Gluten-Free Easter Candy

By Rachel Sircy 

Well, another candy-filled holiday is upon us and we know what that means… Everyone who needs to avoid gluten has to Google each and every one of the pastel colored confections that you come across. This Easter, however, I’m not going to just give a list of manufactured candies that are gluten free (if you would like a list of those candies, check out verywellfit.com‘s Gluten Free Easter Candy list, but remember to ALWAYS take lists you find on the internet with a grain of salt. Be safe, not sorry!). I’m going to make the focus of this post my alternative way of dealing with this Easter: I decided to make my own candy.

Okay, so I understand that making candy isn’t rocket science, and there are probably many of you who are real candy-making mavens. However, I thought I would share this post particularly because I am NOT a candy-making superstar. I wanted to show that even if you’re not experienced, you can make delicious candy that your family will enjoy, and if your family happens to be gluten free, this is by far the safest option for you.

Pinterest is overflowing with recipes for Easter candy specialties. At first, I thought I’d try to recreate one of my all-time favorites, the Cadbury Creme Egg. This candy’s gluten-free status has been hotly debated for a long time. I used to just take the risk and eat it, but that really isn’t smart, and I certainly won’t recommend it to anyone reading this blog who needs to be gluten free. I didn’t end up making it though because it turns out that there are a lot of steps to making fake Cadbury eggs, so I thought I’d better start with something much easier. Also, I have no idea what invertase is or where to find it, and it appears to be a crucial ingredient to liquefy the candy center of the eggs. I needed something totally amateur. My inspiration came one day at work when I went to the communal candy jar and realized that all that was left in it were Hershey’s Cookies ’n’ Cream Eggs. I used to absolutely love Hershey’s Cookies ’n’ Cream candy bars, and I have made a gluten free version of this candy bar, which actually may be better than the real thing. The best part of it is, there are two ingredients: white chocolate and gluten free chocolate sandwich cookies. All you do is mix the two together and, voila! Cookies ’n’ Cream bark.

However, I wanted to make something a bit more festive, to put in my daughter’s Easter basket. Here are my first attempts:

These colorful looking candies are basically the result of about an hour (including all the stops and starts) in the kitchen with two bags of Nestle white chocolate baking chips (they list that they’re gluten free on the package), one package of Glutino chocolate sandwich cookies and some leftover gluten free food coloring I had forgotten about in my kitchen cabinets. I only had three colors: blue, yellow and green, but they still turned out some pretty cute candies if I do say so myself. I purchased the flower and egg candy molds at Hobby Lobby and Michaels, respectively. They were less than $6 together and they’re silicone so the candy just pops right out once it’s been in the fridge or the freezer long enough to harden.

Here are your instructions to make these candies (I’m giving general instructions and not a real recipe since I’m not a chef and frankly, you don’t need a recipe for this):

  1. Melt your white chocolate – I used a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, but you can melt your chocolate in the microwave as well.
  2. Portion out some of the chocolate into smaller bowls – I took about 1/3 of the white chocolate and divided it between three smaller bowls. I used a couple of drops of food coloring per bowl to make the three different colors. If you want to make more colors, I would really recommend purchasing a third package of white chocolate chips to have enough to divide up.

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  1. Crush the cookies and mix with the larger portion of the melted chocolate

Candy 4

  1. Work in steps – To make colored eggs, paint the inside of the egg molds with the dyed chocolate (my daughter’s old baby food spoons worked really well for this actually). Freeze or refrigerate until set. Fill the mold with the chocolate/cookie mixture and freeze or refrigerate again until set. Top with more of the colored mixture and again freeze or refrigerate until set. You see the pattern? This is pretty much it.

Candy 5

I did do it a bit differently with the flowers to get the yellow in the middle, but you can probably guess how I did that. Just freeze the dollop of yellow before adding the blue. It takes about 5 minutes.

Candy 6

And this is what the inside of those eggs look like:

Candy 2

(Don’t tell me that doesn’t look better than a candy bar. Look at how big the cookie chunks are!)

So, if you’re tired of trying to scan everything in the grocery store into your Shopwell app to see if it’s gluten free, just try your hand at a simple candy recipe. I guarantee you can find something simple and delicious, even if you’re a beginner like me!

Happy Easter!

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Gluten-Free Banoffee Pie

By Rachel Sircy 

St. Patrick’s Day will soon be upon us and to tell the truth, there has only been one time in my adult (or really, semi-adult) life that I have celebrated this holiday. I was lucky enough to spend my sophomore year of college studying abroad in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was there that I found out that Lucky Charms is a purely American novelty (no big surprise there, but sometimes you don’t realize the obvious until you’re faced with it) as is the whole idea of Irish Cream. I tried to explain what Irish Cream flavoring was to my friend Debbie, who is a native Northern Irish woman, and she just looked puzzled and said, “I don’t get it. What makes cream Irish in the first place?” I said that I think it was supposed to taste like Bailey’s, but she said, “Why not just call it Bailey’s Cream?” Good question, Debs.

Anyway, my family isn’t Catholic, so to me St. Patrick’s Day has always been just a hokey klee-773946_1920day when people drink shamrock milkshakes from McDonald’s and dye beer green. Last year, my mother-in-law made corned beef and cabbage. It was the first time that anyone in our family circle had eaten corned beef and cabbage (which, believe it or not, is also an American novelty, not an Irish staple). Many people may enjoy this dish, but no one in our family has clamored for any since last St. Patrick’s Day.

Here’s my point in writing all of this: this St. Patrick’s Day, you could make gluten free cupcakes with gluten free buttercream frosting colored green by food coloring, and you could make corned beef and cabbage (I wouldn’t advise it, though).

Banoffeepie

However, if you choose to make those things, you probably won’t get the chance to make Banoffee pie. Banoffee pie is what I used to get as dessert whenever my friends and I went to this little pub in Belfast for Sunday lunch that year that I studied abroad. It’s a pie with a cookie crumb crust and thick caramel (or toffee) covered with sliced bananas and whipped cream. It is delicious, and it takes me back to Sunday afternoons in that little pub in Belfast. Unfortunately, after all that bad-mouthing I just did about American St. Patrick’s Day rituals, I have to admit, that the recipe that I’ll be sharing is something that I adapted from an American blog, saltandbaker.com. I seriously tried to make this as authentic as possible. I even pulled up a great gluten-free recipe for Banoffee Pie from Tesco, the grocery store chain I used to shop at when I was in Belfast. However, when I looked at the recipe, I remembered that I would have to convert all the measurements and oven temperatures from the metric system to (ironically) the English system that we use here in America. Also, I have no idea what “gluten free oat cakes” are. Anyway, here’s the recipe that I adapted from saltandbaker.com:

For the Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed GF graham cracker crumbs (Schar is my favorite brand of GF graham crackers)
  • 6 TBS unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 TBS granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

For the Filling:

  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 bananas sliced
  • 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 2 TBS powdered sugar
  • Chocolate shavings or cocoa powder for the topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place oven rack in middle of the oven.
  2. In a medium sized bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar and cinnamon
  3. Spread crumbs in a 9-inch pie pan or tart dish. Press the crumbs evenly up the sides of the pan and along bottom of the dish. Bake crust for 7-8 minutes.
  4. To make filling: combine butter and brown sugar in a saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until melted. Add the sweetened condensed milk and stir continuously. Bring to a boil and boil for 3-4 minutes or until the mixture darkens in color and thickens. Remove from heat and pour over the crust.
  5. Chill the crust and toffee for 2 hours until firm.
  6. Whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.
  7. Place the sliced bananas over the cooled toffee and spread the cream over the bananas. Top with chocolate shavings or cocoa powder.
  8. Store pie in fridge, it will keep 2-3 days.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Enjoy!

 

Foods That Mean Love

By Rachel Sircy 

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I never try to blend together my own flour mixtures. I am a working mother of a four-year-old, and I simply don’t have the money or the time to hunt down and combine all those little bags of flour to make a baking mix that might make perfect doughnuts but can’t be used to dredge a pork chop. Actually, I don’t make doughnuts or porkchops, but that’s beside the point. What I use instead are gluten free all-purpose flour blends. There are quite a few of these on the market these days, but I recommend purchasing those that can be used as a cup for cup substitute for regular wheat-based flours. Normally, these all-purpose flour blends will advertise somewhere on the package that they are cup for cup substitutes. Pamela’s Artisan Blend happens to be my favorite at the moment (You can see the little yellow dot on the front of the package advertises a 1:1 substitution with regular flour):

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The real value of these 1:1 substitutions is that you can pull out old recipes and use them again without having to have an advanced degree in food science to figure out how to make them gluten free. Some recipes are really worth making time and time again. This is my grandmother’s recipe for shortbread cookies. The title of the recipe is “Holiday Cookies” because without fail, these cookies were a part of every single holiday on the yearly calendar. My grandmother had a cookie cutter with a shape to match each holiday in question: a pumpkin for the fall holidays, Christmas Trees, hearts for Valentine’s, eggs for Easter and so on.

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My daughter and I made these cookies with my grandmother over Christmas just the way that I used to make them with her when I was little. Just the other day, HRH (my daughter) and I made some for Valentine’s day.

 

They turned out to be beautifully imperfect. HRH was really excited about the sprinkles, so she added most of them to the first four cookies. With all the cookies together, it makes a nice ombre effect.

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The best part is being able to pull out this old recipe and reminiscing about learning to make these cookies as a child while teaching my daughter how to make them. Someday, I hope she makes these cookies with her children. Sometimes love looks like a cookie…

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And it tastes like one too…

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Our Lucky Collards

By Shannon Boatwright

img_1063It’s the new year, and we’re all eager to kick start our year with positive thoughts, wishes and goals of good health, abundant happiness, and financial security. One of my traditions is to cook a new year meal that “promotes” and “represents” all these things. Black eyed peas, collards, pork chops/ham, cornbread, and grapes are the staples for our good luck meal. My favorite is the collards. I always like to buy my collards from local farmers: they’re the best, the real deal, and even the most affordable.

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Over the years, family members and friends have taught me all sorts of tips and tricks to making the best collards ever. These tricks range from making sure to wash the collards 3 times (I wash mine 4 times and use some vinegar when I do the last two washes), to cutting the collards into the shape of dollar bills (I like to pretend mine are $100 bills), to putting chunks of ham in the collards as they cook.

I like to cook two batches. For one (my favorite), I just use chicken broth, good ole Lawry’s seasoning, fresh garlic cloves, salt, and pepper. This year we actually had some leftover ham, so I put some ham chunks in as they cooked to add to the flavor. The other batch I make super spicy, with pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic salt, and whatever our favorite hot sauce is at the time –whether it’s Sriracha hot sauce or Tapatio’s hot sauce.  The collards are always my favorite part of the meal because it’s something I typically end up cooking literally only once a year.

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This year I scored a total win with my parents. I actually got my Dad, who has always claimed to not care for any cooked greens, to try my collards. I had to do a little convincing, but he loves spicy things, and I think when he saw my spicy collards cooking, he couldn’t resist. Let’s just say, I got him to come around, and he officially admitted that he likes my collards! Plus, my Mama declared that my regular collards were the best she’d ever had!

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Though there has been a bit of a collards shortage this year due to the hurricanes and cold weather, you can still find some. And guess what, if you didn’t get your good luck new year meal in yet, it’s still January, so you’ve got time! I’d love to hear about any cool, good luck foods you and your family eat to bring in the new year, so do share!

Here’s to a new year full of wealth! Wealth in health, happiness, and money!

Once Upon a Time…

By Rhonda Woods

Hello Everyone!

“Once upon a time…” is a game my granddaughters like to play while riding with me.  We all take turns adding to the story, and as you can imagine, their stories always include a mermaid or princess.  What fun and memories we are making!  The older three were with me this past weekend for some Nana spoiling.  The sleepover included running, squealing, laughing, playing, and ice cream cones.  I even took them bowling.  Yep, that’s right, I took them bowling by myself!  Adventurous, right?  None of this would princess-869721_960_720have been possible without my constant prayers for peace and God’s merciful grace answering those prayers.  I have faith that my life story will have a ” …. and she lived happily ever after” page.

My family, friends, and students have been happy to see me as I once was- energetic, confident, and “large and in charge!”  With two weeks of school left in the first semester, my tasks included finishing up quizzes, tests, and exams and a faculty/staff lunch.  The students stayed busy helping me freshen up the commercial kitchen for the new semester and preparing foods for practice labs.  Between the two classes, the students made Waffle Iron Brownies, Cinnamon Rolls, Buttermilk Biscuits, Chocolate Covered Strawberry or Red Velvet Cheesecake Bites, Shrimp Scampi, Crab Cakes with Red Pepper Remoulade, and Low Country Boil.  I bound their final projects: a cookbook complied of recipes used during the 18-week course. It was a proud moment for both the students and I when I handed each of them their own personal creation.  Most will keep this special memento for years to come and will use the prized standardized recipes.  Former students from my 18-year culinary arts instructing career still have theirs and keep in touch.  I thank God several times a day for this peace and renewed spirit that makes life enjoyable again after a year and a half of sadness, anxiety, exhaustion, and overcoming regrets.

So, let me share some of the recipes prepared by my students the past two weeks.  I hope you will enjoy them as much as they did.

May God bless you and your family as He continues to bless ours.

 Chef Woods

Cheese Cake Bites

Yields 30-36

Tools and Utensils:

  • Gallon-sized plastic freezer bag or food processor with blade
  • Large metal spoon
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • ½ sized sheet pan
  • Waxed/parchment paper
  • Measuring spoons
  • Microwavable container
  • Fork

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb sandwich cookies (30 large cookies)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 8-12 oz. chocolate candy coating, (bark), melted
  • Garnishes (as needed):
  • Chopped nuts, sprinkles, melted white chocolate

For Chocolate Covered Red Velvet Cheesecake Bites: 

  • 20 oz. vanilla sandwich cookies
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 T cocoa powder
  • 1.5 t. butter flavoring
  • 2 t. red food coloring
  • 10 oz. chocolate candy coating, (bark), melted

For Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake Bites: 

  • 1 lb vanilla sandwich cookies
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 T. + 2 t. sugar free strawberry jello mix
  • 1 t. strawberry extract
  • 8 oz. chocolate candy coating, (bark), melted

Procedure:

  1. In a food processor or gallon freezer bag, crush sandwich cookies to make crumbs.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine cookie crumbs and cream cheese to form soft dough.
  3. Line a half-sized sheet pan with waxed/parchment paper.
  4. Portion dough into 30-36 pieces with a tablespoon.
  5. Roll each portion into balls.
  6. Place formed dough on the waxed paper lined pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until firm.
  7. In a double boiler, or microwave, melt chocolate candy coating.
  8. Dip chilled cheesecake bites in the melted chocolate and place back on waxed paper lined pan.
  9. Sprinkle with optional chopped nuts or sprinkles before the chocolate hardens, or drizzle with melted white chocolate.
  10. Place the finished cheesecake bites in mini muffin papers.
  11. Refrigerate finished cheesecake bites in a covered container until ready to serve.

Waffle Iron Brownies

Tools and Utensils:

  • Waffle Iron
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Small microwavable bowl
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Whisk

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ c. Flour
  • ¼ c. Cocoa
  • ¾ c. Sugar
  • ¼ t. Salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 T. Water
  • ½ c. Melted margarine
  •  1 t. Vanilla
  • Pan spray
  • Toppings:
    • Ice cream,
    • Chocolate or Caramel Syrup,
    • Powdered Sugar or Whipped Cream/topping,
    • Maraschino Cherries

Procedure:

  1. Preheat Waffle Iron to 350°
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, measure and combine flour, cocoa, sugar, and salt.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, measure and combine eggs, water, melted margarine, and vanilla.
  4. Stir liquid ingredient mixture into the dry ingredient mixture, until smooth with a whisk.
  5. Lightly spray waffle iron with pan spray.
  6. Portion batter on the griddle, ¼- ½ c., depending on the size of your waffle iron.
  7. Bake the brownie batter for 1 minute or until firm enough to remove.
  8. Server warm with the suggested topping.

 

If You Can’t Win the Game, Win the Tailgate

By: Stacy Thompson

As football fans, we like to believe that we have control over the ultimate outcome of a game — gotta wear that lucky shirt, lucky hat or lucky socks; if watching on TV, gotta sit in the lucky seat. Obviously, the actions or inactions of the fans have little to do with the play on the field, but that knowledge doesn’t make losing a game any easier or tolerable. On the flip side, there are those that don’t really follow football or care whether the home team wins or loses but simply enjoy the great southern tradition of football tailgating. So whether you are an ardent fan or dedicated socializer, I hope you enjoy these quick and easy tailgate recipes to make your Saturday a blast. Just add burgers, dogs or BBQ and you’ll easily win the day regardless of the score of the game!

Southern Caviar

  • 2 cans black-eyed peas
  • 2 cans shoe peg corn
  • 2 cans Ro-tel tomatoes
  • 2 large bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 can black beans
  • 12 small green onions, chopped
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp parsley flakes
  • 16-ounce bottle Zesty Italian dressing

Mix all ingredients and chill overnight. Serve with Tostitos scoops.

 

Sweet Southern Slaw

  • 1 (16-ounce) bag coleslaw mix (finely shredded)
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced onion
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

Mix coleslaw and onion. Whisk remaining ingredients and toss well. Chill before serving.

 

Southern Deviled Eggs

  • 7 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1 pinch each of salt and pepper

Cut eggs lengthwise. Place yolks in a small bowl, mash, and add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Fill egg whites with mixture and garnish with paprika or pimientos.

 

Krispy Kreme Casserole

  • 9 Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts, day old
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2-quart baking dish. Cut donuts into 1/2 inch pieces. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over donuts. Let sit for 2 hours. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes until middle is firm.

Kids and Celiac Disease

 By: Rachel Sircy

Disclaimer: Our bloggers are not health experts. Contact your physician if you have questions about celiac disease or if you are thinking about starting a new dietary program.

Those affected by celiac disease may wonder what the risk is for our children. Here are a few things to consider:

1) According to the Center for Celiac Disease at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, children with a first degree relative (mom, dad, sibling) who have celiac disease should be tested. They recommend that a blood test for celiac disease be done after the age of three and after the child has been exposed to gluten for at least one year. Remember that if you don’t have gluten in your system, you can’t have a reaction to it. The tests for celiac disease are trying to measure an immune response to gluten. If you’ve already put your child on a gluten-free diet, your child’s test will be negative even if they have celiac disease.

2) Even if you have celiac disease, or your child has another first degree relative with CD, it does not necessarily mean that your child will have celiac disease, though they are more at risk to have the disease.  Some people (myself included) have wondered if it’s worth it to introduce gluten into the diet of an at-risk child. It’s really your call, but consider this: your child may one day want to get off of the gluten free bandwagon. It might be good to find out sooner rather than later if that is an option for them.

Also, there are other health issues that are associated with celiac disease. If your child goes undiagnosed for CD, they may still develop some of these other issues such as diabetes, lactose intolerance, or even coronary artery disease. If you choose to put your child on a gluten free diet without having them diagnosed, just keep in mind that doctors will not be looking out for any medical problems that are related to celiac disease.

3) In young children with celiac disease, you may have to watch for contamination from gluten-containing play things like play dough or chalk, etc. Normally, celiacs don’t have to worry about anything that merely touches the skin (gluten can only affect celiacs if they eat it).  However, since young children are prone to eating things they shouldn’t (like play dough, chalk, etc.), it might be a good idea to stock GF art supplies

4) Signs and symptoms of celiac disease in children (and adults) include the following: chronic diarrhea or chronic constipation; abdominal pain; vomiting; bloating/gas; fatigue; damaged or discolored tooth enamel; blistery, itchy skin rashes; iron deficiency anemia; short stature. According to everything I’ve read, irritability is the first sign that appears in young children. Consistently cranky children are often sick children. Asymptomatic children with genetic risk factors should also be tested because many celiacs do not show any signs of the disease in its early stages.

**All of the above information info was taken from the “Kid Central” page of BeyondCeliac.org, which is a pretty good resource. Also helpful is the Mayo Clinic website.

Recipe: Easiest. Cookies. Ever. (Flourless Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peanut butter (smooth works best, but crunchy will do)
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 bag Hershey’s Kisses (dark chocolate are our favorites on this, but milk chocolate is also good)

Directions:

  1. Unwrap Kisses and place in fridge, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream peanut butter and sugar into a bowl.
  3. Beat in baking powder.
  4. Add egg and mix until well combined.
  5. Roll into balls (smaller is better), roll balls in white sugar, and place on cookie sheets covered with parchment paper. Press/flatten balls with fork.
  6. Bake 10 minutes, let rest 5 minutes on baking sheet, then cool on a plate.
  7. While cookies are still warm, press a kiss in the middle of each cookie.
  8. Try not to eat them all in one sitting.