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Chocolate Rice Cakes, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved.

When most of us start embracing a gluten free lifestyle, especially when it is due to health reasons, someone along the way introduces us to rice cakes because it is considered to be a safe substitution for regular bread. This person is generally well-meaning but the expression in their eyes belies their actions – they are really thinking “You poor thing – that is all you are going to eat from now on. Sure glad it isn’t me?!?” Most of us have experienced this scenario at one point or another. I think most of us have mixed feelings about rice cakes. It is definitely a safe option, but perhaps not the most enticing when it comes to flavor. This post is not intended to unfairly criticize rice cakes – far from it. We always have some on hand, just in case. Our favorite brand, hands down, is Lundberg, which offers organic brown rice cakes, which are also non-GMO. Lundberg, actually offers quite a few varieties to choose from – anything from white, brown and wild rice , and with or without salt.  Some people, especially those with celiac disease,  initially have such damaged digestive tracts, that their food choices may appear very limited. Rice cakes are usually a helpful substitution, especially in the beginning stages of healing from celiac disease. But once gluten, in all of its forms, has been strictly eliminated for some time, and the diet has been enriched by consuming primarily whole foods, ideally from organic and non-GMO sources, one feels better and wants to venture out into the greater world of gluten free options. That can be a shock in and by itself. Thankfully, today there are many more options available, but not all are necessarily healthy for you. It seems that every couple of months, there are new offerings in prepared gluten free baked goods. We quite applaud the larger availability of gluten free options, but one still needs to be discerning when it comes to the ingredients that are being used. If you are faced with a choice between an overly refined, starch laden gluten free bread and a whole grain brown rice cake, I would choose the rice cake every time from a nutritional standpoint. And since not everyone is inclined to bake their own bread, cookies or cakes – it is helpful to have some commercial choices to choose from.

Rice cakes due to their neutral flavor, lend themselves to the creation of an easy to make dessert as well.  It doesn’t involve any lengthy preparations, or baking, just a short time for preparing and melting the chocolate and a few more minutes of waiting time to let the chocolate set in the  freezer, or conversely one hour in the refrigerator. It is loved by everyone in our home and very easy to make. You just need a packet of rice cakes and few extra ingredients for toppings.

Chocolate Rice Cakes, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

Ingredients

6 – 8 Lundberg organic brown rice cakes

6 oz. dark chocolate chips

1 Tbsp. coconut oil

2 tsp. camu camu (or your favorite Vitamin C powder)

2 tsp. maca (optional)

1 tsp. peppermint oil

Organic Raisins (a few per cake)

6-8 Tbsp. of peanut butter or almond butter (1 per rice cake)

A few tablespoons of unsweetened shredded coconut

Fresh berries for garnish.

Chocolate Rice Cakes, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

In a double-boiler, melt the chocolate chips with the coconut oil, stirring constantly, over low heat. Add the camu camu, or Vitamin C powder, and maca (optional). Let cool a little bit and then add the peppermint oil, blending everything well. Set aside. On a tray, lay out the number of rice cakes you wish to use and spread one tablespoon of nut butter on each one. Make sure that the nut butter is at room temperature, because it makes it that much easier to spread on the more delicate rice cakes. Unfortunately, rice cakes tend to break easily. I am sure you have your own stories to tell ;-) Top each one with a few raisins and then spread the prepared chocolate sauce  evenly on the rice cakes, covering the nut butter spread completely. Sprinkle some shredded coconut over the chocolate and place the finished rice cakes in the freezer for a few minutes to let the chocolate set. If you have more time on your hands, you can also refrigerate them for an hour.

Serve alongside some fresh berries for an easy dessert, or snack. We love this dessert for its simplicity, the endless possibilities for creative substitutions, i.e. fresh banana slices, or any other fruit, for that matter, other dried fruits, carob instead of chocolate, or, perhaps you could hide some dreaded vitamins, or other supplement in the chocolate sauce – just kidding!!! ;-)

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Strawberry Delight, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

This is one of our very favorite desserts. It meets all the criteria we look for in making a dessert. It is generally loved by young and old alike.  It doesn’t require baking, there are no gluten free flour ratios to balance out, no added sugar,  free of lengthy preparation and complicated steps, and most importantly so delicious. In our globally connected world, you can now find strawberries almost year round. We generally prefer to eat foods as they are available seasonally, and locally grown if at all possible. But that is just not always practical when you live in a high desert environment, where so much of our food gets trucked in. Nearly all our local stores carry quite an assortment of berries throughout the year, which makes this dessert such a nice treat, especially during the winter months.

Strawberry Delight, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

Looking out at the garden beds,  my own strawberry plants looks rather sad right now, holding a mere promise of a harvest still several months away. I found these organic strawberries in our local store and couldn’t resist making this dessert. Like I said, it is extremely easy to make, using the following ingredients:

  • 15 strawberries
  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1-1/2 tsp. coconut oil
  • 4 oz. white chocolate chips

Wash the strawberries and allow them to dry completely, leaving the stems on.

Strawberry Delight, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

In a double boiler, combine the semi-sweet chocolate chips with the coconut oil and melt over very low heat. The added oil makes the end result just a little smoother. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Dip each strawberry into the melted chocolate, allowing any excess chocolate to drip off. Place on the parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Repeat the process until all the strawberries are covered. Place them into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, allowing the chocolate to set and harden.

Strawberry Delight, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

Meanwhile, melt the white chocolate chips. Pour the melted white chocolate into a pastry bag, fitted with a small writing tip. If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can also fill a zip-lock bag and cut a very small hole in one of the corners.

Strawberry Delight, copyright 2013, gfcelebration.com, All rights reserved

Remove the refrigerated strawberries and “draw” lines across the dark chocolate.  When finished, again place the tray with the strawberries back in the refrigerator for another 20 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator when fully set, and serve. They easily store in the refrigerator for a couple of days, if necessary.

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Better late than never. At last, the posting for our gluten free version of the Best Ever Brownies, which we actually managed to make a couple of days ago for a birthday celebration, but didn’t have time to actually post.

Brownies have a special place in our hearts. In our own personal experience, we have been welcomed to several homes, including our current one, by some special neighbors bearing flowers and a beautiful plate of brownies. In fact, upon moving in to my very first apartment in this country, near San Francisco, my new neighbors, whom I had never met before, left a basket filled with brownies alongside a beautiful bunch of flowers by my doorstep. I was stunned – this had never happened to me before but highlighted forevermore,  the incredible generosity of Americans. I will never forget that, nor any of the other experiences, of a similar nature, as the years have gone by. Although, the question is worth asking, is it that obvious that my family and I adore chocolate? Perhaps, there is an invisible sign above the door? Just wondering!?

Over time, we have tried many different brownie recipes, both fudgey and cakey. We love both, but prefer the cakey variety best. Baking gluten free, there is always an element of surprise. Combine that fact with living at high altitude and extreme low humidity,  and some interesting results can emerge.  For instance, this particular recipe required an additional 30 minutes of baking time. It may have had something to do with the fact, that we used a chocolate whey protein powder,  something we have successfully experimented with several times in the past, and have found it to be an excellent gluten free flour substitute in a brownie recipe. It does, however, require a longer baking time.  Our blend for this recipe involved a combination of  chocolate whey protein powder (3/4 cup), brown rice  and tapioca flour (1/4 cup each).  No gums, or other stabilizers whatsoever. As usual, we cut down the amount of sugar by half, using 1/2 cup of coconut sugar (blended with the melted chocolate) and 1/2 cup of sucanat (whipped with the eggs).  We also took the liberty of adding 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts to the dry ingredients and used 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips and 2 oz. of bittersweet chocolate. Other than that, we followed the original recipe precisely.

After the recommended baking period of 25-28 minutes at 350° F, our brownies were not just fudgey, but were nowhere near done. After testing them even 10 minutes later, they were still way too liquid but began to show the first signs of rising. And, voila, after 58 minutes total, a toothpick inserted in the center, finally came out clean. We should also mention, that the batter rose somewhat unevenly, with the center rising higher than the sides. We let the brownies cool in the pan, before slicing.

A short while later, we were able to enjoy them with a favorite cup of coffee. Right away, they were given the “most favorite brownie ever” label by everyone. While not being as fudgey as the original recipes calls for, they were still extremely moist with that rich decadent chocolate experience. The addition of walnuts only enhanced this recipe, creating a combination of flavors that was unbeatable. We definitely give this recipe a thumbs up, and deem the multiple  steps necessary well worth the effort.

If you are interested in making this recipe yourself, please check Monica’s website A Beautiful Mess, who is our host this week for the original Baking with Julia recipe. If you are planning to make these brownies gluten free, just follow our substitutions mentioned above.

To all of our readers, we wish you and your loves ones a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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