Baking: successes and failures

I have been doing a lot of baking lately– some of which has turned out very nicely, while other things have been massive failures.

Last weekend I had some friends from grad school (all also Nutritionists) over for a Christmas potluck.  I made my non-dairy nacho recipe (which I call “Not-Chos”)– picture and recipe at the end of the post.    I also made cupcakes from my absolute favorite cake mix– Namaste Foods Gluten Free Cake Mix– over the years we’ve tried just about every mix on the market and this is by far my favorite.   Mixes, of course, are the easiest way to assure gluten free baking turn out well, but where’s the challenge in that?

The difference was subtle, but definite-- the cookies on the left are following the recipe properly. Those on the right (with brown sugar) puffed up more and are shown on the right.

Next I tried making this recipe for gluten-free snickerdoodles.  I realized I was out of cream of tartar and did not have enough regular sugar, but it was 5pm and I didn’t feel like going to the store at rush-hour, so I used brown sugar and extra baking powder.    The cookies came out bland and doughy.   I complained on facebook about it and my friend E (who is such an expert baker that she really ought to open a bakery) informed me that cream of tartar is a key ingredient in snickerdoodles.  I had no idea!  So off to the store I went and at 9pm I made a new batch exactly as written (though I did use organic, less refined sugar) and the difference was striking! Much more depth of flavor and a lighter, chewier texture.

I took most of the good ones to work, and sent the failed batch to work with Mr. Brie (both versions received rave reviews).  I especially wanted to bring something yummy and gf to work since one of my co-workers is a newly diagnosed Celiac and there has been a ton of  treats at work all gluten-filled.

This week I made this recipe for chocolate chip cookies, which is my favorite recipe to date– however the last couple of times I have made these I used a 350 degree oven but the recipe calls for 375– I used the written temp this time and I ended up over cooking them– this may be due to my new oven running hotter than the old one.   I also tried to make gluten-free Madelines but the failure was laughable!  They turned out puffy like odd pancakes.   I’ve been meaning to try the recipe on gluten-free girl but don’t have all the ingredients– I have no doubt her recipe would turn out properly.

I have been feeling like I’ve been getting FAR too much sugar in my diet lately and attempted this recipe for sugar-free, grain free cupcakes yesterday.  I really really wanted to like them– they actually didn’t taste bad– a bit dry but unfortunately the bean/coconut flour combination sat in my stomach like a brick for HOURS afterward.  I would drink tea and water trying to get it to move down and I could feel the liquid move around the solid sitting there.   Because I’m apparently a glutton for punishment, I tried eating one this morning, thinking I just had too much yesterday (I had two) but no, now it is sitting there like I swallowed it whole.    The only good thing is I made only a half batch as cupcakes so when I threw the rest out it was much less of a waste than it otherwise would have been!

I’m trying to figure out what dessert to make for Christmas dinner– I may make the cake mix again, since I really like it and only usually have it a couple times a year.  I also have a recipe somewhere for a coconut milk/chocolate pie that I think is pretty good.


Usually we think of nachos as being high calorie with minimal nutritional value.  For the dairy-allergic person they are definitely off limits.  This version is high in fiber, healthy fats, protein and vitamins.  Choose blue corn chips when available as they have a lower glycemic index and less starch then their yellow friends.

Prep Time: approximately 50 minutes

Serves 4

1 large yam, peeled and cut into chunks

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

½ a large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoons chili powder

2-3 cups black beans, well drained

sea salt, to taste

2 cups baby spinach

1 cup salsa

1 cup guacamole (recipe below)

blue corn chips

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place chopped yam into a baking dish with about ¼ inch of water.  Cover and bake about 35 minutes or until very soft.  When they are finished, mash slightly with the back of a fork but maintain a chunky texture.
  2. Heat large skillet over medium heat.  Add the olive oil, onions and garlic.  Sauté until onions are soft and transparent—about 6 minutes.
  3. Add cumin, chili powder, black beans, and salt.  Sauté 1-2 minutes until beans are warm.  Use a fork to mash the beans until slightly mushy.
  4. Add the spinach to the pan and a second tablespoon of olive oil.  Continue sauté until spinach wilts.
  5. Spread the mashed yams at the bottom of a large serving dish.  Layer the bean-spinach mixture on top of the yams, followed by the salsa and guacamole.  Serve with blue corn chips.

Original Recipe by Brieats, Copyright 2010

Good Times Guacamole

This recipe was taught to me by my good friend Laura, who is also a nutrition student.  Laura and I make this together frequently, and the best version we ever made was in a hotel room in San Diego while we were on a road trip.  I like guacamole on everything from scrambled eggs to salad.  Use your imagination!

Prep time: 5 minutes

Serves 2

1 avocado

¼ of a medium onion, diced very fine

1 large clove of garlic, minced

sea salt to taste

  1. Cut around avocado lengthwise and twist open.  Use the tip of your knife to nudge out the pit.
  2. With a large spoon scoop out the avocado in to a bowl and then mash with a fork.
  3. Add diced onion and garlic and mix well.
  4. Start by adding a pinch of salt and mixing and build salt slowly to taste.  If you are eating guacamole with chips be sure to taste it with the chip as chips can vary in saltiness.

Original Recipe by brieats, copyright 2010

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