Jan 24, 2009

Mix It Up

If you've ever bought a GF loaf of bread...my humblest apologies! LOL I have YET to find a decent tasting store-bought bread. If it doesn't fall apart the second you touch it, you'll get hit with a taste somewhere between sand and glue. It's disgusting! Yes, one can toast it to improve the taste, but at my house (where my hubby and kids still eat wheat bread) it's too dangerous for me to risk it.
My best advice for today is to find a good gluten free bread recipe either online or in a gluten free cookbook. My favorite books are by Bette Hagman and Carol Fenster. Once again, gluten free bread has a different taste, just because you're using different ingredients! But, if you're dying for a good piece of bread (that won't kill you!) check out ways to make it yourself instead of buying it from a store.
One way to "whip it up quick" is to make several portions of the dry ingredients together in a sealed bags or mason jars. So, if you want to make 3 loaves, you have 3 bags - one portion of dry ingredients for each bag. Throw it in the freezer (to keep it fresh), and you've got a head start on bread any time you want it. This works for cookies or other baked goods, too. This will also majorly cut costs for your bread, too, as the store-bought stuff is MEGA expensive for one little loaf!
Incidentally, for the first time last night, I made Bette Hagman's Fig Newtons (from her "Gluten Free Gourmet Makes Dessert" book). OH MY GOODNESS! My tastebuds died and went to Heaven! Instead of using figs for the filling, I used a mixture of Craisins and dates. Ahhh...Life tastes good again! I'm DEFINITELY going to mix up several batches and keep these on hand. YUM!

Jan 22, 2009

The Brilliance of Bento-ing

One of my email groups is currently discussing Bento. This is basically the Japanese way of making your food "pretty" and therefore, more pleasing to the eye/pallet. Yeah, I get it. If your food looks gross, you're less likely to eat it.
But, after doing a bit of research, I don't think my kids are going to eat an egg any easier if it's dyed pink and shaped like a pig head. Call me crazy. (To be honest, I don't think I would, either!) But, to each their own. If pink pig-shaped eggs are easier to swallow than regular ol' white ones, that works, too. I guess.
I DO like the idea of cutting costs, though, if this is "your thing". I'm looking at the molds used, and can't help but wonder if a thick cookie cutter sandwiched between two plates, with maybe a book on top for weight, wouldn't work just the same. Probably a bigger headache to do it that way, but once again, I'm all about bein' cheap and using stuff I've already got on hand.
I'm also one for not letting food go to waste. If I cut my kids' sandwiches into cute little flower shapes, who's going to eat the rest that gets cut off? I guess I'm a mean mom - I've NEVER cut the crusts off my kids' bread. I even turn the heel piece around so the dark part is inside. My kids have never ONCE complained about eating the heel that way. Maybe they're too busy to figure out my trick? LOL
I DO think it's kinda cute to make little sushi rice shapes. I CAN see myself maybe using a flower cookie cutter and throwing some sushi rice into it for a cute little rice flower. Maybe top it with an olive or shredded cheese in the middle. I think my girls would like that. Only for special occasions, like a birthday or something, though. Honestly, I don't see myself doing it all the time. I expect my kids to eat what they're given, regardless of what it looks/tastes like.
All in all, I really DO like the idea of food presentation, but I can also see my kids getting to a point where they would refuse to eat something because it wasn't some cute little shape. I would have HUUUUGE issues with that - especially at someone else' house. I also don't think the cost for supplies/time is small enough for me to get too serious about it.
But, once again, if this interesting to you, think about ways to cut costs (by using cookie cutters, etc). Does your child REALLY need a cute little Hello Kitty Bento box or will a self-decorated Tupperware-type box do? (Actually, I think my kids would have more fun deco'ing a box than eating fun-shaped foods). Just a thought.

Jan 21, 2009

Not Your Mama's Hummus

I went to the store today to get our regular groceries. Spent a fair amount of time drooling over the (WAAAY OVERPRICED) hummus. I ADORE hummus. But, it must be a "big person" thing, as my kids hate it. With only me (and MAYBE DH) to eat it, I just can't justify the cost for that little tub. So, came home and did the next best thing. I geared myself up for a flash of domestication and made my own. Here it is:

Not Your Mama's Hummus

1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 C applesauce
few drips sesame oil
3/4 tea apple pie spice
1/3 C water
honey to sweeten a bit more (maybe about a tablespoon? Didn't measure, sorry)

Throw it all into a blender and blend until nice and smooth. Leave out the water if you want it thicker, but I like my hummus a bit saucier (is that a word?)

I REALLY REALLY like how this turned out! I didn't have the Tahini (as I refuse to pay so much for what ya get!) so I improvised with the sesame oil. Seems to have worked just fine. I'm sure hummus natives will lynch me for doing a sweet version, but, hey...Beggars can't be choosers.

And, I really think my kids will go for this one! YEAH! Can't wait for dinner now. I'm HUNGRY!

KISS Method

Keep It Simple, Silly! I learned this tip from my husband. I'm always trying to make things harder than they have to be. Why? I don't know. Drives my husband nuts, though! LOL So, this tip is for me as much as anyone else.
I think one of the reasons I'm so dopey in the kitchen is because I look at an ingredient list that has twenty items, and I get overwhelmed. That's part of the reason I got SOOOO freaked out when I had to switch to gluten free. Don't take away my ONE wheat and replace it with fifty others! I don't have the time, space, energy, or brain power to deal with it. I've got a one-track mind. Maybe I'm a little ADD? I guess anything's possible.
Anyway, in keeping with that tip...Take a look at your flours/starches. Are 37 different ones REALLY necessary to your culinary happiness or survival? Or, can you pick a favorite or two and be done? Do remember that you have to mix at least two flours (with one of them being a lighter rice-type one) to keep it edible, though.
I know, for ME, sorghum flour (for example) is WAY out of the budget. Same goes with Mesquite flour. Living roughly $10,000 below the poverty line, I really don't have the funds to play around with more exotic stuff. Would it be FUN to play with it? Sure, I'd like to try new things. (Just don't make me put it all together!)
But, until I find a money tree, I'm going to have to rely on my rice and plain ol' bean flours and rather cheapo potato starch. Nutritionally, roughly the same. Probably not a big enough difference, though, to consider selling my children off for the fancier stuff.
I don't know, though. My preteen is on one this morning - give me a day or two - I may consider selling that one! LOL

Jan 20, 2009

Is there a decent GF Chicken Nugget recipe?

This is probably the most popular question I've heard from people new to the gluten free diet...And honestly, it makes me want to scratch my eyes out in protest, so I don't have to read it again!!
The answer is NO. For SEVERAL reasons:
1. Most people don't have the means to mechanically separate their chickens (unless they use a car - which adds a whole new level to the grossness factor).
2. Most people don't have an endless supply of MSG sitting around.
3. Wheat flour TASTES different than any other gluten free flour. Any kind of replacement is going to taste different than the original, simply because one is using different ingredients. Most chicken nugget addicts won't touch it with a ten foot pole.
One of my relatives has a little boy who eats these stupid things for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Chicken nuggets. That's it. IF the kid makes it to 10 before having a heart attack, he's going to be the next runner up Poster Child for the Biggest Loser. WHAT is so flippin' special about this sort-of chunk of meat that millions of American adults are reduced to sudden slavery over it's necessity?
PEOPLE! Millions of children, over THOUSANDS of years, have lived quite happily without ever ONCE eating a chicken nugget! Your kid can, too! I PROMISE! Save yourself the money and heartache that surrounds this most obnoxious of American foods!
I've heard the argument that "Yes, but my kid can't eat so many other things. I'd like him to be able to have ONE thing he likes." To that, I say, "Ok, so in your head, it's okay to give an alcoholic just ONE kind of drink he likes." OR "When your kid grows to teenagerhood, it's going to be okay if he just picks ONE kind of cigarette or one type of marijuana over another form."
Yes, those examples are extremes, but the point is, if you always let the tail wag the dog, you're just going to get pooped on. Suck it up and choose foods for your kid that will make his LONG term life better. He or she may absolutely hate your guts for a couple of days. But at least he or she will live long enough to do it.

Jan 19, 2009

If ya didn't like it before...

Don't bother with it now. This tip was driven home in my brain once again just yesterday.
I've never really been a fan of Twinkies. The filling, honestly, makes me hurl! But, for whatever reason, yesterday, I HAD to have Twinkies! Call it a "full moon". Call it "a visit from Aunt Flo". I really have no explanations for my temporary Twinkie insanity.
So, after going through several recipe books and surfing the net, I found what appeared to be a decent GF recipe for Twinkies.
Pulled out my mixer. Pulled out the necessary THREE mixing bowls. Pulled out the wire whisk and mixing/measuring spoons. GULP! Who's going to do all these dishes afterwards? But, I have to follow the recipe exactly as I'm a COMPLETE idiot in the kitchen.
I did everything EXACTLY as the recipe stated...and they STILL crashed! 24 little Twinkie flops on my counter. Apparently, I wasn't supposed to use greased muffin tins afterall (even though the recipe said I could). APPARENTLY, I should've taken the time to build 24 little Twinkie braces/molds out of tinfoil. Lesson learned. Twinkies should be shaped like LOGS, not CUPS. Got it.
At any rate, I really lucked out with this recipe, as I cut in half each of the 24 little Twinkie flops and layered it with strong brewed coffee and vanilla pudding (couldn't stomach the idea of using the Twinkie filling). Voila! Twinkie Tiramisu.
If I hadn't done that, I'd have wasted a bunch of EXPENSIVE flour and 7 whole eggs. That was lucky, and something that doesn't happen often. Usually flops end up in the trash. WHEWWW!!
I guess it's a good thing, though, too. The idea of eating 24 mega-fat-filled GF Twinkies is enough to make me nauseous. What was I thinking??