“Our” Cake

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Commercial Easter Inspired Chocolate Cake

Here it is as promised… the cake both myself and my friend are making this weekend… we can all thank Pinterest for our common inspiration!

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When I saw I didn’t have enough frosting for the center of the cake, a new idea came to mind.  I could use marshmallow fluff to bring the Peeps inside the cake.  When the grocery store was out of marshmallow fluff – I made some of my own from marshmallows (ok, not exactly home-made).  Instead of corn syrup (as most sites suggest), I used a few tablespoons of sunflower spread – our butter alternative.  Thanks to the nice grocery store man who gave me the suggestion (he could tell from the look on my face I wanted a product they didn’t have).

 

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Here’s my chocolate cake with its marshmallow center.  And yeah the marshmallow is chocolate. I folded some of the cake into it (the top part I cut off when leveling). Nothing goes to waste here, especially not chocolate!

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“home-made” fluff

P.S. I instantly remembered why hate making rice crispy treats – melted marshmallow is a sticky pain in the ass!

 

 

You remember when I made the baby shower cupcakes?  Well, I froze the left over blue icing, which was perfect for frosting this colorful cake.  I simple defrosted it in the refrigerator and set it out at room temp for a couple hours.  Then whipped it back into the right consistency.

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I don’t care for Peeps, but nothing says Easter like a Peep.  To add more Easter fun, I dyed coconut green (shake in a plastic bag with a few drops of food coloring).  Then topped the grass with speckled coconut M&Ms and TaDa!

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When Two Great Minds Think Alike

So today I started explaining to a close friend the cake I wanted to make for a dinner party tomorrow night.  I was describing the layers and the outside decoration and then she said, “I’m sending you a picture of the cake I’m making this weekend.”  And I kid you not – it was my cake!  Ok, well her cake.  Our cake?

When you’re on the same wave-length as someone else, it’s pretty exciting and encouraging.  It affirms why you’re friends.  If you were second guessing yourself before, no need to now.  And it’s just plain fun.  I’ve very proud of us for neither one saying JINX.

Look for pictures of Our Cake tomorrow!

Newly Diagnosed Celiac Resources

A little overwhelmed and not sure where to start?  If  your doctor was anything like mine, he’ll ask you if you know how to use Google and tell you there are many resources and guidance on the web – more than what he can provide me with.  I thought that sounded fair and went home ready to Google my new diet and get started on my road to recovery.

Did anyone else just laugh out loud?  The internet is a dizzying maze of information with some product advertisements thrown in just to keep your internet shopping addiction alive and well.  Yes, Amazon.com has a Gluten-free Store, but I don’t suggest buying the bulk packages until you’ve had a chance to sample the items, especially with gluten-free food products.

This morning I was approached by a friend who just found out a close relative may have Celiac and she wanted any information I could provide.  I have been copying and pasting the same message for the last 6 months and I thought it would be helpful to have it posted, where everyone can see.  So, below are my recommendations for the new diagnosed:

Here are some of the books and websites that really helped me at first. I definitely recommend that you keep it simple and eat foods that are naturally gluten-free. Also, although oats do not contain gluten, the possibility of cross-contamination is so large, that I would stay away from them too.

Books:

  • The First Year: Celiac Disease and Living Gluten-Free: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed [Paperback] Jules E. Dowler Shepard (Author)
  • Celiac Disease (Revised and Updated Edition): A Hidden Epidemic [Hardcover] Peter H.r. Green (Author), Rory Jones (Author)
  • 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Lee Fenster (Oct 6, 2008)
  • 100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes [Hardcover] Carol Fenster (Author)

Websites:

Disease information:

Universities with research centers:

Washington DC Support Group – lots of links to resources

Best Blogs

Gluten-free drug information (essential)

Nonprofits

Celiac Disease

  • http://celiac.nih.gov/
  • Contains general information about celiac disease and explains how the disease can disrupt the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine. Discusses symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

Some additional points I always like to make:

  • Gluten is in more than just food.  Make sure you check what’s in the drugs you take, lipstick you wear, and drinks you consume.   Watch out for sauces – soy sauce & gravy will contain gluten, unless marked otherwise.
  • I had problems digesting dairy and seeds when I first went gluten-free.  I stayed away from them both for several weeks and then only drank lactose-free milk.  It makes sense, your body is healing.  I now eat dairy without much problem (although I feel better when I don’t eat it).
  • Keep It Simple – eat vegetables and fruit, grilled chicken and rice, chocolate and drink wine 🙂

Missing ingredients? No Worries, Be Happy :)

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies!

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies!
with flax seeds and 50/50 vegetable spread and Greek yogurt

Don’t let missing ingredients ruin your spur of the moment baking.  Keep a few staples on hand (yes, in addition to your regular flour, sugar, butter and eggs).  I often get a rush of energy and want to bake something and often times I never have all the recipe ingredients on hand.  And when would I ever let something like that stop me?

No eggs?  Use 1 tbsp flax + 3 tbsp water for 1 egg.

Not enough butter?  Use Greek yogurt in place of half the butter.

Run out of unsweetened baking squares?  Use 1 Tbsp vegetable oil/butter/shortening + 3 Tbsp cocoa powder per ounce (square).

Need baking powder?  Combine 1 part baking soda with 2 parts cream of tartar.

Buttermilk unavailable?  Place 1 Tbsp vinegar or lemon juice in measuring cup and fill to 1 cup line with milk.  Let sit to sour.  This will work with soy and rice milk (but not almond).

What are some of your favorite ingredient substitutions?

 

Brownies Again?

Ready to mix in the dry ingredients

Oh yes, brownies again.  Although the last recipe tasted good, I was not completely satisfied with it.  The brownies had little height and were tacky to the touch.

4th Attempt:

I added more flour and doubled the amount of baking powder

Trying out my fun silicone moulds

Trying out my fun silicone moulds

Result:

Nice height, but the brownies seemed more like squares of cake than fudge brownies

5th Attempt:

Instead of the added flour, I used more baked beans.  I also played with my little silicone trays to add some style.

Result:

Suggested Serving Size 50g 🙂

4 of these mini brownies are a delicious, rich chocolatey serving.

Nutrition data: 114 calories, 3.3  g fat, and  13 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 3 g protein /serving.

These will be presented to the local back shop as my coup de chocolats

Yum!

Yum!

Gluten-free and Allergen-free Baking Discussion

I’m very excited (and some what nervous) about my upcoming presentation to Wistow Village’s Women’s Institute.  It is this Wed, Feb 13th and I haven’t started preparing for it yet… but never fear, I will be ready!

Come join us at 7:30 in the Village Hall.  Learn about ingredient substitutions to make your favorite desserts without worry for those with auto immune disorders, allergies, food intolerances, healthy diets, and picky appetites.  You’ll also learn about the differences between those categories of eaters and how cross contamination can mean the difference between a delicious meal and death.

So now I hope I’ve peaked your curiosity and maybe made you a bit nervous.  I’ll post more as my planning begins.  They’ll be handouts and samples!

Update Feb 10: I just wrote 8 pages worth of talking points and checked out 7 cookbooks from the library to supplement my own. This is going to be one hell of a good talk. Can’t wait!

Soy Coffee Ice Cream

Coffee ice cream 024For the dairy-free ice cream lovers out there!

 

My ice cream maker

My ice cream maker

How do you take yummy, delicious, milky, creamy, coma-inducing ice cream and make it dairy-free?  You use SOY MILK!  One of my most favorite Christmas presents this year was my very own ice cream maker.

And my most favorite ice cream made thus far was a maple-pecan dairy ice cream.  I used this recipe but replaced the walnuts for pecans.  Make sure you candy the nuts, as it makes it absolutely delicious.

Using a custard base and similar instructions, I’m making what I hope will be a new favorite flavor (and my stomach won’t hate me after eating it).

Soy Coffee Ice Cream

Yield: approx. 3 cups (1.5 pts)

2 cups [15.5 oz] soy milk (I used Tesco Unsweetened Soya, but use your favorite, especially if you are used to sweetened soy milk.)
2/3 (4.75 oz] cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
1 – 1.5 Tbsps instant coffee (depending on how strong you like it)
1/2 – 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional for vanilla latte flavor)
pinch salt

1.  Combine soymilk and instant coffee in a medium sauce pan.  In a medium bowl, combine eggs, sugar, and salt.  Whisk to combine.  Set aside another bowl and place a mesh strainer on top.

2. Over medium-low heat, warm the soymilk, stirring occasionally, until almost boiling (small bubbles will appear around edges of pan).

3.  Slowly pour about half the warm soy mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly (this is to slowly raise the temperature of the eggs and hopefully not curdle them).  Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.

ice cream 0144. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan occasionally.  Keep stirring until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon.  To test,  draw a line on the back of your spoon with your finger.  The custard should stay in place and not run – mine did drip some, but I could tell it was thickened (if you’re using an instant-read digital thermometer, the mixture should be between 170 and 175 degrees F).  You do NOT want it to reach boiling.

5. Pour the custard through the mesh strainer and let cool briefly, then stir in vanilla extract (if using).  Place plastic wrap on top of custard (to discourage a film forming) and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally (you can speed up the process by placing the bowl in an ice bath), then cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight.

6. Churn the Ice Cream: Freeze the custard mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.  Transfer to a freezer-safe container and store in the freezer.

Just beginning the freeze...

Just beginning the freeze…

It's starting to look like ice cream

It’s starting to look like ice cream

Note> Instructions for the above recipe were mostly copied from the Brown Eyed Baker’s Maple-Walnut Ice Cream Recipe

 Result = Delicious!

The finished product

The finished product

Brownies – take 1, 2, and 3

TAKE 1

Who doesn’t love a rich, fudge chocolate brownie?  I’d recently read that you can make brownies with black beans and found this recipe from the food network.  I compared it to a low fat brownie recipe from one of my favorite sites, America’s Test Kitchen (ATK).  The ATK recipe is already low fat, I just need to try and make it low calorie and low sugar.  In addition to using beans for some of the flour, I used less sugar and added applesauce for bulk and sweetness.  Now to put my ideas to the test:

First step – go to store to find canned black beans

Second step (hours and strained eyes later) – finally decide to buy butter beans, because Tesco doesn’t sell canned black beans.

Having never eaten a butter bean, let alone bake with one, I wasn’t sure how my recipe would turn out.  Mostly using the ATK recipe, I baking pics 008replace the eggs and sour cream (another product not easily purchased in the UK) with Greek Yogurt.  I used my hand blender to mush the butter beans (in a little water) and then proceeded to mix all ingredients together.

RESULT: Bitter, dense, chewy brownies.  I was not at all pleased.  They only tasted good if you cut them into small pieces, rolled them in sugar, and then ate them.

TAKE 2

So now I want less bitter chocolate and more sugar.  I thought I’d try cocoa with no baking pics 001bittersweet chocolate quares (which was present in the ATK recipe) and use a sugar substitute to add sweetness without calories and sugar, since the applesauce wasn’t enough.  This led me to intensive research on sugar substitutes.  It seems they almost all have an aftertaste, produce flatulence, and  may or may not cause cancer.  I decided to try Stevia and Fructose, as those seemed the least likely to cause issues and add sweetness.  The Stevia I used contains maltodextrin to add bulk, so it could be used as a 1:1 for sugar (otherwise it’s 300x sweeter).  According to the box when using fructose, use 1/3 less than what you would for sugar.

RESULT: The batter was extremely dry – probably because Fructose soaks up moisture and the added cocoa.  The density was about the same as the first batch.  The sweetness was right on, but I definitely found there to be an aftertaste (after trials with hot tea, the after taste is from Stevia.  I also found I had an upset stomach after consuming straight fructose).  The brownies also had way too much cocoa.

Take 3

Back to the drawing board.  Scratch artificial sweetners – they suck.  I’m going to use sugar and applesauce again, but hope with less cocoa, the end result will be tasty.  To enhance the chocolate flavor, I’m going to add 1 tsp of instant coffee.  In my adventure, I’ve run out of butter beans.  There’s snow outside and its dark and I’m lazy.  So now my choices for beans are kidney or black.  I haven’t had any luck messing with the recipes, so I’m going to use black beans.  I looked online and they are available from UK grocery stores, just not as common and cost a little extra.  I figured if the final product works, hopefully it will be worth it to the bake shop to purchase black beans (aka black turtle beans).

I also decided to use an egg and egg white in the recipe, as suggested by ATK.

RESULT:  DELICIOUS!

brownies 001 By gosh, I’ve done it 🙂  The brownies are chocolate fudge, melt in your mouth good.  I still have to tweek it – believe it or not, I find them too sweet.  I will wait for my taste testers verdicts before adjusting the recipe again, but I think I can do without the applesauce and with a little less sugar.  I’m finally headed in the right direction.

brownies 003A single 50 g serving (2 inch square piece) has just 127 calories, 3.3 g fat, 22.3 carbs, 2.4 g fiber, and 15.7 g sugar.  I believe I can reduce the calories below 120 and sugar under 14 g.  In the meantime, I’m going to see if I can save any pieces until the end of the week to test the shelf life.

FYI: I divided my tray of brownies into 10 servings, whereas ATK uses 16 servings when calculating their recipe’s calories and fat

Chocolate Cookies using Beetroot

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So I’ve been tasked with creating healthy recipes for a new product line at a local bake shop.  I started out wanting them to be low fat and low sugar.  Easy peesy, right? HAHAHAHAHA.

My friend Amber has been a huge help since she’s been researching and cooking diabetic friendly for the past year.  She recommended applesauce as a sugar substitute.  Well it worked in the carrot cake, but not so much in my fudge brownies.

The other day I tried to make my grandma’s chocolate crinkle cookies, but with no fat, little sugar and beans instead of flour.  Oh and somobile phone pics 808 people would know they’re healthy I added oats.  I decided to call them Chocolate oat cookies.  Here’s a picture… let’s just say it was an epic fail!  Beans may work in brownies, but do NOT use them in cookies.  They were rubbery and tasted horrible!

I really want a chocolate dessert and I really want it to be low sugar.  Next ingredient to try – Beets.  Very sweet, but low GL.

Unfortunately, my husband came home with beets in sweet vinegar instead of just canned beets.  I’m a bit impatient and impulsive so I decided to give them a whirl, instead of going back to the store (I hate grocery shopping).  Since vinegar added acid to my recipe, I replaced the baking powder with baking soda and thought that might work.  The reasoning here was that baking powder is baking soda plus an acid ingredient.  I thought using just the baking soda might help cut the acidity of the recipe.  I mean really, I’m replacing sugar with mushed up beets, how much worse could I make it!

So originally I was going with my normal subs.  Greek yogurt for fat (in this case oil), egg whites instead of eggs (thinking yogurt replaces yolk too), 1/2 whole wheat flour (wholemeal in UK language), etc.  Well that left me with replacing most of the sugar with beets, but since the beets would be a crushed tomato consistency, I decided to not use the yogurt.  Logical thinking, I know.

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So apparently in winter my kitchen is cold.  As soon as I poured the melted chocolate into the beet mixture, it started hardening again.  I didn’t want to heat the mixture so

I used a hand blender to minimize the chuckiness.  As you can see, I didn’t quite succeed.  Part of the chunkiness was from the beets, so I decided to ignore it and carry on (b/c I never stop something once I start ;)).  You can also tell from the picture, that using my handmixture might have whipped the egg yolks and added fluff to the dough – oh well! Looks like the baking soda started bubbling too.  Maybe I should stick with baking powder.  Perhaps, I shouldn’t have done a 1:1 substitution with the baking soda and baking powder – oh well!

After adding all the flours, I tasted the dough.  Definitely not sweet enough, but I’d like to bake it first before adding more sugar.  More sugar means more calories and NOT diabetic friendly. I put one cookie in a 180 C oven for 8 minutes.

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Let’s see what happens…

First one out of the oven doesn’t look all that bad.  Didn’t go flat like the bean cookies. mobile phone pics 813 It definitely looked like it had whipped egg whites in  it.  Smells like chocolate. Oh and its color is pretty cool.  I think these will be my Red Velvet Chocolate Cookies 🙂

Taste: spongy, slightly bitter chocolate.  Husband: it’s good.  wierd aftertaste

How to improve: would be great with chocolate chips, but the amount I’d want to add would increase the sugar too much.  To help offset the bitter chocolate I added 15 g additional sugar.

Final product for today: Approx size = bottom of cooking spray container.

mobile phone pics 820The added sugar helped and improved the product.  Husband still says they’re not right (that was until I told him to think of them as little cakes, then he agreed it they were fine).  They are more fluffy and like cake instead of cookies.  So – if you want a healthy version of red velvet cake, perhaps this is it.  I still want a cookie, so I will continue my experimenting.

Ideas for the next batch – use baking powder, chill the dough, use greek yogurt instead of egg whites, find good sugar substitute, use a starch to make crunchier/drier. I know technically you’re only supposed to change one ingredient at a time – but who has time for that.  I suppose I could split the dough in fourths before adding different ingredients and monitor the outcome.

Did I ever mention how much I hated college chemistry –  dropping liquid in different test tubes, documenting every result – so painstakingly boring!

Carrot Cake

First up on my to-do-list – CARROT CAKE 🙂

I searched recipes and found a “diabetic friendly” pineapple carrot cake.  Although the nutritional information on the website shows the dish with only 7.5 grams of sugar, there’s no way its accurate.  This was my first hint to be careful of website nutrition.  I’ve found that some people only put in part of the nutritional info – like the amount of calories and carbs, but not the grams of sugar.  The largest hint that this recipe is diabetic UNFRIENDLY was the carb count of 23 g/serving and the entire can of pineapple in the recipe!

The recipe was also not low-fat.  I tackled the recipe as I do most by substituting certain ingredients that I know don’t need much conversion to make a recipe healthier:

  1. Replace half of white flour with whole wheat flour
  2. Replace fats (mayo, egg yolk) with fat-free Greek yogurt
  3. Replace whole eggs with egg whites

Note that all these replacements will change the consistency, flavor, and color of the final baked products.  In an ideal work (one where the baker has patience) each substitution would be done one at a time, batch by batch, in order to check that the amount substituted and the ingredient substution would work well.  I have no patience and choose to go all out.  Ask me someday about my egg-free brownies that came out as burnt, bubbling, chocolate soup 🙂

To tackle the sugar content, I immediately reduced the amount of pineapple and raisins, added applesauce, and a small amount of real sugar.  Not low enough sugar to be diabetic friendly, but low enough to call the recipe low-sugar.

The result?

A yummy, not too sweet pineapple carrot cake.  The nutritional values I came up with (no responsibility for accuracy) was 112 calories, 0.4 g fat, 23 g carbs, 9 g sugar

Fudge Brownies

Coming soon!