Tag Archives: Gluten-free diet

Help Wanted: Eating GF more wisely, cheaply and saving time. Got tips?

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I bet you think I’ve fallen into a large hole around here and have lost internet access, huh?

Well, I have, kind of.

School started.  Just last year I had 135 students a day (5 classes/high school) and this year?  Oh no… this year I see 171 students (same five classes) and it’s A LOT.  Add that to the fact that the baby youngest toddler is a moving, shaking, running, jumping, climbing and the eldest is well…. keeping up and you can see why I’m dead tired by dinner time.

We’re back on the treadmill people.  Up at 5:15, home by 5:00, dinner, play, baths, and bedtime…then school work.  Bedtime comes around 11:40 or later.  Seriously…this is going to be a long winter!

Top that with the fact that our house, just like yours I bet, has been hit by our lovely economic woes.  Thankfully, we are both employed.  However the loss of pay in the form of pay cuts (8% between the two of us) and double to out-of-pocket expenses for health insurance (EEK!) and we are in re-set mode.

We are intentional about the food choices we make.  More than ever now as well.  We have to stretch that dollar farther and we are still choosing to maintain a completely gluten free home.  But as all of you know, that means some serious creativity.

Couple all of that with the fact that time to cook dinner is LIMITED.  Kids (and parents alike) are wickedly hungry come 5:30.  Providing snacks before dinner doesn’t seem like a positive solution at all.  We worry that then we are just giving them outs from dinner – and we want to eat all together as a family.  THAT is important to us.

So.. I guess this post is a conversation starter.  One that I hope will get you all commenting and helping with tips and pointers for ALL of us busy, working gluten-free families.  What are YOU doing to save your brain, your money and your family (health and time together)?

 Home-made GF Quesadillas – add eggs or avocado, etc too

See recipe below signature

Quesadilla

I have limited tricks for getting dinner on the table quickly.  This has a lot to do with my brain.  I am NOT the one in my family who can open the cupboard, see what we have on hand and then whip out dinner.  Nope.  Especially not when there are two kids practically pulling my pants off as they try to get my attention after we rush in after work/daycare at 5PM.  And,  I don’t do mania very well at all.  (Can you believe I do mania REALLY well in the classroom – but just not at home?  I don’t get it either – but it is true.)

Sometimes I am organized enough on the weekend to layout a dinner menu for the week.  I get organized after we pick up our box of veggies at the Farmer’s Market on Sundays and start planning.  Each meal we have to include things that are accessible to the kids – as I’m not a short-order cook and we’re going to all eat together.  Sometimes we make miso soup for them (they LOVE tofu) in addition to whatever we are having, but they usually just eat right along with us.  Once I see what we have for the week, I can easily lay out dinner menus on the calendar at home (or the google calendar we share so I can see it on my phone or at work, if needed).  I love those weeks.  I know what I need to do, when, etc.  It’s so helpful when work things pop up last-minute or unplanned after-daycare doctor visits (my pediatrician should have a frequent-flyer coupon card for free coffee after 10 visits or something… I”m just saying…).

Sometimes I’m not so fabulously organized.  And these are the weeks that are (1) most common and (2) the MOST stressful for me.

Like this week.  Unplanned, but at least there is food in the fridge.  These are the days that my husband finds to be the easiest.  Seriously, in 3 minutes flat he can make a meal plan and get it started.  Me?  OMGosh – I have to know what’s in the fridge for the WHOLE day before I can even begin to figure something out.

Take today, for example.  I know there is ground turkey at home.  I can make lettuce wraps or tacos or chili (oh wait… I don’t have any beans on hand) … k then… I could make meatballs with rice (no pasta either), or.  Dang it.  I don’t know.  When my feet hit the kitchen, I will decide then.

More than just meal planning, however, is saving money.  Cheap Gluten Free Eats!  (Yes, they do exist.)

Here’s the list I’ve been working with this last month.  You can see I’m in need of some change-ups, people. One can only eat so many apples with peanut butter before you just don’t want to even look at them again.  So please.  Let’s work together on this.

BREAKFAST

LUNCH

SNACK

DINNER

Cinnamon Chex

peanut butter/apples or celery sticks

nuts

lettuce wraps

fresh fruit

leftovers

hard-boiled egg

soup/chili

Yogurt

cheese & pears

cheese cubes

veggies

GF Granola

hard-boiled egg

Trio bar (my spendy snack)

Lundberg risotto + protein and veggies mixed in

Hard cheese & GF tortilla chips

rice noodle soup (so much cheaper!)

Fresh fruit

Cantonese-style family chicken & mushrooms

eggs

miso + tofu soup

small salad

fajitas

yogurt smoothie

meat/cheese or avocado roll

meat/cheese or avocado roll

Chinese Chicken & Corn Chowder

homemade GF torillas with eggs/cheese

nori wraps

nori wrap

Tortilla soup

Chilaquiles

homemade tortillas/quesadillas

edamame

grilled meats/fish and veggies/frui

What are your favorite cheap and convenient GF foods/meals?

Let’s get talking, people!

~Kate

PS.  Making your own gluten free corn tortillas is SUPER easy (and much tastier, by the way).  Use equal parts corn flour (masa harina or masa harina para tortillas) and warm water.  You can also add a bit of olive oil or spices to your dough, if you’d like. (I added paprika and chili powder in the ones in the photo.)  Mix the corn flour with the warm water slowly until it forms a soft pliable ball.  Pinch off pieces and flatten in your hand to make tortillas (or thicker ones for sopes).  Cook on a hot, non-stick skillet.

Simple, Versatile: Chinese Steamed Eggs

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I love it when my father-in-law visits.  He always teaches me a new dish that is easy to prepare and wickedly economical.  He is super savvy about stretching household staples and grocery budgets.  (Among his many talents, let me add.)  It’s amazing to me how well we can communicate considering I don’t speak Cantonese and he speaks very limited English.  Often we are left asking my mother-in-law or husband to translate because we can see that we’ve lost the thread of the dialogue, but we can still cook together.

I love that.

Over the years, he has taught me several easy dishes.  All without knowing that I was taking copious notes in my mind as I watched him work without effort to make dinner for 10 or more of us.  When he cooks, I find things that open my eyes further and stretch my cooking basics more.  Learning how to make boh-jay-fahn (Chinese homestyle chicken and rice) changed my easy winter night cooking.  I can have everything prepped the night before, if I need too.  Easy!

And this visit with my in-laws wasn’t disappointing either.  He prepped a taro and chicken stew that I was sure would lead down the “mushy-taro” path – but NO!  It was surprisingly delicious with fabulous taro-texture – much more like baked potato than squishy poi. :D  I like taro – but have not had a lot of luck making it the way he did without making it mushy.  Now, I will work to recreate what he made.  I was a little distracted watching kids and washing dishes and well… trying to stay out of his way in our small kitchen while observing at the same time.  I think I missed a few steps.  But, I can tell you this:  For under $10.00, he made dinner for 10.  And it was fabulous.

Another night during this trip, my nine-year-old niece requested noodles.  Again, my father-in-law showed me how to make (gluten free, of course) a fabulous rice noodle dish that we gobbled up in no time.

And again, another request by my niece but this time for me, steamed eggs to go with her rice.

Say what? I asked her to clarify:  did you mean poached eggs?  No.  Steamed, she said.  Then she said “you know, cook it in water”.  I completely thought she meant poached.  But then I heard my father-in-law ask her in Chinese. And he turned to me and said, “No, steamed.  I show you.”

Really?  Where have I been!  I’ve been poaching, baked, scrambled, over-easy, fried (American and Spanish versions), frittata, Tortilla Patata…, but steamed?  Nope.  Haven’t done it.  Never really thought about it – and certainly not like this.

And since they’ve left, I’ve made it 5-6 more times.  Each time I’ve varied from the traditional seasonings a bit just to see what I could do with it.  (My Love still prefers the traditional seasonings…. so does the Chicklet.  But the baby?  Forget about it.  She’ll eat it all.  And then some!)

So here it goes – Steamed Eggs.

Steamed eggs are light and fluffy – beyond your wildest fluffy scrambled eggs.  They are almost “airy”, but not quite.  While you can definitely scoop and eat these eggs just like a pudding, we’ve been mixing them in to rice for ourselves and the kids.  (It’s how my niece likes her steamed eggs:  mixed into her rice; so I’ve followed along.)  I have to admit, it adds a nice flavoring and new softer texture to our rice (whether it be white or brown).  I’m rather addicted.

I even went so far as to mold some of rice/egg mixture like I have for lunch boxes before.  These are much softer.  Before I just added scrambled egg to my rice and molded.  But these are more moist.  I’m betting they will be even better for lunch the next day since they will hang on to the moisture longer.  YES!  A new gluten free lunch treat for the bento box.  (I’m relatively easy to please…. most days!)

To make your own steamed eggs, I suggest starting with the traditional seasoning (listed below) before experimenting.  So far, we like the eggs + water combination (savory) better than the eggs + milk (sweet).   Maybe that’s just my family, but they seem lighter in texture too without the added milk.

Gluten Free Chinese Steamed Eggs
Ingredients
2 eggs
6 ounces water (for savory) or 5 ounces of milk (for “sweet”)
splash of GF seasonings

  • salt/pepper, drizzle of sesame oil
  • OPTIONS:  Gluten free soy sauce (this will change the color of your eggs though), garlic powder, minced dried onion, etc.  Here are some combinations I’ve used:
  • sesame oil, garlic powder, GF soy sauce, minced onion (dried), salt/pepper
  • garlic powder, shaved parmesan, dried green onion (or some finely chopped fresh)
  • dried Herbs de Provence, olive oil
Directions:
SET UP:  Chose a bowl (twice the depth of your egg mixture) that can fit into a deep pot with a lid for steaming.  I used a small glass bowl that we have (to hand the heat).  In the pot, I filled the bottom with 2 inches of water and then put a small ramekin (custard ceramic cup) in the middle of the pot at the bottom filled 2/3 of the way with water.  The water in the ramekin helped keep it weighted down, but I didn’t fill it because you don’t want the water to touch the cooking bowl which you will set on top of the ramekin.  Test your set up before turning on the heat.  It should look like this:  (Yes, I am slightly horrified by my computer drawing…it’s definitely NOT my talent!)
PS.  Your pot needs a lid.  And there was no way I was going to attempt to draw that!  LOL  
(Be glad I didn’t color in the eggs too!)
  1. In a bowl twice the depth of your egg mixture (but still small enough to fit inside a pan), dump all of your ingredients:  eggs, oil, seasonings, water (or milk).  Whisk together.

Chinese Steamed Eggs - Step 1

        2. Carefully place your bowl into your fabulous set-up (as described above).

 Chinese Steamed Eggs - Step 2

       3.  Steam until the eggs firm up a bit and the top is no longer glossy – with visible runny egg.  This takes about 5-8 minutes depending on your ingredients.  (Longer if you use milk, cheese/milk or cheese/water).

 Chinese Steamed Eggs = done! (Step 3)

  • You can see the sesame oil on top of the eggs in the picture above.
    These eggs were done.
    The oil just comes to the top when steaming.
    Stir it back in before serving.

Happy Gluten Free, egg-steaming!
~Kate

Gluten Free Basic White Cake

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Gluten Free Ratio Rally

Baking with a cause: YOU and getting you back in the kitchen too!

I’ve written this post a million times over since I decided to host this month’s Gluten Free Ratio Rally.  Way back in the beginning, I signed up for this with high hopes – and I was being completely selfish when I chose the task:  cakes.  And white/yellow cakes.  (Sorry, chocolate cake fans..although a few bloggers appealed to you, I was really on the hunt for fabulous GF white cakes.)

I say selfishly because I do have some fabulous cake recipes.  My favorites are my sponge cake recipe and the mini-vanilla filled cupcakes.  But really, I have been longing for layer cakes due to their versatility.  My favorite cakes have always been white layer cakes.  It’s true!  Even since I started making cakes in our house when I was in elementary school. (I did a fine job of both trashing the kitchen and baking a decent cake.)  My favorite white cake recipe is still being worked on to convert it to gluten free.  I needed some help.  And some inspiration.

And (I hoped)  I can’t be the only one with an aversion to chocolate cakes. (Right??)

And I say that reluctantly because I know that some very fabulous people in my life have made some incredible flourless chocolate cakes for me (birthdays at work, etc).  I’ve eaten each slice with a smile.  But I have a confession to make:  I’ve never liked chocolate cakes.  At the age of six, I completely overindulged:  chocolate cake + chocolate ice cream + first day in new state/neighborhood/house = bad news for the future of chocolate cake in my life.  I am refraining from using details here … after all, this *IS* supposed to be a food blog.

So you see, I am selfish in my quest for the *perfect* gluten free non-chocolate cake.  I’m not the only one who realizes the beauty of a white cake – the versatility, etc.  Oh yes. A white cake is where it is at, people!  And you will see from this month’s ratio posters just how fabulously versatile it is!

I fell on a sword this month taste-testing over 9 cake recipes ideas in four weeks.  Not too pointy of a sword, mind you.  If the cake tasted great, but failed?  I have crumbled them into a baggie and made some “cake pops” for my daughter(s) and I.  We share one “cake pop” after swim lessons.  But I think I’m going to have to invest in some swim time for myself after a month of cake eating.  Ay ay ay!

I’ve discovered a few things about cake baking – especially gluten free cake baking – that I’d taken for granted previously.

  1. Watch your baking time CAREFULLY and check often – especially within the last 5-6 minutes.  An over baked gluten free cake = the Sahara Desert in your mouth.
  2. Have your eggs and butter at room temperature.  But don’t do this if you live without air-conditioning and your house is 80F.  Not cool.
  3. Add your eggs one by one and beat them in for a couple of minutes before adding the next.  (No matter how hard your child pulls on your legs/hands.  Add the eggs one at a time!)
  4. Parchment lined/bottomed cake pans are just as fabulous as dusting them with gluten free flour – and easier for me.
  5. Gluten free cake batter is definitely thicker than gluten-filled cake batter.  Don’t stress when you see it.
And most importantly:  the RATIO makes a difference.  You really do have to measure the flours by weight if you are going to change up the flours you chose to use.  If you see a cake within the several that will be shared today as part of the rally, please do take the time to use the flours they chose to use.  For each of the cakes I made, I used 228g of flour.  Sometimes this was the equivalent of 1 cup of rice flour + 1/2 cup tapioca flour OR 1 cup of rice flour + 1/3 cup potato starch OR 1 cup millet flour + 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons sweet rice flour.  Yikes.
I wanted to make a cake that anyone could make with readily available flours that are relatively inexpensive as far as gluten free flours go.  I wanted it to be something your best friend could make for you or your mom or your colleague if they wished to.  So many times our diet is intimidating and expensive.  I just wanted to simplify it all.  (And I’m not going to tell you about my initial starts of using whole grains, less sugar, etc because <girl smacks self in head now> I was making a cake.  I gave myself permission not to think about applesauce in lieu of butter, etc.  I just wanted a cake.  And a good one at that.
I ended up with several.  From one recipe too.

GF Basic White Cake
The basic cake.  With only the primary frosting on.  I had intended to frost this further, but the Chicklet got a hold of the sprinkles and she went to town.  So, it stayed just like this:  minimal frosting and a fabulous crumb.
GF Basic White Cake with Raspberry Jam center

For these little cupcakes, we filled them with a dollop of raspberry jam – (and some with Nutella – YUM!).  No frosting was needed.

GF Basic White Cake with Strawberry Jam and Strawberry ButtercreamSimilar to the one above, filled with sliced strawberries and topped with fresh strawberry buttercream frosting.  All things pink are met with approval from the Chicklet.

The ratio for a basic cake is as follows:

1:1:1:1

Egg : Sugar : Flour : Butter

I’m not convinced that I’ve achieved the cake I dream of.  But, in looking at the titles of the cakes of my fellow GF Ratio Rally participants, I see that I have a fabulous future of cake testing ahead of me.  (Tiramisu! Confetti Cake! Lemon Tea Cake! – just to name a few!)  Maybe one of you will find a way to make it even more fabulous.  That is the beauty of being a gluten free community:  learning, sharing and growing together.

Basic Gluten Free White Cake

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces – 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces – 1 cup (226 grams) sugar
  • 4 eggs + 1 yolk
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 226 grams “My” gluten free flour mix, sifted (1 1/2 cups + 2 teaspoons)
  • OR 175 grams (1 scant cup) rice flour + 50 grams (1/3 cup) potato starch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Line the bottom of two 8 inch cake rounds with parchment paper OR butter each and flour with rice flour (NOT the rice flour called for in the recipe – please use 1 Tablespoon or 2 in addition to that called for in the recipe).
  2. Beat butter in the mixer until light and creamy.
  3. Add sugar.  Beat again for several minutes (3-4) on medium until light and fluffy.
  4. Add one egg.  Beat for 2 minutes.  Add next egg and beat again 2 more minutes.  Repeat until all eggs have been incorporated thoroughly.
  5. Add extracts.  Mix in.
  6. Sift together flour(s), baking powder and salt.  Add to cake batter.  Mix in carefully so as not to lose the softness created from mixing in the eggs/sugar.
  7. Divide into cake rounds evenly.  Smooth the surface with a wet spatula.  (I found it helpful to have a glass of water nearby and I kept dipping the rubber spatula into the water to keep the batter from sticking.)
  8. Bake until the top is just golden brown and a toothpick (or cake tester) inserted comes out shiny but not sticky – about 18-20 minutes.  Check your cake as you approach the 15 minute mark at a minimum to avoid over-baking.
  9. Remove from pans by flipping on to cooling racks after removing from the oven.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.
If you want to, this recipe easily converts in to cupcakes.  Bake for 15 – 18 minutes for 12 cupcakes.  When making cupcakes, we loved adding dollops of goodness (homemade raspberry or strawberry jams, Nutella, etc) in to the center of each cupcake and then we topped them with more batter.  These additions also added moisture to the cakes as well and helped them last longer. (Well, as long as a cupcakes can last around kids.)

Please check out the other fabulous Gluten Free Ratio Rally participants and their cakes, I know I will be doing taste-tests frequently from their ideas.  In fact, my sister-in-law is coming this week for a visit… so we have another birthday cake to make.  (Great excuse, huh?)