there are some items that are so good that they are worth the cost at least but it's not in the 'meal' aspect. They are in the snack and dessert departments (just like me to get into sweets and salts). I have my favourite little snack cakes that are small things, 2 layers of cake with chocolate frosting/cream in the middle and then coated in a thin layer of chocolate as well. They are not just cake though but it also has a slight splash of some sort of liquor as well. Of course, my beloved chips will always be a part of my life but I need to limit them which I've been really bad on lately but then come a few healthier snacks such as pure corn balls that are just that, corn and salt. And then kick it up a notch for some nutrition benefits and we have something I think has become a new love with exception of the cost which is at 6euro ($8USD) a bag and that is a cranberry maple kind of cereal. But it's well more like a chunky granola and has lots of great seeds/nuts/fruit in it.

I still say after this experience that you should still test things out because in the end it's going to be what YOU like, what YOU prefer and what YOU find worth the costs over the quickness/taste and what not. If you don't try something, you'll never experience life and what it all offers. Just remember to learn from every thing you do and try... just like I did with this shopping trip.

Friday, July 8, 2011

New Kitchen Toy

I have this thing for small items for the kitchen that make my life easier, especially so when it makes cooking for only 2 people even more easy without being so over sized that it's meant more for 6 people.

Not too long ago I went shopping at a kind of mega grocery store that not only sells food stuffs but also house hold stuff, electronics, clothes and so forth. I guess the closest store in the USA I can explain this to is the mega Wal-marts I keep hearing about.

Anyhow, while there as I usually do I went looking through the kitchen supplies area (non-food stuffs) and to my excitement they had a wonderful new display that was filled with stuff made/produced or what have you (hell even if it's just endorced by I'm happy!) by Jamie Oliver. Ok yes I have a thing for him. Be it that he cooks different then most 'chefs', that he's english, that he's my age or be it just I lust after him without any reason what so ever... I have all of his naked chef DVD's and the more I see of his stuff on the TV the more I adore him.

Anyhow off my lust listing... I found this wonderful MINI hand juicer style piece. It's no larger then a size of a normal sized lemon and it fits the half of a lemon or lime just perfect! It holds on average the juice from 1 lime or half a good sized lemon. PERFECT for making recipes such as lime/dill salmon or bake-in-the-bag lemon/butter cod. And best yet is that it has a small strainer style design just before the portion that holds the fresh squeeze juice in order to catch any large pulp pieces and seeds!

I've already used this oh heck... who am I kidding... the first night I got it! I have to say it's a keeper. If you normally buy the already squeeze lime or lemon juice in those funky little yellow or green plastic containers that 'squirt' it out this little whole at the top.. STOP RIGHT THERE and do not buy another bottle! Go to your local department store and look for some sort of small juicer. This one I believe is meant for small citrous but it's SOOO much better then the processed stuff in those stupid little plastic bottles.

Leave Your Comments!

Please by all means leave your comments on this blog but I do politely request that you keep it on subject which in this case is gluten free food/cooking stuffs. If you are posting toward a blog entry in specific then please also keep it about the post as well. Just keep it on track and don't go talking about how to purchase a brand new Iphone 4 while we're taking about making a wonderful fruit tart.

I'd also LOVE to have you link your food blog but please link only gluten free blogs or even if it's just toward a gluten free post of your blog but if your blog is all about cakes with normal gluten filled flours/ingredients and it's posted in a comment to say corn dogs, I'll just remove/not approve it. I just want to keep this blog about gluten free cooking and to help those that have to live with this. Give them a place to come to, know the recipes are tried and true, that the information within is accurate and gluten free.

Enjoy the blog and don't forget, if you have suggestions to any of my recipes, POST ABOUT IT! I'm always looking for ways to spice up the recipes I have made!

Let Us Talk 'Exotic' - Wild Lychee

Do you ever feel adventurous when it comes to trying new foods? I do often as long as it's not totally out there such as eating bugs or something. This is what brings me to my post today. We have some of the most wonderful fresh fruit and veggie shops around here and when it becomes the wonderful spring and summer months, they become just packed with all sort of new and hidden treasures from mangos to papaya and to some things such as wild lychee fruit. There are so many wonderful and all natural items to be found in the produce section of even just your local grocer but if you have a chance to get to speciality store that carry even more in the way of exotic, go and visit!

Today's post though is about the wonderful but sadly neglected lychee. There are of course more then one varieties but mostly between 2... wild and farmed.

The other week while I was visiting one of my most beloved fruit stores when I came across these kind of odd almost spiny looking round things. As curious as I am about the world around me, I read enough of the sign that was with them to make out that they were indeed lychee fruit. So I bagged up a few (they are expensive compared to the farmed version!) and in my basket they went.

It took me a few days before I cut into them though but I sure am glad that I did. I would suggest though that when you buy this kind that you buy it not for the sake of making any kind of recipe that calls for this fruit due to the labour involved in getting the fruit from it's shell, the price that comes with it and the fact that they are just so special in the way of fruit. Use them as a nice little plate garnish or cut one up and put it in a glass of fruity wine (they even make lychee wine!) but what ever you do use them for something special!

The fruit itself without it's shell is not any bigger then about an inch long and not perfectly round but more oblong in shape. It's shell is semi-hard to the touch but breaks away quite easily once a slit is made in it. They do not have the kind of shell that you should 'hit' against something like say you would do to a hard boiled egg to remove the shell. Take a small shape knife to the shell and VERY carefully make a slit. The skin is less then 1mm thick ... it's more of a hard skin then a shell really. Then you should be able to get into the slit to find this wonderfully white and juicy little fruit piece inside. All lychees unless processed have this kind of skin thin shell but the wild lychee has this wonderfully spiky (but soft so don't be afraid of handling them!) look to it where as the farm grown ones have no spikes at all and have a very pinkish to dark pinkish colour.

** Farmed lychee photo from from their article on lychee cooking tips **

Once you've uncovered the little white ball from within it's shell, I suggest for the first time that you just pop the little guy whole into your month because if they are ripe and ready, they will be very juicy. Be cautious though because inside this fruit lays a very hard and rather large seed. It takes up about 1/4th to 1/2 the size of the fruit and is hard! But eating the wonderful white flesh away from it is very easy and you'll be rewarded with a very nice sweet experience.

If you want to ever try a lychee without all the hassles of getting it out of the shell or having to deal with the seed, a lot of stores now carry these little fruits already prepared for you in cans (sometimes jarred) in syrup but unless you are making something that calls for more then a half cup of lychees I would suggest you NEVER by these as not only will you 99% of the time only find them in syrup (not even real fruit juice like you can find pineapple in for example) but again they go into the 'less processed the better' rule that I try to make a point of within my writings.

When you go for fruit and veggies... go for fresh! Better tasting, no added/unwanted extra sugars, no added salts (like you find in canned veggies for example, no lose of vitamins due to the storing process and no other processing crap. 100% all natural and 100% promised to be gluten free! How much better can you get then that?? Don't forget a lot of places even offer you already prepared fruit and veggies done right there in the store too if you don't have time for preparing it, just make sure they get it fresh and prepare it fresh and if they preserve it for the fridge shelf that they use juice to store it in and not sugared syrups.