Wednesday, November 17, 2010

GLUTEN-FREE BAKING/COOKING-The facts!

In the past couple years, "gluten-free" baking and cooking has arised popularity. But why? What is gluten and why is it harmful? Is it healthy? How do I adjust baking and cooking recipes to gluten free? Keep on reading to find out more about gluten and gluten-free baking.

What is gluten? What is Celiac disease?
Celiac disease is "an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine. It can rear its troublesome head at any point from infancy to old age. Currently, celiac disease symptoms are believed to be inherited. " In other words: your body cannot digest gluten in a normal fashion. Thus, Gluten "is a protein composite that appears in foods processed from wheat and related species, including barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape, and often giving the final product a chewy texture." Gluten is present in many flours and gives baked items their "structure." High gluten items tend to be breads, bagels, and pizza dough.

Is gluten harmful? What foods are gluten-free? Is going gluten-free healthier?
Gluten is only harmful when you are gluten-intolerant and in large doeses. Many people BECOME gluten-intolerant because they consume too much "bad gluten" foods, like pizza, white breads, and processed foods. Keep your gluten intake at a low-moderate.Going gluten-free can be very difficult, yet it can work if you carefully read food labels. Popular items that contain gluten are: All white/wheat flours (except if the label reads "gluten-free"), bagels/breads/crackers/snack items, pizza dough, majority of baked goods, semolina, cous cous, most cereals, breadcrumbs, processed/frozen items, barely, beer, rye, etc. The list can go on forever. Be sure to double check food labels and ask questions. Also, oats are naturally gluten-free, but they are processed in a plant that makes gluten flours, thus you have to buy gluten-free oats at a special store.
So, what items are gluten free? Many healthy, happy, and tasty choices. People may believe that going gluten-free will be difficult or leave them with little food choice. First off, most raw veggies and fruits are gluten-free. So is the majority of animal protein (if cooked WITHOUT gluten). Unsalted butter, eggs, milk, cheese, and plain yogurt are also gluten free.
Popular gluten free grains are: Buckwheat, quinoa, rice, brown rice, and polenta. When baking, instead of white/wheat flour, you can use: Potato flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, arrowroot, rice flour, brown rice flour, cornstarch, or taro flour.
Gluten-free can lead to a healthier lifestyle because gluten-free carbs are very easy for your body to digest and process. You will feel less bloated, nausated, and full. That does not mean all gluten items are harmful, some gluten-items are just as healthy and tasty.

Baking and cooking gluten-free can be very difficult if you are not used to it. Start slow and easy. Check out gluten-free blogs, websites, and books. Look at recipes that you like. Baking gluten free can be more challenging because you're dealing with gluten-free flours that do not work like gluten flours. I had to adjust many recipes while working with gluten free flours, such as tapioca flour, xanathan gum, and rice flour. To my gluten-free baked goods, I like to add natural flavor like mashed bananas, unsweetened applesauce, spices like cinnamon, and nuts for added texture.
Happy gluten free baking and cooking to all!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

CINNAMON: My favorite Spice!


Cinnamon adds sweetness to snickerdoodles, zest to eggnog, and compliments chocolate and banana heavenly! Cinnamon "is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum which can be used in both sweet and savoury foods. Cinnamon trees are native to South East Asia, and its origin was mysterious in Europe until the sixteenth century." Widely used in cooking and baking, cinnamon is one of my favorite spices to use and one of the oldest spices known. Here is a brief look into cinnamon:

COOKING/BAKING: What cinnamon is usually used for:
-Adding depth to apple pie and other fruit pies.
-Complimenting banana for banana fosters.
-Giving cinnamon rolls their flavor.
-Mixed with sugar, giving people something to dust on toast, churros, and other fried items.
-Middle eastern cooking, example: lamb tagine, curries,and garam masala.
-Add flavor to popular festive drinks: eggnog, cocoa, mulled wine, and spiced cider.
-When used in cooking, it inhibits bacteria growth, making it a natural preservative.
-Making your kitchen smell wonderful!


POPULAR HEALTH BENEFITS OF CINNAMON, WHEN CONSUMED:

-Can lower LDL cholesterol and blood sugar.
-Anti-clotting effect of blood.
-Help treat diarreha, nausea, and vomiting.
-Boost brain function.
-To get "cinnamon" health benefits, dust some cinnamon on toast, add it to tea, mix it in to your oatmeal, or make cinnamon bread!


BUYING CINNAMON:
Cinnamon comes in two forms: Round sticks (about 3 inches long) called "bark" or powder form. The sticks are great when "infusing" taste to liquids, compotes, or alcohol. The powder form is most popular when cooking and baking.
Even though there are many varieties of cinnamon, two most popular are Ceylon cinnamon and Chinese cinnamon, or "cassia." Ceylon is more rare and has a subtle, refine taste to it versus cassia. Some people say Ceylon is the only "true" cinnamon, yet when it is in its powder form, it is hard to tell a difference between Ceylon and Cassia.
But, in bark form, Ceylon bark, when looking at the ends, you should multiple layers of thin bark. Cassia bark with have a "one-piece" thick bar layer.

Cinnamon has many culinary and health benefits for your life. Add it to cookies, curries, and Sangria! Remember to purchase only true cinnamon and enjoy the sweetness that comes with it.
Happy baking!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

TIPS ON THROWING A LARGE FESTIVE FEAST

Cheers all! How many of you enjoyed the snow fall right before Turkey day? I love the holidays because it is filled with great love, family, friends, food, and lots and lots of baking!
Getting together with large groups of people can either be stress-induced or stress-free. Whether you're planning a holiday work party, the annual family's Christmas feast, or a cookie bake off with your fellow friends...follow these easy breezy tips on throwing a great party!

TIP ONE: Plan it out! Write it out! Schedule!-First, compose a large e-mail and ask everyone if a certain day works well for the holiday bash. You may find out certain days/weekends will not work for all. Go with the majority. Tell people to "save the date" until the formal invite arrives.
-On your calender, write out what you want to accomplish before the party. Is the menu planned out? How about the gifts? Extra table and chairs on hand? Who is bringing the eggnog? Write a list of who is in charge of what.
TIP TWO: Be ahead of the game!-Two days before the large bash, set your schedule pretty clear. Doing "little" things before the party can help! For example, setting the table, putting out extra chairs, cleaning/tidding up, wine glasses out, etc.
-Ask for a couple close pals to come early and help out! Don't be afraid, people love to help one another during the holiday rush.
TIP THREE: Don't do it all! -Have everyone bring food so you don't have to do ALL the cooking!
-You set one drink (like a fun and festive drink) and have others bring wine, beer, and soda.
-Unless there is an activity already set, have people bring their favorite game to play.
-Decide early if young children are allowed to come. If so, have a designated room for them and have them bring their own toys/games/movies.

The holidays ARE suppose to be a fun, festive, and lovely time! Enjoy seeing new and old friends, family, and loved ones. Take time to enjoy good company with good food. Happy holidays and happy baking to all!

Reminder: Holiday Catering Sale!

I love the holidays because of good food, cookies, and being together with close family and friends. My foodie friend, Nell, and I have teamed up to offer you a holiday promotion: 20% off catered events, from Nov. 1st - Dec. 31st 2010. Think: work holiday parties, business events, girls/boys night, or family time. If you have any questions or would like an estimate, please email one of us.



Holiday Sale!
Have a holiday event you would like to have catered? Nell’s Cooking is offering 20% off all catered events between November 1st, 2010 and December 31st, 2010. Email Nell at Nell@NellsCooking.com to reserve your event date!Additional Promotions:
Want to include homemade desserts and/or sweets? Sweetness Catering is also offering a 20% discount between November 1st, 2010 and December 31st, 2010. Email Kimm: kimm_moore@hotmail.com

FOOD FATS: The breakdown!

FAT. Fat is a nutrient and is needed for the body to properly function and live. In baking and cooking, we use many fats for different reason. Read more to find out popular food fat facts and when to use what fat when.....

TYPES OF FAT:

Butter: An all-dairy, natural, delicious fat. Made by churning fresh cream or milk. It is primary from a cow, but there are also sheep, goat, and buffalo butter. Butter is THE prime choice for baking because of its flavor and melt in your mouth feel.
Margarine: A butter substitute, aka "fake fat." Sometimes called "oleo." It is mainly composed of different oils. It is naturally black (yes, black!) then dyed yellow to "look" like butter. Magarine is good when baking/cooking vegan items...only. I like butter always.
Lard:
is pig fat. Used like butter, it is very high in saturated (bad) fat. Many bakers trust lard when making pie crust. I like an all butter crust.

FACT: Fat that is liquid at room temp (like many oils) are mono- or poly-unsaturated fats. (The good kind!)

Canola oil: From the rapeseed, it is a nice, light-tasting oil used in cooking and baking. A very all-purpose cooking oil that should be in your pantry! Canola oil is also used to cosmetic items, candles, and bio fuel. Veg oil has a similar taste to canola oil.
Olive Oil: From the olive, olive oil is used throughout the world in cooking. "Virgin" oil means it was not treated with chemicals and produced by physical means. "Extra virgin" comes from virgin oil, has a distinct taste, and has less than .8% acidity. "Cold press" means the oil was not heated, usually over 80 degrees F, when producing the oil. "First cold press" means the olive was crushed exactly one time and at the same temperature. Olive oil is prized for its taste and health benefits. I use it constantly.

There are many types of fat in the culinary world, and used for different reason. Fat brings flavor to the food and makes it taste delicious! Good fats are needed for your body to function properly. Consume good fats in a limited matter.