Good For Me and Good For You: New Day Gluten-free Cafe STL

20170414_143528The first time we walked in to New Day Gluten Free, my daughter with Celiac took in a slow, long breath, pressed her face against the case and stared for a full two minutes. When a New Day worker approached and asked if she needed help, she looked awed and breathed, “I can eat anything I want here. My mom doesn’t have to ask the chef or anything.” Safe to say, it was a good day for her.

The baked goods include muffies (small muffins that are almost all top), cake pops, cookies, brookies (brownies + cookies), cupcakes, cakes, cheesecakes, and tarts. The kids’ favorite is an enormous Chipwich, two huge, flat chocolate chip cookies with buttercream and rainbow sprinkles between them. Mine was the chocolate chip muffie. Soft, plush muffins with melty chocolate chips and a sugar crust, I will be ordering them every time we go back.

There is an extensive breakfast menu full of biscuits and pancakes, which is great since Celiacs are usually relegated to eggs, bacon, and fruit at breakfast joints. We came at lunchtime and ordered breadsticks, cheesy garlic bread, cheese pizza with bacon, a meatball marinara sub, and grilled cheese and tomato soup. Clearly, we were feeling Italian that day.

The breadsticks were the highlight of the meal for me, but the pizza was a close second. They were warm and soft, perfectly seasonsed, and served with a marinara sauce that had just the right amount of herbed intensity. The pizza was foldable and chewy, a win-win in a world of crumbly gluten-free crusts. The garlic bread had a hint of grainy after-texture, but my parents and kids didn’t notice. The grilled cheese was buttery, crunch on the outside and gooey on the inside, with salty cheese spilling over the sides of the crust. The tomato soup was creamy, tasting of summer and winter both at the same time.

New Day gets extra points for serving local sodas from Excel Bottling. Next time we go, we’re going to be taking home a tray of cinnamon rolls. They have a case with take-and-bake breads, pastas, sweets, and soups. They also take orders for school-safe snacks and birthday cakes.

The food here made my parents (who always eat their Wheaties) and my gluten-free daugther happy. They’re putting out great products for everyone, not so-so products for people who can’t eat wheat. Feel free to suggest bringing your friends who eat gluten — they’ll happily enjoy New Day’s bread and baked goods. I’m grateful they’re here in St. Louis.

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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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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. 
 

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!

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.