Thursday, April 30, 2009

Support H.Con.Res.110!

I know that with swine flu in the air, non-communicable diseases aren't really at the forefront of anyone's mind, especially law makers. Hopefully, the need for adequate health care for all and paid sick days will become national issues - if your neighbor is sick and cannot afford to go to the doctor or stay home, that is your issue too.

If you, friend or loved one has had to battle with insurance or doctors to get properly diagnosed, or even find safe food to eat, you know how importance awareness is, and how it effects access to services. That is why I urge you to support H.Con.Res.110. This bill is proposing recognition, education and funding for celiac disease.

The American Celiac Awareness Alliance has made it easy to contact your House Rep. by filling out this form. It will email your rep asking for them to support H.Con.Res. 110: Supporting the goals and ideals of National Celiac Awareness Month, and for other purposes
You can also go to the House of Representatives website and type in your zip code (upper left) and it will let you know who your Rep is.

On average it takes 7 years in the US for adults to be properly diagnosed with celiac disease. This is too long for people to be in pain. It is costing far too much money in dealing with the complications from untreated celiac disease.

Ok, I am stepping off my soapbox and going back to pondering how to make fluffier gluten free pancakes - I am thinking folding in whipped egg whites might be the key.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pasta & Artichokes

I love artichokes more than I have words for. When these crazy thistles go on sale its hard for me to stay away. (Market Basket had them for $0.79 each this weekend!)

4 artichokes (this was excessive, but delicious)
1/2 lb rice pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot diced (optional)
3 cloves garlic minced
1 can chick peas rinsed
2 tbsp capers+
1/2 lemon

1. Clean, quarter and de-choke the artichokes. (Place in acidulated water till cooking time)
2. Wash off the artichokes, place in clean water, add salt and bring to a boil, then throw in the pasta.
3. In a separate pan over medium-low heat, sweat the shallot and garlic in olive oil. Add the chick peas to warm through.
4. Drain the pasta and artichokes once both are cooked through. (You might need to rinse the pasta - check the directions)
5. Add the garlic, shallots, oil and chick peas to the pasta and artichokes. Add in the capers and squeeze half a lemon over top. Toss and salt to taste.

I ate substantially more than this portion suggests. It was good!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Chex Mix: A new take on an old favorite

I have a problem with following directions and buying ingredients that I probably will not use for anything else. Cue me futzing with the Original Chex Mix Recipe and coming up with something new.

Gluten Free Chex Mix
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Corn Chex
3 tbsp butter (or margarine if you need it dairy-free)
2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce (FYI some types contain anchovies, L&P does)
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
dashes of cayenne pepper

1. Place the butter, sauce and seasonings in a microwaveable bowl. Heat over medium till everything is melted.
2. Add in the cereal, stirring well to coat.
3. Cook the mixture on High for 5 minutes, stirring every 1-2 minutes. *
4. Cool the mixture on a cookie sheet and store in air tight container.
*I found that the microwave I used this was way way way too much time and the Chex started burning. Keep an eye on the little guys.

So I unintentionally used much more Worcestershire than expected, but since I wasn't using the Seasoned Salt, I thought it would be ok. It turned out really well.

(A more realistic visualization of my munching demands.)

Things that would make this better: Gluten Free Pretzels

Friday, April 24, 2009

I Spy Gluten Free Chex!

The word on the street was that the newly reformulated Chex were coming in June 2009, Corn and Honey Nut flavors joining Gluten-Free Rice Chex. Much to my surprise I saw Gluten-Free Corn Chex last night at the corner market! (The Inman Square Supermarket to be exact. They are home to the hands-down nicest, most friendly staff ever.)

I have visions of weekend Chex Mix dancing through my head!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Time to scream

A hint of warm weather and a birthday party means ice cream.
I saw David Lebovitz's vanilla ice cream recipe and tinkered with it a bit.

Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream w/Greek Yogurt
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup of half and half
3/4 cup sugar
1 whole vanilla bean, split & scraped
pinch of kosher salt
4 egg yolks
10oz. strained Greek yogurt (I used Fage 5%)
pitted cherries, chopped

1. Place the cream, half and half, sugar, vanilla bean and pulp and salt into a sauce pain. Heat over medium heat until it just begins to bubble. DO NOT BOIL
2. Turn the heat off and in a separate bowl, whisk the yolks together. Very slowly, add a spoonful of the hot cream mixture to the eggs yolks, whisking constantly. Once you have added about half of the cream mixture, poor the yolk mixture into the remaining cream in the pot, stir while adding.
3. Over medium-low heat, while constantly stirring, cook the mixture until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. REALLY REALLY DO NOT BOIL THIS
4. Allow the mixture to cool and stir in the yogurt.
5. Place the mixture into an ice cream machine and let it go until its just past the soft serve stage and beginning to build up on the sides and paddles.
6. Add the cherries and place mixture into freezer to set up.*
7. Freeze over night... or as long as you possibly have. (Mine set up in 10 hours)

*You can add the cherries while its in the ice cream machine, but they will get banged up and change the color of your ice cream. I layered the cherries into the ice cream as I scooped it into the container destined for the freezer.

I also made some salted caramel almonds for crushing and putting on top. (1 cup sugar, 1 tbsp water, 1/2 tsp salt, boiled till dark. Throw in nuts, pour out on to SilPat, cool and then chop up)

This was a lot richer than I expected it to be, but in a good way.

Friday, April 17, 2009

May is National Celiac Awareness Month... in New Hampshire

So there is some debate [or overlap] over when National Celiac Awareness Month is. Some say April, some May and others October.

This just in from the American Celiac Disease Alliance: Governor John H. Lynch of New Hampshire has declared May National Celiac Awareness Month in New Hampshire.

There seems to be a shift underway with organizations and countries moving towards recognizing May as the month for acknowledging Celiac Disease awareness in the US and abroad. My internal compass says north is the way to head, so May is when I shall be celebrating.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Coconut Fish Curry

Coconut fish curry is a recipe that my friend Kim and I wrote for the Globe, but never ran. It was inspired by her travels in Kerala, India, where fresh fish curries are very popular along the coast. While I rarely follow this recipe to a T, it is something I go back to often. I have thrown in okra and spinach instead of green beans, or swamped out the fish for black eyed peas making the dish vegan. Its really versatile and reheating doesn't leave a fishy smell in the kitchen. (Coworkers, roommates and family members rejoice!)

Coconut Fish Curry
Serves 4

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon powdered coriander
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium sweet potato, diced
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon powdered ginger
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (option)
1/2 pound green beans, cleaned & halved
1 red pepper, large dice
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, with juice
14 oz can coconut milk
1 pound Tilapia
4 cups cooked rice

1. In a heavy, wide, large pot toast mustard seeds, cumin seeds, coriander, in oil for one minute or until mustard seeds begin popping. Add the onions and fry for five minutes.

2. Add the sweet potatoes and mushrooms and continue to cook over medium heat for eight minutes.

3. Add garlic, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, salt, and red pepper flakes and fry for one minute until it releases its smell, but does not burn.

4. Add green beans, red pepper, tomatoes, and coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering on medium low heat for ten minutes. Add the fish, making sure pieces are submerged in the sauce. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.

Serve over rice.

This version was made with carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, onions fresh ginger and tilapia.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

New traditions

Last year I attended my first Passover meal; it wasn't a Seder, but we made all kosher for Passover foods. (My newly honed label reading techniques and knowledge of cross-contamination was an added bonus in the kitchen.) We made coconut encrusted tilapia, quinoa and mango salad and had an almond tart with fresh fruit for dessert.
This year, I did not make it to a friend's for Passover, but did co-host Easter at my place and the memory of the almond tart inspired an on-the-fly addition to Easter dinner. (SmittenKitchen posted a flurry of Passover-friendly dessert ideas this year, many gluten free)

In the midst of keeping an eye on the ham* and greeting fellow diners, I through together what I thought would be a pastry crust: almond meal, chopped pecans, sugar, butter, potato starch flour, millet flour and some salt. The finished product came out more like a lacy-oatmeal-tasting cookie... but in a good way.

One person just came back from a trip to New Orleans and was inspired to attempt calas, a rice-based fritter, and maque choux, a corn and vegetable dish cooked in bacon grease. Chives just starting coming up in her gardern, so they were part of the inspiration for the maque chos that included okra, shrimp, corn, bell peppers, onions and bacon, served over grits. The calas are a creole tradition, where cooked rice is mixed into a sweet batter and fried then topped with powdered sugar. I was really unsure about these. I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of how they would hold together or taste, but I showed her I housed the gluten-free flours and with a sprinkling of potato starch and a good dose of millet flour mixed together with eggs, cooked jasmine rice, nutmeg, vanilla and sugar... well these fried treats were amazing.

The evening started off with Scotch eggs, hard boiled eggs wrapped in sausage and deep fried. Hands-down the best egg-shaped thing I have ever eaten. It tasted, as one dinner put it, "like eating breakfast." We boiled the eggs, let them cool, peeled them and then rolled them in millet flour so the sausage would adhere better. Then the eggs were covered in a combination of breakfast and sweet Italian sausage (removed from the casings and mixed together). The sausage covered eggs were then rolled in a raw egg mixture then in gluten free breadcrumbs. The oval jewels then took a 5 minute bath in 350F oil till they were golden brown and delicious. Quartered and served as the pre-meal appetiser, Scotch eggs started the meal off right.

While noshing on Scottland's finest creation, the ham was cooling while red-eye gravy (pan drippings and strong coffee cooked down with cornstarch) was being made to top the mashed potatoes and green beans were tossed with lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil.
The meal came together fantastically because of good cooks and great friends.

Scotch eggs:
Scotch eggs quartered:

Lemon Green Beans & Cheese w/Pears:

Red-eye Gravy tops the whole meal:

Calas, Tart and Fresh Berries:

*The ham is a bit of a funny story.
I have never cooked a ham before, and considering I had hoped to grill lamb for Easter (the weather choosing not to cooperate prevented that from going through) I was at first not thrilled about the idea. The walk home in the pouring rain carrying a 17lbs ham in my backpack... well lets call it a bit delicious salt in the wound. Sunday morning was a new day and I started out by spiking the cola (yes, I am adapting more Alton Brown recipes) with allspice berries, cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves, ground ginger, and a dash of ground celery seeds. I poured the mixture into the bottom of the pan containing the scored ham, and tented aluminum foil over the ham and let it cook slowly. For the last hour of cooking, I removed most of the excess fat off the top of the ham, and covering it with a spiced mustard paste (brown mustard, honey, cloves, allspice, ginger, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar) and then topping that with dark brown sugar and returned the ham to the over to cook uncovered.

The verdict: the best ham I have ever eaten. It only gets better knowing that in addition to left overs, I have a giant bone to flavor soups and greens for the rest of the week!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Food Ingredient Database

Check out this article, "Food ingredient database aims to empower consumers" on Food Navigator-USA.

It talks about the launch of Food, a searchable database for food additives and allergens. Its still in the beta form but exciting to see.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Importance of a Well Stocked Desk

I forgot salad dressing for my lunch but remembered that I had a tin of anchovies packed in olive oil in my desk drawer. While I heated up my left over homemade mushroom risotto, I mixed the anchovies and olive with some apple cider vinegar (I ran down the street to pick this up) and my salad of pea shoots, chick peas, cucumbers and lettuce was complete!

And no, my co-workers no longer react to the eclectic mix of items that make there way in and out of my desk.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

On the Cheap

This article, "40% Report Eating Less Nutritious Food" made me wonder about what happens to families and people who already are paying more for food. If you are eating gluten-free there is a good chance that you are making a higher percentage of your food at home and from scratch because of the cost of gluten-free replacement ingredients and foods. So, when the time comes to be even more cost cautious, what gets cut?
For me it tends to be fresh fruits and veggies, meat, coffee and packaged cereals, cookies, and crackers.

Freezer section
Frozen vegetables can actually be of better quality - they are frozen when vegetables are ripe, opposed to being picked early so they can withstand shipping - and often are cheaper. Frozen peas, spinach, and okra are three of my favorites. I also love frozen blueberries, raspberries and cherries for baking or creating a quick sauce for pancakes or waffles.

I thought I hated coffee till I met espresso; espresso changed my world. That said, espresso costs money and its a luxury I allow to creep into my wallet a few more times a week than it should. Brewing coffee via French press and icing it in the fridge the night before, has become my financial compromise. (Good espresso cannot be made at home, well not for less than the price of a small compact car.)
Buying beans on sale forces me to try new roasts and origins in addition to saving $1+ a pound. When I do splurge, I try to bring my own travel mug, and most coffee shops offer a discount for reusable cups.

Bringing Bags
Saving $0.05 to 10 cents when I reuse a bag or backpack to the grocery store is a small savings, but it adds up.

Boxed goods
I try to only buy cookies, crackers, cereals and almond milk when they go on sale. If you a have room in the cupboards, its a really easy way to save on your weekly and monthly food expenses.

Shop around
Its become a bit of a joke that I am the Rain Man of food shopping. I am lucky that I have this sort of built-in memory for these numbers - I cannot do it for phone numbers and I don't remember any of my friends' birthdays, but I can tell you the current price of eggs, in three different stores.

Shop by unit, ounce or pound
Beyond sales, its really important to look at the unit price or price per ____. (Its usually the price in the orange box on the store shelf.) This gives you a better comparison and can save you money. Usually buying in bulk is more cost effective, but not always. Check the per unit price and make sure you are getting a good deal.

Fresh produce
When I do buy fresh produce, I do so in smaller quantities and again look at the price per pound. Seasonal items are usually a bit cheaper, especially things like tomatoes. Tomatoes have been banned from my shopping basket after reading this article.

Meat and fish
Buying meat and fish on sale is something that I will occasionally do, but it usually means that the store is trying to move the product out and fast. It doesn't necessarily mean its of lesser quality, but there is a good chance that its nearing the end of its shelf life or the store has too much. While I do sometimes buy fish on sale for grilling or curry, I more often will purchase a larger piece of meat and use it for multiple meals. A whole chicken is a great example of a way to save money per pound and have the bones to make stock after you roast it or use the other parts.

Cook at home often and in larger quantities
I am not always great at doing this but I try whenever I can to make more for dinner than I need, take the rest for lunch the next day and make one extra serving to throw in the freezer. This way, when I cannot cook ahead, I have backup meals waiting.

Rethink staples
Pantry staples are the go-to, must haves in your kitchen. For me these are: rice, beans, spices, canned tomatoes, sugar, gluten free flours, millet bread, almonds, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, hot sauce, etc.
Millet bread, for example, is $4.59 a loaf and it never goes on sale. Soft corn tortillas on the other hand, do go on sale and are around $1.29 for 12, and even cheaper at Market Basket. Corn tortillas are versatile, as long as you heat them up first, they work great for tacos, wraps, enchiladas and my favorite breakfast.
Canned beans are cheap, Goya brand are right around $0.99 a can, but dried beans are a fraction of the cost. Yes, they take longer to cook and need to be soaked overnight, but they are a great source of fiber and protein and are pennies a serving.

Serving size
This is something I am not good at adhering to. If I do not portion out a helping of a food I can plow through a bag or a box at an alarming rate. (see: potato chips and Pamela's Cookies*) Grabbing a handful or a few cookies then putting the rest away is a good way to keep treats as treats and make them last.
*I bought a box of Pamela's ginger almond cookies last night and only had 2. That is what I call progress.

I am bad at saving and using coupons, but $5 Dinners has a good post about find and using them on perishable items.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Toast-it Bags

Perhaps an end to my work toaster nightmares: Toast-it Bags.

Thanks to Alex for sharing this.

Monday, April 6, 2009

New Gluten-Free Magazine

I got wind of this from the forum. There is a new quarterly magazine that just launched: Delight Gluten Free

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Gluten Free Sourdough Bread - Attempt 1

My sourdough starter appeared as ready as it will ever be and I determined today was the day that I finally make bread. I took the starter out of the fridge and brought it to room temperature and then fed the beast:

1 cup sourdough starter + 3/4 cup hooch (liquid above sourdough starter)
1/4 cup millet flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
Sir, cover, proof.

I came back 4 hours later and it smelled yeasty, but didn't look like it had too many bubbles, so I stirred in 1 tablespoon of sugar and sure enough, there were bubbles, they were just hiding under the surface.

This is the point where I said to myself, "why am I trying to make bread from scratch the very first time I am attempting gluten free bread making?"
I was seriously frustrated with the recipes I have found that do not tell you what the dough is suppose to look and feel like. Granted, I was not following any one recipe, but baking is tricky; the humidity of the day effects the quantities of ingredients that are needed. I know what "real" bread dough should be by sight and touch, but gluten free dough, I don't have the foggiest.
Yet I pressed on.

1/2 cup potato flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tbsp argar argar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 3/4 cup starter (with 1 tbsp sugar in it)
2 eggs beaten
1 tbsp olive oil (plus more to grease the bowl)
1/2 cup luke warm water

1. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
2. Using the dough hook attachment on a mixer, slowly add in the starter, eggs and olive oil. Mix thoroughly.
3. At this point, the dough was not sticking together, so I slowly drizzled in water (approximately 1/4 cup) till a cohesive batter formed.
It looked like a dense cake batter, but also a bit like whipped frosting. Heavy and thick like cake batter, but with pockets of air and denser, holding shapes, like frosting - or sort of like hummus.
4. Transfer to an oiled bowl and proof 1 hour.

5. Turn it out into a baking pan or loaf pan. (I used a cast iron skillet - and there was some definite sponginess and give to the dough, making me feel better about this project.)
Allow to proof 1 - 1.5 hours.

6. Cut an X across the top. Bake at 375F for 45 minutes and until the center sounds hollow when knocked.

The bread did settle a bit after cooling. It has a good, sourdough flavor. The crumb is small, dense and pretty uniform. It is moister than I expected.
It is not as light and fluffy as I wanted, but I think its a good starting point. I think that with the addition of baking powder and an acid it could be lighter, but I am open to suggestions.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Zing Pizza

A friend of mine is working on a molecular gastronomy project. He asked if I was interested in playing with chemicals, Sodium Alginate and Calcium Chloride specificly, and I enthusiastically said yes.

In the midst of preparing the fruit for the attempt at making "caviar" we realized dinner was in order, and order we did. I had heard good things about Zing Pizza and Roti, and although I fell in love with the gluten free crust at Stone Hearth Pizza, just a few blocks down, I am an equal opportunity pizza consumer.

We tried the Blue October (with feta instead of blue cheese) and a Zorba the Greek, both on gluten-free crusts. Arriving in extra long boxes, the pizzas were not cut into the usual Zing triangles, instead were portioned out in Sicilian style rectangles.

The Blue October was the clear winner, but half of us agreed that the gluten-free crust was good (it has both crunch and a toothsome chew!) but needed some salt.
I am so thoroughly excited to have 2 delicious pizza options very close by!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Food Allergy Bill in MA

There are new food allergy rules just around the corner in Massachusetts!
I did not know that this happened, but apparently a food allergy awareness in restaurants bill was signed by the governor on January 15, 2009.
Chef Ming Tsai, who has a son with food allergies, supported the bill and his restaurant Blue Ginger is known for being a place that will cater to those with food allergies and intolerances.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sourdough Starter Day 6

There are bubbles!
I fed the started and split it up into two jars. Hopefully bread making this weekend.

Fish & Chips

I have been eyeing Whole Foods new gluten free breaded fish products. I have become a stickler for waiting for new things to go on sale and this past weekend they finally did, so I thought I would give it a try.

The last time I had fish and chips was over two years ago at the Druid in Cambridge, MA. Hands down, it was some of the best I had ever had. My taste memory set the bar high, but its a frozen, packaged fish food... I am not going to get ahead of myself.

While the oven warmed, I sliced one potato, coated it in olive oil and kosher salt and spread it on the outside of a baking sheet. When the oven hit the required 450F, I added the fish pieces to the middle and baked for 13-15 minutes, per directions, turning halfway through.

I made a quick sauce of mayonnaise, lemon juice and ground white pepper. I like tartar sauce, but found myself without pickles and didn't miss them too much.
(Yes that is ketchup in the background, I like it on my fries, I can admit it.)

Overall, the fish was good - a bit more strongly flavored than most cod I have had, but not in an unpleasant way - and the batter was crunchy and stayed put; it did not flake off or separate from the fish. It was a little greasy and more salty than I expected, but not overly seasoned. I was glad I had extra lemon on the side.
I would try the Haddock or Halibut option if either were on sale as well.