Tuesday, October 29, 2013

All things Halloween 2013

Halloween is two days away. My kids' Halloween costumes were completed... way earlier than I expected. Well, I only needed to make Camden's knight armor. Relatively easy.

So I decided to test recipes this week. The first thing I did today was helping Brek with his "Kids' cook off" project. I helped him modified William Sonoma's brownies and made them healthier. He called it The Better Brownies. They were packed with banana, flax seeds, cranberries and spinach. I'll have to post his recipe soon.

Then I asked my kids if they wanted some marshmallows. YES!!! I could hear them say, "What kind of question is that, mommy?" I always ask because I don't want to make anything they don't want to eat.

I made a batch of marshmallow and pipping adventures began.

I saw some meringue ghosts on Pinterest, but I wanted to make them using marshmallow. No luck! The marshmallow was too soft and didn't take shapes. I played with the pipping and made Boo! ghosts instead. Just piped the marshmallow into the ghost shapes on nonstick mat and added the chocolate chips for their eyes and mouths.

I also saw another Pinterest that I wanted to try this year. A pumpkin surprised cake that's when cut, it reveals a pumpkin shaped cake. I wanted to make a cake with a surprised bat shaped cake.

Here's my problem. I don't like to read instructions before I test recipes. So I found out after I baked a devil cake that I should under baked the filling cake. So now I have too much chocolate devil cakes.

I went ahead and tested out my cookie cutter techniques. Ended up with spider web and bats. Wish I have a black cat cookie cutter. I think that would be cute too.

I used melted chocolate chips as the cake's frosting. Melted white chocolate chips to decorate bats' eyes and spider webs.

A few weeks ago, Brek's school was holding a bake sale. Since he is currently on a dairy free diet, he knew there would be no dairy free baked goods. For this lunch that day, I made him a whoppie pie with marshmallow filling.

After I added natural orange sprinkles, I realized how these whoppie pies could sit next to other Halloween treats. With that thought, it is appropriate to add them on this page.

One afternoon, Brek wanted to have chocolate cake for snack. I saw the creepy eyes cupcakes on Pinterest and decided to test out the idea.

They  turned out really cute. I baked my chocolate cupcakes using my chocolate cake recipe. After the cupcakes were cool, I dipped them in melted chocolate. Then decorated the creepy eyes using Sun Drop candy. Fun idea with yumminess written all over.

Caramel... luv you, luv you not! I've made caramel many times. But I never attempted to make the caramel apples before.

Last week, I tested it out, using my dairy free caramel recipe. Total bomb!!! Caramel slid off the apple slices. Then I saw inside out caramel apple slices on Pinterest and really thought this idea would work.

I gave the inside out caramel apple a try, using my dairy free caramel recipe. After the caramel was set, I sliced it and that was it. Trouble! Caramel didn't stick on the apples... again. The sweet caramel was a perfect contrast to the sour Granny Smith apple slices.

Just wish I know why the caramel didn't stay on the apples. Maybe it was my homemade caramel. I will have to try again until I get it right. It will be my caramel apple challenge.

I saved a little bit of caramel and cooked it longer to make them into caramel lollipops. The melted chocolate drizzled on the pops was inspired by my friend's photograph of her caramel apple slices.

Halloween is incomplete without a Halloween school lunch. A few months ago, I found a smoke salmon sushi rice balls on Pinterest. Since I can't pack anything creamy without being in a container, I knew right away that I couldn't do spider web sushi rice balls.

This time, I read the instruction on how to make the Jack-O-Lantern sushi rice balls. Super easy! My kids also made their own smoke salmon Jack-O-Lantern sushi rice balls for dinner. If you and your kids luv sushi, this would be a fun activity to do.

Well, it's been fun cooking and baking for Halloween this year. A lot of ideas from Pinterest. Check back next year for more of something Halloween sweeter from my kitchen.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Halloween Ghosts, Skulls, and Bones

What is not to like about Halloween? Well, we are not religious, so Halloween to us is pure fun. Dressing up. Lots of something sweeter. For me, it's an excuse to be a kid again.

I used to make my Halloween costumes and dressed up as a sci-fi warrior twice. I'm sucker for sci-fi movie. Then I was a rainforest tribal warrior. The movie Emerald Forest inspired me to sew fake leaves on my dress and boots and carried a big wooden stake. 

Now that I'm a mommy, I decide that I'd make my kids' Halloween costumes too. Last year, Camden was old enough to decide what he wanted to be, The Cat in a Hat. But he said, "No hat. Just a red bow." Brek was the Ninja Go's green ninja. I had a lot of fun making their costumes. I'm not really sure what to make for them this year. Camden keeps changing his mind from Scooby Doo to Jerry the mouse to Robot to cowboy. Brek wants to make his own costume (out of bed sheets). But whatever their costumes will be, there is that something sweeter I luv to make for my kids while Halloween is approaching.

While I was at Target's One Spot, I found the skull and bone moldRight away, a vision of marshmallow treat comes to me. I also thought of making marshmallow ghosts because I don't want to use food coloring in my sweets. Something white like ghosts would be easiter to make than orange Jack-O-Lantern. The brownie pop mold is a perfect product to use for this Halloween project because of the roundness of the ghosts' heads.

Use my maple syrup marshmallow recipe and fill the molds with freshly whipped marshmallow. Be sure to spray the molds with cooking oil for easy release. Once the marshmallow dries, decorate the skulls and ghosts with melted chocolate.

Have fun dressing up. Eat something sweeter. Whether it's a trick or a treat, remember one thing, Halloween means... more holidays are coming up... Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, Valentines. Oh man, I see a lot of something sweeter projects coming my way.

Allergy Info: My marshmallow recipe is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, wheat and fish. If you are sensitive to corn, be sure to find corn free pure maple syrup.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Allergy Info... what is it all about?

A few days ago, a new member posted on corn free support group in hope to get reactions for his wife's baked goods that could be for sales. He didn't get a warm reception at all. It was a combination of the posted picture of corny sweets and the not knowing the ingredients his wife used to bake with were actually not 100% corn free.

It occurred to me that I needed to post a blog to clarify what is the Allergy Info that I ended with on all of my recipes actually mean. So here goes.

Everybody's intolerance to food is different. Keep that in mind when you bake for yourself, your family, or your friends. I just discovered a few months ago that Brek definitely has dairy intolerance. By how much, I don't know. However, he can have sheep's milk products, such as yogurt or manchego cheese, with no allergic reactions. I know this much that he can have a small scoop of ice cream made from cow's milk or cream. But last week, we went out for mozzarella pizza. He ate two slices, came home, and threw up two hours later. Since I am the one who diagnosed his dairy intolerance, I will never know what exactly in the dairy he is allergic to. I mentioned this to my friend whose child (same age as Brek) also has dairy issue. I suggested that she cooks and bakes with sheep's or goat's products. Since her son is allergic to casein, she said it is found in sheeps and goats too. Well, that was a revelation.

I also make suggestions on products in my recipes. In the beginning stage of my allergy free diet adventure, I was baking with organic all purpose flour. Oh man, was that expensive. When I switched to regular all purpose flour, I noticed the texture of my sweets were different. Not all flours are created equal. Even though I suggested a product next to an ingredient, it doesn't mean you have to use the product. Just keep this in mind that if your sweets don't turn out well, adjust the ingredients next time.

The products also change as time goes by. There was one brand that carries corn free mandarin oranges. As of today, that brand is no longer corn free as I saw citric acid added in the ingredients. So I always read the ingredients listed on the package.

Allergy Info

Dairy: When my recipe indicates that it is free from dairy, I always mean that the dairy is from cow's products such as cow's milk, butter, heavy cream, hard or soft cheese. Most of the time, my dairy is from sheep, such as sheep's milk yogurt or cheese (manchego).

Eggs: Most of my current recipes will have chicken eggs. Sometimes I do use quail or duck eggs. If so, the free from eggs would be written as "free from chicken eggs". If there are no traces of eggs at all, then it would be written as "free from eggs". If you can have quail eggs but not chicken eggs, substitute 5 quail eggs for 1 chicken egg. I stay from duck eggs when making something sweeter as they taste gamey to me. Plus, duck eggs are HUGE!!!

Corn: This is a tough one. I don't often declare that my recipe is corn free because my kitchen, the ingredients I use, the products in my home may not be corn free. With that said, all of my recipes can be made corn free with your corn free ingredients.

Legumes: Have you ever heard somebody said that they or their kids are allergic to peanuts, thinking that peanuts are from the nuts family? No, no, and no!!! Peanuts are legumes. I knew this only because Camden has G6PD and needs to avoid all legumes, such as peanuts, all types of beans, especially fava beans. I used to bake with tofu, but I decided to omit it in all of my cooking and baking. If the recipe asks for tofu, I substitute it with mashed banana. My sweet recipes are most likely legumes free.

Wheat: I use only gluten flour such as King Arthur's all-purpose flour or bread flour. Even though the texture and taste may changed, gluten free flour may be used as a substitute. If I test a recipe with gluten free flour, I will note it on the Allergy Info section. Keep in mind that gluten is not created equal in all flours and the brands. I find good results with King Arthur's flours.

Nuts: My family and I have no nuts allergy. But my kids are not nuts fan. I should let them go gather nuts for Earl (our backyard squirrel). If you have nuts allergy, omit the nuts ingredients or substitute with seeds. Most of my recipe calls for coconut milk, coconut oil, or coconut butter. If I use coconut milk or oil in my recipe, the Allergy Info on nuts would be written as "nuts (not coconut)".

Fish: No fishy allergy here either. But seriously, who add fish in their something sweeter? Not me!!! I do cook savory meals with fish sauce. Soy sauce or sea salt can be substitute for fish sauce.

Remember, if you have any question about my recipes, please feel free to contact me. I will be happy to answer and help you create your very own something sweeter. Happy baking!!!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Flour Tortillas

If you read my blog on The Endless Possibility of a Pizza Dough, you'd have known that my 2011 New Year's resolution was "to master the art of bread making". With a lot of practice, I did master the art of bread making. But let me tell you, there were times when I was so frustrated that the bread didn't turn out. Loaf bread is the hardest to bake. The dough has to rise correctly. The dough has to be baked at the corrected oven temperature. I mean, one little thing off and poof... no beautiful loaf of bread.

A few times, I had the urge to grab a bag of flour tortilla at my local supermarket. Of course, I couldn't do that because of the strict allergy free diet I was on at the time. Watching the fresh and puffy tortilla came out of the tortilla machine made me drool.

When I came across several recipes for flour tortilla, I was surprised that they are non yeast dough. The whole process of making yeast bread is pretty easy (if it doesn't involved loaf bread) but it is time consuming. Without yeast in the flour tortilla, my future of bread making is looking rather bright.

I tried several recipes and decided to come up with my own healthier version with the added grounded flax seeds. Not only is flax seeds are good for you, but they add to texture and color to the flour tortilla.

What do I do with the flour tortilla? Let me count the way. Addictive something sweet: deep fried stripes of tortilla and drench them in cinnamon sugar. Second round something savory: pulled pork tortilla. On-the-go breakfast: breakfast tortilla with scrambled eggs and whatever I have on hands. Something fast: quesadilla of whatever I have in the fridge (grilled salmon, ham, or grilled chickens with manchego cheese). Or what my kids luv to do: "Mommy, can I have just tortilla?" Seriously, they luv them plain.

Flour Tortillas
makes 6 - 10 six or eight inch (somewhat round) tortilla

1/2 cup (4 oz) water
2 cups (8 oz) unbleached all purpose flour
1 to 2 Tablespoons grounded flax seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup (2 oz) vegetable oil
  1. Pour the water in the mug and microwave it until it is hot, about 45 seconds.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, grounded flax seeds, and salt.
  3. Add the hot water into the flour mixture and combine it with a fork.
  4. Add the oil and mix again with a fork until the dough is formed.
  5. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it for 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Place back into the bowl and let the dough rest for 15 to 30 minutes.
  7. Heat the flat griddle on medium low heat.
  8. Take about a golf ball size dough and with a rolling pin, roll it out thinly in a circular form. Doesn't have to be perfect because they still taste delish. Mine seems to take a square shape.
  9. Place the rolled out dough on to the heated griddle.
  10. Cook the dough for 55 to 60 seconds per side. Adjust the heat as needed.
  11. Place the flour tortilla on a plate and cover it with a  towel to keep warm.
After the tortillas are cooled, keep them in a plastic bag or an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature. Keep them in the refrigerator for a week. Freeze them for up to 6 months.

Allergy Info: My flour tortillas recipe is free from or can be made without dairy, eggs, corn, legumes (soy), nuts, and fish.