As I am preparing for my son’s second birthday party in a few weeks, I’ve been making test batches of treats that I’m thinking about serving. I recently picked up a copy of Shauna James Ahern’s Gluten-Free Girl Every Day from the library (I love giving cookbooks a test run this way) and discovered some really amazing recipes. First I made her lemon yogurt cake, which was divine, and I completely devoured it during a few middle-of-the-night snacking sessions. Did I mention I’m pregnant? Shauna writes that this recipe is inspired by a lemon yogurt cake that Bill Yosses makes, who is the Executive Pastry Chef at the White House. I love it because it’s tart and not cloyingly-sweet like most cakes, but it was a little on the small size and I’d probably have to make about ten of them to feed everyone at this party. But I’ll be making it again for myself, that’s for sure!
The next recipe I tried was her chocolate chip cookies with hazelnuts, although I left the hazelnuts out because one of the kids coming to the party has nut allergies. These cookies recommend using teff flour, which pairs with chocolate oh so well. Marlon absolutely loves these, even though mine were a tad overbaked, and enjoys riding around the house on his push-car, happily crunching on half a cookie. They were a hit with my husband as well, so they’re definitely going to be our birthday party treat. Especially because you can whip up a few batches of batter the night before and bake them up in no time the morning of the party. That will save tons of time, and the flavors will have a chance to really develop while the batter is chilling. Everything improves with a chill in the fridge in my opinion. Especially pies. Mmmm, pumpkin pie… Did I mention I’m pregnant?
Even though I had my birthday party treat already picked out in two recipes, I had to sample a few more; so many in this cookbook look delicious! Last night I made a batch of coconut-cashew panna cottas and let them chill overnight (okay, one of them might have been eaten in the middle of the night), and we made the blueberry compote this morning and spooned some over it for a morning snack. Here’s the first one we ate:
Marlon absolutely devoured this; he’s on a real blueberry kick but he loved the pudding as well. I’d never made anything like this before, but it was super easy and was basically a creamy gelatin pudding, this one being dairy-free with homemade cashew cream and a can of coconut milk. Homemade cashew cream or milk is also much easier than it sounds. You simply soak some cashews in water for a few hours then blend them with some fresh water and ta-da. This was flavored with a vanilla bean and definitely satisfies my creamy dessert craving.
We also made the best pizza crust ever from this book, and it was so light and crispy I couldn’t believe it! I’ve made two of these so far and I just can’t get enough. Here’s the beauty right after coming out of the oven:
It was promptly consumed. The crust is so easy and quick to make, and only rises for an hour or two, and I couldn’t believe all the beautiful yeasty bubbles!
Marlon photobombed in this one. What a cute face. I topped mine with a smear of tomato sauce, a few slices of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and some red pepper flakes and fresh basil at the end. Perfect.
I just started getting back into baking after a month-long break after the holidays (burn-out), and was aghast to discover the state my poor oven had gotten into. Between all the pies and the enormous turkey we had on Thanksgiving, the bottom of my oven was a charred mess. I looked into easy oven cleaning tips, and read that spraying a mixture of baking soda and water all over the blackened mess a bunch of times would eat away at it, doing all the work for me. Score! Sounds perfect to me, since this mixture is completely edible, as I’m not into chemical fumes going into the place where I’m cooking my pizza crust at 500 degrees. In case you’re wondering, this is why I don’t put a piece of aluminum foil at the bottom of the oven like a lot of people do: fumes. I like to steer clear of heavy metals, so I avoid this simple trick.
This was seriously the easiest, greatest oven cleaning technique I’ve ever tried. I got a cheap 12-oz spray bottle (one that I bought at Lowe’s that was empty, not an old bottle that had chemicals in it before), spooned about 3 or 4 Tablespoons of baking soda into it, and filled it up the rest of the way with warm water. I put the cap on, shook it up real good to mix the two together, and sprayed the entire interior of my oven with it. The thing about this method is that you have to spray multiple times, about once a day or whenever you think of it, and let it build up. The baking soda reacts chemically with the carbon (the black stuff stuck to your oven) and simply eats away at it, reducing it to powder. After about a week or two, the black stuff that I thought was stained permanently onto the sides and bottom of my oven started to just wash off with the squirt of my spray bottle. That’s when I knew it was ready to wipe. I took a damp cloth and wiped all the powder and baking soda residue off the entire oven, and was left with this:
This might not be impressive to those of you who have ever bought your oven brand new, but I have always inherited VERY ancient ovens (every one has been that lovely “almond” shade that was popular in the seventies, but just looks like a white oven got kinda burnt), and I never thought I’d see it look like this. Especially with no toxic chemicals or back-breaking work! I must say the most impressive part was those two racks, which were completely black before I started this treatment. I actually didn’t know they were supposed to be silver, they were so stained. And I must say, I always clean up spills in my oven, and have tried scrubbing and soaking and scouring every surface, but was always left with those blackened, charred spots that I had always thought were permanent. Especially those racks! I only wish I had taken a before photo to see the comparison.
You can do this treatment on any of your bakeware that has those carbon stains, too, and I think I’ll try it on my cookie sheets sometime. My next goal is to get our drip pans on the stove looking as good as the oven, so I did take a before shot of those to see how dramatic the restoration is. Here’s one of my drip pans right after I soaked and scrubbed them:
Not that impressive for all the scrubbing I gave them! I hope the baking soda works wonders on these too. I have high hopes; that baking soda treatment was quite impressive.
Let me know if any of you try this treatment for yourself, and be sure to take before and after photos. It’ll blow you away!