New Year’s Resolutions and Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Just like the rest of the world, when the New Year begins I sit down and think about my new year’s resolutions… Or I think in the car, while taking a walk, during a boring show, etc. I now have a list of things I’d like to do, change, improve, learn, or quit; and whether I’ve written it down and taped it to my closet, typed it into my phone, or just thought about it over a long period of time until it is burned into my memory, the chances of me completing this list is as slim as ever.IMG_2200 (2)

But just for the heck of it, I will type them here for your viewing pleasure.

  1. Quit biting nails (this has been on my list since 1999… Has not changed. Sometimes after I get a manicure I manage to grow them out for a few weeks, but I rarely get manicures. Mostly because the old Asian woman who does my nails scolds me about bringing her bitten-down nubs to work with. It’s a vicious cycle.)
  2. Get in shape. (I know this is everyone else’s resolution as well, but since I’ve been living in Spain I’ve gained a significant amount of weight and can no longer wear my favorite jeans. So obviously something has to give. And that something is going to my waistline.)
  3. Bake more (This will probably cancel out all aforementioned efforts to get in shape.)
  4. Cook more while I am at home (that is, until mid-March. My mom works and while I am picking up a few babysitting jobs, I have 2 more months to kill while waiting for my visa to come through and I would like to spend it cooking in this kitchen. This resolution is off to a very good start, I might add. Mainly because my boyfriend and I became obsessed with Masterchef recently.)
  5. Don’t be so anxious about my health. (This is by far the most difficult thing for me. Since I was diagnosed with celiac disease over two years ago it has been hard for me to trust the medical community and have faith that they aren’t missing blatantly obvious symptoms of some other disease – like they did last time. But this is mostly on me and I need to start up yoga again and relax. This is why getting into shape is important for me this year – because it will help me get more in touch with my body as well.)
  6. Start being fiscally responsible and think like an adult (That is, have a plan, any plan, for my future and make one of my tedious google doc/excel spreadsheets about it.)
  7. Go to Italy (This kinda seems to cancel out number 6, I know, but my boyfriend and I cancelled a fabulous long weekend to Rome last year right after the Paris attacks. We’re still waiting until we both have the money and time off of work to go enjoy ourselves… So in a way, since I have to budget for this trip, it might actually reinforce my resolution to be more responsible with my money.)
  8. Throw things away. (This gets back to number 6 again, in a way. I never get rid of things – even if I know I’ll never use them again – because I paid money for them and I can’t bear to see it go to waste. What I need to do to avoid this is not only clean out and donate things, but also think more before buying new clothes, stationary, books, shoes, etc.)
  9. Write more. (Professionally, for myself, and on my blog.)

 

That’s it really. They’re simple enough and I have some down time these next few months to get my ducks in a row medically, financially, and mentally before heading back to Spain. For which I am grateful. This also means I have more time to bake and peruse the interwebs for inspiration, as well as my increasingly large library of cookbooks.

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(the dark spot in the center cookie is chocolate hazelnut butter. I wouldn’t recommend adding it.)

This recipe for flourless peanut butter cookies I got from the book Ovenly which is a gorgeous little book from a New York bakery that I found in the public library just the other week. I didn’t realize they had any gluten-free recipes, let alone this absolute gem. The upper corners of certain recipes are marker if they are gluten free or vegan, which is fantastic. (If you’re thinking about buying this book I should state that it is not their intention to bake only allergen-friendly goodies, they just happen to have some well-labeled, thoughtful recipes sprinkled through the book for us non-normal eaters.)

I was extremely skeptic about a flourless peanut butter cookie that literally has 4 ingredients and no chill time in the fridge, and was even more skeptical when I put the unappealing blobs into the oven. All I can say now is… Wow. This is one of the best cookies I’ve ever made and absolutely one of the easiest. The only downside is it takes almost a full jar of peanut butter to make, but it is worth it. The good thing about this though is that they suggest Skippy, so you don’t need to go out and buy an outrageously expensive jar of natural, organic, certified, vegan, nut-free, soy-free, gluten-free, refined-sugar free peanut butter made of ground up flowers and dirt. Yay! (*I would like to take this opportunity to say I am a big fan of Justin’s and Big Spoon natural and fresh ground nut-butters.)

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Without further ado, here is my first attempt at New Year’s Resolution #3: Bake More! (And win the powerball tomorrow night.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ c. light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temp.
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (I always add a bit more)
  • 1 ¾ c. peanut butter (again, the NON-natural works better to help cookie maintain its shape)
  • Course sea salt for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the brown sugar and eggs until they make a homogenous mixture. Mix in the vanilla extract. Now add the peanut butter and mix with a spatula until you cannot see ribbons or clumps of peanut butter. It will make a thick dough.
  3. Scoop out the cookies into balls and drop on prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the balls with course sea salt.
  4. Bake for 20-22 minutes (turning the pan halfway through this time) or until the cookies are lightly browned and crackled a bit on top.
  5. Let cookies cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to a week. (They won’t last that long. My mom and I got through 5 days but only because we rationed them like it was 1944.)

 

ENJOY!

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Gluten Free in Prague? Czech.

Of all my mini-trips during this fall semester in Spain, going to Prague was the one that had me most worried food-wise. What do they eat there? And does anyone really understand that tricky language? Who knows. But I can tell you they eat like every day is a mid-winter holiday and it is amazing and dense and rich and gluten-filled.

Imagine my surprise then when an entire weekend went by without so much as a stomachache or dizzy spell from accidental gluten consumption. In fact, I would say I managed to eat better there than almost anywhere else and I owe a large part of that success to having printed out one of these bad boys to help with the language barrier. I’ve never used a gluten free dining card before and it truly saved my life. At restaurants I would simply present it to the waitress and when I went to order they would help me find something gluten free on the menu AND free from cross-contamination. I ate myself into a blissful, gluten-free, food coma.

I didn’t just eat there though. My friends and I found an underground cave/bunker bar, visited Terezin (one of the largest ghettos from WW2), walked to Prague Castle and Cathedral, crossed the Charles Bridge, visited the Lennon Wall, aaand ate some more. I snacked on chips as per usual but also found a nice gluten-free section at Tesco near the main square of Prague. For breakfast I packed and then bought certified gluten free oats because that is the best breakfast in frigid Prague. (Okay, it wasn’t that cold, but we were coming from Barcelona!!)

IMG_9131 (2)astronomical clock in Old Town Square

Our first night in Prague we went to a restaurant suggested by my friend who is studying there and its a good thing we showed up early (at 6:00pm) because by the time we left, and even the next evening when we walked by, the whole place was packed and there were lines out the door. U Medvidku is a hotel and restaurant with a brewery and outstanding food. I ordered and devoured grilled pork tails with garlic sauce, devil sauce (not spicy but maybe people in Prague think it is?), and a side of cabbage.

IMG_9116 (2)grilled pork tails with all the fixin’s

That gorgeous meal (horrible photo taken in a dark dining room) left me with a great first impression of Prague’s food that would last all throughout the weekend. The next morning, we were off on our walking tour guided by my old roommate and took in all the sights while huddling together for warmth. Our breakfast/brunch stop was at MLS Bistro on the hill up to Prague Castle. I had a deliciously gluten free goat cheese omelette with a salad and coffee for under $9. In fact, we loved it so much we back for brunch the next day to say goodbye to my friends before our plane left. On this occasion I inhaled a buckwheat crepe stuffed with basil pesto, mozzarella and sundried tomatoes followed by a glass of hot wine – my absolute favorite new drink. Its like sangria and Christmas got together and reproduced, giving birth to this heavenly drink.

IMG_9291 (2)even the bad lighting in this photo can’t keep me from swooning…. – MLS Bistro

Now I know being gluten-free is hard enough without having to hear about everyone elses delicious desserts, but I have to mention the trdlenik’s in Prague. What are they? Dough that’s been cooked into a large, hollow cylinder and then filled with chocolate, cinnamon, walnuts, or jam. They were all over Prague and even though none of the people I know can pronounce their name (Turtleneck? Tradelink?) they all agreed MLS Bistro makes a damn good dough shell thingy.

IMG_9290 (2)Trdlenik – NOT GLUTEN FREE – caution!!! (unless you’re normal, in which case enjoy)

IMG_9245 (2)$2 for happiness in a convenient takeaway cup

Last but not least but certainly not least was our smorgasbord dinner at Restaurant Mlejnice. There are two locations not to far from each other so while one was full, the nice waiters called ahead to the other to make sure we could be seated there. What they didn’t know is we would need to be rolled out of our seats after that meal.

For starters, my roommate from Spain and I split a warm brie wheel (small) with cranberry sauce. Although it came with a side of bread my roommate is super careful and separated all the cheese before touching her bread at all. It was so delicious I almost didn’t want my starter. But then…. my main course arrived and it was incredible. Pork tenderloin on a skewer with vegetables and red pepper sausage that the waitress helped me pick out due to its gluten-free-safe-ness. The pork was incredible, the vegetables fantastic and the sausage… yum! My side of potatoes was underwhelming and my friends side of grilled veg tasted way worse which was weird considering how good mine was but overall everyone was satisfied. We all had beers (my friends) and hot wine (me, duh) and enjoyed a leisurely, filling dinner together.

IMG_9264 (2)my very weirdly saturated photo of a phenomenal meal

After this feast we were hungry again somehow though and moved on the Cafe Louvre for a hot raspberry sundae dessert. Oh Prague, how I miss your food!

Barcelona Prep: Where and What Celiacs Eat (part 2)

I told you in my last post that the internet is my best friend, and while googling “Barcelona gluten free” throughout the past month or so I have come upon some real gems. Nothing is official in the sense that it came from Spain or Barcelona’s tourism department (unless you count a few yelp reviews… which I don’t) but the blogs I have found with just one or multiple posts related to eating gluten free while traveling or living in Barcelona have prepared me enough for my arrival that I no longer fear starving to death in the first week or imploding from gluten exposure. 

First I’d like to share a few of my favorite resources with you that I found extremely helpful, then below I will include a list of restaurants and grocery stores I plan on visiting as soon as the plane wheels hit that Spanish ground. 

1. Spain Gluten Free: I really like this blog even though it is focused on Spain rather than just Barcelona. In fact, there is little to no information about Barcelona aside from a very helpful list of gluten-free bakeries all over Spain (yay!) and a few other helpful lists. But the travel guide/travel research help and list of resources is very useful for those traveling to Spain on a gluten-free diet. You can search this site by city to find gluten-free meals wherever you are visiting! Here I come Madrid!

2. Guiri Girl in Barca: This one post is loaded with great information – namely the best gluten-free brunch, sandwiches, tapas, pizza, and grocery stores in Barcelona. Perfect!

3. Gluten Free Boston Girl: This link takes you directly to the archives and entire “Barcelona” category. At first, I saw only one post and it was so thorough that I was excited to go all the places mentioned. Then I discovered even MORE posts about what seems like a very gluten-free Barcelona. Tons of great recommendations and even a few trips further outside the city are covered. 

4. Gluten Free BCN: I haven’t even arrived in Barca and this site has already saved my life. This blog is dedicated to everything gluten free in Barcelona and will just rock you celiac socks right off. Post after post reviews places to eat, shop and more around the city.  I will be keeping up with this blog religiously and sampling many of the places mentioned!

5. Yelp: Okay so it’s not the most comprehensive or detailed, but at a glance yelp can help you find a safe place to eat that’s already been reviewed by others and provide all the necessary information to get you there. Phew!

Okay! Now on to the list I have been cultivating for myself with help from the resources listed above as well as a few others. As I visit them (I’ll be there in just eleven days – ah!) I will try to write regular posts and talk about what I’ve been doing (aka, eating) out and about in the city and beyond. 

  • Copasetic I’ve read about on multiple sites and it has been described as the best gluten-free brunch around. And what’s more, it’s a mere ten minute walk from where I’ll be staying. First stop in Barcelona? Probably.
  • Conesa is sounding kinda like gluten free sandwich and panini heaven to me for a tiny fraction of the cost of what one would pay in the states. The bread tastes real according to reviewers too…. which is something less widely available in the US, as much as it pains me to say it. With two locations in Barcelona and one located near my campus, I can’t wait to get my hands on those gluten free buns (haha).
  • Syngluten is a bakery also located conveniently near my future residence and just the website alone is making me drool from across the pond. When every bread and sweet my heart could dream of is followed by “sin gluten” I’m sure I will become a fixture here.
  • Gelatomania I may not be able to have my cake but you better your bottom dollar I will eat my gelato. Also located so near my residence it makes me swoon just to think of, this popular gelato shop will get lots of euros from my grubby little foreign hands. I can’t wait.
  • El Corte Ingles I’ve been told by multiple people that this is the department store/superstore/grocery store to frequent for amazing and edible gluten-free deals while in Barcelona. You don’t have to tell me twice!
  • La Boqueria is Barcelona world famous market full of fresh foods like fruit, meat, veg, etc. I will be wandering through it as much as possible and buying up all kinds of fresh produce to snack on when my granola bar supply runs out. Or maybe just instead of granola bars. Good thinking. 

That’s all for now! I’ve got to get there and do some of my own exploring before I get a longer, more detailed list going. Stick with me and I’ll include actual pictures of the deliciousness I’ll be feasting on in Barca. You’re welcome in advance!

Mile High Biscuits

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Most of the time I like to think I’m pretty smart but every once in a while it takes me an embarrassingly long time to catch on to certain things – like the fact that biscuits are not a universally enjoyed food. Unbeknownst to little old me livin’ it up with the buttery biscuits of the South, this breakfast staple is not as readily available throughout the U.S. as I originally believed. I thought they were just as widely consumed as, say, toast or muffins. But no, they appear to be a popular regional food that has sorta kinda spread to other parts of the country. Who knew?!

Whether you grew up without a clue such an amazing food could exist or you’re a biscuit connoisseur, I can guarantee you will loooove these biscuits – now gluten free just for you and me! Unlike the buttery, flaky biscuits of fast food chains, diners, and old-school Southern cookbooks, these biscuits almost approach a scone-like consistency and pair well with just about every topping I can imagine. Amazing on their own or loaded with jams and jellies, this biscuit will not disappoint you.

In my last post, I meant it when I said that adjusting to gluten-free meals wasn’t that hard. But here’s something I didn’t mention: I miss brunch – and all the croissants, pastries, biscuits, pancakes, waffles, scones and breads that come along with it – even more than my Cheez-Its and pretzels. My mom used to make these incredible biscuits known in our family cookbook as “mile high” biscuits because, you guessed it, they’re tall.

My gluten-free version stay true to the original recipe but they’re not as tall because I wasn’t quite sure how they’d bake the first time sans gluten. It turns out I worried for nothing because they are still incredible! After making so much lemon curd and spooning most of it directly into my mouth, I decided the time came to get civilized and make something to put it on. These biscuits were just what the doctor/dietician/gastro ordered. Enjoy!

ImageHere it is! Straight from the family cookbook from me to you.

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. AP gluten-free flour blend (try Cup4Cup, Glutino or Betty Crocker’s rice flour blend if you don’t have you’re own mix you like to work with) plus extra for rolling out dough
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 1/2 tsp.  baking powder (lots of baking powder to make them a mile high!)
  • 3/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. shortening (butter flavored is fine)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 c. milk

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

2. Combine the first five ingredients on the list in a large bowl, being sure to mix well.

3. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until the mix looks course and the shortening is fairly evenly distributed throughout.

4. Combine the egg and milk in separate bowl before adding to the flour mixture. Stir until the dry ingredients are wet, but do not mix too long.

5. Turn out biscuits onto lightly floured surface. (Here I used the rice flour blend but it may give your biscuits a veeery slightly gritty quality on the outside, so just keep that in mind when choosing which flour to roll these biscuits out on.) Roll dough to a 1 inch thickness and cut with a round cookie/biscuit cutter. I use a 2 in. but you can use one with fluted sides or a slightly larger one works very nicely as well.

6. Place biscuits on prepared pan (they don’t really spread out, just up, so you don’t have to worry about that) and bake for 12 minutes, rotating halfway through. If yours are truly one inch thick, they will take a few minutes longer to bake but check them throughout the process as gluten-free flours tend to be a little more temperamental where the ovens concerned!

7. Eat plain, with butter, jam, lemon curd, eggs and sausage… whatever you’d like! The skies the limit with these towering biscuits.

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