Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Gluten Free, Vegan Passover Round Up Part 2

As promised, Passover Round Up continues with gluten free, vegan chocolate cake recipes.  Since we had Passover dinner obligations with both sides of Girlfriend’s family, I decided to make a couple different desserts.  More for myself, so I wouldn’t get bored eating the same thing every night.  Girlfriend’s family was so supportive of my food allergies and called to walk through all the ingredients used in the beef brisket and side dishes to make sure all would be completely gluten and dairy free.  Of course I had to pass up Matzah ball soup which was a bummer.  Maybe next year I’ll take on gluten free Matzah balls… 

I made Lexie’s Kitchen’s Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Chocolate Decadence which tasted great and had some very healthy ingredients too.  I was skeptical to make a cake with black beans and cashews, but it was delicious!  Note that I left out the baking powder which is not kosher for Passover.  In general, I really like Lexie’s Kitchen’s blog which focuses on recipes that are free of gluten and casein and has a lot of egg-free recipes which are harder to find.  Lexie suggests using a 5 inch round cake pan for this recipe, but I didn't have one, so I used cupcake tins instead and made personal portions for everyone.  I must admit Lexie's presentation is much more pretty than mine, but they still tasted great! 

For the next night, I made Living Without Magazine’s recipe for Macaroon French Silk Pie which is completely free of eggs, dairy and gluten and really delicious!  As mentioned in Monday’s blog post, I couldn't use store-bought macaroons because they are not egg free.  So, use the recipe I posted on Monday for Gluten Free, Vegan macaroons for the macaroon crust.  I tried making Living Without's coconut milk whipped topping recipe at the link noted above and it was a disaster.  First it completely separated and was very grainy and then it turned back into liquid.  It never came close to a creamy consistency.  Let me know if you have any tips on how to perfect this recipe!  The pie was still good without the whipped topping - how can you go wrong with chocolate and macaroons?

Here's a close up of the crust:

Hope everyone's Seder was delicious and lots of gluten free goodies were available.  What are your favorite allergy friendly Seder dishes?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gluten Free, Vegan Passover Round Up Part 1

Passover is my favorite holiday, mostly because of all the amazing food.  It’s funny that a holiday which eliminates yeast and breads was my favorite holiday even before I was gluten free. Every year, I anxiously await the usual treats: beef brisket, matzah ball soup, sponge cake with fresh whipped cream and, my all time favorite, carrot kugel. This year, I felt the same excitement until I realized that all the dishes I just mentioned have some form of gluten, eggs  and  / or dairy.  What was I supposed to eat for Passover?

I spend the holiday with Girlfriend’s family and know I won't be able to eat many of the dishes.  So, I volunteered to bring dessert and started experimenting to find a dessert worthy of the old classics.  I found some great recipes which I will share with you throughout the next few days.  Unfortunately, my attempts at altering carrot kugel have been unsuccessful.  The original recipe requires 9 eggs and, so far, I haven’t figured out how to alter an egg-free version while maintaining the appropriate consistency.  I still have a few ideas up my sleeve, so hopefully I’ll be sharing the recipe with all of you very soon.

Luckily, my dessert attempts were much more successful.  I found some great recipes for a couple different chocolate flourless cakes which I will share later this week.  Today we will focus on gluten free and egg free macaroons. Since Passover requires elimination of all leavening agents (e.g. flour), it is fairly easy to find gluten free macaroons at the grocery store.  Finding egg-free macaroons is another story.  Living Without magazine comes through as usual with a great gluten free, sugar free, egg free and dairy free Macaroon recipe:

I made a few changes in my version to eliminate vanilla extract which is one of the 40 foods I am ‘sensitive’ to and try to avoid when I can. Living Without suggests using honey or agave and I used agave (of course!). It was really difficult to find unsweetened shredded coconut. Whole Foods used to sell it, but recently discontinued the product.  So, I reduced the amount of agave required in the recipe and used sweetened coconut. The results were still delicious! Come back later in the week for a continuation of Gluten Free, Vegan Passover Round Up where I will share some delicious chocolate cake recipes.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Popcorn, Candy and the Movies

As much as I’m swearing off sugar and moving towards a healthier lifestyle, sometimes I really miss candy.  Even before all the allergies, I very rarely allowed myself to indulge in a candy bar.  I thought about how bad it was for you, how many grams of fat each bite cost, and how long I would need to run on the treadmill after eating it.  The guilt was always too much to bear and I usually passed up any candy opportunities.  Strangely enough, the movie theatre was the only place where I allowed myself to go crazy and eat as much candy, popcorn and fat as I wanted.  In general, I don’t really like watching movies or going to the theatre, but my girlfriend would go every weekend if she could.  With the promise of Reese’s Pieces, Heath Bars and Movie Theatre popcorn, I allowed myself to be dragged along.
I haven’t been to the theatre since I found out about my allergies.  Without popcorn and candy, what’s the point?  Note that Reese’s Pieces and Heath Bars are gluten free, but unfortunately contain dairy.  Most movie theatre popcorn is gluten free, but there’s always the risk that a gluten containing seasoning was used and it may contain dairy if real butter is used (as if!).  Since I know my girlfriend will eventually wear me down and get me out to the theatre, I thought I’d take a proactive step in finding some candy and popcorn replacements.
For popcorn, I love Angie’s Kettle Corn which has the perfect blend of salty and sweet and is made with no artificial preservatives or chemicals.  It’s also certified gluten free and made in a facility completely free of nut and wheat products.  In the Midwest, it can be purchased at Costco and a bulk bag is definitely needed – this stuff goes fast!
My favorite candy is Chocolate Covered Raisins, but even the dark chocolate brands I’ve found contain milk.  So, I made my own.  It was really easy and delicious.  The first batch I made was gone before the chocolate dried (not gonna lie - I ate them all...).  One layer of chocolate was acceptable, but next time I’m going to do a double layer which I can’t stop thinking about.  Now all I need to do is practice enough self control and wait for the chocolate to dry before I eat them all!  Here’s the recipe, which takes less than 10 minutes, if you don’t count the waiting time…
Chocolate Covered Raisins
½ cup dairy free Chocolate Chips (try Whole Food’s 365 Every Day Value Dark Chocolate Chunks)
½ Tbsp Coconut Oil
1 cup raisins (make sure no sugar is added to raisins)

Melt chocolate and coconut oil using double boiler.  I don't have a double boiler, so I used a metal bowl over a pot filled with water.  When chocolate is fully melted, stir in raisins.   Spread mixture on wax paper and put in refrigerator for 15 minutes until chocolate is hard.  If you can wait, try adding a second layer of chocolate.

Now that I've got the popcorn and candy covered, I guess it's time to head to the movies...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Okay I cheated! Gluten Free Crispy Rice Treats

Yes, I know, I’m not supposed to eat rice and I certainly shouldn’t be eating sugary, artificial marshmallows.  I can’t explain why, but I needed a Rice Krispy Treat.  Maybe it’s the nostalgia of younger days.  Or maybe it’s the instant gratification of knowing in ten minutes you will have a dessert you can eat immediately.  No bake time, no chill time, just easy, fast craving stopper.

After thinking about Rice Krispies for most of the week, I gave in this Saturday and whipped up a batch.  As I’m sure most gluten free eaters know, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies are not gluten free because they contain Malt Flavoring.  So, I went with Nature’s Path Organic Whole Grain Brown Crispy Rice.  If I’m going to eat Rice, at least it’s organic with very low sugar content.  Not so lucky on the Marshmallows….  Be careful when picking Marshmallows, as most are gluten free, but some are not.  Kraft Jet-Puffed marshmallows are gluten free. (definitely not sugar free, but sometimes you have to indulge!)

Here’s the recipe, modified slightly for elimination of butter:

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Crispy Rice Treats:
¼ cup coconut oil
1 package Kraft Jet-puffed marshmallows
1 package Nature’s Path Crispy Rice cereal

Melt coconut oil first, then add marshmallows and melt completely.  Takes about 1 ½ minutes.  Stir in Crispy Rice and press into greased pan.

Eat immediately!

Here’s a picture of mine.  Please excuse the huge missing section.  I couldn’t wait!  My girlfriend has given up sugar and wouldn’t eat these, so there was really nothing stopping me from taking a spoon right to the huge cake pan!  That is exactly what I did and it was glorious!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gluten Free Chinese Food!

Before I went gluten free, I was the queen of going out to eat.  I loved trying new restaurants and spent hours combing through Zagat’s to find new spots to try.  When I found out about my gluten allergy, eating out at restaurants became difficult and seemed like more of a chore than a pastime.  It is stressful wondering whether the restaurant is truly following proper food handling and eliminating the items I am sensitive to.  Given the recent news that the former chef of Tavern on the Green in NYC was knowingly giving guests gluten, I guess my fears are valid! 

The anxiety of wondering what is truly being put into food preparation is one thing.  I was also embarrassed to call attention to my allergy and tried to pick menu options I knew were gluten free so I didn’t need to ask the waiter a million questions.  As I’ve gotten more used to living with food allergies, I feel more comfortable going out to restaurants and asking lots of questions.  And it’s great to see a lot of restaurants are catching on to the growing number of gluten intolerant folks and creating separate gluten free menus.

Tons of Italian restaurants are offering gluten free pasta options, like Francesca’s and Maggiano’s.  In Chicago, Quartino’s, has the best gluten free menu I’ve ever seen.  Gotta love any place that offers gluten free braised short ribs!

While it’s fairly easy to get my Italian fix, Chinese food  is still pretty tough to find since soy sauce is derived from wheat and contains gluten.  As hard as it is to find safe menu options in American style restaurants, I pretty much gave up hope of ever eating at a Chinese restaurant again.  I was greatly surprised and happy to see that PF Chang’s has an amazing and extensive gluten free menu, using gluten free soy sauce to make all of their dishes.  I went with a big group and we ordered everything off the gluten free menu and shared.  Even the gluten eaters loved every bite!  A couple other larger chains, like Ben Pao and Big Bowl also have gluten free menus which I haven’t had the opportunity to test out yet.  While I don’t think I’ll be walking into the local spots in Chinatown any time soon, it’s great to know I have a place to go next time I get a craving for Moo Goo Gai Pan.  Now if I could only figure out how to make gluten free vegan Crab Rangoon….

If you're looking to make chinese food at home, I like San-J Tamari Gluten Free Soy Sauce which can be found at most local grocery stores.  I found mine at Dominick's.