Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Spice mixes can not only be costly, they can contain ingredients you don't want to consume such as diary, gluten, artificial ingredients or preservatives. When the store I used to get my taco seasoning from switched the seasoning to one with maltodextrin, I decided to try to make my own. How hard could it be, I thought. And it wasn't. The kids didn''t even seem to notice the difference. This recipe replaces one packet of taco seasoning. Alter to your own taste.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

1 T. chili powder
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder
1/8 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. paprika
1 1/2 t. ground cumin
1 t. sea salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1/3 t. cornstarch

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.


Friday, April 20, 2012

The Quest for Gluten-Free Cake

    In my attempt to make a GF light cake for celebrations, I've tried to make it from scratch and I've used cake mixes (hoping for a lighter cake). The mix for my daughter's birthday was still quite heavy. I took a break from making cake for a while. Then I needed to make a cake for Easter this year, since there are a bunch of April birthdays in my extended family and everyone would be together. So, I started making cake recipes again.

I leaned a few things. Using beaten egg whites seemed to help make the batter lighter. Over beating seemed to make the cake tougher. I decided to make a cake using cupcakes since smaller portions of GF dough seem to rise better. And in the end the Easter birthday (cupcake) cake was a success and I now have a couple of cupcake recipes I really like. I didn't try them as a cake yet, but that should work.

I found some great recipes at The following cupcake recipe was adapted from her gluten-free Orange Creme Cupcake recipe. It's a cross between angel food and sponge cake and is airy and light. The original recipe is also vegan.

Lemon Cupcakes

3/4 c. brown rice flour
3/4 c. potato starch
3/4 c. plus 2 T. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/8 t. salt
1 t. zanthan gum
1/4 c. egg whites, room temperature
2 T. canola oil
1/4 c. lemon juice
3/4 c. coconut milk
     (or other non-dairy milk beverage)
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 T. lemon juice
additional water as needed
dash of stale turmeric
lemon zest

Whisk flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and zanthan gum in a small bowl. Set aside.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add oil, 1/4 c. juice and non-dairy milk and mix liquids together briefly at slow speed. Gently stir in dry ingredients and beat at medium speed just until blended.

Fill 16 muffin papers with dough and smooth tops with the back of a spoon or wet fingers. Bake at 350 degrees F for 17 - 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool cupcakes on rack.

Mix 1 T. lemon juice with powdered sugar and turmeric. Add drops of water until desired consistency. Spread on cupcakes. Remember a soft frosting will continue to spread after you put it on. Add zest on top, if desired.

Note: Stale turmeric should not change the flavor of your frosting. It is a natural way to color the frosting yellow. Food coloring can be used instead. The amount of egg does seem to matter for the texture, so I measure it. One medium to large egg white is about 2 T.

The light texture and glaze-like frosting goes great together and is a favorite here. A taste of spring!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Experimenting With Natural Food Colors

It was fun using various foods to color my Easter cookies naturally this year. I chose a macaroon cookie made with egg whites. The colors were overall successful, but I think the liquid did cause the cookies to flatten some (although there were some other factors).

I tried a variety of natural colors. I tried collecting juice from frozen berries that were thawed, but since I was using small amounts that didn't always work. I did use a strainer for some, but then you get some pulp and that may not work for some things. The best way is probably to use cheese cloth, if possible, to just get the juice.

Raspberry - I expected a light pink, but ended up with a purple. I used the juice from thawed berries.

Turmeric - Mine was old but still had a smell. It didn't seem to affect the cookies right away, but I thought I detected a difference after a few days. Turmeric made a very nice bright yellow.

Blueberry - This made a bluish purple.  I ended up using a strainer for this one. I did not try blueberries and blackberries together (supposed to make raspberry purple).

Carrots - Although shredded carrots seem to have the potential to stain my counter top orange, they did not produce enough juice to attempt to color my cookies. That idea will need more work since I do not have a juicer.

Blackberries - This was my favorite color which I would describe as a violet, or a soft purple.

Strawberries - I did get my pink after cutting out the white inside of the thawed berry and using the berry after straining.

It was fun and easy to experiment with natural colors from food.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hot Cross Buns

I tried making gluten-free hot cross buns and they raised well but didn't quite have the texture I was hoping for. They were edible, but not quite worthy of posting for Easter this year.

If you are interested in making hot cross buns, try using your favorite yeast roll recipe and add a little extra sugar and fat, some dried fruit (raisins, currents, dates) and your favorite spices (we like cinnamon and cardamom with a little nutmeg and allspice). I used muffin tins since that size works nice for us. Don't forget to brush the tops with a beaten egg before baking for that shiny appearance. And, of course, finish off with a cross of white icing (powdered sugar, water and vanilla, if desired).