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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My GF lasgena...and man, it's goooooood!

I had posted a blog about my making a lasgena and gf boston creme cake and never thought of posting the recipes for them. So I decided to post my GF lasgena recipe now:
P.S. I just adapted it from the one I grew up eating that my mom made and then, as I got older, I learned to make.

1 box of gf lasgena (I use Tinkyada GF lasgena)
One can or jar of pasta sauce
Kraft cheese slices (between 6 and 8 slices)
GF bread crumbs
Cheddar (grated)
Ground chicken
Tomatoes (diced)
Italian seasoning
Sea salt

Boil large pot of water. Put noodles in to cook (I cook them as the water boils, usually once the water is boiled, the noodles are done). Add oil to prevent noodles from sticking. Noodles are done when they are soft.
At the same time, brown ground chicken in pan.
Drain water from noodles and add in cold water to cool the noodles off quicker because you have to handle them with your hands.
Get a large rectangular casserole dish or lasgena pan. Start the layers.
First layer-lasgena noodles (I usually get four across), sauce (I don't bother heating up the sauce first), seasonings, ground chicken. Make sure the noodles are well covered in sauce to ensure that the noodles don't dry out.
Second layer-noodles, sauce, cheese slices (I lay these side by side, they add a nice creaminess) and diced tomatoes.
Third and final layer-noodles, sauce, seasonings, cheddar and GF bread crumbs sprinkled on top.
Put in oven, preheated to 375 F and cook for 30-45 mins. It's done when the cheese starts browning on top.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Nuts and Bolts, GF style

One of my best friends, Lyndsie, has always been a lot like me in that when Christmas time comes, she wants to bake and make lots of fun nibbles. She's also a full time working mom of one (and another on the way) and so the fact that she even made something that I could eat for her Christmas party we went to this past weekend, was a huge thing! I know how little time I have to make stuff...ok, so the time I do have I usually try to nap...but I do make plans to do stuff sometimes and sometimes I even succeed!
Anyway, long story short, when we got to her Christmas party, she started showing me the gluten free things she had MADE for me! And true to Lyndsie form, she had put some out but even more importantly, she had set aside a bunch for me to take home. Bless her!! She made me gf brownies with M&M's and this gf rice chex nuts and bolts mixture.
Here's my connection to Nuts and Bolts. Growing up, every Christmas Eve was always spent with my Dad's family at my Nana and Grampy's house and Nana ALWAYS made Nuts & Bolts which consisted of pretzels, cheerios, shreddies and peanuts. When I moved to Ontario at 16, I missed that tradition and after one disastrous time of making it myself, I called Nana and got her recipe and proceeded to make it every Christmas for my family and friends when we had them over for our annual Christmas party. Everyone loved it and I got to nibble on it too. Then, when I got Celiac, I stopped making it because I couldn't justify making something that if it didn't get all eaten, I was stuck with a ton of this awesome nuts and bolts I COULDN'T EAT. So I just didn't. Sure, I've seen recipes since then, but honestly, I just didn't want to start all over again, never knowing if it would taste good or not. But then...I had Lyndsie's mix...and I was converted to the dark side! After taking a handful and eating it (gluten free pretzels, peanuts, gf rice chex, and various seasonings) and going "OMG!", I immediately asked for the recipe. When she showed it to me, I thought about trying to write it all down and knowing I would lose it, I did the next best thing, I took a picture of it with my Blackberry so I could refer to it later. So I know now that I have the recipe and hopefully over the holidays, I can find a little time to make them myself! Yeah!! Success! Thanks again Lyndsie!!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Trying to bake Gluten free

I love being so aware of all the options out here for me now. I just found a new place in Mississauga, called Healthy Planet, that is a big health food store, with LOTS of gluten free options. They will learn to know me well! I am excited when I see new products coming down the pipeline. Working for a restaurant magazine, I am seeing more and more showing up in the pages about companies adding gluten free products, restaurants offering gluten free options and more and more gluten free companies entering the game. Despite the fact that it still costs a fair bit to eat my GF stuff, I am really happy to see all this new stuff and get to sample it. Is it any wonder I'm in danger of busting my jeans? Crap...
I've always had a sweet tooth and because of my grandmother and my mom, I developed a love of baking from an early age. Making things from scratch was something I was always good at...plus with a single mom, it was more cost effective too. I learned pretty quick how to substitute when we didn't have an ingredient and what to add when the mixture in the bowl did NOT look like it was supposed to. Baking at Christmas was especially fun for me. No boundaries, no restrictions, just bake what I could with what I had before Christmas. I was in heaven and people who came to our house over the holidays were always happy to see my Nuts & Bolts, Chocolate Chubbie cookies, decorated sugar cookies, homemade donuts, fudge, spice cake, banana chocolate chip bread, etc. But then when Celiac changed my life, I lost my passion for it.
I hated not just being able to buy a massive bag of flour and go to town. Since I loved eating the sweets as much as my family and friends, I looked at the new situation as "what's the point anymore?" If I couldn't even EAT my desserts and yummies, why bother? So, truthfully, I gave up. As the market for gluten free products improved, I turned to mixes. For a baker, it kind of feels like a cop out. But when faced with having to purchase 8 different flours, starches and xantham gum (waaaay too expensive for this bargain shopper!), I looked at a cake mix ringing in at $4 and took the easy way out. I got the flavour I wanted but I didn't feel very "proud" of my accomplishments as I used to with all my "baking from scratch" successes. I felt like I was cheating, taking shortcuts. Then I had a child...yeah, time suddenly became something that I had when my baby was sleeping...and that wasn't much. Between her, working, my husband and sleep, I suddenly found baking with a mix not only necessary (if I wanted yummy treats) but way less stressful. So I succumbed.
Since then, I have found something that has made me feel like less of a failure, a GF all purpose flour mix...essentially giving me back my freedom of tossing the flour into my recipe and going for it. No complicated math equations to figure out what percentage of each flour and starch was needed to give me the correct "dough" like texture I required.
And here's another secret I found. I had cookbooks filled with recipes that had stains on them, well turned corners on the pages and flour marks on them from years of successful bakes. I didn't really want to give those books up. They held such great memories for me. But what to do with them? I had also received a few GF cookbooks but again, by having me mixing several types of flour and starches, along with a particular gum, I truthfully hadn't really used the books. So I thought about it and realized that if I had a good GF flour, I could still make those tried and tested recipes...and they would still be good.
My baking life became much more happy when I realized that I could enjoy the process again.
So, even though I know I won't have much time for a lot of Christmas baking, I plan to do at least a few things from scratch so that as my little two year old grows up, she will learn how to make a "bowl" or "well" with the dry ingredients, mix in the wet ingredients, use a beater (I even used a MANUAL in my day!), knead dough with her hands, make icing, use a fork to crimp a pie crust, and maybe she'll even enjoy it and can pass it on to her kids someday. She'll still know how to use mixes for baking but I love that I can have my old baker self, mix it in with my new GF baker self and find a peace somewhere in the middle. Now where did I put my pastry cutter?