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Can't Buy Me Love
Feb 14th, 2012 by Chris

cupid1With quiver loaded, Cupid is taking careful aim, but don’t let the barrage of blush-shaded marketing prompts caress you into breaking your heart-shaped budget.  Valentine’s Day has, like so many holidays, evolved into a manufactured excuse to consume more stuff in greater quantities.  We are encouraged by smiling, hugging and kissing couples to purchase jewelry, flowers, candies and all manner of amorous enticement.  It is suggested that we solidify and reaffirm our affections by opening our wallets, yet I maintain that an expression of love need not come with a price-tag attached.

If your sweetheart requires an emailed reminder from FTD to say “I love you” and that sentiment is shared only once a year, your relationship is no bouquet of roses.  The real currency of love is sincerity, shared not on single, date-book occasions but always, and mostly without sparkling accoutrement.  True expressions of devotion are rarely found on racks of greeting cards.  Affection is displayed in showy flourishes, but love distinguishes itself steadily, in all seasons.

I’m not totally frowning on gifts—if you’re feeling flush, by all means, share the wealth.  But you don’t have to buy-buy-buy just because a cut-out Cupid offers alluring promises at 20% off.  No perfume, trinket or charm can adequately prove love (though many jewelers will swear a diamond comes close).  If you want to impress your feelings upon someone special, carefully consider what they might actually need before bringing out the bankcard.  Caring means providing what your significant other really wants without them ever requesting it.  Most importantly, remember that your sentiments are more sincere when accompanied by acts of kindness.

Of course, Lunchsense suggests…lunch.  Perhaps a Chicken Caesar Salad, wedge of French bread, orange slices and chocolate truffle.  Make it any day, include a sweet note and you’re positively proving how much someone is loved.

Foodie Tuesday: Lavender Tuiles
Feb 10th, 2012 by Nancy

7-LavenderTuiles_400

I know, it’s not Tuesday, it’s Friday.  ‘Sorry ’bout that, I got busy.

As promised, here’s my favorite cookie from the Advent Cookie Calendar I wrote about last week.

Tuiles (’tweeluhs’, French for ’tile’) are thin, crisp wafer cookies.  Popular and versatile, this version is a complete sensory experience: delicate and curved like a roof tile, pale in the center and flecked with brown and green, then golden around the perimeter; scented like a garden in summer; crisp and crumbly at first bite and tenderly chewy  towards the center, with a heavenly, buttery, herbal flavor.

Thankfully, they are not only easy to create, they convert to gluten-free with ease.  Here’s the recipe:

Lavender Tuiles, as offered by Saveur.com

3/4 C sugar

1/4 t salt (Saveur specifies kosher; I used table salt)

4 egg whites, lightly beaten

1/4 C dried lavender (I used fresh, and about half that much, and straight out of the garden, and I chopped it finely. It worked well.)

4 T unsalted butter, melted

3 T flour (converted: I used a gluten-free flour mix, and added 1/4 t xanthan gum.)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl whisk together sugar, salt and egg whites until smooth. Add lavender, butter and flour and mix until evenly combined.  If using GF flour, allow the batter to rest a few minutes to allow the xanthan gum to absorb some of the moisture and do its stretchy thing.

Drop tablespoonfuls of batter onto a silicon mat-lined baking sheet, and using the back of the spoon spread batter into very thin 4″ rounds.  Bake until golden brown at the edges, about 10 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven, and using an offset spatula or butter knife, gently lift the hot cookies off the baking sheet and drape them over a rolling pin or other curved surface and allow them to cool there.

A few more tips of my own:

- I don’t have a silicone baking mat, so I used parchment paper which worked reasonably well – I had to peel the cookies off very carefully, but they didn’t disintegrate (which is noteworthy for GF cookies).

- It’s slow going, but I suggest cooking only one tray of cookies at a time unless you have an abundance of surfaces onto which you can drape cooling cookies. The upside to this batter is that without a leavening agent it will hold well for quite awhile.

- I hear tell you can also drape the cookies into muffin tins and create bowls that would be heavenly filled with custard, fruit, whipped cream, or other filling.

- They’re wonderful in a lunchbox!

Give them a try, and let me know how they turn out for you!

Foodie Tuesday: 24 Days, 24 Cookie recipes
Jan 31st, 2012 by Nancy

1, 2, 3...23, 24 different Christmas cookies

I was looking for something different for the Christmas season last year.

Inspiration struck in the form of the Cookie Advent Calendar provided to me by Saveur magazine. Yes, it really was just that: 24 days and 24 cookie recipes.  And we made every single recipe.*

As if baking a new batch of cookies every day for 3 1/2 weeks (or just HAVING that many cookies in harm’s way) wasn’t foolish enough, I also converted them to gluten-free versions (my husband is gluten intolerant).  If you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking, no, I don’t have too much time on my hands.  I DO have a splendid assistant in the person of my 13 year old daughter-with-aspirations-to-be-a-chef, so between the two of us:

  • she filled in on the days I was just tapped out;
  • I admit that we both bailed out on a couple of days, which we made up on the weekend;
  • we often cut recipes in half or even in thirds, with the goal being no more than 24 cookies in a day (or no more than two trays, so we could get them all in and out of the oven in one pass).

And the effort, while significant, was manageable.

Without a doubt best part – really truly even better than eating them – was the immense pleasure I found in knowing that at some point in the day, every day, we’d be dropping everything…and baking cookies.

Another treat:  Each recipe would be posted at midnight, but as the mag is in Eastern Standard Time my girl and I would check every evening at 9 pm here on the West Coast and find our next day’s offering ready and waiting.

All the cookies were good, but there was indeed a range of results that traveled from, “hmm, tasty sand, that one,” to “wow! oh wow! greatgreatgreat!”  Many (though not all) were of a European lineage, and they were the most interesting.  We all agreed that traditionally American cookies, while good, are by comparison pretty bland, generally being dominated by one flavor: peanut butter, or cinnamon, or chocolate, for example.

The down sides:

We did our best to be true to the original recipe (gluten-free conversions notwithstanding), but at times the ingredients were challenging.  Among other things I now have all but a few ounces of a rather expensive, very strong, very weird liqeuer which as far as I can tell will only go for future batches of those specific cookies they’re used in…which is, thankfully, a pretty darn good cookie.  If you’re in the Eugene area and want to give them a try, call me.  I’ll share.  I also bailed out when the recipe called for a cookie mold that I could only find on eBay for $40.  THAT crossed deep into “well this is just silly” territory.

There were too dang many versions of shortbread cookies.  How may riffs on a theme can there be for butter, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla? Quite a few, we found.  On that note, and on the upside…

Converting all the recipes to gluten free might be considered ‘above and beyond the call’ but it wasn’t impossible, and I’d been on the hunt for a really great shortbread cookie that worked in GF flour.  I’m pleased to report that I found one!  Mention in the comments if you’d like to know how I converted it. It turned out crisp, tasty, and didn’t spread a whit, which had been the recurring issue with all the other GF cookie-cutter cookies I’d tried.

After the best part, above, the next best part was that we always had something to bring to friends’ houses all month long: “What’s that you say? Laura’s having a few people over tonight? Hey, we’ll bring cookies!!”  In fact, I think that’s where most of them went, in the final tally.

The last best part: We still have a freezer full of cookies.  Only a few remain of each of maybe half the cookie recipes, but it’s enough to know that a sweet treat – not much, but just enough – is only a few steps away.

Stay tuned: Next Tuesday I’ll post the hands-down favorite cookie of the whole season.

*Disclaimer: Okay, fine.  There were actually 25 recipes.  We didn’t make the last one.  It was yet another shortbread cookie, and we didn’t have the right ingredients, and it was CHRISTMAS DAY, for cryin’ out loud.  We all agreed that all the Advent Calendars we knew had 24 days, not 25, so we called it a wrap at 9:15pm on Christmas Eve.  Mea culpa.

Foodie Tuesday: Turkey stock
Jan 24th, 2012 by Nancy

Turkey soup made from homemade stock.  Mm good.Some days I just can’t do much.

‘Worked all weekend at the Good Earth Show (it was wonderful!) but I’m still trying to get my energy back.

Could it be that my achy, snuffly, feverish daughter has passed her bug over to me? ‘Hope not…time will tell.  In the meantime, I need to power down, take it easy, recoup for a few days. But I’ve got the van to unload, inventory to check in, receipts to tally…and a turkey carcass in my fridge to deal with.

The turkey will be the easy part.  While I tackle the rest of the post-show chores, I’ll make stock.

If you haven’t tried it before, I’d like to nudge you – gently – to try making your own stock.  Really, it’s about as difficult as sorting, washing, drying and folding a load of laundry – you’ve pulled that off a few times, yes? – and the results are so very worth it.  It’s the gastronomic equivalent of throwing a blanket over your shoulders, and given the season and our precarious health conditions this week it’s exactly what we all need.

You may ask, “what are you doing with a turkey in the fridge in January?” A fair question.  Turkey is a cheap, healthy protein source, and if you have a large enough freezer I highly recommend buying a couple turkeys in November and cooking them up over the winter.

TURKEY STOCK

When you cook a turkey, toss the parts that you might not use – neck and giblets – in a container, and freeze them.  When you have finished enjoying all the cooked parts of the bird, throw all the remaining stuff – bones, skin, whatever – in the container as well.  NOTE WELL that you have raw and cooked pieces in this container.  They will all eventually be cooked together, but until they land in the stockpot treat them as raw meat.

I usually wait to make stock until I have at least five or six pounds of parts and pieces.  A single big turkey will provide this; if you’d like to make chicken stock this recipe will work nicely, but you may have to collect two or three chickens’ worth of goods to have enough to go to the trouble of making stock.  However, if you don’t have a really big stock pot, this will all work fine with just a couple pounds of bird.

1. Weigh the frozen turkey pieces to the nearest pound or so, and put them (still frozen is fine) into the biggest pot in the house. Place the pot on the stove now; once everything is in the pot it will be pretty heavy!

2. For every POUND of parts and pieces, add:

  • 1/2 a carrot, broken in half (no need to peel it)
  • 1/2 a celery stalk, broken in half (leaves are fine, in fact preferred; old-ish stalks are fine, and stock is a great way to make use of the inner parts of the celery bunch)
  • 1/2 an onion, cut in half again
  • a peeled garlic clove (no need to cut it)
  • 2-3 whole peppercorns
  • 2-3 whole cloves
  • 1/2 t oregano & thyme, dried (double or triple that if using fresh)
  • 1 quart of water

3. Turn on the heat, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, partially cover the pot with a lid, and leave it alone for an hour or two. If you are nosy you can give it a stir occasionally.  Your house will smell heavenly.

4. If you wish to add parsley or basil, they are wonderful in stock but only need to be added in the last half hour or so.

5. I usually leave mine to simmer for about 3 hours, but there’s no rocket science to stock.  The only guideline I’d offer is that it will need at least an hour.

6. When you think you’re ready to deal with the next step (after 1 to 3 hours of simmering), turn off the heat.  Set a colander over the next-largest pot in the house, and place it next to the stockpot.  Start moving everything solid – meat, bones, vegetables – with tongs or a large slotted spoon into the colander and let drain for a minute.  The stuff in the colander, once it’s drained, can be pitched – I double bag these leftovers before they go in the garbage.  It will be hot, messy work, but will make the stock pot a little easier to handle.  Keep doing this until you have removed and drained a significant portion of the solids.

7. Now you’re ready to salt the stock.  Starting by adding about a 1/2 t salt for every quart of water, stir, and taste the results.  Keep going until you’re satisfied, but don’t overdo it – it’s easier to under-salt now and add more when you’re ready to use the stock.

8. Finally, drain the rest of the stock through the colander to remove the last of the solids, working in batches if necessary.

What you will now have is pot full of liquid gold.  Divide it into freezer containers, label it, and stash it in the freezer, where it will last for at least 6 months.  That which you refrigerate should be used within a week.   I freeze pints and quarts, mostly, though some recommend freezing small quantities in ice cube trays to have them handy to chuck into sauces as needed.  I’ve just never had occasion to use less than a half a cup at a time, and even then I don’t mind having extra stock in the fridge for a couple days.  It makes a perfect rainy-day, low-energy light snack on days…just like today.

Win A Month of Free Lunch!
Jan 18th, 2012 by Nancy

‘Ever get the feeling like the dinner-making well has run dry?

I’ve been trying to nudge that afternoon routine out of a rut lately.  As the primary cook in the household I try, with all good intentions…

  • to serve not one but two vegetables at dinner, and
  • to offer meat not as the main course all the time but occasionally as only a side dish, and
  • to have at least two meat-free dinners a week, and
  • to add more flavor and texture, and especially to make enough for a couple lunches (but not so much that it goes to waste), AND…

it’s all just tapped me out.

FOTT_croppedDid I forget to mention that my husband is gluten intolerant too, so I get to do all the above AND convert dishes as necessary to make them wheat, oats, barley and rye-free?

This is where the menu planning service Food on the Table has been a godsend.  With some initial setup I can peruse a database of recipes and create menus for the upcoming days.  Since Food on the Table uploads the circulars from my local grocery stores I can hone in on recipes that will use sale items.  I can also enter my own recipes and family favorites – useful, that.  Then Food on the Table generates a shopping list from my selections.

In my case I use the service less for every last detail of a meal and a shopping trip, and more for inspiration and organization.  It’s become my palette for thinking through dinners for the week: I see what’s on sale, I recall what I have in the fridge to use up, I hone in on a cuisine category (vegetarian, pasta, etc. – they even let me indicate a gluten free dietary restriction), and without fail, something – and often something I’d never thought of trying – surfaces as the next couple days’ worth of dinner.  What’s more, I can throw the leftovers in the lunchboxes the next day!

If inspiration is that missing piece to your meal planning efforts, I have great news: If you buy a lunchbox this weekend either at the website or at the Good Earth Home, Garden and Living Show, you will automatically be entered in a drawing to win A MONTH OF LUNCH.  Here’s what you’d get:

  • A $75 Gift Certificate to the grocery store of your choice – That’s $3.75 a day for weekday lunches, which would be an epic meal if it’s brought from home, and
  • A free one-month subscription to Food on the Table to help you plan those great dinners that will turn into epic lunches.  So far I haven’t found a meal planning service that offers a lunch menu, but many of our lunches are really just dinner leftovers.  Better yet, they pack up in the food containers right after dinner and get popped into the lunchbox in the morning!

The fine print: Contest runs from noon Friday January 20, 2012, and concludes midnight Sunday, January 22, 2012.  To be entered in the drawing you must purchase a small, medium, or large complete lunchbox set while the contest is underway from the booth at the Good Earth Show or on the website.  One entry per complete lunchbox set purchased. Winner will be drawn and contacted Monday, January 23, 2012.

By “month” we mean “a month of weekdays”, since most packed lunches are carried on weekdays, not weekends.  Thus $75 / $3.75 a lunch = 20 lunches, or 4 weeks of 5 days each.

You may get gift certificates to more than one store, as long as the total of all gift certificates is no more than $75. Gift certificates will be mailed to the contest winner, and winner will be notified via email good_earth_logoabout how to sign up for the Food on the Table subscription.

Did I mention?  Lunchsense will be staking out a booth (#1112) at the Good Earth Home, Garden and Living Show this weekend, so if you are in the Eugene area please stop by and say hello!  It’s a fun show and a wonderful bunch of exhibitors and presenters, so you’ll be certain to find a new idea or two.

By request: Gluten-Free Pizza Crust
Nov 14th, 2011 by Nancy

I’ve been following along with the Food Studies posts at Grist lately, and the most recent post “What’s Up with Gluten?” landed near and dear to my heart.  Finally!  Some sane, sensible, science-based words about gluten!  Thanks, Mitchell Mattes.   I commented, then mentioned I had a knack for gluten-free pizza crust (my husband was diagnosed celiac about 12 years ago), and a couple people requested it.  This seemed like a better place to post it than Grist.

It is, actually, a recipe from “Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Well without Wheat” by Bette Hagman.  Her book was a lifesaver for me back in the dark ages of food allergies.  Fast forward to the present, and I’m overwhelmed (and delighted) by all the food producers that include allergen information on their labels.  ‘Makes my life much easier.

Anyway, back to the recipe: I’ve made this many, many times and have found a few shortcuts that make assembly easier, as well as additions that (I think) improve the outcome a bit.  Besides all that, today’s The Big Game, which is all the excuse I need to make a pizza.

YEAST-RISING THICK PIZZA CRUST adapted from The Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Well without Wheat, by Bette Hagman, copyright 1990.

This makes dough for two 12-14″ pizzas.  The dough freezes nicely, so you can make one pizza now and sleep well knowing you have the makings for another one later.

1. Begin by preparing two pans for pizza.  I use the underside of my lasagne pan (or cookie sheets).  Why the underside? you ask – In truth, I don’t know why I started doing that.  Maybe the heat reaches the pizza better; maybe it’s just because it’s easier to serve pizza off a flat surface.  In any event,

pan and oilI generously coat the the pans with olive oil (tip: if your pans are non-stick, you’ll find the oil doesn’t distribute well; in that case use vegetable shortening), then dust them lightly with cornmeal to give the pizzas that “tavern pizza” finish.cornmeal for panoiling pan

Don’t worry that your pans are rectangles and you think your pizza should be round; go ahead and make a “racetrack” shaped pizza.

11-12 dry ingredients2. Throw in a large bowl (a stand mixer if you have one is perfect for this):

2 C rice flour

2 C tapioca flour

2/3 C dry milk powder

3 1/2 t xanthan gum (Essential.  Found at many grocery stores these days; try the baking aisle or the health foods aisle)

1 t salt

2 T dry yeast granules I recommend, if you haven’t baked in awhile and you have some dusty old packets of yeast in the back of your cabinet, pitch those and by a jar of the granules.  Fresh yeast does make a difference.

water, shortening and egg whites

1 T sugar

Mix with the bread hook or cookie paddle a few times to combine the dry ingredients.

3. Separate 4 eggs; we’ll use the whites in the pizza. Save the yolks for another day -

you were looking for an excuse to make custard, yes? Or maybe lemon curd?

4. Combine:

pizza dough is like really sticky frosting1 1/2 cups hot water (hot tap water is fine – 125° to 135°)

3 T shortening

Water at that temperature will allow the shortening to melt.

5. Add the water and the egg whites to the dry ingredients (turn the mixer on low if you are using one), and blend at high speed for 4 minutes.

Don’t worry that the water is too hot for the yeast – the act of adding it to the mixed dry ingredients cools it rapidly.  As long as you are using fresh yeast don’t worry, either, about proofing the yeast (softening it in warm water+a little sugar before use).  This method described above has worked every time for me. Note that the xanthan gum provides the stretch that the gluten-free flours lack, and it needs time to soften and develop in the dough.  Finally, you won’t need to let this rise; it will do so while you spread the crust and dress it.

After the mixing, you will have a dough that’s much wetter and stickier than traditional wheat dough.  Don’t worry, that’s normal for gluten-free goods.

Divide the goo onto the two prepared pans, then liberally coat your hands in olive oil and gently press and prod the doughs into flat, roundish crusts that are about 1/4″ thick, leaving somewhat thicker edges to hold in sauce and toppings.  Re-oil your hands as necessary to minimize sticking; the finished crusts will be shiny but not drippy with oil.   I find that the dough is prone to tearing, so be gentle and patient; I also find that the heel of my hands works better than my fingers for spreading crusts.  Note that you won’t get a perfect circle and it won’t look “justlike a wheat crust” but it will be fine, and it WILL taste great.11-12 pizza in process 3pizza in process 1pizza in process 2

DRESSING THE PIZZA

Have on hand:

11-12 cheese added

11-12 sauce added

Tomato sauce for pizza (about one cup) I use a good quality spaghetti sauce, and it works just fine.  If you use that and happen to have a little tomato paste on hand, add it to the sauce to thicken it a bit; if not, that’s fine too.  Be careful if the spaghetti sauce is “chunky”, as the pieces, when you try and spread them on the dough, can tear it.  Be careful, and take your time.

Shredded mozzarella I use about a pound per pizza.  It looks like too much; it isn’t.

Shredded fresh parmesan If you don’t have fresh parmesan, you can omit this, but I highly recommend it.

Toppings as you see fit.

The most common difference between homemade pizza and good restaurant pizza is that homemade pizzas tend to have too much sauce and not enough cheese.   Once the crust is spread, apply a modest layer of sauce, then ample shredded mozzarella to within an inch or two of the edge.  Add toppings, then finish off the whole affair with a dusting of grated fresh parmesan (about a half cup per pizza).

Apply another coat of olive oil to the outer edge if it looks dry, then

11-12 pizza ready to bake

Salt and pepper the whole thing, especially the outer edge – I know, I know, you’re thinking doesn’t the cheese have finished pizzaenough salt already? Ignore your concerns.  The results are great.  I haven’t tried any seasoned salts, but I bet they’d work well too.

6. Bake the whole affair at 400° for 20 – 25 minutes.  Check the pizzas at about 15 – 20 minutes, and rotate the pans if they aren’t browning evenly.

Enjoy!

If you’d like to make one pizza now and another later, you can freeze the dough as soon as it’s mixed; OR you can spread the dough, place the cookie sheet in the freezer and harden up the raw, spread crust, then wrap and store it for future thawing, dressing and baking; OR you can “blind bake” the undressed crust  for 15 minutes and freeze it for later use.  I’ve done all three with good results.

I’ve also mixed the dough and divided it into 8 “mini pizzas”, then blind baked them for future use.  It’s more work but a real treat to pull one out for a quick dinner.

slice showing crustLet me know how they turned out!

crust underside - browned, crunchy+chewy

Foodie Tuesday: smoothie livin'
Jun 14th, 2011 by Nancy

kfc-mugDistressing news today:

Kentucky Fried Chicken is running a promotion that, when you buy a half gallon of soda, will donate a buck to Juvenile Diabetes research.

Anyone for a big side order of irony with that?

Granted, sugary drinks are not contributors to type I diabetes (the focus of this research) but the plea to drink a hurking half gallon of soda in front of a diabetic kid who can’t have any, then toss a buck in their direction, is just too awkward to contemplate.  Without a doubt the sugar overload DOES contribute to type II diabetes, which although preventable is reaching epidemic levels, with the CDC predicting one third of the US population having diabetes by 2050.

Perhaps that buck can be considered prepaid health insurance.

Hence the smoothie today.   Every lunchbox has an 8 oz. drink bottle, and while water works just fine, a liquid treat really hits the spot sometimes and this has ample nutritional benefit to be a snack-unto-itself. It obviously isn’t sugar-free but it is vastly lower in sugar (in relative and absolute terms) than 64 ounces of carbonated sugar water.

Really, 8 ounces is enough.

SMOOTHIE FOR ONE

1/4 C plain yogurt (nonfat, lowfat, regular – it’s personal preference)

1/3 C fresh or frozen mixed berries (OR 1/4 fresh or frozen peach with skin + 6-12 berries)

1/4 C orange juice (OR pineapple, or whatever strikes your fancy)

If you’re drinking this goodness right away, add

a handful of ice cubes

If you’re packing this for a lunchtime treat, add

1/4 C milk

Toss it all in a blender and hit go.  Enjoy now, or save it for later – if you happen to pack the smoothie in a drink bottle, be sure to use an ice pack in your lunchbox, and give the bottle a good shake before you drink up!

Foodie Tuesday: Brazilian Black Bean Soup
May 17th, 2011 by Nancy

rain in eugene, thanks to travelpod.comThis past weekend the headliner in our local paper was this:

Not your imagination – it’s been a dreary year.”

Tells of this being the fifth coldest April on record. Tells of three forces – La Nina, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and high-altitude ash from the Icelandic volcano – conspiring to make us shiver and keep us that way at least through June.

I didn’t need the paper to tell me what I’ve already been through, thanks.  Springs run to the mild here in Eugene, but this has been ridiculous. When the Seattle native (me) starts complaining about the rain you know it’s been wet.

What’s this got to do with lunch?  I’ll tell you – it’s still soup-in-the-thermos season, that’s what.

Here’s a house favorite, gleaned from “Hotter than Hell” by Jane Butel (an extra-nice title for this hotter than hellparticular season).  Thankfully this soup isn’t what the book title implies – In fact it’s easy and rich, not so much “hot” as “warm”, like that “cayenne in cocoa” kind of warm.
(What? You’ve never added a dash of cayenne to cocoa? try it sometime – it will make you gasp with delight.)

BRAZILIAN BLACK BEAN SOUP

1 lb black beans
8 C water
3/4 C cooked ham, diced
1 ham bone, if you have it
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 t salt
1/2 C diced onion
2 whole cloves
1/2 t cumin ( or to taste)
1 t to 1 T red chile powder, or to taste
Juice of one lime (2 T)

Optional toppings:
1/4 C rum (Jamaican is preferred)
4 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 C grated Monterey jack cheese OR sour cream
Lime wedges

Rinse beans and soak overnight in water to cover. Alternately, you can place the beans in a large pan of water, bring to a boil, then turn off heat, cover and let stand for a couple hours.
After they’ve soaked, drain the beans, then place in a large saucepan with the 8 cups water, ham, ham bone (if using one), garlic, salt, dice onions, cloves, cumin, chile powder, and lime juice.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours or until beans are tender and soup is thick.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Before serving remove ham bone.

If desired you can add the rum at this point, but I’ve made this many times without it and loved it anyway.  Top off each bowl of soup with cheese or sour cream and green onions and a lime wedge.  If you’re carrying this in a thermos, bring the toppings in the condiment jar and add them just before digging in.
If you do leave out the rum, maybe you’d rather raise a glass of it to offer a toast:
to better weather – wherever it may be.”
Foodie Tuesday: Weird but good - Kale chips
May 9th, 2011 by Nancy

That's Gabriel Gil, the local (and state) Iron Chef winner 2010, on the right

Last summer my family attended a local festival where the Iron Chef of Oregon regional cook off was underway.  My daughter looked on the chefs on the stage like they were rock stars!   As we were standing around watching the cleanup (my daughter thinks watching other people clean up from cooking is interesting, but doing it is not) one of the chefs offered us kale chips left behind from her plated masterpiece.  They sounded weird and looked the part as well, but were light, crispy, and absolutely delicious.


I found the recipe today at whatscookingwithkids.com from their Earth Day post, and it is slightly more difficult than ripping open a bag of junky chips.  Even that low level of difficulty is entirely offset by the lack of guilt borne of eating kale, rather than chips, by the handful.

A little more researched uncovered many recipes for these, and they’re all the same.  So are most of the comments, all variations on this – “Wow. Really. These are GREAT.”

Assuming they aren’t all gone, they pack up and travel well for lunch to boot.

Here is the recipe:


One bunch of kale, any kind

Olive oil

Salt (I used sea salt, but anything works)


Wash, if needed, and dry the kale. Note that it’s helpful for leaves be dry, as they may otherwise steam and not get crispy.

Hold each leaf by its thick stem. Pinch the base of the leaf with the fingers of the other hand and slide them up the stem. This will separate the leaves from the stem. Place the leaves in a large bowl, tearing the larger pieces into bite sized chunks as you go.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then toss them with clean hands until the pieces are coated.  Don’t over-salt like I did – use it only to enhance, not dominate.

Place the leaves in a single layer on a parchment- or silicone mat-covered baking sheet. Yes you may crowd them (they shrink with cooking) but no you may not overlap them much (they’ll stick together, then steam and not get crispy).

Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes.  They will look mostly flat and limp, but they will be light, crispy wonders.

Kale+recipes+healthy

Great photo of kale chips thanks to natalieskillercuisine.com

The weirdness continues: Kids LOVE these. They will eat more kale in one sitting than I’ve probably eaten in my lifetime, then ask for more.

Variations on a theme: Try them with cracked pepper; Seasoned salt of any kind (again only to enhance); Add a little apple cider or balsamic vinegar with the oil; How about minced garlic and/or red pepper? Try grated parmesan with the finished goods.  As with most good recipes, this one is infinitely versatile to suit your own tastes – let me know what you try!

Oh! gotta go – the oven timer’s going off…for my third sheet of chips today….

Foodie Tuesday: gluten-free "granola" bars
May 3rd, 2011 by Nancy

IMG00283-20110503-1225My husband was diagnosed as gluten intolerant about 11 years ago, which means that he is allergic to wheat, oats, barley, rye and spelt.

Naturally, this topic often comes up when we’re dining with new acquaintances (as all our old ones already know), and we’ve found that it gets, um, awkward when they start asking about the symptoms of gluten intolerance.

The awkward part is that the symptoms of gluten intolerance aren’t something anyone would like to discuss over a meal with friends (much less new acquaintances), so we’ve come up with a few code words. 

When asked “what happens if you do eat gluten by accident?”, we reply,

“Intestinal distress. Sudden, acute, intestinal distress.”

Forks pause (if only briefly) as our new acquaintances grasp our meaning, and also grasp that they probably didn’t want to know that over a plate of something yummy.

Anyway, the up side to gluten intolerance (in our household, anyway) is that I can probably attribute to it my love and appreciation of all things food.  I’ve found a world of great recipes, tricks, and substitutions I never would have otherwise, and this week’s Foodie Tuesday is one of those finds.

Until recently, finding gluten free options in a regular grocery store was challenging.  It’s thankfully much easier now as food manufacturers are creating and releasing new GF products all the time, but we always return to this basic tenet:

Homemade

Tastes

Better.

In a pinch, we’ll get the packaged goods; our earthquake kit has lots of cans and boxes that we rarely see in the regular mealtime rotation.  The rest of the time, we start from scratch.

This “granola” bar is a riff off a no-bake peanut butter bar we found in a gluten-free cookbook that was, in the early days of gluten-free living, our bible: Gluten Free Gourmet, by Bette Hagman. 

the original recipe goes like this:

Combine and heat in a saucepan until bubbly:

1 C dark corn syrup

1 C chunky peanut butter

1 C sugar

Combine in a large bowl:

6 C gluten free puffed or crisped rice cereal

1 C raisins

Pour the hot mixture over the dry, combine thoroughly, and press into a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Allow to cool, and cut into bars.

Simple, yes?  The base of the recipe looks just like a Rice Krispie square, i.e. sticky goo poured over dry cereal.  To turn this into “granola” bars, all you need to remember is the proportions, thusly:

3 C goo to 7 C dry

 

The goo:

1 C peanut, almond, or other nut butter   This is for protein, substance, heft, flavor, etc. for the finished bar.

1 C corn syrup   Light or dark, per your preference or your current inventory.

1 C sugar

Combine these three in a saucepan, and heat until bubbly.  You may add, if it works for you, seasonings:

1 t cinnamon,

1/2 t nutmeg,

1/4 t allspice, cloves, etc.

1/2 t vanilla, almond extract, maple flavoring, etc.

The dry stuff:

4 1/2 to 5 C cereal   We usually use a combination of Mesa Sunrise cereal (which I crush lightly so the flakes are about the size of dry oatmeal flakes), and Crispy Rice, a gluten free dry rice ceral.  Corn or Rice Chex also work.  The goal here is something dry with a nice crunch, as it will soften somewhat when combined with the goo.

2 to 2 1/2 C “add-ins”   This is entirely up to you and your cupboards.  I usually use about one to 1 1/2 cups dried fruit, cut into raisin-sized bits if necessary – raisins, cranberries, cherries, pineapple, banana, apple, mango, whatever suits your tastes.  The rest of the add-ins can be seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin), any nuts you like, coconut, chocolate chips (mini work well here).

Mix the dry and the add-ins, pour the goo over the dry mix and combine (it will get stiff pretty quickly), and press the mixture into a greased 9 by 13″ pan.  Allow it to cool to room temperature and slice into bars.

These travel like champs (especially in lunchboxes), will keep for ages in the freezer, and are a marvelous treat for the celiacs in your life, but I love most that this recipe allows me to use up the last of many things that lurk in little bags in the back of the kitchen cabinets.   I mean to try a few “thematic” combinations:

Dried mango, pineapple, and coconut, with pecans (a tropical bar) (Hey! how ’bout rum extract in this one!)

Chocolate chips, almonds, coconut (sounds like a familiar candy bar….)

cinnamon, nutmeg, dried apple, cranberry, walnut (autumn special)

Throw some suggestions on the wall (also known as “comments”) below!

 

p.s. Thanks, Mike.  You’re my inspiration.

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