Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Easy and Creamy Non-Dairy Ice Cream

Ice cream can be a perfect treat alone, with fruit or your favorite dessert. If you cannot tolerate dairy, the choices in the store are much more limited and expensive. Coconut milk makes really good ice cream. It's super creamy with just a light coconut flavor. Besides, the fat in coconut milk has been shown to be a good fat. And if I make it myself, it's much more economical.

Easy Vanilla Non-Dairy Ice Cream

1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz.,
     regular not light)
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 c. sugar

Blend ingredients well in a blender and freeze in an ice cream maker or in an 9 x 13 pan.

If using the pan, freeze 2 - 3 hours or until just a little soft in the middle. If you freeze too long, just let it warm up and soften a little. Blend again just enough to make the ice-cream smooth. It may need to be frozen again before serving.

Store in air tight container in freezer. It gets fairly hard when frozen for extended periods of time. Let thaw a little before serving.

  1. Agave may be substituted for the sugar. Use 1/4 c.
  2. Try making chocolate ice cream. Add 1/4 c. cocoa to the blender in the beginning. If desired, increase your sweetener.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Power of a Smile

One of the easiest things to give another person is a smile - a sincere, heartwarming smile. Whether it's someone we know or not, it can change a person's day and shift it to a positive direction (including for the giver). They're simple, free and contagious. The challenge for the week:  See how many smiles you can share.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Keep Checking Those Labels

For those of us concerned about our nutrition, food labels are our friends. We want to know how much fat, sugar, protein, fiber, etc. Some of us want to know if the product contains gluten or dairy. Are the ingredients natural? There is so much we can check.

But whatever you choose to check on the labels--keep checking those same labels. It's easy to spot new products on the shelf. But, some of your favorite products may have been changed without a change to the outside of the container, bag or box.

It's great to see when companies change the colors, flavors or preservatives in their product to natural ingredients. I have seen wheat removed (it was a small percent) from a product and replaced with something else without a change to the box. More labels now clarify the ingredients (for example: stating what kind of maltodextrin they used).

So, recheck those labels periodically. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Favorite Dip

We are always looking for healthy and fun snacks at our house. Dipping veggies and chips/crackers is fun but the dip is not always healthy. And if you are avoiding dairy, making dip becomes more challenging.

That is why we love hummus - no dairy, but creamy and delicious with nutritional value. For us, getting the hummus really smooth really adds to its appeal. If your blender is not getting it creamy enough, try a food processor. I have used sesame seeds in this recipe instead of tahini (sesame seed paste). If you prefer to use tahini, see notes below.

1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpea or garbanzo beans
reserve 1/3 c.  liquid from can
2 medium cloves of garlic, halved
3 T. olive oil
3 T. lemon juice
3 T. raw sesame seeds
1/4 - 1/2 t. salt

Blend beans, 2 T. of the reserved liquid, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, sesame seeds and 1/4 t. salt in a food processor or blender. Add more liquid as needed to obtain a smooth, creamy dip. Add more salt as preferred.

  1. I never seem to use a whole jar of tahini because I mainly use it for hummus, so I just put sesame seeds in my recipe. If you want to use the paste, omit the sesame seeds and add 1 1/2 - 2 T. tahini.
  2. Check the salt content of your garbanzo beans before adding salt to your recipe. Some cans contain more than others.
  1. Omit tahini and sesame seeds. Some people, particularly children, don't like the sharp taste of tahini.
  2. Add chopped kalamata (Greek) olives or black olives after blending and sprinkle on top. Don't blend them. The resulting color is NOT appetizing.
  3. Adjust the lemon and or garlic to increase or decrease their intensity.
  4. Blend 2 - 3 T. of sun dried tomatoes with the other ingredients.
  5. Add 1/2 - 1 t. of cumin or a dash of cayenne pepper to spice it up.
Hummus goes great with chips, crackers and veggies. Our favorites are rice crackers, carrot sticks and pepper slices.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Dark Chocolate Truffles

Besides being scrumptious, chocolate has a long and fascinating history. In ancient civilizations, cacao beans were ground and "chocolate" was consumed as a bitter drink with seasonings. The Aztecs even used cacao beans as money because of its perceived value at the time. The Spaniards brought cacao beans back to Europe and the chocolate drink was sweetened and enjoyed by the wealthy for hundreds of years. During the Industrial Revolution, chocolate became a solid confection that was affordable worldwide.

While I enjoy chocolate any time of the year, Valentine's Day and chocolate just seems to go together. So, this Valentine's Day I made a batch of one of my favorite chocolates - the truffle.

The truffle middle has a silky chocolate inside. They can be dipped in chocolate or rolled in cocoa, coconut, nuts, etc...  For many years, truffles were my Christmas tradition. Unfortunately, butter and cream are used with chocolate to make the creamy inside. I read that coconut milk can be used as a substitute. I tried it and everyone loved the new truffle. I use a can of regular coconut milk. Light just doesn't work as well nor does the coconut milk beverages sold in half gallons for drinking.

These are relatively simple to make but are somewhat time consuming since the chocolate has to be melted, mixed, solidified and rolled. The following recipe is the liquid/chocolate combination that worked with coconut milk to give me the truffle texture I love. Remember that the texture can vary with the brand of chocolate you use since different chocolates can absorb the coconut milk differently. Also, your truffle is only as good as your chocolate. If you want a fantastic truffle, use a fantastic chocolate. A wonderful dark chocolate flavor will not be masked by the coconut milk in this recipe. My favorite is Callebaut - a Belgian chocolate.

                              Dark Chocolate Truffles

                              6 oz. of dark chocolate, chopped
                              3 fluid oz. ( use measuring cup) plus 2 t. of coconut milk
                              chocolate, chopped nuts, coconut, and/or cocoa for dipping and rolling
Blend coconut milk from can to mix it well before measuring since it can separate in the can. Heat milk until almost boiling in saucepan or microwave. Pour over chocolate in heat safe bowl. Stir until melted. Cool chocolate. Use the refrigerator if desired, but cover chocolate to prevent it from picking up any odors and watch it carefully as it can get too stiff. When chocolate stiffens whisk, stir or beat it until it is fluffy and lightens in color. When stiff enough (refrigerate again if needed), roll in 1 - 1 1/4 in. diameter balls. Roll immediately in desired toppings. If you want to dip them in melted chocolate, place balls on wax paper first and let air dry for an hour or two, bringing them to room temperature. Roll in chocolate and let harden on wax paper. Place in paper candy cups if desired. Store covered in cool place. Makes 12 - 16 truffles.

Pure chocolate contains cocoa butter and needs to be tempered to stabilize the cocoa butter and produce a firm hard chocolate. To avoid the need to temper chocolate, you can use confectionery coating in which the cocoa butter has been replaced by other fats. However, if you are avoiding dairy, many of these will not work for you. The real thing is better anyway and healthier, but you still need to check the label of the dark chocolate to make sure it does not contain dairy. Another option is to add 1 T. of shortening to 6 oz. of chocolate when melting it for dipping. Use the microwave at 50% power and stir every 1/2 minute just until it's melted. Always remember to keep moisture out of chocolate during the melting process so it doesn't seize up (thicken).

They make a beautiful gift if you can part with them. Yum.

Enjoy and celebrate Valentine's Day year round!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Best Fish Sticks Ever

Around here the Friday Night Fish Fries are quite popular. Going out to eat isn't as easy as it used to be though. Last week the kids asked for fish sticks. Fish is not their most favorite food and they thought perhaps in sticks it would taste better. We had given up fish sticks years ago when trying to reduce processed food, before we were concerned about gluten. I decided to give it a try. I added a little starch and zanthan gum to brown rice flour and used GF bread crumbs and crushed Chex cereal for the coating. It took a couple of tries to get the proportions right, but I was told to always make fish this way.

Homemade Gluten-Free Fish Sticks

4-4oz. tilapia fillets (1 pound)
1/2 c. gluten-free flour blend (6 T. brown rice
     flour, 2 T. potato starch, 1/8 t. zanthan gum)
1/2 c. gluten-free bread crumbs
1 c. crushed rice/corn Chex
1/2 t. seasoned salt
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder
2 eggs, beaten

Remove excess moisture from fish as needed. Cut each fillet in 4 strips lengthwise. Prepare your flour blend and put on a large plate. Mix bread crumbs, Chex cereal and seasonings and put on another plate. Beat eggs in small bowl. Spray large cookie sheet with oil.

Roll each piece of fish in flour, then dip in egg and roll in crumb mixture.  Place in pan. Repeat with remaining pieces and arrange pieces so they are close but not touching.  I dip 2 - 3 pieces at a time. Spray tops of fish sticks with gluten-free canola oil spray.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 20 - 25 minutes until they are browned and the fish is flaky. The time will depend upon the thickness of your fillets. Fish sticks can be turned after 15 minutes if desired but is not really necessary. Serve with your favorite sauce.

If gluten is not a concern, all-purpose flour and regular bread crumbs can easily be substituted for the non-gluten versions above. I make homemade bread crumbs by drying out bread scraps in a 250 degree F oven and crushing them. I was surprised to see that some store bought gluten-free "bread crumbs" appear to be flour based.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

That Favorite Recipe

Did you ever have a favorite recipe that everyone seemed to like and was just so flexible and easy? That's how I feel about the banana bread recipe I wrote about in my first blog. I had lowered the sugar to 1/2 cup and made the bread into muffins. They always turn out so nice and since you don't need zanthan gum, I've give the recipe to others with a gift of rice flour so they can easily try a gluten-free recipe. It was the inspiration for other goodies along the way.

I picked up an idea to have the flavors of peanut and toffee with banana bread in a magazine while waiting for an appointment one day. Their recipe had yogurt, wheat flour and toffee bits in it, but I took the idea home and modified my favorite recipe one more time. It was a hit! See what you think.


Banana Peanut Muffins                    print recipe

1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. dairy-free margarine
1 T. canola oil
2 eggs
1 t.  gluten-free vanilla
1 c. mashed banana
1 1/4 c. brown rice flour
3/4 t. gluten-free baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/4c. chopped peanuts
dairy-free mini chocolate chips and extra peanuts for decoration on top, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with 12 papers and lightly spray.

Cream sugar, oil and margarine until creamy. Whisk in eggs and vanilla. Stir in banana.

Whisk remaining dry ingredients in a separate bowl before adding to banana mixture. Stir into banana mixture just until mixed. Spoon equally into muffin cups. Decorate tops with peanuts and chocolate chips, if desired.

Bake for 18 - 22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove to rack to cool. Store in cool place for a day or wrap and freeze.


Note: Butter or margarine may be used in place of the dairy-free margarine if dairy is not a concern for you. No zanthan gum is required for this recipe.


Friday, February 3, 2012

A Twist on Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

You don't have to be a kid to love a good cookie. A friend was telling me about a vacation five years ago where her and her husband received a cookie a day as a special treat. One of the cookies was so good, she saved the wrapper with the ingredient list, promising herself she would try to make something similar to that delicious treat. Just recently, she decided to give it a try and they turned out great. I converted the recipe to gluten and dairy-free and they turned out great, too. The cinnamon, lemon and ground oatmeal give these cookies a great flavor. See what you think.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies     print recipe

1/4 c. dairy-free margarine
1/4 c.  dairy-free shortening
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 egg
1/2 t. vanilla
3/4 t. lemon juice
1 1/2 c. gluten-free rolled oats,
       blended to powder
1/2 c. brown rice flour
1/2 c. tapioca starch
3/4 t. zanthan gum
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. dairy-free mini chocolate chips
     (or 3/4 c. regular size)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Cream the shortening and margarine with the sugars. Whisk in egg, vanilla and lemon juice until mixed well.

Whisk oats, flours, zanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a separate bowl until combined. Add to egg mixture and stir until flour is combined. Add chocolate and nuts.

Form 1 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten about 1/2 way. Bake about 6 - 8 minutes depending if you want chewy or crunchy cookies. Cool 1-2 minutes and remove to rack to cool completely.

Happy cookie making.