Living without gluten, casein, soy, eggs and peanuts. Living with ASD and ADHD. Life is good!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Soft Sugar Cookies (Gluten Free & Vegan)

It's snowing again!  I can't believe it.  The girls have been busy building forts in the living room, enjoying their day off school, while I've kept busy cleaning, decluttering and working on school stuff from home.  Music keeps me focused, although DH and I differ on exactly what "focused" means.  For him it means concentrating on one thing at a time to the exclusion of other things.  For me it means juggling several different tasks at once, giving each a spurt of attention at a time, while listening to music and skimming the surface of the many swirling thoughts in my head.  This might look haphazard in action, but all the tasks eventually get done.  Music can also help me hyperfocus on stuff as well - I spent untold hours studying in high school and college with headphones on, music loud and on repeat, pencil and foot tapping.  Ah, hindsight is 20/20, but I'm glad for the clarity now.  The only way we can get Megan to focus on cleaning her room for more than two minutes is to slap headphones on her and pipe in some upbeat music.  You go, girl.  I know exactly how it is. 

So, it's cold and snowing outside. I'm done with my busy work and I've got The Naked and Famous set to repeat.  I'd rather turn on the oven and bake than turn up the thermostat, and it's about that time after hours spent feeling chilly.  Today's selction is (gluten free and vegan!) Soft Sugar Cookies.  My guidance for these cookies comes from this recipe here.  I love that I don't have to roll them out and that they stay soft and don't crumble in the least.  They keep well for several days in the cookie jar, if they last that long.  They are perfect plain or frosted.   For Valentine's Day, make the frosting pink with beet juice!

Soft Sugar Cookies
1/2 cup dairy free, soy free margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. orange or lemon extract

1 1/4 cups GF flour blend
1/4 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

Sift together the flour through the salt, set aside.

Cream together the margarine, sugar, orange or lemon extract and Daiya cream cheese with an electric mixer on high until light and fluffy .  Stir in the flour mixture with a spoon, then beat until combined.

Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet.  Bake 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.  Frost when cooled, if desired.  Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

*For frosting made with beet juice: beat together 3 tbsp. dairy free, soy free margarine and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract.  Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and beat.  Add 1 tbsp. beet juice and beat until well blended.  Add another cup of powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, thinning with beet juice until a nice thick frosting consistency is reached. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chili with Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes

It's cold!  I finally broke out my wool sweaters and socks last month and have worn them several times already.  Our temps have been swinging from 80 degrees to 20 degrees, and this morning we woke up to 17 degrees and snow.  Snow!  Driving to school this morning was an adventure with the wheels spinning starting off in first gear, the car sliding across the roads and watching other people do the same.  It never used to bother me back home, but here they don't have the equipment to deal with the snow and ice, and nobody knows how to drive in the stuff.  It makes me anxious driving in these conditions, which quickly turn treacherous, with the girls in the car.  I gripped the steering wheel driving home after school, shifting into neutral over the many slick icy patches, hoping there was nobody too close in front, behind or beside.  I was thinking of dinner, and comfort food for cold weather, and decided on chili.  It's still hot on the stove now, waiting for DH to walk home from the train station.  The conditions of the roads bother him too and he has forbidden us to drive the mile to pick him up, insisting on walking instead.  So I wait anxiously to hear his key in the door and for us to all be home safe together.

My mom's chili is one of the meals I remember really liking growing up.  To this day I can't make chili without thinking of her, kind of like I can't help but think of my grandfather when I think of clam chowder.   Mom's chili always had potatoes in it so for me, a good hearty chili always includes potatoes. Now that I'm older, I'm finding my preference is for sweet potatoes. So I've modified my mom's chili recipe a bit, and I really like the result. Serve the chili topped with avocado slices and with cornbread or pan-fried polenta and a lime wedge on the side.

2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups cooked black beans
1 cup cooked pinto beans, if desired
1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can tomato puree (8 oz.)
1 can tomato paste
1 1/2 - 2 cups water
1 large sweet potato, cut into 1/4 inch cubes

4 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground smoked paprika
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder 
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

juice of 1 lime
lime wedges, to serve

Heat a little olive oil in a large pot. Crumble the beef into the pot and stir to brown, draining fat as needed. Add the onion and cook until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans through the sweet potato and stir to combine.

Stir together the ground cumin through the black pepper. Add to the chili and stir well. Adjust seasonings to taste. Simmer 45 minutes to one hour, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is tender. Adjust seasonings again if desired. Turn off the heat, add the lime juice and stir. Serve hot with lime wedges, if desired.