Monday, January 31, 2011

Gluten Free Pizza Crusts- From Scratch


I remember having home made pizza growing up, in my moms kitchen. I remember having to share the juice from the can of pineapple with my sister. I remember the herbs sprinkled into the tomato sauce. And I remember loving it. As much work as it is to make pizza from scratch, it's worth it. Today, I prefer this gluten free recipe from epicurious to any pre-made pizza crust you can buy at the store.

3/4 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/3 cup chickpea (chana) flour
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup milk of your choice (we use almond)
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp sucanat
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
2 tbsp olive oil

In a large bowl, or your stand mixer, whisk together first 6 (dry) ingredients.
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stir 1/2 cup milk with 1/4 cup water and heat until warm, but not hot (don't let it boil!) approximately 105F-115F on a candy thermometer if you've got one. Stir in yeast and sugar to dissolve.

Add wet ingredients from the pot into your bowl of dry ingredients along with the egg whites and olive oil. Beat at medium speed, scraping the bowl when necessary until the dough is smooth & thick.

 

Preheat the oven to 400F & place two pizza pans or cookie sheets in the oven. 


Divide the dough in half and form into two balls, each on a 12" sheet of parchment. Using plenty of olive oil to coat your hands and the dough, spread each ball into a 9" pizza crust, leaving it thicker around the edges if you wish. Loosely cover each with plastic wrap & let rise in a warm, draft free place for about 20 minutes.



Transfer one crust to each of the preheated pizza pans or cookie sheets and bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until the top has begun to puff up and the underside is crisping up.

*Pre-baked crusts can be made ahead and frozen, wrapped in plastic wrap, up to 1 month. Thaw in 350°F oven until hot, 4 to 5 minutes, before topping and broiling.

Spread each crust with sauce of choice (I love using basil pesto as pizza sauce!), leaving a 1/2" border around the outside, and sprinkle your toppings. 





Continue to bake the pizzas until your cheese had melted (if you're using cheese), the crust is browning up and the toppings have heated through. 
This my dear is something you WONT get with a store bought crust. LOOK at those air pockets! Enjoy!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dinner: Fresh Rice Pasta & Kiwi Mojito's

Usually when I head to the grocery store, I have a plan. I generally have a list & know exactly what I'm going in for. Today however, that couldn't have been further from the truth. With not a clue what to make for dinner, we headed to the grocery store.

After much debate and discussion, and a few laps around the store, we still had gotten nowhere. After perusing the kitchen gadgets are of the store, we came across the deli where I spotted a cute little pre-pack hummus with crackers snack size package. There generally isn't much in the deli that I'm interested in looking at, but today something caught my eye.

Last week I was having a bit of a conversation via Facebook about the availability of gluten free (rice) spring roll wrappers (they're seemingly all wheat, but the rice wrappers are what you can make salad rolls out of) I decided to take a look at the spring rolls & other asian foods in the cooler. What I found were fresh rice noodles made by a company in Calgary called Mandarin Noodle. So it was going to be stirfry. Kind of.


We picked out a steak, and the other ingredients listed that we didn't already have at the house & ventured home! 


In a hot wok, we sauteed up our ingredients as directed on the package.


But decided we needed a bit more veggie matter, so threw in some broccoli & water chestnuts.


The noodles came out of the package in a block & were not easily broken up. It reminded me of cranberry sauce that's shaped like the can (which you will never see in my house by the way!). In future, I will place the noodles in a bowl of warm water before adding them to the wok to break them up a bit. We still had big chunks of noodle in the end, despite my best efforts.


Some bell pepper & a handful of bean sprouts in addition to the soy sauce as directed and some fish sauce for good measure (I skipped the salt & sugar however). 

 


We also picked out some fresh mint in the produce section along with a bag of kiwis with the intentions of kiwi mojito's. They turned out to be martini's (sort of!), but tasty none the less!

 

Despite the ten feet of snow in our front yard & the fact that Mr.C's mom left for Hawaii today... we're having our own little luau.

 

Kiwi Mojito's

fresh mint leaves
1/2 kiwi, mashed
1/2 oz simple syrup (or to taste)
2 oz white rum
sparkling water

Muddle mint, kiwi, simple syrup & rum.
Pour over ice (optional) into a glass and top with sparkling water.
Wear flip flops & sunglasses (also optional).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eggs: Free Range, Organic, Free Run.... What does it all mean?


One of these eggs is free range, the other is organic. Can you guess which is which? Or, do you know the difference? Maybe you think my orange yolk came from some kind of mutant chicken? Well, if mutant means "healthy", or "normal", or even "as nature intended" then you're right. Eggs shouldn't be pale yellow at all, right?

Organic eggs are subject to different certification standards than Free Range eggs are. The Free Range Eggs below, Country Golden Yolks come from chickens that are allowed outside unless the weather is too "severe".


The Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals:

The Canadian organic industry, in general, has been growing at a rate of 15 to 20 percent annually for the past decade with approximately 3,670 certified organic farms in 2004. Eggs are one type of organic product.

As a result of pressure from trading partners, including the European Union and the United States, Canada has developed Canada’s National Organic Standard, developed by the Canadian General Standards Board. The standards are being phased in currently. The standards for animals cover feed, transport and handling, health care, living conditions, stocking rates, etc. Operators are to provide animals with access to the outdoors, shade, rotational pasture, exercise areas, fresh air and natural daylight suitable to the species, the stage of production, the climate and environment, and opportunity to express normal patterns of behaviour.

Currently, only British Columbia and Quebec have regulations in place governing organic production systems. For the remaining provinces, voluntary systems are relied upon.

Organic products must meet the requirements set out in the Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act, the Food and Drugs Act, and all other applicable legislation.
www.humanefood.ca/pdf%20links/cage-free-eggs-new-logo-v4.pdf

Toronto Vegetarian Association:

Free Range
Generally speaking, free range eggs come from chickens who have some access to the outside, but how much access? The U.S. regulates the use of the term on chicken (meat) but not on eggs, and doesn't stipulate how much outdoor time is required. Canada regulates neither. No other criteria, such as environmental quality, size of the outside area, number of birds, or space per bird, are included in this term. Typically, free-range hens are debeaked at the hatchery, and have only 1 to 2 square feet of floor space per bird. The birds may or may not have litter and access to nests and perches.

Free Run (or Cage-Free)
No one polices this one, but the birds are supposed to be allowed to run around large open-concept barns. Wire mesh floors, and no sunshine for these guys. They may or may not have litter in which to scratch and dust-bathe, and they may or may not be overcrowded.

Certified Organic
According to Vancouver Humane Society, Certified Organic Association of BC (COABC) and Pro-cert certified organic egg production systems are the most humane systems presently operating in Canada. Eggs certified by these two organizations are produced in higher welfare systems where hens can behave more naturally.


Rabbit River Farms has three different kinds of eggs that are available at Save-On Foods here in PG & many other grocery stores in Western Canada.

Certified Organic Eggs
Chicken range free on organic pasture and are fed certified organic feed. The feed is GMO free, all vegetarian and does not contain any animal byproducts. There are no antibiotic or synthetic chemicals used in either the feed or flock management. Hens are completely cage free both inside and outside the barn. Certified by COABC.

Free Range Eggs
Chickens range free on pasture and are fed all vegetarian feed that does not contain animal byproducts.

Free Run Eggs
Chickens are cage free inside the barn on shavings and are fed all vegetarian feed but do not range outside on pasture.

Sunworks Farm is where I purchased my eggs & much of my meat until we moved to BC. They are a wonderful family run operation with amazing products. And they're always sampling. And here's the good news: "All of our sausages, wieners, ham, bacon and specialty meats are free of gluten, egg, Dairy (no fillers), nitrates, sulphates, MSG (no chemicals or preservatives). Just healthy meat and spices. Honey and Maple Syrup are used as sweeteners (no refined sugars). And the salt is a mineralized rock salt (full of micronutrients)."


Earlier this week I headed to our health food store Ave Maria to get eggs (which is a fairly regular occurrence!) and all they had were these ones from Avalon. Organic & Free Range, just a different brand, no biggie! I have bought Avalon's organic dairy products before in the old school glass milk bottles and always been happy. When I cracked open this carton (pun intended :D) I used one egg from Avalon (Organic & Free Range) in addition to the last egg from my previous carton (Country Golden Yolks, above- Free Range, not Organic). What I found in my cookie dough surprised me:


The surprising part about this is that the egg on the right side came from the Organic, Free Range Avalon carton. The darker egg on the left isn't organic, just free range.

So that got me thinking. Does a darker yolk actually indicate anything? If so, what exactly?

The bottom line, says Marion Nestle, author of What to Eat and the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, is that "the color [of an egg yolk] doesn't reflect the nutrient value in any significant way."

While the yolk is not an indicator of nutritive value, there is mounting evidence that true pasture-raised hens produce more nutritious eggs overall. The ENC, however, states that “free-range eggs do not differ from regular eggs in terms of nutritional value or cholesterol level.”


So, it seems as though the choice is yours. Just as with genetically modified food products (GMO's), there hasn't been enough mainstream research done on the matter. Seemingly. I'll continue to buy my eggs locally, free range & organic where I can (because they really DO taste better!). I hope that you do too.
 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dinner: Cannelloni

In addition to our Citrus Cheesecake (thanks to the lovely savory sweet life), our dairy filled dinner also includes one of my favorites: Cannelloni. I have always been a sucker for stuffed pastas. In fact, as children, we always got to pick what we wanted to have for our birthday dinners. Until I was well into adulthood, I always chose pasta. More often than not, tortellini. Which works out great when Oliveri makes family sized packs of the stuff!

My sister was always all about the seafood, but I am a sucker for carbs. The irony of it is that I can no longer have gluten and my sister can no longer have seafood!

Several months ago, I was tipped off to the gluten free offerings at the Italian supermarket in Edmonton. Among other items, I purchased cannelloni tubes made from corn flour. Generally, I stick to brown rice pasta, but eager to have a broader selection of pastas I threw them in the basket. As you may or may or may not know we moved from Edmonton in August of last year, so I've been hanging onto these for some time now.

1/2 package cannelloni noodles (10 tubes)
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 tub (500g) ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
4 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4+ cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, finely chopped
Italian seasoning to taste
pepper to taste


 

In a large pot, cook noodles as label directs. Drain and rinse with cold running water (as your label likely suggests). Return noodles to pot with cold water to cover.

 

 In large bowl, mix ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, basil & pepper. Stuff the filling into the tubes and place them in a baking dish that will accommodate them (this will vary depending on your noodles).

Preheat oven to 375F.
 
 

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion & garlic and cook until translucent. Stir in zucchini & cook for an additional 2 minutes. Stir in diced tomatoes & tomato sauce & bring to temperature. Add spices including any additional to your tastes.
 

Top cannelloni with sauce & additional mozza or parmesan cheese if desired.
Bake until heated through, 35 to 40 minutes.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Green Onion Cakes

Green onion cakes are one of the few things that I didn't ever have a chance to taste in my days pre-Celiac. So, it's difficult for me to determine if these have the taste and texture that they "should". Mr.C has only ever had them from one establishment, when I used to bring them home after the lunch rush was over. We don't have much to compare these against. I found the recipe here and made a few adjustments. Let me know how they hold up to any green onion cakes that you've had before!

3 cups Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix
1 cup boiling water

Combine water with baking mix & form into a ball.
Cover with a wet paper towel & let sit at room temperature for an hour.
Watch the first two periods of the hockey game:)


Flour your largest cutting board and roll your dough out onto it in a big rectangle. You definitely want it to have a longer side & a skinnier side! Make sure your rolling pin and board are well floured from start to finish so the dough material doesn’t rip (I used gf patisserie's flour for rolling).


Rub surface of dough lightly with sesame oil & sprinkle evenly:

4 chopped green onions (they wouldn't be green onion cakes without em'!)
1/4 tsp chinese five spice powder
3/4 tsp salt


Roll up tightly into a long tube. Roll in such a manner that you'll get a longer "dough tube"; roll from the short side of your rectangle to get a larger number of cakes.


Cut your tube into 1″ sections. Roll into balls, tucking any of the green onion back into the dough if required. Heat pan to medium heat, with a tablespoon or two of sesame oil (you’ll be needing more oil, keep it on hand!)


 Roll balls into thin pancakes about 1/4 –  1/8″ thick, depending on texture preference. Try rolling & cooking one before you do the rest to see what texture you prefer.


 When oil is hot, toss 2 to 4 pancakes in the pan and cook on one side until browning and crispy & flip over. As the green onion cakes absorb quite a bit of oil, you may wish to have paper towels ready to absorb the excess.

Serve with sweet chili sauce.





Saturday, January 8, 2011

Artificial Colors & Flavors

Keeping with the common theme plaguing blogs these days, I'd like to discuss another of my new years resolutions. And no, it's not to quit drinking.....


Artificial colors & flavors are added unnecessarily to many products found in everything from our shower gels, our cereal boxes, cheeses, and sadly hidden on the shelves our liquor stores too. Often artificial is a cheaper alternative to something 'real', or derived from nature. Some artificial colors have been linked to disorders such as Hyperactivity.

My mom likes to refer to me as the bartender of the family. Possibly because I did some bartending in a restaurant I worked at several years ago. It's something that I enjoy doing; both mixing and consuming. However, the above spirits (mostly liqueurs) ALL contain artificial colors and/or flavors. There are a few more questionable bottles in the freezer, but they weren't going to be defrosted for this picture... So, no more Crown & Banana for me, no more Bailey's coffee, no more martini cocktails for the most part at all. But wait, there's still hope!


Of our massive liquor collection, it seems as though the hard stuff (and the good stuff!) remains available to me. A few liqueurs aren't off limits (however, upon closer inspection, the Hpnotiq bottle in the back does in fact have "certified color added"- whatever that means... Oh, and I'm still waiting for an email back from Finlandia, the jury's still out on that one too) . There are a handful of companies out there using real ingredients. "A natural maceration of best ginger..." in the Giffard "Ginger of the Indies" Liqueur, center (their grapefruit liqueur does have artificials -always read the label!) "... enhanced with spices for a warm and rich characteur."

There are also a few companies out there who make flavored vodka's from natural sources. Both Belvedere & Hangar One are premium vodka brands that do not use artificial colors or flavors. Like I said, the good stuff. This is an interesting article on the matter that you may wish to take a look at.


Lime cordial is something that I often add to my vodka & water to sweeten it up a bit and kill a bit of the alcohol taste, however the if the neon green is any indication, I wont be seeing the bottom of this bottle. I am however going to make an attempt at homemade lime cordial. I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hockey Night In Canada: Deviled Eggs

The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!


Okay, okay I'm sure you've heard it all since team Canada got whipped in the 3rd period of the gold medal game at the World Junior Hockey Championship last night. As dutiful Canadians, we hunkered down on the couch to cheer on the guys that will be drafted up into the NHL in the next season or two. Our own local WHL Prince George Cougar, Brett Connolly made it up to team Canada for this years tournament and did awesome!

I thought it to be appropriate to have finger food & bevvy's and watch the game, so here's the menu:

hummus & veggies
green onion cakes
veggie sushi
deviled eggs
my biscotti

What we ended up having, was deviled eggs & veggie sushi. And then we were full. The green onion cake dough is still in the fridge. Beside the hummus. And the biscotti dough. And there's a turkey in the oven at the moment, so there's nothing I can do about it!



What I can do however, is share with you our amazing deviled eggs!

Things you'll need (but probably already have in the house):

6 eggs
finely chopped green onion, or chives
approx 2 tbsp mayo
approx 3-4 tsp spicy mustard
fresh ground pepper to taste
sprinkle of paprika


Now I'm not going to lie to you. Mr.C is the egg-boiler of the house. Despite his having grown up in an eggless house, he's a pro. Me however, I tend to eat my eggs more on the runny side. I generally don't do "hard" eggs. Since discovering that my mother had been hiding deviled eggs from me my whole life last Christmas at my grandma's house, I have developed an unhealthy admiration for them. His advice for perfect hard boiled eggs is as follows:

-Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil.
-Gently place eggs into the water with the aid of a soup spoon (so they don't crack like when I do it...)
-After 12 1/2 minutes (at our elevation of approx. 2000 ft.) remove the eggs. Don't overcook them!!
-Rinse in cool water & wait until they are cool enough to handle.
-Peel the eggs & discard shells.
-Using a sharp knife, slice them open vertically.
-Gently remove yolks and place them in a bowl.
-The whites may be placed on a plate.
-Mash the yolks, then add the remaining ingredients to create an uniform paste.
-Using a pastry bag fitted with the largest tip, pipe the mixture back into the egg whites (you may also use a spoon, or a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off).
-Sprinkle paprika atop each deviled egg.
-Enjoy with a frosty beverage.

Vegetarian Pad Thai

In a search for another vegetarian entree for dinner this evening, we decided that it would be Pad Thai night. We both LOVE Pad Thai but don't often seem to go to the trouble of making it. It's a great detox friendly recipe too! 


8 oz medium-thick flat rice noodles (sometimes marketed as Pad Thai noodles)

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable broth
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fish sauce (can be omitted for a true vegetarian dish)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce or Sriracha
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon tamarind paste

coconut oil (or oil of your choice) for frying
3 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt

12 oz  mushrooms
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
sea salt

4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced (remove seeds unless you want it really fiery!)
5 whole green onions, chopped
175g bean sprouts

1/3 cup salted roasted peanuts, chopped, plus additional for garnish

For serving: Lime wedges & Sriracha


Put the noodles in a medium bowl with hot water to cover. Soak until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.


Whisk the brown sugar with the broth, fish sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil and tamarind paste in a small bowl.


Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat until hot and add 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Pour in the eggs, tilting the skillet as you pour to make a thin, even coating of egg. Cook until just set, about 45 seconds. Invert the eggs onto a cutting board and cut into 1/2-inch strips. Set aside.


Add another tablespoon of coconut oil to the same skillet and heat over high heat. Add the mushrooms & red pepper flakes. Stir-fry until the mushrooms are golden brown.


Add the garlic, jalapeno & green onion and stir-fry until lightly browned. Add the sauce mixture and stir.


Add the noodles and toss to combine. Stir in the sliced egg, bean sprouts and 1/3 cup peanuts and toss until hot. Serve immediately with lime wedges, topped with peanuts and Sriracha.