Friday, April 26, 2013

10 Betty Crocker's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix - Product Review

This week I decided to try a new gluten free baking mix. I like trying each new gluten free product at least once partly to see if I can come across any food shortcuts that taste good, and also partly for some homemade recipe inspiration. This week I tried Betty Crocker’s Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie mix, and here’s my thoughts and recommendation.

Ease: This gluten free cookie mix is really easy to use, with one oversight in the packaging that leads to slight frustration. There’s only three ingredients needed outside of the mix: butter, vanilla, and an egg. The instructions are simply to mix the butter, vanilla, and egg, and then stir in the mix. The only frustration I came across was the fact that the chips are incorporated into the dry mix, so it becomes slightly difficult to mix the wet and the dry thoroughly. I feel this mix would be easier to mix if the chips and dry mix were packages separately.

Texture: The cookies bake quickly (only in 8 minutes). I’ve always been a fan of chewy chocolate chip cookies, and that’s how they came out for me when baking at 8 minutes. Sometimes I find some gluten free cookie mixes to have a grainy texture, and I’m happy to say this mix avoids this problem.

Verdict: I enjoy the taste of the cookies, and they were definitely quick and easy to make. I would recommend this mix to anyone else, and I’m planning on buying it again in the future.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

6 Josh's Story

Many people have "stories" that help define who we are, what we believe in, our life struggles and our life successes.  I, personally, love to hear other peoples' stories-I am highly motivated by them. By nature I am an empathetic individual and can easily insert myself into that person's story.  I cry, laugh and learn from these stories.  Like a sponge, I take it all in!

I was recently encouraged to tell my story of how I started my company "Just Ask Josh Gluten-Free Baked Goods"

By telling "my" story I am also telling the story of my almost 12 year old son Joshua. Josh was diagnosed with celiac disease 10 years ago when he was 2 years old.  Josh was a sickly baby right from the start, initially labeled as a "failure to thrive" baby.  A lot of vomiting, reflux and sleeplessness nights spent vertical in a rocking chair.  We were fortunate to have had this diagnosis at such an early age.  I was catapulted into the gluten-free world without much preparation. Having a medical background and armed with researching skills, I learned as much as I possibly could about this disease as well as what he could and could not eat. I baked & cooked like a fiend determined to find foods that he would eat and that we all enjoyed too!  My main focus was to make Josh a healthy thriving child.  When Josh entered preschool I made sure that he was eating the gluten-free version of what the other kids were eating too.  Chicken nuggets on Monday- Josh had GF chicken nuggets. Mac & cheese on Tuesday well Josh had GF mac & cheese.  I wanted so desperately for Josh to not feel different or less than his preschool buddies that I literally duplicated every item on the preschool lunch menu for 2 years. If the class needed cupcakes or brownies, well I made those too- gluten-free for everyone. As I was doing so I would take copious notes on what was successful and what was well just plain bad!

 Finally, Josh started to gain weight and sleep through night but it took a year for us to see some real changes in Josh.  Then he started to have more & more energy so much  that at the age of 3 I enrolled Josh is a preschool gymnastics class.  Josh would love to create these routines when he was a toddler.  He was and still is very athletic and graceful.  Josh loved gymnastics we went to our classes religiously.  As his body continued to heal he continued to thrive and gain strength.  Josh was invited to be a member of the boys gymnastics team at our local gym-he was 5 years old at the time.    Fast forward 7 years to present day. Josh is still competing but is now at the gym 18 hours/ week.  His body expends more energy in one night than most people do in one week. Josh is amazingly strong, talented and completely dedicated to his sport.  Through the years he has had a few of his close circle of friends and family join him as a celiac.  My daughter Rachel for one was diagnosed with CD 3 years ago. Josh no longer feels different or odd because of his dietary restriction.

Where does my story come in?  All of those years of baking, cooking and note taking led me to start my gluten-free baked goods business!  Gluten-free awareness has evolved exponentially in the last decade.  This awareness has led to more products in the market-place, more diagnoses of CD and more tolerance from the community at large.  I am dedicated to creating products that are not only gluten-free but are better than the gluten containing counterpart.  I am excited to see what life brings to us in the next decade. Josh wants to be an Olympian! Who knows-he was just awarded the NYS all-around champion for Level 7!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

15 #SundaySupper - Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

It's Sunday again, and time for another #SundaySupper! This weekend we decided to take all of our mutual love for movies and food and marry the two together. All of our recipes this week are inspired by the movies. There has been a huge volume of creativity over the past week from all of the participants, and it's been fun to see all the recipes people have come up with. 

I was inspired this week by Life of Pi...and a well know pair Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Life of Pi is a beautiful film released last year, with amazing storytelling and remarkable visuals. How do Fey and Poehler play into this? During their opening monologue they made a pun regarding Life of Pi and eating pie...the video of their monologue is down below:

I made a gluten free cookie crust, and filled it with a chocolate custard cream. Super tasty, and sooo tasty! 

Be sure to check out everyone's movie inspired recipes below!

Toast (bready things)
No Reservations (soups and salads)
Today's Special (fish, chicken, beef, and pork)
Forks Over Knives (veggie-heavy dishes and sides)
Udon (pasta and noodles)
Just Desserts (sweet treats)
Bottle Shock (beverages)

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday, April 14th to talk all about movies that have inspired us to head into the kitchen - and the food that comes from that inspiration (7pm EST)!  We’ll tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world.   Follow the#SundaySupper hashtag, and include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more delicious recipes and food photos.

Serves: 8
Prep Time: 20 minutes for the crust, 30 minutes for the pie filling
Bake Time: 24 minutes for the crust
Cook Time: 5 minutes for the filling

Crust Ingredients:
1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cup gluten free flour blend
1/2 tsp xantham gum
1 tsp baking soda

Crust Steps:
Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a medium bowl, whip the butter and sugars together until well blended. Add the egg and vanilla and whip until incorporated. Stir in the flour, gum, and soda until well combined. Transfer 3/4 of the dough to a pie tin, and form into the shape of a pie crust (You can use the remainder of the dough for cookies). Take a piece of aluminum foil and cover the crust. Place in the oven and set a time for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the foil from the crust, and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Filling Ingredients:
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp coffee
10 tbsp butter room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 oz 70% bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 tsp vanilla
whipped cream and mini chocolate chips for topping

Filling Steps:
In a double boiler, whisk the eggs, 1/2 c sugar, and coffee non-stop for 5 minutes until foamy and thick. Remove from heat and transfer to a separate bowl to cool down the eggs.

In a large bowl, whip the butter and 1/4 c sugar until fluffed. Stir in the vanilla and chocolate until well blended. Whip in the eggs for 5 minutes until fluffy. Pour into the crust and cover. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. Serve with whipped cream and mini chocolate chips.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

2 Food Photography: Experimenting with Camera Tripods

Hey everybody, today I wanted to share some lessons I learned through some photography experiments and to get some feedback. Recently I purchased a new tripod for my camera to improve some of my photographs on the blog. There's three main aspects I'll be posting about over the next few weeks: camera positioning, lighting, and props. Today's post involves camera positioning.

I find camera positioning to be something that you can experiment a ton with and still have lots to learn. This past weekend I made some gluten free French toast for breakfast and decided to take the opportunity to take shots of it at different angles. The first I'd like to talk about is the image up above. I positioned the camera to about 4 inches above the table, and situated the tripod as close to the table as I could. I angled the  camera slightly downwards. I like this camera angle in a situation where there are multiple props in the entire view, or multiple plates of food in one image. 

The next perspective I tried was one where I had increased the height of the camera by 6 inches, and angled the camera further downwards to keep the toast in view. I prefer using this angle when I want to focus on one plate of food while capturing 1-2 props  in the peripheral view. In my opinion, one drawback with this method is it is harder to capture finer detail of the food, especially if you are not using optimal lighting.

The third position that I tried was a height in between the previous two. This allowed me to achieve a greater camera zoom without losing focus. I prefer this angle to the previous because it has less empty space in the photo, and obtains a greater level of detail in the food itself.

What are your thoughts? Any recommendations or things you would change?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

1 Gluten Free Asparagus Scrambled Eggs

Hey everyone, I hope you're having an enjoyable spring weekend! This month's theme for foodlove is #asparaguslove! All month we'll be sharing our favorite asparagus recipes, and I welcome you to do the same!

Asparagus is a perennial plant native to Europe. Asparagus is a great vegetable that's low in calories and sodium, and a great source of a wide range of nutrients, including but not limited to fiber, calcium, zinc, and potassium.This is a great yet simple breakfast recipe that's an easy way of sneaking some asparagus and other vegetables in early in the day.

This entire recipe can be prepared in one pan, and takes under 20 minutes to make. The key is to cut all of the vegetables before you start cooking. This not only makes the process of cooking less stressful, but you'll be able to concentrate on cooking the dish, preventing your food from being burnt.

Thanks to Becky for co-hosting this month! Check out her blog
and her pinterest

Prep Time: 8 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Servings: 2-3, depending on how hungry your consumers are

4 eggs
3 tbsp milk
dash of salt
dash of pepper
2 tsp Italian herb seasoning
2 oz pancetta, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
half of one onion, diced
4 stalks of asparagus, diced
one handful of mushrooms, diced
1/4 of red bell pepper, diced
1/2 tbsp butter

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and seasoning. Set aside. Dice all of the vegetables, and have them ready to add to a pan.

Preheat a sautee pan over medium heat. Add half of the butter and the pancetta to the pan. Cook until the pancetta begins to brown, and add the onion and garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes, and add the asparagus, mushrooms, and peppers. Cook for another 3 minutes, and then add the remaining butter and the eggs. Reduce the heat to medium low, and cook for about 5-6 minutes, stirring the eggs constantly to prevent burning and sticking to the pan. The eggs will be cooked once they are no longer wet, and become fluffy.