Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger: Carol Kicinski Simply Gluten-free Desserts

August 6th, 2011 yum Posted in Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger, Gluten Free Blogs, Gluten Free Cookbook Recipe Review 4 Comments »

This month I decided to adopt Carol Kicinski of the blog Simply Gluten-free. I’d heard about her cookbook Simply Gluten-free Desserts and thought it sounded lovely. When Carol sent me a review copy, I thought that the timing was perfect. I needed someone to adopt, and here was this great recipe collection and gluten-free blogger ready and waiting! Carol’s book is truly a delight to look through. There are so many recipe that sound perfect for company, or perfect for a special family treat, from red velvet cupcakes to No-bake Chocolate Truffle Cake to creme brulee. There are also some very creative recipe, from dairy free cream puffs (on my to-do list!) to peanut-butter and jelly ice cream sandwiches, to dairy-free pumpkin creme brulee. You can also tell that Carol is very familiar with the gluten-free community and its resources as she shares classic forum favorites as black bean brownies and the ubiquitous flour-less peanut butter cookies. The range of recipes really makes this book a treasure trove for the newly diagnosed as well as the long-time veteran in the gluten-free trenches.

The only slight hiccup was just as I was all set to make some recipes from Carol’s cookbook and blog, the DH went traipsing off on a week long business trip to Florida. He is the major sweet tooth in our household. Granted, my mother has a not-so-secret sweet tooth of her own, but she is perpetually on a diet, so not always helpful at consuming goodies. And Toddler Yum does like sweets but I limit her sugar pretty heavily- this kid loves snap peas and artichokes and I’d like to keep it that way! So I hesitated, and waffled, and thought long and hard about what to make from Carol’s cookbook. Interestingly, while Carol’s main flour blend is a white-flour blend, she has quite a few grain-free recipes in her cookbook, like chestnut flour crepes and nut flour muffins.

I decided to make her almond-flour based apple cinnamon muffins because they sounded so darned good and I could feel good about sharing them with Toddler Yum as they were only sweetened with Agave nectar. The recipe yielded twelve moist, sweet but not overpoweringly sweet muffins. Everyone that tried them, from Toddler Yum to my Mother to the intrepid JM liked them, and I was happy to have tried them.

I also tried her chestnut flour crepes from the cookbook. It was a good way to break into the bags of chestnut flour I’d been hoarding in my cupboard, and it sounded simple and tasty. I didn’t make the filling, though, because I didn’t have whipping cream and so I may have missed out on the full experience. Nevertheless, Toddler Yum nibbled on them happily enough. I had never used chestnut flour before and so I was surprised by the toasted-nut fragrance in the flour. It reminded me of kinako, toasted soy flour that is used in Japanese sweets recipes as a topping, and I wondered if I could use kinako in recipes interchangeably with chestnut flour. Ultimately, I wasn’t sure that the taste of straight chestnut flour was quite my thing, but I appreciated that Carol had a recipe that I could try, and now that the bag has been opened perhaps I can find other recipes that just use it as a complementary flour that would suit our household.

The final recipe I tried from Carol’s cookbook was her famous cinnamon rolls.

This recipe used Carol’s classic white-rice, sweet rice, potato starch and tapioca starch flour blend. I think the DH would heartily approve, as he always liked using a similar white-rice mix from Bette Hagman. I hadn’t baked with white rice or sweet rice flour in a while, so it was good to get out those flours and look forward to recipes using a “normal” white flour blend that would emulate its gluten counterpart. I loved how easy it was to make. You whisk the dry ingredients together and then blend the wet dairy ingredients together in a food processor. Toddler Yum got a huge charge out of pressing the pulse button on my food processor. Next you add the dry ingredients to the food processor and pulse it together. This resulted in more joy from the toddler- a happy perk. The dough that comes out of the food processor is amazingly easy to work with. Carol says that the strength of this recipe is not just in the ingredients, but in the technique, and I have to agree. I love that Carol gives us the chance to knead the dough, and her technique of rolling the dough between two layers of parchment sprayed with oil is just brilliant. Now, her recipe calls for a 9 or 10 inch springform pan. I’m embarrassed to admit that I had to look up springform pan. Sure enough, I didn’t have one. Instead I used an 8 inch cake pan lined with two long strips of parchment set together to form a cross, so that you can easily remove the cinnamon rolls out of the pan. I couldn’t fit one of the cinnamon rolls in the pan and so I baked it separately. As a bonus, this became my first “tester” cinnamon roll that I could gobble up right away hot out of the oven. I did let it cool for about 5 minutes first. Anyway, not only was this dough very easy to work with, but it produced an excellent cinnamon roll.

My Mother was reminded of her childhood, when a visiting great-grandma would mix up a batch of cinnamon rolls for her parents, she and her two sisters at their farm. She said this gluten-free version was delicious, and while it was not quite as fluffy as the gluten-version, the taste was spot on. The dear Toddler Yum gobbled up a bit and asked for more. And as for me, well, I had one for breakfast with my latte and then had another as I was writing this post. This could be addicting! I do feel a bit bad having made this while the DH was away. The last time he was away I made (raw, nut-based) cheesecake. This time I made homemade cinnamon rolls. Cruel? A little bit… I may have to make this recipe again when he is home, since I don’t think we will have any left by the time he gets home…tomorrow.

The next recipe I plan to make from Carol’s book is her Lemon Bar recipe. This is something I always enjoy ordering at gluten-free bakeries, but never make myself. I think it is time to change that! Also, my Mother loves lemon in any form, but lemon bars in particular, so it would be nice to make some to share. But after that, those dairy-free cream puffs are fair game, as soon as I figure out how to adapt Carol’s flour blend to be potato-free so that I can share them with my allergic friend JM.

Since this is an “Adopt a gluten-free BLOGGER” event and not just an “adopt a gluten-free cookbook author” event I wanted to make sure to make some recipes from Carol’s blog. I had such a good time looking through Carol’s photos of her recipes. I was delighted to find some vegan and vegetarian savory recipes that Carol made for her son and family. I bookmarked Carol’s Recipe for African Vegan Sunbutter Stew and loved reading about her travels in Africa. However, I simply could not resist her recipe for Gluten-free Vegan Spoonbread with a Mess of Greens. She had me at greens… and spoonbread intrigued me as well. As a Yankee… am I a Yankee? No, ok, as a Northwestern native from Seattle, I had never heard of spoonbread. What was it? At first I assumed it was corn bread, but the dough was so liquid I knew that it had to be different. In fact, I was so worried about how liquid the batter was that I sent Carol a message asking if that was normal! Poor Carol. Anyway, I also did a little research on my own and found out that spoonbread is like a cross between “polenta, cornbread and a souffle” and should be soft enough that you can eat it with a spoon. Well, that explains the name! We enjoyed the spoonbread.

Toddler Yum gobbled it up plain like candy, and I covered it with a mess of Carol’s spicy greens. Oh how I do love Southern-style greens… when they are vegetarian! I’d made them before, but I enjoyed Carol’s version so much that I can’t wait to make it again, maybe with a few changes just for fun. I was thinking some seared mushroom bites would be a tasty savory addition to the recipe… or maybe toasted nuts. Yum! I’ve bookmarked another of Carol’s vegan recipes for Creamy Brussel Sprouts and plan on making them in the next day or so.

As always, this adoption was a true pleasure, and I am grateful to have had the chance to review Carol’s wonderful book. It is a wonderful resource, and I know it will come in handy whether I need to make a glutenoid-approved dessert for an event or just a sweet treat for our family. You can watch Carol on youtube and hear more about her fascinating story, and I hope you will check out her blog and cookbook too!

More Reviews of Carol’s book and recipes:

Kim’s review with Black Forest Cupcakes Recipe
Review and recipe for Sticky Mango Rice Cake
Wendy’s experience with Carol’s cupcakes
A general article about Carol’s book

*This post is a day late, because I wanted to make sure that I wrote something that did Carol justice. Apologies… but better late than never!

Email me at adoptaglutenfreeblogger[at]gmail[dot]com with your photo of the recipe, the URL of your post, name of the recipe and the URL of the original blogger’s recipe post. PLEASE SIZE PHOTO TO BE A MAXIMUM OF 500 pixels wide.

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Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger: Bernice of Wheatless and Meatless

July 13th, 2011 yum Posted in Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger, Blog Event, Gluten Free Blogs, Vegetarian 6 Comments »

This month Wendy of Celiacs in the House is hosting Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger. Thank you, Wendy! The July edition sign-ups will be open here at the Book of Yum in the next couple of days. I hope to see you here! I first met Bernice of Wheatless and Meatless at a Blogher Food Blogger’s conference, but of course I’d known her through her fantastic gluten-free and vegetarian blog for ages before that. Bernice’s site has a lovely mix of healthy, hearty vegetarian fare and New York gluten-free restaurant or menu reviews, and I love it! The one disadvantage of being a busy food blogger is that I rarely have time to experiment with other people’s recipes- which is exactly why I started the Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger Event. In all this time, I’d never made one of Bernice’s great recipes. This month, I made two, and found tons more that I’d like to try.

Worried by the above photo that this blog has dipped off the vegetarian wagon? Never fear! You are eying one of Bernice’s many Gluten-free brilliant meatless burger recipes on a Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-free Bun with organic lettuce from our garden and some tiny heirloom tomatoes from the Farmer’s Market. Looks pretty tasty, doesn’t it, and amazingly like the “real” thing. It was difficult to choose just one recipe, but I ended up making her Gluten-free Vegetarian Bombay Beastless Burger, which has a lentil and roasted eggplant base with egg whites for binding and walnuts for extra protein and texture. The indian spices (cumin, coriander) and tangy indian tamarind really take this burger into international territory, and amp up the yum factor.

One note: Whatever you do, DO poke holes in the eggplant before roasting, as Bernice recommends. I recently tried roasting an eggplant the night before our big trip to Arizona. I made the mistake of cooking it on a low temperature and not poking any holes in the flesh. Usually when I roast them on a high heat the skin cracks open and the steam comes out naturally. However, this time the eggplant swelled up without cracking the skin. When I reached in and poked it with a spatula to see if it was done, it exploded with a massive boom and hot eggplant flesh shrapnel showered all over me, leaving burns on my face, neck, and worst of all, on my arm that was closest. Oh man, that hurt. We used a folk remedy of egg whites whisked with a little baking soda to coat the burns, which seemed to help somewhat, but it still hurt like crazy and it was hard to sleep that night. I had to pick up some long sleeve cover ups for our Arizona vacation specially, but otherwise it worked out. This is probably the worst kitchen injury I’ve ever had, though, and I hope it never happens again. When I roasted the eggplant for Bernice’s recipe I have to admit that I cringed at the idea of taking it out of the oven. It all worked out though, and I vowed to never again skip the puncturing of eggplant in roasted eggplant recipes.

The second recipe I tried by Bernice was a tasty little number with cauliflower, chestnuts and a parmesan breadcrumb herb crumble. I made the minor change of roasting the cauliflower for ten minutes before mixing it up with the breading. I used Canyon Bakehouse gluten-free bread for the crumbs, since I had some on hand from a recent Whole Foods trip. I really enjoyed it, and so did Baby Yum. The DH apparently prefers the texture of raw (yuck) cauliflower or simmered cauliflower in an Indian gravy. Who knew?!!! I could eat this stuff by the pound, though.

As usual, adopting a gluten-free blogger friend was a tremendously rewarding experience and I got to know Bernice’s culinary style better than ever before. The woman is a master of the gluten-free homemade veggie burger, and has inspired me to stock my cupboards with lentils. I always have a huge variety of indian dal, but have been somewhat indifferent to the more pedestrian American lentil since I hadn’t found any recipes that really got my pulse racing. Bernice’s veggie burgers frequently have a lentil base, and it gives them an amazingly realistic appearance and they taste great with her tamarind-vegan worcestershire sauce seasoning. Love that! And I think once you meet this spicy, vibrant gluten-free New Yorker and her blog, you’ll love them too.

Bernice also runs an online gluten-free bakery, housed at Etsy. If you don’t have time to try one of her recipes, why not order some of her baked goods?

Recipes on my “to try” list:
from savory
Vegetarian Borlotti Burger
Southwest Black Bean Burger Recipe
Rosemary Olive Cocktail Bread
Gluten-free Whole Grain Hamburger Bun
to sweet
Gluten-free St. Patrick’s Day Pistachio Cookies
Gluten-free soy walnut wafers
Gluten-free Cherry Red Velvet Valentine Cake

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