Monday, December 29, 2014

Gluten Free Honey Gingerbread Cookies

Christmas Eve 2014  (16 of 45) 

Christmas baking this year was very rushed.
Aside from working on Dec 24th, I had no plans to bake cookies at all, because I still had to make the traditional Bulgarian odd number dishes for Christmas. Yes, I had no plans, but my daughter did. :-)

 She fluttered her long eyelashes and gave me the cute puppy eyes that only she can, and I my plans changed. I was really worried to try cookie recipes, because I have tried baking only one kind of gluten free cookies before. I was extremely surprised by this delicious recipe and I have to say, we liked it as much as the traditional honey spice cookies that I make, if not more.

 Gluten Free Honey Gingerbread Cookies 


2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup cornstarch ( gluten free!)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice ( I don't like, it, so I skipped that)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 large egg granulated sugar for sprinkling 


1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2. Mix the flours, baking soda, xanthan gum, spices and salt together.

3. Beat the softened butter with the dark brown sugar and white sugar on medium with your mixer. After 2 minutes, increase the speed slightly, then add the egg and honey.

4. Gradually add the flour mixture and fold in the dough. When done, divide the dough into 60 equal pieces, roll into balls, then place on a parchment paper covered pan. Press the balls with the bottom of a glass to make them flat, then sprinkle with a bit of granulated sugar.

5. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes or until golden brown, then let them cool in pan for 2 min outside of the oven. Remove from pan and place on a cooling rack completely.

6. When completely cold, place in a dry storage container. I usually place a piece of apple to keep them soft and chewy, because most baking soda cookies harden when they cool.

They are perfect for Santa or simply to enjoy with your afternoon tea. Yum!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bulgarian Luteniza/ Lutenica Tomato Spread for Appetizers -- Gluten Free

Bulgarian tomato spread for appetizers

One of my most vivid childhood memories is of my family making Luteniza. The whole family ( parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and more) gets together, everyone participates and the amounts of the spread that are made are enough to make a canning factory jealous. Even though it was a hard work for a young child, I loved the fact that no matter what, everyone stuck around to make this amazing spread. It didn't matter if you were mad at someone or not getting along with another, everything was forgotten and everyone pitched in.

From washing pounds over pounds of tomatoes, pureeing, roasting peppers and eggplant, peeling carrots and making food for everyone ( you know, eventually everyone is hungry), it is a very authentic, typically Bulgarian experience that will always stay engraved in my mind as one of the most heartwarming memories I have.

Is it because of the experience that everyone in Bulgaria is so fond of Luteniza or because the taste is nothing like anything I've tried elsewhere, I can't say. What I know though is that I love sharing that tradition with my children and we had a great time making it yesterday.

For those who would like to try, you can read further.


5 lbs tomatoes
3.5 lbs red peppers
1 eggplant
1 white onion
1 red onion
4 large carrots
4 apples
10 garlic cloves
2 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil


1. Wash the tomatoes well and cut 1lbs the way you cut for a salad. The other 4 lbs blend on the lower setting of your blender, so it is still chunky, but not too much.

2. Put the tomatoes in a large pot ( I use 12 qt for tamales) to boil on medium-high. You have to stir often ( usually I have one person constantly stirring while the rest of us are preparing the other ingredients)

3. Wash and then roast/grill the peppers. When done, skins and all, blend in a blender. If your blender is not great, peel the skins off. I have a Vitamix and it blends them completely without losing the flavor from the skin.
*Note: You can either grill the peppers or roast them in your oven. I roast them and it is working out fine. 

4. In a blender blend the apples until completely smooth then add  them to the tomatoes in the pot. Stir well.

5. In a large skillet saute the onions, garlic, carrots and eggplant with the olive oil. Set aside when soft. When cool, blend them in the blender until completely smooth, then add to the tomatoes.

6. Add the salt, pepper and the oil from the sauteed vegetables. Stir well.

7. Stir well the vegetable spread on the stove. It takes 3-4 hours to have the spread thicken. It has to be so thick that you can put it on a piece of bread and not get it soggy. I usually test by taking a small amount of the spread and placing it on a clean, dry plate. If there is a large "watery ring" around the thicker mixture, it's not done yet.

8. When done, place in clean, dry jars, put screw on lids and turn them with the lids down as shown on the picture. When cool, turn them with the lids up and check if all of them are well closed.


* Note: You can eat the Luteniza immediately. However, if you would like to store it, follow steps 9 and 10.

9. Next day place the jars in a pot of cold water lids up, then boil for 5-7 minutes. Take them out, place them with the lids down and let them cool.

10. When the jars have cooled down, you can turn them with the lids up and store them in a cold, dry place. They can be stored for up to 10 months.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Gluten Free Artichoke Dip with Yogurt and Grapeseed Mayo

 Gluten free artichoke dip with 

I adore artichokes and one of my favorite ways to have them is in artichoke dip. Since my ulcers and gallbladder problems came along, I haven't been able to try it at all. Of course these two problems are the reason I switched on gluten free diet and I am happy to report that I am feeling much better, but as a person who enjoys great food, I miss some of my favorites a lot.

Since during the week I rarely have time to experiment with dishes ( yeah, having a gang of hungry people waiting to see if a new gluten free dish is edible is not the best strategy), I usually leave tryouts for the weekend .This weekend it was a low fat, gluten free artichoke dip. Of course, the ultimate test is: does it taste good? Well, it does! It tastes so good that I am never going back to the full fat version. Ever.

If you want to try it, here is how to make it.


4 tablespoons Vegenaise (grapeseed mayo)
2 cups yogurt  ( gluten free, like Trimona)
1 cup shredded mozzarella( gluten free)
1/2 cup Mexican blend shredded cheese ( gluten free)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp Gluten Free bread crumbs

1.Preheat the oven to 375 F
2. Wash, drain and cut frozen artichoke hearts.
3. Mix the mayo, yogurt, salt, paprika and garlic.
4. Transfer in a baking dish and bake for 25-30 min or until the cheese is melted and the dish is "boiling".
Serve with gluten free table crackers. I personally like Natural Nectar Gluten Free Cracklebred, Original

The original recipe I got from " Deliciously G-Free", but I adjusted it so it is suitable for my particular diet that avoids foods that are upsetting for both ulcers and gallbladder issues. The book is really nice by the way.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Like Cheetos but better!

When I first went gluten free I was trying to come to terms with the fact that some snacks I used to enjoy will just be off limits from now on. Goodbye pretzels! So long yummy cheesy puffs!

But the more I got into gluten free things, the more I discovered that not only I can enjoy some of the snacks I used to like, but I can actually find much better and healthier alternatives.

I know that usually in this section I spend time discussing meals that I prepare and that is great. However, I feel that there is so much about gluten free food that I don't know yet and I need to discover! I was thinking, wouldn't it be great though if I share what I already know? If I can find a way to help at least one person enjoy something they were missing because they couldn't find a gluten free version, it will be worth spending time talking about this and what a better place than my blog, right?

So, these amazing puffs are not only gluten free but they are also baked ( I can't eat fried stuff either). They are trans fat free as well as peanut and tree nut free. Are they something you should eat every day and live on? No, but from time to time it is nice to be able to enjoy a healthier version of a non-healthy snack.

At last, as if I didn't recommend them enough, did I mention they are made with sunflower oil, which is one of my absolute favorite too?

* Disclaimer: I am not associated with the company that made this product in any way and this is not a sponsored post.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tried and true gluten free recipes: Cream puffs and dairy free vanilla bean and lemon custard

Long story short- I can't eat gluten. Not that I don't want to but I shouldn't for medical reasons. When I found out, I was literally devastated and scared. How the heck will I survive?! I could live on bread! I've always joked that working in a cake shop is not a temptation for me. Working in a bakery, totally different story. I would have been 150lbs in no time. True story!
The scariest part of going gluten free was how I had absolutely no idea of it. Let me tell you, gluten free baking IS HARD. I won't lie to you, I've cried in the kitchen plenty of times now ( yeah, and I have a ton of experience baking, can't imagine how that feels for people who don't have any). Ready made stuff rarely tastes good and the good stuff is expensive. So, I decided to experiment. Jumped head down into gluten free and didn't look back.

So, I will not go into too much detail, because I am sure I will have plenty of time to do that later on. Instead, I will post a recipe by  popular demand. The recipe that I am going to post now, I got from Robert Landoplhi's book " Gluten-free baking: Delectable from-scratch sweet and savory treats".

I highly recommend the book, I made a couple of things from it so far and everything seems to be spot on.

 I decided to try the cream puffs because I was dying to eat something sweet and I wanted to try something with custard. So, cream puffs filled with custard sounded great.  When I posted the pictures on Facebook, people found it impossible that these are gluten free. Well, they are! And they were delicious!

Gluten free (2)
Here is the recipe.

For the Cream Puffs
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1/4 cup tapioca flour ( I used arrowroot flour)
1/2 tsp Xantan gum
1/4 tsp gluten-free baking powder ( yes, there is a special one)
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup water
3 tbs butter
3 large eggs

Preparation for Cream Puffs

1. Preheat the oven to 350F ( the original recipe calls for 400F, but I have a convection oven and I found that 400 is too high for me).

2. Mix the dry ingredients- flours, Xantan gum, baking powder and salt. 

3. Combine the water and butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat; bring to a boil.

4. When the water boils, mix in the flour ( all at once) with a wooden spoon and stir well until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. It happens very quickly, so pay attention and stir well.

5. Transfer into a mixer bowl. I am lucky to have a stand up mixer, but if you don't, just use a wooden spoon, a hand mixer with dough attachments or just a plain old metal spoon to mix in the eggs one by one until the dough is very smooth. ( Note: the dough will be sticky!)

6. On parchment paper spoon 1 tablespoonful of the dough. Place next spoon 2 inches apart.
Bake for 15-16 min or until golden on top. Leave the cream puffs to cool completely on the tray!

7. When completely cool, cut or fill with filling of your choice.

I found that I get about 20 pieces that are a good size.

Gluten free (4)
For the Dairy Free, Gluten Free Vanilla bean custard with lemon zest

Ingredients for the vanilla bean custard
4 cups coconut milk ( the recipe calls for regular one, but I used coconut)
4 large eggs ( the recipe called for egg yolks only, but I like using the whole egg)
1 vanilla bean split lengthwise
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Cooking spray

Preparation for vanilla bean custard:
1. Combine the milk and eggs in a large mixer bowl. Beat until they are frothy, then add the vanilla bean (scrape off the seeds, but leave the stem stay in the mixture while you are working, you will take it out later).

2. Combine the dry ingredients ( sugar, cornstarch, salt) then add the milk gradually as you stir constantly.

3. Cook over medium heat for about 12 minutes or until the mixture comes to a boil and begins to thicken. Remove from heat, stir in butter. Take the vanilla bean pod out and add lemon zest.

At this point you can either let it cool completely or you can put in ramekins with fruit, if  you want to serve it just as pudding.

Enjoy! And if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask! 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

It's All About Coffee

“Ah coffee. The sweet balm by which we shall accomplish today's tasks.” 
 ― Holly Black, Ironside


I was never a morning person. I never drank coffee. Is there a correlation? I don't know, but what I know is I simply adored the aroma of coffee.

For the love and respect of coffee

Aroma? Really? Yes, really. People shouldn't be allowed to say "the smell of coffee". Smoke smells. Garbage smells. simply enchants. You can taste the warm liquid caressing your throat long before your lips touch it and its velvety aroma lingers in the air long after you drink your cup. Nothing can compare to coffee in the way it makes you feel...present.

Still,when I moved to the US, the regular coffee was very strange. Humongous cups, semi-dark warm watery liquid with a burnt taste. No wonder people were dousing it with tons of creamers, liquid flavoring and flavored sugar, it was undrinkable otherwise.

A quest for taste

Finding the right kind that makes me appreciate every sip wasn't easy. My husband and I usually share a cup in the morning before work and rarely we both liked the coffee so much that we would both try to have the last sip. We did try some sampler sets from Amazon, coffee from all around the world and we both found that our taste leans more towards bold, rich, creamy and strong coffee. As a last resort, we drank our favorite Italian coffee which we were lucky to find on Amazon, but after drinking that for months and months we were craving for a change.


Coffee revelation

 You know that feeling when you meet someone for the first time and you find that you understand each other as you've been friends for a long time? That's how I felt when we met Christine at a Christmas party last year. She and I started talking about coffee and the minute she mentioned her job is to roast coffee for Liquid Assets Coffee I knew I had to have her roast some for us.
Needless to say, having someone roast and then grind fresh coffee for our morning cuppa was an exhilarating thought! We got different kins to try and we decided a simple "try this- try that" won't do. We organized each morning a face off between two kinds. The one that we liked the best would go to the next round, until we pick the winner.When my husband brought the bags home, I can steel feel the scent in the air. Nothing can compare to freshly roasted and ground coffee. Nothing!

 Coffee World Cup

After a week, we already knew which one is our favorite- "Colombian Viennese Roast". Although it was very close with the "Colombian Full City", which I used to for the pictures by the way, at least for me, the Viennese roast won the cup, or I should say the Morning Cuppa? :-)


And this morning? This morning I am enjoying my cup and one of my favorite books in the front yard, with the sun peeking through the leaves and the robin family providing the background music. But what's a coffee without a cookie, right?
 I simply love Saturdays...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter 2014

Easter 2014  (23 of 26)

I have to confess, working full time and preparing as many Easter breads as usual just didn't work out for me this year. I had so many things to take care of that much of my "free" time was spent worrying if I will be able to do anything for the holiday. Pointless thing stressing, if you think about it. However, things ( as always) did work out by themselves, as the Easter party at work was sooner than I expected and that kind of forced my hand into making the breads on Wednesday, instead of on Saturday as usual.

Well, baking in the middle of the week when you have to go to work early in the morning is not always fun but nothing could compare to the joy that after 4 hours ( I guess it was not as warm in the house as I thought), my Easter breads did finally rise ( from the dead, since I almost threw the dough away)!
Easter 2014  (6 of 26)

Not only that, but I also managed to make some Easter croissants filled with our very own baked plum jam, made with plums from our favorite orchard.
Easter 2014  (4 of 26)

 In a way, I am glad it happened that way because I got to spend much more time with the kids, coloring eggs and enjoying the weekend. Otherwise, I would have spent the whole Saturday hovering over the oven. I'm sure the kids will remember better their colored fingers and the fun they had decorating, instead of me being stressed and snappy over the breads that are being baked.
Easter 2014  (7 of 26)

We all prefer this mom, who is holding a spoon and stirring the food coloring the day before Easter, instead of the cranky mom, who is baking and her feet hurt. 

Easter 2014  (11 of 26)
Although, my efforts totally didn't compare to dad's attention to detail, when it came to stirring the food coloring.

Easter 2014  (13 of 26)

 Uh-oh! I guess I didn't stir some of the jars well enough and they didn't pass dad's quality control!
Easter 2014  (14 of 26)

Yup, I better stick to coloring the eggs. It's safer I think! 
Easter 2014  (12 of 26)

All kinds of creativity was employed for coloring those eggs. You have to admire the ingenuity of  the kids when it comes to not getting their fingers dirty. Using yarn to dip in the coloring- clever!
Easter 2014  (16 of 26)

 Just look at the level of concentration on tying this knot! Of course waiting around for the eggs to be colored can be a bit boring, but once all of them are colored, oh my...
Easter 2014  (15 of 26)

At the end, all of the hard work paid off! These are the kids' eggs. The Minecraft creeper is front and center of course.
 Easter 2014  (25 of 26)

I have to say mom and dad did pretty well too! 
Easter 2014  (26 of 26)

Perfect Honey Glazed Ham Easter Meal

Ah, Easter...lovely, lovely weather, Easter breads, colored eggs, honey-glazed ham...mmmm. It kind of makes you not think about  spring cleaning, doesn't it? Oh, well. Eventually, there will be spring cleaning, there will be renovations, remodeling and endless, endless yard work. For now, let's just enjoy what we all have been dreaming about the whole winter.

And I have the perfect meal to add.
Easter Meal  (3)

This wonderful recipe for honey-baked ham I got from the Chew Out Loud blog and I have to say it's the best that I've tried so far. I highly recommend it for your Easter lunch.

Add some delicious no-knead Dutch-oven baked bread from the Frugal Living NW blog and you won't need anything else.
Easter Meal  (4)

But let's not forget the dessert! "Earl Murders Me.." pie shot were just the thing! Check out the SmithBites' recipe, it's out of this world!

Happy Easter!
 ( Not that we need an excuse to have such a delicious meal any other time of the year or anything...)

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