Monday, January 25, 2010


It seems as though many of us grew up on pudding. Whether your childhood memory consists of grandma whipping up a batch over the stove or preparing the box variety, pudding is a dessert many of us consider to be one of our favorite desserts. After all, what can beat a sweet, creamy and velvety dessert that is so simple to prepare.

There are several types of pudding. Among our favorites are cornstarch puddings, rice puddings and tapioca puddings. Fortunately, all of these delicious desserts are naturally gluten-free! And for those of you who are casein free as well — simply substitute soy milk for the milk or half and half….you won’t be able to tell the difference — it is equally as delicious!

Cornstarch Pudding:

In reality pudding is nothing more than milk, sugar and cornstarch. This magical mixture is cooked together until the starch molecules bond, thickening the pudding into a creamy, velvety cream. To prevent lumps from forming prepare the pudding in a heavy bottomed saucepan, which will provide even, gentle heat. Stir the pudding with a large, heatproof semi-flexible spatula — which easily reaches the sides, bottom and corners of the saucepan. When mixing the pudding, be sure to dissolve the cornstarch in a small amount of liquid (usually milk or half and half), forming a lump-free paste, before adding the remaining liquid.

Cooking the pudding is actually completed in two phases; first, over medium-high heat and the second over low heat. During the high heat phase be sure to mix the pudding in slow sweeping circles, keeping the bottom and sides of the pan scraped clean (it is very easy for the pudding to burn on the bottom of the pan). When the pudding begins to thicken turn the heat down to low — if using an electric stove, slide the pan off the burner completely to let the burner cool. Continue to stir over the low heat, stirring in quick little circles. The pudding may look lumpy at this point but if you stir fast enough the lumps will dissipate. Bring the pudding to a low simmer and let cook for 1 minute. Pour the pudding into individual serving cups or a large bowl. To prevent a skin from forming place plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 2 days.

Many people wonder why sometimes their puddings thickened appropriately in the saucepan and then suddenly thin out. The answer lies in the bonds of the cornstarch. These cornstarch bonds are actually very fragile. If you break the bonds, your pudding will turn into a runny, thin mess. In order to avoid this do not beat, strain or blend the pudding after you remove it from the stove. Just pour it quickly before it has a chance to stiffen and let it sit undisturbed.

For a basic pudding try our Vanilla Pudding.

Rice Pudding:

Many people use long-grain rice, particularly leftovers for rice pudding, however, traditionally short-grain rice was the actual preferred rice for rice pudding simply because it they are high in starch and give the pudding a richer, creamier texture. Unfortunately short grain rice is sometimes hard to find in American supermarkets. If you can only find long grain rice it will still make great pudding as long as you don’t use the pre-cooked variety such as "minute rice" or "instant rice". Experiment with different long-grain rice such as jasmine, basmati or popcorn rice — they will all impart a different flavor.

To make delicious rice pudding follow this simple recipe:

Rice Pudding:


  • 3/4 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups 1% milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon gf vanilla
  • Cinnamon or Nutmeg (optional)

Place rice, water and salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer until all the water has been absorbed. Stir in cream, milk and sugar. Cook uncovered for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture is similar to a thick porridge. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Spoon into ramekins or custard cups. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding to prevent any skin from forming. Sprinkle tops with freshly ground nutmeg or cinnamon. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tapioca Pudding:

Tapioca comes from the tropical cassava plant. Most grocery stores carry only quick-cooking tapioca which is not only used to make tapioca pudding but is also used to thicken sauces and fillings.

Tapioca pudding:


  • 2-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk together the milk, sugar, tapioca and salt in a heavy saucepan. Let mixture stand for 10 minutes. Slowly bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk half of the milk mixture into the egg. Thoroughly mix the egg mixture into the remaining pudding (milk mixture). Reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring constantly, until the pudding starts to thicken. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Let cool in the saucepan for 30 minutes. Pour the mixture into individual bowls. Serve warm or chill until you are ready to serve.

So as you can see there is not much to creating a wonderful pudding. In fact, after you have made it a few times you will wonder why people use the box variety. It is not difficult to make and once you taste homemade pudding you will discover that it is far better than store-bought puddings.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Muffin Mania

Nothing beats a delicious muffin and a hot cup of coffee for a light, satisfying breakfast! Muffins are basically individual quick breads. They are called quick breads simply because they are quickly mixed and because they don’t contain yeast, they don’t require the lengthy rising time before baking. They are extremely easy to make — just mix the dry ingredients, mix the wet ingredients and then combine the two! Gluten-free muffins can be wonderful and with a few simple tricks they can be equally as good, if not better, than the gluten-variety!

Trick 1:
We have had tremendous success with The Gluten Free Pantry’s Country French Bread flour mix for the gf flour in all of our muffin recipes. The blend of flour and binders within their flour mix work wonderfully for nearly all quickbreads and muffins. To order The Gluten Free Pantry’s Country French Bread mix click here:

Trick 2: Make sure that your recipe has enough oil. We usually make sure that there is about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of oil in the recipe. This helps add moisture to the muffins and counteracts the dryness caused by the rice flour in the flour mix.

Trick 3: Sometimes the additional oil on its own is not enough to add the right amount of moisture to quickbreads or muffins. To make sure that the end result is moist and some-what cake like make sure that your recipe has something like crème fraiche, sour cream, yogurt, or a fruit puree (applesauce, pear puree, etc.).

Trick 4: Add another egg. Because we are not using wheat flour containing gluten which gives elasticity and helps the muffin rise during the baking process we need to add something to the batter to compensate for this weakness in gluten-free flour. Adding an additional egg will help this deficiency.

Trick 5: Our final trick also helps compensate for the lack of leavening inherent in gluten-free flour. Add about 1/2 teaspoon extra baking powder or baking soda to your recipe.

One final note: If you happen to be on a casein-free, gluten-free diet substitute soy milk, soy yogurt, or soy sour cream (try Tofutti sour cream — it’s great!). The results are perfect!!

Here are some of our favorite muffin recipes we’ve discovered over the years:

Lemon Raspberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

Carrot Spice Muffins

Chocolate Cherry Glazed Muffins

Cranberry Muffins with Blueberries

GFCF Blueberry Muffins

Peach Macadamia Muffins

Sour Cream Peach Muffins

Banana Pecan Muffins

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Heavenly Hot Chocolate!

Besides chicken noodle soup I can’t think of many things that warm the soul more than hot chocolate! There are many different versions of hot chocolate. Slight modifications can add a wonderful touch to your basic cup of hot chocolate. Ultimately the secret to a great cup of hot chocolate lies in the quality of your chocolate…since chocolate is the star in this winter drink make sure you use a good one! Some of our favorite chocolates are Valhora, Lindt, and Scharffen Berger.

Here are some of our all time favorites:

Basic Hot Chocolate:

* 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
* 1 pint milk
* Pinch of cinnamon
* A few grates of nutmeg
* Whipped Cream or Marshmallows

Melt chocolate in a double boiler over hot water. Stir in the cream. Heat to just the boiling point, stirring constantly. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg. Serve in 8-ounce cups and dollop whipped cream or marshmallows. (Serves 4)

Hot Chocolate with Real Vanilla:

* 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
* 2/3 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/2 cup water
* pinch of salt
* 3 cups milk
* 1-1/2 cups half-n-half
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using a tip of a paring knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into a food processor (save the bean for later use). Add the sugar to the food processor and process for about 20 seconds. Transfer 3 tablespoons of the "vanilla sugar" to a small bowl.

Transfer the remaining "vanilla sugar" from the food processor to a heavy saucepan. Add the cocoa powder, _ cup water and salt and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble. Whisk in the milk and half-n-half. Add the reserved vanilla bean; bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Discard the vanilla bean.

Beat the cream and the reserved 3 tablespoons of "vanilla sugar" in a medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Divide the hot chocolate among 6 mugs and top with the vanilla whipped cream. (Serves 6)

Mexican Hot Chocolate:

* 4 cups milk
* 3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
* 30 whole cloves
* 1 teaspoon aniseed
* 5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
* 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 2 Tablespoons brown sugar, packed

Bring milk and spices to a simmer in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the chocolate, cocoa and sugar. Whisk until the chocolate melts. Remove from the heat and let steep for 45 minutes. Bring the hot chocolate to a low simmer. Strain into 4 mugs. (Serves 4)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fresh Winter Salads

Tired of the same old winter vegetables? If it seems like all there is to eat in the produce department in winter is broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts, take a fresh look at winter vegetables and a new look at how to prepare them. Give those winter vegetables a complete makeover by paring them with other vegetables, greens, nuts, cheeses, fruits, rices, beans, meats, poultry or seafood in salads!

By simply changing the style of the dish you are going to prepare to a ‘salad’, you open the door to limitless possibilities. Salads have no limits in ingredients, style or flavorings. Add sliced beets, fennel, carrots, broccoli or any winter vegetable to a few greens and add cooked chicken or prawns, a few shavings of Parmesan Reggiano, a few sprinkles of your favorite dressing and you have winter vegetables extraordinare!

Try these delicious winter salad ideas!

Warm Goat Cheese Salad

Pear Beet and Fennel Salad

Wild Rice Salad

Pear and Parmesan Salad

Prawn and Avocado Salad

Pasta with Roasted Chicken and Hazelnuts