Hello Again

I’ve tried another blog site for this blog the last few years and decided to stick with my roots. WordPress allows me more freedom to customize my blog to fit what I want it to look like. With that being said…

Last month marked 14 years for me being gluten-free. Wow. I’ve reached the point where I’ve been gluten-free for almost half my life. That is just shocking for me. Being gluten-free is just part of my life and I still get people asking me what the gluten-free food tasted like after I first started on this way of life because that’s exactly what it is. Fourteen years ago, gluten-free food was bland, boring, and quite frankly disgusting. I still use the nickname of cardboard for my waffles even though the flavor has improved immensely. The texture still isn’t what I really want but I’m now used to it.

peach pie

Peach Pie for the pie contest. (This is actually my trial run but the picture is better)

This past weekend was the Fair in my hometown and while I only entered two baked goods this year instead of the many I usually do, I still had fun. Not being able to enter more simply came down to cost. Money is tight right now and I needed to focus on saving. Next year I will be debt free (YEAH!!!!!) and I am planning a trip to Iceland.

In the fair this year I entered the pie contest (this year was peach) for the fifth time and sadly did not win…again.

Here are some tips when entering baking contests:

  1. Don’t be frustrated if you don’t win. It’s sad and I always want to get upset but really contests come down to the personal likes of the judges. You never know what they like and they might not like what you do.
  2. Listen to the judges critiques. Try to talk to the judges afterwards. Most Fairs hire judges that are professionals and will remember the majority of what they taste. I did this last year to see what advise they could offer. Last year my pie crust was flaky but not up to the judges standards. They suggested using lard rather than shortening. It worked. My crust this year was very flaky and tasted like a normal pie crust.
  3. If baking a pie, use a clear pie plate. That way the judges can see if the bottom crust is evenly browned all the way around. If it is a double-crust pie, make sure the top and bottom crusts are the same light, golden brown.
  4. Make sure a pie crust is perfectly even all the way around. This is why I didn’t go further this year.
  5. The top edge of a pie crust has to be the perfect thickness. If it’s too thick, it won’t baking properly all the way through. If it’s too thin, it will over cook.
  6. apple muffin

    Spiced Apple Cider Muffins

    For cookies, muffins or cupcakes, make sure you enter ones that all look the same. Eat the ones that are smaller or oddly-shaped. (Use the excuse of quality control if you must.)

  7. And the most important tip I can gave is – have fun. I may get frustrated and want to throw half of my stuff against the wall, but I do have fun. I learn a lot year-to-year and a lot of that comes from talking to the judges.

The other item I entered in the Fair this year were my Spice Apple Cider Muffins. I am happy to report that I got First Place!! I’m also going to give this recipe to my aunt that bakes at Black Sheep Coffee Roasters in Bishop, CA where they are trying to get more gluten-free options on their menu.

I’m hoping that I will be able to enter more.

The Results Are (Finally) In…

I’m sitting here typing this up with a brace on my wrist after realizing that I haven’t blogged in a while. Sorry about that. I’ve been fairly busy over the last month and a half with decorating cakes, a knee injury, and two plays. What is with the brace you might ask? Well it’s one of the pains of being a cake decorator. With my love of baking came the love to decorate cakes. Kind of follows the whole wanting to open a bakery doesn’t it?

Anyway…

Ma's kitchen during my take-over.

So the Tri-County Fair is now over. The last you heard from me I was contemplating what to enter and shared my recipe for the Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing. While I entered twelve items total (that includes my picture, which did not place, and the Favorite Cookie Contest), I only got six done and still managed to make somewhat of a profit with my winnings. I placed on four of my six items. As the deadline approached fast, I invaded my grandma house and took over her kitchen because quite frankly, she has a much larger kitchen than my apartment. So I spread my flours, sugar, eggs, butter and what-not on her counter and got to work. As the hours ticked away, I realized that there was no way I would be able to get all of this done. Why do I procrastinate? So while a batch of oatmeal cookies baked away in the oven, I picked through my recipes and chose the ones I felt the most confident with. My favorites if you will.

Pumpkin Cupcakes

I dropped my entries off and left for work leaving what I can only describe as my best effort at the last minute for the judges to critique. I waited anxiously for Thursday to come and hurried to the Fairgrounds after. While I was greeted with the flashing lights and various sounds that marks the beginning of the Fair, I was focused on getting my entry for the Favorite Cookie Contest over to the Party Barn and off to the Home Economic Building after the cookies were waiting for the judges. My eyes searched every inch of the many glass cases looking with confidence for my name. Around one case… nothing. Around a second… nothing. What? Around a third… nothing… wait my Pumpkin Cupcakes! It was the only one I wasn’t entirely sure on. It was only the third time making them. The recipe is still in a test stage. My eyes didn’t stay long on the cupcakes themselves but traveled down to the name tag. I know I need to see the eye doctor but I couldn’t be seeing a blue ribbon right? It has to be another color but no I was seeing correctly. First place. Down a little further and there was my Herb Cornbread and Oatmeal Cookies, both with the familiar red that I know to be second place. But wait… where’s my Chocolate Cake? I search the cases… nothing. What? Sure enough it was in a different case than what I am used to. I knew it had to be there. I mean come on for one thing my mom and I got creating and made a stencil so we could put the image of a palm tree (the theme was Gilligan’s Island) with powdered sugar. There it was. The judges were careful to cut around the tree to preserve the image for the people to see. Everyone loves my chocolate cake, so they say, but the judges found it to be a little dry and gave it a third place. Maybe I slightly over-baked it in my hastiness to finish.

Oatmeal Cookies

The best compliment I heard about my Pumpkin Cupcakes was that when the judges took their first bites, they asked Susie (my cousin) if they were in the right category. Apparently they didn’t believe Susie that they were in fact gluten-free. There were a few people who entered the gluten-free division, much to my surprise, and Susie said they had a few that were unfortunately absolutely disgusting. I really hope they keep this division.

Herb Cornbread

So I walked away from the 2010 Tri-County Fair with a first, two seconds and a third place. I’m happy. Like I said before, I don’t do this for the ribbons or money. Those are the perks after getting your stuff out there and letting the people you live with everyday see what you can do and that you love it. I enter things in the Fair because I love doing it despite the stress and frustration that goes along with it.

I do this for me and no one else. And will always do it for me.

Chocolate Cake

First Recipe – Peanut Butter Cookies

So my first recipe isn’t new to me, but is still a success with people reluctant to try gluten-free cookies. After a few years of tweaking various peanut butter cookie recipes, I found that this was one of the best cookies I have converted in the seven years of being a Celiac. Where did I originally find the recipe you ask? I’m not sure. My best guess would be the Joy of Cooking. I’ve used that cookbook so much since I moved into my apartment. My grandma gave it to me after I used it more in a few months than she did in the 30-or-so years she’s had it.One of the first things I learned for baking gluten-free after being diagnosed was a gluten-free flour mix that you can use to substitute for all-purpose flour in a recipe. I found it when my parents got me The Gluten-Free Gourmet: Cooks Fast and Healthy by Bette Hagman. Take:

1 part white rice flour

2/3 part potato starch flour

1/3 part tapioca starch

Mix well and store in an airtight container.

With these cookies I prefer extra chunky peanut butter but please use whatever kind of peanut butter you prefer. I decided to try my gluten-free recipe against the “normal” ones in the 2008 Tri County Fair in my hometown and I was pleasantly surprised to see a first place ribbon next to my name. I will be entering them again next week in this year’s Fair to defend my title. Let’s see if I can do it two years in a row. Now on to the recipe:

 

Cook Time: 10 – 12 minutes
Yield: about 3 dozen

 


1/2 cup butter or shortening1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 cup peanut butter

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 -1 1/2 cups Gluten-Free Flour Mix

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

 

 

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

In a bowl, beat butter or shortening until soft. Gradually add brown sugar and granulated sugar and blend until creamy. Beat in egg, peanut butter, salt, baking soda, and vanilla. Add flour. Roll the dough into small balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Press flat with a fork and sprinkle a little granulated sugar on top. Bake for about 10 – 12 minutes.

These are very simple to make and great for teaching kids to bake. I always encourage kids to get in the kitchen. It gives them the knowledge they will need later in life and they might even be more willing to try new things if they help make it.