Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dinner: Curry!

What happens when we cook together....

I'll admit... the last two weeks have been a little on the lazy side. And yet, at the same time hectic & stressful to absolutely no end. But we came home from our Christmas 'tour' on Tuesday. And the tally on the trip odometer was (drumroll please).... 3247.9 kms. Sigh. Needless to say, I'm glad we're home. And even more thankful that I had a day of nothing in between arriving home and going back to work. Today however, was that day that we all dread. Back to work. Back to real life. Back to reality.

Until yesterday, there was nothing in the fridge aside from condiments and two soggy tomatoes that were left behind last week. Oh, and a smidge of almond milk at the bottom of the carton. It takes months for that stuff to go bad anyways... Yesterday, we went grocery shopping. And although we ate cookies, chocolates and deviled eggs on the couch for dinner last night (one needs to emerge from the cloudiness of Christmas with ease you know), tonight we made real food.



Tonight we had curry. Curries rather. Butter Chicken & Paneer Palak-sans Paneer that is. Generally the texture of the cheese is far too tofu-ish for my liking. Plus, we're going dairy-free in the new year. And that's only one more day of meals away. But we'll cheat once a month, because "someone" isn't terribly keen on returning full force to his sans-dairy childhood. I suppose when you grow up on lasagna without cheese you develop a requirement for all lasagna to have cheese from there on in. And really, I can't blame him...

Dinner tonight was missing a little something though. Other than the saffron in the rice.... (p.s. our rice is purple as we use a blend of jasmine brown rice with red thai rice). Next time I'll be having naan with my curry. And if I'm feeling a little more motivated that day, you'll be in luck & maybe you'll be having gluten free naan too!

Happy New Year dear readers. There shall be motivation, experimentation, new foods and love in my kitchen in 2011, and I hope for the same in yours as well.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Few Things I Think You Should Probably Have In Your Kitchen

(This is just the basics. And just MY opinion...)

One of my boxing day weaknesses are kitchen gadgets. Things that I may find crazy on sale, but really don't have room for once I get home. I have a pretty small kitchen believe it or not! So, for the most part things with only one use don't live in my kitchen. There are a few exceptions however...

There's of course a million different one-purpose items that you can have in your kitchen like a garlic press, a can opener, a meat thermometer, a citrus reamer and cookie cutters (I could go on and on!). All of which I own, but only some of which I actually use. So in order to save you some valued kitchen space, here's what made the list!


Baking
-Mixing Bowls: glass is good (I've found tons of beauties at antique markets-for cheap too!)
-Measuring Cups (these kind and these kind)
-Measuring Spoons ( I like these and these!)
-Spatulas (get a sturdy yet flexible one and one like this- because it's pretty cool!)
-Whisk
-Wooden Spoons (toss anything from the pre-celiac days)
-Stainless Steel cookie sheets (forget about that non-stick junk -have you heard how bad that s**t is!?!?)
-Rolling Pin (I know, I know... enough with the no-wood-it-holds-old-gluten, right?)



Cooking
-Cast Iron pan (I'll never go back)
-GOOD pots, maybe like these!
-GOOD knives (if you can afford it, go with these)
-Cutting Board (donate the old wood ones-I LOVE my new bamboo board!)
-Cheese (box) grater
-SieveStrainer



Other
-One Of These (I'll tell you all about my vermiculture one day!)
-Timer (if you don't have one already on your stove/microwave etc)
-Toaster (you'll need a new one once you go gf sunshine!)


 Goodies:
-I <3 my mandolin, even though I chopped off a very painful chunk of finger with it the first time I used it (I'll spare you the picture of THAT!)


 -I also <3 my bamboo steamer that Mr. C got me a 2 or 3 Christmases ago.


-Something else I've been thinking about lately is a kitchen scale.Gluten Free Girl has a great article on the importance of weighing things in your kitchen. Gave me something to think about. And maybe you too!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Date Squares

(I swear to you, this is not a raisin!)

Dates are something that I have avoided since I became gluten free. Well, I never really ate them before either now that I think about it... Every once in awhile I'd glance at them in the produce section at the grocery store and think "Ew, look at those wrinkly, pruney things. I hate prunes!". Prunes seem to the be solve-all food item for some of my family members, causing me to have quite the aversion to them as an adult.  And these resembled them dangerously. 

When I came across a gluten free recipe for date squares a week or so ago, I sort of dismissed it. Then went back and added it into my "recipe database" for further consideration. But every time I went back in to said database for something, it was there. Taunting me. And today, there are date squares baking in my oven. Today, I bought dates. And even went so far as to "sneak" a taste of one as I was chopping them... 


Now, this recipe is not mine. I found it somewhere & can't seem to figure out where. It belongs to someone; who that is, I have yet to determine. I have searched through "over 500" blog posts in my Google Reader, and typed in all kinds of search words into my browsing history, but I cannot seem to figure out where I got this recipe from! If you recognize it, let me know (I have taken her photos out & included my own).


Date Squares
½ cup cornstarch
1/3 cup brown rice flour
3 Tbsp tapioca starch
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups gf oats(I use Only Oats brand which is non-contaminated)
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp xanthan gum
1 cup butter(melted)
½ lb(225 g) chopped, pitted dates
½ cup water



Mix together the first 8 ingredients fully, then add the melted butter and gently stir until combined. 
Set aside.


 Cook dates and water in a small pot on the stove, mixing periodically until a gooey paste forms.


Spray and line a 8×8 pan (I spray, then line my pan with parchment paper for easier removal of squares)
 
Press ½ of oat mixture on pan.
 
Spread date filling evenly over oat layer.
 
Top with remaining oats and spread out.
 
Bake in 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.


Allow to cool completely before removing and cutting squares.


*Note: I generally don't follow recipes very well. In fact, I "can't" sew because I can't follow a pattern & end up getting insanely frustrated when it doesn't turn out. I tend more to just try something out and hope that it works. However, today while making this recipe, I had a bit of a problem. The recipe says to line the pan with parchment. Generally, this means that if you don't, your baking will stick to the bottom like nobody's business & you will be reduced to consumption out of a bowl with a spoon. However, I had already pressed the crust into the bare pan. Oh the dilemma.

On a slightly related note, we're heading out of town tomorrow morning for Christmas. These here date squares are the last of my Christmas baking. As gifts. So between not having enough time or ingredients for a second batch, I decided to do what I should probably always do & fix it. I even washed the pan before I put the parchment paper in. 

Just so ya know. Oh, and it probably wont happen again...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Product Review: Udi's Pizza Crusts

I'm just going to say right up front that I am not doing this via any sort of request from the company in question. I LOVE Udi's bread, and while trying to decide what was for dinner today at the grocery store, I grabbed these & figured I'd give them a try. 


We have a gluten free pizza dough recipe that we both love, but it's a bit on the labour intensive side. Anything involving yeast does I suppose. Plus you have to bake the crusts before topping them (and then bake them again). Sometimes I'm just not game for that much work!


With only half a brain, I forgot a few things while at the store, but we made do with some leftover pasta sauce out of the fridge & got creative with some pesto on the second pizza. Turned out to be a delicious decision!


 Pizza #1: Udi's crust, pasta sauce, prosciutto, black olives, fresh red pepper & olive and tomato gouda.


 Pizza #2: Udi's crust, pesto, smoked wild salmon, artichoke hearts & parmesan cheese.


 The edges of the crust did brown up a bit, unlike some gluten free baked items.


 Strangely however, they turned up a bit during the 6-8 minutes the pizza was in the oven. 


If you're a fan of the thin crust, this just might be the one for you. The non-Celiac in the house gave them 6.5/10 compared to his favorite thin crust, but did say that they were better than any other store bought crusts we've tried. And I agree.


In the end, I'd chalk this up to an easy dinner. The time it took for the oven to heat up to 450F was just long enough to get the toppings on the crusts & in they went! We'll probably stick to our usual recipe, but it's always good to try new things! Especially when everything else you've had from the company has been amazing!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How to eat a Pomegranate: The easy way

Pomegranates are in season until February, and I am tempted to get one every time I walk into the grocery store. As a child I recall my mom bringing one home, and we eating it as a family one night after dinner. I remember individually pulling the arils from the fruit with caution being urged not to stain our clothes. Until recently I squished the juice out of the aril in my mouth and spit out the "seed". Apparently you can eat it. And apparently there's an easier way to eat a pomegranate other than by pulling each aril from the fruit one by one....

 Source: http://www.pomwonderful.com/products/freshfruit/parts-of-the-pomegranate/

 
Step one: buy a pomegranate. You want to choose one that seems heavy for its size compared to the others (this means there will be more juicy goodness inside!). Don't worry about what the outside looks like, it's irrelevant.


Step two: cut the crown off & score the pomegranate vertically.


Step three: submerge the pomegranate in water and soak it for five minutes.


Step four: simply pull the sections apart. Peel the rind off & separate the clumps of arils until you don't have any chunks of albedo left. Bits of membrane hanging around in the bowl is okay though, because now you're going to add water to your bowl. And those bits of membrane? They float to the top! How awesome is that! Just skim them off, drain the water & eat your juicy little arils up! 


 Part of our Christmas dinner menu this year includes an Arugula & Pomegranate salad, which I will share with you shortly!



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mr. C's Spaghetti

This my friend, is bachelor food. This is the one dish that a man makes for whoever he may be trying to impress this week. Well, the man in our house anyways. The "famous spaghetti" as it's known, has its origins in his parent's kitchen, many years ago. And now it has come to our kitchen.


Traditionally this pasta is served with "hockey pucks" aka cheesy garlic toast. In past, these are put into the oven just before dinner is ready so that they can go straight from the oven to the table. However, nine times out of ten someone forgets them in the oven and there is a mad dash to the oven halfway through dinner. Hence, looking like blackened little rounds: hockey pucks!

*1 pkg (3 sausages) Spolumbo's Sausage
*1 pkg ground beef (or bison etc)
*1 medium to large yellow onion
*1 medium to large red onion
*garlic (today, I used 7 cloves but make your judgement based on how much you <3 garlic and also bear in mind the public should you be interacting with anyone who didn't have the same thing for lunch as you!)
*basil, oregano, parsley, marjoram.... I tend not to measure these, but it was approximately 2 tbsp each, mix up your herbs should you choose
*2 fl oz Franks Red Hot Sauce or 1 fl oz of Sriracha (use a shot glass; adjust to your liking)
*2 tbsp sucanat or brown sugar
*1 jar Ragu or other store bought pasta sauce like this one
*1 540 ml can diced tomatoes (we used these ones this time)
*2 diced fresh tomatoes
*1 cup sliced mushrooms
*1 zucchini, sliced (we did half moons this time, but sometimes do coins- it's up to you)
*1 red, 1 yellow, and 1 green bell pepper, sliced into 1" strips




I want to stop here really quickly and talk about ground meat because it is something that we don't use often in our cooking. As you can see from this picture, in grocery stores the meat is dyed red to appeal to the consumers eye to appear 'fresh'. The ground beef we bought today is a product targeting individuals like myself who are looking for more 'natural' products. And while the majority of the meat products consumed in our house are organic, we have found it increasingly difficult to find sources of organic meats in the small city where we now live. We'll be stocking up at Christmas in Calgary.

So if you didn't already know, you ground beef is supposed to be 'grey' looking. This meat is completely raw out of the package- the burner hadn't even been turned on yet! Something else you may not know: What's really in your ground beef? 

Pasta choice for the tonight:


Cut sausages into 1" pieces, keeping casing in tact.
In a cast iron (or other frying) pan, thoroughly cook the sausage nuggets.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, begin browning the ground beef over med high heat.
Add in garlic, onion and herbs & any spices you may wish to add.
When beef is cooked, add Frank's, brown sugar, pasta sauce & diced tomatoes.
Once simmering, add in veggies & sausage "meatballs" into the pot.
Begin boiling water for pasta.
Stir in fresh tomatoes just a few minutes before serving
Serve atop pasta of your choice with Parmesan cheese & a bold red wine. 


Now this is one of those dishes that gets better with time. It can sit on the stove and simmer all day if you've got the time. In fact, that makes me want to cook it in a slow cooker next time. Let me know if you try this!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fish & Chips with Tartar Sauce


One thing that always makes me a bit jealous is when Mr. C orders fish & chips when we're out for dinner somewhere (even though we now have gluten free fish & chips down to a science). Although he does say that ours are better than those purchased in any restaurant, he still has to option to easily indulge when a craving strikes, and I do not. 

I recently had a delivery of gluten free flour from GF Patisserie in Cochrane, AB. You see, I used to live in Calgary, which is not far from from Cochrane (it doesn't take much to get me out there). I used to be able to take a trip out there any time I felt like a drive. But now I'm a whole province away, and to be quite honest, it's interfering with my fish consumption!

GF Patisserie's blog is called The Celiac Husband (aptly named, as the husband runs the blog & "back side" of things & the ladies run the bakery). Last fall they posted a recipe for gluten free fish & chips and I never looked back. We've made it SEVERAL times since then, using different fish, and playing around with adding spices to the batter.

Gluten Free Fish & Chips
4 servings (plenty) of fish
3/4 cup of GF Patisserie / BigStar Bakehouse flour (plus more for dusting)
2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup of gluten free beer *If your local liquor store doesn't stock gf beer, ask them to!
Oil for frying

Mix all ingredients until smooth
Dust fish pieces with flour
Dredge the fish through the batter
Slide into 375F hot oil and wait until golden brown 


Now, I don't have a deep fryer ( I just can't justify having another kitchen appliance taking up precious space in my little kitchen when it wont get used often enough). What I've done is added coconut oil to my favorite cast iron pan and heated the burner to med high heat. Some of the pieces are a bit darker than others (as you can see here) but this is likely because I had the heat just a titch too high.

As you can see, the batter is very fluffy & light (so don't worry when your batter is foamy & airy before frying!) Mr. C made up some tartar sauce to go with our fish this afternoon as well.


Tartar Sauce
(adapted from a recipe found on cooks.com)

1 cup mayo
2 tbsp fresh dill (dried works too)
1 tbsp chopped capers
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste

In a small bowl, mix together the first three ingredients. Stir in lemon juice. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.



Saturday, November 13, 2010

My First Biscotti

It took me a long time to love biscotti. Mostly because it took me a long time to love coffee. I can now navigate my way around a Starbucks like a pro, but it wasn't always that way. I grew up (for the most part) in a house with my mother & my sister. Nobody drank coffee. There was a jar of instant in the cupboard for when grandpa came, and a coffee maker whose age rivals mine which still lurks in the back of her pantry.

Coffee just didn't come in intravenous form in our household like it does in some. I remember being devastated after a 4th grade spelling test because I didn't know how to spell "coffee". And I knew that I would have been able to spell it had there been a can of Folgers on our kitchen counter like there was everyone else's. Devastated that my mother's fluid intake choices were affecting my grades.

Coffee & biscotti seem to go hand in hand, and while I can't grab any cookie goodness out of a jar at Starbucks alongside my Caramel Macchiato, that hasn't stopped me from whipping up a mocha at home to dunk my still warm from the oven biscotti into.



Chocolate Cranberry Biscotti

Adapted From: Mary Bailey's "Gluten Free Holiday Baking" found in Nov/Dec 2010 issue of "The Tomato"

1/4 cup potato starch (not flour)
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour/starch
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)

1/2 cup organic butter, softened
1 cup sucanat
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla*
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries



*I LOVE my vanilla (in fact I make it myself!) so I tend to be a little overzealous with my usage while baking. Feel free to measure generously.


Preheat oven to 350F.

In a medium sized bowl, sift first 8 ingredients together (any lumps from almond flour can be thrown in). Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until well incorporated. Add eggs, mix, then vanilla & lemon zest (make sure you get it all!). Add the dry ingredients a bit at a time, ensuring they are thoroughly mixed in before adding more. The batter will be very thick. Once all the dry ingredients have been added (you may now lick the beaters) stir in the cranberries & chocolate chips by hand.

Wrap up the dough in a large sheet of plastic wrap for at least an hour (or overnight).

Once it's chilled & firmed up a bit, split your ball of dough in half & form each one into a log. Don't assume that you need to flatten it (like biscotti should be shaped). It'll flatten out lots in the oven- trust me dahling! Each log should be 3-4" wide. Place each one lengthwise on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray (be sure to rotate your cookie sheets in the oven so that they bake evenly if both of your cookie sheets don't fit on one rack in your oven). Bake your logs for 15-20 until they are golden brown (like a chocolate chip cookie!). Place the cookie sheets onto cooling racks (leave the biscotti ON the cookie sheet while it cools)

Turn the oven down to 325F.

When the "biscotti" aka giant cookies have cooled down (enough that they're not going to fall apart when you take them off the cookie sheet) transfer them to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut them into 1/2"-3/4" slices. Place the slices back onto the cookie sheets and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

10 minutes will give you soft biscotti, and closer to 20 minutes will give you a 'crisper' biscotti more suited for dipping in your favorite hot beverage. Or MY favorite hot beverage. Let the poor little biscotti cool down before you maul them though- they'll just fall apart otherwise :( Makes 2-3 dozen biscotti. Suitable for freezing

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Homemade Vanilla?

It's easy, honest!

I tend to use a little bit more enthusiasm than is required when I'm pouring vanilla into just about anything I'm baking. For starters, I don't really measure it... I just pour. And that gets pricey if you're spending $12 or so on a teeny little bottle. So here's what you need:


1 bottle (750ml) vodka, rum or bourbon:
Now in order for the beans to fit in the bottle, you need to pour some of the alcohol out. Depending on what you'd like to do with this excess liquid may dictate what type of alcohol you wish to use! I prefer vodka because it doesn't have a taste and you get the full flavor of the bean, but some of the photos below are using a bottle of bourbon whiskey which does have a lovely complimentary flavor.

15 vanilla beans:
Vanilla beans are expensive if you're buying one or two at a time for $5 each from your grocer. I go through so much vanilla that I buy my beans in "bulk". The Light Cellar down in Bowness (Calgary, AB) sells vanilla beans that are of the utmost quality and at an affordable price!

Patience:
Once you've acquired these two items from your scavenger hunt list, you'll need a paring knife & a cutting board. Cut each of the beans lengthwise starting just below the top of the bean )where it was attached to the rest of the plant) but leave the bean intact. You want to expose the seeds which are the little specs of black that will get everywhere during this process. You can see them in this bottle:


 

Once you have cut open all of the beans, stick them into the bottle. Place the bottle in a dark place & let it be. This is where your patience comes into play. You can shake the bottle as often as you remember to, but try to do it once a day for the first week & once a week after that. I've read on some websites that 8 weeks is enough time, but I disagree. The first batch of vanilla I ever made was part of several gift baskets that were done up as Christmas gifts, and the vanilla still smelled boozy. It shouldn't.

These two bottles shown were started in May of this year. I'd give it three months. At least. If you'd like to gift some homemade vanilla for Christmas this year (6 weeks to go dear!) you'll want to bottle it as close to Christmas as possible & leave one or more of the beans in the bottle. Maybe attach a note telling the recipient not to remove the bean(s) & not to use it for a month or so.




Good luck dear... not that you'll need it- This is SO easy

Kristin

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thanksgiving- a little different this year...

American Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and while I do in fact live in Canada, and have already celebrated Thanksgiving for the year, there are more than a few blogs out there supporting our neighbours to the south. With ten times the population, no wonder us canucks are still inundated with turkey, cranberry and pumpkin recipes!

This year, we decided to do things a little different for Thanksgiving... here's  how our afternoon went down:

 Sushi Rice: more complicated than it should be!










Complete with sake, gf soy sauce, wasabi, ginger, spicy mayo... the works!

Enjoy your holidays should you be celebrating them in a few weeks (while the rest of us prepare for Christmas!). This time of year is wonderful for spending time with family, and of course eating great food (allergy free!)

Cheers!
Kristin