Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year -- Recipe Recap

Happy New Year!

2014 was a great year for me with the release of my second book, The Allergy-Free Pantry. The book has been very well-received by the food allergy community and I am honored that you are reading it and making my recipes.

As I prepare for 2015, here's a recap of a few of the recipes you can find in The Allergy-Free Pantry:

Potato Salad - not just for summer picnics.

Flaxseed Mayonnaise - If you try nothing else, you must try this!

Powdered Doughnut Holes - A fave!

Spinach Pasta - Save this one for a snow day.

Strawberry Thumbprints - They freeze well, too!

All of these recipes are gluten-free and top-8 allergen-free!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Strawberry Thumbprint Cookies for Santa (Recipe from The Allergy-Free Pantry)

Need some cookies to leave for Santa or Santa's little helpers? This great recipe from The Allergy-Free Pantry should do the trick! And there's no need to leave traditional milk for Santa. I know for certain that Santa loves hemp milk!

Looking for a top-8 allergen-free and gluten-free cookie for the holiday cookie swap? These strawberry thumbprints will wow them, for sure!

Strawberry Thumbprints
Makes about 28 cookies

Make these cookies with Strawberry Jam or another favorite jam. Ask the kids to help; a child’s thumb is just the right size to make thumbprints.

194 grams (about 1½ cups) gluten-free flour blend
½ teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your flour blend contains a gum)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (110 g) organic cane sugar
10 tablespoons shortening, softened
1 Flaxseed Egg (1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds mixed with 3 tablespoons warm water)
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
¼ cup (61 g) Strawberry Jam

1. Combine the flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

2. In a separate large bowl, cream together the sugar and shortening using a mixer on medium speed for 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The mixture will be light and fluffy.

3. Add the flaxseed egg and vanilla. Mix for 1 minute on medium speed.

4. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and blend on medium speed, about 2 minutes. The batter will be thick. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and chill it for an hour. Cookie dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

5. When you are ready to make cookies preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

6. Use your hands to shape the dough into balls, about 1¼ inches (3 cm) round.

7. Place the cookies on the baking sheet with space in between and flatten them just slightly. Use the tip of a finger, your thumb, or the back of a small spoon to create a small well in the center of each cookie.

8. Fill the center of each cookie with ¼ teaspoon of jam.

9. Bake each sheet of cookies separately in the center of the oven for 15 to 16 minutes, until the jam centers are sizzling and the edges of the cookies are golden. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack. Store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

To freeze
Baked cookies can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months; thaw them at room temperature. Cookie dough (prepared through step 4) can be frozen for up to 6 months; thaw the dough in the refrigerator before forming cookies, filling with jam, and baking.

Credit line: Recipe from The Allergy-Free Pantry: Make Your Own Staples, Snacks, and More Without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts, copyright © Colette Martin, 2014. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.

Merry Christmas!

Cookie assortment from The Allergy-Free Pantry. Find your top-8 allergen-free cookie right here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gluten-Free Spinach Pasta from The Allergy-Free Pantry

Who agrees that winter is the best time for pasta? It just might be the ultimate comfort food. If you are tired of the same brand of food-allergy-safe off-the-shelf pasta, try making your own. There is nothing quite like homemade pasta, and you can control the ingredients (including the flours used).

The best tool I have found to make pasta is an attachment to my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. The KitchenAid KPEXTA Stand-Mixer Pasta-Extruder Attachmentis what I use. Keep in mind that homemade pasta boils much faster than dried pasta from the grocery store. It only needs a couple of minutes. Trust me on that!

Here's my favorite homemade pasta recipe from The Allergy-Free Pantry. Pair it with any of the sauces found in the book. I'm partial to Marinara Sauce with Spinach Pasta.

Spinach Pasta

Makes 4 servings

Spinach adds fiber and nutrients to plain pasta. Cook some extra spinach for dinner and save some to make pasta the next day. Use about 2 cups (60 g) of fresh spinach to make ¼ cup (45 g) of spinach puree (see note below). Serve it with Marinara Sauce for a colorful meal.

¼ cup (45 g) cooked spinach, drained
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
2 to 4 tablespoons warm water, plus more for boiling
96 grams (about ¾ cup) brown rice flour
60 grams (about ½ cup) millet flour
32 grams (about ¼ cup) tapioca starch
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
1¼ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons light olive oil

1. Puree the cooked spinach, flaxseed meal, and 2 tablespoons of the warm water in a food processor. Let it sit for 8 to 10 minutes. The mixture will be smooth and creamy.

2. Combine the flours, starch, xanthan gum, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl and mix them together well.

3. Combine the spinach mixture and oil in a large bowl.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir them together until crumbly. Test to see if the dough holds together by forming a small ball. Add up to 2 tablespoons of water as needed, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the mixture is stiff, yet smooth. The amount of water you need to add will vary based on how much moisture remains in the spinach.

5. Form tightly packed balls from the dough.

6. Use a pasta machine or extruder, following the directions for your tool, to form pasta in the desired shape, or form the pasta by hand.

7. Fill a pasta pot with water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring it to a rolling boil before adding the pasta.

8. Cook the pasta for 1 to 3 minutes. Drain, add sauce, and serve.

To cook the spinach

Steam 2 cups (60 g) of fresh spinach leaves with 2 tablespoons of water in a medium saucepan over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until the leaves are tender. If using frozen spinach, prepare according to package directions.

Recipe from The Allergy-Free Pantry: Make Your Own Staples, Snacks, and More Without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts, copyright © Colette Martin, 2014. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry with Udi’s Gluten Free!

It felt like Christmas came early when I opened a complimentary package from Udi’s Gluten Free and found a box full of goodies.

I must tell you a little about my personal history with Udi’s. While Udi’s breads (and most of their gluten-free goodies) are off-limits for my son due to his egg allergy, Udi’s whole grain bread has long been my choice for my own sandwiches. I am always thrilled to find Udi’s products at the restaurants I frequent, and on more than one occasion Udi’s has been my savior at a conference where they are sampling products (and the conference food line is lacking). So yes, I love Udi’s.

I hadn’t yet tried most of the products they shipped to me to review, and some are new. Gotta love that they are stepping up to meet the needs of our community!

My first sampling was with a duo of muffins – one sweet, one savory (but still sweet enough). The muffins are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and nut-free (but do contain eggs).

I was very excited to find burritos in my goodie box. Burritos, and more burritos. Burritos for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Gluten-free burritos made with flour tortillas (happy dance!). The burritos contain milk and eggs.

I think these burritos are perfect for a grab and go breakfast or lunch.

If it’s bread you’re craving…

Udi’s now goes well beyond the classic sandwich bread. Check out these Whole Grain dinner rolls, Classic dinner rolls, and French baguettes:

One again, these are all gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free, but do contain eggs. Keep them in the freezer and take them out as needed for your gluten-free guests. Just remember not to serve them in the breadbasket with wheat rolls, and give your gluten-free guest a separate  dipping dish.

After the party’s over and you don’t feel like working too hard for dinner, try these flour tortillas and pizza crusts (both also contain eggs):

As an alternative, use the tortillas to make your own chips for dipping into hummus. Cut them into triangles, add spices (if desired) and bake in a single layer until crispy.

My favorite find in my goodie package was the Steel Cut Oats:

Yes, we now have choices for gluten-free oatmeal. Hooray for that! But a great source for gluten-free steel cut oats has been elusive. I should note that this item is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and egg-free, but processed on a line that processes tree nuts. I think oatmeal with currants, flax and chia sounds like the perfect post-holiday detox breakfast, don’t you?

And don’t forget to enter Udi’s #EatDrinkBeMerry holiday sweepstakes for a chance to win your own goodie package or free coupons:

Monday, December 8, 2014

Making Chocolate Croissants with gfJules Gluten-free Flour and Pascha Chocolate Chips

As many of you know, I often use off-the-shelf gluten-free flour blends when baking. In addition to testing these flour blends for use in the recipes in my books, it’s almost a hobby of mine (okay, maybe an obsession) to search for the best gluten-free flour blends. In my experiments, I have discovered that there is tremendous variance between flour blends. Some work well for certain baked goods and perform poorly for others. Still others perform poorly most of the time. Few perform well across a spectrum of baked goods.

One of the flour blends I recommended in Learning to Bake Allergen-Free was Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Blend. Since 2012, when the book was published, Jules Shepard, creator of that flour blend, left the company she founded. But she is back in a big way and I am thrilled, Jules’ new company (gfJules) now makes an even better version of that flour blend. The gfJules Gluten Free Flour is made in a top-8 allergen-free facility and the flour is non-GMO. Happy dance!

The flour is shipped in a really clever box.

I decided to test the gfJules flour with one of my favorite recipes from Learning to Bake Allergen-Free – Chocolate Croissants.

But wait, I have more new products to talk about!

At the Springfield GFAF Expo, I ran into the folks from Pascha Chocolate who were introducing their new chocolate chips. That’s right. Pascha now makes chocolate chips. Does it get any better than that? Yes, it does, the new top-8 allergen-free chocolate chips come in 55%, 85%, and 100% cacao. Not only do we now have another choice for food-allergy friendly chocolate chips, but the 100% is essentially baking chocolate – something very hard to find in a safe version. I am now singing while dancing!

I decided to use the 85% in my Chocolate Croissants, because I’m that kind of girl. (Many of you may prefer the 55% for a less bitter taste.) I chose not to drizzle chocolate on top of my croissants because the rich taste of the chocolate inside was enough.

The bottom line: I am thrilled with both of these products. gfJules Gluten Free flour performed flawlessly, and when paired with Pascha chocolate chips we have a winning combo!

You can find the recipe for the chocolate croissants here.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Which Cookbook Should I Buy?

It’s a question I never dreamed I’d have to answer, but one that has come up frequently as I’ve talked to people at recent signing events.

When someone is standing in front of me holding a copy each of Learning to Bake Allergen-Freeand The Allergy-Free Pantry, and asks which they should purchase, I stumble and trip over my response. Asking me that question is akin to asking me which of my children is my favorite. Of course I love them both equally, but they are different. The same is true with my books.

There are things the two books have in common:

Both books contain explanations of ingredients, tools, and techniques. You will find sections on replacing wheat, replacing dairy, and replacing eggs in each book (with a little more detail in Learning to Bake Allergen-Free).

Both books are more than just the recipes. They are meant to be read and referred to. I care less about whether you make my recipes than whether you learn something from the techniques and substitutions I show you, so that you feel empowered to make whatever you want with the ingredients available to you!

Both books contain recipes that are free of the top 8 food allergens and gluten. Both books contain suggestions for further substitutions, because one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to food allergies.

There are also some differences:

Learning to Bake Allergen-Free is all about baking (and only baking), from simple to more difficult. The book does not assume any prior baking experience and explains even simple techniques. So many of us who are baking to accommodate food allergies are doing so because we have to, yet we have limited time and a variety of skill.

Learning to Bake Allergen-Free is perfect for those baking for the first time or for traditional bakers who need to learn new ingredients and techniques. The book contains “crash courses,” which are often cited as the most valuable content in the book. Many people (including teens) have told me that they have learned how to bake using this book.

The Allergy-Free Pantry goes beyond baking, including recipes for everything you need to stock your pantry to replace the processed foods you used to buy at the grocery store. You will find recipes for condiments, jams, and salad dressings, as well as options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, AND some baking recipes too! When I first pitched this book I described it as “Allergy-Free Homemade,” because it’s all about making food, safely, at home.

If you are tired of reading labels for packaged foods at the grocery store, or you have allergies beyond the top 8 (such as corn or rice) then The Allergy-Free Pantry just might be a necessity.

If you are a visual learner you will appreciate the how-to photos in both books, but The Allergy-Free Pantry contains many more photos – one for every recipe!

If you are trying to decide which book to put on your Christmas list or purchase for someone special, consider this:

If you love muffin tins, parchment paper, and your stand mixer, choose Learning to Bake Allergen-Free.

If you love cookie scoops, Ball jars, and your food processor, choose The Allergy-Free Pantry.

If you really can’t decide, keep in mind that the two books work beautifully together and with other food allergy cookbooks in your library!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Making Flaxseed Mayonnaise - How to Video

I recently had the opportunity to present at The Guilderland Public Library as part of their fabulous "healthy food" speaker series. I enlisted a friend to videotape me making Flaxseed Mayonnaise from The Allergy-Free Pantry:

You can find the full recipe here.