Hmmm…What’s in the Pantry?

And yes, if you just said that in a slightly howling, tortured Brad Pitt in Seven imitation, you and I are on the same page.

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Kind of how I was feeling the other night. Just instead of looking at a head in a box, I was staring longingly at my pantry shelves. In search of a sweet treat that was also comforting, due to a slightly upset stomach.

Needless to say not much was catching my eye.

Except the oats.

Did I want oatmeal? Nah, too hot.

Overnight oats? Not quick enough.

Oatmeal cookies? Hmmm, never done them before outside of the fall. After apple picking. And even then, not really oatmeal cookies, but an apple cookie with oats.

Could this idea satisfy my somersaulting stomach?

A deeper dive into my ingredients provided inspiration in the form of dried cranberries.

Nutritious, anti-oxidant filled, and comforting. All the boxes were checked.

Now to making this happen.

Obviously I was flying blind, and yet I didn’t want to research! I wanted to trust my gut. Go with my instincts. Play with abandon.

So I did. I began to happily throw things together with confidence and fun. And it was magical!

The result: A completely satisfying, cinnamon-y pillow of goodness with just the slightest chew. Everything I have ever wanted in an oatmeal cookie!

Give these a try! Your mouth will thank you!

 

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

(makes about 30 cookies)

1 Cup Teff Flour

2 Tblsp. Tapioca Starch

2 Tsp. Xanthan Gum

1 Tsp. Baking Soda

½ Tsp. Sea Salt

2 Tsp. Cinnamon

2 ½ Cups Gluten Free Oats

1 Cup Dried Cranberries

1 ½ Cups Coconut Sugar

¾ Cup Earth Balance

2 Eggs

1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease cookie sheet with Earth Balance.

In a large bowl, combine the Teff Flour, Tapioca Starch, Xanthan Gum, Baking Soda, Salt and Cinnamon.

Stir in Gluten Free Oats.

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Stir in the Cranberries.

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Set aside.

In a stand mixed fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the Coconut Sugar and Earth Balance together on high speed until light and fluffy.

Add the Eggs and Vanilla, stir on medium speed until just combined.

Add the dry mix to the sugar mixture, ½ at a time on medium speed until just combined.

Using a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, scoop a rounded mound of cookie mixture on to greased cookie sheet.

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3-4 cookies to a row only, approx. 3 rows, depending on your tray size.

Freeze pan for 15 minutes.

Remove from freezer and bake for approximately 12 minutes.

Cookies should still be quite soft but holding together.

Don’t let this concern you! Don’t overcook these or they will become hard.

Remove from tray immediately and place on rack to cool.

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EVERYONE’S BIRTHDAY SHOULD BE CELEBRATED WITH CAKE!

As anyone who knows me can testify to, I love cake. And I love birthdays!

I think that everyone deserves to celebrate on their day. Take the day off, sleep in, do whatever makes your heart sing and your soul giggle.

And this year for my partner’s birthday he wanted to do nothing but watch movies, snuggle in warm under a blanket and shut out the world for a day.

So that is what we did!

However, the once caveat I have to celebrating is that everyone also must have a treat on their day. Whatever they want, I will make it.

Well, CJ loves pistachio! And rainbow sprinkles! So I wanted to come up with something that was hugely celebratory of his years on this planet, as well as combined his favorites. And I wanted it to be different. Because he deserved something that said “I took time and thought to make this and celebrate you!” Well, he deserves a lot more than that, because he is basically the best man I have ever met in my life, as well as an all around amazing human being. He is kind in an unwavering, steadfast way. He is humble yet the best cheerleader around for those he loves. He cares with his heart and his mind. He is a talented actor who in my opinion needs more recognition and opportunities. And he is a man with true conviction when it comes to treating all people with respect.I mean come on….this dude deserves to be celebrated!

And he is the love of my life.

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But you are not here to listen to me wax un-poetically about my love.

This day is about cake!

So… after lots of researching, I decided upon a pistachio cake with chocolate mousse filling and Ermine Frosting. Ermine Frosting is a roux frosting, utilizing flour and milk and sugar cooked down and thickened. This allowed me to make frosting for a cake without using powdered sugar, and only coconut sugar. Awesome!!

*(Just a note here, as this was my first time making a roux frosting, I was wary to change the components totally. Since I was using coconut sugar and cashew milk, instead of traditional sugar and milk, I decided to use real butter. I chose KerryGold for its lack of animal hormones and additives and great flavor. However, upon completion, I am totally confident that Earth Balance can be substituted and it is what I will be using in this recipe going forward for sure!)

Now, this cake does take time. And it has three separate components that each need their own timing and space. But, it is well worth it!

Don’t be scared. You got this! It only appears big and scary and complicated.

This cake was light and moist and crumbly. The mousse was decadent and silky. And oh, the frosting! Airy like whipped cream but buttery and slightly sweet! All of these parts meshed so well with each other.

And finally who can forget the show-stopping….RAINBOW SPRINKLES.

I love that I love a man who loves rainbow sprinkles and isn’t afraid to share that love with everyone who knows him. Because let’s be honest, you can’t help but smile at a cake covered in these little colorful nuggets! And happiness is always the name of the game on birthdays and any day that involves cake!

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SPRINKLE BOMB CAKE

Flour Blend:

1 1/3 Cup White Rice Flour

1 Cup Sorghum Flour

2/3 Cup Cornstarch

1/3 Cup Tapioca Starch

1 Tsp. Xanthan Gum

For the Pistachio Cake:

3 Cups Flour Blend

2 Tsp. Xanthan Gum

2 ½ Tsp. Baking Powder

1 Tsp. Baking Soda

½ Tsp. Salt

2 Cups Coconut Sugar

¾ Cup Earth Balance

4 Tsp. Pistachio Extract

½ Tsp. Vanilla Extract

2 Eggs (room temp)

2 Egg Whites (room temp)

1 Cup Cashew Milk + 1 Tblsp. Lemon Juice – mixed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour two round 9” pans (or a 9×13 sheet pan).

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the Rice Flour, Sorghum Flour, Corstarch, Tapioca Starch, Xanthan Gum, Baking Powder, Baking Soda and Salt.

In a stand mixer, cream the Coconut Sugar, Earth Balance, and Pistachio & Vanilla Extracts together until light and fluffy.

Add the two Eggs, beat on medium speed until combined.

Add the two egg whites, beat on medium speed until combined.

Add the Milk+Lemon Juice combination.

Add the dry ingredients, mixing well.

Separate mix evenly into pans.

Bake for approximately 30 mins or until toothpick comes out clean and cake is bouncy to touch.

Cool completely before proceeding with next steps.

Dark Chocolate Mousse Filling

1 Cup (250g) Dark Chocolate

7 Tblsp. Earth Balance

4 Egg Yolks

4 Egg Whites

2/3 Cup + 1 Tblsp. Coconut Sugar

1 ½ Tblsp. Dark Rum

Combine the Chocolate, Earth Balance and 2/3 Cup Coconut Sugar, in a double boiler.

Over medium heat, stirring consistently, melt the chocolate mixture.

Remove from heat and place bowl in ice bath to cool.

While cooling, add Egg Whites to stand mixer. Beat until almost peaks.

Once Egg Whites are almost at soft peaks, add remaining Tblsp. of Coconut Sugar.

Beat to soft peaks.

Once Chocolate mixture is cool, add the Egg Yolks and the Rum. Mix to just combine.

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Gently fold in the Egg Whites to the Chocolate mixture.

Cover and put in fridge until ready to use.

Vanilla Ermine Frosting

½ Cup Flour Blend

2 Cups Coconut Sugar

dash of salt

1 ½ Cup Cashew Milk

2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract

2 Tsp. Vanilla Bean Paste (can omit if you don’t have)

3 sticks (approx. 24 Tblsp.) Butter, room temperature

(I used KerryGold Butter for this, but you can also use Earth Balance for Dairy Free verison)

Rainbow Sprinkles

In a small saucepan, combine the flour, sugar and salt.

Whisk to combine.

Add the milk.

Whisk to combine.

Over medium heat, whisking constantly (or with a hand mixer), stir mixture until it thickens and whisk leaves behind a trail when lifter out of mixture. Approx. 10 mins.

Pour mixture into medium sized bowl and immediately place atop a bowl of ice to cool.

Cool to room temperature and then whisk in Vanilla.

Place the mixture in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.

Mix on Medium speed until smooth.

With mixer still on, add butter a tablespoon piece at a time.

The mixture will seem to almost curdle. This is normal!

Once all butter has been added, turn the mixer to High for approximately 3 minutes, until light and fluffy and pale yellow.

If frosting appears too thin or runny, place in fridge for about 10 minutes before frosting cake.

TO ASSEMBLE:

Once the cakes are cool, top the first cake with mousse. Be careful not to get too close to edges or overfill, as you don’t want mousse leaking down the sides of your cake.

*You will probably have more mousse than you need for this. So grab a spoon!*

Place the other cake on top.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, so mousse sets and doesn’t run out of the cake when you are trying to frost it.

Once mousse has set, remove cake from fridge.

Frost cake with Vanilla Frosting.

Cover with Rainbow sprinkles.

Serve immediately or refrigerate until 30 minutes before you are ready to serve.

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THE BRAIN OF IT ALL…

Inspiration is a weird thing. It can happen in the most unlikely and strange circumstances. And often, it is totally personal. What is inspiring to one, is not necessarily inspiring to another.

I have been away from this blog for months now, due to an injury and a surgery. Since surgery I have managed to bake a little, but each time I tried to write a post my mental clarity became as murky as a bog. This was due to a lot of reasons: pain, medications, lack of proper sleep, stress. I felt I just didn’t have the proper story or angle yet to discuss here. I couldn’t come up with a through-line for my writing to the recipe. And it was frustrating.

You see I am pretty proud of my brain. That’s not to say I am ever the smartest or most educated person in the room. I am proud of how my brain takes in the world, how it processes information, how it assists me in talking intelligently, and how it allows me to feel deeply.

And this brain seemed to be failing me. I would sit and stare at the computer trying to form words into cohesive sentences, to no avail. I tried to write my thoughts out on paper, and yet there were no thoughts to be had, just doodles. And I am not a great doodler.

And then today, inspiration. Write what you know. And this I know. My brain has been in overdrive. Trying to crunch data, make sense out of what my body has been going through, regulate my stress levels, and still allow me to function on some level like myself. This has not been a easy job. But my brain has done it valiantly.

Strangely enough, this recipe came after I willed a trip to the apple farm, just weeks before I had my ACL surgery. I wasn’t walking that great, I was in pain, and I tired super easy. But determination kicked in, joy filled my soul and my brain so OK, let’s do this. So I went apple picking. It was a deliriously delicious sort of day. The kind with no shadows, only light. Where laughter mingled with the smell of the great outdoors. I came home from that trip and set to making both the applesauce and the donuts. How? I don’t know. But my brain does.

So today I am inspired by that glorious, mysterious grey matter that makes me, me. And by the experience that it helped me to tattoo in my memory for years to come.

So here are two recipes for you to enjoy!

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Homemade Applesauce

20-30 Apples; peeled, cored and diced (I used a mix of Honeycrisp and Golden Delicious for this batch, slightly sweet and tart)

Juice of 2 Lemons

1 Tblsp. Cinnamon

2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract

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In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, place all the diced apples.

Combine the remaining ingredients and stir.

Stir every 5 minutes, until the apple juices start to release.

Place lid on saucepan, reduce heat to low and cook for 30-45 minutes, until apples are fork tender.

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Using a potato masher, mash apples to the sauce consistency you desire.

Baked Applesauce Donuts

Makes 22 donuts

 2 Cups Gluten-Free Flour

½ Tsp. Xanthan Gum

2 Tsp. Baking Powder

1 Tsp. Baking Soda

1 ½ Tsp. Cinnamon

½ Tsp. Salt

½ Tsp. Nutmeg

1 Cup Coconut Sugar

6 Tblsp. Earth Balance, melted

2 Large Eggs, beaten

1 Cup Applesauce

½ Cup Cashew Milk (or any you prefer) + Juice of 1 Lemon, combine

1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease donut pan with Earth Balance or GF Shortening (or your alternative).

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Combine all of the dry ingredients through Coconut Sugar in large mixing bowl.

Add the melted Earth Balance, beaten Eggs and Milk mixture.

Stir to combine.

Add the Applesauce and the vanilla extract, fold in, until just combined.

Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until donuts are springy to touch.

Run the straight edge of a knife along the outer rim of the donuts, to loosen from pan.

Let cool to touch in pan, before removing.

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Topping Options

Cinnamon Sugar:

Melt ½ Cup of Earth Balance and set aside. Combine ½ Cup Coconut Sugar, 2 Tsp. Cinnamon, and 1 Tsp. Lemon Zest. Brush the tops of the donuts with the warm melted Earth Balance and then tip the top in the Cinnamon mixture.

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5 Spice Glaze:

Combine 1 ½ Cup Confectioners Sugar, ¾ Tsp. Vanilla Extract, 1 Tsp. Cinnamon,       1 Tsp. Chinese 5 Spice, and 4 Tblsp. Cashew Milk (or your choice). Dunk the top of the donuts in to the mixture and set on racks to set. Repeat dunking once the glaze has set.

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COLLABORATION, INSPIRATION, & FRIENDSHIP

This past weekend my friend Christine came over for an afternoon of chatting, dreaming and creating. I first met Christine (who most people lovingly refer to simply as “Perez”) through my PIC CJ. CJ’s day job is as a CrossFit coach and personal trainer. His journey with Perez began as a fellow athlete, then as her coach and now additionally as a friend. Eventually they started to spend more time together outside of box, grabbing coffee at the coffeeshop I work at. And, so I got to spend more time with this delightful human.

Christine runs a blog called PaleoishPerez.com and if you don’t know about it, you should definitely get it and her on your radar. This lady is awesome. She is so kind, smart and fun and you just wanna chat chat chat the more you are around her. Her energy is instantly warm and welcoming, and isn’t that what we all want from someone who is our friend and a foodie?!?!

We talked all about our mutual wants to demystify cooking and baking. To make this fun and accessible for anyone who wants to do it. We discussed our like-minded thoughts about starting our own business’ that were community and collaborative based. We discussed our journeys to this point and certain experiences, which helped us to embrace this present so strongly. And we baked! Pretty much a perfect Sunday afternoon!

This little bar is a collaborative, creative, and kinda spur of the moment creation. I had some idea about where I was going with this, but no idea how it would all turn out. And like everything I bake, I will probably do some more experimentation and playing with the recipe. But I whole-heartedly believe that any endeavor embarked upon in the spirit of fun and collective enjoyment should be shared. And this bar is quite delightful as is, so perhaps no tweaking is really necessary!

Just a side note…if strawberry-rhubarb jam is not your jam…don’t worry! Sub in a jam you love! Blueberry, Fig, Apricot, and play around with the spice combos. Baking is fun and should be individually inspiring. So go wild! Create! Don’t be afraid to see what happens. You could surprise yourself!

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 STRAWBERRY RHUBARB COOKIE BAR

Approx. 12-18 servings

For the Cookie Layer:

1 Cup Earth Balance (or butter)

2 Cups Coconut Sugar

2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract

3 Tsp. Butterscotch Extract

2 Large Eggs

2 ½ Cups Gluten Free Flour (see earlier post)

2 ¾ Tsp. Xanthan Gum

1 Tsp. Baking Soda

½ Tsp. Salt

For the Jam Layer:

1 20oz Jar of Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

For the Crumb Topping:

¼ Cup Gluten Free Flour

¾ Cup Nut Flour (almond, coconut, or a blend will work ~ if you don’t have or like nut flour simply use 1 total Cup of Gluten Free Flour)

½ Cup Earth Balance (or butter)

½ Cup Coconut Sugar

½ Tsp. Salt

½ Tsp. Vanilla Extract

1Tsp. Almond Extract

1 ½ Tsp. Ground Ginger

For the Drizzle:

¼ Cup Powdered Sugar

2 Tblsp. Cashew Milk (or any kind of milk)

¼ Tsp. Vanilla Extract

¾ Tsp Almond Extract

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease a 9×13 pan with shortening or butter or Earth Balance.

To make the cookie layer, in a medium-size mixing bowl combine the Flour, Xanthan Gum, Baking Soda, and Salt. Set aside.

Cream together the Earth Balance, Coconut Sugar, Vanilla extract, and Butterscotch extract in your stand mixer, a hand mixer or by hand.

Once combined and slightly fluffy, add the eggs one at a time. Make sure to blend completely before adding the next egg.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Pour the mixture evenly into the pan.

Scoop the jam onto the mixture and gently cover the entire top.

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To make the crumb topping, in a medium-size mixing bowl combine all the ingredients. Using either a pastry cutter (see last week’s post), two knives or your hands to mix all the ingredients. The topping should be slightly wet and sandy once combined.

Crumble on top of the jam layer.

Bake for 30 mins.

Once removed, the bars will look undercooked and wobbly.

This is ok!

Allow the pan to cool to room temperature.

Once cooled to room temperature, put in fridge for at least an hour.

While the bars are in the fridge, make the drizzle by combining the Powdered Sugar, Milk, Vanilla extract and Almond extract. The result should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If too thin, add a little more Powdered Sugar. If too thick, add a touch more milk.

Once the bars are cool, drizzle the mixture on in any pattern your heart desires!

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THIS TIME OF YEAR…

Perhaps it was Better Than Ezra who said it best…

“You can feel it in the air
Feelin’ right this time of year
Well there’s a feelin’ in the air
Just like a Friday afternoon
Yeah you can go there if you want”

There is nothing quite like that song or the beginning of Fall. They both come into my life quiet and unassuming and then BLAM…I am in love.

I love the first time you open the windows wide and that cool air rushes in, when you put your well worn favorite sweater on in the morning to enjoy your coffee and a book, and when the skies elicit a glow that is magical and welcoming with its warmth.

This time of year I want to snuggle on the couch and watch “The Goonies”, drink Ho-Cho on a brisk walk, throw a football around and dream of wide open spaces filled with trees golden, red and burnt sienna.

And ohh, what a time for baking! Apples, berries, pears, cinnamon, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, chocolate, pecans, maple syrup, and more…oh my!!

My mom used to make blueberry peach cobbler for us as kids. It was blueberry muffin mix topped with blueberries, peaches and an amazing homemade cinnamon sugar crumble. Now some may say that this is not true cobbler or scoff at using boxed mix, well I counter that all baking no matter the substance or name, is connected with a common theme: LOVE. Everything my mom made us was with love and warmth. She wanted to feed her family. She wanted to make memories. And she succeeded in both. It was such a special treat; cobbler days were always the best days.

With that delight in mind, I wanted my first fall treat to be pay homage to those special mornings. Berries, peaches, buttery cinnamon sugar goodness (which, let’s not lie about it, is basically my favorite part of this whole thing and my mom’s original!). And the chance to use my favorite tool – a pastry blender. fullsizerender-3

Now we didn’t have this when I was growing up. My mom delicately cut the butter into the flour, cinnamon and sugar using two knives. I thought it was MAGIC! Then when I was old enough, I indelicately cut the butter in using the same method. Because I am nothing if not a whirling dervish in both my kitchen and in my life! However, last year my mother bought me this pastry cutter for Christmas. And let me tell you, it has changed my life! So easy, so fun to use, and it makes the process of cutting in butter to anything life changing. Plus it is inexpensive! Which is always a bonus in my world!

So I you are a fan of fall, warmth, berries and buttery cinnamon goodness this recipe is for you!

 

PEACH BERRY CRUMBLE

Makes approx. 8 cups

4 Cups frozen/fresh mixed berries (or any berries you prefer)

1 ½ Cup Sliced Peaches (canned or fresh)

1 1/4 Cup Coconut Sugar, divided

¼ Cup Gluten Free Cornstarch

3 ½ Tsp. Cinnamon, divided

½ Cup Earth Balance (or butter or margarine)

1 Cup Gluten Free Rolled Oats (not quick cooking oats)

¾ Cup Gluten Free Flour (see previous post)

½ Tsp. Salt

½ Tsp. Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease, with butter or shortening, an 8×8 or 9×9 square baking dish or round ceramic dish:

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Like this one which is 2 ½ quarts (which I used for this dish)

In a large mixing bowl, mix to combine Berries, Peaches, ½ Cup of Coconut Sugar, Cornstarch and 1 ½ tsp. Cinnamon.fullsizerender

Pour into baking dish.

In a medium mixing bowl, cream together (with pastry cutter, 2 knives, or your hands!) Earth Balance, Oats, Flour, remaining ¾ Cup Coconut Flour, Salt, Vanilla Extract and remaining 2 tsp. Cinnamon.

Once mixture is combined, it will be somewhere between paste and just getting to that sandy consistency.

Top the berries with the Cinnamon Oat mixture, making sure to cover the entire top of the berries.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the topping is lightly browned.

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Enjoy warm, with ice cream or even cold for breakfast!

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Here we go!

So it is a very cold March day here in NYC, again, and I have been fretting for hours albeit days about how I should do this whole recipe section.

As an actor, you try to go into every situation as prepared as possible, but also as fresh and loose and malleable.  A weird dichotomy! And that is how I have been approaching this whole new creative endeavor. Be prepared, be fresh, be on my toes, have fun!

Except, this is a very learn as I go situation.  Yes I love baking. And yes, I am quite a good gluten free baker.  But a blogger, is new to me. Sure I can write the recipes, and give you an antecdote here and there or a really great “story behind the creation of______” but the technical aspects of setting up and maintaining a blog is a steep learning curve for me.

And then today my ever supportive and sometimes irritatingly logical boyfriend, reminded me of a quote he had heard from a casting director.  He said “Start at 85%. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it has to be a well put together start.”

Ah so true again Squeezy (my loving term of endearment for him!).

So I am putting it out there today at 85%! I can fix and fumble as I go along and hopefully you will be along with me.

I hope you enjoy these recipes, discover new flavors and baking combinations, and make something that is so tasty and delicious that you only want to bake that one thing over and over again…..until the next one thing comes out of the over!

So here is my first recipe for you…..A VERY VERSATILE GLUTEN FREE FLOUR MIX.

Now if you are like me, you are wary of this mix. And I don’t blame you! When I was first starting out, I was trying recipe after recipe and never quite seeming to make my treats turn out anything like the recipe said or looked in the picture.  I was reading about everyone’s best flour mix, and must use, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

And then I stumbled upon Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking by Kelli and Peter Bronski.  This was by far the best, and easiest in terms of ingredients, that I had come by.  I use a variation of theirs as my main recipe, as I have played around and this is how I like it best.  And I don’t use this in every recipe. But give it a try. Swap in different starches or flours to your preference and see what happens!

GLUTEN FREE FLOUR MIX

 1 1/3 cup Brown Rice Flour

1 cup Sorghum Flour 

2/3 cup Cornstarch

1/3 cup Tapioca Starch

1 tsp. Xanthan Gum

Mix this all together well. It makes a little over 3 cups. I like to use it right away, but any leftovers I store in my fridge in an airtight container. I never keep it for over a month, though I rarely run into this problem because I end up baking so much!! Enjoy!