Category Archives: desserts

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

These easy-to-make gluten-free peanut butter cookies are sealed with a kiss – Hershey’s Kisses placed on the cookies while they are still warm from the oven.

The bonus: The cookies are naturally gluten free, with no flour at all, making them good crowd-pleasers. Plus, the peanut butter packs a protein punch, which we’re always looking for in our house. Thank you to my friend Rebecca who provided the flourless peanut butter cookie recipe. I just added a kiss.

Peanut butter jars can easily become contaminated by bread crumbs spread on a sandwich knife. We always have two jars of peanut butter and two jars of jelly in our house, marked in permanent marker: GF ONLY and NOT GF. My mother has a squeeze bottle of jelly, so crumbs don’t get in the jar.

I’m a crunchy, natural peanut butter fan. True, natural peanut butter is a pain. The oil separates, so you need to plunge your knife into the jar to mix it up, inevitably resulting in an overflowing mess.

Still, one look at the ingredients and you’ll be convinced to go natural. Most peanut butters contain sugar and hydrogenated vegetable oil. Even mainstream natural brands like Skippy Natural and Jiff Natural contain added sugar, palm oil and salt.

By contrast, Trader Joe’s organic crunchy unsalted peanut butter has one ingredient: peanuts. And the Whole Foods 365 Everyday PB has two ingredients: peanuts and salt (though, curiously, their 365 Organic brand has added palm oil).

While you’re at it, check your jam or jelly. Most contain high-fructose corn syrup. Who needs that? Buy a brand that contains simply fruit or is sweetened with other fruit juices.

Click for Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies recipe

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Luscious Gluten-Free Lemon Squares

gluten-free lemon squares

Luscious Gluten-Free Lemon Squares

Before my daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease, I loved to bring lemon squares to family gatherings. People would fight over the last lemon square. I loved the buttery shortbread crust combined with the mouth-puckering tartness and compelling sweetness.

After my daughter’s celiac diagnosis, I mourned the lack of gluten-free lemon bars. Little did I know that lemon squares are easy to make gluten-free. The density of gluten-free flours helps make a firm crust (I used sorghum and amaranth flours to boost nutrition). And I only needed to substitute cornstarch in the lemon filling to make it gluten-free.

My friend Jennifer told me she makes lemon squares with a crushed macaroon crust during Passover. I definitely need to try that next year!

Lemon squares are easier to cut when they are frozen, since they won’t ooze under the knife. Plus, they taste divine cold, so I store them in my freezer and simply transfer to the table when it’s dessert time.

Click for Gluten-Free Lemon Squares recipe

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Please, sir, I want s’mores

gluten-free s'mores1

gluten-free s'mores2

It was cold and rainy in Chicago the other day, on our bumpy path toward spring. When my kids came home from school, they asked for hot chocolate and gluten-free s’mores. I was happy to oblige, because I had a couple packets of hot chocolate mix that I wanted to use up and I had gluten-free graham crackers in the cabinet.

Gluten-free graham crackers are hard to find. I’ve yet to discover one that comes close to the sweet, nutty taste of whole wheat graham flour with a tender texture that crumbles in my mouth.

S'moreables

In the past, I’ve bought Jo-Sef’s Square Cinnamon Cookies, which are chunky, cinnamon-flavored gluten-free graham crackers, and Health Valley Rice Bran Crackers, which are thin cookie/crackers with a graham taste. Recently, I bought Kinnikinnick’s S’moreables, which have a honey-molasses flavor and are sturdy enough to stand up to s’mores (though there were quite a few non-sturdy broken crackers in the box).

While all of these store-bought cookies are good for snacks or s’mores, I wouldn’t use them in a graham cracker pie crust. They’re too expensive and too sugary. For a graham cracker crust, you’re better off with crushed gluten-free gingersnaps or crushed gluten-free animal crackers. Or bake your own gluten-free grahams with a recipe from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef.

S’mores — toasted marshmallows and melted chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers — are campfire favorites that are so good that you beg for “some more.”

One of the best things about camping is skewering a giant marshmallow on a long stick, holding it over the campfire and watching the marshmallow puff up and turn golden brown (or thrusting it into the flames and watching it catch fire, with flames leaping into the night sky and charring the marshmallow charcoal black).

It’s much tamer to watch the marshmallows turn a pleasant tan in the toaster oven, but you’ve got to take what you can get.

Marshmallows are generally gluten free, but check the ingredients to make sure. When we made our s’mores this week, I had only mini marshmallows on hand, but the bigger ones ooze more (and oozing is good). Hershey’s chocolate bars, the classic chocolate for s’mores, are gluten-free. But I had only dark chocolate chips at home, so I used those, though chocolate chips don’t melt as well.

Click for Gluten-Free S’Mores recipe

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Gluten-Free Peppermint Pattie Cake

gluten-free peppermint pattie cake

Gluten-Free Peppermint Pattie Cake

“That cake is evil,” my father-in-law declared upon taking a bite of this sinfully rich Gluten-Free Peppermint Pattie Cake. His comments pleased me immensely, in part because my nickname at work used to be “Evil Eve.”

In our house, we love desserts. We’re always looking out for gluten-free desserts that friends will gobble down. This special-occasion cake is decadently fudgy, almost like a flourless chocolate cake. Trust me: no gluten-eater would ever turn up their nose at this baby.

When you bite into this Gluten-Free Peppermint Pattie Cake, you’ll get the sensation of gale-force winter winds whipping through your hair … oops, that was the ’80s TV commercial, I digress …

The cake is adapted from a recipe in a book my mother-in-law checked out from the library. She often brings library books for my kids. This time she got one for me: “All Cakes Considered: A year’s worth of weekly recipes tested, tasted and approved by the staff of NPR’s All Things Considered by Melissa Gray. It’s a fun read for an NPR devotee, full of tempting recipes, entertaining anecdotes and fun references to NPR stars like Carl Kassel.

Of course, I decided to bake the most dense, chocolaty cake in the book.

Gray’s original recipe is even more decadent. She instructs readers to bake the cake, make a chocolate ganache for the frosting and then drizzle each slice with homemade mint syrup and homemade chocolate fudge sauce.

That was way too much work for me, so I ditched the ganache, mint syrup and chocolate fudge sauce. Believe me, this cake is still a lot of work, even without all those toppings. To give the cake a minty kick, I used melted peppermint patties for the frosting. Get the sensation.

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Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate Meringues

gluten-free meringues

Chocoloate Chip and Double Chocolate Meringues

There’s something wintry about meringue cookies. They look like pure white mini snowballs that seem so right for the season. It’s actually better to make meringues in winter. The air is dry, which helps keep meringues crisp.

With winter hopefully ending soon (bright sun is streaming through my window and the temps in Chicago have been above freezing), it’s time to sneak in a batch of meringues before it’s too late.

Meringues are a great dessert to make for guests, as they are naturally gluten-free. My kids’ friends wolf down these sugary treats, taking extras home with them. Meringues also make great Passover treats, since all the ingredients are kosher for Passover.

Though I do like the look of snowy white meringues, I recently needed a chocolate fix (no surprise there). So in addition to adding chocolate chips to the meringues, I also added cocoa powder to half the batch to make double chocolate meringue cookies.

To shape the meringues, I drop spoonfuls of the mixture on a cookie sheet, because that’s the easiest thing to do. If you want to be fancy (my kids’ favorite word), omit the chocolate chips and pipe the meringues into prettier shapes using a pastry bag.

You’ll want to dry out the meringues, so keep the heat low and slow. I bake them at 250 for one hour; some recipes say to leave meringues in a turned-off oven overnight. If the temperature gets much higher than 250, your meringues will turn tan, which might be a good look for you but not for your meringues.

Click for Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate Meringues recipe

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Gluten-Free Hamantaschen

hamantaschen1

Shaping the hamantaschen

hamantaschen2

Baked hamantaschen

Purim is a joyous Jewish holiday in which we celebrate how Queen Esther helped outsmart and thwart the evil Haman, who had plotted to destroy all the Jews in ancient Shushan (in Prussia). We celebrate by reading the Megillah (Scroll of Esther) and drowning out Haman’s name with noisemakers. We also dress in costumes, play games at Purim carnivals and eat hamantaschen, which are triangular fruit-filled cookies shaped like Haman’s tri-cornered hat.

In past years, I’ve struggled with making gluten-free hamantaschen. One year I had so many failed batches that I laid down and cried. This year, I once again set out to make gluten-free hamantaschen for Purim, so my daughter could have treats to bring to her class parties and family celebrations.

I originally wanted the recipe to include ancient gluten-free grains like quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat, because they have significantly more protein and fiber than standard gluten-free flours. But no go. The taste was too strong and color too dark. That was two batches down, plus one batch that ended up on the kitchen floor when the parchment paper slid off the cookie sheet. D’oh.

I’m glad I kept trying. The dairy-free version below has a delicate taste without a gluten-free grittiness. The brown rice flour and sorghum subtly add extra protein and fiber, and the fruit filling provides the perfect sweetness.

If you’re unfamiliar with hamantaschen, they are somewhat similar to the Central European kolache (or is it kolachki?), in that they are cookies with fruit centers. Traditional hamantaschen fillings are prune, poppyseed and apricot, but you can fill them with anything, including any kind of fruit preserves, chocolate chips, M&Ms or Nutella.

For a short video on how to shape the hamantaschen, see my Noshin’ on Hamantaschen post.

On Purim, we eat, drink and be merry. Enjoy!

Click for the recipe

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Homemade Chocolate Truffles and Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

chocolate truffles

Homemade Chocolate Truffles

For me, Valentine’s Day is all about chocolate.

Most chocolate is gluten-free. Some chocolates, however, contain barley malt, like Lindt’s Lindor chocolate truffles, making them off-limits for celiacs. (For another discussion on gluten-free chocolates, see the Triumph Dining blog.)

For Valentine’s Day, the kids and I made homemade chocolate truffles dusted with coconut, cocoa, cinnamon and ground almonds. These sophisticated truffles look complicated but are easy to make — and even easier to eat!

If kids can roll a ball of Play-Doh (which is not gluten-free, by the way), they can roll truffles. It is messy, though. My 8-year-old’s hands were quickly covered in chocolate — and I feared for what would happen next — so she put on a long-sleeved art smock.

After rolling a bunch of truffles, we used the rest of the chocolate to make chocolate-covered strawberries. Yum!

I once went to a mom’s night out at Whole Foods where we made truffles and drank wine. This recipe is adapted from the one we used that night.

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Dark and White Chocolate Pomegranate Bark

Dark and White Chocolate Pomegranate Bark

This chocolate bark is so good that my oldest (non-celiac) daughter asked me to make it for her school birthday treat, even choosing it ahead of gluten-containing cupcakes and brownies. She also suggested that it be the first recipe featured on this blog!

I’ve had peppermint bark before but thought it would be fun to add pomegranate instead. The result is a colorful bark that’s great for festive get-togethers, especially since it’s naturally gluten-free. The dark and white chocolate combination provides a yin-yang contrast. And the gems of pomegranate give a juicy burst.

Although this bilayered bark looks impressive, it’s really quite simple. Since it doesn’t require stovetop cooking, it’s a great confection to make with kids.

Indeed, the hardest part is taking the pomegranate seeds out of the fruit. So here are some tips to make that process easier and a lot less messy:

Start by cutting off the top of the pomegranate, about a half inch below the crown. You will see membranes separating four to six sections of the fruit. With a knife, score the outer rind at each section. Submerge the pomegranate in a large bowl of water to prevent spattering. Separate the sections with your hands.

With your hands still in the water, loosen the seeds from the rind and membrane. The seeds will drop to the bottom and pieces of white membrane will float. Discard membrane and drain the seeds. Please note that the whole seed is edible, including the crunchy white part.

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