Football Fantasy Popcorn Mix

Salted Chocolate Cranberry Cashew Popcorn

This post is dedicated to my Southern girl foodie friend Ashley Lane. Ash is always up for mucking out a stable but won’t deign to sleep in a tent. She’s this delicious mix of upper crust and down-home. Football season is her favorite season, and this beautiful game snack will have her football nights reflect who she really is–she can scream at the T.V. while eating dainty pieces of homemade popcorn tossed with dried cranberries and roasted, salted cashews, drizzled with melted chocolate almond bark and topped off with a sprinkling of cracked Kosher salt. 

Ingredients

3 Tbsps canola oil

1/3 cup popping corn

2 squares chocolate almond bark

1/3 cup cashews

1/3 cup dried cranberries

A few twists of cracked Kosher salt

Directions

Place a stock pot (have the lid on hand) over medium-high heat. Heat oil in pan, placing two kernels in oil. Place lid askew on top of pot. When they pop, add the rest of the popcorn plus two pinches of Kosher salt. Replace lid askew. Carefully swirl popcorn in oil occasionally while it heats. Popcorn is finished when pops are 3 seconds apart. Remove fom heat and pour onto large plastic tray. You can also use a parchment-lined large cookie sheet. 

Melt almond bark in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds. When cool enough, scoop into a plastic bag, snip off one corner and drizzle with half the bark. Sprinkle nuts and dried fruit over the kernels and then drizzle with remaining bark. Finish with a few twists of cracked Kosher salt. 

May the best team win and may the games be short. 

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The ACTUAL Best GF Chocolate Chip Cookies Ev-ah

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Pictured with my stiff, vanilla buttercream between two tiny cookies.

 

There are dozens of blogs and cookbooks all claiming to have the best recipe out there for gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. In the year since my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I tried most of them. Every one had a slightly grainy texture or off-putting aftertaste — they all came close, but none hit the mark just right.

Until ChefSteps. This guy, Grant Lee Crilly, finally made a GF chocolate chip cookie that is, yes, better than wheat chocolate chip cookies. Just ask my friend Grace at Taste With Grace. Use your favorite GF oat flour. Semi-sweet chips work best (milk and dark just don’t match as well with the oat flavor). Cream cheese is the secret ingredient in these cookies although you can’t taste it (I abhor cream cheese). There is a video on their facebook page that reveals he’s not the most educated about gluten-free (used Quaker oats), but don’t mind that. Make these. His recipe calls for weighing ingredients, which I know many American cooks don’t like to do, so here it is translated to measuring cups.

I warn you: you will crave these constantly. Switch up chips for dried cranberries and nuts for a guilt-free breakfast. And if you can’t stop and find yourself filling your freezer with this dough so you can make a sheetfull whenever you want — don’t blame me. Blame that Crilly guy.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

4 ounces softened unsalted butter

4 ounces softened cream cheese

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup + 1 Tbs sugar

1 tsp baking soda

scant 1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbl pure vanilla extract

2 egg yolks (save the whites for breakfast)

2 1/2 cups oat flour

1 bag semisweet mini chocolate chips (throw in a handful more if you’ve got ’em)

Beat the first six ingredients until soft and fluffy. Add vanilla and yolks until combined. Stir in flour, then chips. Chill dough for one hour. Bake at 350F by rounded teaspoon for 12 minutes.

Really, guys, use a teaspoon. These cookies are small. Also, the key to these cookies coming out perfectly is when you pull them out of the oven. They should be just a tad golden-brown around the edges. They will look really undone in the middle. Let ’em set for 2 minutes on the sheet, then put them on a cooling rack. They’ll be perfect — gooey inside and crispy outside — within 30 minutes.

Store in a tight-fitting container. A few marshmallows will help them last a bit longer.

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Sweet & Savory Korean Noodles (잡채)

Simplified, Quick-and-Easy, Gluten-Free Japchae  

Have I mentioned that I am a fan of Korean dramas? No? I have a monthly subscription to both DramaFever and Viki, and when I am cooking, there is always a drama on in the background. My current favorite of late is Weightlifting Fairy but my top recommendations are It’s Okay, That’s Love, Signal, Coffee Prince, Jealousy Incarnate…wait. This is a food blog. Not a Kpop blog.

So, the point is that my love for Kdramas led to a love for Korean food, which isn’t easy to find in gluten-free form. Many of the fermented pastes used as the foundation in Korean food, which were traditionally gluten-free, are now made with wheat as a filler. I have found some great gf soybean or red pepper pastes online, however, and there are some naturally gf Korean ingredients that are unheard of to most Americans, like sweet potato noodles. These noodles have just one ingredient: sweet potato starch. They don’t taste like sweet potatoes, either (I can’t stand sweet potatoes). Top these puppies with some meat and veggies in a sweet-and-savory sauce, and this dish is a winner.

Japchae is a kid’s meal in Korea where many people prefer things nice and spicy, but it’s perfect for adult palates too. It tastes similar to teriyaki or pad Thai. I adapted this recipe from my favorite Korean food blogger, Holly at Beyond Kimchee. Hers is, I’m sure, a much more traditional recipe with deep layers of flavor, but it took me a long time to make it. My recipe is fast for a quick, family weeknight meal. Put the meat in the marinade in the morning, and you’ll be ready to whip the rest up after work.

Japchae

Serves 6 – 8

Takes 30- 40 mins to make

5 tablespoons of gluten-free soy sauce, divided

2 tablespoons Korean or Japanese sesame oil, divided

2 teaspoons minced garlic in olive oil, divided

3 teaspoons honey, divided

2 green onions, minced

2 large carrots

olive oil, as needed

1 small white onion

2 big handfuls of kale

1 box of cut field mushrooms

1.5 pounds boneless, cage-free chicken breasts

6 ounces of Korean sweet potato (glass) noodles

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

In the morning, place 3 Tbs soy sauce, 1 Tbs sesame oil, 1 tsp minced garlic, 1 tsp honey and the green onions in a large ziploc bag and shake to mix. Cut the chicken into strips and put in the bag. Stick it in your fridge until you’re ready to cook in the evening.

Fill your stock pot 2/3 with water and put it on to boil. Peel the carrots and cut into thick matchsticks. Place these into a fry pan with a drizzle of olive oil, and turn it on medium-high heat. While the carrots begin to cook, chop the onion into medium-sized chunks. Add these to the pot with the carrots and turn the heat to medium. Keep stirring occasionally as you…

When the water has come to a rolling boil, place two big handfuls of kale into it and blanch for 2 minutes. DON’T DUMP YOUR WATER OUT. Strain them out the water with a large slotted spoon, and place them into a colander set in a bowl, let drain. While the kale leaves cool a bit, blanch the mushrooms for 3 minutes. Wring the excess water out of the leaves and place them on a towel. Be careful, they’re hot. Fish the mushrooms out and drain them in the colander as well.

When the carrots and onions are halfway cooked, put the contents of the chicken bag in the pan with them, marinade and all. Cook for 5 minutes and turn strips over to cook the other side. When the strips are cooked through, stir the carrots and onions and chicken around together in the pan and cook another 2 -3 minutes.

As soon as your boiling water is free, put ½ the package of noodles into it and set a timer for 5 – 6 minutes. While the noodles are boiling, mix the rest of the soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and honey with the ginger and sesame seeds in a bowl and stir the kale and mushrooms into it. Drain the noodles and rinse them with lukewarm water. Put them in a serving bowl and top with the all the meat and vegetables and the sauces from the bowl and pan.

The noodles will be room temperature and the toppings hot. Enjoy!

Italian Stuffed Eggplant

When I was in college, I paid my for my tuition by serving diners at an upscale Northern Italian restaurant called Twilight’s Ristorante. The executive chef, John, served an appetizer he called Melanzane Rotella, or rolled eggplant. This thing was so addictive; the staff ordered it for dinner almost nightly. I learned from John that the secret to this dish is the same ingredient which makes tira misu so delectable — mascarpone cheese.

When my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, this was one of the few dishes I had in my arsenal that was gluten-free. It has always been one of my family’s go-to meals, and it’s the one that people request the recipe for most often.

Here it is, folks. No need to ask anymore. Andiamo a mangiare.

Italian Stuffed Eggplant

Serves 4 to 6

1 large purple eggplant, sliced lengthwise with a mandolin or sharp knife

olive oil, as needed

kosher salt, as needed

1 8-ounce package mascarpone cheese

1/2 cup frozen loose leaf spinach

2 teaspoons minced garlic*

white pepper, to taste

1 egg

1 32-ounce jar your favorite marinara sauce

1 – 1.5 cups shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350F. Coat 2 cookie sheets with a thin coating of olive oil. Place eggplant slices on sheets; don’t overlap as much as possible. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake until soft and pliable, about 15 – 20 minutes (depends on thickness of slices).

While your slices are roasting, mix the cheese with one egg, 1/2 cup spinach, garlic, another big pinch of sea salt, and some white pepper.

Prepare a 9×13 pan by coating it lightly with olive oil. When the eggplant is soft, place one slice in the 9×13 pan. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture onto one end of the slice, then roll it up, being careful not to burn your fingers. (I usually use a fork and spoon to roll the first half; the second half is usually cool enough to handle). Repeat this with each piece of eggplant until you have a tray full of stuffed, rolled eggplant.

Top the rolls with the full jar of marinara and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately with a salad.

Writing this blog post is making my mouth water. 

*I used pre-packaged minced garlic packed in olive oil from Aldi. 

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Cheap Places for Gluten-free Products

Gluten-free products are cost-prohibitive. It’s inexpensive to eat gluten-free if you buy whole foods like rice, eggs, potatoes, meats, fruits, and vegetables. But if you want pre-packaged snacks and treats like crackers or granola bars, you’ll be paying more than twice per box compared to wheat-based products. The best way to have your cake and eat it too is to shop at ALDI or Asian markets.

The above photo is from a display at an ALDI in St. Louis, Missouri. Normally, their gluten-free products are spread throughout the store, marked so they’re easy to find. This ALDI is trying a new approach with all their GF products in a large, separate end cap. Check out their offerings — everything is under $5 per box or bag. More importantly, their GF products are tasty. They’re not the best on the market, but they are above-average in taste and texture. I got this grocery cart full of GF products and other household necessities (pictured below) for $180. In my area, this same cart full of food would have cost me around $300 at my mid-range grocer.

If there is no ALDI near you, your best bet is your local Asian supermarket. I can get 16 ounces of rice flour there for $.99, compared to the $4.99 I pay for 24 ounces of it at my local mid-range supermarket. All the products at the Asian market in my neighborhood have ingredient, allergy, and nutrition information stickers in English on each bag or box. Many products are marked if they’ve been prepared on shared equipment as well. Read labels carefully to decide if a product is safe for you.

We have discovered some delicious GF snacks at our Asian markets that neither ALDI nor any other area grocers carry, like these adorable sweet rice crackers pictured below (it’s basically a cookie, y’all). They come in packages of two, so they’re perfect for my daughter’s lunch box.

What grocer is your favorite for GF products?

 

P.S. ALDI did not pay me to write this blog; I’m an actual fan.

Easy Yeasty Doughnuts

Doughnuts. Food of the gods. The absolute worst thing to have to give up when you’re Celiac. I’m not going to lie: no GF doughnut tastes like Dunkin Donuts, but these come wicked close.

This is one of those posts where I did the leg work for you and found you the best GF doughnut recipe on the ‘net so you don’t have to search and waste your ingredients trying all those recipes. I did that for you. I tried recipes from a couple different blogs, and Nicole from Gluten Free on a Shoestring had the one that turned out the best.

However, she uses a time-consuming method to prepare them that involves rolling and cutting into shapes. I don’t need my doughnuts to look perfect, and I’m low on time. Instead, I scooped the batter into a large plastic zip-top bag, snipping off one of the corners. Next, I used a piece of parchment paper about the size of a sheet of notebook paper and folded it twice. I sprayed that with oil and piped doughnuts onto it one at a time, sliding them into the hot pan for frying. Ta-da! All the doughnuts in half the time. I also used my own flour blend of white rice flour, brown rice flour, tapioca and potato starches and powdered milk, and the doughnuts came out perfect. Click here for the dough recipe.

Nicole topped hers with a honey-based glaze, which I’m sure is delicious, but I was looking for something BAD for me, people. Something chocolate. And man, did I ever find it. My family has declared this the best icing recipe in the universe. As in all planets, not just Earth. We’re confident that this is true. I found it at Handle the Heat; click here for the recipe. I also took some right out of the oil and shook them in a bag of confectioner’s sugar (only use 100% cane sugar people) so my little ones could have a choice.

You’re welcome.

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Cocoa Crispy Treats

Sugar-free, Delicious Treats

I’m at Target last week looking for the best gluten free cereal on the market: Mom’s Best Crispy Cocoa Rice. And — gasp — they’re out! Even the tag is gone! In its place is One Degree Sprouted Brown Rice Cacao Crisps. I look the box over: gluten free? Check. Delicious looking? Check. Super healthy? Double check!

I get these puppies home, cover a big bowl of ’em in some 1%, dig in and blech. Now, I have a wide palate; I love almost all food, and I was not expecting this to be like Mom’s Best because, well, what could be as good as that? I was expecting more of a cardboard-y health food, but this wasn’t carboard-y; it was just gross. The texture was good, but the flavor was too strange for me to stomach.

I wasn’t about to throw it out, though. I’ve tried my fair share of gluten free pre-packaged foods and had more misses than hits. So, I did what I always do, and made lemonade out of these lemons. The best friggin’ lemonade I’ve ever had!

OK, moving on from the lemonade metaphor, this cereal is the most amazing base for delectable snacks. (Desserts? Snacks? I can’t decide which to call them.) Basically, I made cocoa crispy treats that are sugar-free and daaaaayum delicious. Mr. Picky McPickerson, pictured above, ate half the pan. Enjoy.

 

To Make Me:

4 cups of One Degree Sprouted Brown Rice Cocoa Crisps

1/2 c honey

1/2 Simply Nature Creamy Almond Butter

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

Prep a 9″ square pan by spraying with oil. Measure the cereal into a large mixing bowl. In a saucepan, boil the honey over medium heat for one minute, then stir in the almond butter, salt and vanilla. Pour this hot mixture over the cereal and stir until combined. Press this into the pan firmly using the back of your spoon or your hands if you can handle the heat. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Bring back to room temperature, cut, and serve.