Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Lemon Bars

I can't even pretend to be a baker! My partner Tina is the baker in this house. Even with the help of gluten, baking just isn't in my skill set. Besides, I am a savory person and would always prefer something savory over a sweet. That being said, I continue to try, especially when lemon is involved. I love tart, lemon and lime both. Today, my famous friend Shauna, AKA The Gluten-Free Girl posted a recipe for lemon bars. That was it, I was sold. I back tracked on her blog to find the recipe for Ahern All Purpose Flour. Lucky me, I had everything I needed to mix up a large jar. I trust Shauna and Danny and this is going to be my go to flour for any gluten-free baking! You can find the recipe on their blog, I have always had a scale, something Shauna and Danny insist on for measuring. However, my scale only weighted in increments of 5, not good enough. So a few weeks ago I purchased an inexpensive scale that is precise to a decimal. Now, I don't have enough experience baking to back up my own opinion here but I totally agree, you must weight your ingredients. I find all of the gluten-free flours and starches are impossible to measure in a measuring cup. I love having a scale for baking.

These lemon bars are to die for, no kidding. I was a bit reluctant about the spices in the crust, including ground cinnamon and ginger. I love a lemon bar with a traditional shortbread like crust. But hey, it's Christmas time, jazz it up a bit. My dough did seem a little wet, but it baked up just fine. I was more reluctant about the freshly grated ginger in the topping, but Shauna has always suggested following a recipe as it is written the first time around and then make adjustments. After a little encouragement, I included the ginger, I am glad I did. It adds a zing that simply empowers the pucker of the lemon and pops in your mouth. Oh goodness me they are darn darn good, company worthy for sure. The dough still seemed a bit wet in the end and maybe even a little under cooked. If I made these again I would back off on the water in the dough. Shauna gives a range of water to add 1-2 tablespoons and I started out adding all of the water, instead of adding small amounts at at time until I got the desired consistency. Oh well, just means I need to make them again. I would also probably bake the dough a little longer.

You can find the recipe at

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Grown up Mac 'N Cheese

Sometimes a girl just needs a little bit of comfort food. We never had Mac 'n Cheese growing up, at least I don't remember ever having it. If we did, it surely came from a box with some kind of magic packet of fluorescent yellow stuff, called cheese. This version is made with aged Cheddar and Gruyere cheeses and gluten-free Tinkyada spiral pasta. If Tina had her way, we would be eating this at least once a week. A time or two every fall/winter is enough for me. Oh don't get me wrong, I love it, but it isn't exactly healthy and packs more than a punch of calories. I guess if you wanted you could scale back and use skim milk and low fat cheese but then why bother at all. This is thick, creamy and comforting. Don't be put off by the tomatoes, they really add to the dish! It really is a special occasion dish and if your wallet can manage, add some lobster meat for an over the top meal.

kosher salt
Vegetable oil
1 pound Tinkyada pasta, elbow or spiral work nicely
1 quart whole milk (I confess, I use half cream, half milk)
8 ounces butter, divided
1/2 cup white rice flour
8 ounces aged Cave Gruyere Cheese, grated
12 ounces aged Cheddar, grated (I used four year)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
3/4 pound fresh tomatoes, sliced
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (I used Udi's)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the pasta and cook for about 13 minutes, drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a sauce pan, don't boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk, add nutmeg, salt and pepper. While whisking, add the hot milk slowly and cook until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the cheeses, stirring until they are melted and incorporated into the sauce. Add the cooked pasta and stir well. pour into a baking dish.

Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the bread crumbs and sprinkle on top of the tomatoes. Bake 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned.

You can easily make this ahead of time. Simply assemble the dish, cover with foil and put in the fridge. When your ready, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and put the covered dish in the oven for about an hour. Remove the foil and cook another 15 minutes until bubbly and browned.