Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ice Cream Sandwiches

There are a lot of great gluten-free substitute products out there, but I have yet to find gluten-free ice cream sandwiches. I decided to test out this recipe.

The first batch didn't turn out flat - even though I did flatten the dough balls down slightly.

Batch 2 I flattened a lot more.

I filled them with gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free "ice cream."

They turned out like this:

Verdict: the cookies alone tasted like they needed more cocoa, but sandwiched with the coconut milk ice cream they were really good. I just want them to be a little thinner... perhaps more butter in the recipe next time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Glutino Pizza Shells

I tried using a Glutino Pizza Shell/Crust last night. They come frozen, in packs of 4, for $4.99, so they seemed like a worth-while investment.

Overall, I would say it was "ok." Definitely crispy outside and a soft interior, but there was an off-taste about them that wasn't masked, even with caramelized onions, butternut squash, goat cheese and allepo pepper.

Verdict: will try again... at least 3 times.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bacon Club - Fall 2008

It is time, once again for Bacon Club! -the quarterly pot-luck celebration of bacon. The summer session resulted in Bacon Pecan Pralines, which might be one of my finest achievements, ever. So feeling the pressure to come up with something equally as awesome and tasty, I thought I would start with a culinary staple, baked beans, and experiment with a salad or sort.

The host of Bacon Club! reminded me about the Time Life Books series "Foods of the World" and I started flipping through the American Cooking: New England edition.

The caption to the photo below notes that "Baked beans are traditionally served in New England for Saturday dinner or Sunday breakfast-or both. But Mrs. Walker wanted to serve them at an early spring picnic on the terrace of her home in western Massachusetts."

This is Mrs. Walker's recipe:

Mrs. Walker scores the salt pork and "The beans are baked uncovered for the last hour to crisp the pork-a delicacy that the head of the family traditionally reserves for himself."

I am not so sure about reserving the crisped salt pork for anyone... but it looked to amazing not to try!

I made a few modifications to Mrs. Walker's recipe, including the addition of maple syrup (my family's secret).

Baked Beans

1 lb. dried navy beans, washed & soaked overnight
1/2 lb. salt pork, scored
2 bay leaves
5 whole allspice berries
1 tbsp. yellow mustard seeds, cracked
1 tbsp. brown mustard seeds, cracked
6 whole cloves of garlic
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp prepared mustard
2 pinches sea salt
cold water

1. Rinse beans
2. Combine all ingredients in a heavy, oven-safe pot, dutch oven or crock pot.
3. Add enough cold water to cover all ingredients by at least 1 inch
4. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer.
5. You can place it in a 300 degree oven for 10 hours, or cook on stove top over low heat for 8-10 hours, or cook in crock pot overnight.
*For crisped salt pork:
Push the salt pork to the surface of the beans & bake uncovered for the last hour of cooking.

I only had time to cook the beans for 8 hours. They were completely cooked through, but could have been a bit more tender. The salt pork was really amazing. Crisp on the exterior and the center just melted in my mouth.

EXPERIMENTAL DISH - Bacon Pomegranate Salad on Endive

I was thinking about the combination of pomegranate and bacon and how the tartness of the pomegranate might go nicely with the salty/smokiness of bacon. This salad was a combination of things in the kitchen and a collaborative effort with a bacon-loving buddy.

seeds of 1 ripe pomegranate
flesh of 1 mango, diced
2 apples, peeled & diced
2 shallots, minced
salt & white pepper to taste
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1-2 tsp ground coriander
2-3 tsp prepared mustard
3/4 lb. crisped bacon, chopped
2 heads of endive

This went over even BETTER than the baked beans. Experiment in the kitchen!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Good Snacks - Mary's Gone Crackers

Mary's Gone Crackers makes one of my favorite crackers. (A friend recommended them over the summer and I was a bit skeptical at first, but they are positively addicting. The ones with caraway seeds are really good.) And I recently discovered their Sticks and Twigs:

I actually like these even more than the crackers! They are so crunchy and fun to dip (humus is my top choice).

Country Fried Tofu

The idea to make a vegetarian version of fried chicken has been kicking around my head for a few weeks.

I cut 1 block of firm tofu into 6 blocks, and pressed them for about an hour to drain out as much water as possible. Then I employed the dry-wet-dry technique.

DRY: corn meal, corn flour, white rice flour, potato starch, old bay, salt, pepper, cayenne

WET: 2 eggs beaten, salt, pepper

DRY: [same as above]

I did the same with some green tomatoes and fried both in a cast iron skillet with about an inch of peanut oil over medium heat until browned. Drained them on a brown paper bag and served with steamed kale, mashed potatoes and a "country skillet gravy" made with diced onions, salt, pepper and half & half thickened with arrowroot powder.

Arrowroot powder is much stronger than I ever expected, and the sauce had to be thinned out a few times, but tasted great.

Only regret - not marinating the pressed tofu in some hot sauce. It could have used a lot more flavor, but a bottle of it on the table was put to good use and there were no left overs, so I say it was a success. (Also the reason that there is no picture - the meal was devoured!)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cranberry Sauce & A Pink Apple

There is a chill in the air and the first cranberries of the season are popping up at farmers markets and grocery stores. I couldn't pass up $2.59 a pound, so I grabbed a bag and made a quick sauce.

1 pound whole, fresh cranberries washed
1/4 cup of apple cider
sugar to taste

Place all in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer till most of the cranberries have popped open. Allow to cool and eat.

Normally I use orange juice instead of cider and throw in some orange zest at the end, but the oranges didn't look so hot at the grocery store and I had some cider around and use it. I don't think its noticeable, but it tasted good!

I also found this apple while shopping:

It is a Pink Surprise and when you cut it open, it reveals pink and white flesh!

It tastes like a sweet apple, not very tart, and has a bit of a pear taste mixed in.

Heirloom apples are so fun!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bacon Cheddar Crisps

My friend was recounting a tale of one of her favorite dishes that her mother used to make for her: sliced white bread spread with mayo, crisp bacon, cheddar cheese broiled for a few minutes till the cheese bubbled and oozed.

The same friend was celebrating a birthday this weekend so I tried to recreate that memory with bacon cheddar crisps.

I took 3/4 lb of bacon, cut into small pieces, fried till crispy and 1.5 pounds of shredded, sharp cheddar cheese. I placed a teaspoon portion of the mixture on a SilPat and baked at 350 till the edges began to brown.

Some I let harden flat on brown paper bags, others I tried to shape into U-shapes over chop sticks so they could hold the homemade applesauce I served with them.

They were enjoyed by many.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Good Labeling

I have noticed a trend with some imported foods - really great labeling. I was shopping in a Brazilian grocery store and noticed how many items had "GLUTEN FREE" after their ingredient list. Granted, these were on things that I don't normally question, coconut milk, toasted manioc, etc. but it is nice to see!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Green's Ale

This is by far the best gluten free beer I have tried. (The others have been: Redbridge, Bard's Tale & New Grits.)

A few others were in for the tasting adventure. Two noted that it smelled like sherry, I smelled cherry blossoms. Overall it was not strongly carbonated, but did taste like hops more than drove by the vat. At 6% it was pretty substantial, but not a terribly strong brew.

Verdict - will definitely enjoy again!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Apple Pie

This my second attempt at apple pie. The first was last year for Thanksgiving and I was overwhelmingly disappointed by the sand-like texture of the crust.

Recipe: I modified on I found online, that was a modified version of one of Betty Hagman's

1 cup sweet rice flour
3/4 cup corn starch
3/4 cup tapioca starch
1 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
(blend and mix above well)
cut in:
1/2 cup shortening (I used the earth balance kind)
1/4 cup butter
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 egg
then 2-3 tbsp ice water, till the dough just starts to come together

Peel, core, slice apples
sprinkle with 2 tbsp corn starch, cinnamon, grated nutmeg, allspice, pinch of salt, 1tbsp apple cider vinegar(I didn't have any lemon juice)

In a COLD, separate pan mix:
1 tbsp+ of arrowroot powder
2-3 tbsp apple cider
once it has formed a slurry (no lumps) turn the heat on and over medium, cook mixture till it starts to thicken
poor over apples and mix well

Remove pie dough from fridge, half, roll & shape
(I found it really helpful to work on parchment and transfer the dough by inverting the pie plate onto the dough and flipping all of them over - the dough is pretty delicate, but workable)

Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, reduce to 325 and bake for an hour

Crust: did not brown as much as I would have liked
Filling: trying to brown the crust = leaving the pie in too long and the apples started to break down
Taste: crust tasted good, texture a bit sand-like (but no where near as bad as the one from last year); filling had no sugar and didn't need any!

VERDICT: would make again, but would decrease the amount of rice flour. Maybe substitute a mixture of sweat potato starch and something else in? Maybe more butter than shortening to help browning?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Rice Nightmare

I am a big fan of frozen novelties, ok, a huge fan. So when I saw a "gluten free" on the lid of Rice Dream Ice Cream I was very excited. This excitement fizzled and soon turned to rage when the ingredients listed on the side of the container included "barley malt."

This is an unacceptable oxymoron.