Saturday, January 31, 2009

Banana bread

I was tempted to try to make something after seeing a couple of spotted bananas in the fruit bowl. I scoured the web but settled on giving the recipe out of Allen & Kearney's Healthy Gluten-Free Cooking a try.

I only had 2 bananas, their recipe calls for three and was in the mood to try to add some sorghum to my diet. I switched up the recipe a bit and made the following:

Banana Bread
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas
4 large dates chopped
1/2 cup rice flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup potato starch
5 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Cream together the butter and sugar.
3. Add each egg, one at a time, beat well.
4. Mash the bananas and dates together and add to the butter, sugar and eggs.
5. Once incorporated, sift together the dry ingredients and slowly add to the wet.
6. Pour batter into a loaf pan.
7. Bake 75-90 minutes until you can insert a toothpick into the center and it comes out clear.
8. Remove the loaf from pan and cool on a wire rack.

I was so proud of the results, slightly crisp exterior, moist cakey-center, I brought some slices to non-gluten free friends to enjoy as well!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Glutenous Sticky Rice

Glutenous rice was an oxymoron that scared me when I was first trying to navigate the gluten free diet. Rice is ok, gluten is not... what is this stuff?!

Glutenous rice or sticky rice falls into the confusing but deliciously edible category of gluten free foods. The "glutenous" moniker come from the fact that there is much more loose starch, which sticks together, on the surface of the rice.

Coconut sticky rice is one of my all time favorite desserts when served with ripe mango. I assumed it was just simply rice cooked with coconut milk and sugar, its sadly a bit more involved than that. Most websites that house recipes recommend soaking the rice overnight in water then steaming it, wrapped in muslin or cheesecloth if you don't have a rice steam - NOT the same as a rice cooker. Not having a steamer or any cheesecloth, I attempted this recipe with a clean dishtowel. The rice did not cook evenly and so it soaked up all of the coconut sauce and wasn't really sticky.

I am going to look into alternative steaming methods because I really really love coconut sticky rice. I seem to always get a craving for it when Lost is on tv.

Friday, January 23, 2009

English Toffee

I was in need of a finger-food that travels well and contains dark chocolate and remembered English Toffee! I have never made it myself, but a friend did make some last year for Christmas that was gobbled up faster than I thought possible.
I am not 100% certain, but I think this is the English Toffee recipe that produced said results. I multiplied it by 1.5 and here is the final product:

I was having some trouble with the flash whiting-out the toffee, but it actually came out pretty light. It was crisp and quickly became sticky as it was chewed on. I omitted the nuts so everyone could enjoy, but normally would top it with chopped, toasted pecans.

The only thing I would possibly do differently is to caramelize some of the sugar before adding in the butter to see if the toffee would come out darker, otherwise, its a perfect recipe.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Green's Endeavour

I did not realize that Green's offered more than one selection. I was pleasantly surprised to see this at the store:
Endeavour is very different beer from Discovery, the only other Green's I have come across. Their website offers 8 different varieties, of which I hope more will be available in the States really soon.

Nose: cherry and coffee (reminded me of a coffee porter)

Taste: dark chocolate color that requires a slow pour. sweeter than I expected, cherry-ameretto, a hint of chocolate/coffee

Texture: small, light carbonation, it felt like the bubbles were really small and perhaps there was not enough

The finish was light, and not sour like most gluten free beers, but oddly fleeting. Looking at in the glass, I expected more of a finish and more of an aftertaste for a heavier beer.

Sediment at the bottom, so don't pour all of it into the glass

It is not an every day drinking beer, but is good and would pair well with something salty and I will definitely be drinking it again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tamale Tuesday at Picante

Picante in Central Square in Cambridge has tamales on Tuesday. I missed out last week's special with pumpkin seeds, but headed over to check out this week's offerings.

Today was pork or mixed veggies. I lucked out and snagged the last pork tamale, which cames with black beans, a side salad and some fried tortilla chips. The tamale itself was covered in a mild red sauce, not a mole. (I am not the biggest fan of mole. I have only had it a few times and cannot quite get past the star anise, but I am willing to conduct a more scientific comparison.)

The tamale itself was soft, almost creamy. The pork it encapsulated was well seasoned, but a little dry. The black beans and salad were simple, welcomed additions. The sauce and salsa bar offered a variety of house-made options for personalizing one's dish. For $5.75 I really cannot complain. And I am looking forward to whatever happens to be the special next Tuesday.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pancakes, a work in progress

I might like pancakes more than I like pizza, I just might.

I cannot say that I "followed" a recipe, but I did start out looking at a few different ones online and in books.

I used a combination of corn flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, and rice flour. After a few trial pancakes, an additional egg, some more corn flour, a few tbsp of sugar and some vanilla extract went into the mix.

The flavor got better, but as you can see, the pancakes lost their shape and started to run and were much flatter than the initial recipe.

I am thinking that perhaps a combination of baking powder and baking soda would do the trick.

Birthday Celebration

In addition to pizza, I decided to have a red wine tasting party for my birthday. I know a little, very little about wine tasting, so thought it could be a lot of fun to have an informal tasting party. Everyone brought a wine and something they thought would pair well with it or something that tastes or smells like the wine in tow. (I said that if someone brought a Malbec, they could bring a leather belt and say "I smell leather" and that would be perfectly appropriate!)

No one took me up on the belt, but someone did bring a Malbec (one of my personal favorite wines!) along with at least 20 other options, plus food! It was a truly amazing night with a great spread of food, including:

-roasted veggie dip (head of garlic, eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, caramelized onions, cumin, coriander, red wine vinegar and olive oil)
-prosciutto wrapped prunes
-cumin encrusted beef with tomatillo dipping sauce
-lamb meatballs with tzatziki dipping sauce
-potato chips
-tortilla chips
-hummus with zatar
-rice crackers
-honey candied clementine peel
-red wine biscotti, mocha biscotti
-candied fennel
-Kerala chick pea mix
-chocolate dipped ginger snaps
-gf licorish & chocolate waffer cookies

In addition, there was a smelling plate comprised of different things for people to try to smell in the wines:
-vanilla extract

There was so much food, so much fun and so many wonderful people. Hands-down, the best birthday ever.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lamb Meatballs

At a friend's birthday party a few months ago I had these amazing lamb meatballs. The biggest surprise was that they contained pine nuts and I ate them. (I hate pine nuts. If I wanted to taste Christmas in my mouth, I would lick a pine tree. I really dislike pine nuts and juniper berries for this reason.)
But said celebrating friend convinced me to give them a try and I didn't move far from the tray of them for the rest of the night! These poppable treats are packed with golden raisins, pine nuts and spices - no bread filler - and work really well as party hor'devores.

I quadroupled the recipe and used a teaspoon to help with portion control and shaping. The original recipe called for frying the meatballs in olive oil, but baking them on a cookie sheet is a lot faster and saves on clean up time.

Lamb Meatballs
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tbsp minched green onions
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt (I started with 1/4tsp but added more)
1/8 tsp ground pepper
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 lb. ground lamb

1. Combine all ingredients.
2. Shape into meatballs.
3. Fry in olive oil or bake in 400F oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

Tzatziki Sauce (optional dipping sauce)
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
salt to taste
[I also added in some minced cucumber and key lime juice]

1. Combine all ingredients. Stir well.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Birthday Pizza at Uno's

I like pizza. More than like it, I love it and I miss pizza, a lot.

I am not ashamed to say that back before my gluten free days I used to eat pizza at least once a week. Thin crust and Sicilian style being two of my favorites. I like the convenience of being able to grab a slice and go; its cheap, quick, good hot, reheated or cold. Pizza is amazing.

Yesterday, a friend clued me in to the fact that his sister got gluten free pizza from Uno's in New Hampshire. Perplexed and excited I started to do some investigating. I discovered that not all of the Uno's serve gluten free pizza, so you need to call a specific restaurant and check to see if they carry the gluten free crusts. In addition, they also have a list on their website of Gluten free items at Uno's.

I lucked out, because the Uno's near me does offer gluten free pizza (cheese and pepperoni), a true birthday surprise! I went there for dinner and on the actual day of my birth, I got to eat pizza!

I tried both options; the pepperoni was better than the cheese, but I think this is because the crust tasted a little bit freezer burnt and the strength of the pepperoni overpowered the slightly off-taste. The edge of the crust was crisp, but the middle soon became soggy and started to fall apart. (If the pie had been on hot pan not a room-temp plate it might have stayed crisp a bit longer, but perhaps not.) It would have been smart to transition to a fork and knife, but I was determined to enjoy pizza sans cutlery and just folded the slice up on itself, forming a pizza roll-up. It was good.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Gluten free sourdough

There must have been a buzz in the air, because this was sent around on the Association for the Study of Food and Society's listserv:

Reply-To: "ASFS ListServ" <>

My mistake, I was remembering the recipe as using sprouted grains but they're simply soaked, not sprouted. I haven't cooked this but my friend Amy, whose recipe this is, makes a batch every other week. I suppose if you let them soak longer than 8 hours or so they'd sprout but I don't know what that would do to the final result or nutritional value.

Amy's Soaked Grain Batter

1 cup buckwheat
1 cup quinoa
1 cup millet

Rinse the whole grains in a colander or sieve, then transfer them into a large bowl or pot. Add enough water to cover the grains - plus an additional two to three inches - and soak them for at least eight hours. Use a colander or sieve to drain the water so that the mixture is moist but not dripping wet. Use a food processor to grind the mixture for at least 2 minutes, or until it is relatively smooth.

To the grain mixture add:
Eggs: 1 egg for scones; 2 eggs for muffins; 2 - 4 eggs for pancakes or waffles
1-1/2 cups of raw sunflower seeds, raw pecans, or raw walnuts
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup maple syrup

You may also stir in, by hand, chopped pecans, or walnuts, or flax seeds, or berries or small pieces of fruit, and cinnamon or nutmeg.

For scones: use a soup spoon to drop the mixture onto a greased baking sheet. Bake 35-40 minutes at 350, rotating the baking sheets halfway through for even browning. Yield 24 small scones.

For muffins: fill each cup about halfway and bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes. Yield 12 - 16 muffins.

For pancakes and waffles, add milk to batter until it reaches the desired consistency.

For cookies, do not use any eggs; grind in 1 1/2 cups of raw pecans; use 3/4 to 1 cup of maple syrup plus 2 - 4 T. molasses; and 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger, and 1/8 tsp cloves. Add raisins or chocolate chips if you like. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Check them frequently and turn baking sheets so they don't burn. Yield 24 - 30 cookies.

Note: if you are using raw sunflower seeds, do not allow the batter to sit for a long time before you bake it. Otherwise, the seeds will turn the batter bright green. The result will be fine to eat but it will look strange.

I am looking forward to trying it out!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

GF Sourdough Starter?

I have been thinking lately about sourdough and wondering if its possible to make a more complex flavored bread using a gluten free sourdough starter.

I am still not sure about how to create a protein structure, in the dough, that would capture the gas bubbles and form a lighter bread, but I am thinking that maybe a starter could at least help the flavor be less sweet.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Red Beans and Rice

I found a crock pot at the recycling center back in December. It seemed to be in good working order, so I brought it home, gave it a rinse, turned it on and it worked! (My parents would be so very proud to hear that their frugal ways have been passed on.)

I couldn't decided on what to make first: baked beans, Indian pudding, pot roast or stew. But then I found the pound of red beans I brought back from New Orleans and decided that it was time to attempt red beans and rice.

Working off of this recipe I soaked the beans overnight, then par boiled them for 1 hour while sauteing the veggies (carrots, onion, celery) in bacon fat. I drained the beans, added them to the crock pot with the veggies, along with some cracked black pepper, 3 bay leaves and a few more slices of bacon. I covered the whole thing with new, cold water and let it cook... for 24 hours.

I came home, turned on the rice cooker and worked on reducing down the beans a bit (I put in too much water because I worried that too much would be lost to evaporation). I pulled off about 1 1/2 cups of the excess liquid, put it in a skillet and started to reduce it. Once it got more creamy, I added in cleaned and chopped collards, reduced to a simmer and covered. Once the collards were about half done, I added sliced chorizo. (Andouille is traditional, but I couldn't find any.)

While the sausage and collards were cooking I added salt, to taste, to the beans. Once the rice and collards were done, it was time to eat. Served it with hot sauce on the side and it was awesome!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Adventures in London & Ireland

Dietary speaking, London was a bit trickier than I expected. I have to say that I was glad I packed a snack in my bag (almonds) because they came in handy more than once. Keeping things on the cheap and having access to labels meant a lot of time was spent in grocery stores.
Many things I took for granted - like candy bars made by Hershey's being gluten-free in the States are not in other countries. (Barley malt was the biggest problem)
In many ways it felt like being recently diagnosed again: reading every label, asking extra questions, not knowing what if anything was "safe." But those things didn't stop me from having an amazing time!

In London, one of the larger chains, Tescos was really good. I didn't see any gluten-free alternatives, but they had plenty of nuts and snack items that worked for in between meals.

Indian food one night near Paddington Station was pretty disappointing, but at least was a bit easier to negotiate than pub food, most of which seemed to have a gravy. Even the curries were thickened with wheat flour - something I hadn't really thought about ahead of time.

Another night out walking around Covet Gardens, left us hungry and searching for something that might be a safe food option. Manorom Too Thai Restaurant was not only good, but the service was pretty quick.

A burger without the bun, and chips (or fries) became a more of a staple than I expected. I even forwent my usual will-not-eat-fries-fried-in-oil-where-battered-things-are-fried just out of the simple fact that it was impossible to find. If there were fries, or chips on the menu, so was battered fish.

I had pretty high hopes for Ireland. I had heard that has the highest rate of diagnosed Celiacs, I was excited to see what I had for options. I was surprised at the number of rice cakes. Chocolate covered rice cakes, yogurt covered rice cakes, rice cakes are a scone alternative on a menu. (That was at Arabica in Galway) Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against rice cakes, I just had no idea how many I was going to end up eating!

The biggest disappointment was the fact that most of the gluten-free alternative foods in Ireland are made with "gluten free wheat starch." While the packages read that they were safe for persons with Coeliac, I just didn't feel comfortable taking a risk while traveling.

Not all contained wheat starch, and I found a gluten-free bread that did not (rice and tapioca based) and used it to make stuffing for Chrismas day. Kelkin company offered a bunch of products, their gluten free muesli has surpassed all other faux oatmeal alternatives and I shall be on the hunt for it in the US!

Going out for breakfast was pretty simple, no black or white puddings or toast and the Irish breakfast of eggs, bacon and sausages was not what a cardiologist would deem as safe, but I found it lovely.

Tea was a very big part of the trip; even now I find myself wanting a cup or two after lunch. Being such a large part of society, not just food culture, tea is served far more often than coffee -it was nearly impossible to find drip coffee, all of it was espresso. Tea being so important, many places only had instant coffee, which often contains gluten. This was another duh-why-didn't-I-think-of-that! ahead of time things, but I had to kick my 3-4 cup-a-day coffee habit pretty fast because often it wasn't an option.

With the exception of the giant Valu grocery store in Carrigaline, and the bacon and cabbage dish I had in a pub in Kinsale, Galway might have been my favorite place for food. Sheridans Cheesemongers offered up a nice selection of gourmet foods and had an impressive cheese counter. Generous samples were offered up and I took home a 2-year old cheddar and a sheeps milk cheese from Corsica.

I fell in love with a pizza shop in downtown Galway. Mustard offered a gluten free pizza base and was really good about reviewing ingredients. The food was so good we ate there three nights in a row!

The last morning in Galway a bunch of people wanted to stop at Zatzuma crepiere on Shoppe St. I had packed a snack and was fine with just grabbing some coffee - their espresso was the best I had the entire trip - but low and behold they had a gluten free crepe alternative made out of buckwheat! It was thicker, denser and not at delicate as the gluten-variety, but was very delicious and sustained me through the train ride to Dublin.

This time, last year, I never thought I would be able to travel or travel comfortably and be able to feel safe eating. While it was not the easiest thing, and did require some extra work, I was able to eat stay gluten free and healthy for 2 1/2 weeks in foreign lands. Yes, my potato consumption was nearing epic proportions, but the potatoes in Ireland taste different and are much more flavorful. I thought it was an exaggeration, but the potatoes were truly amazing.

While most restaurants I still had to go through the explain-what-gluten-is-spiel, I did notice that the prescription plan in Ireland covers gluten free replacement foods like bread, cereal and pastas. (I stopped to ask for directions at a pharmacy and noticed some gluten free bread behind the desk and found out that a certain quantity of food items are covered.) I did not expect that Ireland would be a gluten free island, I guess I had some unrealistic ideas that dining out would be a bit easier.

But this does not take one bit away from the fact that the trip was overwhelmingly fantastic! I was very fortunate to be able to see and partake in Christmas and New Years in two very different places and the hospitality and generosity I experienced was amazing. 2009 is starting off far superior to 2008 and I plan to keep it going!