Sunday, December 28, 2008
Resolutions aren’t something that I usually intend to make. However, last year I resolved to track what I ate in an attempt to lose the last 10 pounds of baby-fat from my three-year-old- and discovered the link between gluten and my health. I still haven’t lost the weight. At least I haven’t put any more on. There’s always 2009. Or 2010.
I do hope to cook my way through a couple of cookbooks this year: the first is James Peterson’s Splendid Soups http://tinyurl.com/86w2fy . It was a gift from my Grandmother. Well, sort of. She’s 102- she doesn’t get much shopping done these days (thanks, Uncle Doug).
I have taught from James Peterson’s fish book, and found it to be somewhat unreliable. My understanding from fellow chefs is that the soup book is a solid book. And let’s face it- soups are forgiving. The photos are bright and enticing, and the recipes are clean and easy to follow: just what I need to motivate me on gray January afternoons.
The second is Diana Kennedy’s From My Mexican Kitchen http://tinyurl.com/8d8yt5 . I don’t own this book, but since my local library is my second office, that shouldn’t be a problem. This is a techniques and ingredients book, so if I run out of recipes, I might have to actually purchase a Diana Kennedy book. I have space on my bookshelf now that I gave away some of my flour-covered baking books. Sigh.
I selected these for my sometimes series, Cooking Through, because they meet the most important criteria for me; they are topics I am interested in. Most recipes in both books can be made fairly economically, and both have many recipes that appeal to my family. Both books also contain lots of recipes that are naturally gluten free, or can be converted fairly easily.
My resolutions? I resolve to enjoy what I eat this year. No low-carb-vegan-low-fat-artifical-sweetner-metabolism-boosting-run-for-three-hours-on-the-hamster-wheel diets. I resolve to be more patient. I resolve to find more space in my life to sit and meditate.
Life is too short for things that just don’t matter.
Best wishes to everyone in whatever 2009 brings to you. May you find what you most desire in the New Year; be it more of something, or less.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Picky, picky, picky. That’s what my glutinoids are. Although I don’t eat a lot of bread myself, my family does. After about the forth time I was glutened by their snacks, I banned their bread (and their toaster) from the house. They were as nice about it as they could be. My mother-in-law hinted that perhaps, I was being unfair. Our smallest child requested toast, everyday, and scowled at my gluten-free options. The older kids are well versed on the finer points of which gluten-free waffles are edible.
Anyhow, it was time to try baking bread again.
I have been amazingly happy with my Carol Fenster book http://tinyurl.com/8s6ccu , and I started there. Cuban Bread had been a pre-gluten free favorite at my house. I spotted a French Bread recipe in Carol’s book, that like my old Cuban Bread recipe, used 2 tablespoons of yeast, and skipped the rise time. Instead of rising on the counter, it went into a cold oven. We loved this because the bread was ready, start to finish, in less than hour. My first try came out of the oven, looking like a bread superstar- crusty, brown, and seductive, in a bread sort of way.
My family dubbed it the Xanthan Gum special.
I think Xanthan Gum is an acquired taste. We have not acquired a taste for it.
After a little chef reworking, it passed muster with the gang, and even made a debut on Christmas Eve- with a few, “This is gluten-free?” comments.
Like all European-style and gluten free breads, this is best eaten the day it is made. If keeping it longer, wrap it tightly and refrigerate or freeze it.
This recipe uses a traditional method of misting the crust with steam to create a crunchy-crust. I use a 99-cent water bottle from the health and beauty section at the grocery store. Anything food grade that will create a fine spray works fine.
Italian Daily Bread
The final recipe turned out to be a combination of Carol’s recipe, and an Italian loaf that I used to make. If you mix up your dry ingredients the night before, this really can be a recipe that you have in the oven before breakfast.
There are several variations on “rustic” loaf pans. I have an open-ended pan for two loaves that is shaped like a “W” if you look at it from the side. It is made out of aluminum and cost less than $20 at a chef’s outlet store.
Makes 2 loaves- about 20 servings
Active dry yeast- 2 tablespoons
Sugar- 2 tablespoons, divided use
Warm water about 110* F- 1 cup
Egg whites or egg white liquid- ½ cup
Potato Starch- 1 ½ cups
Corn Starch ½ cup (if you are sensitive to corn, just use the potato starch)
Chebe Flour Blend or your favorite GF flour blend-1 cup (preferably on with Tapioca flour in it)if it has xanthan gum, be sure to omit it from the recipe.
Guar Gum ½ teaspoon
Xanthan gum ½ teaspoon
Baking Powder ½ teaspoon
Salt- 1 ¼ teaspoon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil- ¼ cup
Rice or cider vinegar- 2 teaspoons
Flourless pan spray
Water bottle to mist
Dissolve yeast and one teaspoon of sugar in the water, set aside
Spray the bread pan or line with parchment paper
Sift together all of the remaining dry ingredients
Combine egg whites, yeast water, olive oil and sifted dry ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer on low for about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl, add vinegar and mix for another 30 seconds on medium.
Working with a rubber spatula dipped in a glass of water, divide dough in half onto each side of the bread pan. Shape the loaves into identical “logs” about 8-9 inches long. Keep the spatula wet as you do this. Square off the ends of the loaves. Make three shallow slashes in the top of the loaves, at an angle. Spray the top of the bread with the pan spray.
Place on the center rack of the oven. Turn the oven on to 425* F and set the timer for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, open the door of the oven slightly, reach in and spray the top of the loaves several times with your water bottle. Close the oven up and set the time for an additional 20 minutes. If you want to repeat the spray 2-3 times, it will make your crust a little crunchier.
After the 20 minutes are up, use an instant read thermometer and check for an internal temperature of 205*. Cool completely before slicing, and wrap tightly once it is cool.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Anyhow, those-who-don’t-eat-gluten-free like these cut out cookies. They bake up a little crunchy. They can be iced, dusted with colored sugar before you bake them, or glazed with the recipe that follows the cookie directions.
Be sure to chill the dough, rolled out between sheets of wax paper or film wrap, for at least a half an hour in the freezer (or an hour in the fridge) before you cut them out. I transport batches of already-rolled-out dough on flexible cutting boards or laminated kiddie placemats.
This recipe is adapted from a newspaper baking contest. It works well “gluten-free” because the pudding supplies the all-important modified starches and stabilizers.
Recipe can be doubled or tripled, but don’t try to roll out a triple batch of dough all at once.
Makes about 2 dozen little Christmas trees (yield varies)
Confectionary (powdered) sugar 1 cup
Shortening, butter or combination (combo tastes/ works best) ½ cup
Egg, room temperature 1
Chebe Flour Blend or your favorite (omit xanthan if in blend) 1 C
Xanthan Gum ½ teaspoon
Baking Powder ½ teaspoon
Cream of Tarter ½ teaspoon
Salt ½ teaspoon
Vanilla Pudding mix- not the “family” box (1) small box
Allspice ½ teaspoon
Almond Flavoring ¼ teaspoon
Cream confectioner’s sugar and butter together. Add egg and then almond flavoring. Separately, sift remaining dry ingredients together and add them into creamed sugar mix.
When completely mixed, scrape onto a large sheet of wax paper, film wrap or parchment paper (use film if storing for more that a few hours.) Top with another sheet and roll to the thickness you want your cookies; ¼- ½” works best. Slide onto a flexible cutting board or laminated placemat. Chill until ready to cut, at least ½ hour in the freezer, or one hour in the refrigerator. Don’t try to roll out more than two batches at a time. Dough can be re-rolled.
Preheat oven to 375* F. Remove a section of wrapped dough, cut, and bake cookies on a parchment lined sheet tray for about 12-15 minutes. Remove when there is just the slightest hint of brown on the edges of the cookies. Let them cool for a few minutes then remove to a baking rack to cool. If not eating the same day, freeze, and bring up to room temperature before icing; they can be glazed before they are frozen.
Confectionary (powdered) sugar 2 cups
Cold water ¼ cup
Salt ¼ cup
Vanilla Flavoring ¼ tsp
Glycerin ¾ tsp
Paste (or liquid) food coloring
Place all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Stir until well blended. Divided the mixture into small disposable cups (coffee cups work, too)
Blend color into each cup (if you’ve never used paste color before- add it with a toothpick; a little goes a long way)
Working on a baking rack over a baking sheet or parchment paper to catch drips, apply using a rubber spatula or spoon. Sprinkle or decorate with the (gluten-free) decorations of your choice, before they dry. After the glaze is dry, cookies can be stacked and frozen, if you like.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
6. Price shop. Many home economizers suggest the use of a “shopping list” that you keep the prices on all the ingredients that you buy. Okay, if you must. But restaurants don’t price shop that way- do a Top 20 list- your 20 most commonly used/ most expensive items- and price shop those. If it’s like mine- it’s proteins, milk, breakfast and lunchbox items- and not even all people food (darn dog), Beyond your, just keep an eye on categories- who has the best prices on spices, health and beauty, etc, and watch for sales or special buys.
7. Seasonal/ Local. Yup, it’s hip, it’s green, and it’s . . .less expensive? Farmer’s markets have the best selection at the crack of dawn- and very willing negotiators in the hot sun 20 minutes before closing time. Check out the prices buying beef or pork by the quarter or half and freezing it (you have to take loss into account when you do this) It also gives you the fun of trying to figure out what do with a cut that you might not pick up at the grocery. A neighbor or friend of a friend with chickens is likely to make deals on eggs in the middle of summer when the hens are happily laying away.
8. Learn a little about the “old ways”. Understand enough about meat “science” to translate the cuts at the grocery store. Learning a little about gardening and preserving food can fill in around the edges- a basket of apples from the neighbors, the patch of Swiss chard that took over the garden and what-do-I-do with all of this winter squash can be preserved, but also a favorite (or child’s favorite) berry or fruit can be frozen when it’s in season and a good price at the grocery. Making sausage your family likes from the free “my family doesn’t eat wild game” venison that your neighbor hunts is one of the options open to you when you learn these skills. Some salad greens can be grown nearly year round with a minimal effort. Foraging- hey- it’s a great home-school or science project theme if done carefully. And way more interesting than the baking soda volcano thingy.
9. Health is always a bargain. Trans fats, HFCS, and things you can’t pronounce may be cheap, but they should still be treated as foreign invaders. Organic, gluten free, cookies are still, well, cookies. They are treats- wonderful additions to balanced meals, not replacements for them. If your great-grandma (or mine) would have frowned on the quantity of food-from-packages you are eating, perhaps you should reconsider. The USDA is not your best source of health information. Be an informed consumer.
10. Enjoy what you cook. If you only feel virtuous eating rice and beans, hating every minute of it, take rice and beans off the menu. Make refried bean quesadillas with Spanish rice instead, or don’t. Food is fundamental part of everyone’s life- it is a pleasure. Change can come slowly- it took three years at my house of gradual introductions of new, but not too new foods, and not taking “no” for an answer. Now, no one blinks at what we prepare- well except the three year old- and her problem is that she is too busy to eat, not that she doesn’t like the food. We are still a work in progress, too. One meal at a time.
Monday, December 15, 2008
I am far from an expert on gluten free cooking- but I do know how to stretch a dollar! This is a list of ideas I have to begin a little money saving to get through the holidays.
- Automate the days you are most likely to rely on convenience foods- nights you know you will have ball games, church, etc, and prep those meals in bulk along with another meal (I do this with breakfast- pre-cook grains, etc)
- Determine what GF products are important to you. Search for those items one sale. We get in the mindset that we “need” to be able to eat like “normal” people- especially when it’s our children. Some of the most devastating instances of malnutrition in history where shortly after the introduction of refined flour, before it was “enriched”. Most GF products are not enriched. These products do play an important role in the “fun” part of eating- but only as a beginning, not as an ending. Try a funky fruit or odd-looking veggie- just one at a time- don’t overwhelm yourself. Children are more likely to eat food they help prepare, grow or even buy (save the last one for the produce section, not the candy aisle
- Pantry shop. Most people cook the same (or similar) meals over and over. Set up your storage areas- cupboards and freezer, to reflect that- maybe even using baskets or shelves for meal groups- Tex-Mex, casseroles, stir-fries. Restock these as the items go on sale. Shop your cupboard and freezer when menu planning before you scope out the sales flyers. If you haven’t seen the bottom of your chest freezer in several years, start there. I try to “turn my inventory” every six-eight months at my house- pantry to freezer.
- Do you love to cook? Does it get you in trouble when you are cruising the supermarket? Yeah, me too. One way to economize is to choose a cookbook, food blogger or cuisine that you want to explore and add it to your rotation. Want to cook “real” Mexican- get one of Diana Kennedy’s books and spend several months working your way through it. You have the ingredients on the shelf, you have figured out how to translate the cuisine “GF”, you are teaching yourself a new skill and, your family will be less frightened to see which flight of fancy you’re on this week. Even if it is beef tongue. Well, maybe- how do you say, “beef tongue” in Spanish? Will it fool them?
- Recipe files for the 21st century. Print out or photo copy your recipes- write on them (all 8 ½ X 11) and keep them in a pocketed notebook. When they are perfect, then you can keep them in a computer file. You can even cost them and update occasionally.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Chef Lavon (who, by the way is 78 years old), teaches at the same vocational program that I do. He periodically retires, and we throw him a party. He goes home and realizes that he just can’t keep his hands out of dough. So he comes back. For one more semester. Everyone cheers. His breads and muffins are the stuff of dreams. This is my gluten free adaptation of his blueberry muffins.
When you make these, a “soft” flour blend is best- something with potato starch or corn starch in it. If you aren’t using the Chebe blend (or another blend with a modified starch), use a ¼ tsp of Expandex if you can find it, or a ½ tsp of Clear Gel, if possible. They will turn out fine without either.
These muffins are very sweet, so you can cut the sugar a bit, if you want. I have made this with low fat (not fat free) sour cream, but you have to carefully check labels for gluten if you do.
Almost Chef Lavon’s Blueberry Cream Muffins
36 mini muffins or 18 large
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups Chebe Flour Blend or another blend you like (w/o Xanthan gum is best here)
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1 cup fresh blueberries or still frozen berries
Course sugar (optional)
Preheat over to 375* F. Line muffin pan with papers and spray inside of liners with Canola spray.
With a stand or hand mixer, beat eggs: gradually add sugar. While continuing to mix, slowly pour in the oil, then vanilla.
Sift dry ingredients together. Using a rubber spatula, add alternately with the sour cream. Fold in the blueberries gently.
Pan up muffins, filling the muffin cups ½ to 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes until internal temperature of muffins is 205* F. Cool on rack. These freeze well.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
This is really easy. Besides milk and yogurt, you need an instant read thermometer, small (3-4 quart) crock-pot, whisk, heavy bath towel and about 8 hours- about 1 hour attended. If you strain your yogurt, coffee filters, a strainer, and a bowl for under the strainer (do that part after the yogurt is done)
Disclaimer before you begin: this recipe requires microwaving the crockery insert for your slow cooker. I cannot find any information telling me not to do this. HOWEVER, anytime you heat liquid in the microwave, there is a risk involved. Liquid can boil over, crockery can crack, and you can trip over your three-year-olds board books that she left in the middle of the floor. If you do it, you assume the risk.
Milk: any kind- it doesn’t even need to come from a cow
Yogurt, plain, with “live, active” cultures: dido on the cow
Pour the Milk into the crockery insert for your slow cooker. Don’t put more in than you want to take out of the microwave, hot.
Microwave. Start with about 8-10 minutes on high, and check with your thermometer to see where your temperature is after that. You want to bring your milk up to at least 180* F, and you can bring it all the way up to 212*F. I treat it as a range. When your milk has come up to at least 180*, let it cool- you can do this in the microwave with the door open if the whole hot liquid thing concerns you.
When the temperature gets down to between 110*F and 120* F, stir in your yogurt with a whisk. You want about 2 heaping tablespoons of yogurt per quart of milk.
Before you put the milk-filled crockery in your slow cooker, put the base on top of a heavy bath towel. Plug the base into the wall, and turn the dial to “Low”. Put the insert into the base, with the lid on, and wrap the whole works up.
Set your timer for 5 minutes. When the five minutes are up, unplug the slow cooker, but leave it wrapped up.
Ignore it for 8-10 hours. Do not peek. The idea is to keep your milk at about 100*F.
If you want to strain it- pour your yogurt into a coffee filter-lined strainer set inside a bowl, and refrigerate until it is as thick as you would like. The liquid that is strained off is called whey, and I use it in place of buttermilk in my baking recipes. Sometimes I feed it to my chickens if I have too much for baking.
This yogurt is much less sour than store bought plain yogurt.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Since we have weathered the glutinous and gluttonous Thanksgiving Holiday, the rest of the holiday observances are much easier.
I am looking ahead, and know that I will be cooking two holiday meals: our “Christmas Eve” which is not really on Christmas Eve, and our “Christmas Day”, which again, is whenever we can get everyone together. We are at a generational transition in our family, so we go with the flow on holidays.
Christmas Eve is not very formal: Christmas Day is more so. I have planned my menus already (subject to change, of course) to give me time to test drive a few of the items that I haven’t attempted before.
Christmas Eve is when our parents come over, and watch the kids open presents. We have teenage boys, so we also have girlfriends and one or two Christmas orphans. In the past, we have treated this as a soup-sandwich-and-dessert event, but I thought we would go a slightly different route this year. I am doing Oyster Stew, which is a favorite of several of my family members, a stuffed potato bar of sorts, and cookies.
Christmas Day is when my husband’s family gets together, and it is a little more formal. It is also the most difficult for me to navigate eating GF. My side of the family has another Celiac, so we have them well-trained (without much protest, I might add), but we really don’t get together with my hubby’s side often enough to attempt it. His mom has read up on it, and my one sister-in-law has cooked for me-quite well, but I think I will not attempt to make Christmas day fully GF this year (Thanksgiving pretty much was). Since Thanksgiving went off so well, I am cooking the main course at Christmas, and everyone else is bringing appetizers and desserts. My current menu is; roast beef, a four-cheese potato bake, roasted Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, a citrus Grand Marnier salad and an apple Waldorf green salad. I also have a nice crop of chard and mustard greens in my little green house, so they may show up on the menu as well. Just so I can show off and say, “Look what I picked today.”
What's on the menu at your place?
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Thanks to Carol Fenster, (check out her books- http://tinyurl.com/5pvcnr) I was inspired to try to make roux again. Some of the sauces in her books include something called sweet rice flour, which in Asian markets would be called glutinous rice flour- although it has no gluten protein in it. Aside from its good sauce making properties, it doesn’t break when it’s frozen- which is great for me, because I like to double and triple batch things.
When I first made roux with the sweet rice flour I was detecting a slight off flavor in the finished sauce- but I alleviated the problem by toasting my flour in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350*. I put a thin layer- about ½ inch thick- in a pie tin and toast it when I am baking something else. Don’t do this if you have the fan on in your convection oven. Trust me.
The basic recipe for roux is:
Sweet Rice Flour, toasted if desired 2 Tablespoons
Do not sub regular rice flour
Butter or Favorite Substitute (even lard) 2 Tablespoons
Cook both of these together in a sauté pan on medium to low heat with a non-reactive utensil such as a wooden spoon or heat resistant rubber spatula until it reaches a nice toasty color. The darker the roux, the nuttier the flavor will be.
At this point, you can continue to make a sauce, or cool the roux for another time. Two tablespoons of finished roux with thicken 1-1 ½ cups of liquid. Remember that your liquid and your roux need to be opposite temperatures. Cold roux should be whisked into hot stock or hot roux should have cold stock (or milk) whisked into it. Otherwise, it’s lump city.
This is the basic sauce you can use for almost anything. This is what Cream of Whatever Soup wants to be when it grows up: use this to make your casseroles, white lasagna or serve it over sautéed chicken.
Yields about 2-3 cups
Sweet Rice Flour 2 Tablespoons
Butter or Favorite Substitute 2 Tablespoons
Milk 2%, Whole or Substitute, cold 2-3 Cups
Dijon Mustard ½ Teaspoon
GF Chicken Base of choice** to taste (½ teaspoon)
Salt to taste
**I use Trader Joes Concentrate, but it has a “produced in the same facility” warning on the package. You could substitute some of the milk with stock or broth.
Make your roux. Cook your butter and flour together over medium heat until it becomes a nice beige-y color. Turn up the heat a bit. While you are stirring, add in the milk, a little at a time. Keep stirring. Let it come up to a simmer. Add in the mustard, base and salt. Stir and taste. Adjust the seasoning. Serve.
If you are using this in a casserole or lasagna, make it a little thinner, if you want to make it into a pepper gravy, or something hearty, use a little less milk.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Okay, I know everyone has his or her own blend of flour. They all certainly have their merits. The goal with flour blends is to get the protein level, strength and flexibility of wheat flour. Each kind of flour has good qualities and not-so-good qualities.
Most of my cooking and baking is done for non-sillies. My household “critics” do not like the flavors and textures of most gluten free baked goods. The successes I have had have mostly been with this Chebe flour blend, and recipes that don’t rely on flour for the main structure: things like pumpkin muffins or banana bread.
I do like Better Batter (http://betterbatter.org/), but I typically use it with her recipes, all of which have worked out well for me.
I am a little on the lazy side, so complicated blends each time I bake doesn’t work for me. I also don’t like to run around town looking for different ingredients. This blend has worked well for me in most gluten free recipes I have tried it in—I haven’t done a lot of experimenting with non-GF recipes.
This works well because the Chebe contains the hard-to-find modified tapioca starch- brand name “Expandex” (http://expandexglutenfree.com/), as well as some leavening agents.
Chebe Flour Blend
Plain (not Italian or Cinnamon) Chebe Mix (1) package
Cornstarch 3 Cups
Sorghum, Millet or Teff Flour** 2 ½ Cups
Blend ingredients together, keep in a 1-gallon zip-top bag. I have used this blend in places where “all purpose” flour would typically be used- piecrusts, quick breads, and pancakes. For recipes that require more “gluten” I add Xanthan gum and Modified Corn Starch (Clear Jel), but that requires more liquid in the recipe. If I were using this flour in a gluten-containing recipe for the first time, I would add an egg or egg equivalent for structure.
Keep in mind- with any baking, gluten free or otherwise, the liquid content in a recipe is a guideline. I know that in the winter, the liquid in all my baking recipes goes up- the kitchen air is a lot dryer.
**You can sub any flour with about 4g protein content. Millet flour can have a strong flavor: I would recommend blending it with the sorghum (I use Bob’s Red Mill- I have heard some sorghum flours can be harsh tasting also.)
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I am a lot of things- a chef, a foodservice consultant, a vocational instructor, a sometimes free-lance writer, a mom, a step-mom (if it makes any difference) and a wife.
As a chef, I am a Certified Culinary Educator through the American Culinary Federation (ACF information: http://tinyurl.com/58dbly) . To reach a level of certification requires education, experience in the field, a rigorous cooking exam, as well as a written exam. I achieved this designation within weeks of learning that I had Celiac Disease.
“If I hadn’t seen you cooking, I wouldn’t believe that these sauces were produced by the same chef that cooked the other dishes”, said the man in the tall toque who would determine if I would pass or fail, “The sauces are bland- technically correct, but not anything special—These other items—the African Braise and the Mediterranean seafood dish are inspired, bold and well seasoned.”
The bland sauces were made with roux, a cooked flour and butter thickener used in classical sauces. I had made the required sauces in a proficient way- but they still, well, sucked. I didn’t taste them. I couldn’t. I was three hours from home, and still needed to load up and return all of my equipment.
I never mentioned that I couldn’t have flour. It wouldn’t have mattered.
I’m still getting the hang of gluten free cooking. There are some things I probably never will master- I’m too vain about my weight to do massive baking recipe de-construction.
Cake goes straight to my butt.
That’s not to say that I don’t do my fair share of baking.
Life is good, however. I have made a roux, just in time for Thanksgiving.
Come along with me as I relearn to cook. It’ll be fun!