Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cupcakes! No Eclairs!

I decided to pass up this month's Daring Baker's Challenge because I'm not a fan of eclairs. It's true...but I love cupcakes and cake! I'm happy to share that my first batch of gluten-free cupcakes came out lemony and tasty. In fact, I can't even tell that they're not 'glutened' :D. Who do I have to thank for my success? Gluten-Free Baking Classics, an awesome book that anyone on a gluten-free diet should own.

The first few pages include 'recipes' for flour mixes. I was inspired by the brown rice flour mix and Pamela's mix, a pre-made flour mix that I purchased the first week I was on the diet. I like the texture of Pamela's baking mix; the almond flour has a lot to do with it. So I slightly tweaked the brown rice flour mix in Gluten-Free Baking Classics to match Pamela's by adding in a bit of almond meal. This is the almondy brown rice flour mix that resulted (it can be used for cakes and cookies too)...

Almond Meal Brown Rice Flour Mix
2 cups brown rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup almond meal

As for the cupcakes, I used the basic measurements for the yellow cake recipe in my new, nifty cookbook and tweaked it. I divided the recipe in half, added less sugar, added less oil and a bit of butter, substituted the milk for rice milk, and added a few lemony ingredients (lemon peel, extract, and lemon juice)...because I was craving lemony cupcakes, after all :). This cookbook is awesome for folks who love experimenting with their own from-scratch recipes. Every recipe is like a template that can be easily altered a little (or a whole lot :) here and there.

The frosting is from a recipe I came up with after many unsuccessful experiments working with frostings that either melted too quickly at room temperature or were too buttery (and contained too much shortening). I basically just substituted a good amount of butter for two tablespoons of rice milk and lemon juice (I wanted these cupcakes to be really lemony :). I also added a 1/4 tsp of pure lemon extract. The result? A frosting that is thick, rich, and looks like fluffy clouds :). It'll keep its shape on a warm and humid day, it won't get all over the place. Because it somewhat hardens at room temperature, it's best to keep it covered with a damp cloth when frosting the cupcakes, so that it doesn't dry too quickly.

I ate two already! They're really tasty.

Gluten-Free Lemon Cupcakes with rich and lemony frosting


See Gluten-Free Lemon Cupcakes with rich and lemony frosting on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mini Gluten-Free Apricot Bluberry Muffin Scones I know what you're thinking. Why, out of what seems to be 'nowhere', am I posting a gluten-free recipe? Well, if you're somewhat of a long-time reader, you might remember this post, where I talk about some issues I'd been facing with my gut. Let's just say I wasn't diagnosed properly in the past. The doctor who told me I had IBS wasn't exactly on target; it still didn't explain why I'd felt not so great for awhile and lost so much weight (oh, about 15 pounds...which is a lot when your max weight your entire life was about 110 and you're 5'3"). Another thing I thought was kind of funny was that while most people gain weight when they're baking like crazy, I was losing weight! The more I baked, the more I lost! Ha! I also noticed that I felt the worst after eating sweets...and all along I thought it was just the butter or oil...

So I get to Boston, lose 4 more pounds while trying to deal with these weird gastrointestinal issues, and decide to pay our new awesome doctor a visit. She looks over my medical history, ruffles her brow while sitting confidently but comfortably in her chair, and ever so calmly asks the following: "Your symptoms sound a lot like they're related to a gluten allergy, have you ever been on a gluten-free diet?"., I've never tried it. Thought it wasn't for me, as I tested negative on the blood test for Celiac disease (and my last doctor was convinced that I didn't have it). That's what I told this new doc of mine. Then she tells me about that blood test not being very accurate; that there are a ton of false negatives, and that there's a difference between gluten sensitivities and Celiac disease. She goes on to say that folks with my same symptoms have improved by altering their diets, eliminating gluten and sometimes other foods that they're 'sensitive' to, like casein -- which is in dairy products (not to be confused with lactose intolerance).

I give it a go. Reluctantly, I admit. I have my doubts, am very skeptical, but what do I have to lose? Sure, I can't eat baked goods that contain all-purpose flour, or condiments/other random foods that contain gluten, but it really isn't so bad. In fact, it hasn't been bad at my surprise, I've been on this diet for about a week and I feel better already. What?! Yes, even I am surprised...pleasantly surprised.

Now it seems my blog might actually be living up to its name. Flour Arrangements. Yep, that's what it's definitely turning in to, an arrangement of various flours. I have a new collection in my pantry ranging from amaranth to brown rice and tapioca flour. This whole gluten-free baking thing is fairly new to me. It's a little intimidating, but fun. My kitchen is turning into a crazy lab, where I try to make up gluten-free treats that actually have the consistency of a delectable baked good. All that I ask is that you bear with me, as I am still trying to figure out how each and every one of these different flours work and taste :). It's exciting. Most of all, I'm happy to report that I'm feeling better. Over time, things should improve even more. I'm finding out that I might have other food allergies/sensitivities, which you'll probably be able to pick up on as you stay tuned for more recipes. I'm not the least bit disappointed, though, nor do I feel robbed of anything. In fact, I feel somewhat relieved. Things make sense now...what a relief! Who knew that even gallbladder disease could be caused by a gluten allergy?!

What's all this talk about muffin-scones? Ok. I admit, I initially wanted to make muffins...but these minis came out looking more like scones with muffiny centers. They're having an identity crisis, let's just put it that way. But they're cute, so we have to excuse them for their inability to decide what kind of starchy dessert they really are. In my opinion, they look like muffins on a 'bad hair' day, and we can all relate to that! Honestly, the flavor is right on target; they're quite addicting, to my surprise. Blueberries have a way of making everything taste delicious, though, so I'll credit them for the tastiness of these mini muffin-scones :).

P.S. If you're curious about gluten allergies and aren't feeling so hot yourself, I've found that these two sites are pretty informative: click here and here.

Gluten-free Blueberry Apricot Muffins

Cute but tasty. The ingredients are in the title :)...but ...

See Gluten-free Blueberry Apricot Muffins on Key Ingredient.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

No bake Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies

Check out the flowers and herbs on my new patio! :)

I have been going all day! I woke up at 5:45 and couldn't go back to sleep, so I thought I'd prepare something...I can't say that I baked these cookies, though :). My initial plan was to submit them to Grace's Beat the Heat event, but I got so caught up in moving, flying, packing, and unpacking that I didn't realize the due date was fast approaching; it passed me by.

Since I'd already thought about making these cookies, I went ahead and made 'em. They don't require the use of anything electric, and they come together in one bowl, in just a few minutes! Flour/dairy free, these cookies remind me of the Fall, which is kind of funny considering I was originally planning on making something cool and refreshing for the summery event. But lately the weather's been odd here in Boston. Actually, maybe it isn't odd. I have no idea if it's usually this cool and rainy during August, but it's definitely new to me. I'm used to the unbearable Texas heat :P. Just last night I had to put on a sweater; it got down to 60 degrees! So all this rain mixed with nice days/cool evenings has me thinking about the's just right around the corner, and I can't wait! I've heard that the New England area has beautiful Autumns; the leaves actually FALL and change color here?! Yep (again, we don't have much of that in Austin).

So here's a simple recipe for some no bake cookies. I would write more, but I'll be honest, I'm way too tired! After going to the farmers market, then taking 4 different subways into Boston, then seeing the Wharf, Quincy Market, and the yummy Italian bakeries in the North End, I'm pooped! I had a great time, though :). So I'll leave you with this recipe and a few fun photos of today's events!

(Oh, before I forget, I finally got that brand new oven/stove and it works beautifully! :)

No Bake Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

Easy to make, fun to eat and prepare, this is ...

See No Bake Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies on Key Ingredient.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

No baking for about a week...just had a fire!

I gave this oven a chance, I really did.

I had my hopes. I saw dozens of cookies and desserts baking up golden and delicious behind that oven door. I pictured a Thanksgiving turkey roasting beneath those 'antiquated' burners, to put it nicely. Sure, the oven was ugly, but it worked...sort of... maybe the knobs needed a little attention. With just one simple twist, they came off. Poor little guys needed to be replaced...and I thought that was all that needed to be replaced...

Then I tried baking...boy, was that an adventure. The oven knob wasn't quite up to date. Let's just say the numbers 1-6 as oven setting indicators on the knob instead of actual temperature settings (with degrees) were evidence of this poor oven's age...all I did was turn the oven on, with hopes that I could bake my mover a batch of cookies as a way of saying thanks for helping, and then sparks flew -- NOT THE GOOD KIND. My exposed legs were literally inches away from the fiery sparks...I'd purchased an oven thermometer a few days ago, so that I could figure out what temperatures matched the numerical settings on the oven knob, and the oven went up to 600 just 5 minutes after turning it to setting '4'! I tried turning it off and the knob wouldn't turn, it was about to break off too!

Finally, I got it to turn off. The oven kept popping, so I called the fire department with my cell phone and they unplugged the thing. The Lt. himself said it was no longer safe to use :(. Good news is that I'm still alive and I'll be getting a new oven soon. I won't be baking or cooking for about another week, though, seems they'll have to order a new one. I just don't understand how HARVARD, yes HARVARD, can have such crappy appliances in their grad student apartments and yet be such a well endowed school! It literally receives millions of bucks from its alumni; Jose and I decided that they spend all their money on the landscaping. Also, I find it funny that our neighbors drive a BMS SUV and have an old mansion for a home, but we don't even have an oven that functions...

Ok, so don't get me wrong. I love this place. My apartment has a certain charm about it; it's quite pretty on the outside, actually. Sad thing is, they try to preserve the place so much that they don't exactly keep anything up to date. Check out our heater. I don't even know if I want to try connecting it when it starts cooling off here!

As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, I won't be baking or cooking for a few days. Our stove/oven unit is completely unplugged (thanks to the firefighters) and I plan on leaving it that way...I kinda want to stay alive to see the rest of Boston :); I'm sure you all understand :). For now, I'll be working from home (woohoo!) and staying busy trying to get this place cleaned up; it'll be awhile before we actually get situated. But guess what?! I live literally right down the street from Savenor's, where Julia Child used to shop for her groceries! I stopped by the place yesterday and took a few pics! Also picked up some fish (before the oven explosion) and they gave me a free lemon :)! I have a feeling that place will be seeing a lot of me these next few years. So you want to see more pics of the Boston adventures? I'll be starting a new blog for Boston in a bit, but for now you can check out my flickr page by clicking here! Cya'll later :).