Recipe Review: Gluten Free On a Shoestring’s Cream Cheese Buttermilk Biscuits

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This weekend I discovered Nicole Hunn’s Gluten Free On a Shoestring blog and got super-inspired (like staying-up-until-midnight-on-my-computer inspired). Nicole was a laid-off lawyer who turned her gluten-free baking and cooking skills (developed because her son is a celiac) into a successful blog/cookbook enterprise.  Also, something funny: My boss unintentionally refers to celiacs as ‘Celtics’. As in, “He can’t eat wheat because he’s Celtic.” Do I correct her or not? Dilemma.

Anyway. Yesterday I made Nicole’s Cup4Cup DIY Flour Blend and used it in her Cream Cheese Buttermilk Biscuits.  I was able to find all the necessary ingredients for the flour at Woodman’s Grocery for relatively inexpensive. Fortunately, I already had a scale:

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Making both the flour and the biscuits in one go was time-consuming, but the results were worth it. Zach and I enjoyed the biscuits, slathered in butter and honey, with homemade chicken soup, and again this morning as egg and bacon breakfast sandwiches.

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Flour Blend:

Pros. Affordable ingredients (compared to premade gluten-free flour blends). Relatively easy-to-assemble. Combines xanthan gum with flour so that it doesn’t have to be added separately to recipes. Browns nicely and tastes good.

Cons. A lot ingredients, therefore a little fiddly. Not particularly nutritious.

Consensus. I will definitely use this as my go-to gluten-free flour (unless something better comes along). This is the first DIY gluten-free flour blend I have attempted, and I’m very pleased with the resulting product.

Biscuits:

Pros. Flavor almost identical to canned biscuits (which I love). Light and flaky. Nicely browned. Quick to make. Keeps overnight well (I froze some but I haven’t tried them yet).

Cons. Right out of the oven, these were gummy. They had a far better texture after they’d come to room temperature. The recipe said to roll the dough to 1/4″ thickness, but that yielded a very thin biscuit. I’m going to roll thicker next time. The assembly was also a little fussy.

Consensus. These tasted scrumptious and if they keep in the freezer well (I see no reason why they wouldn’t) I plan on making them frequently.

Also – Zach and I put shelves above our sink last night!

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And I bought a hanging flower basket. I’m beginning to feel at home in our little apartment – it’s been a month since we moved here as of Saturday.

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Five Running Tips

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I’ve been running intermittently for a year and a half now and I’ve learned a few things along the way. While I may be incredibly slow (I average a ten minute mile) and quite sporadic (I usually take the entire winter off because Iowa/Wisconsin winters are hella cold), at least I’m relatable. Hopefully my tips will reach out to those people who don’t know what energy gel is and could never imagine running a marathon (I’m with you).

1. Decide what distance feels good for you and don’t compare yourself with others. I like to run 5K (about three miles) at the most. Sometimes I get so discouraged by friends who run 10+ miles that I give up on myself. I quit running. My theory is this: running = good; not running = bad. Even if it’s just one mile – even if it’s just the length of one song – get out there.

2. Talk to other runners to get help and encouragement. I started running because I had a boss who did. She introduced me to barefoot shoes, told me it was okay to run a mile that took longer than ten minutes, and helped me see how running can help you get out in nature and learn about your community. I probably wouldn’t have learned these things from a magazine or blog. Try to develop some runner relationships.

3. Choose a do-able race and do it! Six months after I started running I signed up for a 5K race with a friend. The next summer, I ran the Bix. It was super-fun to actually complete a race and participate with hundreds of other runners. I did sign up for one other race, but I got lost on my way there and ended up crying in an alley in my car as the race started. And they never refunded my entry fee. So try not to do that.

4. Buy yourself some decent clothes. When I first started running, I didn’t believe in myself enough to actually spend money on “running” clothes. So I ran in old tennis shoes, ratty men’s sweatpants, and wife-beaters. Nothing wrong with that. But my confidence and excitement about running improved immensely when I bought my first pair of barefoot running shoes, a few sassy running tees, and some cute shorts. I find some things at Goodwill and other stuff for cheap at places like TJ Maxx and Marshalls. It’s not necessary to drop hundreds of dollars at Lady Foot Locker or The Nike Store. Although that would be fun.

5. Download MapMyRun. If you have a smartphone (and you like to run with it), download the free app MapMyRun. I love this app. It tells you how far you’ve run and what your pace is, and it creates a GPS map of your route. If it weren’t for this app, I probably wouldn’t run. I like to continuously be able to check my progress.

Now go for a run! You might like it more than you expect.

Recipe: Gluten-Free Monster Ice Cream Bars

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I made these chewy, crunchy, M&M-speckled cookies for my husband’s family the first time they visited (while Zach and I were still dating) and it was love at first bite. Most wheat-eaters avoid gluten-free treats for good reason: They usual don’t compare to regular baked goods.

However, these monster cookies are a notable exception. They’re made with just oats (you can buy gluten-free oats if your allergy is severe), held together with butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and eggs, and topped with colorful candies. No one would guess that they don’t contain flour, but you don’t have to buy any special ingredients to make them either. Win!

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I usually keep homemade cookies in the freezer during the summer to keep them from getting soggy, and this summer I went one step further: I sandwiched vanilla ice cream between a couple monster cookies. The resulting sandwich was somehow better than the sum of its parts. The soft give of cold, creamy vanilla highlights the chewy, vanilla-y goodness of the cookie, with the awesomeness of peanut butter and the occasional crisp-shelled M&M thrown in for good measure. Make a batch of these treats and keep them in your freezer! Your summer will thank you.

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Gluten-Free Monster Ice Cream Bars

Makes twenty 2 1/2″ wide sandwiches

Ingredients:

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 1/2 cups old-fashioned or quick oats (not instant)

2 teaspoons baking soda

12 oz. bag M&Ms

Vanilla ice cream

To Make:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat together peanut butter, butter, and both sugars in a stand mixer (or by hand, if you don’t have a mixer) until creamy and well blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then vanilla.

2. Measure oats and baking soda into peanut butter mixture. Stir together until well-combined. Spoon dough by the heaping-tablespoonful onto cookie sheets (about 6 cookies per sheet). Press 4-5 M&Ms into each cookie.

3. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned and set in the center. Let cool on cookie sheets completely. Pair cookies up according to size and shape for sandwiches, then freeze until firm (about three hours).

4. To assemble sandwiches, remove cookies and ice cream from freezer and let sit for 10 minutes. Using a butter knife or an offset spatula, spread about 1/4 cup softened ice cream onto the wrong side of one cookie and top with another cookie. Wrap finished sandwiches in foil or plastic wrap and store in freezer. Enjoy anytime! They keep in the freezer for two months.

Dinner With Zach: 07.22.13

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For dinner yesterday, I layered a bunch of leftovers in our Fiestaware bowls and threw them in the oven to reheat (Zach and I are trying out living without a microwave). I was attempting to copy Chipotle and …it worked! Deliciousness.

-Leftover brown rice

-Rinsed canned black beans

-Leftover grilled chicken

-Sauteed bell peppers + onions

-Pepperjack cheese, sour cream, and salsa verde

How have you creatively re-worked leftovers recently?

Dinner with the Siblings: 07.18.13

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My husband and I began having his younger siblings over for dinner on Thursdays and in the course of two weeks it’s already become a wonderful tradition. I bike home from work at 3:00 and lazily begin pulling together a meal that makes it to the table around 7:00. We watch YouTube videos, laugh loudly, and sit around the kitchen table until late, enjoying the fact that we have our own place and we can stay up as late as we want.

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This week I made roast chicken from my current favorite cookbook, Fresh & Easy: What to Cook and How to Cook It. It was easy for how special-occasion-ish it looked. I keep accidentally telling my family about food-related books with suggestive titles. It started with the-later-renamed Confections of a Closet Master Baker (say it out loud). Somehow I missed the implications of Fresh and Easy. Now I think I will try to find similar titles on purpose.

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Something I often do when serving a meal to my husband and a group of friends is make a wheat-free main dish and wheat sides….Zach eats just the main dish and everyone else gets a “complete” meal. I made biscuits and strawberry cake to go with this dinner, and Zach just loaded up on chicken and vegetables. As long as he gets some kind of meat, he’s fine, so everyone’s happy! Including me, picking streusel topping of this delicious cake.

Seen At Work Today: 07.17.13

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My husband is from Wisconsin, and we met while he was attending chiropractic college in my home state of Iowa. After getting married last month, we moved to Wisconsin so that he could begin work. Last week I got a new job here at a cupcake bakery-cafe. It’s a similar job to the last three I’ve worked, but I still have things to learn and experience to gain. Today I played photographer for the bakery’s Facebook and enjoyed capturing all the buttercream, cake crumbs, and fresh food on film. I’m sure this will happen again as new things are being created at the cafe every day.

Dinner With Zach: Sweet Corn with Cheesy Butter and Fancy Chicken Salads

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My husband doesn’t love salads, but I think that’s because good salads need to be fussed over and I’m often too impatient. Tonight, however, I tried to fuss. I also made our simple corn-on-the-cob extra-fancy by broiling it and slathering it with a spicy parmesan butter.

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The corn recipe is from Fresh and Easy: What to Cook and How to Eat It. This is a brilliant and beautiful cookbook that I highly recommend.

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I made homemade balsamic in a jar using this recipe from Emeril.

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Romaine + pan-fried chicken tenders + toasted almonds + cranberries + Parmesan = fancy salad!

Also…everyone looks funny while eating corn-on-the-cob.

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