Archive for September, 2010

Microwave Baked Apples

    The SOS Kitchen Challenge ingredient for September is apples.  There are so many varieties of apples in the market right now. Choose your favorite or one of the weekly specials.  Usually I go for Golden Delicious but the Pink Lady variety is relatively new and entirely wonderful.  Ricki at Diet, Dessert and Dogs and Kim at Affairs of Living.  Be sure to check out the SOS Kitchen Challenge for September site for lots of other healthy recipe submissions by other bloggers.

    This is a naturally gluten-free treat that Don and I have enjoyed over the years. It began as apple pie with crust, canned pie-sliced apples, and lots of sugar, raisins, and cinnamon. The recipe morphed into baked apples after we received a set of individual ceramic baking dishes and decided that as a regular dessert it was better not to have all of that crust.
    After a while those convenient water-packed pie–sliced apples were no longer available so we alternated between baked apples from scratch or baked apples from pie filling enhanced with raisins and more cinnamon. The high-fructose-corn-syrup in pie filing always tasted like glue to me so I only ate baked apples when we used fresh apples.
    We began to experiment with the current recipe about ten years ago – while we were still living in the country. It was there that we settled on this mix of fresh, partially peeled apples, no-cal sweetener (I really was sneaky about the switchover), plenty of cinnamon, good vanilla to enhance the fruit flavor, and raisins. I always liked raisins. But no one I’ve ever known likes them as much as Don. His motto is ‘too many raisins is not enough’ – there is a song that goes something like that but it is not really about raisins.
    When we started using the microwave to cook in we switched from the ceramic bowls to inexpensive microwave-safe glass bowls so we prepare, bake, and serve all in the same easy-clean dishes.

Individual Baked Apple Desserts
1 apple per serving
1-2 tablespoons seedless raisins per serving
1 packet Truvia per serving (this is equivalent of 2 teaspoons of sugar)
Cinnamon to taste
About 6 drops of vanilla per serving

    Start with freshly washed and dried apples. Quarter, seed, and peel or not peel to your preference. I like a little more peeling and Don likes less. Cut each quarter into small bites and place a cut up apple in each microwavable serving dish.

A Quick and Easy Preparation

A Quick and Easy Preparation

    Add the raisins – here Don likes more and I like less. Then sprinkle the Truvia crystals over the fruit. Shake some cinnamon on top of the crystals and add the drops of vanilla. Stir to distribute then raisins and seasoning. Add some more cinnamon – almost always.
    Place the desserts in the microwave and set the timer for two minutes. Stir and cook for another minute. The apples will have started releasing juice and getting tender. The cinnamon, sweetener, vanilla, and apple juice are blending into a delectable coating for the apples and raisins. Microwave the mixture for one more minute. Remove the desserts to a rack and cover until somewhat cool. Right out of the microwave it will burn your tongue and that is not fun.

Baked and Ready to Serve

Baked and Ready to Serve

    This dessert is really good plain. The tart bites of apple with the sweet bits of raisin do not need embellishment. Top with a handful of chopped walnuts and you have breakfast.
    A tiny bit of fresh sweet cream, whipped cream, ice cream, full fat coconut milk, or a non-dairy frozen dessert makes an acceptable topping. One of those frozen-synthetic-low-fat-imitation-whipped-toppings is an insult to a good apple but if that is what rocks the boat for someone you love then you keep a tub of it in the freezer for them.
    Apples are in season and it is time to enjoy them!

Gretchen (Mom)

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Gluten-Free at Carrabba’s in San Antonio

    Don and I were in San Antonio last weekend to attend the graduation of granddaughter Alisha from basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. We decided to arrive the night before because the ceremony was early on a Friday, long drive from Georgetown, rush hour traffic, unfamiliar with the area, etc, etc.
    I had been thinking recently about Mama Mandola’s Chicken Soup and happily Carrabba’s Italian Grill  was not that far on I-10 west at the De Zavala Exit. We were hungry and arrived in time to be the first ones in the door for dinner.
    The gluten-free menu is presented separately from the regular menu; it is nicely bound and is not a sheet of computer printout from the website! 🙂
    We both ordered the chicken soup. Don had his with the pasta added and I had mine gluten-free. This is a soup with rich broth and big chunks of chicken and vegetables so there is no way I could feel deprived. For my entree I had one of my favorite salads topped with grilled chicken and Don ordered his usual pasta. Oh, and he also had the bread hot out of the oven.
    Carrabba’s has a garlic-herb mixture with olive oil that turns ordinary bread into magic-for-your-taste-buds. There was a time when l would occasionally ‘treat’ myself to a small piece of bread dredged in that magic knowing full well there was a price to pay – but no more. However I was definitely wishing that I had tucked a slice of Udi’s into my purse before leaving the house that morning.
    We chatted a bit with the manager (whose name I neglected to write down) and I told him of my regret that I had not brought some of Udi’s bread. He was very sympathetic and said that until Carrabba’s has bread that I should feel free to bring my own.
    He also mentioned that currently in development is a gluten-free grill baste to replace their current grill baste which must be omitted when preparing a gluten-free meal. I had always assumed that this was simply a cosmetic touch but was informed that it is to impart their distinctive blend of seasoning.
    So I am very happy and even more impressed with the consideration of Carrabba’s management for the needs of their customers!

Separate GF menu! Appetizers! Entrees! Salads! Soups! Dessert!
GF grill baste in development!
San Antonio
(210) 694-4191
12507 I-10 West
San Antonio, TX 78230
Find your nearest Carrabba’s here -> Locations

Gretchen (Mom)

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Flax Bread with Variations

   Note: Jessica Meyer at ATX Gluten Free  is featuring Austin area gluten-free bloggers during the month of September. This week it is The Gluten-Free Edge  with Mom and Rita each telling the stories of our gluten-free journeys. As I mentioned back in April, Jessica provides an excellent service by highlighting gluten free options in Austin. In addition she is a personal chef who generously posts some of her tasty gluten-free recipes!

    Rita initially called this flax bread recipe to my attention. It is not the bread from your pre-gluten-free past because you probably never had anything exactly like this. But it is very tasty, satisfying and I keep baking some nearly every week. It goes together as fast as or maybe even faster than cornbread. You can find the original recipe by Kiva Rose at The Medicine Woman’s Roots.

Flax Bread Cooling

Flax Bread Cooling

    The ‘flours’ in this bread are ground flax seeds and nut meal so consequently it has a very coarse texture (fiber is good, right?). I have baked it in muffin top pans, extra-large muffin pans, a pie pan, and even a brownie pan. The batter spreads easily and bakes quickly. In the flat pans it can bake in 12 minutes.

Preparing Flat Flax Bread

Preparing Flat Flax Bread

    It tastes good toasted!

Flat Pieces Fit in the Toaster

Flat Pieces Fit in the Toaster

    The first time I made these with melted Earth Balance for the fat and a whole teaspoon of salt. They were so buttery tasting they brought to mind the old children’s story where the tigers chase each other around in circles for so long that they turn into a puddle of butter.

   So now I use less salt and substitute olive oil as the fat. You can improvise here with your own favorite herbs and spices. I keep thinking about making a sweet version but each time I go right for the savory. The garlic and oregano version reminds me of pre-gluten-free garlic bread. The sage and onion version are wonderful with soup and/or salad. Cumin and chili powder is another combination that I want to try.

    My current favorite is to make them in the Texas size muffin pans where they pop out like perfectly formed biscuits. Then I split one and fill it with a spoon of peanut butter or a small slice of cheddar. If I have time consuming errands on my to-do list I sometimes tuck one of these in my purse for a homemade version of ‘emergency food’.

Biscuit with Melting Cheese

Biscuit with Melting Cheese

Flax Bread with Variations – 6 servings
Dry Mixture:
2/3 cup ground flax seed
1/3 cup nut meal (Bob’s Red Mill almond or hazelnut both give good results)
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1/2-1 tsp. salt

Seasonings:
1 tsp. sage
1/4 tsp. onion powder
OR
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Liquid:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup water + 2 Tbsp.

Measure the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add your choice of seasoning or leave plain.

Beat the 2 eggs together with the olive oil and water. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture in the mixing bowl.

Set the oven to 350*F.

Pour the batter into your choice of pan or divide into six muffins of about 1/4 cup batter each.

Bake for 12 minutes for muffins or 15-18 minutes for a small bread pan or pie plate. I usually have one biscuit warm and the rest go in the freezer to use throughout the week.

Remember to drink plenty of liquid!

Mom (Gretchen)

Happy Birthday to Rita’s Aunt Mandie aka my Baby Sister in Bryan, Texas!

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S’moreables Graham Style Crackers

    Clara and I often trade food like a couple of grade school kids at lunch. Today I brought her an oat-based brownie that I had baked from a recipe in the cookbook she loaned me. Clara brought me a sample of Kinnikinnick brand S’moreables Graham Style Crackers that she discovered at our local HEB grocery store. Clara likes her graham crackers with a cup of tea. Tea is good but when I got home with these treats I grabbed for the peanut butter. S’mores will have to wait although not for long. The bi-weekly grocery shopping trip is this weekend.

    Aside from that oat-based brownie experiment I have stayed with several of my favorite recipes the last few weeks. Ricki’s savory chickpea-artichoke salad has been a standby for lunches (it is just as good cold as it is warm). Breakfast often features chia seed pudding with fruit or a flax-meal-nut-meal biscuit (oops, that should be my next post; I’ve made it about six times recently). The local food pantry reorganization has been occupying most of my thoughts and so my time spent in the kitchen has been just enough to keep me adequately supplied with gluten-free necessities.

    The storms swirling through Central Texas left a wide path of destruction, most of it from flooding caused by 14 inches of rain falling in a very short period of time. Tuesday afternoon when it started there were snails crawling all up the sides of our house and on the window screens. Critters on the move definitely give you a weird feeling of impending disaster. Homes that were hip deep in water at 2:00 AM were clear of flood water by daylight. And that is when the massive cleanup began. Our house is far enough from the creeks that we did not flood so we were fortunate and grateful.

Gretchen (Mom)

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A European Gluten-Free Adventure – 2010

Note: This is a guest post from my dear friend Clara Putnam. She and daughter Jenna are another gluten-free mother and daughter team. This is a chronicle of the trip that Clara, husband Steve, and Jenna made to Europe to visit son/brother Eric.
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    Last spring, we decided we would make the trip to Germany to visit our son, Eric, who is stationed with the Air Force at Ramstein AFB. This was our first international travel ever, so we did have concerns about being able to find gluten-free foods during our trip. We convinced ourselves that if nothing else, we could happily subsist on baked potatoes and salads for the 10-day trip. I even had the fleeting thought that maybe I could go to Europe and lose weight – what a great deal that would be!

Ramstein Air Force Base - Germany

Ramstein Air Force Base - Germany

    We were very encouraged and excited when we discovered that the airline had gluten-free meals as an option. In reality, however, the meals were disappointing and very bland in flavor. On the trip over (we actually traveled in mid-July), we were served a tuna steak (problem No. 1; neither daughter Jenna nor I are fish fans), tiny salad, some fruit and the obligatory rice cake. (I gladly gave up my rice cake to the very unhappy 2-year-old across the aisle from me; on both of our flights, they served the specially requested trays before the general diet trays.) Breakfast on that flight was equally unimpressive: I think it was an attempt at a ranchero-style omelet. I can’t remember what else was offered for breakfast.

    Needless to say, Jenna and I were starving upon our arrival in Frankfurt! Fortunately, Eric knew the way to the airport McDonald’s for some eggs & coffee. Jenna says it was the best bacon she’s ever had.

    Our first morning at the hotel, we were very pleased/relieved to find that the breakfast offerings were varied, and we had no trouble eating gluten-free. There were eggs, meats, cheeses and fresh fruits every day, not to mention the best coffee! We were also able to eat the granola they offered without any gluten issues arising – it was delicious!

    During our time in Europe, we were food wimps – that is to say, not very adventurous. Our first evening in Ramstein, Eric took us to a very nice food stand in the village. I was determined to have “real” bratwurst and sauerkraut while in Germany. No sauerkraut was available at this stand, so I ordered just the bratwurst. It had some kind of hard, crouton-like coating. After the first couple of bites (which were delicious!!), I gave it up, knowing that I was flirting w/disaster.

    One evening, we stopped in at the airbase commissary and picked up some deli meats and cheeses and had a very pleasant picnic beside a pond on base. Eric introduced us to the Mexican Cantina in Einsiedlerhof, another village close to the base. It’s a very kitschy place that had delicious food and the most delightful waitstaff – they thoroughly enjoyed their tasks, and all spoke perfect English (the girl who brought our sodas even had a Midwestern accent!).

Jenna with Cantina Guy

Jenna with Cantina Guy

    One evening, we went to dinner with a friend of Eric’s to Big Emma’s. The single portions were enough to feed at least four people. I finally got my authentic bratwurst (without the crouton coating) and sauerkraut (which was delicious!!), but only ate about a fourth of the plateful. Eric took all our leftovers back to his dorm, where they were enjoyed by many others. Here’s a pic of Jenna’s turkey salad, which consisted of huge chunks of turkey on a bed of lettuce:

Jenna's Big Emma Turkey Salad

Jenna's Big Emma Turkey Salad

    On base, there is a Chili’s and a Macaroni Grill, both of which were safe for g-f selections.

    During a tour of Kaiserslautern, Eric introduced us to the wonder of the Turkish delight, the Döner sandwich – yumm!! This is a huge tortilla, filled with thinly sliced lamb, your choice of toppings, and a very tasty garlic sauce. Since one Döner is large enough for two, Jen and I opened up the tortilla and ate all the insides. Notice our teeny little forks. We indulged in a couple of these during our visit:

Wonderful Doner!!

Wonderful Doner!!

    We toured the local supermarket in Ramstein village, and were very impressed with the produce section – all the offerings were picture-perfect – quite a sight to behold compared to our so-so offerings lots of the time.

Produce Dept. at Ramstein Village Grocery Store

Produce Dept. at Ramstein Village Grocery Store

    We took a 2-day trip to Amsterdam. Directly across from our hotel was the Hard Rock Café, where we had a fun dinner thanks to our waitress, Emma. The next day, it was a challenge finding g-f breakfast fare. We were too early for cafes to be open. We passed several bakeries where beautiful pastries were being offered. The McDonald’s we found didn’t open until 10am for breakfast. We eventually waited for McDonald’s to open, tho the guys also enjoyed some bakery treats.

    After touring Rembrandt’s house, it was time for lunch. Across the street was a safe-looking café (I was paranoid about anything that mentioned “coffee house” in the name!). Jenna and I were hungry for breakfast food, since we had been cheated out of a really good breakfast that a.m., so we each got an egg plate – 3 fried eggs, ham, cheese and slaw.

Lunch across the street from Rembrandt's House

Lunch across the street from Rembrandt's House

    We had no idea how much food we were ordering, so we also ordered a bowl of potatoes. They were served w/a side of mayo! It was all wonderful too!

Wonderful potatoes to go with that lunch!

Wonderful potatoes to go with that lunch!

    We were fed a very forgettable gluten-free chicken dish on the flight back to Houston. It was O.K., tho, because we knew we’d soon be home. It was a very exhausting day back, but we brought many wonderful memories with us.

Clara, Jenna, Eric & Steve Putnam
Clara, Jenna, Eric & Steve Putnam

    And yes, I did lose weight while in Europe! I attribute this largely to the fact that we walked, walked, walked and then walked some more!

    My thanks to Jenna for her diligence in taking pictures – a very thorough chronicling of our vacation!

Clara & Family

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You Won’t Believe It’s Gluten-Free

    Playing with ingredients, dreaming up recipes, and trying to get that ‘just right’ texture is a fun kind of challenge for me and one that I greatly enjoy. But as Clara has reminded me on more than one occasion, some of you like to get in and out of the kitchen while still preparing good gluten-free food. The chemist-like experience of blending mixtures of flour does not thrill everyone.
    It does make sense to have a variety of gluten-free recipes to draw upon. and Rita completely agrees with this philosophy. Then Clara loaned me one of her favorite cookbooks, Rita brought over a bag of certified gluten-free oats, and a new round of recipe testing began.
    The book is You Won’t Believe It’s Gluten-Free by Roben Ryberg published in 2008. Her approach to simplification is single-grain recipes and she presents four basic ones to choose from; corn, potato, rice, and oats. We had the oatmeal so this past weekend we were off and running.

You Won't Believe It's Gluten-Free

You Won't Believe It's Gluten-Free

    We usually cut all of our test recipe ingredients in half because we just can’t eat all of our experiments. The first recipe we tried was for the oat-based pancakes. It was extremely helpful that Ms. Ryberg wrote the measurement for oat flour in cups and grams. Because of that we were able to weigh out the rolled oats and run them through the blender to make the correct amount of oat flour. These pancakes were so close to our old family stand-by, Kiddies’ Favorite Pancakes, which I created for them when they were toddlers that it was amazing.

Oat Flour Pancakes

Oat Flour Pancakes

    The next recipe attempt was a little more ambitious – the oat-based Carrot Cake. I love a good carrot cake and the carrots and apple juice were already in the house, so no extra trip to the grocery store wasa needed. Since the recipe was for a single layer I made the whole recipe. Plus carrot cake begs for raisins and I added 1/4 cup of raisins. Usually I make cupcakes rather than a cake layer and attending to the cautionary note regarding ‘slightly crumbly ‘I added a little more xanthan as suggested. Rita nominated this cake to be our standard carrot cake recipe for the future!
    You Won’t Believe It’s Gluten-Free is a keeper and before I return this one to Clara (thank you so much for sharing) I will purchase one of my own.

Gretchen (Mom) and Rita

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