Images & recipes © Christine Mercer-Vernon unless noted otherwise. Please play nice when sharing and give proper credit and link backs.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bottom of the Honey Jar...


The gooey, crystalized goodness at the bottom of the honey jar.


Add 8-10 ounces of hot water (for a quart sized jar), shaken until all the honey dissolves.

Refrigerate until cold.


Add the juice of 1-3 lemons (I used 2, my lemons were very small), stir.

Add water or seltzer to taste.

Put feet up and sip away, or gulp, whichever pleases you most.

Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Worthy Wednesday: Gluten Free Doughnuts

gluten free strawberry cake donuts

Lots of blogs post lots of sinful, dessert-y treat recipes, and who doesn't love that? But seriously if I made them all, I couldn't exercise enough to counteract the calories.

I don't post a lot of treat recipes, if I do I try to make them super healthy. Other than the HE's weekly chocolate chip cookies I don't make many sweets.

But when I saw these gluten free doughnut recipes over at Edible Perspective, I thought, they weren't too bad for an occasional indulgence. 

The entire recipe boasts only 1/3 cup of sugar, in which I use raw, and they're baked too, so no deep fried, lard ridden calorically dense demon circles.

If you don't have a donut pan, you can bake them in a muffin tin.

I think the first recipe I made was the cinnamon cake doughnuts (sans sugar topping) and we were hooked.

We've since made the lemon cake doughnuts (with some substitutions), molasses doughnuts (the jelly bean's favorite), peanut butter cup doughnuts, and the blueberry cake doughnuts (which I substitute whatever fruit I grab from the freezer into).

I skip all the sugary toppings and omit any 'chips' (such as the peanut butter chips in the pbc doughnuts) and the sprinkles (we don't do food coloring or additives).

They're great without them and the extra sugar and calories aren't missed at all. Despite the fact that I take great liberties with the recipes (subbing the white rice flour with my GF flour mix, and playing with applesauce, oil and flavors) these always turn out great.

The thicker the dough the more firm and better they hold up for travel.  The more 'loose' the dough the softer and more cake like they are.

If I need to thicken the dough up I add more coconut flour, 1 teaspoon at a time, until I'm satisified.

If you make these, show Ashley some love by dropping her a comment.

Here's a direct link to her recipe list (here), and if you head over there today, you'll find she's posted a coconut doughnut recipe today!

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Please note that this is not a review column.

Please do not submit your recipes to me for review.

Opinions are my own and I do not receive any compensation for the recipes I feature. They are just recipes I have found, made and felt worthy enough to share with others.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Squares


I'm always looking for a sneaky way to get a filling but not crappy breakfast into my kiddo. Served with some fruit on the side, she's totally fooled.

I pinned these No Sugar Oat Drops two weeks ago because I found them fascinating. No sugar, butter, flour, or eggs. Interesting.

I think they are pretty brilliant but I have to note that I have an opposite opinion on the butter and eggs being unhealthy.

Organic and free ranged butter and eggs are very nutritious and full of a lot of good things. I would never suggest eating a stick of butter, but our bodies need fat and there are a lot of great books out there arguing that point and the return to real foods. (for example Michael Pollan, links over there on the right if you are curious)



Since I didn't want a carb overload, I decided to throw a little spin of my own on Blueberry Girl's pretty cool-ass recipe by adding some protein, in the form of an egg, and some coconut flour, and turn these more into a cake-y breakfast square.


These are crazy moist and taste so much like banana bread that I am now questioning whether the gluten free banana bread recipe I've been playing with tastes enough like banana bread. Nothing like throwing a wrench into things.



All in all, I was pleased with the results and by the nutrition facts you can see for 226 calories per square they are packed with some awesome protein and fiber for a 3 inch square.


Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Squares

by Christine Mercer-Vernon
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Keywords: bake bread breakfast side gluten-free soy-free sugar-free almond milk bananas oats eggs

Ingredients (9 squares)
  • 1-1/2 cups Gluten Free Rolled Oats (regular oats if you do not need these to be GF)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup almond meal or flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 4 dates, seeded, quarter and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed well (the riper the sweeter your squares will be)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp coconut flour
Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the first 8 ingredients (oats through almond milk) in a medium sized mixing bowl and set aside for the almond milk to soak in some.


Melt your coconut oil either over the stove top or place in a small oven safe dish and place into a warm oven until half melted, remove, then break up and stir until remaining portion is also melted.

Combine next four ingredients (bananas, coconut oil, vanilla, egg) in a separate bowl and whisk until well combined.

Add to dry ingredients and mix well.

Add Coconut Flour and mix well.


Line 9x9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper.

Scrape batter into lined pan and smooth out to evenly fill pan.

Bake for about 35 minutes until cooked through and solid in center. Test pick in center will come out clean.

Remove and let cool on rack for 10 minutes, then carefully lift out of pan, holding sides of parchment and place back on rack. Peel parchment from sides, then let cool until barely warm.


At this point you can cut into squares or to "dry out" the bottom some, you can carefully lift and remove the parchment, then set it back on the rack until completely cool.

Cut into 9 squares. Serve warm or cold.

Refrigerate unused portions.
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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rainy


Friday, March 23, 2012

Foggy




Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Worthy Wednesday: My GF Pantry Basics & Gluten Free Oat & Honey Bread

Today I'm launching a new weekly feature where I'll post about recipes I've made that are definitely worthy.


I love to cook, and creating on the fly in the kitchen is something I'm very comfortable with. It would be fun to sit around and make up recipes all the time but I've already got other passions that are full time that I don't wish to deviate from.

So when a recipe pops onto my radar that fills a need I have, I give it a go.

Lately, I've been on the lookout for gluten free bread recipes that conform or can be modified to the limited pantry that I keep.

My gluten free baking pantry is quite simple:


I use just two of these flours to make my gluten free pizza and sandwich rolls.

While there are many, many, many other gluten free flour options out there, I find that you can sink a lot of money into buying lots of little bags of various flours to make one little recipe.

I'm about multipurpose and simplicity. 

I like to keep a stocked pantry, therefore, the less variety I need to purchase, the easier it is to keep larger quantities and use them in timely manners. I don't end up with bags of flours I used maybe once or twice sitting in my pantry forever for way too long.

I've been tweaking and playing around with this Gluten Free Flour Mix for a while and I'm quite happy with the results in everything from cookies to baking.

My Gluten Free Flour Mix:


I've used Guar Gum with equally successful results but I find it is much more expensive. An 8 oz bag of XG can be purchased from Bob's Red Mill for around $11-12 versus a small few ounce jar of GM for the same price.

Do not interchange potato flour and potato starch, these are two totally different 'flours' and the results will not be desirable. If anything, you can substitute potato starch for the tapioca flour/starch. 



There's a lot of gluten free bread recipes out there but they use flours I'm just not interested in adding to my pantry. For not political reasons other than, they're not easily available in my area or I just haven't had a need to add a new one.



When I came across this recipe for Gluten Free Oat and Honey Bread by Kate at Gluten Free Gobsmacked, I was eager to give it a try.

I don't eat a lot of gluten free bread because there's really no nutrition in these GF flours and it's just a lot of useless carbs that go straight to my ass, but still, a fresh PB&J sandwich can go a long way for a girl's attitude every once and a while.



I have to say I was really pleased with this bread. It was easy to make, I had it mixed up quite quickly.

Here's a few of my baking notes:

  • It took 30 minutes for mine to rise to edge of pan (I used a large stoneware bread 'pan')
  • I let mine rise in the over after warming it to 200 degrees then turning it off
  • Baked for 35 minutes (at 25 it was completely raw in the center, I didn't bother with internal temp and it turned out just fine)

I removed it from the pan after removing from the oven and placed on it's side to cool, next time I'll try leaving it in a bit longer as it was very 'loose' upon removing and definitely took on an odd shape cooling without support.

But who cares, it tasted flipping awesome.

It was moist, with a a slightly sweet oat flavor. And the best part… it holds together with no crumbling. So I ran it through the gamut of trials:

Peanut Butter and Jam Sandwich… Ummmm YES!



Toast… It was ok, it took two runs through the toaster to brown, but most GF breads do, it was more crunchy hard on the edges but moist in the center. I find the drier GF breads work best for toast. But the reality is I didn't have to pay $7 for this loaf and it worked just fine with my bacon and eggs. 



French toast… definitely!  Was a little softer than the drier GF breads, but good. I liked the moist oat flavor.


All in all this is a definitely worthy recipe that has been added to my Gluten Free recipe library.  I'll be making this again and again.

So if you make this, definitely stop by and show Kate some love for such a worthy recipe.

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Please note that this is not a review column.


Please do not submit your recipes to me for review.


Opinions are my own and I do not receive any compensation for the recipes I feature. They are just recipes I have found, made and felt worthy enough to share with others.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Do you suffer from limp Broccoli?


Do you get excited when you see fresh, organic Broccoli?

Do you buy fresh Broccoli to have some on the side,
but never get around to it?

Are you saddened by how limp your Broccoli has become?

Embarrassed when friends arrive and find your Broccoli too limp?

It's a well known fact that most people prefer
their fresh Broccoli to be firm.

You DON'T have to suffer from limp Broccoli anymore.

With very little handling, you'll be enjoying crisp,
firm Broccoli in just a few hours.



Follow these easy steps for Broccoli
that stands proud and tall, once again:

1. Trim a 1/2-1 inch piece of stem off of the bottom.

2. Fill a jar, tall enough to hold the Broccoli without tipping over,
with a few inches of cool water.

3. Cover with bag or wrap that Broccoli came in,
or a damp paper towel or bread towel.

4. Place in refrigerator until firm. Usually within 1-3 hours.

5. With a firm grip, remove Broccoli from the jar,
gently wipe any drips from the end… feel the difference?


[ewwww, you dirty, dirty bird, this is about broccoli,
get your mind out of the gutter]


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Random Things: Meet Piggy


It's been a while since I've done a random things post, hold on, here we go…


This is Piggy.

The poor thing was in this shell when we got him. Sad.

The Jelly Bean named him. What you are not seeing is the horrendous orange pig face painted on the top of the shell.

Humiliating. Even for a Hermit Crab.

We had two, but Stella died. :[ We're pretty sure Piggy ripped her (we assume) apart, as pieces of her were found all over the cage.

Piggy seemed unaffected by the massacre.

I'm not sure that he (we assume) really likes us.

We try to make his living conditions as lovely as possible, lest he get out in the middle of the night and come for us.

[that was a joke… or was it?]

This weekend I'm 'trying' to relax.

Been a long week. I'm ok though. While it's still undetermined what's going on, it is confirmed that i'm not allergic to anything.  Seems I might have some digestive issues… that keep making me almost pass out. WTH?

Honestly, only me. I swear.

BTW, anxiety is a bitch.

So I am trying to relax, but I already said that.


Looking through last years container gardening posts, and realizing that this freakish warm weather is going to continue, I've decided that it's time to get some seeds started this weekend.

If my neighbor ever stops running his chainsaw, I'm going to head outside.

But for now, I need to clean the bathroom

Yay.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

What is going on? or WTHIGO


Well dear readers I have to ask…

What the hell is going on?

It is March 15th and we could see temperatures as high as 80 degrees today.

It should be freezing cold.

My yard, which has more weeds than grass, is currently flowering.


What doesn't have weeds or grass, has moss, which is also sending up it's feelers.


I feel like I'm in a parallel universe.

Literally.

I'm also in food hell.

Over the next 6-8 weeks you are going to see some serious food overhauls going on.

Which is odd, considering we eat pretty healthy.

It seems healthy foods and I are at war.

I can honestly say that this has been
the most frightening week of my life.

More so than that moment my water broke 5.5 years ago and I realized that I was going to have to squeeze a tiny human out my lady parts. (am I the only person that had a mini-panic attack when that moment arrived?) 

I've experienced anaphylaxis for the first time.  And second time. In just three short days.

As well as several more mild yet just as allergic reactions to foods I eat EVERY FREAKING DAY.

I now own epipens (which are flippin' expensive, but worth it if you consider the alternative) and a ton of anti-histamines. 

So let's look at more flowers and take a deep breath…


Honestly, I would like to just type a post full of nothing but the F word and pictures of the offensive foods being pulverized in my food processor, but that would probably scare people.

Instead, I'm going to post another photo of flowers.


Because flowers keep me from freaking the hell out.

They are also pretty, and a welcome sign in what's been a very long week.

Although I have refrained from smelling them,
I'm not taking any chances.

I'm not sure what's going on with this weather, but I'm glad it's here. I'm not glad that all the bugs are already out and that is surely not a good sign.

But the sun feels pretty darn good,
and the fresh air is fabulous.





Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Floral Syrups - things you should know

Violet Syrup

Making floral syrups and jellies is increasing in popularity.

The two most viewed posts on my blog right now are my Violet Syrup and Dandelion Syrup recipes, they are being viewed daily by more people than I can count, as well as making their way around Pinterest (check this out).

BTW...Thanks to everyone who pins my recipes, I'm very appreciative, and surprised as well.

:]



I don't know when or how it got started for people to can these syrups, there is no recommendation from the USDA, but I myself felt there could be nothing wrong with doing so.

High sugar content, added acidity, where could I go wrong?

I canned these as I usually do, I'm very careful that everything is thoroughly disinfected and my jars are sterilzed properly.

Dandelion Syrup


We used the many jars of both syrups that I made well into winter with no problems.

But about 2 months ago I noticed something funky going on in the jars.

The violet syrup had not only faded from it's vibrant magenta to a pinkish brown, but there was some weird stuff floating within…

click for larger view
I started investigating my remaining few jars and discovered these strange 'colonies' within 2 of my 3 my violet jellys as well.

I looked further and checked all my dandelion syrup jars and discovered something even worse…


A strange floating colony at the top of the jars.

Not all of the jars were from the same batch but multiple batches made over several weeks.

Therefore, I could probably rule out a contamination, surely it would not have occurred over several batches, especially since NONE of my other preserves had this issue.

There was no off-gassing, no expansion, fizzing, bubbles or release of gas or odor upon opening the jars. Signs you would see with a bacterial contamination, but I had none, very strange.

Marisa (Food In Jars) and I, after much brainstorming came to the agreement that FLORAL SYRUPS SHOULD NOT BE CANNED.

Our best guess was that there was some sort of residual fungus that was on the flowers that survived the boiling process of both making the syrup and processing the jars and after many, many months was able to flourish, despite what would seem improbable conditions.

All flowers were picked in my yard. I do live in the woods, so maybe the fungus theory is a strong possibility.

Also curious was that the growths in the violet syrup were completely different from the growths in the dandelion syrup. Again, maybe different fungus that survived on the different flowers?

Will I make these syrups again?  Absolutely.

BUT, I will definitely NOT can them. I will store them in the refrigerator in sterilized jars and use them within a somewhat timely manner.

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So, if you are going to make floral syrups here's some things you should definitely know:


  • Always choose flowers away from roadsides, areas that are sprayed, lawns that are treated, etc.  Select flowers free from any chemicals and road run-off.
  • Rinse them gently first, or gently agitate them in some water, to clean them off and remove any stray insects.
  • Do not can them, despite what you might read on other blogs.  If you choose to do so, please inspect your jars regularly by holding them up to a bright light or window. If they are not clear or show any signs of funkiness or questionable areas, please do not eat them and dispose of them immediately.

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See my posts on:





Monday, March 12, 2012

My Gluten Free Pizza and Roll Recipe


Mmmmmm. Pizza.

When I was diagnosed with celiac, that was the one food that I craved the most and had the hardest time finding or making suitable replacements.  That was 9 years ago.

There are a significant amount of GF frozen pizzas and pizza crust mixes available now.

Like I've said before I try to stick to a basic pantry and make as much as I can, since premade gluten free mixes and foods are expensive, I make my own pizza and burger/sandwich rolls.

I was always a fan of the Chebe bread mixes, because they were not crumbly, nor did they resemble styrofoam. They also were great for packing sandwiches. As long as you kept the roll separate and did not refrigerate it, it was soft and edible. (if you've tried the gamut of gf breads and rolls you know what i mean)

So tomorrow is a big day for me. I am undergoing food allergy testing. I've been having major issues that I just cannot ignore anymore.

So, just in case dairy is removed from my diet I thought I'd throw out my pizza crust recipe because it's pretty damn good.

No, it's not a yeast bread equivalent to real pizza dough, but it's soft and easy to make and my HE and the jelly bean both eat it with no complaints.

I originally found Kate's recipe and loved it and modified and expanded on it to fit our taste and texture preferences. I'm pretty happy with where it is right now.

You can make pizza crust from it as well as burger/sandwich rolls.  Changing up the cheese and herbs creates different flavors for different meals.

I love to make these with cheddar cheese for hot roast beef sandwiches.


Gluten Free Pizza Crust

by Christine Mercer-Vernon
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients (2-4)
  • 1 1/4 cup TAPIOCA FLOUR/STARCH
  • 1/4 cup POTATO FLOUR (or brown rice flour)
  • 1/2-1 cup GRATED CHEESE (mozzarella, or cheddar)
  • 1 tsp BAKING POWDER
  • 1 1/4 tsp XANTHAN GUM (increase to 1 1/2 tsp is using brown rice flour)
  • 1 Tbsp dried or large handful of fresh chopped herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil)
  • 1/4 cup BUTTER, melted
  • 1 Tbsp COCONUT OIL, melted (can substitute grapeseed or olive oil)
  • 3 medium EGGS
Instructions


Mix all ingredients until somewhat combined. 


Dough will be wet, but stiffens as flours absorb the moisture, usually within 15-30 seconds.


Scrape out onto lightly floured (tapioca flour) board and knead until well combined. Add small amounts of tapioca flour as necessary so dough does not stick to fingers or board, but don't overdo it, the flours will absorb the moisture as you are kneading it and firm up.


It will still be tacky but not gooey.







Press dough out with fingers until somewhat flattened, sprinkle with tapioca flour and roll out with rolling pin until no less than 3/8" thick but preferably 1/2" thick.

Using thumb and finger form a slight raised edge.

Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and add sauce and desired toppings.

Return to oven and continue baking until cheese is melted.



Remove and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

OPTION:  For a super thick, sicilian style pizza, double the recipe and roll out a no less than 1/2" thick BUT no more than 3/4" thick. Increase 1st cooking time to 12 minutes.


•• For best results bake on a pizza stone or stoneware pan, not tested on a metal pan.
•• I use eggs from a local farm not the grocery store therefore they are somewhat smaller, about the size of a medium egg. If you are using store bought large eggs, start with 2, dough should be very wet at first, but stiffens as the flours absorb moisture.
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And here's the same recipe as Sandwich and burger rolls using fresh herbs:


Gluten Free Burger and Sandwich Rolls

by Christine Mercer-Vernon
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 18 min
Keywords: bake bread homemade gluten-free soy-free cheese potato flour tapioca flour coconut oil

Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 1 1/4 cup TAPIOCA FLOUR/STARCH
  • 1/4 cup POTATO FLOUR (or brown rice flour)
  • 1/2-1 cup GRATED CHEESE (mozzarella, or cheddar)
  • 1 tsp BAKING POWDER
  • 1 1/4 tsp XANTHAN GUM (increase to 1 1/2 tsp is using brown rice flour)
  • 1 Tbsp dried or large handful of fresh chopped herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil)
  • 1/4 cup BUTTER, melted
  • 1 Tbsp COCONUT OIL, melted (can substitute grapeseed or olive oil)
  • 3 medium EGGS
Instructions
Mix all ingredients until somewhat combined. Dough will be wet, but stiffens as flours absorb the moisture, usually within 15-30 seconds.


Scrape out onto lightly floured (tapioca flour) board and knead until well combined. Add small amounts of tapioca flour as necessary so dough does not stick to fingers or board, but don't overdo it, the flours will absorb the moisture as you are kneading it and firm up.

It will still be tacky but not gooey.


Form dough into rectangular log about 5-6 inches long. Cut into 4 pieces. Form pieces into ball, flatten to 1/2" thick round.


Place on stoneware baking sheet.


Bake at 425 degrees for 15-18 minutes until solid and set. (yours may not be browned like this. these were baked in my smaller upper oven, therefore they were closer to the heating coils, I also reduced the cooking time so they would not overcook)

Do not overbake or they will be crunchy.

These can be reheated in the oven, wrapped in foil until just hot for a chewy warm sandwich roll.

** For best results bake on a pizza stone or stoneware pan, not tested on a metal pan.
** I use eggs from a local farm not the grocery store therefore they are somewhat smaller, about the size of a medium egg. If you are using store bought large eggs, start with 2, dough should be very wet at first, but stiffens as the flours absorb moisture.
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