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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Gluten-free Hotteok (호떡)

hotteok
Eat me.

I am an unabashed fan of all things Kdrama, which turned into a longing for Korean food. My favorite Korean food blog is from Holly’s Beyond Kimchee. Her recipes are approachable, and each one I’ve cooked has come out simply delicious. She has this great recipe for hotteok (say hoe-tok), which are soft, chewy rounds of fried dough filled with nuts and a caramel syrup. They’re a bit like hot doughnuts, except better.

Yes, I just said something was better than doughnuts.

I set out to make a gluten-free version of hotteok after my kid was diagnosed with Celiac and HOLY THIS WAS HARD BATMAN. But I did it. Five tries later.

You’re welcome.

GF Hotteok

2 cups America’s Test Kitchen Flour Blend or Bob’s Red Mill (blue and white) flour blend

scant 1/4 cup tapioca starch

1 cup glutinous (sweet) rice flour (find at your local Asian market or local grocer)

1 Tbl black sesame seeds

1 envelope instant yeast

2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp xantham gum

1 tsp salt

1 tsp canola oil

1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbs warm milk

oil for frying

parchment paper and gloves (like latex)

Filling: Mix 2/3 cup light brown sugar with 2 Tbsp chopped pecans and 1 tsp cinnamon

To make: Mix all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the milk and oil. Add the wet to the dry until they are just combined. Cover with plastic and let rise in a warm, moist place for 45 minutes. Uncover, punch to deflate, let rest 10 more minutes. Prepare a plate covered in paper towels or a cooling rack on a cookie sheet for hot dough after frying.

Heat 1/2 an inch of oil in a large fry pan over medium heat. Wrap a piece of parchement paper around a cereal bowl; this will be your hotteok press. Using gloved hands, oil your gloves and flatten golf-ball sized pieces of dough between palms. Place 2 tsp of filling in center of dough circle, then fold up and pinch shut. You should end up with balls of dough with fillng in middle and no holes. It may take you a few tried to get the feel of this. Keep trying; it’s worth it!

Place two dough balls in the oil. Oil the parchement paper on the bottom of your cereal bowl and use this to slowly press the hotteok as flat as possible without breaking or tearing the dough. A trick is to gently remove the bowl upwards at an angle. Cook for about 2 minutes. Flip the circle of fried dough over and cook the other side until golden brown. Let it cool for a few minutes before eating so the hot caramel sauce doesn’t burn your mouth. Enjoy.

hotteok2

Monster Bread

Monster cookies are my favorite cookie — along with Indiana School cookies, Holiday Cut-Outs, and Chocolate Chip. (I may have a cookie problem). They are salty, sweet, soft, and crunchy all at once. They have crisp dried fruit flavors and deep nutty notes. 

And now, you can make monster bread. At my house, this disappeared in one day. It may have been because I ate it all. Maybe. 

This is a basic banana bread base with extra vanilla and only brown sugar, no white, for that rich cookie flavor. I like to make small loaves of this recipe. The topping is too heavy for muffins, and a full-sized loaf pan will make for dense slices that are probably more than a healthy serving. I got some cute little loaf pans from IKEA for Christmas that are perfect. 

If you don’t have small loaf pans, go for a whole loaf, and just cut your slices in half. 

Monster Bread

Ingredients for the bread

3 ripe bananas

2 eggs

2 cups + 2 Tbls gluten-free flour blend

1 Tbl baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp xantham gum

1 stick butter (salted is fine)

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 Tbl vanilla extract 

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1/4 cup peanut butter morsels

1/4 cup pecan pieces 

1/4 cup golden raisins

Ingredients for the topping

2 Tbls butter

2 Tbls brown sugar

2 Tbls flour blend 

1/4 cup quick oats

2 Tbls dried cranberries or dried cherries, chopped

1 Tbl pecan pieces

Gather all your ingredients and three mixing bowls. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare your pans by spraying with canola oil or smearing with butter. 

In the first bowl, mash the bananas and beat the eggs into them. Set aside. 

In the second bowl, which should be large, whisk together the flour blend, powder, soda, salt, and xantham gum. Set aside. 

In the last bowl, melt the butter. Add the sugar to the melted butter and stir, then add the vanilla. Scrape the butter mixture slowly into the banana egg mixture to avoid cooking the eggs with the warm butter and combine. Set the empty melted butter bowl aside to make the topping later. 

Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir until just incorporated. Then add the chips, morsels, pieces and raisins. Pour into your pans so that each pan is a scant 2/3 full — remember you’ll be adding a topping, and you don’t want your loaves to overflow during baking. 

To make the topping, melt the butter in the reserved bowl. Add the sugar and flour blend, stir to combine. Mix the oats in, then add the dried fruit and nuts. Cover each loaf with the mixture, pressing lightly to adhere it to the dough. 

Baking time depends on the size of your loaf pans. I made three mini loaves that were done in 30 minutes. A full-size pan could take between 50-60 minutes. Use your eyes and nose to watch for browning and test with a toothpick for accuracy. 
 

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.

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.