Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Good Luck Chuck Sunflower Seed Butter Review

I received free samples of Good Luck Chuck sunflower seed butter for review.

As I waited for the product to arrive I pondered the name. Is it meant to be “Good Luck, Chuck” as if wishing Chuck some good luck? Or is “Good-luck” an adjective, as if Chuck brings good luck? Amazing what a comma or a hyphen can do.

And so I searched out the story. One might assume that the sunflower seed butter is made by Chuck, but alas, it’s not. Aaron is the founder of Good Luck Chuck (and the guy who sent me free samples). It turns out that Chuck is a guy that Aaron met when Chuck was down on his luck. Aaron helped Chuck out that day, bringing Chuck a little bit of luck. Hence the name “Good Luck Chuck”.

Of course, you wouldn’t necessarily know by the product name that this is sunflower seed butter, but it is – and it’s good!

It comes in three flavors – original (think “plain” or “classic”), chocolate (yup, it’s like Nutella without the nuts), and surprise, surprise – sriracha!! Now that’s a spicy twist.

What I love most about this product is the ingredients. There’s nothing in here that I wouldn’t put in my own homemade version. The ingredients for original are:

Sunflower seeds, sugar, palm oil, salt

The label also clearly states that none of the top 8 allergens are present. Each serving has 3 grams of sugar and 7 grams of protein. This is good stuff.

I tried the original first, as that’s the version I can best compare. This is a very creamy butter (creamier than most) and I did need to stir it when I opened the jar.

If you are in search of a great sunflower seed butter source, I think Good Luck Chuck’s is worth a try, and it’s available on amazon (affiliate link).

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Math Matters: The Size of the Baking Dish

It’s often said that baking is a science – and that is certainly true – but the equally important skill when baking is math. (Have I mentioned that I was a math major?) Lucky for most of us, the math needed for baking is much simpler than algebraic equations and linear algebra, but basic math (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) and geometry come in quite handy when baking. I always keep a calculator in the kitchen (the calculator on your phone works too), and a ruler nearby.

Today’s lesson is about the size of a baking dish:

A 10-inch pie plate is considerably larger than a 9-inch plate. That inch might not seem to make much difference, but you need considerably more pie dough and filling to make a 10-inch pie. Check out the math:

Area equals pi (3.14) times the radius squared.

A 9-inch pie plate has an area of 64 inches (4.5 x 4.5 x 3.14) whereas a 10-inch pie plate has an area of 79 inches (5 x 5 x 3.14). That’s a difference of 23%.

Whereas some recipes can be adapted for plate size (for example, a brownie recipe designed for a 9-inch-square pan can be made in an 8-inch-square pan by increasing the baking time, don’t try to use a 10-inch pie plate with a recipe that was designed for a 9-inch pie. You won’t have enough crust and the filling will fall flat.

If you must use a 10-inch pie plate with a recipe designed for a 9-inch pie plate you need to increase the ingredients by roughly one quarter (or 5 parts for every 4 that the recipe calls for).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Chocolate Covered Cherries

If you are lucky enough to get your hands on some cherries this year, I have a great, kid-friendly, summer fun project for you. Cherries have been elusive this year so when I finally got my hands on some I wanted to make sure I put them to good use.

 Of course, any fruit can be dipped into chocolate, but there's something special about cherries. Remember the chocolate covered, sugar filled cherries we all used to eat? They were a favorite of mine. Now, I'd rather not have the added sugar and we need to make our own with safe chocolate. I used PASCHA Organic Dark Chocolate Baking Chips - 55% Cacao to make these (affiliate link).
Wash the cherries, remove the stems and the pits (but try to keep them whole). Pat them dry.

Melt 1 tablespoon of shortening (I used Earth Balance Vegan Shortening) over low heat. Add 1/2 cup chocolate chips and stir until completely melted. Use a toothpick to dip the cherries into the chocolate. Place the coated cherries on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

 Refrigerate until the chocolate is solidified. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ten Allergen-Free Baking Myths

“I’m not a baker.”

“There are no ingredients left that I can bake with.”

“It’s too hard.”

Is it impossible to bake without wheat, gluten, eggs, butter, and milk? Some days I wonder the same thing, but then I go into the kitchen and prove that yes, it not only can be done but it can be done with fantastic results. So today, I am busting those myths and encouraging you to do the same by proving it to yourself (uh, yeah, that means baking). Ready for your pep talk? Here goes…

1. Gluten-free baked goods taste awful.

Those in the traditional baked goods world are used to everything tasting like wheat – because everything is made with wheat. But the typical wheat-based diet leaves out dozens of other grains/flours – each with their own flavor profile. If all you’re eating is rice-based foods on an allergen-free diet you are missing out!

2. Cow’s milk is better than alternative milks.

“Got milk?” We are so brainwashed. We have been taught to believe that we should be drinking cow’s milk – milk from another mammal. Humans are the only mammals on the planet who drink another mammal’s milk. Every other mammal moves on to water once weaned. If you are concerned about getting enough calcium, both rice milk (fortified) and hemp milk (fortified) have the same amount of calcium per serving as cow’s milk. Hemp milk also has some great properties that cow’s milk doesn’t have – Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids. And hemp is a complete protein with all 10 essential amino acids. Take that, cow’s milk!

3. You can’t bake without eggs.

Eggs are the last ingredient that most of us want to hold onto for baking. Even the big name gluten-free vendors have yet to tackle egg-free baked goods for their off-the-shelf lines. But vegans have been doing it for years and so have I. Baking without eggs isn’t impossible, it’s just different.

4. You can’t make meringues without eggs.

Until recently I would say that you can make anything without eggs except an essentially egg dish (e.g. quiche, scrambled eggs) or meringue. But even the egg-free meringue myth is now busted!

5. Butter is better.

Um, there’s that cow sneaking into our kitchens again. My advice is to think of butter as shortening. It is easily replaceable with any other high quality shortening or coconut oil. Many shortening products are combinations of oils – check the labels and choose one that is safe for you.

6. Flour equals wheat.

In nearly every commercial kitchen or restaurant this is true. If it’s flour it must be wheat, but it doesn’t have to be! Rice, sorghum, millet, amaranth, quinoa, corn and bean flours are just a few of the options available.

7. Baking without wheat, eggs, milk, and butter is impossible.

Replacing one of these ingredients is hard, replacing all of them might seem to be impossible – but it’s not. It is true however, that the rules have changed. The traditional formulas/ratios won’t work. Once you understand how new ingredients behave and how to combine them it all becomes possible again!

8. Food allergy foods are all empty calories.

Often, this is true. Many off-the-shelf foods made without the top-8 allergens are high in starch, sugar, and calories. Check the labels and you might notice that portion sizes are small so that the calorie counts appear equitable with traditional baked goods. The solution is to make your own baked goods from scratch using just as much sugar and as much starch as you need.

9. Gums are bad for you.

Well, xanthan gum is a created food and some argue that it’s not good for you. Guar gum is derived from a seed. I will certainly not claim that gums are good for you (they provide no nutritional value), however they provide a valuable assist when baking. My solution is to use as little as possible. My rule of thumb is ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum per cup (or partial cup) of flour. If you choose guar gum, use ½ teaspoon per cup (or partial cup) of flour.

10. Food allergy foods are expensive.

This is certainly true for processed allergen-free foods, baking mixes, and flour blends that you buy off the shelf. There is a cost that comes with making sure foods are processed safely and not contaminated. I’ll gladly pay extra to make sure food is safe. But what if you make food – from scratch – at home? The cost goes down considerably and no worries about reading labels!

Now, get into that kitchen and start baking!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Steeped - A Book Review

This new cookbook, Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea, by Annelies Zijderveld is simply delightful.

From the moment I held it I was struck by the design -- The cover is pink and gold and the inner cover mimics gold foil -- the kind of gold foil you might find used in high end tea packages. Clever!

I love the concept of this book -- recipes for any time of the day using tea. Sections include morning tea, midday tea, afternoon tea, high tea, and sweet tea. Very clever!

I was once gifted with a book that claimed to teach me everything about tea. I learned more in the first ten pages of this book than I did with that entire volume. And after reading this book, I can;'t wait to go back to Boston. The last time I was there, my son took me to a quaint little tea shop with more tea than I knew existed. Time to stock up so I can get busy baking with tea.

There are many recipes in this book that I can't make as is (and you probably won't be able to either), but what I did get from the book is ideas!! Despite being an avid, life-long tea lover, it has never occurred to me to use tea as a spice, or to bake with tea, or to add tea to existing recipes, but, inspired by Annelies, I am starting to do so.

Some of what I will be trying include Arnold Palmer Powder (a lemon and tea powder), green tea stock and tea extract (guess what? it's just like making vanilla extract, but with tea leaves).What I love best about this book is the recipes within the recipes -- for the sauces, powders, and other tea-infused staples that the recipes use.

It's never occurred to me before to add tea to applesauce, or jam, or oatmeal, or soup. Why not?

I can't make Annelies' Black Tea Pie Crust or Tea Crackers as is -- the recipes in this book do call for wheat/spelt, eggs, and dairy products -- but I can definitely learn from these recipes to infuse tea into my own!

Tea time can be any time!