Candy Bar-Inspired Bark

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About a year ago, I discovered Crispy Cat, a candy bar sold in the organic/health sections of many grocery stores. The front label states that it is vegan, gluten free, and all natural. Not only that, it is dark chocolate – the healthy chocolate. I bet your doctor would tell you that it is in your best interest to eat his candy, right?

I check out the bar in a green-colored wrapper; the flavor is Mint Coconut. The ingredients list organic brown rice crisp as one of the ingredients – the crispy part of the bar. Hmm, interesting. I’ve had chocolate with mint, chocolate with coconut, and chocolate with crisp rice. But all three together? Think of it as a York Peppermint Patty, Mounds Bar, and Nestle Crunch all in one. Curious, I bought one of these bars to see how it tastes. I tried it almost immediately as I got home.  Mmmm; that is one scrumptious candy bar!  I do not remember, but most likely, I ate the entire bar quickly, as it was that good.  I’ve bought this candy bar several times now when at the grocery store. Then, one day, it was not in stock.   The following week, same thing.  No Crispy Cat bars to be found.  After three or four weeks of wanting a Crispy Cat and not finding one, I went online and purchased a box of them.

Jump ahead to when the box of Crispy Cats are all gone.  The next time at the grocery store, I pick up a Mint Coconut Crispy Cat, which as usual sits next to the Toasted Almond Crispy Cat. Hmm, another thought – wouldn’t the tastes of the Mint Coconut and the Toasted Almond together be good?  It was then, that I decided to make my own chocolate treat.

I melted dark chocolate chips and chocolate mint chips together; the proportions were about 3:1 of chocolate to mint.  Then I stirred in some flaked coconut, sliced almonds, and crisped rice cereal.  (I did not measure anything;  I simply eyeballed it.) After spreading the mixture on a wax-lined baking sheet, I placed the baking sheet in the fridge.  In less than an hour’s time, I had my own Crispy Cat-like candy to enjoy.

The other day, I decided to make this chocolate bark again.  It was either the third or fourth time I have made this concoction. I did it differently this time, though.  Instead of mixing all the ingredients together, I stirred the crisped rice into the melted chocolate and spread it out on the baking sheet.  Then, I added the mint chips, almonds, and coconut, in different sections and in different combinations.

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Thinking of the pan of chocolate bark as a 3×3 grid, I placed different combinations of the three toppings on the chocolate mixture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This gives your guests (or customers?) a choice in what they would like to taste.  Myself, I’ll go for a piece of the bark which has all three toppings.

Care to try a sample?

Care to try a sample?

 

 

 

Is Gluten-Free Meant to Be?

So, I am still willing to give gluten-free cooking a try.  With a renal-restricted diet – limit sodium, potassium, calcium, and phosphorous – one more thing to monitor is making it even harder to find foods to prepare.  Many low-fat and low-sodium foods were not necessarily prepared without phosphorous.  (Check the ingredients – notice words like disodium phosphate or phosphoric acid?) There are many brands which offer gluten-free products, but what is the sodium content of these foods?  Believe me, I’ve gotten good at checking labels on foods (though there are still times when I feel lazy and make a purchase without checking the labels).

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I purchased King Arthurs’s gluten-free all-purpose flour and muffin mix, Cherrybrook Kitchen’s Gluten Free Dreams Pancake Mix, and Betty Crocker’s Bisquick Gluten Free. Now, we’ll just gloss over the fact that I shouldn’t have purchased the Bisquick due to the fact that two of the ingredients contain the word phosphate – but that was my error, not Betty Crocker’s.

It was morning, time for breakfast and I wanted pancakes.  I reach for the Bisquick Gluten Free and begin to read the directions on the box.  As with regular Bisquick, the back of the box contains directions for preparing pancakes, waffles, and biscuits.  When I saw the word “waffles,” I thought, “Mmm, waffles would be even better than pancakes.” I prepare the waffle batter exactly as the directions stated.  I pour some batter onto the waffle iron pan.  The heat level on the stove is medium, the temperature I use with this waffle iron.  I flip the pan after a couple of minutes.  A couple of minutes later, a lot of smoke is coming from the waffle iron – fortunately, the smoke detector did not go off.  I turn off the burner, remove the waffle iron, and open it up to find the waffle sticking to either side of the scallops.  This was a surprise, as less time has passed than usual when making waffles with this pan.

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Recipes for Gluten-Free

Can anyone suggest a gluten-free cookbook?  I know that there are several out there, but before I hit Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com, I was hoping someone who has gluten-free baking experience might recommend one.  I picked up recent copies of “Delight Gluten-Free,” “Gluten-Free Living,” and “Simply Gluten Free Magazine” to look over and see if I should subscribe to one or more of them.  How about a link to gluten-free recipes?  I enjoy searching for recipes on Taste of Home and All Recipes, but what about sites devoted to gluten-free cooking?

Go Gluten-Free – Maybe, Maybe Not

I have read a couple of online posts regarding gluten.  One was a study, while inconclusive, stated that people with kidney failure may regain kidney function by having a gluten-free diet. The other site featured posted comments, including a woman who stated that her kidneys hurt whenever she eats gluten, another woman who regained kidney function within weeks of going gluten-free, and a man who has been gluten-free for a long time but has experienced no improvement in his kidney function. My kidney doctor agrees that the research is inconclusive right now. However, it can’t hurt to try, can it?

Well, I already watch sodium because of my blood pressure and fat due to blood cholesterol. Now with kidney failure, I am to not only limit sodium, but also potassium, calcium, and phosphorus. Cut out gluten, and it makes it even harder to plan meals, grocery shop, and cook food with flavors which will make me want to eat it. I am used to buying low sodium and salt-free products. I do not use salt when I cook, the exception being certain recipes which will need some salt in the baking process. I flavor foods with herbs and other natural ingredients. Baking without gluten, though, not only changes the flavor, it often changes the texture as well. I’ve tried gluten-free burritos and pizza, the tortillas and pizza crusts made with rice or potato flour. They tasted good, yet neither one tasted as it should. In other words, the pizza looked like a pizza, but it did not taste like a pizza. Same for the burrito.

Recently, I purchased a box of Gluten-Free Apple-Oat Scones.  It is from Sticky Fingers Bakeries.  I have bought scone mixes of this brand in the past (not gluten-free), and I have been pleased with both appearance, texture, and taste of the scones.

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