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Cooking with Beer

Over the past few years, I have started to develop a taste and understanding for quality beers. Along with it has come the appreciation of pairing a good beer with food. Just as you would choose which wine to serve with you meal, a nice beer selection can often help accentuate the flavors of just about any dish. It’s not uncommon for me to now consider what beer to order or serve before selecting or preparing my main course. Needless to say, I was very excited when my sister-in-law (a.k.a. my SIL) gave me a cookbook full of beer-based recipes. We’re talking way more than just a hot dog beer boil here, people. Just as you would select the proper oil or vinegar as a liquid base, the style of beer that you use can help bring out a sweet maltiness to a sauce or a hoppy essence to a marinade. I’ll be sure to share some recipes with you as I experiment with this book. Thank you SIL!

This week, my good friend Emma shares with us her own beer-infused recipe…Gluten-Free Beer Battered Onion Rings! Just the combination of beer and home-made onion rings alone is enough to make my mouth water. But to put the two together? Genius!!!

Also featured this week is a delectable recipe from the one and only Una Mamma Italiana, as she shares with us her recipe for Italian Herb Beer Bread. Be sure to check out the Una Mamma Italiana blog for this and many more creative and tasty dishes.

Mangia and enjoy!

GLUTEN-FREE BEER BATTERED ONION RINGS


By Emma Caperelli Loerky

A few weeks ago my husband celebrated his birthday. When I asked him how he’d like to spend his day, he immediately spewed off a dinner and dessert menu. The menu consisted of filet mignon, sauteed mushrooms, Caesar salad, onion rings, and for dessert he asked for a key lime pie. Since my husband has Celiac disease, I knew I’d need to make some adjustments, but I felt that all of the things on the menu seemed pretty doable. I had a recipe for Caesar dressing that I had been wanting to try (no dairy and no raw egg), gluten-free croutons couldn’t be that hard (they weren’t and they were delicious!), I’ve made mushrooms countless times, and my husband is in charge of grilling the steaks. Even the pie, without the dairy and gluten, didn’t faze me. But the thought of making onion rings made me cringe.

You see, a few months ago I attempted to make gluten-free onion rings without success. They were greasy and gritty and I was in no rush to try my hand at making them again. However, being someone who adores onion rings, I completely understood how they would make this pretty basic dinner seem special, so I decided to try again. Am I glad I did! My experience making them this time was so much better than the last and the results were spectacular. Aside from the onion rings at my favorite BBQ joint, these were the best I’ve had. No lie.

The key is to have everything set up and ready to go. You want to make sure you have your oven preheated to 200 degrees (to keep the cooked onion rings warm while you are frying up the rest), a wire rack lined with paper towels close by, as well as a cookie sheet to transfer the freshly fried rings to the oven on. Oh, and lets not forget the batter and the onions themselves. It needs to be sort of an assembly line. Once that is accomplished, you want to make sure that you have your oil at the perfect temperature. If your oil isn’t hot enough, they will end up greasy and inedible. If it is too hot, they will burn QUICKLY. Even at the right temperature, these cook very fast, so you don’t want to let them out of your sight for very long. The time it takes you to transfer the rings to the oven is about all I would allow myself to be away from the frying pan. I used a cooking/candy thermometer to make sure that my oil was at the perfect frying temperature (365 degrees).

I almost forgot to mention the dipping sauce, which complimented the onion rings perfectly. In a nutshell – MAKE IT! Do yourself a favor though, double the recipe. I certainly will next time. 

Both recipes are adapted from http://www.glutenfreecookingschool.com/archives/lazy-mans-beer-battered-onion-rings/

Ingredients
1 Large Vidalia onion (or other sweet onion)
Approximately 2 cups soy milk
2 tbsp lemon juice
**Note: If you aren’t lactose intolerant, omit the soy milk and lemons and use buttermilk.

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1 tsp salt
about
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp canola oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup Redbridge Beer **(This is the amount the original recipe calls for, however, I had to add at least and additional 1/4 cup, possibly 1/2 cup more in order to get the right consistency. Unfortunately, I didn’t measure exactly how much I added. Start off with the recommended amount and slowly add more beer until it’s a nice thick consistency, similar to a pancake batter.)
Vegetable oil (for frying)

Directions
Mix together the lemon juice and soy milk and let stand while you slice the onions into rings about 1/2 inch wide. Soak the onions in the soy milk mixture (or buttermilk) for about an hour in the fridge. Make the beer batter by mixing all remaining ingredients, adding as much beer as described above. Let the batter rest in the fridge while the onions soak.

After about an hour, heat enough vegetable oil to coat a large frying pan (or cast iron skillet) by about 1 inch. The temperature should read 365 degrees on a thermometer. Drain the onions in a colander while waiting for the oil to come to temperature. When the oil is ready, dip the onion rings, one at a time, into the batter and gently lower them into the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan. After approximately 3 minutes, flip the rings and cook on the other side for about another 3 minutes. They should be a light golden color when finished. Transfer the rings to a wire rack lined with paper towels to drain the excess oil and sprinkle with additional salt while they are still hot. Repeat with the remaining onions, keeping the cooked onion rings warm in the oven.

Creamy Wasabi Dipping Sauce

Ingredients
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (I couldn’t find plain soy yogurt, so I just used 1/2 cup mayonnaise)
2 heaping tsp ketchup
1 heaping tsp tomato paste
1 tsp Wasabi paste (I used a bit more)
Dash of Tabasco sauce (This was a last minute addition made my me but can be omitted)
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly and enjoy.


ITALIAN HERB BEER BREAD  

 

By Una Mamma Italiana


Most simple Italian recipes stem from the poor regions of Italy, where they cooked with whatever foods grew regionally. I’m talking about authentic Peasant Food, which happens to be my FAVORITE way to eat Italian. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate gourmet Italian fare, but I grew up on the simple flavors of Italian cooking straight from the garden. This is one of those recipes.


Ingredients

3 cups flour

1 Tbsp baking Powder

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp Italian Seasoning

2 tsp salt

12 z. beer


Directions

Mix all dry ingredients. Add the beer and stir (dough will be slightly wet, like a biscuit dough). Place dough in a well oiled loaf pan. Brush the top with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Once it comes out of the oven, brush the top with e.v.o.o. again and sprinkle with sea salt. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slice.

BONUS RECIPE!!!

As coincidence may have it, Una Mamma has also posted a tasty Onion Ring recipe this week on her blog. Since I was FINALLY able to put an end to her ongoing food challenge victories, I thought it would only be appropriate that I share with you the link to her Italian Fried Onion Rings as well. Enjoy!
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New Guest Recipe – Gingerbread

It’s beginning to look (and feel) a lot like Christmas! As we quickly approach the holidays, what better way to celebrate than with a delicious gingerbread! This week, my good friend Emma shares with us a fantastic gingerbread recipe, and also works her magic to give us a gluten-free version! Enjoy!

Where to begin with this month’s blog? I guess I should start by telling you that I had every intention of blogging about Struffoli (aka Honey Balls) for the Christmas season. My intentions were so good that I actually went out and bought an expensive, imported bottle of Limoncello for that exact purpose. However, a million other little things happened to prevent me from getting the chance to make it. For example, my cat got sick…twice! And I took in some foster kittens even though I said I was going to take a break until after the holidays. And, of course, I got hit with the cold from hell. All of this in between wanting to spend as much time with all of the people whom I love that happened to be visiting from out of town this month.

So, I decided to blog about a recipe that I had made before and knew would turn out well. It’s a gingerbread recipe by Emeril that I came across a few years ago. This recipe has been bulletproof for me. Seriously, I have made countless substitutions to this recipe and each time I’ve had perfect results. I’ve done everything from using dark molasses in place of the regular (and/or a combination of the two when I’ve fallen short of one or the other), to adding bittersweet chocolate chips. In case you’re thinking about adding the chocolate chips (which I highly recommend), let me just warn you that they did sink to the bottom of the pan during baking. I’m pretty sure this can be remedied by coating the chips in 1 – 2 tbsp of the flour mixture before adding it to the batter, or you can always try sprinkling the chips on top before baking. Either way, I think they were a delicious addition and worthy of trying again.

When making this recipe into the gluten-free version, I discovered that I didn’t have quite enough of any of the various gluten-free flours that I keep around. So, I ended up using equal parts of two different gluten-free flour blends. In the end, the recipe worked. My only complaint is that it rose a little too high and collapsed slightly in the middle after baking, but that can easily be fixed by adjusting the amount of baking soda in the recipe. Most importantly, it had no negative effect on the taste or texture of the bread.

Oh, and did I mention that dark beer plays a huge role in this gingerbread? I didn’t, did I? Well it does, and I think it may be what sets this gingerbread apart from all other gingerbread recipes. Since making this bread a few years ago, I have learned that while I don’t care for the taste of dark beer on it’s own, I love the flavor it lends to baked goods. And, more often than not, I will have a few bottles of it stashed in my fridge just in case I get the urge to bake with it.

GINGERBREAD
by Emeril Lagasse

Ingredients
1 stick unsalted butter (room temp)
1 cup turbinado sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup molasses (regular or dark will work, but I prefer the dark)
1 cup Guinness, or other dark beer

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch cake pan and line with parchment paper. (Please note: I usually use the mini foil loaf pans instead of the cake pan and bake for approximately 10 minutes more than called for. I get two loaves, which are the perfect size for gift-giving. On several occasions, I’ve even made it in a full loaf pan. I can’t quite remember how long it took to bake but I want to say about an hour and 15 minutes, and you may need to tent the pan with foil to prevent the top from getting too dark.)

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves, and nutmeg, In a third bowl, combine the molasses and beer and stir to dissolve. Add the dry ingredients and beer mixture alternately to the egg mixture, starting with and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until puffed and set, about 35 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool in the pan on a wire rack.

GLUTEN-FREE GINGERBREAD
adapted from Emeril Lagasse

Ingredients
1 stick unsalted butter (room temp)
1 cup turbinado sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups gluten-free flour mix (I used 1 cup King Arthur Flour’s g/f flour blend and 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill g/f flour blend)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (I had a minor issue with this recipe puffing up and collapsing slightly in the middle, so you may want to adjust the amount of baking soda used.)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup molasses (regular or dark will work, but I prefer the dark, especially since the g/f beer I used is not as dark as the Guinness)
1 cup Redbridge Gluten-free beer

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch cake pan and line with parchment paper. (Please note: I usually use the mini foil loaf pans instead of the cake pan and bake for approximately 10 minutes more than called for. I get two loaves, which are the perfect size for gift-giving. On several occasions, I’ve even made it in a full loaf pan. I can’t quite remember how long it took to bake but I want to say about an hour and 15 minutes, and you may need to tent the pan with foil to prevent the top from getting too dark.)

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. In a medium bowl, sift the gluten-free flour, xanthan gum, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves, and nutmeg, In a third bowl, combine the molasses and beer and stir to dissolve. Add the dry ingredients and beer mixture alternately to the egg mixture, starting with and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until puffed and set, about 35 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool in the pan on a wire rack.

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NEW – Thanksgiving Desserts: Pumpkin Layer Cake & Gluten-Free Pumpkin, Sweet Potato & Coconut Pie

It’s that special time of year again, when we gather with family and friends to give thanks, prepare for the upcoming holiday season and celebrate with an amazing meal. Over the past two years, I have shared a few suggestions for Thanksgiving side dishes, desserts and drinks (you can visit my previous posts by clicking here and here). Because my mom is the one in charge of our holiday feast, my suggested recipes are slim and unfortunately I have offered all that I can (for now!). Luckily, my friend Emma has once again offered to share with us a few of her favorite Thanksgiving recipes. Thank you, Emma, for sharing. And thanks to all of you for for continuing to check out Cucina Domenico. May you and yours have a blessed, happy and healthy Thanksgiving!
Ciao!

Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I have decided bring you two recipes that would be a nice addition to your Thanksgiving table. Both are a dessert and both feature pumpkin. This time I am going to offer you one that is gluten-free as well as one that is not. Both are equally delicious and I hope you enjoy them.
 

BROWN BUTTER PUMPKIN LAYER CAKE

Adapted from Fine Cooking

There are two things that set this cake apart from other cakes I’ve made in the past – the brown butter both in the batter and in the frosting, and the sweet yet salty nut topping. Let me just say that browning the butter takes this cake from good to excellent, and I don’t think I’ll ever make buttercream icing again without browning the butter first. It was amazing! That being said, I followed the recipe exactly except for using canned pumpkin purée instead of making my own, doubling both the frosting and the topping and I also weighed the flour instead of using a measuring cup. Based on the reviews I read, I thought that doing so would ensure that the cake wouldn’t be too dense. I had fantastic results and I definitely think you should do the same. While I didn’t use all of the frosting or the topping, I used much more than 1 batch would’ve provided. Believe me, you will find something to use the leftover frosting on if you don’t eat it all as is (like we did). Next time I make this, I may make cupcakes out of it to make sharing easier. 

Ingredients:

For the cake
1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée
9 oz. (or 2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
3/4 cup unsalted butter; more for pans
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk

For the topping (I am writing this as the recipe stated but I doubled it)
1 1/2 tbs unsalted butter
2/3 cup pecans
1/2 cup unsalted, raw, hulled pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
2 tbs firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp table salt
1 1/2 tbs chopped crystallized ginger

For the frosting (I am writing this as the recipe stated but I doubled it)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

Make the cake
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the over to 350 degrees F.

 

Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms (or butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour the pans). 

Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not set, about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves. In a large bowl, whisk 1-1/2 cups of the pumpkin purée with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until very well blended. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently whisk in the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake the cakes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto racks, remove the pan bottoms or parchment, and cool completely.

Make the topping
Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and pepitas and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pepitas begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. Stir in the ginger. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet.

Make the frosting
Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Assemble the cake
Put one cake layer on a cake plate. Spread 1/2 cup of the frosting on the layer. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the nut mixture over the frosting and top with the second layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Arrange the remaining topping in a ring 1-1/2 inches in from the edge of the cake and serve.

GLUTEN-FREE PUMPKIN, SWEET POTATO & COCONUT PIE

When I first saw this recipe I thought it looked like a lot of flavors going on at one time, too many in fact. But when I read the recipe and noticed that the coconut came in the form of coconut milk, and that it didn’t call for any other form of milk, I knew I had to try this. Since my husband can’t have milk products, I have struggled to find a decent pumpkin pie recipe for him. They always seem to lack something either in the consistency or the flavor. This pie was perfect. It has a nice texture and the flavors work well together. It tastes like a pumpkin pie with a nice subtle hint of coconut. My son, who says he dislikes coconut and can eat gluten, asked for seconds. And my husband loved it as well.

As far as the crust goes, I like to make my own using King Arthur Flour’s Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour blend. I’ve had the best results with this product but you can use any brand you like. And when rolling out the dough, I have found it easier to roll it out between two pieces of plastic wrap. That way I don’t have to use any additional flour which helps in keeping it from getting too dry. This technique has worked the best for me when making a gluten-free pie crust. Also, in order to create the leafy trim around the crust, I made two separate batches of pie crust and I used a pie crust leaf shaped cutter.

Three things about this recipe that I’d like to point out. First, I used a ricer for the potatoes. I actually had to force them through several times and I was concerned that there wasn’t going to be enough filling because of all of the potatoes that were left behind. In the end, there was plenty of filling. And second, because of the long cooking time, you will definitely have to cover the crust with foil or a pie shield about an hour into cooking. And third, it is very important to refrigerate the crust before baking, so please don’t skip that part!

Gluten-Free Pie Crust
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbs cold butter
1 large egg
2 tsp lemon juice or vinegar

Directions:
Lightly grease a pie pan

Whisk together the flour, sugar, xanthan gum, and salt.

Cut the cold butter into pats, then work the pats into the flour mixture until it’s crumbly, with some larger, pea-sized chunks of butter remaining.

Whisk the egg and vinegar or lemon juice together until very foamy. Mix into the dry ingredients. Stir until the mixture holds together, adding 1 to 3 additional tablespoons of cold water if necessary.

Shape into a ball and chill for an hour, or up to overnight.

Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before rolling.

Roll the dough out between two pieces of plastic wrap and invert into the prepared pie pan.

Wrap loosely with plastic wrap and place the unbaked pie crust in the refrigerator for at least a half hour before baking.

Filling
Adapted for Fine Cooking

Ingredients:
1-1/4 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 small cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
3 whole cloves
1 small star anise, crumbled
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
15-oz. can pure solid-pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbs. multi-purpose gluten-free flour
3/4 tsp. table salt
1/2 cup well-stirred canned coconut milk (not coconut cream)
3/4 cup cold whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks with 1-1/2 Tbs. granulated sugar

Directions:
In a medium saucepan, combine the sweet potatoes, cinnamon stick pieces, cloves, star anise, and ginger slices with enough water to just cover the contents. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the sweet potatoes are very tender when pierced with a fork or skewer, about 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes, reserving the boiling liquid. Return the potatoes to the pot over low heat and toss to dry them a bit. Discard the cinnamon, cloves, and star anise. Force the warm potatoes through a ricer, a food mill, or a sieve. Boil the liquid if needed, until reduced to 1/4 cup. Let the sweet potato mash and the liquid cool.

Position an oven rack in the lower half of the oven; heat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and sweet potato purée. Whisk in the egg, egg yolk, melted butter, and reserved spiced liquid. In a separate bowl, stir together the granulated and brown sugars with a wire whisk until any large lumps of brown sugar are gone. Sift the gluten-free flour and salt over the sugars; stir to blend. Add the sugar-flour mixture to the pumpkin and stir well until no pockets of sugar are visible. Blend in the coconut milk.

Scrape the filling into the chilled pie shell; smooth the top. Brush the pie crust with an egg beaten with 1 tbs water and sprinkle with turbinado sugar (optional) and bake for 1-3/4 to 2 hours, turning the pie several times so it bakes evenly. The point of a thin-bladed knife should come out clean when inserted into the center of the filling, and the edges of the surface will be unevenly cracked. If the edges of the pastry darken too much before the filling is cooked, cover them with a pie shield or strips of aluminum foil. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

 

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New Guest Recipe: Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cupcakes

With the second anniversary of the Cucina Domenico blog coming up, it is no secret that networking has played a major part in gathering my blog followers and readers. From my co-blogging project with Una Mamma Italiana and earning a spot on Lorraine Ranalli’s Cucina Chatter radio broadcast, to forming Facebook friendships with Johnny “Meatballs” DeCarlo and many other food bloggers, I am very grateful for the opportunities that networking has brought.

This week I am very proud to introduce a new friend to the Cucina Domenico readers. Emma Caperelli Loerky is a South Philly native who I had the pleasure of becoming Facebook ‘friends’ with via this blog. I would often notice the fantastic recipes that Emma would post. Her recipes are always very creative and beautifully presented. They are also often gluten free. Being very impressed with her creativity and focus on gluten free recipes, I approached Emma about contributing some of her recipes to my blog, and am very happy that she has agreed to do so.

This week we are featuring Emma’s Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cupcakes…just in time for all your Halloween parties! You will have the opportunity to read more of Emma’s contributions in future Guest Recipe posts here at Cucina Domenico. You can also read more about Emma and her approach to gluten free cooking below.

Welcome to the Cucina, Emma!

Hello all,

I’d first like to thank Dominic for giving me the opportunity to contribute to his blog. I’m really excited and flattered and I hope to be able to bring you recipes that you find useful. My name is Emma, and, like Dominic, I was born and raised in South Philly. I also raised my son, Jake, there for the first 12 years of his life. In 2006, I moved to San Diego to marry my best friend, Karl.

Up until I met my husband, I had never thought I’d leave South Philly. I had also never heard of Celiac Disease, which is an autoimmune disease in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged from eating gluten and other proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats (I borrowed that definition from Google, people). Being Italian American and growing up in South Philly, where macaroni, meatballs, and sausage (aka Gravy) is the mandatory Sunday dinner, and the soft pretzel is a food group (seriously, as a child we were given soft pretzels in school along with milk at snack time), I was baffled.

Anyway, in the past 5 years, I’ve learned to read labels and I’m learning how to cook and bake for my husband. I should also mention that my husband cannot have milk products. Apparently, it’s quite common for people with Celiac Disease to become intolerant to dairy products as well. Fortunately, my husband can still have eggs and butter. So, needless to say, I’ve had quite a few mishaps and I’m not always successful, but I have come across a few recipes that I think are worthy of sharing. I should point out that not everything I make is gluten free. My son and I still eat gluten, and, quite often, I will make two versions of the same dish. Even though it can be time-consuming, doing that allows me to freeze any extra gluten free portions, and it also cuts down on cost since gluten free products can be quite expensive.

One last tidbit about myself, I am a mother and housewife who, besides cooking and baking and having 2 dogs and 2 cats of my own, also fosters cats and dogs. Once a week, my family and I volunteer at our local animal shelter as well. Aside from having dinner together as a family each night, volunteering has become a family ritual and we look forward to it every week.

These are the things that bring my family together and I’m excited to share some of our favorite recipes with you. Hopefully, you will enjoy them as well and share them with your own families.

Mangiamo!

GLUTEN FREE PEANUT BUTTER CUPCAKES
yields 24 cupcakes but can be halved to make 12

When Dominic first asked me to submit a recipe to his food blog, the first ingredient I thought about using was pumpkin. Of course since it’s fall, pumpkin is one of the more obvious choices. But it’s also Halloween, which happens to be my favorite time of year. That led me to think about candy and what I could come up with based on a popular candy bar. So, I thought it would be fun to make a chocolate peanut butter cupcake that would be similar to a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. I found tons of recipes and I was able to come up with a gluten free version on my first try. I actually halved the recipe because I was sure that it would take at least two attempts, so I was pleasantly surprised when they came out perfect on the first try. I was so pleased that I couldn’t just stick to my initial plan of having a peanut butter cupcake with a chocolate icing. I knew I wanted to do something with fluff, so I made a fluff icing and used a peanut butter icing as a filling. Basically, they are a gluten free Fluffernutter cupcake. I used that same peanut butter icing to decorate my chocolate peanut butter cupcakes as well. Let me just add that I am aware that I am not going to win any prizes for my cupcake decorating skills, but I think they came out pretty cute considering that I have no clue what I’m doing. So, I have two different icings and a ganache to go with the gluten free peanut butter cupcake. I was tempted to fill some with raspberry jelly, but I didn’t want to get too carried away, especially since I also planned on making a non-gluten free version. But you best believe that I will be making these again, and when I do, there will be jelly involved!

I’d also like to point out that I used this gluten free flour with excellent results. It is my new favorite gluten free flour and I recently discovered that I can find it at my local Whole Foods. I’d also like to mention that I adapted my recipe from one that I found on allrecipes.com.

Ingredients:
2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup peanut butter (not natural)
2 eggs at room temperature
1/4 cup milk (I used soy milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Multi-Purpose Flour Blend
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 pinch of salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat brown sugar, shortening, and peanut butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time until well blended, then add vanilla and applesauce and beat until combined. In another bowl, combine gluten free flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and xanthan gum. Stir dry ingredients into the wet ingredients alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Spoon into lined muffin cups and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. The cupcakes are done when the tops spring back when touched.

Chocolate Ganache
Ingredients:
8 oz chocolate chips
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk (I used soy milk)

Directions:
Put all the ingredients into the bowl of a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, just place a bowl on top of a pan of simmering water. Make sure the water does not touch the bowl or you risk scorching the chocolate. Stir frequently until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and let cool slightly before using.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Ingredients:
1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter
1 cup peanut butter (not natural)
2 cups confectioners sugar
1/3 cup cream or milk (I used soy milk)

Directions:
Beat the butter and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar and slowly add enough milk or cream until it reaches a good consistency (you may not need all of the milk).

Assembling the Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes:
After the cupcakes have cooled, dip the tops of them in the slightly cooled ganache and let them set in the fridge for about an hour. You can then make “webs” out of the peanut butter icing by drawing circles on top of the cupcake then dragging them outward using a toothpick. Or you can just pipe a dollop on top of the cupcake, or, better yet, you can fill the inside of each cupcake with the peanut butter icing, which is what I wished I would have done in the first place.

Fluffernutter Cupcakes with Fluff Icing
Ingredients:
1/2 lb room temperature unsalted butter
7 1/2 oz jar Fluff
2 cups confectioners sugar

Directions:
Beat butter until creamy. Add marshmallow fluff and slowly add sugar.

Assembling the cupcakes:
Using a cupcake plunger, remove a portion of the center of each cupcake. Pipe a small amount of the Peanut Butter Icing into the center of each cupcake. Pipe the tops of each cupcake with the Fluff Icing.

One last thing, those cute little bats you see are edible and I got them at etsy.com.

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