Tuesday, September 27, 2011

BBQ Shrimp Pizza

I loved Stubb's products before we went gluten-free, so I was thrilled when I picked up a bottle a few months ago out of curiosity (something I often do to see if anything has changed with products I like) and saw that the sauces and marinades are now certified gluten-free. Yay!

So I've been using the sauces and marinades again - and have a few super-easy recipes using them to share with you in the future.

When Stubb's BBQ recently challenged me to create a pizza using one of their sauces, I immediately had an idea of what I wanted to make. Going off the basic ingredients of another dish I like to make, but haven't shared with you yet, I created this pizza.

Is it good? Fantastic. In fact, I've made it twice in the past week. My husband says it takes pizza to a whole new dimension. The entire family loves it so much, they may only want this pizza from now on. I'm going to save it for special occasions, even though it's easy enough to make every day.

I was in a time pinch the other night when I made this - just before sunset (so at least I had a little light left for photos!), so I used Udi's frozen pizza crust rather than the homemade pizza crust I enjoy making. (I need to take new photos of that crust - it looks a little different now that I've changed the recipe so much!) It tasted great on the Udi's.

Projected prep time (pizza with crust ready only): 10 minutes; Projected bake time: 15-20 minutes
(Printable Recipe)

Stubb's Smokey Mesquite Bar-B-Q sauce
Extra virgin olive oil
Cooked or grilled shrimp, tails removed
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Diced pimentos
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Pizza crust

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (note this is for Udi's frozen crust since that's what is in these photos - if you are using another crust the temperature may vary, therefore affecting the bake time).

Brush a small amount of extra virgin olive oil all over crust.

Spread a few tablespoons of Stubb's sauce over the crust.

Spread a good layer of cheese over the crust.

Arrange cooked or grilled shrimp on top of the cheese. (If you're using frozen, make sure they are thawed.)

Baste individual shrimp with sauce.

Sprinkle kosher salt and a dash of black pepper over pizza.

Sprinkle a small amount of cheese over shrimp, and top with diced pimentos.

Bake about 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted and beginning to bubble.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mango Coconut Bread

Are the rest of you as busy as we are these days? I'm sure you are. School, homework, soccer for two children in different leagues, piano lessons, games, birthday parties - the list is endless! I like having delicious, yet quick, simple and pack-able snacks around these days. This bread won't disappoint.

I have many recipes I need to share with you. Some are several months old and I've even taken the photos. They need to be edited, however, and the post has to be typed up. Some of them I probably need to make again to refresh my mind exactly on the steps to type up. I made this bread back in June, right before a vacation, and managed to snap a few very quick photos and edit them just a tad. Imagine my delight when I was trying to decide which recipe to share with you on this busy day when I realized I hadn't shared this one yet - and I didn't have to do anything to the photos! 

This bread is really good - and could almost be considered a snack cake of some sort. It's so easy, too. A great after-school snack! I make it using Pamela's baking and pancake mix - which of course leads to a sink in the middle (why does that seem to happen so often?), but it's another one I can give you without several flours to mix - making it good for those just getting accustomed to the gluten-free life.

I adapted this recipe from one that came with my Harry & David fruit of the month honey mangoes a couple of years ago. They still send honey mangoes, but the bread recipe is no longer with them. If you can get honey mangoes, by all means use them - but I've used regular mangoes in this recipe with equal success.

Projected prep time: 15 minutes; Projected bake time: 45 minutes to 1 hour

1 cup mango puree
1 cup organic pure cane sugar
1/4 cup organic extra-virgin coconut oil
2 large eggs
2 cups Pamela's baking and pancake mix (not the bread flour blend)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
(Optional: 1 tbsp. milled flax seed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a bread loaf pan.

Slice mangoes.

Then mash them to make a puree (or run them through the processor - but you have less to clean if you just mash them).

Cream sugar with the oil. Beat eggs into the sugar mixture.

Add mango puree and Pamela's baking mix, mix well and then mix in the coconut. Pour into greased loaf pan.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on oven), until center springs back when touched and a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

See? The Pamela's often causes the sink in the middle. *sigh*


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Oh-So-Easy White Spinach Personal Pizza, and Celiac Awareness

Today is National Celiac Awareness Day, so I thought I'd share with you our celiac story - along with my current favorite quick lunch. This meal is incredibly simple, so anyone feeling overwhelmed as a newly diagnosed celiac can make this with confidence.

Our celiac adventure began about a decade ago - though we had no idea it was celiac at the time. My husband's annual physical and blood tests resulted in elevated liver enzymes each year. Over the years, he went to three general practitioners and a handful of specialists to determine the cause of the elevated liver enzymes, to no avail.

CT scans, ultrasounds, liver disease tests kept coming back normal, but the enzymes were always elevated. The doctors felt he was in otherwise good health and weren't too concerned because the levels weren't at alarming numbers yet, so they'd test again the next year. Eventually an internal medicine doctor decided he wanted to try a liver biopsy on my husband to see if that produced any results. It was a procedure they wanted to do just because they couldn't figure anything else out - and they weren't guaranteeing any answers would come from the biopsy, either.

We both felt like this biopsy was too risky for a grasping at straws approach just because all else had failed, so he canceled the biopsy. A couple of years prior, I'd researched the liver enzyme thing online and something called celiac was mentioned a few times. He didn't really have any other symptoms, so I filed it away for future reference and then kind of forgot about it. After he canceled the biopsy, I began my research anew, and seriously.

Celiac kept coming up, so I mentioned to him that I thought he needed to be tested for it. He gave me a vague "Okay, I'll try to remember at some point" type of answer and it wasn't discussed again for a long time. In fact, he pretty much forgot about it.

A little time went by, and my father-in-law began to get ill. Stomach issues and terrible join pain plagued him, and he began to get more and more sick. Doctors couldn't figure it out, and joint surgeries were discussed. I suspected the stomach and joint problems were related somehow. He eventually went to an internal medicine doctor who did the proper testing for him, and celiac was the answer, confirmed with a biopsy.

My husband listened then (fall of 2008), and got tested for celiac. He requested the test. The blood tests were very high for celiac, and a biopsy confirmed it. His liver enzymes went back to normal after going gluten-free. A bone scan showed that he was close to osteoporosis (which of course has improved with diet).

Not one doctor or specialist over all those years had thought to test him for celiac. We were happy with those doctors, and thought they were good doctors (well, with the exception of two of them). My husband still goes to one of them. But none of them knew enough about celiac to make the connection.

Thinking back on his health over the years pre-diagnosis, we realized some little things that weren't a big deal and he figured were part of life and getting older were in fact related to the celiac. Little things that people think nothing of every day. Being tired more easily. Having an upset stomach every once in a while - blame it on the meal. One that really stood out in his mind was canker sores. He'd had a problem with them since he was a child, and had even gotten prescription ointments that didn't phase them. Every time he accidentally bit himself, hit his gums with a toothbrush, ate too much citrus, or sometimes even for no apparent reason, he'd get a sore that would have a hard time going away. That issue is no longer an issue.

Eventually our daughters were tested - and their genetic testing led me to also be tested. Tests showed a reaction to gluten, so both daughters and myself went strictly gluten-free. We didn't need a biopsy to convince us to get off and know we were gluten sensitive. We were going to be about 95% gluten-free anyway because of my husband. When we went completely off gluten, health issues started getting better. Our youngest had eczema clear up. My "ulcer" that constantly plagued me and had been treated twice went away. I get very sick if I accidentally eat gluten now.

So I share this information with you now, because celiac awareness is so important. At least 1 in 133 Americans have celiac, and most of them don't know it. I've seen some estimates closer to 1 in 100. The medical community is beginning to listen and become more educated in celiac and gluten sensitivity. (Did you know that non-celiac gluten sensitivity has now been proven as a medical condition? Estimates are 1 in 20 Americans are affected by it.)

Individuals need to educate themselves. If we hadn't, my husband would likely still be having elevated liver enzymes, osteoporosis and who knows what else by now. Untreated celiac (only treatment is a gluten-free diet) is a very serious condition that can lead to cancers and many autoimmune disorders, just to name a couple of things. The list is nearly endless of the associated conditions and symptoms (more than 300!) linked to celiac. It's also hereditary - if someone in your family (even if they aren't a first-degree relative) has it, you have an increased chance of having it. You know individuals with celiac or gluten sensitivity, even if you don't know it and they don't know it yet. Education is so important!

Do you want to help with awareness? Go to 1in133 and let the FDA know that gluten-free standards are necessary NOW in the United States. We are way behind other countries in this area.

Want more information? I have a resources page linked at the top of this blog, or you can click here.

Living gluten-free can seem overwhelming at first, but it's really not once you get used to it. There are so many good foods that are naturally gluten-free, and most of your favorite gluten goods can be made gluten-free so well that no one can tell the difference. In fact, many times the gluten-free version is preferred.

This personal "pizza" is my current favorite for a quick lunch. It could also be a heavy snack. It is so easy and quick, you can have it from prep to plate in under 15 minutes.

(Printable Recipe)
Projected total time: Under 15 minutes

1 gluten-free tortilla (I usually use corn tortillas)
1/4 c. ricotta cheese
1 clove garlic, pressed
Kosher salt
Black pepper or cayenne pepper
Fresh spinach
Mozzarella cheese (shredded is easiest)

Place tortilla on toaster oven baking sheet, or regular baking sheet in large oven if you don't have toaster oven.

Mix ricotta with minced garlic clove.

Spread onto tortilla. Heat in toaster oven (or oven) at about 400 degrees for about four minutes.

Sprinkle a little kosher salt and black or cayenne pepper (either are good - it's up to your taste) over the ricotta mixture

Top with fresh spinach, piled high.

Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top of spinach and return to oven until cheese is melted.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Remembrance, and Raspberry Lime Cake

9-11 Remembrance – FamilyFreshCooking.com

We will all remember what we were doing this day 10 years ago. It's a day that will forever be etched in my mind. I remember smells, sights, sounds, tastes. Emotions. We will always remember those who were lost, who gave, who helped, who mourned.

I was halfway across the country from where it was all taking place, getting ready for work as a newspaper reporter with my radio turned on. The regularly scheduled programming was interrupted to say that a plane had flown into one of the towers at the World Trade Center. I stopped what I was doing, horrified at the terrible, tragic accident that had just taken place. I said a prayer for those affected, and turned on the television while telling my husband what was going on.

I turned the radio up as I went on getting ready. You know the rest of the story. When the second plane hit, I began to believe it couldn't possibly be a horrible coincidence but what was really going on hadn't fully hit me.

By that time I was watching live, and saw the second plane coming and crash into the tower. Tears streaming down my face, I was glued to the live video streaming into my living room and watching with horror as people lost their lives. Thousands of people. People from nearly 100 different countries.

In fact, tears are streaming down my face as I type this. Reliving certain events has that effect on you.

The full impact of what was going on was slowly dawning on me, and by the time the Pentagon was hit, I knew what was happening. Sobbing, I called my parents' house. They didn't have television and I doubted if they knew what was happening. My mom answered and I could barely choke out the words, "We are being attacked."

Startled, she didn't know what I was talking about, but I told her to turn the radio on and that our nation was under attack. She prayed over the phone before we hung up. I had to get to work. I was a reporter and may have been miles and miles away from what was happening in a physical sense, but we were all feeling it as if we were there. What was going to happen next? Everything was so uncertain and unsettling.

I don't even remember if my husband left first for work or if I did. I just remember not wanting to leave him - so unsure about what the day would hold. I got to work and we listened to the radio, crying, scared and confused, as we tried to figure out what the next step was in our coverage. What stories needed to be held back, how were we going to approach this one, what family and friends did we have in the area that we could speak with ... It felt as if the world was ending, and in a way it did for a while. Few people were driving about, walking about. Those that were out spoke in hushed tones.

An important ceremony was taking place that morning for law enforcement in the area, and I had to cover it. By the time I got there, I hadn't heard about Flight 93 crashing in Pennsylvania yet. As I waited for the ceremony to begin, I watched the officers and agents present. There weren't as many as there should have been. Some were already in motion, under orders to help with security elsewhere. While I was there, some cell phones rang, higher-ups answering, grave faces, whispers. Another plane had gone down.

I numbly took notes and got a few photos, but I honestly can remember very little about the ceremony except for how I felt, what I was thinking, what the air smelled and felt like, what the sky looked like. I'm sure we all remember what the sky looked like that day. We kept checking it for planes.

In the weeks following the tragedy, I was glued to the television every waking moment that I wasn't working and many that I shouldn't have been awake. I interviewed survivors, family, friends. 9/11 had consumed me, had consumed our nation. Yet, we still had to go on living life. A changed life. And trying to find the answer to the never-ending "Why" - and discovering that the answers are always endless and never enough.

Everything I had once dreamed about all of a sudden seemed so different. A friend was due with her first child less than a month after the attacks. A few days after it all happened, I asked her if she was afraid of bringing a child into this world because of what had happened a few days prior. She wasn't, really. The thought terrified me.

But I've since had two amazing children, and have learned the lesson - and not for the first time - that life does go on. And that we get stronger as we rebuild around loss.

My children are getting old enough that they are asking these tough questions about September 11, 2001. And I have to try to answer them .I've tried - without making them living in an oblivious bubble - to shelter them as much as possible from tragic news, or news that might scare them. They learn of tragedies, and we pray for the people affected. They see me cry for them sometimes. They know we donate to the relief efforts. But we don't watch a lot of news while they are awake, and I try to spare them too many details. How do you spare details for something like this, as they begin asking the questions?

So many lives were lost that day, and so many new ones began. Children were born on 9/11, and today is their birthday. We will always remember those lost, and we will hold those we love a little closer - being thankful for the time we have with them, knowing that it can all end in an instant. And we celebrate these lives, this living, as we remember it all.

You see, it's my dad's birthday. And a good friend - their "auntie" - has a birthday today, too. It was a happy day before 2001, and it has been again. We have celebrated the life of two loved individuals on this day, and we will continue to do so. Just like we celebrate for those precious children who were born this day 10 years ago, and those who have been born on this day in years since.

Remembering what was lost and what was sacrificed - and celebrating the life we have with those who live it with us during the time we have here - is a way we can honor those who lost so much this day 10 years ago. Cake, made with love and eaten in remembrance and joy of life still held, is something we can share together this day.

Marla Meredith of Family Fresh Cooking has asked us to join together today with posts of Remembrance Cakes. I made a raspberry lime cake to share with you today. It's an attempted recreation of a cake I enjoyed with my family in a gluten-free bakery while on a vacation this summer. The cake itself is an altered version of the fresh-squeezed lemon cake I made last month.

9-11 Remembrance – FamilyFreshCooking.com

I hope you enjoy cake today with those you love, and hold those cherished ones a little tighter. My prayers today, as I know are yours, are with all of those who lost loved ones 10 years ago, and with those who helped in recovery and live with those memories. My prayers are with our leaders, our military, our law enforcement. With the children who came breathing new life into this world 10 years ago today. And for this country, that we may always remember, and live our lives with purpose and love.

(Printable Recipe)
8 oz. eggs (4 large eggs plus one yolk)
8 oz. pure cane sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 oz. almond flour (34 grams)
4 1/4 oz. brown rice flour (122 grams)
3/4 oz. sweet rice flour (20 grams)
2 1/2 oz. potato starch (71 grams)
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted but cooled to room temperature

Seedless raspberry preserves or fresh raspberry puree
Lime curd (homemade or store-bought, just make sure it's gluten-free)
Whipped frosting

Whipped frosting:
3 oz. cream cheese
1/3 cup powdered sugar, plus more to taste
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla
1/4 tsp. pure almond extract
2 cups heavy whipping cream

Fresh raspberries, for topping

Have all cake ingredients at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper.

Combine your room-temperature eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla in large mixing bowl. Whisk at low-medium speed until the sugar begins to dissolve, then switch to high for about 8 minutes, until the eggs have turned a very light yellow color and have increased in volume.

Sift your room-temperature flours together with the baking powder and carefully fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture until combined.

Fold room-temperature melted butter into the mixture and pour into lined pans.

Bake about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place on a wire rack to cool for several minutes.

When cooled enough to touch, run a knife around the edges and flip over onto the wire rack. Let cool a few more minutes, then carefully slice the cakes in half horizontally to make two layers (optional: you already will have two layers here - this is if you want four layers).

Place the cake pans back over the layers, flip back over and cover with plastic wrap. Place in freezer until firm.

Meanwhile, have your lime curd and raspberry fillings at room temperature to ease in spreading.

Make your whipped frosting.

Whip cream cheese, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, vanilla and almond extracts together until smooth. On low speed, slowly pour whipping cream into the cream cheese mixture. Switch to high until it begins to thicken, then taste and adjust sugar to your preference. Continue beating on high speed until very thick and fluffy. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.

When the cakes have firmed up, remove from the freezer and place the first half of one cake on a cake plate, cut side up.

Spread raspberry filling on the half on the plate, and lime curd on the half going on top of it. Spread whipped frosting on top of the raspberry filling, then place the other cake half, lime curd down, on top. Repeat with all the layers until you've topped the cake. Leave the top without filling.

Spread whipped frosting over top and sides, then top with fresh raspberries if desired.

Chill until serving.

Enjoy with those you cherish.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thai Fried Bananas

I can't profess to know whether these are "authentic" Thai fried bananas or not, but I can tell you - and my family  will enthusiastically agree - that these are good.

A few years back there was a woman from Thailand who lived in our town and did catering. My husband was at a party one evening where she provided the food, and raved about her Thai fried bananas for a very long time. People knew he liked these bananas, and considered stashing some from other parties they attended so he could have some. I finally got to work in the kitchen to try to recreate them for him. They were good. But not this good. (Or perhaps my memory has faded over time.)

I haven't tried to make these for him since we've been gluten-free. In fact, I'd nearly forgotten about them. When Meg from Gluten-Free Boulangerie, our host for this month's Gluten-Free Ratio Rally (thanks, Meg!), said we'd be doing doughnuts and fritters as our challenge this month, I was really excited. (If you aren't familiar with the ratio rally yet and want to see what it's about, here is my rally page where I have all my ratio rally posts where you can get some explanation. Ratio baking really gives you a lot of freedom!)

Logo designed by Anile Prakash
It was time to tackle gluten-free doughnuts. I'd recreate good old yeast-risen, Krispy-Kreme style doughnuts for my family - or at the very least the fantastic doughnuts from the hole-in-the-wall bakery in a neighboring town. Oh, the visions I had dancing in my head ...

It didn't happen.

I tried. Honestly, I only gave it one solid effort after spending a significant time figuring out the ratio I wanted, comparing it to other non-gluten-free recipes, and then adjusting it as the recipe progressed. It was a big fail.

Well, I guess not entirely. The taste was at least good. The texture was bad. Very bad. The dough that I thought would, wouldn't. After it rose beautifully and I rolled it out, cut it (realized it was falling apart waaay too much) and let it rise again, I realized it wasn't going to keep its shape at all. Oh well, it would still make great doughnut holes and misshapen doughnuts. Wrong. It absorbed the oil (yes, it was hot enough and yes, it was deep enough) and became rock-hard. Rock-hard fried grease balls with a doughnut taste. Yuck. (Good thing I started out with a small batch!)

After dealing with some stressful issues not related to my kitchen and being beyond exhausted, I didn't have the strength to try again immediately. I will, though. I will. In the meantime, I'm going to try out some of the oh-so-yummy doughnuts and fritters posted by my fellow rally participants. It looks like Meg even had something similar in mind as my original plan. Yes, please!

So, as I was preparing to move on to apple fritters like the kind you buy in the good bakeries - and NOT the grocery store bakeries, it occurred to me that the fried bananas are a type of fritter, too. And I'm glad I decided to go for those, because they are ever so good, and easy to eat without feeling like you just ate too much sugar after only a few bites. (And I'll be going back to my fritters and attempting the apple at some point, too. Probably before I try the doughnuts again. *Shudder*) They are pretty simple to make. (Always a bonus.)

For this ratio, I went with Michael Ruhlman's recommended ratio of 2:2:1, which is 2 parts flour: 2 parts liquid: 1 part egg.

Projected prep time: 10 minutes; Projected fry time: 2-4 minutes per batch
(Printable Recipe)

1 1/4 oz. (35 g) brown rice flour
1 1/4 oz. (35 g) sweet rice flour
1 1/2 oz. (42 g) tapioca starch
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder
4 tbsp. shredded coconut
3 tbsp. sesame seeds
4 oz. (1/2 cup) carbonated water
2 oz. (1 large) egg
Scant 1/8 cup (24 g) pure cane sugar
4-5 green (not ripe) bananas (unless you're lucky enough to come across some green "baby" bananas - use those, and increase amount)
Oil of choice, for frying

Pour oil into skillet or electric skillet to a level deep enough for frying and heat to 350-375 degrees. I played with both temperatures and they both did well. I'm a little more comfortable with 350, so that's what I ended up doing for most of them. It takes a little longer at 350, though.

Line a baking sheet or large plate with several layers of paper towels or brown paper.

Sift flours together with salt and baking powder. Stir in sugar.

Add sesame seeds and coconut to dry ingredients, and stir to combine.

Whisk together egg and carbonated water. This will, obviously, get bubbly.

Slice bananas in half to make slices shorter (unless, as noted above, you're using the "baby" ones), then slice in half lengthwise and again, lengthwise, to make four total slices from each half.

Whisk liquids into dry ingredients.

Dip banana slices one at a time into batter, immersing fully, then place in hot oil. Don't do too many at once. Turn over (using tongs makes this easy) when you begin to see them brown on the underside, and fry until a nice brown color.

Remove from oil and place on paper towels for several seconds, then turn over to absorb more oil from the other side.

Serve warm.


I hope you take some time to check out all the delicious doughnuts and fritters linked up at Meg's post today. My mouth is already watering, and I'm making a list of everything I need to try some of these recipes! Thanks again, Meg!


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