Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gluten Free "Vita-Top" Muffins

Much like my sprinkle buying addiction {which by the way I just placed an order for $50 worth of new assortments over the weekend--HELP!}, I have started a wine and craft beer collection.  Now as you know I'm not supposed to have gluten, and actually didn't even drink beer for quite some time until mid-college when I went on a European school trip.  Between Belgium and Germany, it was inevitable that I would develop a passionate love for good beer, and it's been history ever since. I've been cutting back more lately, as my passion for red wine has grown exponentially since I graduated, and I've been trying to limit gluten as much as possible. But every so often I just can't resist.  Every time I walk into a whole foods or total wine, I can't help but take an unnecessary stroll down the endless beer aisle.  It just so happens that my purchasing usually increase when I go on one of my crazy diet sprees of not drinking for a month/ months at a time, telling myself I'll save it "for when I can drink again". Logical I know.

So for Christmas my good friend bought me what appears to a combination of my two favorite genre of beer: IPAs and Belgians. I've had Stone brewery before, so I knew this has potential to be very delicious. I finally took a switch from my usual wine or whiskey this weekend, and broke open the bottle to find that it was absolutely fantastic! If you have an appreciation for quality beer, and can get your hands on it, I suggest giving this one a try!

So as it would have it, that same friend occassionally sends me recipes that catch her eye and works as a great honest taste tester for my creations.  The other day I received an email, "your sister and I want these..she may not know it but we do."  It was a recipe for gluten-free "vita-top" chocolate muffins, and they sounded phenomenal.  Turns out these knock-offs of the Whole Foods favorite got the approval from both of them, and actually only have 116 calories!

Chocolate Chunk "Vita-Top" Muffins
1 3/4 cup oats
3 egg whites
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup hot water
1 cup Splenda
1/4 cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with cupcake liners *Note, the liners were a little difficult to take off so I would suggest spraying the pan with Pam instead and pouring right into the tray.
This recipe might be the easiest yet! Just mix everything into a blender or food processor {except the chocolate chips} an blend until the oats are fully mixed and the batter is smooth.
Stir in half of the chips and fill the muffin tins about 2/3 of the way full. Place them in the oven for 10 minutes, sprinkle them with the rest of the chocolate chips, and return to the oven for about 5 more minutes.
Remove from the oven, let cool, and ENJOY! :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies

Until very recently, when I grew an appreciation for even the smallest of holidays to use as a baking excuse, I was anti-Valentine's Day.  There was something about the holiday that made it "stupid" in my mind.  I didn't understand why it was necessary to have a separate holiday for people in LOVE..shouldn't they be in love every day?! Sounds like the rants of a cynical valentine-less young girl now doesn't it..
One of the benefits of being in a sorority was the comfort in knowing that at least 20 other girls had the same outlook as you on any topic at any given time.  From "Nicki Minaj looked like a clown at the MTV awards" to the "Chocolate Chip vs. Snickerdoodle" arguement, someone always had your back.  So it was guaranteed on Valentine's Day that there would be a posse of single ladies with the same idea in mind-- let's go out.  After an organized group dinner and a few bottles of wine, it was easy to forget it was anything but another night out on the town. But now that I've grown older and wiser and entered the real world away from all the pointless college drama, I've developed an appreciation for Valentine's day. I've even started to get those funny things called feelings back..you know the butterflies and overflow of emotions that normal people get when something cute happens.  I actually just CRIED in my first movie the other day. There must have been something in my eye...
Or maybe it was just Channing Tatum's smoking good looks that finally melted my cold heart.

Anyway. I've been dying to try working with royal icing for some time now, and got so caught up in the rest of my Christmas baking that it managed to slip through the cracks yet again.  The lonely, naked, festive-shaped sugar cookies were baked and ready to go, waiting hopelessly never to be fully dressed.  So I figured why not jump the gun and start early with some Valentine's Day treats.
Now you should know I have a weak spot for holiday M&M's. It's not even so much that I like to eat them, but they just look so perfect untouched in a heart shaped bowl or baked inside a cookie that I can't resist buying them and figuring out their usefulness later.  So of course walking through CVS to get my gummy vitamins resulted in the undeniable stroll down the pink and red overloaded center aisle and the self-controlled purchase of only ONE bag of M&Ms{I'll be back}.
Using my newly purchased baby heart cookie cutter, I had an idea to spice up these sugar cookies with a "hidden surprise" and turned them into M&M filled heart-shaped boxes that came out like the picture above.. pretty cute right?

I must've blacked out during my trip to ACMoore when I ran in to pick up the new cookie cutters because I swear I didn't mean for this to happen.  Something just comes over me and I go off on a tangent.  Perhaps it's my deep addiction to sprinkles and candy coating <3
How To:
Grab your favorite sugar cookie recipe{make sure it's good for cookie cutters so they hold their shape!}
After testing out various recipes over the years and adjusting trying to make the perfect combination, I decided to give one last try to CookieCrazie's recipe found here and it was absolutely fabulous! The cookies held perfect shape and tasted delicious..I think there's some magic in the use of sour cream that I've been missing all along.
As for the royal icing, there are many variations in recipes using egg whites vs. meringue powder {which can be found at your local craft or baking store}

Although Meringue powder can get pricey, it is way beyond worth it and will last for many uses! I used Sweetopia's recipe and it came out absolutely fantastic! * I halved the recipe and had PLENTY left over so you may need to adjust depending on how many cookies you plan to make*
Tips for Using Royal Icing:
1. PATIENCE! Something I genenerally dont have much of, but I have desperately been trying to learn especially when it comes to my baking.  When writing with royal icing, you need to allow the base layer to dry completely before you begin to write onto. The first few cookies I learned the hard way as the letters began to spread.  I need plently of practice, but not too bad for the first run.
2. Consistency.  When you first follow the instructions for the royal icing it will end up with somewhat of a thick, fluffy texture that won't be useful for piping.  Gradually add small portions of water until you reach the desired consistency. *The test for pipable consistency noted on Sweetopia's page is the 10 Second Rule. Works like a charm.*
3. Flooding. There are generally too methods to filling with royal icing. This word flooding comes up often and refers to using this ticker icing to outline the shape, and then adding a bit of water to thin the consistency and "flood" the empty space.  The second option {which I chose to follow instead of making different consistencies}, is to use the same icing as you outline with to fill the shape..you'll just need to shake the cookie a bit to help smooth it out evenly.
4. Piping tools.  When I was at ACMoore I also managed to pick up some "Model Makers" chocolate bottles with a thin tip to make my first time piping somewhat easier.  As I continue to practice I will use icing bags and varying tips to change the technique and thickness. This will be especially useful when writing!

Next time I attempt royal icing I will be sure to include pictures of each step along the way{outline, filling, writing, etc}!
 <3 Get creative with your decorating ideas and Happy Valentine's Day <3

Monday, January 7, 2013

Gluten-Free Banana Bread

Good Morning! I hope everyone had a very happy holidays and I apologize for the pause in blogging! I unfortunately had been dragged back to work the day after Christmas, although my brain managed to stay on vacation an extra week or 2..and my stomach definitely benefited from a recovery break as well!
But now I'm back and ready to continue to share some great recipes with you :) I know the New Year usually entails resolutions for crazy diets and exercise {that only ever last about a month or so}, so I'll try to help you out and ring in the new year with something a little more on the healthy side.

Now you know my twin sister Melissa is as much of a health freak as I am, but she definitely has a broader palate and a real love for food.  Aside from all the delicious vegetarian meals she cooks up, I'm proud to say she is finally dabbling in the world of breads and baking!  So today's post is a guest blog of her latest creation, Gluten-Free Sugar-Free Banana Bread!
Gluten Free Banana Bread
4 eggs
4-5 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup Splenda
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup white rice flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup melted smart balance (you can use coconut oil or butter)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs lightly.  Add mashed bananas, splenda, applesauce and vanilla, and mix thoroughly.

Add flours, salt and baking soda to the wet mixture and mix until completely incorporated.  Fold in the melted smart balance just until blended.
Pour batter into 2 loaf pans (if you don't have them you can substitute for a 9x13in pan like she did).  Bake for about 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool for 10-15 minutes and then remove from the pan.  ENJOY!