Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Oatmeal Scones: reinventing the wheel

After more than six years of being gluten-free, I am learning... that I'm still just learning.

I THOUGHT that the best way to bake was to create just the right combination of flours, taking the consistency & elasticity of each flour into consideration. I THOUGHT that the more flours one used, the better.

Then along came a store-bought baguette.

Against The Grain makes a baguette that is absolutely perfect for making submarine sandwiches. This past weekend, my son and I had our first subs in over 6 years... and they were everything we'd been dreaming of. My husband & daughter who CAN eat gluten concurred - this is the real deal. So naturally, I was curious. What was IN them that made them so tasty? The answer was... practically nothing. There was only ONE flour used! Tapioca starch.

This morning, after canning lemon marmalade until midnight, I wanted to try my new topping. And what better to use, than an oat scone? I KNOW I have a recipe here somewhere and that it's positively amazing, but even after searching my backup recipe cards on the computer, I just couldn't find my recipe. So thinking of these single-flour baguettes, I decided to try something daring. I threw out everything I knew about gluten-free baking, rolled up my sleeves, and got creative.

The result is a low-ingredient, YUMMY scone that was just a little sweet to offset the intense sourness of the lemon marmalade... and it had just the right stick-to-your-ribs texture that makes an oat scone perfect for breakfast alongside a strong cup of tea.

To make 8 of these amazing little pretties, you will need:

1 1/3 cup gluten-free oat flour (I grind my oats in a coffee grinder because it's SO much cheaper than prepared oat flour!)
1 1/3 cup gluten free oats
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup brown sugar (don't pack it - less sugar that way!)
1/2 cup applesauce (homemade works perfectly!)
2/3 cup buttermilk substitute (I used 1 Tbsp lemon juice to 2/3 cup almond milk...)

Preheat your oven to 400F. Mix together the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients one by one, mixing until the dough comes together. Turn out onto a well-floured surface, (I used rice flour... because it's cheap) and pat into a 3/4" circle. Using your pizza-wheel, cut into wedges and place on a parchment/silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15+ minutes or until tops are slightly browned, and sound solid when you tap on them. Serve HOT with your favorite toppings.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Pumpkin Custard - reinvented

Some days your plans don't work out quite the way you'd hoped. When that happens, you have two choices... pout, or make the most of your situation.

As I cleaned out the bottom section of my freezer last week in preparation for pureeing pumpkins, (an odd sight I'm sure, as it involves my dangling bodily from the edge of the freezer, legs waving precariously in the air behind me as I try to keep myself from tipping into the freezer) I discovered several frozen quarts of pumpkin puree - from LAST fall. Not being one to waste food, but knowing it's use-it-or-lose-it time for these delicious baggies, I grabbed a few & popped them into the fridge to thaw.

This morning I woke to thawed pumpkin in the fridge, visions of pumpkin custard in my head... and a faulty memory. As I danced about the kitchen gathering my ingredients to whip up a delicious warm surprise for the kids, everything came to a screeching halt when the can of what I THOUGHT was evaporated milk in my cupboard ended up being the light coconut milk I'd accidentally picked up thinking it was full-fat. Whoops.

My stomach informed me that it was still breakfast time, evaporated milk or not, and I stopped for a minute to reconsider my recipe. It's *my* recipe after all, so why can't I alter it? So with a tweak here, a substitution there, and some flax thrown in... just because I could, I reinvented one of my favorite fall breakfast recipes.

THIS time for this recipe I used:
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/4 cup brown sugar (go dark, or go home... it's all about the rich flavor!)
3 eggs
1 can light coconut milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
Blend all ingredients together, and pour into a 7x11" (or 8" square) glass baking dish. Bake at 350F for 70 minutes, or until knife comes out clean.

It was... AMAZING! The coconut added a wonderful richness, and was a perfect pairing with the pumpkin. The flax added just a hint of nuttiness, and because of the natural sweetness of coconut I was able to cut the sugar in half from my original recipe. My kids added a tiny scoop of ice cream to theirs, but I had mine with a big mug of tea. Either way, this is definitely a repeat-recipe!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Salsa! (a canned recipe)

In our house, salsa is its own food group. We like it mild, warm, spicy... and upon occasion we'll melt a bit of cheese into the REALLY hot stuff & create a deliciously tummy-warming Salsa Con Queso. We eat it on chips, rice & potatoes... and use it as a mix-in to spice up all sorts of delicious recipes.

Usually we prefer to make up small batches of fresh salsa or save coupons for Newman's Own Mango Salsa. But we've been toying with the concept of canning our own salsa with as many home-grown ingredients as we can possibly muster in a northern climate - which means hunting for a wonderful CANNED version that we like as much as our favorite fresh salsas.

This year I had planned on picking up the jars & comparing tiny portions of multiple recipes so we would be ready for next year's harvest. What happened however, was that I found a farmer selling canning-jars who had an extra 1.5 bushels of tomatoes. So the canning frenzy commenced.

Having never canned tomatoes before, and knowing there was some "secret" to canning them properly I searched the internet for tips & safety-tested recipes. That big, bad tomato-y secret is nothing more than that you need to boost the acid when canning tomatoes. A lot. Fortunately when it comes to salsa, this can be accomplished by using BOTTLED lemon & lime juices... which only makes salsa taste better! (Fresh juice is NOT recommended as each fruit can have a slightly different pH but this far north bottled juices are easier to find anyway!) So armed with several safe recipes that looked tasty, I concocted my own variation... being VERY careful to keep the same proportions of everything so it would stay safe. Nachos-Con-Botulism aren't exactly my "thing."

So for our first try at canning salsa, what we have is nine quarts of positively delicious warm-but-not-painful salsa that's SO yummy, even my tomato-hating son is pleased that we've canned so much! It's absolutely not the same as dicing your veggies & serving everything fresh, but this is quite possibly just as GOOD!

For this recipe we took:
24 POUNDS of tomatoes (yep, I used a kitchen scale)
5 cups onions - diced
3 cups assorted peppers - diced
(DH diced up 2 poblanos, 4 anaheims & 6 tiny jalapenos for ours, but as long as you stick to 3 cups you can use WHATEVER peppers you like!)
1 cup fresh cilantro - minced
2 Tbsp cumin
2 Tbsp oregano
and 3 cups of bottled lemon/lime* juice.
* We used 1 cup lime & 2 cups lemon... next year we'll be reversing that for 2 cups lime & 1 cup lemon however for just a bit more *pop*.

To start, blanch your tomatoes... if you don't know how, there are thousands of picture tutorials, but all you do is dip them into boiling water for 20 seconds, then move them into ice water for a minute so they practically peel themselves. I'm sorry I didn't get any photos of this step, I had two helpers and it took everything I could do to keep up with them both!

Once you've skinned your tomatoes, chop them into large-ish pieces (I cut the huge tomatoes into eights, and quartered the smaller ones) then smoosh them a bit to remove some of the extra seeds & juice. You can skip this step, but cooking it down will take HOURS longer - and it's not nearly as fun. My son smooshed them against the side of a large colander, set inside a HUGE bowl to catch all the juice. He cackled every time he hit a particularly juicy tomato, as they made a most satisfying squelchy noise, but giggling is optional. However, don't waste that juice!!! With this recipe we ended up with 10 CUPS of juice! (We strained out the seeds & froze ours to use later as soup-stock, but YOU may have a more creative idea!)

Now that your tomatoes are ready, toss all the ingredients into a 2.5 gallon stock-pot, and start cooking it down. It took us about 2 hours to cook it to a consistency we were happy with, but if you like your salsa a bit wetter it may take less time. The important part here is that it MUST boil for at least 30 minutes to kill any scary bacteria that may be lurking in the pot! After that, it's all up to you.

When you've reached a consistency that makes you happy, immediately can into hot sterilized jars & process for 30 minutes at 0-1000ft. Yes, a full half-hour with water-canning. Lift your jars out & set them on your counter, and DO NOT TOUCH for at least 8 hours... until they're completely cooled. Then just make sure each jar is sealed, and stock your pantry!

Hopefully next year I'll be able to capture a few photos of our canning process, and MAYBE some day in the future I won't be afraid of pressure-canners & can try a few recipes that are forbidden to water-bath canners, but for now I'm quite happy canning the way I've always done it. If it ain't broke, don't fix it... right?

We'll be enjoying our salsa all winter long on tortilla chips, on baked potatoes, with "loaded" nachos, taco-salad, seasoned rice, to flavor our chili-cornbread & on grilled veggies... and I'm thinking of using at least one jar as a base for fresh chili or as the sauce for a taco-pizza! Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Frozen Berries

One of my favorite raw foods, is fresh berries... and my absolute favorite berry is the blueberry. I could eat a pint a day every day for the rest of my life and probably never grow tired of them. Unfortunately blueberries have a short growing-season and can reach as much as $5 per pint - and for half the year, they aren't anywhere to be had at ANY price.

This week I found blueberries on sale for $1.29 per pint, and decided to do a little freezing to brighten my day during those terrible berry-free months. Yes you can buy frozen berries , but at this price it's actually cheaper to buy them fresh & freeze them yourself. Also, while you can buy properly frozen strawberries, I've yet to see a bag of frozen blueberries where they didn't use the squashy overripe ones - which spoils the flavor of the entire bag in my opinion. This is quick, easy, and ALMOST as tasty as eating them fresh! This does take about a day, but actual preparation time is about 1/2 hour so ANYONE can find the time for freezing - and I truly believe that it is worth it!

Before you begin, assess your freezer capacity. How much room do you have for stocking up on goodies, and how much room do you want to devote to one specific food? There's no sense in picking up twelve bushels of berries, if you can only store one. In my pantry, I have a 5 cubic foot chest-freezer that's devoted wholly to bulk cheeses & veggies, and hand-frozen produce & baked treats. (I like to bake 2-3 times what we'll eat when baking, and freeze the extra for later - it saves me time in the kitchen!)

Once you know how much room you have for preparation & have purchased (or picked if you're lucky enough to have your own berry garden) what you can store, wash your fruit VERY gently. You don't want to bruise your fruits or they can spoil. Yes it takes a very long time, but fruit CAN spoil in your freezer. After they're washed, lay them out flat on your counter or tabletop to air-dry. Depending on humidity, this can take between 10 minutes & an hour. Be sure to pick out any berries that are at all soft or wrinkly as you're doing this. I think of these as "bonus berries" and set them aside for the kids to nibble.

When your berries are dry, you'll need to set them into shallow dishes & pop them into the freezer. You don't want to pack them in, they need to be loose & layered no more than two-high for this so they don't press down & squish each other. I prefer my shallow baking dishes, because they stack without nesting tight together - it makes for a perfect way to layer them in the freezer!

Let your berries sit for at LEAST 12 hours. I like to let them freeze for an entire day, just to be sure they're frozen completely solid. At this point you should be able to gently shake your dishes, and hear them rattle. That's the sign for you to pull out the bags, and finish.

You will want two sets of bags... smaller bags for individual servings, and large gallon or 1.5 gallon FREEZER-SAFE (don't skimp on these, the freezer ones are thicker & designed to keep out freezerburn) bags. I use pint-baggies & gallon baggies, because I tend to use a pint of berries at a time, but you can use snack-baggies or quart baggies if you prefer. Measure out a pint (or whichever size your small baggies are) of berries into your small baggies, squeeze out any extra air while closing them, and pop them inside the larger freezer bag. Make sure to label your freezer bags, so you don't end up with mystery-bags in a few months. I find I get half as many small bags into the large ones as the capacity calls for... so for my blueberries today I have four pint-baggies inside each gallon-size bag. I've squeezed a fifth in before, but this way they lay flat in the freezer so I can actually store more food!

That's it... now all you need to do is pop your labeled bags into the freezer, and bring them out as needed later in the year! You can bake with them or run them through the blender for smoothies or sorbet... but one of my favorite ways to eat freshly frozen berries is straight from the bag & still frosty!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St Patrick's Day Pie

Some days, plans just don't work out the way you want them to. Today was one of those days. I have been planning my St. Patrick's Day menu for weeks and was so excited to try a few new spins on some favorite dishes.

Unfortunately I came down with the flu last week, and am still working on recovering. Which means my kitchen creativity has been seriously hampered. So rather than stand shakily in the kitchen ruining dish after dish while sneezing germs into everyone's dinner, I rustled up a houseful of help & made a quick, but delicious St. Patrick's Day pie.

This ended up being absolutely scrumptious, and now we will have to make it many more times... because it ended up being even quicker than my shepherds pie to put together, and we ALL enjoyed it! (even my queasy tummy is happy!)

For this particular pie, you will need:

2Tbsp butter substitute
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium potato, shredded
2 cups shredded cheese (we used gouda this time)
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp each: dried parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme (right out of the song Scarborough Faire)
Bacos - for garnish (optional, but tasty!)

Preheat the oven to 375F. Saute the onion & potato in the butter, just until softened slightly. Spread this into the bottom of a glass pie plate, and top with the cheese. In a large mug, (shaky hands) whisk together the eggs, milk & seasonings. Pour evenly over the cheese, and bake for 30 minutes. If using Bacos, sprinkle about 1/4 cup onto the top at 20 minutes & poke them into the mixture a bit before returning to the oven for the last 10 minutes. They'll stay crispy rather than turning to mush. (for real bacon, you could add it in with the egg-mixture, just don't tell me how heavenly it turns out!) This should have a nice golden-brown top that's firm. Serve immediately - and enjoy!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

better-than restaurant pizza

This is more of a food-review than an actual recipe but I've just GOT to share our latest trick. We have been using Namaste Pizza Crust Mix for the past three years and while it's GOOD we thought perhaps we could try and make it better. So... we used it to make a "deep dish" pizza!

Here's what we did. Follow the directions on the baggie to make BOTH crusts at once. Then spread them in the bottom of a 9x13" baking pan & bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Take it out, top it with your favorite toppings, then bake for an additional 10-15 minutes and voila! Deep-dish herbed crust! I wouldn't recommend this as a regular addition to the table as the calories & carbs must be positively astronomic. But for special occasions like today I'll make an exception.

Today is our 16th anniversary, and to celebrate we're indulging in our latest pizza of choice. Instead of traditional sauce, we used barbecue sauce! That and a little cheese made the zestiest, yummiest pizza I've had since... well, possibly ever! And it's so quick to make up that it's almost dangerously convenient.

Enjoy! In moderation, of course.

Friday, February 18, 2011

mmm, mmm - Minestrone!

I have been craving minestrone for a few weeks now. Not my usual quickie-minestrone, but the kind of simmering-for-hours minestrone that would welcome my husband the minute he opened the door, with a giant fragrant "hug." The kind that if I HAD an Italian grandmother she might bring over on days just like this when it's foggy & drippy, just to cheer me up.

Ahh well, with no Italian grandmothers popping up to claim me I'll just have to make my own soup.

I love to make soup on cold days. It's the only food I know that can be as fast or as slow-cooking as I choose, and come out "just right" every single time. Today I felt like taking my time, and oh am I glad that I did. This is rich, savory, and wonderful... yet there's nothing in it to make my tummy regret having come back for seconds. In a word, perfect.

To share in this wonderful perfection you will need:
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small zucchini, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 cup frozen green beans
1 14oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 can white beans, drained & rinsed
8 cups water
2 vegetable bouillon cubes (the ones I use are double-size; you want enough to equal 4 cups of broth)
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil
1 tsp thyme
8oz uncooked Tinkyada pasta (yep, I'm being brand-specific here on purpose... you don't want any leftovers turning to mush!)
and 1/4 cup fresh pesto

In a large pot, saute all of the raw veggies until the onion turns clear. Now add everything else EXCEPT the pasta & pesto. *For the best flavor turn the burner as low as it'll go, place a lid on the pot, and let it sit for four hours. (yes the crockpot would work fine, but I always double my soup recipes & my crockpot isn't big enough!) Give it a stir every once in awhile, but don't worry about diligence... this is a soup for sleepy days when you'd rather not spend all day in the kitchen but still want that cooked-all-day flavor! Twenty minutes before serving, add in the pasta & pesto and TURN THE STOVE OFF to let the pasta cook.

*Like most soups, you can speed this up when you're in a hurry. Just bring the heat up to a nice lively simmer, and cook for 30-45 minutes. It will be ALMOST as wonderful!