Gluten-Free Oatmeal Fudge Bars

At the start of our recent trip to Alaska, we spent two days in Vancouver, BC, one of my favorite cities.

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My first trip to Vancouver (last fall) was full of so many delights, but one simple one was eating an oatmeal fudge bar at Starbucks.

OMG, are these good.

Growing up, my grandmother used to bake something exactly like this. She’d make a sugary oatmeal cookie dough, press some of it into a cake pan, add a layer of fudge and dab the rest of the oatmeal mix on top, bake and voila!

My contributions to this endeavor were to eat an obscene amount of the dough (fingers crossed, no salmonella – ever), generously sample the fudge, and of course to consume the finished product. Winning!

Having one of these last fall fueled my nostalgia and when we were back in Vancouver a few weeks ago, I meant to get another one.

Except I ran out of time.

(Don’t cry for me; there was more than enough vacation indulgence on this trip to last a lifetime).

Last weekend we were invited to a family picnic and I was determined to resurrect this treat, but this time, a gluten-free version that Trixie (with her severe celiac disease) could eat.

I started with this Rachael Ray recipe and essentially only swapped out gluten-free ingredients where appropriate. I also cut back on the butter.

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Fudge Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 cups gluten-free flour mix (I used this Pillsbury blend)
  • 3 cups gluten-free oats (these)
  • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Combine butter, sugars, eggs and 1 t vanilla (ok, I used a huge pour because I like it vanilla-y) in mixer.
  • Add baking soda and salt; combine.
  • Slowly add flour, especially because the gluten-free variety is very fine and will spray everywhere.
  • Stir in oats.
  • Generously sample dough. Totally worth the risk of food poisoning.
  • Press about 2/3 of the dough into a 9″ x 13″ pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
  • Prepare the fudge:
    • Combine chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and 1 t vanilla in a microwave-safe bowl.
    • Microwave about 45 seconds and stir until smooth.
    • Taste a few times. This is an important step.
  • Pour the fudge mixture over the raw dough.
  • Dab small pieces of the remaining 1/3 dough on top of the fudge.
  • Bake 30 minutes.
  • Enjoy!

Here are a few shots of the action:

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See! I used the Kitchen Aid mixer at least once this year.

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Final product. I meant to take a more appealing shot of an individual bar, but then we ate them all.

The gluten-free products I used:

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This was my first time trying the Pillsbury flour mix, which contains rice flour, potato starch, pea fiber, tapioca starch and xanthan gum.

One of the reasons I’ve previously shied away from gluten-free baking is because a lot of other recipes individually require these ingredients, and there is just no way I am going to buy a whole bag of xanthan gum.

Another reason is that a lot of gluten-free flours have a gritty, unpleasant mouthfeel. This doesn’t.

An unsolicited review from Trixie when I was adding the oats to the mixer:

Ewww! That has granola in it! I hate those!

Her redaction upon consuming the finished product:

These are soooo good. May I please have two more? I just can’t help myself.

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I’ll chalk that up as a win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Brownies

I need to give a serious shout out to these gluten free brownies:

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Trixie (6) saw them at the grocery store last week and really, really, REALLY wanted to try them.

I had to explain that they weren’t already in the box, we still had to make them (albeit with minimal effort).

And I often feel bad for her; she’s got terrible celiac disease and misses out on a lot.

But … a lot of gluten free baked goods are gritty. The texture’s off. They’re passable when you really, really, REALLY want a dessert, but well, it’s often just not the same.

So I wasn’t prepared to be wowed with these brownies.

Wrong!

The mix was pretty standard (add an egg, oil and water), and I purposefully undercooked them (~35 minutes when the box said 45ish).

They were delicious.

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My only gripe is that they make an 8″ x 8″ pan, so their total lifespan around here was less than 24 hours.

We’re already planning to make them again this weekend. Yum!

 

 

 

Gluten Free Biscotti Bites

Yesterday I posted about our recent cocktail party, where one of the desserts served was a bite-sized biscotti.

Calling these cookies a biscotti is a bit of a stretch, since they don’t have the double-baked technique that makes a biscotti a biscotti.

But the flavor and texture is close enough.

I originally got the recipe from Real Simple magazine, but when I tried to find it online, it was a ghost.

I had to modify the recipe to make it gluten-free, too.

Here’s what I did.

Ingredients: (Yield: about 30 cookies, depending on how much dough you eat)

  • 1 c buckwheat flour (despite the name, it’s gluten free)
  • 1/4 c almond flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t coarse salt, plus more for garnish
  • 3/4 stick butter
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c shredded coconut
  • 2 T grapefruit zest (personally, I think orange would have been as good or better)
  • 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, divided
  • 2 T heavy cream
  • Sanding sugar
  • Flaky sea salt

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 F
  • Mix together buckwheat flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt
  • Beat butter, sugar and eggs until fluffy
  • Add flour mixture and combine
  • Stir in coconut, citrus zest and 4 oz of chopped chocolate (as chunky as you like it)
  • Generously sample dough
  • Refrigerate 30 mins
  • Continue to generously sample dough during chilling time
  • Roll into rough teaspoon-sized balls
  • Dip into sanding sugar (Turbinado sugar also works well. Steal some packets from your local coffee shop)
  • Bake 15-20 mins, until golden on the edges
  • Let cool completely
  • Melt remaining chocolate with cream to make a ganache
  • Dip cookies halfway into ganache and sprinkle with sanding sugar and flaky sea salt

Ok, these turned out great. Surprise! I pulled it off!

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With all of the other desserts at the party, there were a lot of cookies left over. I rectified that problem ASAP.

 

 

Restaurant Beatrix

If you’re ever in Chicago, give serious consideration to stopping by Beatrix, a River North (really, downtown to me) restaurant that’s so many things: coffee bar, real bar, bakery and breakfast/lunch/dinner place.

A lot of the food has a modern, healthy spin and all the trends are here, including a delicious crispy kale salad.

But here’s the yummiest thing of all:

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This gluten-free, triple chocolate chunk cookie is seriously to die for.

I split one with two friends when I was in Chicago last month, and when I had a quick return trip to give a talk last week, I had to swing by for another. Except this time, that cookie was all mine.

I’d love to find the recipe. (Correction: I’d love to live next door to Beatrix and go there every day for one of these babies. My legendary hatred of all domestic chores persists).

My good friend Google found this version that looks like the same thing, except there is no way in the universe I would bake something that requires all of the following:

  • Potato Starch – 0.55 Cups
  • Sugar Castor – 0.37 Cups
  • Cocoa Powder – 1.75 Tablespoons
  • Dark Treacle – 2 Tablespoons
  • Glucose – 2 Tablespoons
  • Glycerine – 1.75 Tablespoons
  • Egg – 1.37 oz.
  • Ammonium Bicarbonate – 0.66 Teaspoon
  • Sodium Bicarbonate – 0.42 Teaspoon
  • Salt – 0.42 Teaspoon
  • Maize starch cornflour – 0.39 Cup
  • Rice flour – 0.30 Cup
  • Soy Flour – 0.22 cup

I don’t even know what dark treacle is.

This version from gluten-free guru Bob’s Red Mill seems much easier by comparison, but it still involves baking and this is me we’re talking about here.

I’ll probably be content to dream about that cookie (and book a return ticket to Chicago for next month).

 

 

 

Peanut Butter Cookies

I think peanut butter is something you either love or detest.

Register me under “Love.”

This recipe from Real Simple magazine is gluten-free and quite tasty.

It only requires 6 ingredients!

Even I can handle this.

What you need:

  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt

What to do:

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Mix everything.
  • Drop spoonfuls on cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes.

My friend described these as “just like my grandma used to make.”

While I generally prefer a soft, chewy cookie, these are on the crispy side but still quite good – especially for being gluten-free.

Some excellent mix-ins:

  • Mini Reese’s peanut butter cups
  • Chopped salted peanuts
  • Chocolate chips
  • Peanut butter chips
  • Crushed potato chips
  • Crushed toffee bars
  • All of the above 

 

 

Purely Elizabeth

Last year on a trip to NYC, I discovered Purely Elizabeth, a company that makes a small line of gluten-free foods. I ordered some granola on the spot and also re-ordered a few times to also get chocolate chip cookie mixes, etc. The good news is that my local food co-op now carries the granola, so I can get a fix whenever I want.

One unexpected bonus is that Purely Elizabeth has a great quarterly online magazine that you can download for free. The newest edition, Purely Winter, can be accessed here.

Purely Winter contains some great information about healthy living and wellness, all in a visually pleasing style. Highlights from this edition include recipes for simple (Ding! Ding! We have a winner!) gluten-free peanut butter cup cookies, an apple cider cocktail, kale and artichoke dip (yum), plus entertaining ideas for both a Valentine’s Day brunch and a tapas party.

Get reading! And please invite me over if you make any of the recipes.

Goodbye Gluten

We found out the hard way that Trixie had the World’s Worst Case of Celiac Disease when she was 1 year old (Doctor: “If there is a pyramid of people affected, she’s at the top.” Ugh.)

I know it’s trendy to go gluten-free now, but this wasn’t fad, it was necessity. And so nearly four years ago, our family made a radical shift on how we lived and ate.

We still need to be careful: Accidental gluten ingestion leads to predictable yet forceful (and copious!) projectile vomiting a few hours later and general misery for all included.

The end result has been the following:

  • We mostly eat at home. More restaurants have gluten-free options now, but we’re selective on where we go. (Tip: For a national chain, Chipotle actually comes through quite well).
  • We rarely eat bread. Eating a hunk of delicious, crusty baguette is one of my culinary pleasures in life, but I’ve mostly given it up. It doesn’t seem fair to nosh on fresh bread while Trixie sits on the sidelines. I know I could bake my own gluten-free bread, but this is me we’re talking about. Sometimes I still sneak and order delivery pizza when she’s asleep. Yes, I’m horrible but you already knew that.
  • For sandwiches, we buy Udi’s bread, which we usually store in the freezer and take out a few pieces at a time. They also make hamburger and hot dog buns, plus pizza crusts. This is a really good company for GF food.
  • We have two separate toasters, one for gluten and one without.
  • Similarly, there are two separate jars of peanut butter, jam, etc. Avoid cross-contamination.
  • We’ve taken the same vacation three years in a row (Number 4 coming up in May! I’ll post about that some other time), mostly because the staff bends over backwards to accommodate gluten-free diets.
  • Like most areas of my life, I pick my battles. While there are some nutritious cereals that are gluten-free, there are also some that are not. Like Cocoa and Fruity Pebbles. We eat a lot of Pebbles. Sigh.
  • Speaking of cereals, the real winner in the GF department is Chex. They have seven varieties of cereal without gluten.
  • And because Trixie’s a kid, she often gets invited to birthday parties, where she needs to bring her own treats. This was one of the saddest things to me when she was first diagnosed, imagining her having to tote some weird cupcake to eat at the party when the other kids had cake and ice cream. But she doesn’t seem to mind at all! Ideally, I would whip up a batch of GF cupcakes (Betty Crocker has a decent cake mix since I’m waaaay too lazy to bake from scratch) and keep them in the freezer, pulling out one or two for her to frost and decorate to her suiting before any event, but I usually forget and scramble, paying an exorbitant amount for frozen gluten-free cupcakes from our local food co-op.

For fun, we’ve also made a few recipes from the Chex website, including this cute fruit sushi. This picture is from the site, but with a little help from our older cousins, ours didn’t turn out much worse:

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Chex Fruit Sushi

Today, we’re going to try one of their recipes for peanut butter blossoms Chex mix. Since my domestic skills are weak, I’m recruiting the kiddos to help me. Hopefully with their assistance, I won’t ruin it.