August 24, 2010

Easy Icing

I will be the first person to tell you that when it comes to baking, I am no expert. This is why I use boxed mixes instead of trying anything from scratch, because most of the time, the finished product is a bit of a disaster. My dear friend Mollie pointed out to me this past weekend that perhaps this is because my cooking style is based on taste, not measurements. I like adding a little of this, a little of that, to get things just right, where baking is a very structured and calculated art.

I love trying new things, and recently I discovered a frosting recipe that is both easy and delicious! You can mix up a batch in a matter of 5 minutes, and it can frost 2 dozen cupcakes or a 2 layer round cake, easily. I feel empowered by little things like that which I can put my signature touch on something as simple as cupcakes (and make use of my decorating kit!) and not feel ashamed of the box they came from.

Courtesy of Glorious Treats' blog.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick of butter (not margarine or that Smart Balance stuff)
1 8oz package of cream cheese
4 cups of powdered sugar
1 tsp gluten free vanilla extract
1 tbsp of heavy whipping cream

Blend butter and cream cheese in a mixing bowl with a hand mixer. Add powdered sugar, blending 1 cup at a time (this prevents sugar from flying out of the bowl and coating every inch of you and your countertop- some things you learn the hard way). Next add vanilla and whipping cream and blend on high for another minute or so.

At this point, depending on whether you are planning on decorating your cupcakes or simply frosting them and chowing down, you may want to put the bowl of frosting in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to set a bit. If your cupcakes have just come out of the oven and are still cooling, this is a wise decision or you'll have an ooey gooey mess.

Coloring Your Frosting
The natural color of this frosting is a light, creamy ivory, thanks to the vanilla and butter. To color, simply add a fraction of a drop of food coloring at a time, prior to adding the heavy whipping cream, until you reach your desired color. To make multiple colors, divide your batch into separate bowls after adding vanilla. It's important to do the coloring step before adding the cream because the added liquid of the food coloring will determine if you add a teaspoon, half a teaspoon, or a tablespoon of the cream to reach your desired consistency. I like a thicker frosting, so I go very light on the cream.

I love this frosting with Betty Crocker's Gluten Free Chocolate Cake mix. The chocolate/cream cheese combo is amazing, it's hard to eat just one! And you can take pride in knowing that you concocted such a tasty treat, only half of which came from a box!

August 11, 2010

Roasted Sweet Turkey Sausage with Vegetables

I have been a big fan of "1 pot" meals lately. With time constraints and Mr. GF working evenings, I have been trying to make dinners that are easy, healthy, and will be just as good the next night for Mr. GF to take to work. I can't be bothered to wash a sink full of dishes and utensils after dinner, so I have been experimenting with meals that can be made in 1 pot, dish or pan.

Roasted Sweet Turkey Sausage with Vegetables

1 package (6 links) of sweet turkey sausage, cut into quarters
2 green peppers, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 shallots, diced
1/2 bag of Trader Joe's Teeny Tiny Potatoes
2 cloves garlic
sea salt (about 1/2 tsp or to taste)
red pepper flakes (1 tsp or to taste)
1 tsp dried or fresh rosemary
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
feta cheese crumbles (optional)

Directions: Combine all ingredients except feta cheese in a glass baking dish. Roast on low for 45 minutes, mixing every 10 minutes or so. Serve hot with feta cheese sprinkled on top.

I'm not a fan of cooking in the oven in the summer because it heats up the house, but one or two nights a week it's not too bad, and it's been cooler in the evening the past week or so. This would be a great dish in the fall, as the rosemary, garlic and sausage give the house that homecookin' goodness smell. This is also an easy meal to make bigger or smaller portions, and it's not expensive, which is another important factor in my meal-making decisions.

If you're looking to mix it up a bit, try summer squash and zucchini (which are now in season and delicious) instead of green peppers, or sub out the potatoes and serve with a side of quinoa or brown rice.


August 5, 2010

A Gluten Free Wedding

Conversation has begun revolving around Chelsea Clinton's vegan and gluten free wedding menu, and how special food requests due to diet, restrictions and allergies are becoming more mainstream. This article on MSNBC even goes as far to say that Clinton's wedding could be empowering to those who are unsure of the ability for such requests to not only be met, but to be done well and deliciously. I hope readers understand that this isn't some glamourous  trend, it's a very real part of people's every day lives.

You really can't throw a stone without hitting someone with dietary restrictions nowadays. Even 3 years ago, when Mr. GF was being diagnosed, this whole "gluten free thing" was pretty unheard of. Three years later, we were married in the Catholic church and Mr. GF was able to receive communion with gluten free wafers we had special ordered. Sure, they tasted like Fritos, but being able to receive the Body of Christ was something he had not been able to do for 3 years.

A deal breaker for our venue of choice was their willingness and ability to provide Mr. GF with a gluten free menu and cake, as well as being able to cater to the few vegetarian and vegan guests we would be hosting. You hear stories of people eating nothing but the salad course because they're not given a choice for a meal that fits their needs, and that appalls me. You wouldn't invite a friend who is vegetarian over for a steak dinner, so why would a wedding celebration be any different? It's much larger scale, yes, but extra effort can and should be put in to make your guests as comfortable as possible. And anyways, I'd hate to see someone hit the open bar with just a salad in their stomach.

A simple way to keep track of food restrictions was to request that our guests make note of such restrictions on the back of their RSVP card. That way we could directly write down next to our table assignments and food choices if there were any special needs for our guests. We had gluten free, vegetarian, shellfish, seafood, dairy, and nut allergies that our venue, The Barker Tavern in Scituate, MA, handled perfectly and without complaint or extra charge. Our main wedding cake was not gluten free, but Konditor Meister Bakery of Braintree, MA provided Mr. GF with a personal sized gluten free Chocolate Decadence cake.

So when planning your wedding or next event, do your research. Shop around. Talk to your vendors. In this day in age there is no reason why you can't have a wedding or event that caters to your dietary needs.