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.

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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.

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.

 

A2: new (kid-friendly!) gluten-free cafe

There is a game-changing restaurant in St. Louis. A2 is a gluten- and casein-free cafe. When we told our daughter that we were going to a restaurant where she could order anything she wanted from the entire menu, she almost fainted from shock and joy. She is seven; have I mentioned that?

She chose pizza because…well, pizza. Except, with all due respect to the owners Audra and Audrey who I love for opening this place, this stuff shouldn’t be called pizza. It’s just not pizza. It’s a cooked dough topped with sauce and cheese, sure, but it’s not pizza. The dough is reminiscent of a thick, crumbly paste that was baked just enough to make it edible. Skip the pizza here…

…but come for the sandwiches, salads, drinks and baked goods! These ladies have hit the mark with the breads, scones, and dairy-free brownies. I got the Monte Cristo, which is French Toast Loaf (read: cinnamony goodness) around turkey, bacon, an egg (the egg isn’t listed on the menu but came on my sandwich and everything is better with an egg). It’s drizzled with local honey. My son’s grilled cheese on a baguette was soft of the inside and crackly on the outside, just like a baguette should be. The cabbage slaw is crisp, fresh, and tangy. The Italian Soda was on point.

I was so excited I forgot to take pictures until we were almost through. But as you can see from the one I did snap, they have a kids’ menu and crayons. We even got vanilla scones to take home and have for breakfast the next day, and they actually taste like scones, people. For reals. Delicious.

A2 is at 1330 Washington Ave., St. Louis, MO 63103 — 314.266.3225

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My Mommy’s Fudge

Easy old-fashioned, rich, real candy

When you go gluten free, the first thing you should do is identify your recipes that are already free of wheat, barley, rye, malt and triticale. You’ll probably be surprised how many savory dishes you have: rice and potatoes are staples of American cuisine. What shocked me was how many desserts I was already making or buying that were safe for my daughter to eat: peanut brittle, most ice creams, my monster cookie recipe, kheer, no-bake cookies, grilled pineapple with maple syrup, fruit and chocolate fondue, but most of all: my mommy’s fudge.

You guys have not had good fudge until you’ve had this fudge. That stuff you buy at that cute candy shop run by old ladies on the beach? It has nothing on this. Even See’s Candies, the greatest mass-producer of candy in this nation, cannot touch this recipe. Enjoy.

My Mommy’s Fudge

A.K.A. The best fudge you’ll ever eat 

6 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 pound confectioner’s sugar*

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 Tbsp vanilla

4 Tbsp milk*

1/4 tsp table salt

Directions

A large loaf pan (8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5) is the perfect size mold for this candy, but a smaller one will work, too; your fudge will just be taller and take longer to set. Prep this pan with a little squirt of canola oil or a sheen of butter. Be light with this or your fudge will be oily. Set the pan aside.

If you have a double boiler, find it and wipe it out, since I’m sure it’s been — like — a year since you used it last. If not, grab a metal or glass mixing bowl and put all the ingredients in it. Then get a big frying pan that your mixing bowl will fit in with a little space, you don’t want to create a pressure cooker here, the steam needs to escape. (Cheaters: you can also use a microwave if you pause every 45 seconds to stir. It takes a long time, but it’s doable.)

Fill the fry pan with about an inch of water, place the mixing bowl full of goodness inside it and put it all over MEDIUM heat. Not medium high. Medium. Don’t let any water get in the mixing bowl, this will ruin your fudge. The water should simmer, not boil. Adjust the heat to get the simmering right, then stir every 30 seconds until the mixture is smooth.

Pull the bowl out and (without burning yourself) wipe the bottom off with a towel; you don’t want water to drip into the pan as you’re pouring it. Pour the liquid fudge into the pan and — this is the hardest part — wait. You can cool this stuff in the fridge, unlike most fudge, or if it’s a chilly day, leave it out on the counter. This will take 1 – 2 hours. Then grease up a butter knife slightly, cut into pieces and serve. Try not to die from ecstasy.

*A note about ingredients: the wholer the milk, the creamier the fudge, but skim will work in a pinch. Use 100% cane sugar; if you get confectioner’s sugar with part beet sugar, your fudge (and all your frosting and other stuff) will have a gritty texture. The better the cocoa powder, the richer the taste. My favorite for this recipe is Hershey’s Cocoa Natural Unsweetened .

Aaaaaand here’s a glamour shot of us circa 1985, just for yucks.

sandmom