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Friday’s Fab or Fail: More About Xylitol Candy…

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I’m a big fan of doing things once and doing it big enough that I don’t have to think about it for a while.  You know, kind of the point of this blog.  So, I had the bright idea this summer to expand my candy making to a bulk sized endeavor.  The small batches were a big hit, but time intensive.  I don’t have tons of spare time to be standing around in my kitchen watching sugar boil (as I’m sure many of you can relate to!) so bulk is the way to go.

Home-made Xylitol CandyThe original recipe was 1 cup of water and 1 cup of xylitol.  Bring to a hard boil for 12 minutes (or 310*F) and tada! Candy!  That seemed to work well for the small batches.  There were always some candies that didn’t harden, and some of them turned out a bit crumbly, but no one really cared much.  So, I increased my recipe by 4.

Well, let’s just say that this plan didn’t really come together how I envisioned it.  First of all, it took f.o.r.e.v.e.r. for the xylitol to come to the right temperature.  Then, I discovered that you don’t add flavoring to candy when it is at temperature. Bad idea!!!  The difference in temperatures cause the intended mix to spatter and it can burn you!  DON’T DO IT!  Don’t worry – I’ll tell you the safe way to do this in a minute. The third issue that occurred with my bulk attempt is that some candies hardened beautifully, some never hardened, and some were like crystal shards – not really what one expects when one thinks of HARD candy…  It was quite mysterious, and obviously needed more thought.

I started playing around with the xylitol candy recipe (as I do, when things don’t turn out just how I want them) and have discovered that the original recipe I linked to isn’t the best way to make it. The original recipe used xylitol and water, and then boiled off the water to make the candies. After much research, also known as reading candy cookbooks (yum!), I decided to skip the water as an ingredient altogether.  As it turns out the wide variety of textures in my bulk candy experiment were because of the various amounts of water in the solution.  The really crumbly candies were poured first, and the hard candies were poured at the end when the water had finally boiled off.

So, to make your xylitol candy, you will need to slowly melt some xylitol in a small pan. In this case slow is better – so you don’t burn the xylitol before it melts.  When the temperature reaches “hard crack” (which is about 310*, or if you drip some into cold water, it forms threads that will crack when you try to mold them) pour the xylitol into your candy mold, or drip it onto parchment paper and let it harden.

As I said earlier, DON’T add the flavoring when the candy mixture is at its hottest – it will spatter and burn you! Wait for the xylitol to cool some (to about 270* or so) before adding the flavoring. You will still have plenty of time to take advantage of the fluidity of your candy before it hardens.

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Friday Fab or Flop: Flexible Corn- and Gluten-Free Tortillas? Part 2

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Part 1 is here if you missed it.

Well, it’s been a busy week putting up garden produce. I’ve picked and/or processed green beans, tomatoes, broccoli, grapes, peaches and apples this week. So I haven’t been baking to say the least. We had enough gluten-free, corn-free tortillas from last week’s batch that I didn’t tinker with my recipe since my last post. Feel free to flog me with a virtual wet noodle.

To make up for it, I’m going to post the recipe as I’ve developed it so far. I have frozen these before, and they do just fine. Keep in mind this is a work in progress. If you tinker with it, I’d love to hear how it comes out for you!

Flexitillas (make sure you say this with a Mexican accent: flex-i-TEE-ya. Sombrero optional.)

1 Cup Tapioca Starch

1 Cup Cooked Beans (Navy beans are high in calcium and the right color)

1 Cup Almond Flour

Flexitillas

Tortilla dough

1 Tbsp Sugar

1 Tsp Salt

Put the ingredients in the food processor and run the machine until it purrs. (What, yours doesn’t purr? Ok, then just process until smooth. And then buy a cat.) Add some palm shortening – about 1/3 cup – and process again. You’re looking for it to turn into coarse crumbles. Add some water into the spout part of the food processor while processing and stop when the mixture starts to form dough.

Flexitillas on the Griddle

These toast up nicely!

Cook as usual by pressing out balls of dough in a tortilla press and toasting on a medium-high griddle.

Friday Fab or Flop: Flexible Corn- and Gluten-Free Tortillas? Part 1

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The Search for the Perfect Tortilla

If you’re looking for Part 2, click here.

So, the Hubby likes Mexican food. It probably has something to do with growing up in a border state where there is a Mexican restaurant on every corner. It’s pretty much his favorite cuisine. And it’s pretty much the hardest to duplicate in an allergen-free environment.  It’s easy enough to make your own taco seasoning to season your own meat or beans however you prefer. There are a million ways to make salsa to avoid whatever you’re allergic to. But tortillas! Ay! You can’t eat Mexican cuisine without tortillas, and as far as I can tell, there are no tortillas commercially available that are free of both corn and gluten. The ones that come the closest are made from rice, so that’s no good for me, either.

I’ve been using Jaye’s tortilla recipe for several years now, and it’s a good start. The tortillas bend a little, as long as you don’t overcook them. I’ve fiddled with the recipe, changing the proportions of flour, fat and water, and every time I get a pretty similar result. It’s tasty food, just not exactly what I was hoping for in the flexibility department.

Over the summer, Jaye had a tortilla accident. You know the kind. It’s what happens when you run out of food and payday isn’t until next week. You start throwing together random things from the pantry, hoping that food will result. Fortunately, this was a happy tortilla accident (as opposed to the unhappy kind that involves blood and property damage). Tapioca starch and cooked beans, blended together as a flour base for tortillas made a VERY flexible tortilla. However, I’m not gonna lie. It was gummy. Not so bad as trying to eat oobleck, just not the sort of thing I’d make again on purpose, if you know what I mean.

So now I’m tinkering with tortillas again. I’ve tried it with almond flour (using up what I had on hand before we discovered the nut allergy), and it seems to be working. But I need the recipe to be nut-free, since my bigger boy is anaphylactic to several nuts.

Will my experiments be fab? Or another in a long line of tortilla flops? Tune in next week for the result!

Fab or Flop Friday – Making Vegan Yogurt, Part 3

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Part 1  Part 2

It turns out that the package of yogurt starter had a troubleshooting guide in it that I missed the first time around. Apparently overheating the culture does cause the whey-like separation I got when trying to make the hemp milk yogurt. Well. Now I know. Operator error. Got it.

So, armed with this knowledge, I made another attempt at vegan yogurt. I used rice milk this time, kept the batch small, and used my typical incubation method. I carefully went through the process of heating the rice milk, adding the starter culture, and incubating the mixture. Oh, who am I trying to kid? I put the rice milk on the stove and measured its temperature carefully for about 5 minutes before my boys had so-called “needs” and distracted me. *Sigh* At least it didn’t boil over this time.

After 24 hours of incubation, the result was another mediocre batch of yogurt. The tart yogurt-y taste was more fully developed this time, probably because I didn’t kill the culture so quick. However, there was still that funny sweetish taste, too. (Sweet-ish, not to be confused with Swedish.) The consistency of the finished product was pretty much the same as rice milk, perhaps slightly thicker.

Here’s my theory. It’s pure speculation, but it sounds real good. I think that the bacteria ate all the sugars they could, but I’m not sure that all the sugars in the rice milk are digestible to these bacteria, so that leaves the strange sweet taste – the undigested sugars. Also, I don’t think there’s enough protein and fat in rice milk to cause the mixture to thicken up any. You’d need to add gelatin or agar agar or something to thicken things up to something resembling commercial yogurt.Pear, carrot, and spinach juice with rice milk yogurt

There is some good news, though. I now have a cultured (fermented) rice beverage, kind of like kefir. I’m not a fan of drinking it straight, but I mixed it with some freshly pressed juice, and it was a super-refreshing beverage. The combo was actually quite a bit better than either beverage alone. Not quite “Calgon, take me away!” good, but probably the best beverage I’ve had in the last several years. Seriously yum-tastic.

I’m getting a regular supply of goat’s milk again, so I think my adventures in making vegan yogurt are over for now. I’m going to give Jaye the rest of the starter culture, as her family uses almond milk, and I’m curious to see if it makes a difference. Stay tuned for the continuing saga!

Friday’s Fab or Fail: Candy! Part 2

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With trepidation, I added peppermint flavor to my first batch of xylitol candy.  It was the only flavoring I had on hand, and having “mints” is already an established treat in our home.  Why the trepidation, then?  My middle child – the one who needs the most dental help – dislikes mint.

So I offered the home-made xylitol candy to my oldest first.  If you ever need a cheerleader, someone to lead the charge, a party in a petite package perhaps, then my oldest child is the one you need.  She raved and raved over the xylitol candy and begged for more.  It took my two boys a couple of days to work up the courage to give the candies a try.  Once they did, however, it was clear that corn-free xylitol candy is a resounding success in this home!

My next batch I added orange flavoring to.  And that batch is going even faster!  I must say it is a bit strange to happily give out candy – with no concern over teeth or ruining dinner (xylitol is lower-carb as well).

Fab or Fail: Candy!

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It is no secret that I have a sweet tooth.

Giant Chewy Nerds, made by the Willy Wonka Can...

Giant Chewy Nerds, made by the Willy Wonka Candy Company. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Give me Chewy Runts and I’m a happy girl!  Give me peanut butter cups and I am in heaven.  I am certain my graphics business runs, in part, on sugar.  Yet, it is exceedingly difficult to find corn-free candy.  Corn syrup is the basis of most candies, and even when it’s not, there’s dextrose, corn starch, citric acid and fructose to be concerned with (yes! All these things DO come from corn).  Even more difficult is finding corn-free candy that actually tastes good.  There’s no feeling quite like setting yourself up for disappointment.

Now, pair that up with my goal to Be A Good Mom. You know: don’t rot the kids’ teeth but let them enjoy some sweets in life; don’t poison them but realize their peers get treats and they’ll feel left out.  A tricky line to walk, no doubt about it.  In addition, my middle child has very soft enamel on his teeth and I have to be so, so careful as we’re in a season of life that leaves us with no dental insurance.

Corn-Free Candy Inspiration

As I was researching dental health care on Dr. Ellie’s site, I was reminded of the anti-cavity properties Xylitol has.  Encouraged by Dr. Ellies use of Xylitol mints and gum, I casually wondered (aka googled) if I could make xylitol mints on my own.  As it turns out, Mom’s Frugal blog says I can!  Not only that, but I have oodles of corn-free xylitol on hand, languishing in my pantry – so this will be a no-cost experiment.  Win!

So today, I put together the ingredients, and made a small batch of xylitol mints.  They are cooling right now.  They taste fine to me, and will totally work in my efforts to help the kids’ teeth.  But… will the kids eat them?

Fab or Flop Friday – Pesto Stuffed Chicken

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It’s a little known secret in our home that while I do most of the baking, my husband makes many of the dinners in our house.  So today, I’m letting him guest post.

We had these huge chicken breasts in the fridge.  Yes, they couldn’t have come from any chicken that was grown in any way that could be termed “natural.”  But they were on sale, and that’s a plus for our family.

The problem is, they were so thick, we couldn’t just bake them, grill them, or any of our other methods.  We had just done chicken nuggets, so we needed something different.  I suggested we fillet and stuff them.  That way the flavor gets into even the thickest part of the breast.

Not even thinking about it, I suggested all the ingredients that would make for a fine allergen-friendly pesto sauce.  Stuff that chicken with it, and you’ve got a tasty meal.

So, using what we had on hand, and refusing to look at a recipe, I threw this together.  The chicken was ridiculously easy to put together, so 10 minutes of prep, about an hour of cooking time, and dinner was on the table.  Enough time in there for me and our littlest one to watch an episode of Deep Space Nine.  You may choose something different to watch, that’s not integral.

But, was it fab, or a flop?

Kinda in between, honestly.  It was really good, but I didn’t put in anything acidic, and my lovely bride picked up on that immediately.  I should have thrown in a tablespoon of lemon juice, and I’ve adjusted the recipe accordingly.  Haven’t tried it yet, but I think it should be fantastic.

Pesto Stuffed Chicken

Allergen-Friendly Stuffed Chicken Breast

There weren't a lot of leftovers for the camera!

½ cup Fresh Basil
3 Garlic Cloves – coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1.5 tsp. Salt
¼ cup Feta Cheese* (or your favorite non-dairy cheese sub)
1 tbsp. Lemon Juice
3 lbs. Chicken Breast

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place basil, garlic, oil, salt, cheese and lemon juice in food processor and puree.

Cut each breast almost in half lengthwise.  Spoon a tablespoon of puree into the pocket of each breast.  Any remaining puree can be smeared on top of the breasts.  Place breasts into 9 x 13 casserole dish, cover and cook for 40 minutes.  Uncover and cook for an additional 10 minutes.  Internal temperature should reach 170 degrees on a meat thermometer, and juices should run clear.

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