Burnt Cookies

Well, I’m 0 for 2 with cookies this week.

Which is too bad, because I really wanted to make a post about paleo chocolate chip cookies.

It was my own stupid fault, because I’ve made these cookies many times with great success, but today I am hungover and when the timer beeped I just went “urghlhggglhnnnnnn,” until my boyfriend announced: “I smell burning.”

So I’m not going to post about my paleo chocolate chip cookies.  But I am going to link you to this really awesome chocolate chip cookie recipe from my friend Free.  She made a batch for me for my birthday, and they were glorious.

Nothing I Make Ever Looks Like the Picture

There’s nothing I enjoy more than spending a bunch of time and using a ton of expensive ingredients, only to end up with a shameful embarrassment of a food.  I have decided to post these failures more often, because if the internet can’t laugh at me, who will?

This past weekend, I was invited to a “cookie party” and decided to bake grain free gingerbread cookies.  The recipe? Paleo Gingerbread Cookies by Bill Staley and Hayley Mason from The Food Lovers Kitchen. If you haven’t seen their cookbook, Make it Paleo, you should check it out, because it’s a great book full of amazing photography.

These are their gingerbread cookies:

© The Food Lovers Kitchen

Cute, right?

My first mistake was probably using blackstrap molasses.  The batter was very dark and sticky, and it was almost impossible to cut out shapes.

Not chocolate.

I had to keep it in the fridge for much longer than the recipe said, but the batter was still warming up too fast when I rolled it out, so I could only get 1 or 2 hilariously deformed shapes out of it before it turned into the mush pictured above.

My boyfriend had the brilliant idea of covering the rolled out batter with ice packs, and only uncovering small parts at a time to cut shapes.  It worked very well, and I was able to get several disfigured men into the oven.

Then I burnt them.

I mean, seriously, what is this?

“SOMEBODY LOVE ME.”

One of my friends pointed out that this is basically the botched Ecce Homo painting of gingerbread cookies.  Although, it did taste like it probably would have tasted good if it weren’t burnt.  (That’s right, I ate it.)

In summary, let’s compare:

ORIGINAL.

Potato Jesus Cookie

MINE.

I’m basically Martha Stewart you guys.

BLECH

BLUUHGHGHUGHARRRRGH.  I’m sorry, Vega, I really am.  I’m trying so hard to like your products, but I’ve tried your Whole Food Health Optimizer in berry and now chocolate, and they are both yucky.

I made a “chocolate” shake with almond milk, and only used half of the recommended amount of powder (one scoop instead of two).  It was very chalky, did not taste like chocolate, and left a gross aftertaste.  I added a bunch of mixed berries to see if that would help (pictured above).  It did not.

I would very much like to find a protein supplement that is dairy-free (i.e. not whey), gluten-free, and actually tastes good.

Suggestions?  

UPDATE:  As I was typing this post, the chocolate/berry ass drink pictured and described above changed into a very weird shade of blue:

Science, how does it work?

Adventures in Christmas Decorating

This is my first gluten-free Christmas!  Last night my mom and I attempted to make our family’s classic whipped melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies gluten-free.  We decided to make it with no substitutions except for using my favourite gluten-free all-purpose flour blend instead of regular all-purpose flour.

The batter behaved like normal, and the cookies looked good when they came out of the oven (though it only took 8 minutes to bake instead of the usual 12), so it was very promising:

But when we tried to pick one up, it completely disintegrated:

After we let them sit on the baking sheets for about 20 minutes, we were able to pick them up whole.  They taste exactly the same as the usual cookies, and they still melt in your mouth, but the texture is different.  My mom and I both thought they were totally edible, but my brother said “it feels like I’m chewing sand.”

I’ll wait until I can upgrade them from “edible” to “holy crap these are good” before I post the recipe.

Today, we picked up our Christmas tree.  I wanted to share a few of my favourite Christmas ornaments.

 

The pregnant reindeer & one-legged dancing pig.

 

A picture of my brothers face & the thing that’s way too huge to be hung on the tree but we put it there anyway because it’s hilarious (this thing is >1 foot tall).

This is what we call “the sledding accident”.

That one’s my favourite.  My brother made this when he was a kid and I always hang it prominently at the front.  LOOK AT ITS FACE.

Every year my brother and I chuck handfuls of these at the tree and whoever gets the most to actually stay on the tree wins.  (My mom used to declare that this game was “ruining Christmas”, but she has come to embrace it.)

This Santa & Mrs. Claus are probably older than me.  I set up a pretty good tableau this year:

Along with a few other decorations:

 

(My parents really like Inuit art.)

My family’s Christmas traditions are pretty awesome.  Christmas Eve is Christmas Eve Tacos at my aunt’s house.  I have Christmas morning at my mom’s house, drinking mimosas and opening presents, and then we have a huge breakfast.  Christmas Day is spent with my dad’s family, where we have a big Secret Santa game and then we play Yankee Swap and scream at each other.

I’m getting pretty excited!

Vitamix: Day 10 / Almond Milk

I put up our dorky little Christmas tree tonight.

Excuse my blinds / wires / terrible photo.  This means CHRISTMAS BOKEH UNTIL THE END OF TIME.

I had a really, really busy day and ended up working until 9pm.  I had planned to make soup for dinner but ended up just eating leftovers.  Which left me at 10pm with NO VITAMIX RECIPE FOR THE DAY!  So I decided to try and make almond milk using the recipe from the Vitamix book.

It was gross.

I tried whole almonds and slivered almonds, sweetener and no sweetener, straining it and not straining it.  Cold, warm, mixed with chocolate.  It was just gross.  I am going to continue buying it from now on, because yuck.

Too bad!

Vitamix: Day 7 / Yesterday

At 6:30pm on Friday I was sitting at my desk, singing along to Christmas music, just having finished creating and ordering a bunch of Christmas presents, after a long day of laundry, chores, and running errands.  And I suddenly realized… hey, it’s 6:30pm and I’M STILL AWAKE.  Not one single nap all day!

It feels like my energy is increasing every day.  I suspect it’s at least partially because I’ve been actually putting effort into what I eat.  (Also, Vitamix.)

I’ve been really trying to pull myself out of the vicious cycle I mentioned a few days ago.  Not only that, I’m actually getting excited about being in the kitchen and preparing food again.  I’m not eating the same 3-4 things because I’m too tired to think of and/or prepare anything else.  Or worse, skipping meals because I just don’t feel like making food.

On Friday night, I went to the Movember gala in Toronto with some friends.

I only had one small drink and we left early (11pm-ish), but I wasn’t in bed until around 1:30am.  I could hardly get out of bed on Saturday.  I was WRECKED.  My doctor told me the most important thing I need to do is go to bed, get up, and have meals at the same time every day.  That’s what I was doing all week, and it was working. It’s amazing how throwing off my schedule by a few hours completely undid everything.

All day yesterday, I dragged myself around like a zombie.  It felt like all of my limbs were too heavy for my body and I just wanted to go to bed and sleep for the whole day.

And I couldn’t think of anything to make in my Vitamix aside from my morning smoothie that didn’t involve a walk to the grocery store for ingredients.  I did make apple sauce because I needed some for a recipe.

Apples in a blender.  That doesn’t count.  (Plus I ended up using store bought applesauce in my recipe anyway.)  So, no Vitamix recipe yesterday.  I suck.

Speaking of recipes, ugh.

My friend’s birthday party was last night and I wanted to make cookies.  I’ve been wanting to try more stuff from the BabyCakes cookbooks, so I picked Sugar Cookies from BabyCakes Covers the Classics.

I have Erin McKenna’s original cookbook as well, and I’m really sad to admit that I haven’t been overly impressed with either.  I bought them because there are such rave reviews about the bakery, and the pictures in the books are AMAZING (I’m shallow and easily distracted by pretty things), but so far I’ve made a handful of things and none of them have turned out.  I don’t know if it’s because I suck at baking (although, as of today, 56% of Amazon reviews for her first book and 43% for the second book are 3 stars or lower, so it’s not just me), but it’s really frustrating, especially when ingredients are so expensive.

She uses a lot of coconut oil.  A LOT.  At $30 per jar and 3/4 cups of coconut oil in a recipe, that’s a lot of money to waste.

Anyway, Lori cookies.  For Lori’s birthday.

The recipe was fairly easy, but it took more than a few tries to get the hang of cutting out shapes because the dough was so soft.  Overall, everything seemed good until I took the cookies out of the oven.  They just tasted gross.  My boyfriend said “there’s no sweetness to them.”  I thought they tasted like bland cardboard.  He suggested I make a glaze, so I quickly whipped something up and dunked the cookies.

Then they just tasted like gross cookies covered in sugar, on top of looking like they were prepared by a five-year-old.  At that point, there was no time left so I just brought them to the party anyway.  The birthday girl herself said they tasted salty; her husband said they didn’t even taste like cookies.  Everyone agreed they were not good.

I really wanted to try making cinnamon buns and ice cream cake and all sorts of things from her books, but I’m not sure if I should even bother.  I am a big giant baby when it comes to being disappointed.

How do you deal with baking failures?

Vitamix: Day 4 / Fail Sauce

It’s snowing!

Or it was when I started this post at 11:30am.  It’s completely melted now.  Sad.

Are you sick of me talking about my Vitamix yet? My cat isn’t:

I made a kickass smoothie for breakfast again, and decided to make a tomato sauce for dinner as my Vitamix recipe of the day.  I used the recipe in the Vitamix book and I followed it exactly I SWEAR, but this happened:

Foamy, pink slop.  I decided I might heat it up anyway and it would be at least edible, but no.

I hate hate HAAATE wasting ingredients.  It makes me feel so frustrated.  I mean, I’ve only really been cooking for about 7 months, so I should probably expect to screw up, right?  But still.  What a waste of a bunch of awesome foods.

I didn’t have enough time before yoga class to try something new, so I made a mini pizza for dinner.  Something amazing happened at yoga though – I was able to do the entire class without having to stop.  That’s something I haven’t been able to do for a long time, because of dizziness or weakness or my arms not wanting to hold up any of my body weight.  I don’t know if it’s because I just started taking pregnenolone to help my adrenal issues, or because of my Vitamix.  I’m going to go with Vitamix.  IT MAKES EVERYTHING BETTER!  Except pasta sauce.

After I got home, I had an Epsom salts bath, and now it’s 10:30 and I don’t feel like making anything else.  So that’s my recipe for today.

Fail Sauce
Serves: 0

1. Put a bunch of ingredients in the Vitamix.
2. Mix until it turns into foamy pink stuff.
3. Throw in garbage.

The end!

Gluten Free Angel Food Cake & Boiled Icing Recipe

My family celebrates “fake” holidays now, since we aren’t always in the same city for the real ones.  Sunday was Fake Jen’s Birthday (me!), and it was glorious.

On Saturday, my boyfriend and I went to Whole Foods to see if I could find some flours I’ve been looking for (Garbanzo-Fava and Arrowroot).  I haven’t been there since one of my friends worked there when I was in university.  IT WAS MAGICAL.  So expensive, but full of food I can eat.  They even had samples of fresh gluten-free bread from a local bakery, Aidan’s.  I was skeptical, having tasted other gluten-free “bread”, but this one was delicious!  I bought 2 loaves of bread and a bunch of supplies to make chili.  And $30 of raw coconut oil, but we don’t have to talk about that.

On Sunday, I went to my parents’ place and my mom and I made Angel Food Cake.  My grandma used to make this with boiled icing when I was a kid.  It was my favourite, but I haven’t had it since before she died, so at least 7 years.  We found a gluten-free recipe and my mom dug up my grandma’s old icing recipe.

The cake recipe calls for a 10″ tube pan.  That’s TEN inches.  So if you happen to have taken possession of your grandma’s old angel food cake pan, measure it because it might be only 9″ and then this will happen:

Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake
Adapted from this recipe.

1 2/3 cup egg whites, room temperature
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup + 2tbsp corn starch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar, sifted

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Whisk together potato starch, corn starch and 3/4 cup granulated sugar. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine egg whites, salt, cream of tartar and vanilla.
  4. Beat on high speed with electric mixer until mixture is stiff and stands in peaks, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Do not over beat.
  5. Reduce the speed to medium-high and sprinkle in the 1 cup of sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, for about 1 minute.
  6. Put mixer on lowest speed and slowly add the sifted flour and sugar mixture for about 1 1/2 minutes.
  7. Using a rubber spatula, carefully pour out the mixture into an ungreased 10″ tube pan.  Bake for 35 minutes.
  8. Invert and suspend the pan and let cool completely.

Inverting is the tricky part.  My grandma used to balance the lip of the pan on 2 Coke cans, but since our cake basically exploded out the top of the pan we needed something that wouldn’t touch the cake.  We ended up using a paper towel holder:

Which was great until I turned around and this happened:

You can also use:

  • The neck of a bottle
  • Clothes pins clipped around the edge of the pan

Boiled Icing Recipe

1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Combine sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt in a saucepan; stir until well blended. Boil slowly without stirring until mixture will spin a long thread when a little is dropped from a spoon (hold the spoon high above saucepan), or it reaches 238 – 242 degrees F (114 – 117 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites with a mixer until they are stiff, but still moist. Pour hot syrup slowly over egg whites while beating. Continue until mixture is very fluffy, and will hold its shape. Add vanilla, and beat until blended.

The icing was PERFECT.  As soon as I ate some I had a massive flashback to my childhood.

The cake was good too, despite the “too small pan” fiasco.  When we covered it with icing, you couldn’t even tell there was a destroyed pile of angel food cake underneath!

Yum.  Fake birthday: successful.

Gluten-Free Profiteroles

When my family and I went to Italy this summer, the place we rented had a professional kitchen and a professional chef.  She was amazing, and one night she made profiteroles.  Of course, I couldn’t eat them, but everyone else wouldn’t stop talking about how amazing they were.  This is a terrible photo, but this is them (before they were devoured):

The next night, the chef showed us how to make them.  Or, rather, she showed everyone else how to make them while I stood in the corner like this:

My mom’s birthday was last week, and she requested that someone make her profiteroles for dessert.  “Fine,” I said, “but I’m making them gluten-free!”  She said she didn’t care as long as they’re filled with some sort of cream and covered in chocolate sauce.

Which brings me to today!

We are having her birthday dinner on Sunday, and I’ve spent almost the entire day trying to make gluten-free shells.

Attempt 1:  While putting them in the oven, I somehow dropped the entire tray and every single profiterole got smushed at the bottom of my filthy oven in the crack between the oven and the door.

Attempt 2:  Same recipe (minus the cheese), but they came out really disgusting and not hollow, with the middle a big gooey mess.  I felt nauseous when I took a bite out of one.  I have no idea what I did wrong, but they sure as hell didn’t look like the picture.

Attempt 3:  New recipe (with a substitution for gluten-free all purpose flour); just pulled them out of the oven.  They look pretty good!  Until I cut one open, and it’s not hollow.  ARRRGH.

How do I make them hollow?  What am I doing wrong?  INTERNET, TO THE RESCUE!