One Flu over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Cuckoo.  Cuckoo.  There’s nothing like being confined to a bed to battle through a flu to drive you up the walls with boredom, but I can now walk to the kitchen without getting knocked down by coughing.

Needless to say, cooking hasn’t been a priority.  My mother, who was also suffering, made a pot of soup that lasted about four meals, and my poor dad asked about whatever he could microwave for us.  I’m sure my husband is sitting back in Belfast, grateful not to have to take care of me for once!  I kid, I kid.  We’re both very good about taking care of each other.  I have said that the “legitimate marriage” portion of the visa application could boil down to one two-part question:

Has your spouse/partner had whooping cough at any point during your relationship?
If yes, did you leave them during their whooping cough?

Needless to say, CB and I are still kicking — in more ways than one!

The one thing I have managed to do was prepare dessert for the family dinner that never was.  We got up and cleaned the house (okay, half the house), which prompted itchiness and sneezing, and then I drove out in the pouring rain to borrow a cup of brown sugar from our friends who live about three times closer than the nearest store.  In Belfast, when I am missing an ingredient, I shove on my wellies and trod down to the Tesco.  All in, it’ll take about 20 minutes.  I was gone more than 20 minutes in the car this time.  Living in the sticks is hard, you know?

Once the neighbourly cup of sugar was obtained (which I imagine happened much like finding the Kokiri Sword) . . .

kokiri sword

You got the Kokiri Sword!

I set out to make pumpkin cupcakes.  Only, there wasn’t a muffin pan suited for the job.  What’s a girl to do?

deku shield

Now, ride into battle!

No, that’s not it.  You make do with what you have.  What I had was a really-mini loaf pan.  So I made pumpkin mini loaves.

For scale, that is a regular dinner plate.

For scale, that is a regular dinner plate.

I only changed the recipe because I couldn’t find nutmeg, so I added a little bit of extra cinnamon to keep it from tasting bland.  I also left them in the oven for 28 minutes.  After dinner, I iced them.

Messy, as per usual.

Messy, as per usual.

I know it’s a little bit of heresy in today’s cupcake-crazy world, but I think I like them better this way.  They did have more of a bread texture than cake, which I can’t really explain, but they were more satisfying and tasted less like I was eating dessert.

I have a few new projects I want to try, so now I just need to catch up on Real Life and do it.  Have you adapted any of your recipes into a new shape or style?  How did it work?

Thanksgiving 2012 & Feeding the Stuffing Addiction

apron brooch

CB thinks it’s hilarious when I wear his apron because I can’t eat pork.

I have to admit, Thanksgiving went down better than I ever anticipated.  I made the entire meal gluten-free rather than having things I couldn’t eat after I slaved over it for two days.

Here was our menu:

Turkey (cheated and bought a Marks and Spencers ready-to-roast job)
Gravy
Cornbread and bacon stuffing
Sweet potato casserole
Green bean casserole
Pecan-crusted spinach and artichoke dip (with homemade creamed spinach, no less!)
Baked macaroni and cheese
Sour cream mashed potatoes
Pao de queijo (not traditional Thanksgiving by far, but I wanted rolls, and this is what I got)
Pumpkin cheesecake
Pumpkin cupcakes

I was going to make oven-roasted root vegetables but decided at the last minute that we had more than enough food already.

Clockwise from top left: Cornbread and bacon stuffing, sour cream mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin cupcakes, pecan-crusted spinach and artichoke dip, pao de queijo, turkey breast, green bean casserole (left), sweet potato casserole (right), and the shining sun in the center is the baked macaroni and cheese. Pumpkin cheesecake not pictured.  And, yes, we have a terrible tablecloth.  We know.

Clockwise from top left: Cornbread and bacon stuffing, sour cream mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin cupcakes, pecan-crusted spinach and artichoke dip, pao de queijo, turkey breast, green bean casserole (left), sweet potato casserole (right), and the shining sun in the center is the baked macaroni and cheese. Pumpkin cheesecake not pictured. And, yes, we have a terrible tablecloth. We know.

When I was young, I became fascinated with stuffing.  It was my favourite part of Thanksgiving, and I remember being so excited when I found out you could eat it other times of the year.  I begged for it until my mother finally showed me a box and told me I could make it myself.  No, it’s not good for you, and it’s especially not good for you from a box!

When I found out I couldn’t eat gluten, stuffing was the first thing that came to mind.  Instantly, I wanted it all the time and for every meal.  Gluten-free stuffing mixes exist here (well, at least one), and, while tasty, they just don’t scratch the itch of this Stove Top purist.  I’m afraid nothing ever will.  However, last year, while visiting my parents for Christmas, I came upon a recipe that I adapted into a satisfying replacement.  Don’t get me wrong — it doesn’t taste like Stove Top — but it is good enough to go back for seconds.  I used a bag of Bob’s Red Mill cornbread mix last year, but I didn’t have one for Thanksgiving.  I immediately went to the Gluten Free Goddess and located something I could make work for me with several adjustments.  So, without further ado, here is my version of what makes Thanksgiving Thanksgiving.

Cornbread and Bacon Stuffing

Sweet Cornbread

Ingredients:
1 cup stone ground gluten-free cornmeal
3/4 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (optional — not included in dry ingredients list)
1/2 cup organic light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 cup very warm water
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
2 extra tablespoons water, if needed

Hardware:
Cast iron skillet
Oven
2 mixing bowls
2 whisks
Measuring cups and spoons
Spatula (to get the last bits out of the bowl)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C with lightly greased skillet inside.

Combine the dry ingredients — cornmeal, sorghum flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, fine sea salt, and brown sugar — in a bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined.  Set aside.

Whisk the eggs and olive oil together for about 1 minute.  This is where the original recipe had me confused.  I checked the comments and notes, and it seems like I’m the only person who can’t seem to figure it out.  I don’t see where the warm water and juice is meant to be added.  I choose to add it here, as I thought it might be lumpy if you tried to mix it in later.  So, add the lime juice and the warm water. Mix to combine.

Add the dry bowl to the wet bowl in three or four portions, ensuring to mix thoroughly between each portion.  You are looking for a smooth, cake-like batter; do not beat it past when it looks like cake batter.  If your batter is too thick, add in a little extra warm water, bit by bit, until you get the consistency you want.  Mine came out perfect without extra water.

Remove the skillet from the oven (carefully!) and sprinkle the coarse sea salt into it.  The salt here is optional, but I love the complexity it gives a sweet cornbread.  Pour the batter into the skillet, scraping the bowl with the spatula to make sure you have it all.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Definitely check on it at 25 minutes because mine did not need any longer.  Let the cornbread cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving (or turning it into stuffing).

Stuffing

Ingredients:
3 cups crumbled cornbread
6 slices gluten-free bread, toasted
6 slices bacon (I used 4 slices of turkey bacon [turkey bacon has bigger pieces because there is less fat])
2 eggs
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped (I didn’t bother)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Hardware:
Casserole dish with lid that can go in oven
Oven
Stove
Small bowl
Measuring cups and spoons
Frying pan or skillet
Various kitchen utensils (fork, spatula, something to help with frying)
Mixing bowl

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.

Cut the toasted bread into small cubes.  Set aside.

Fry the bacon until crispy and remove from the pan.  If you are using veggie or turkey bacon, add some oil to the pan, as there is a lot less fat in them than pork bacon.  Add the onion, celery, sage, and thyme to the pan and fry until the onion is tender and translucent.  Remove from heat.  Crumble cooled bacon back into the pan.

In the small bowl, beat the eggs with the fork.  Add to the mixing bowl with the bacon and onions/celery and all seasonings — salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.  Fold together with the fork.  Add the cornbread crumbles and bread cubes and fold with the spatula.  Try to ensure that all the dry parts are covered.  Pour half of the chicken broth over the mixture and fold with the spatula.  Assess how much more broth you need (I needed the whole cup) to completely moisten the mixture and add it in.  Fold again.

Pour the mixture into the casserole dish (no need for greasing) and cover.  Bake in oven for 30 minutes.  Alternatively, it can be used to stuff a bird instead of baking.  I’m not that adventurous yet.

Always Forward, Just Sometimes with Cheesecake

Sydney likes breathing!  My surgery has come and gone, and I’m definitely on the path to recovering well.  I had the last of the things intruding into my face removed on Monday, and now I just have to let it do what it’s meant to do.  In the meantime, I’m learning about breathing through my nose — which should be a reflex but isn’t anymore after years of disuse.

One of the great things about the surgery was that my mother was able to come and look after me.  I didn’t know in what way she would be helpful, but she definitely was.  She did the majority of the cooking and cleaning, allowing CB to go to work without guilt.  I used what energy I had to pursue what I felt like was a a very noble goal:

Make Mum feel less crap about living gluten-free

I wanted to show her that, while not always easy — especially not in places like Belfast or rural Georgia — a gluten-free life doesn’t have to be completely depressing. A couple of months ago, Mum had to undergo a battery of allergy tests, completely changing the way she lives her life.  Unfortunately, but, I’m sure, not coincidentally, many of the things she’s been told to remove from her diet are the very things I’ve removed after years of trial and error.  The biggies: gluten and beef.

Since I wasn’t quite up to my standard, I instructed her on making those pumpkin cupcakes I do so adore.  Before she arrived, I also whipped up a favourite I perfected last year: pumpkin cheesecake.  (Can you tell it’s autumn, and I’ve gotten a pumpkin from the market?)

My mother was quite like me about pumpkin before I’d tried it.  I remember thinking I hated pumpkin because I didn’t care for a lot of other squashes. I’d never even carved a pumpkin until I was 16.  I got the flu when I was in college, and a friend sent over muffins to cheer me up.  I had no idea what they were.  From a box, she said, and frosting from a can.  Yeah, but what flavour?  It absolutely blew my mind to discover they were pumpkin.

It wasn’t until I moved to Northern Ireland that I started craving pumpkin.  I think it was a response to knowing I wasn’t in America but REALLY starting to feel it.  Unfortunately, pumpkins are only available in the month of October here, so I missed out the first time around for not recognizing my craving soon enough.  Last year, after having lost another piece of my Americanness by marrying a Northern Irish man, I grabbed hold to as many pumpkins as I could, and the pumpkin cheesecake is one of the results.

I didn’t get any beautiful pictures because it was gone that fast.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Ingredients:

24 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups pureed pumpkin
3 eggs + 1 egg yolk
1/4 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (separated into 2 halves)
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups gluten-free graham cracker or digestive biscuit crumbs
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 stick salted butter, melted

Hardware:
oven
springform pan
flexible spatula
Ruby (or mixer, or strong arms)
mixing bowl (2 if you don’t use a mixer)
wooden spoon
measuring cups and spoons
egg separator (not necessary, but I just got a new one that I adore)

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 350°F/175°C.

In a bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, melted butter, and 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon.  Press the mixture into the bottom of your springform pan.

Using a mixer or your wooden spoon, whip the cream cheese by itself until it gets shinier.  There’s not really a perfect thing to say to look for.  You want it smooth. Add the pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar, remaining cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Mix together until combined.  Add in the flour and vanilla extract.  Make sure everything looks uniform.

Lumps aren’t a good idea.  I made one where I found there was a bit of unmixed cream cheese at the bottom of the bowl; I threw it on the top of the cheesecake, thinking it would all melt in together.  WRONG.  I had white lumps of no flavour in the finished product.  Though, I will admit that I like to leave some of the pumpkin a little chunky, sometimes.  This gives you a cheese with a little extra texture and bit of a fruity bite.  If you don’t like that, don’t do that.  If you’re using canned pumpkin, you don’t have much choice there.

Pour the mixture over the crumb base. Gently tap it on the countertop to remove any big air bubbles.  If you don’t, they will find their ways to the top and create big, burnt, air-filled lumps on the surface.  Bake for 55-60 minutes.  When it is completed, leave it to cool at room temperature for 20 minutes before covering with cling film (or a large plate if it’s more handy) and moving it to the refrigerator for 4 hours.  At this point, remove the sides of the springform and either leave it on the base or put it on a cake stand or plate or whatever you have around.  I don’t like to leave it on the base because, when I slice through the cheesecake, I don’t want to knick the coating of the pan.

When serving, I like to make it look fancy with a light dusting of icing sugar (powdered sugar) or cinnamon . . . or an icing sugar/cinnamon mix! . . . and a dollop of whipped cream on the top.

Give it to someone who doesn’t like pumpkin.

A Tale of Two Jars

I love glass jars.  They are perfect for storing the tons and tons of gluten-free flours necessary to be a real gluten-free baker.  I also keep things like pine nuts, chocolate chips, oats, lavender, and various rice pastas among their ranks.  Because there is such a range, my most important tool is my label maker.

CB thought I was crazy when I said I needed a label maker when I bought my first jars.  It soon became obvious just how necessary it really was.  I even have two jars which are not Celiac-friendly — regular oats and wheat flour.  Labeling has become more and more important as my kitchen and my skills grow.

And then there was this guy.

mystery jar
I had my mind set last night on a baking project.  It was part “I want to make it!”, part “This is a good excuse to put away some jars and get them out of boxes!”.  I fully admit it.  CB was helping me to get everything together, and he holds up one big, full jar.  “What is it?” he asks.  I suddenly realise that I have no freaking clue.

I do remember how it happened, though.  Several months ago, we were packing away all our earthly belongings for the great move that never transpired.  I saw an empty jar and a bag of flour.  I didn’t want the bag to burst open inside a box (Could you imagine the looks on the customs officers’ faces when they see a box covered in white powder?!), so I dumped it into the jar.  CB says, “But we’ve already packed your label maker?  How will we know what it is?” “Well,” I wisely explain, “We’ll know it’s X FLOUR because it’s the only one without a label.” “Good idea!” he says.

Good idea, my butt.  Months later, I’m sitting here trying to compare the weight, texture, and colour of the flour to fill in the blanks.  What are you?  There is the remnant of a label on the glass.  What did you used to be?  Why aren’t you that anymore?
 
At the end of the day, I am no more knowledgeable on what he is than what he is not (except almond flour.  He is not almond flour.).  It didn’t matter for my project, though.  Ruby and I went about our business and created a masterpiece anyway.

I got this recipe from Gluten-Free Goddess, which is a site I wish I had found ages ago.  I didn’t make my cupcakes vegan because, well, I’m not vegan, and vegan products are pretty expensive around here. I also played it pretty fast and loose with the smaller measurements.  I can’t say exactly why I did it, though.  It doesn’t sound like me.

Pumpkin Cupcakes


Ingredients:
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cream cheese
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Hardware:
Ruby (okay, okay, a mixer of some sort)
mixing bowl (if you are using a stand mixer, you can use the bowl from it)
flexible spatula
cupcake liners
muffin tins
measuring cups and spoons
oven
wooden spoon
whisk

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.

Dump all the dry ingredients (sorghum flour, brown sugar, tapioca starch, sugar, almond flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg) into your mixing bowl.  Whisk by hand or with whisk attachment on mixer.  I suggest the whisk because, with so many dry ingredients, you want to make sure there aren’t any lumps and everything is well-combined.

Add in (melted! Always measure by melting! I can’t believe I haven’t said it earlier!  You can pop it in the microwave for a short time — watch continuously and stir every 10 seconds.) coconut oil a little at a time.  Switch to your wooden spoon and watch for it to completely combine before adding more.  The texture should be like wet sand when it’s all in the mixture.  Add your pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla extract.

Here’s where having a mixer saves the day.  Your end result is a thick and stretchy batter, so guess how it gets that way.  If you aren’t using a mixer, it gets there with hard work.  I let Ruby at it on Setting 8 (medium high) for about 2-3 minutes.  The original recipe said 1-2, but I found it wasn’t completely combined by then.  A hand mixer will probably take the same amount of time.  I don’t know how long if you’re just using a spoon, but I don’t envy you right now.

Fill your cupcake liners with your batter.  Since my oven broke two of my silicon muffin tins (I don’t know how; please don’t ask.), I’m down to only one muffin tin, so batches were in order.  I didn’t know how much the batter would rise, so, on my first batch, I filled the liners only halfway.  It didn’t rise very much, so the tops of the cupcakes were below the tops of the liners.  On the second batch, I filled them 3/4 to the top, and they were almost there.  Next time, I’m going to fill them nearly to the edge and cross my fingers.  The recipe also says to smooth the tops. I thought my batter looked pretty smooth and figured it would spread out when it got hot, so I didn’t bother.  It doesn’t affect the taste at all, but I wish I had listened because they rose unevenly.

Bake for 22-25 minutes.  Because I don’t yet have a good relationship with my ovens, I checked on them after 15 minutes.  20 minutes.  22 minutes.  I took the first, smaller batch out after 22, and I left the more full second batch in for the full 25. Watch carefully in these last minutes if you fill your liners higher and leave them in longer because I can’t guarantee any results.

Let them cool in the muffin tin until you can touch them without burning yourself. Move them to a wire rack to cool for an hour.

Time for your frosting!  I have to admit that I have never made frosting or used a piping bag.  It’s shameful, I know, and it’s not beautiful.  Again, I used a newly scrubbed Ruby to whip it all together.  If you don’t have a stand mixer, you’ll need to whisk it all together again.

Start with your powdered sugar and give it a good whisk before you add anything to it. Lumps will not be easy to get rid of once you add the other ingredients.  Alternatively, you could sift it into your bowl.  Add the cream cheese and maple syrup and whisk until thoroughly combined.  You can use a piping bag or spread it with a knife.

My icing was a bit too sweet for my tastes and didn’t taste enough like maple, so I will lower the amount of sugar and up the maple syrup next time.  It’s all to your taste. Give it a lick when you finish and you can decide what you need to do for your own.  I think I’ll just eyeball the sugar and go for 4 tablespoons of maple syrup next time.

Oh, there will be a next time.

pumpkin cupcake