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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Blueberry Muffins

We really do like blueberry muffins around here.  And one can never have too many variations on a theme if it involves blueberries, at least in my house.  I've posted blueberry muffins with streusel topping and blueberry-lemon muffins, so here's one more delicious recipe to add! We love to go blueberry picking in the late summer and we freeze them to eat throughout the winter months. Yum!  This recipe has a bit of depth to it thanks to the addition of corn flour in the recipe.  They have been particularly enjoyable to eat while snowed in during a blizzard. Yum!  Enjoy!

Ready to eat! 
Blueberry Muffins
Makes 12 Muffins

Set oven to 400F. Line 12 muffins cups with paper liners.

Mix together in a large bowl:
½ cup corn flour (not cornstarch, not cornmeal - it's sold as corn flour and is a more fine version of cornmeal)
½ cup white OR brown rice flour (or half brown/half white flours)
½ cup tapioca starch
½ tsp xantham gum
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. cinnamon (optional, but recommended)

Add and mix in just until combined (don't overmix, it's okay if there are a few lumps):
¾ cup milk (lactose-free or other milk substitutes work as well)
¼ cup butter, melted
1 egg

Add & fold in:
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Divide evenly between 12 muffin cups, lined with paper baking cups.

Bake at 400F for 15-22 minutes until nicely browned on top (cooking time varies depending on whether you use frozen or fresh blueberries).
Remove to cooling rack to cool.  Great warm or cooled.  Enjoy!
Fresh from the oven - a little oddly divided size-wise due to little kids helping - but still delicious!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Mushroom-Gruyere Polenta Bake

Amidst the myriad of wedding dessert posts, I think it's important to throw in regular dishes as well.  I had just been chatting with my sister about polenta, so it seemed appropriate to write this recipe up since it was a hit with everyhone (even if the kids didn't love the mushrooms). If you like mushrooms, you'll love this dish.  This is one of my favorite cold-weather dishes since it's so rich and flavorful, and yet so easy to whip together!  You can easily make your own polenta, but I tend to use ready-made since then I know the consistency of the polenta will be correct.  The sharp gruyere cheese adds a complimentary flavor to the mushrooms and polenta.  It's a great dish to throw together!  We eat this dish as a main course, but you could easily have it as a side dish.  Just keep in mind that it's quite filling.  Enjoy!
Fresh from the oven and ready to eat!

Mushroom Gruyere Polenta Bake
Makes 8" x 8" pan (~4-6 servings)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Chop coarsely and put into 8" x 8" pan:
1 package pre-cooked polenta (18oz/510g) I used Trader Joe's organic
Coarsely chopped polenta - mine was from an oblong polenta roll. Some pre-cooked polenta comes in blocks, some in rectangles, some in cylinders. 

Prepare the following veggies, then set aside:

Remove stems, wash and slice:
8 oz white button mushrooms
8 oz mini portabella mushrooms

4-5 cloves garlic

Heat over medium to medium-high heat:
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp oil

Saute until softened:
pre-sliced mushrooms 

Drain off most of the liquid.  Move mushrooms to the sides of the pan.  In the center of the pan saute 1-2 minutes, until aromatic:
minced garlic cloves

Mix together mushrooms and garlic and then spread over polenta.
Mushrooms and garlic spread over polenta
Sprinkle the top with:
1-2 cups freshly grated gruyere cheese
I used a handheld grater, which grates finely and makes it look like there's more cheese there than there really is. 
Cook 17-20 minutes at 375F until nicely melted, and cheese just starts browning.

Great served with salad as a main dish, or it could serve as a hearty side dish. Enjoy!
Mushroom-Gruyere Polenta served up with a romaine, cucumber and pear salad
My four year old was a big fan of the polenta - she thought the yellow pieces were big pieces of cheese.  One of those times correcting her got me a "no, mom, this is good cheese" reply.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Strawberry Frosting!!!

Thank you, Debbie, for pointing out I needed to post this! :)
I really love using marshmallow fluff in my frostings - I find it adds a lightness and delicious taste to them, including this strawberry frosting.  I used a high quality jam with lovely chunks of strawberry in it, so there were bits of strawberry throughout the frosting.  I found it created a fresh strawberry taste that wasn't overwhelming.  I even filled some lemon cupcakes with strawberry frosting, then froze them for a week before removing and topping with fresh strawberry frosting, and the center filling held up perfectly! Still absolutely delicious.  Those were my Strawberry-Lemon Cupcakes. Enjoy!

Strawberry frosting topped cupcakes, dipped in coarse sugar just after being frosted for a fancy, finished look. Yum!

Strawberry Frosting!!!
Makes enough to frost ~12 cupcakes.  You can easily double, triple, quadruple this recipe.

Beat the following in a mixer for ~2 minutes, until light and fluffy and evenly whipped (start slowly and build up speed to avoid powdered sugar exploding):
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp milk (lactose-free works great)
3 Tbsp good quality strawberry jam (not jelly)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup marshmallow fluff

Spread with a knife, pipe onto cupcakes, or use to fill cupcakes/cake.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Strawberry-Lemon Cupcakes!

These are a delicious strawberry-lemon cupcake - really perfect for any time of year.  Add in the fact that they're also filled with a light strawberry frosting, then topped with strawberry frosting and you have a show-stopper!  These were beautiful and a perfect addition to the gluten-free wedding reception I put together for my awesome brother Mike and his lovely wife Amanda.   I even pre-filled and froze the cupcakes, then removed them the day before the wedding to add the frosting, and they were perfectly tasty, moist, and fabulous. Enjoy!
Strawberry-Lemon cupcakes, ready for the wedding!  The tops were dipped in coarse sugar to add a finished look.

Strawberry-filled Lemon Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting
Makes 18 cupcakes

Set oven at 350F.  Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.

Mix the following in a bowl:
1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 cup white rice flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar

Add and whisk until smooth:
1 cup milk (lactose-free works great)
1/2 cup oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp orange zest (make sure to only use the outer edge of the orange, so you don’t get the white rind, which is bitter)
2 tsp lemon zest
9-18 drops lemon essential oil (depending on how strong you like the lemon) (I love DoTerra Essential Oils* b/c many of their oils are good for ingesting. The lemon and peppermint are wonderful for cooking!)

Add and whisk in:
6 eggs

This batter will seem very runny, but that’s okay!  Coconut flour absorbs a lot of liquid during cooking.

Pour into 18 muffin cups. Fill ~ ¾  full.   Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden browned. 

These rise SO well. The coconut flour absorbs a remarkable amount of liquid, leaving you with a moist, delicious cake!

Remove from pan and let cool on wire rack.  

Cut out cone-shaped piece from the center of each cupcake.  Then slice off excess middle, saving the top of the cupcake.  Pipe strawberry frosting into the center of each cupcake, replacing the top of the cupcake. Don't worry if they don't look perfect, because you'll pipe frosting on to cover any imperfections.  
A dollop of strawberry frosting in the center of a lemon cupcake. We enjoyed taste-testing by eating the insides (saved in the bowl at the back).
Strawberry-filled Lemon Cupcakes! Yum!

Now, you can either:
1. Frost as desired with additional strawberry frosting
2. Freeze cupcakes in single layer in freezer ziploc bags.  Then you can frost at a later time (best within a few weeks, though I've never tried much beyond that). Remove cupcakes from freezer, let sit in bag 5 minutes before removing from the bag.  Then remove from bags and let sit on counter 10-15 minutes.  Then frost as normal.

Strawberry-Lemon cupcakes alternated with Chocolate-Caramel Cupcakes on tiers looked (and tasted) great!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Chicken Parmesan

I think it's important to intersperse some practical recipes amongst the plethora of dessert recipes I've been (and will continue) posting from my brother's wedding reception.  Chicken Parmesan is one of my favorite meals of all-time.  But I like the chicken in thin or small pieces, lightly breaded, and lightly fried prior to baking.  One of the worst things is a highly greasy piece of Chicken Parmesan. A travesty!  This recipe requires the use of several bowls and pans, but the result is most definitely worth the effort.  If you're not familiar with Chicken Parmesan - it's one of those odd recipes that has no Parmesan cheese in it, despite the name.  It's sometimes called Chicken Parmigiana, or Chicken Parm.  There's a variety of dishes that may be the official origin of this dish - but I love this version with chicken.  Another favorite, if you're not wanting meat is my Eggplant Parmesan.  Yum! Enjoy!

Lightly fried chicken strips with sauce and fresh mozzarella on top. Oven-ready!
These are one of my family's favorite dinners.  It takes a bit of extra prep and clean-up, but it's well worth the effort! Yum!  If you don't want the cheese to melt so much, you can add it the last five minutes of baking. 
Chicken Parmesan
Serves 4

Slice into strips*:
2-3 chicken breasts
*You can also cut the chicken breasts so you have larger, thin pieces. Or you can hammer your chicken so it's nice and thin, but I just can't bring myself to go through the effort when I can slice it easily.

In three low bowls, prepare the following to dip the chicken:
Bowl 1:
brown rice flour
Bowl 2: 
2 eggs, beaten
Bowl 3:
3/4 cup GF rice breadcrumbs or panko
1/4 - 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 - 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 - 1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a cookie sheet with foil.
In a frying pan, cover the bottom of the pan with oil (avocado oil, olive oil, etc) and heat over medium-high heat.  (I also start boiling water at this point to cook some gluten-free pasta to accompany the meal)

While the oil is heating, dip the chicken strips bowls 1, 2 and 3, in that order. Be sure to cover the meat thoroughly in each bowl.   You can set dipped strips on a plate until the oil is hot.

Fry each chicken piece for 2-3 minutes per side, until nicely golden.   Place cooked pieces onto prepare foil-lined sheet.  Continue until all pieces have been browned.

On top of each piece of chicken place:
high-quality spaghetti sauce (homemade is great)
fresh mozzarella, sliced

Bake at 375F for 15-20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and cheese is nicely melted and bubbly.

Chicken Parmesan is great served with gluten-free pasta and a side salad.  Enjoy!
Chicken Parmesan is great served with a side of pasta (gluten-free here) and salad. 

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Candied Orange or Lemon Peel

These are one of my favorite treats.  They require some planning ahead, as they need to boil for an hour and then dry for 4-5 hours, but if you're able to do this, you'll be in for a real treat!  I made these for my brother's big gluten-free wedding reception and they were an absolute hit!  Once one person tasted them, the word spread and they were gone before I knew it!  I left some plain candied orange peel in a bowl, and dipped some in dark chocolate.  Smaller orange and lemon pieces were used to top chocolate cupcakes and lemon cupcakes, respectively.  Candied orange peel are popular in Europe, enrobed in dark chocolate.  When I last went to Belgium, I think I bought these from three or four different chocolate shops, just to compare. (they were all delicious).  But it's wonderful to be able to make them at home!
Small pieces of candied lemon peel topping lemon cupcakes
A bowl of candied orange peel was placed between the waters at the wedding reception - it was overflowing initially, and down to this by the 'start' of the reception! They were a hit!

Candied Orange or Lemon Peel
Makes ~2-3 cups candied peel
Based off a Food Network Kitchen recipe

Wash and scrub very well and then cut the tops & bottoms off:
6-7 Cara Cara Orange
2 Lemons

Score the fruit (cut thin stripes down the sides with a sharp knife) and carefully peel the skin from the fleshly fruit.  (The fruit can be eaten or juiced - I used the tops/bottoms to zest and and made lemon cupcakes/muffins).

Cut the peel into thing strips, about 1/4" - 1/2" thick.  You can then cut the strips into smaller 1" segments, if you would like smaller pieces of candied peel (like for topping cupcakes, or just for snacking).

Put the peels in a metal pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a rolling boil.  Drain.  This blanches the peel to help remove bitterness.  Repeat this two times (i.e. cover again with cold water, boil, drain, cover with cold water, boil, drain).

Set drained peels aside.

Whisk together, then bring to a boil over medium heat:
1 1/2 cups water
4 1/2 cups sugar

Using a candy thermometer, let the mixture cook over medium heat until it reaches ~220F.  (You want it to simmer ~10-15 minutes).  You can remove the candy thermometer at this time.

Add the drained orange and lemon peels to the sugar mixture.  Once the mixture is simmering again, you can reduce the heat to low.  Let the peels simmer in the sugar mixture for 45 minutes - 1 hour, until the peels get translucent in appearance.  Using a clean spoon, you can press the top peels down in order to gently "mix" the peels - but don't stir them. (I only pressed the top peels down twice during the entire cooking process).

Drain the peels.  You can save the syrup to use elsewhere, if desired, since it's quite tasty.

Roll drained peels in white granulated sugar.  Place them on a cooling rack to allow them to dry.  They will need to dry about 4-5 hours.

Once they've dried, you can store them with a bit of extra sugar in a tupperware.

They're wonderful dipped in dark chocolate, but equally great all on their own. Enjoy!
Candied orange peel dipped in chocolate on a platter with milk chocolate dipped homemade caramels (topped with transfer sheets).  Mmm..
Small piece of candied orange were used to top mini chocolate cupcakes. 

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Julie's Top-Secret Amazing Chocolate Cupcake Recipe!

My awesome friend Julie was kind enough to share her super awesome chocolate cupcake recipe with me! And, she kindly said I could share it on my blog. The best part is, it's a pretty straight-forward recipe - just a little particular about how you mix and beat things together that makes the difference. (Thanks Julie!!!) I did discover that they didn't like when I tried to cook three trays in a convection oven (they sank in the middle), but I've made these over and over and they're wonderful (even the time they sank - in fact, then you can just fill the middle with soft homemade caramels and they're even more amazing!).  I made them in plain and peppermint variety for the big gluten-free wedding reception I did.  Here they're filled with homemade caramels and topped with chocolate marshmallow fluff frosting, followed by a few sugar pearls and finally a drizzle of dark chocolate ganache.  Delicious!

Delicious chocolate cupcakes - perfect for a fancy GF wedding (Congrats Mike & Amanda)! These were filled with homemade caramels and topped with chocolate marshmallow frosting, followed by a few sugar pearls and finally a drizzle of dark chocolate ganache.

Mini versions topped with chocolate marshmallow frosting, sprinkled with coarse sugar, and finished with a tiny piece of homemade candied orange peel. Yum!

Julie's Top-Secret Amazing Chocolate Cupcake Recipe!
Makes ~36 cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line muffin tins with paper liners.

In a measuring cup, combine the following and set aside:
1 1/2 cup milk (lactose-free works great)
2 Tbsp white vinegar

In a large bowl, whisk together:
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup white rice flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder

In a mixer, beat until fluffy:
3/4 cup salted butter, softened

Add sugars, and beat until fluffy:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar

Add one at a time, scraping down the sides of the mixer, as needed:
3 eggs (room temperature)
2 egg yolks (room temperature)

Add in:
3 tsp vanilla extract

Turn the mixer to low.  Alternately add the flour/cocoa blend and milk/vinegar mixture.

Fill each cupcake liner 1/2 full, since the batter will rise quite a bit.  Bake ~15 minutes, until the cake is springy to the touch.  Do not over-bake.

Let cool on wire racks.  Frost as desired.  My favorite marshmallow frosting and chocolate marshmallow recipes are tasty on top.  Enjoy!
An in-process shot of my sunken ones being filled with a piece of soft homemade caramel before being topped with chocolate marshmallow fluff frosting and drizzled with chocolate ganache

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A Successfully Gluten-Free Wedding Reception!

This past December, I spent two weeks at my parents and nana's house whipping together a dessert-themed wedding reception for my brother Mike and his lovely bride Amanda.  They had a small ceremony and luncheon with family and bridesmaids/groomsmen, and then had a larger reception/party in the evening.  There were 150-200 guests that attended the reception!  In terms of food-prep time, I averaged about 5 hours of cooking each day to put together this event.  Everything was homemade and everything was gluten-free! Two days before the event, I had help frosting the sugar cookies from my aunt Jeanette.  The day before the wedding, I had help from a family friend (and superwoman!) Marcy Albrecht and my awesome aunt Jeanette to frost the (over 160 - I lost count) cupcakes, the two smaller cakes, and the three-tiered wedding cake.
Three-tiered Chocolate Gluten-Free Wedding Cake! Flowers were added shortly after this picture was taken, but this was just before the arrival of all the guests. 
Table #1 - full of delicious gluten-free treats! Chocolates, caramels, cupcakes, cookies, and fruit were served.
The wedding desserts were a big success!  We had three tables with a variety of desserts and one water/drink table.  The wedding cake was presented on its own table.  In addition to desserts, we served fresh fruit (strawberries, grapes, and clementines) on each of the three dessert tables.  And we had two large water servers with lemon and lime in one and cranberries and oranges in the other.  Very elegant and yet easy!
 Notice how the weather cooperated - providing a perfect dusting of fresh snow for a lovely winter wedding backdrop. Here, table #2 was topped with a variety of desserts and fresh fruit (though we put strawberries in the large bowl instead of clementines just before the start of the reception).
Dessert table #3, topped with cake, cupcakes, chocolates, cookies and fresh fruit!
The books ended up being covered in cream cloths, but I rather liked the look, which helped raise the water up higher to avoid spills.  Homemade candied orange peel and homemade peppermint bark were served between the waters. 

***For those recipes that I've not yet posted on my blog, I'll continue posting and linking here to all my recipe and ideas to make the perfect gluten-free wedding reception!***


Wedding Cake: 
The three-tiered wedding cake was made from a delicious, moist chocolate cake with different fillings in each tier.  Each tier was topped with dark chocolate ganache, then semi-sweet ganache to create a smooth layer.  The cakes were then decorated with white chocolate ganache piping and a semi-sweet chocolate ganache scalloped edging.  Fresh flowers decorated the cake.
Bottom Tier - three fillings
1. Raspberry Jam
2. Raspberry Dark Chocolate Ganache
3. Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting
Middle Tier - three fillings (with mint-infused chocolate cake in this tier)
1. Dark Chocolate Mint Ganache
2. Crushed peppermint candy
3. Mint flavored Marshmallow Fluff Frosting
Top tier: - three fillings
1. Dark Chocolate Ganache
2. Milk Chocolate Ganache
3. Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting
Wedding cake with fresh flowers to decorate, with a photobomb by my 10 month old daughter

Custard/pudding Dessert cups:
Pudding was made a day in advance, then strained (for eggnog pudding) and served just before the start of the reception.  Extra dessert cups were kept refrigerated until being served.  The typed served were:
Homemade Eggnog Pudding with Snowflake Gingerbread Cookies
Homemade Vanilla Pudding with Fresh Strawberry and Heart-shaped Sugar Cookie
Homemade Eggnog Pudding with Gingerbread Cookie Desserts

Cupcakes & Cakes:
A wide variety of cupcakes and cakes filled tiered platters on each of the three dessert tables.  Cupcakes and cakes were made in advance, cooled, then frozen in ziplocs (cakes were wrapped thoroughly in first plastic wrap, then foil). They were removed the day before, allowed to sit for 10 minutes before removing from bags and then frosted.  They were stored in a cold room after being frosted since some frosting included cream cheese or ganache.

The cupcake and cake varieties included:
Chocolate Homemade Caramel-Filled Cupcakes
Mini Chocolate Cupcakes w/ Chocolate Frosting and Candied Orange Peel
Peppermint Chocolate Cupcakes
Strawberry-Lemon Cupcakes with Strawberry Filling
Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting and Candied Lemon Peel
Vanilla Cupcakes with a variety of frostings
Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Peppermint Chocolate Cake with Marshmallow Frosting
Lemon Cake with White Chocolate Ganache Frosting and Candied Lemon Peel
Cupcakes on tiered stands spaced throughout the three dessert tables added elegance and interest.  Here you see lemon cupcakes with lemon frosting and a candied lemon peel topper.  Behind are chocolate cupcakes with caramel filling, and farther back are mini peppermint cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes.
Alternating on two side-by-side tiers were strawberry-lemon cupcakes and chocolate caramel-filled cupcakes.

Chocolates and Candies:
A wide variety of chocolates and candies were spaced artistically on platters throughout each of the three dessert tables and on the water table.

Chocolates and candy varieties included:
Candied Orange Peel
Candied Orange Peel dipped in Chocolate
White Chocolate dipped Homemade Caramels
Milk Chocolate dipped Homemade Caramels
Dark Chocolate dipped Homemade Caramels
Molded (Tempered) Chocolate - Dark Chocolate Truffles
Molded (Tempered) Chocolate - Gingerbread Chocolate Truffles
Snowflake Peppermint Bark
Peppermint Bark
Chocolate Angels with Silver Dusting
Dark Chocolate Truffles with Gingerbread Ganache Filling. Yum!

Cookies were made, filled (milanos), cooled, and then bagged in freezer ziplocs and frozen (no more than 2 weeks in advance to maximize freshness).  They were removed from the freezer just a couple hours before the reception and plated.  Gluten-free cookies freeze very well, and taste wonderfully fresh if served this way.
Mint Milano Cookies
Peppermint Mint Milano Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Chocolate Drizzle
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Triple Chocolate Cookies
Mint Triple Chocolate Cookies
Sugar Cookies with Marshmallow Frosting
Chewy Gingersnap Cookies
Heart-imprinted Chewy Gingersnap Cookies
Snowflake Gingerbread Cookies
A wide variety of fancy cookies added color and interest throughout the tables - not to mention they tasted delicious.
My three year old, ready to start taste-testing the desserts.