Sunday, December 26, 2010

GF Spritz Cookies and Sarah's Sorghum-Millet All-Purpose Flour Blend

So how has your Christmas season been?  We are having a great time with family and friends.  We went to visit family on Thursday evening to celebrate Christmas as well as Cassie's and Nathan's birthdays.  I baked all day Friday, preparing a variety of GF cookies for Christmas Day, and then we had some friends and family over for brunch (Baked Oatmeal, scrambled eggs, bacon, and all-natural breakfast sausage) and dinner (roast beef, mashed potatoes, carrots, gravy) on Christmas.  All of my cookies received great feedback, so I thought I'd share some of what I have done.

Please ignore the plastic wrap in the corner.  I just unwrapped this plate to take the picture.  I also had to put some chocolate-containing cookies in a baggie (seen peeking out from under the gingerbread cookie) to protect my dad from the chocolate.

Chuck's favorite was the Spritz Cookies.  First I made a batch using this recipe from Gluten Free Homemaker.  They were good but they had the typical texture and flavor of cookies made with white rice flour (I really don't like white rice flour.).  I adjusted the recipe to make it less gritty and crumbly, and more like the texture and flavor I remember from when I used to make gluten-filled ones (also added whole grains).  I don't know if I will be adjusting this recipe further to make it lower-carb.  We really liked it the way it was, and I'm not sure that the higher protein flours I use (blanched almond flour and coconut flour) would provide the right texture dough to use in the spritz gun.  I will have to think about it.  However, I am not completely anti-carbs.  I just try to limit how much we have, so in moderation I think it's ok.

Then I made Gingerbread Cookies using a recipe I found at Only Sometimes Clever.  I mostly stuck to her version since I usually try to make the original once before I start making changes.  However, I did substitute teff flour for the amaranth since I love teff flour and hate amaranth, and also because I think the color and flavor of teff flour really goes with molasses and gingerbread.  I used Authentic Foods Brown Rice Flour Superfine (I found it at Wegmans), which doesn't give baked goods the gritty texture usually associated with brown rice flour.  I also had to increase the liquid in the recipe by about 1/4 cup, which I did gradually, 1 Tbs at a time.  Please note if you make these cookies, the dough really dries out fast, so make sure you cover the dough that is waiting to be rolled out as you are working with other dough.  If it does dry out, you can add 1 Tbs. of water and knead it in.  We really liked these cookies.  I will definitely make these again, though I will be trying to change the recipe to be more "carb-friendly."   

You may note that I didn't decorate my gingerbread cookies.  What can I say?  I'm a minimalist when it comes to cookies.  I don't really like frosting (I make it for the benefit of those who do), and I don't feel the need for candies and extra sugars on cookies.  I did let my kids decorate cookies, but by the time I got to the gingerbread ones, the kids had lost interest in baking and were on to more "fun" things!  LOL!  If I could find my gingerbread boy cookie cutter, the kids and I might have decided to add eyes and things, but I couldn't, so we didn't!  If you want to decorate your gingerbread cookies, by all means, please do!

I made a batch of cookies using a Kinnikinnick cookie mix.  I dipped them in cinnamon-sugar for the kids.  They were ok, though not as good as the from-scratch cookies I made.

I made a couple of batches of my Raspberry Bars Supreme, which turned out great.

Lastly I made several batches of Christmas Wreath Cookies that my grandmother always used to make.  My sister had mentioned to me that she was making them, and I was very glad to get the recipe from her since I had been thinking of them myself as memories from childhood Christmases had been coming to mind.  Again, definitely not low-carb and not really able to be made in that way.  However, we don't usually eat a lot of cookies, so it's ok for special occasions.

I will include my recipe for GF Spritz Cookies here now, and I'll share the recipes for several other cookies some time soon.  Enjoy!

GF Spritz Cookies
2/3 c. sugar
1 c. non-hydrogenated shortening* (I filled the cup mostly with shortening and then finished filling it with
     Earth Balance baking sticks or ghee to get a buttery taste without casein)
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. almond extract (or add'l vanilla)**
a few drops red or green food coloring (optional)
2 c. Sarah's Sorghum-Millet All-Purpose Flour Blend (see below)
3/4 t. xanthan gum
1/2 t. salt
sugar sprinkles (optional)

Preheat your oven to 375 F.  Cream the sugar and shortening, then add the egg, vanilla extract, almond extract, and food coloring, mixing well.  Mix in the dry ingredients well.  Spoon the dough into your spritz gun.  Spritz the cookies onto your cool, ungreased cookie sheet.  (These cookies don't really spread, so don't worry about having to space them far apart from each other.)  If you want to add sprinkles to your cookies, sprinkle them on and gently, lightly press them onto the cookies.  Bake for 6-8 minutes, just until the edges turn slightly golden.

*I never use Crisco!  I use non-hydrogenated shortening.  There are several brands out there.  I have used Spectrum and Tropical Traditions, each with equally good results.  They are much better for you than the hydrogenated shortenings that are so popular.  If you can have dairy, you can use butter instead of shortening and margarine.  Ghee will also give a butter flavor because it is clarified butter, but it is lactose and casein free.  It's expensive, so I mix it with shortening.

**One variation my husband especially liked was my red spritz cookies.  Instead of using the almond extract, I used 1/4 t. peppermint oil.  I'm thinking about melting some dairy-free chocolate chips and dipping some of these halfway into the melted chocolate!  mmmm!

Sarah's Sorghum-Millet All-Purpose Flour Blend

I know I have mentioned my sister, Sarah, before.  I got this recipe from her.  She uses it for pretty much everything, now, instead of the previous blend she had given me that I shared before.  She doubles or triples this recipe and stores it in gallon-sized ziploc bags.

3 c. sorghum flour
1 c. millet flour
1 1/3 c. potato starch
2/3 c. tapioca starch

On Monday we'll be traveling to Chattanooga, Tennessee to go to a teen conference called, The Ramp. Hubby and I are going with our church youth group--we're chaperones!  I will have to do some baking and shopping to prepare for that over the next couple of days.  Believe me, it's not gonna be easy going on a 5-day trip with 3 kids and myself needing to eat gluten free and mostly dairy free!  My brother-in-law is being gracious and will be house-sitting and will take care of our beloved dog and cats.  We are so blessed!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Raspberry Bars Supreme

Today has been a good day for me.  I spent time preparing for a Bible study that my husband and I do, then I baked these delicious raspberry bars that received rave reviews!  Before I share my recipe, let me say that I have been reading 1,000 Gluten Free Recipes by Carol Fenster.  I haven't tried very many of her recipes, yet, but I do plan on trying some.  I did, however, make her Raspberry Bars, which were good, but very rich and sweet for my taste.  Everyone loved them, but you know me.  I have made it my goal to cut down on the starches and carbs in my life for several reasons:
     1.  They make me gain weight.
     2.  Too many simple carbs and starches in your diet may lead to Diabetes.
     3.  I have lots of friends and relatives who have Diabetes and can't eat my GF Recipes unless they are 
     4.  I know there are a lot of people out there who have both Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance and
          Diabetes.  They are discouraged because they can't eat most of the GF recipes and goodies out there.
     5.  I want to train my children to eat healthy and set them up for a healthy adult life.
I want to create recipes that everyone can enjoy!  Tasty treats that make people want to come back for more, that are still healthy.

Anyway, so I tried Carol's Raspberry Bars.  They tasted good, but it seems that most of her recipes call for her flour blend, which is more starch than it is flour, and this recipe is no exception.  I decided to make my own version, and I think I've finally arrived at a delicious bar that everyone loves.  In fact, one of my toughest critics came back asking for more!

On a side note, sadly the pomegranates I posted about the other day did not make it to another salad that I could document and photograph a recipe of to share.  We ate up all the pomegranate seeds plain and have decided that we simply must make another trip to Wegmans to purchase more!  I'm sure I will post a recipe at some time in the future, perhaps when the initial novelty of eating them straight wears off, and we have the patience to wait for me to actually make something with them!

Please bear with my picture taking skills.  I know that the picture below doesn't do these bars justice, but until I am able to take a photography class or something...

Without further ado, here is my latest recipe:

Raspberry Bars Supreme
2 c. blanched almond flour--or try almond meal or even just processing almonds in your processor with the
       dates--if you try processing them, let us know how it works out for you by posting a comment
8 pitted Deglet dates
1/2 c. melted coconut oil
1/4 c. honey or agave nectar--agave nectar is lower on the glycemic index
1 t. vanilla--make sure it's GF
2 1/2 c. GF whole rolled oats--I use Bob's Red Mill
3/4 t. dried lemon zest/peel--or zest a lemon yourself, not sure how much fresh zest to use
1/2 t. sea salt

1 1/3 c. raspberry preserves (I like the Polaner All Fruit, or Crofter's)
3/4 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. unsweetened shredded dried coconut
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips* (Ghirardelli makes DF semi-sweet chips, or use Enjoy Life DF, GF, SF
      semi-sweet chocolate chips)

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Grease a 9x13 pan, line with parchment paper (leaving a little paper overlapping the ends of the pan), and lightly grease the parchment paper.  Process the almond flour and dates in your food processor until the dates are finely chopped and processed into the flour, making sure not to process long enough to turn the flour into almond butter.  In a small bowl, whisk the oil, honey, and vanilla.  In the bowl of your stand mixer, pour your oats, lemon zest, and salt and start mixing.  As they are mixing, add the almond flour mixture and the oil mixture.  Mix until everything is well incorporated.

Gently press half, or slightly more than half, of the mixture into the bottom of your prepared baking pan.  Then evenly spread the raspberry preserves on top of the bottom layer.

Add the chopped walnuts and shredded coconut to the remaining mixture that is still in your mixing bowl.  Mix until it is well incorporated.  Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the raspberry preserves layer in your baking dish and gently pat it down.  Sprinkle on the chocolate chips and pat down into the topping.

Bake at 375 F for 30-35 minutes, or until the topping is golden.  Remove pan from oven and place on a cooling rack.  Cool in pan.  Remove from the pan after cooled or mostly cooled by gently lifting on the parchment paper at either end of the pan.  Place back on cooling rack if not completely cooled.  Cut into bars after completely cooled.  OR, if you're like my family, you can eat this warm.  It is harder to cut and crumbles a little more, but it's very yummy!

*This got rave reviews.  Everyone loved the bars with the chocolate, though a few commented that the chocolate was unnecessary--the bars would be just as good without!

Final Notes and Giveaways:
One of my favorite GF recipe site is  I love looking at Kelly's recipes and photos.  Everything looks so good, and she uses very little refined sugars and mostly high-protein flours, like almond flour and coconut flour, which I love to use myself.  Kelly recently published her second cookbook, The Spunky Coconut Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts.  While I have not personally looked at this book or tried very many of her recipes, rather just drooling over them and gathering ideas (I'm too busy to spend a whole lot of time baking right now), I think this cookbook would be really great for someone who has to eat GF and low-carb.

That said, Shirley, over at Gluten Free Easily, another great recipe site, is hosting a free giveaway for this very cookbook.  Click here to learn how to enter the giveaway!

Hope you all have a wonderful week!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pomegranates for Dinner Tonight

Tonight was really a low-key night for us.  We had a very busy weekend, doing balloons and face painting for Andrew's Good News Christmas Party at Davis College yesterday.  We always enjoy working with AGN and had a lot of fun ministering to the local community.  However, my body is usually sore and just tired after a long evening (or day) of face painting, so I just didn't have the energy to do anything ornate or complicated for dinner tonight.  After church today I had to run some errands, so by the time I got home today it was almost 4 pm!  The kids were gracious and helped out with dinner.  Elijah and Cassie made hamburgers, while Nathan prepared a couple of pomegranates we bought at Wegmans Friday morning.  I had already washed and spun dried the romaine lettuce and spinach Friday afternoon, so that was done and waiting to be made into the beautiful but simple salad I had planned for it...

My grandfather is Greek.  I spent a ton of time with my grandma and grandpa when I was growing up, meaning that I also spent time with and made friends with some of grandpa's Greek friends' children.  These friends had a local Greek restaurant and spent a lot of time cooking ethnic Greek food.  I remember them bringing Greek foods over to my grandpa because they knew he appreciated and missed them.  I recall one time my friend brought over a pomegranate to his house when her mom was visiting my grandparents.  She was just eating the seeds and exclaiming how wonderful it tasted.  I had never seen a pomegranate before and asked her what it was that she was eating.  The only time I had ever heard of the pomegranate was in a Greek myth book that I loved to read, a story about Persephone and Hades.  Anyway, I was very curious about this fruit, and my friend could not believe I had never seen or tasted one before.  She offered me a seed, but when I tasted it I thought it was the most tart, sour-tasting fruit I had ever tried.

I have not been able to ignore the fact that pomegranate juice has become all the rage now.  It's everywhere.  My children are always begging to try new fruits and vegetables, and this past Friday morning was no exception.  Cassie and Nathan were with me at the store and saw the pomegranates displayed by the door.  They instantly rushed over to the mountain of red fruits, like bugs to a bug zapper.  "Oh, mom, we've NEVER TRIED these before!  PLEASE!!  They're ONLY $2 EACH.  They're on SALE!  PLEEEASE!"  Well, how can I say no to my children who are begging to eat something healthy?  Besides, I have tried some juice drinks with pomegranate juice in them over the last couple of years, and they weren't bad.  I sent Nathan over to a Wegmans employee to ask how to tell if a pomegranate is ripe.  I gotta say, I love Wegmans customer service.  A very knowledgeable and helpful woman came over with him and proceeded to explain the whole process to us in very great detail, helping us pick out a couple of fruits.  She then explained the best way to extract the juicy seeds, several times.  She also told me about a salad she planned on making that night with the seeds.  Then she went into the back room to print off a copy of instructions they have that explain the process of getting the seeds out and how to freeze them (I didn't ask her to do that, she offered and was gone before I had time to even think about whether or not it was necessary.), leaving me standing there thinking about the salad she was going to be making, how good it suddenly sounded to me, and what else I would add to the salad if it were me making it.

I brought home my stash of pomegranates, and other salad goodies, and quickly hid them in the produce drawer in the fridge without a word (out of sight, out of mind, right?), hoping that the kids would forget about the pomegranates until I could make the salad.  (My vultures children have a knack of inhaling food that they like before I have had a chance to enjoy it or use it in a recipe--I'm sure you can't relate, right?!)  They did ask once, but I told them they would have to wait until the salad.

Anyway, tonight was the night for our beautiful salad.  Nathan followed the directions for cleaning the seeds out of the pomegranate skin, Elijah peeled and sectioned several clementines, I had already rinsed and spun the lettuce and spinach, and Elijah sliced some canned black olives.  Cassie and Elijah made some hamburgers, using a special blend of spices that Elijah made up tonight. 

I didn't even try tasting the pomegranate seeds until they were on the salad because I was afraid they would be sour and would taint my opinion of the salad before I even tried it.  Anyway, the salad was delicious.  I loved the pomegranate so much that after I ate my salad Elijah and I sat and ate a couple of handfuls of pomegranate seeds.  They were sweet and juicy and delicious, the highlight of tonight's meal (IMHO--In My Humble Opinion).  I will be making a similar salad tomorrow but will be adding toasted walnuts.  I will take a picture and post it tomorrow evening if all goes according to plan.

I am also working on a recipe for raspberry bars.  I have it almost perfected and will post about it soon.  I might make a batch of them tomorrow for a Girl Scout Christmas party.  We'll see.  I still have to help Moriah dip some spoons into melted chocolate chips and chopped/crushed candy canes for her secret santa gift to one of the girls in her troop.  Then I have to make a veggie platter.  It would be nice to bake something GF, though, since all the other girls will be eating cookies and such.  I'll have to see how my morning goes.  I'll have to let you all know what I end up doing, if it's blog-worthy.

I'll talk to you soon.  Have a blessed evening.