Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why I cannot follow the rules

I am a kitchen hypocrite. I hate following recipes. No sane person would ever allow me to be a baker - ever. (Sorry Matt S.) I can never recreate a dinner I make... why so few complete meals are posted here. I took a class with Sheryl Julian who insisted the answer was keeping a notebook in the kitchen, no dice. I just stop writing things down or "guesstimate" how much of 17 different spices I dashed and sprinkled into a dish. 

Telling me to follow a recipe is like telling handing a painter a color-by-number book. Sure, something awesome might result, but there is thrill and creativity in the unknown, in the experimentation. I love the culinary high of thinking a flavor thought, being so sure I can mentally taste it, and then try to make it. There is a rush to being right, and a buzz to being able to course-correct when its not quite right. Oh this ends in some fantastic crash and burns. (Isn't that a necessary part of the thrill?)

Blogging has forced me to at least attempt to write things down. I have taken to bringing my laptop into the kitchen with me. I don't recommend this. It is really a horrible idea. I have nearly dumped almost every flour, powder and almost egg yolks into the keyboard. But I still do it, otherwise I don't write down what I cook.

But I still do things like make boss enchiladas with homemade salsa verde and not write down a damn thing:

I have had the idea for apple sauce muffins for a week. I bought a half bushel of seconds apple and pears a few months ago, and made a lot of sauce, the freezer is getting a bit snug. I didn't want them like spice cake, not super moist, no. These muffins were going to be moist but with the texture of regular muffins. The last batch of muffins I made turned out really well, so I followed that recipe... well sort of.

I did succeed in writing down the creation. I used coriander in stead of cinnamon or allspice, which you could easily substitute if you desire a more traditional flavor. These are hands down, the best ____ muffins I have ever made.  Positive reinforcement. Why would I follow the same recipe twice?

Coriander ApplePearSauce Muffins
yield 12 muffins
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 egg whites (or one whole egg, I just had extra whites lying around)
1 1/2 cup apple-pear sauce (I went unsweetened here, use what you have or like)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp sweet rice flour
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 cup potato starch flour
1 tbsp psyllium husk fiber (optional - extra fiber)
1 tbsp flax seed meal (optional - extra fiber)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp ground corriander
1 tsp xanthan gum

1. Cream the butter and the sugar. Do this for at least 3 minutes, until it becomes light, fluffy and has worked up the sides of the bowl.
2. Add in the egg whites and mix until it completely combines. (This is going to take a while, be patient)
3. Add in the apple sauce and vanilla. Mix until well combined.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix together pretty well (you don't want lumps of fiber or xanthan balls in your muffins)
5. In 3 or 4 additions, add the dry ingredients into the mixer. Mix till almost combined before adding more.
6. Portion into lined muffin tins.
7. Bake at 325F for 25-30 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick into the center and it comes out clean

UPDATE - these became a little dry and rice after the first day. If I hadn't run out of arrowroot starch and millet flour I would have probably used some of each and less rice.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Garden of Eatin RECALL

Several varieties of Garden of Eatin chips have been recalled for undisclosed soy and wheat.

Garden of Eatin’® Multi Grain Sea Salt Tortilla Chips (9 oz)
    Unit UPC code # 15839-00795    
    Lot codes: 07MAY11, 08MAY11, 19MAY11, 24MAY11, 02JUN11 and 22JUN11

    Garden of Eatin’® Multi Grain Everything Tortilla Chips (9 oz)
    Unit UPC code # 15839-00797    
    Lot codes: 08MAY11, 24MAY11, 25MAY11, 01JUN11 and 22JUN11

    Garden of Eatin’® Multi Grain Blues Sea Salt Tortilla Chips (9 oz)
    Unit UPC code # 15839-00940    
    Lot codes: 08MAY11, 25MAY11, 26MAY11, 22JUN11 and 23JUN11

Full release here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sex and the Celiac - unheathy and offensive

This is a pretty happy place most of the time. Every once in a while something so out there comes around that I feel compelled to unleash all of my not-blogged fury out in one controlled burst.

Cue: Sex and the Celiac.

Don't get me wrong, I am all for talking about sexual health and pleasure and connecting autoimmune issues with other heath issues. Where steam starts spewing out of my skull is when it is done under the Viagra-like puppetry of "you are not a real man if you are not getting laid and BRAGGING about it with your male friends". Oh and its perpetuated by a woman. I get that you are trying to be funny, but no, just stop.

A healthy sex life starts with healthy respect and communication. This means not treating women as sexual conquests that should be bragged about or bemoaned around the bro-down at the water cooler. Here is a crazy idea - how about encouraging a dialogue between partners?

And maybe just maybe consider that if you are going to talk about sexual health, that you include non-hetero hypothetical couples - at the very least Sex and the City did.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Budgeting - food or ideals

Moving twice, plus school has made budgeting and finances a bit lower on my priority list than they should be. Tax season has put things into perspective. (Here are a list of how to access info on gluten-free tax deductions.)

I started using and setting up budgets and have hit a bit of a conundrum. What I want to eat (ethically, heath-wise and environmentally sound) no longer matches up with my income.

  • I do not eat gluten. I avoid most soy and tapioca.
  • I avoid any eggs, milk, meat that contains antibiotics - because if I get sick I want antibiotics to work.
  • I love fish, but shoot for wild, sustainably caught... though as of late I have just stuck with sardines and anchovies. 
  • I shoot for local and organic, when possible. Especially if its a leafy veggie or a fruit I eat the skin of.
  • I prefer non-GMO options, but since the USDA has allowed companies not to disclose this information, its a bit of a crapshoot. 
  • I try to make most of my gluten-free substitute foods whenever possible.

So what now?
Clearly my price hunting and shopping at over 5 stores to get the lowest prices for groceries is not enough. Where do I give in?
Its not something I am taking lightly. I know I feel best when I don't eat certain things (gluten, soy, tapioca, lots of dairy and fried foods). But eating locally is very important - I think its the single easiest (and hardest) way to impact food changes. A few weeks ago I was at the farmers market and realized that I cannot afford even the cheapest cuts of local meat, never mind the tiny $8 container of local mushrooms.
Do I give up on the farmers market?
Should I just give up meats and eat conventional vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains?
Do I just go and buy whatever is on sale and go for the cheapest of everything?
Do I give up gluten-free flours and just avoid replacement foods all together?

How do you trim down your food budget?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Valentine's Day at Qualia - coffee & chocolate tasting

If you have attended a coffee and chocolate night at Qualia before, we are changing things up. If this is your first time, we invite you to join us for the Valentine's Day edition of this relaxed tasting event.

Kristina Nies from No Gluten Required will be leading a chocolate tasting.
Qualia's owner and roaster Joel will be serving up single-origin coffee.
Pastry Chef, Nicholas Hernon will be tempting us with confections including chocolate truffles.

Coffee & Chocolate Tasting @ Qualia Coffee
Monday, February 14th
$15 at the door

You can check out videos from last month's tasting here.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, February 4, 2011

gluten free soft pretzels

I walked a fine line between these two recipes and came up with something nearly perfect. The texture is SPOT ON. The flavor needs a little work. I think the dough needs to proof another time, get more yeasty and less rice or corny. These were fantastic hot, eaten the in the German style, split open with butter. Some really strong grain mustard and a little honey also was delicious. They didn't keep super well the next day, but I threw the left overs in the toaster oven and enjoyed a harder, crunchier version. This gives me some very specific thoughts about bagels... yes, bagels.

Soft Pretzels
1 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp instant yeast
2 cups sweet rice flour
1 cup corn starch
1 cup potato starch
1/4 tsp salt
4 tsp xanthan gum (yes, this much)
a few tablespoons of oil for rolling out the dough
2/3 cup baking soda & 10 cups water for boiling the pretzels
kosher or sea salt for sprinkling on the pretzels

1. Combine the water and yeast, let proof. (10 minutes or so)
2. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.
3. Add the dry into the wet and mix.
5. Scrape the dough down and cover with plastic wrap or a wet towel. Allow to proof until it has doubled (maybe an hour or so, more if your kitchen is cool)
6. With well oiled hands, pull off balls of dough and shape them into sticks. (I tried for the traditional pretzel shape, but the dough is not resilient enough, so finger-thick sticks it is.)
7. Allow these sticks to proof, doubling in size - about 20-40 minutes.
8. Bring the 10 cups of water and 2/3 cup of baking soda to a boil. (Preheat your oven to 500F)
9. One at a time, place the dough sticks into the boiling water.
10. Remove after 30 seconds - you will notice a color change (darker dough) and they will puff up a little)
11. Sprinkle with salt and bake at 500F for about 6-10 minutes - this really depends on how thick your dough is. You are going for brown with some golden brown on the edges. Blistering is a good sign. You can take them darker if you like.
12. Enjoy them warm!

Marvel at the crumb structure. Eat too many and lie on the couch rubbing your belly (optional).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

sesame orange ginger candy

A bus ride conversation lead to my mouth-mind wondering to sesame candies. There are the super thin, crisp version from the Asian markets, and then the tiny rectangles I could find in the supermarket penny candy section. (Not to mention the sesame pita with honey that we used to get from the Lebanese place in Lawrence, MA... if anyone knows what that is called - PLEASE SHARE!)

I like both versions, but I went for the crisp-turned-chewy kind here. With the solid suggest from my friend Joe, I added in both grated ginger and orange peel. The resulting candies are good, but I think they should be thinner, and you can see that more sesame seeds are needed to accommodate the honey.

I used this SeriousEats recipe, and tinkered with the flavor.

Sesame Orange Ginger Candy
1 cup of honey
1 cup of sesame seeds
1/4 tsp salt
zest of two oranges (no pith!)
1" of fresh ginger grated super fine
candy thermometer is KEY, well unless you want to do the "drop hot candy into water" test, which is totally valid, I support you
Oil or cooking spray
wax paper or cellophane for wrapping the candies

1. In a skillet, toast the sesame seeds over medium heat until the become fragrant and begin to pop. (could of minutes)
2. Remove the seeds and set them aside in a bowl to cool.
3. Place the honey, salt, peel and ginger in a deep saucepan with the candy thermometer attached.
*To measure the honey, spray a little cooking spray on the inside of your liquid measuring cup - it will make it a lot easier (awesome trick for molasses too). Better yet, if you have a kitchen scale, tare your saucepan and add 340 grams of honey. One less thing to wash!
4. Cook over medium-high heat till the candy thermometer reads 280F.
5. Turn off the heat and stir in the sesame seeds.
6. Pour the mixture into a parchment-lined and greased pan. (I used an 8x8, but the candy came out a little too thick, I would recommend going with a larger pan... unless you have an awesome dental plan.)
7. Allow to cool for 40-60 minutes.
8. Turn the candies out on to a cutting board and cut with a well oiled knife. carefully
9. Wrap each piece with cellophane or wax paper.
Store in an air tight container.

This made about 100 pieces, though some were bigger than others. I realized that the candies were taller than I expected... I think they should be thinner so they are easier to chew. The orange really comes through, but the ginger is pretty subtle. I would add more or use ground ginger next time.

Thanks to Paul for the inspiration!