Brownie Cookies

Bake Your Love
Bake Your Love

Brownie Cookies… Did you know that you can actually make brownie cookies? Brownie bites, but more elegant.

And did you know The Adventuresome Kitchen’s Chocolate Lover’s TDF (to die for) Brownie Mix makes great cut-out (brownie) cookies? It does indeed!

We design our mixes to be as versatile as possible- because some days you want something a little more elegant than a simple brownie…something a bit more lovey-dovey.

Our Brownie Cookies recipe is also a perfect way to stretch the Adventuresome Kitchen’s gluten free brownie mix to accommodate a classroom full of sugar fiends ready to let out for a long weekend. There’s a reason the Valentine’s parties are at the end of the day!

See the recipe below for how to make these delicious bites, and if you need a last minute sweet for your sweet- click here and use code AWESOME6 until midnight tonight (2/12/15) for a crazy discount…

Why? Because I Love You!!

Baking Chocolate Cookies

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Cellar Rat Wine

Why write about a wine shop on a website dedicated to food? Because good wine elevates good food, and good food makes good wine taste better. I love wine, but I love wine & food more. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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Located at 17th & Baltimore in the heart of the Crossroads Art District, the staff at Cellar Rat Wine Merchants are as passionate about wine as I am about making good food. As a result, I’ve become a whole lot more passionate (and adventurous) about wine and wine pairings.  Because of the staff’s knowledge, enthusiasm, and encouragement, this self professed Red Wine Only drinker has come to love the full gamut of flavors- from the lightest white, to a deep salmon rosé, to a hit you on the head Cabernet. I’ve come to appreciate the passion, commitment, and time it takes to grow and bottle good wine- in the same way it takes those qualities to perfect Boeuf Bourguignon or a souffle.

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Cellar Rat Wine is about quality and passion. But don’t think that means you’ll be priced out of the market. The vast majority of the wines they carry are between $10-25 a bottle- because good wine is meant to be consumed. There’s a great selection of higher end bottles for special occasions or for cellaring. With weekly tastings, wine of the week deals, wine classes, and a monthly mix & match $100 case offering (yes you read that right- high quality, delicious wines for for less than $9 bucks a bottle!) Cellar Rat has something to offer everyone. They’re just as thrilled to see beginning tasters as they are enthusiasts, so if you’ve ever been curious about wine tasting or wine pairing stop on by.

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Cellar Rat sits in the shadow of the world renowned Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

We also think that Cellar Rat Wine is the best place for a Friday night date. Why? You can purchase a bottle of wine and they’ll open it right there for you to enjoy. Feeling like a splurge? Order a cheese and charcuterie plate. There’s plenty of room to sit and enjoy a bite and a glass. (They also have a small selection of wines by the glass if you don’t want a bottle- or they can seal up your bottle and you can take it home!)

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They are very gluten free aware and carry a nice selection of gluten free crackers- likely more than your local grocery store! If you let them know when you order your cheese plate, they’ll happily provide you with gluten free crackers instead of the bread that typically accompanies the cheese plates. Local artists are featured on the walls in ever-changing displays, and a lovely back room provides additional space for tasting classes and private parties.

Cellar_Rat_Offerings

Cellar Rat Wine carries more than just wine- they offer an excellent selection of cheeses & charcuterie, snobby chocolates, bitters, beers, liquors and sakes- many of them created by small batch or local producers like the ones shown in the photo below. Row Hard Root Beer is gluten free, locally brewed, and contains a little over 6% alcohol. It’s the best root beer I’ve ever tried, and they are not joking when they claim it makes the best root beer floats. Do be careful though- you can’t really taste the alcohol.

A new favorite
A new favorite

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t brag about their Monthly Wine Clubs- which you can read about here. Wine Club memberships include a tasting class and other special bonuses. I have found kindred spirits in tasting and life adventures inside these walls, and encourage you if you’re in the neighborhood to stop by and get to know some incredible human beings and fellow taste adventurers.

Creamy Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

Brussels BlanchedBrussels are so underappreciated.  They’re like the dentist of vegetables. Everybody needs them, nobody likes them, which is too bad because they’re a superfood and should be a staple in the vegetable rotation.

Part of the problem is that brussels are often overcooked. When this happens, they turn to mush and taste rather cabbagey…. Too bad really, because when they’re properly prepared, they’re soft, maybe even a little al dente, and sweet. Yes, sweet!

I confess, until several years ago, I was a hater.  But Mr. Kitchen Diva convinced me otherwise one evening when we were out on a date. I tried some of his- perfectly roasted, carmelized with cranberries & bacon, and I fell in love. We eat them regularly now, especially in the winter months when they’re in abundant supply here.

Tired of the same ‘ole, same ‘ole I started working on something new. Thanks to a perfect confluence of ideas from The Flavor Bible (if you don’t have a copy, get one!) and a segment I was reading in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (which is incidentally now available as an ebook) magic happened and we ate the whole bowl for dinner. The recipe relies on techniques outlined in the Legumes (vegetable) section of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but the implementation I’ve come up with is my own. I’ve created the recipe using ratios because some of you may want just a few brussels as an accompaniment to a protein, or you may want to go whole hog like we did and make a big bowl. I used 3 lbs of brussels. We’re brussels fans, and will eat that much with dinner, but for most people, that would be a great amount if you were bringing these to a potluck or hosting a dinner party of 6-8. The ratios are really easy to double and triple, so make whatever portion works for you.

Brussels with Cream and Bacon

One of the secrets of this recipe is taking the time to blanche the brussels prior to the main cooking. Several weeks ago we had a fabulous meal at a local restaurant here, and the roasted brussels came out brilliant green. Dying to know what they did, I begged our server to find out. She came back to report the chef said it’s all in the blanching.  Even though it adds a few more minutes to cooking, it’s worth it for the stunning visual effect- Bright green is so much nicer to eat that brownish-green.

Don’t be intimidated by this recipe- it is well worth the few extra minutes of time.

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6 Cooking Hacks to Make Your Kitchen More Fun in 2015

Happy New Year! As the world gets back to business this week, many will begin to work on resolutions of eating healthier, cooking more, or eating together as a family more often. If you are new to the kitchen, or just wanting to make a bit of a shift, here are 6 cooking hacks that are easy, will help you have more fun, gain a new outlook, and make being in the kitchen more enjoyable. Do you have hacks that have worked for you? Add them in the comments below! Here’s to good eating in 2015!

Speaker1. Turn off the TV & Turn on the Radio (or your iPod)

I love listening to music in the kitchen. It helps set the mood for whatever I’m creating. Maybe it’s leftover from my childhood summers in upstate New York. My Oma used to work in the kitchen while listening to a little white transistor radio that played the oldies. She’d hum and sing along, and if I was lucky enough, sometimes I would even catch her Shuffling off to Buffalo. She was a great tapper in her youth- and loved dancing until the day she died. So while you cook- grab the wire whisk and channel your inner Celine Dion, Maria Callas, or Saturday Night Fever.

 

 

Spices at the River Market

2. Change out your Herbs & Spices

Spices don’t have a shelf life, they have a ‘smell-life’. Herbs and spices flavor our food with the volatile oils they contain. Oils, that if exposed to heat and light will fade with time. If you’ve got spices in the way back of your cabinets that you haven’t used for some time- give them a sniff. If your nose isn’t immediately tingling with delight, it’s time to replace them. Remember to store your herbs and spices away from the heat of the stove.

 

Candlelight

3. Use Candlelight- at every meal

For many of us, the kitchen table is the repository for mail, schoolwork, and other activities. Our resolution is to keep our table cleaner and always use candles- even at breakfast. It elevates the mood and provides a sense of occasion even for the simplest of meals.

 

 

Cabris, France portrait project

4. Purchase 1 New Utensil

We all have hangers on in the kitchen that have passed their prime- beat-up, chipped spatulas, broken sieves, rusty measuring spoons, beat up cutting boards. Treat yourself to one new utensil that you’ll use frequently. You will feel so much happier with functional and lovely tools.

 

 

 

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5. Put the dishes away before bed

I think the Fly Lady was the first person who insisted you scrub your sink out every night before you go to bed. She has a point. It’s so much easier to find cooking inspiration when you don’t have to first clean up last night’s mess.

 

 

Cabris, France portrait project6. Cook with Company (friends, children, significant other, etc.)

Nothing makes a meal taste better than good company. Especially when it’s been prepared together. If you’re having trouble connecting as a family, or getting your children to be more adventurous in their eating habits- cook together! In my experience, children LOVE the creativity that is a natural part of cooking. They also are very proud of their endeavors and love to eat the fruits of their labor. The biggest challenge? Recognizing that little hands aren’t as accurate as bigger hands, and the mess is sometimes bigger- as are the onion or apple pieces. If you are willing to roll with that, you will be delighted at what you experience when you share cooking with those you care about (young or old!).

What gets you inspired to cook? Have a hack that’s helped you? Share below!

Turkey Curry with Yummy Yammy Sweet Potato Salsa

YummyYammy_postcardSo my friend Lisa has this awesome company that sells sweet potato salsa- Yummy Yammy. Yeah- you read that right- sweet potato salsa. And it’s freaking delicious!!

In addition to running a boutique food company, Lisa- like me, has two amazing daughters, and divides her time between growing a company, her girls, and managing all the ins and outs of parenthood, homeownership, and spousehood. Plus she’s super cool, and she makes time to mentor other folks- like me. Ingredients for a super-hero as far as I’m concerned.

Yummy Yammy has been on my radar for well over a year. I LOVE salsa, but like many, I have to be careful about how much tomato I consume. These salsas have no tomato, but all the flavor you could want. They’re great on chips,  heated up over rice, with a fried egg (yeah we did that this morning!) or out of the container with just a spoon.

Added benefit? It’s good for you! They give you a huge dose of beta-carotene anti-oxidant love. Did I mention you won’t be able to stop eating it?

Yummy Yammy is in over 100 stores from Wisconsin to Florida- many of them Whole Foods! For those of you outside of that area, you can get them on Amazon.com though- and if you go to the Yummy Yammy Website and sign up to become a YAMBASSADOR (who doesn’t love that?!?) you can get a coupon for free shipping to try them. I recommend you try them all- they are that good! Also- any orders over $50 naturally come with free shipping. Guess what I’ll be doing for stocking stuffers this year?

YummyYammy Turkey Curry SauceNow about that Turkey…..

I’ve seen the facebook posts over the last few days- you all are sick of your turkey and ham. May I suggest an easy way to get rid of the rest of it that is so delicious you’ll stop eating long after your stomach screams it’s full?

I like curry, but I really like saying “turkey curry” because that reminds me of Bridget Jones- one of my favorite movies. One year I even had a turkey curry buffet birthday party (my birthday is close to Christmas). Of course, the curry was pork as I didn’t have turkey on hand, but who cares? And like the movie- I shamelessly orchestrated an introduction of two friends that culminated in their marriage last year 🙂 I wish all my matchmaking attempts turned out so well.

Onto the recipe! This is pretty fast to put together, and like many Adventuresome Kitchen recipes, there is plenty of room for creativity and modification. If you make some changes, let us know what you did in the comments below- we’d love to hear! And be sure to visit the Yummy Yammy website and check out all the fun things Lisa has going on over there!

Cheers & Happy Eating!

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Grama’s Pie Crust Plus- The Adventuresome Kitchen’s Gluten Free Pie Crust Mix

AKPieCrust_RWest_WEB The Adventuresome Kitchen’s gluten free pie crust mix is now available nationwide on Amazon.com! We are pleased to offer this right before the holidays get going so that you can enjoy delicious pies, cookies & scones with your loved ones.

We know your gluten-full family and friends will enjoy it as much as you do!

TODAY only (Nov. 10)- you may purchase a box of 3 mixes at a deeply discounted price. Head over to The Adventuresome Kitchen’s Facebook Page to discover the details.

To purchase directly from Amazon- click HERE

If you live in the Kansas City area, you can find our mixes at Annedore’s Fine Chocolates and Cellar Rat Wine Merchants

Introducing…..The Adventuresome Kitchen Gluten Free Baking Mixes

Well it’s here! A day that I only dreamed about, and figured was for someone else. And here I am- happy to tell you after years of prodding from friends, family & fans (thank you all!!) that The Adventuresome Kitchen is launching a line of premium quality gluten free baking mixes!

Years ago, it was my general frustration with the lack of quality gluten free mixes on the market that drove me into the kitchen to start experimenting. As a self-professed food snob, I *hated* that everything I tried was so…..gluten free. I wanted texture, I wanted flavor, I wanted something that would approximate what I had enjoyed eating previously that now I couldn’t. And at a party, I didn’t want to be the odd one out- everyone looking at me with pity because my pathetic little gluten free cookie tasted like crumbly cardboard.

I guess I can say I’ve been obsessed with creating quality pastries that *everyone* will enjoy- regardless of their ability to consume gluten.

And so- here, finally is something I am so proud of. And, I’m thrilled I get to share it with the world. Right now there are two mixes.

Grama’s Pie Crust Plus– in honor of my grandmother’s famous flakey pie crust. This crust is flakey, fork tender, and sturdy. It also has applications beyond pie crust- it makes great cut out cookies, scones, and crackers!

Chocolate Lover’s (To Die For) Brownie Mix– Super chocolatey, chewy (if you love them that way like I do), and with the texture of a ‘true’ brownie. You will be proud to serve these to anyone!

Pie-Crust-stickerBrownie-sticker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHERE CAN YOU FIND THEM???

I’m so glad you asked!

This weekend: October 12 & 13th- The Adventuresome Kitchen will be at the Mother Earth News Fair in Lawrence, Kansas. Stop by our Booth for a taste of gluten free deliciousness, and a demo of how the pie crust works!

After That…We’ll be launching on Amazon a few weeks later (once we’ve replenished our supply!) so that EVERYONE in the U.S. can enjoy them! Stay tuned here or on our Facebook page, and we’ll let you know as soon as they’re available nation wide!

 

 

 

 

Gluten Free Pasta for One: 30 Minute Meal & ICDS2013 Round-Up

I don’t usually write about Celiac Disease. I was 27 when I was diagnosed, although I’m fairly convinced I had Celiac even as a little girl- I was one sick kid. But Celiac Disease isn’t how I define myself- it’s just kind of there. I know I need to avoid gluten for the rest of my life, and that’s that.

As far as I’m concerned, I’d rather jump in enthusiastically to explore all the delicious foods and meals that are naturally Gluten Free, or can be easily made gluten free than get hung up on what I can’t eat. Sure, do miss croissants? Yeah- I guess- sometimes. But I’m happy and healthy without most carbs in my life. And in fact, on a recent recipe testing binge- I actually felt pretty gross after eating piles of gluten free biscuits for 2 days!

So, as a food writer and foodie, it was really interesting for me to attend the International Celiac Disease Symposium last week in Chicago.  The opening reception, hosted by some of Chicago’s best restaurants, did not disappoint. If you want to eat well as a Celiac- come to Chicago.

WildFireRestaurantOn the vendor side of things, there wasn’t much new to report. All the usual biggies were there- Udi’s, Rudi’s, Enjoy Life, etc. My favorite by far, was a company from Sweden called Fria. They are making what is quite possibly the best gluten free bread on the planet. Too bad they are only available in Europe!

Fria Gluten FreeThe clinical sessions were super fascinating for me. Some of the world’s premier doctors and researchers presented their findings- all of which have been published and peer-reviewed. This was a point that was hammered on over and over again.

Why?

Because there’s a lot of research going on right now that has been published in books (Namely “Wheat Belly”) that hasn’t been peer-reviewed or formulated into randomized double-blind tests.

My favorite session was the myth-busting session. This session was devoted to dispelling the pop-culture myths as to why more people are claiming to have trouble with gluten. Here’s what I learned:

ICDS2013 Clinical ForumMyth: Because of GMO, wheat has more gluten than ever before.

Reality: In a comparison of European traditional tall wheat, and American hybridized short hard wheat- a slide showing the gluten pattern of both grains was shown. There is *no significant difference in gluten between the two.

Now, it is true that different varieties of wheat have slightly different amounts of gluten, and that those wheats have been traditionally used for different applications- pasta vs pastry, for instance. But for the Celiac- the differences are minimal. For the non-celiac, use of one variety of wheat over another isn’t going to have an effect on your digestion.

Myth:  Our diet has more wheat in it now than at any time in history.

Reality: Our ancestors in 1900 ate  *significantly more wheat as we do now. We do eat more wheat now than in the 1950’s.  Now- our diet is higher in processed food and sugar than at any other time in history… hmmm.

Myth: Our obesity epidemic is linked to wheat consumption.

Reality: Italians eat about 5x as much wheat as Americans, yet do not have the obesity epidemic we do, and they live longer too!

Myth: Gluten is cross-reactive with coffee and corn. If you have gluten problems you should also avoid corn & coffee.

Reality: There is NO- 0- Zip Scientific evidence to support this. I’m living proof that this is flat out false.

Myth: Celiac symptoms can be alleviated by over the counter glutenaze-enzymes.

Reality: Nope. Don’t waste your money. Again- peer reviewed scientific evidence shows this isn’t the case at all.

Other cool facts I learned:

  • Preliminary studies show that probiotics can help alleviate Celiac symptoms, but do not change gut permeability.
  • 39% of products that claim to be Gluten Free, but also disclose they were manufactured in a facility containing wheat, were in fact *not Gluten Free, and tested well above the 20ppm threshold.  This is why the recent FDA regulations concerning labeling of Gluten Free are so important.
  • Lastly, the reason we have scientific evidence that 20ppm is a safe threshold for Celiacs is because of the bravery and willingness of Italian Celiacs to put their bodies on the line in a randomized double-blind study documenting the effects of gluten exposure on the body. Any Celiac who knowingly risks illness so that the scientific community can come up with definitive and measurable safe guidelines is a hero and deserves to be publicly thanked.

Chicago-ViewNow, in addition to eating some great food, I also got to spend a little time cooking on my own. It’s the first time I’ve cooked for only myself in who knows how long. I’m often asked about writing gluten free recipes for one, as the proportions I normally suggest are for a hungry family of 4. I’ve forgotten that as a solo eater a few leftovers can go a long way, and 1 bag of groceries is usually more than enough to last a few days. I enjoy cooking though- even if I’m the only beneficiary of it. So, while I sat and worked and enjoyed the nighttime view- I came up with this fun Pasta alla Carbonara-esque recipe that you’re sure to enjoy. It’s super-fast (a ‘must’ these days) and easy to scale up for a family of 4 if you like the flavors. I’ll try and post a few more of these solo recipes I invented while in Chicago- my tastebuds were happy!

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Chicken with Garlic Sauce, Tomato & Basil – 30 Minute Meal

Gluten Free SpaghettiSo we were in the store recently and noticed the explosion of new gluten-free products- especially pastas. Like most parents, I tend to get into a rut and just reach for my tried and true favorite- Tinkyada – where pasta is concerned. But The Kitchen Divas in Training were anxious to try something new. So over the course of a week, we decided to have a “spaghetti-off” and try a few new pastas- grading them on ease of use, taste, texture, and how they hold up the next day. We tried: Tinkyada, Bionaturae, Hodgson Mill, and Ronzoni.

For those of you who may be thinking “all gluten free pasta tastes alike”, think again. There were some big differences in these brands.

For consistency’s sake, we agreed that we would put aside our thoughts about how pasta should be cooked, and trust the recommendation on the back of each package. We followed the instructions to the letter. Sometimes that meant rinsing, other times not. It also meant varying the cooking times.

First up- Bionaturae: I had high hopes for this pasta because it’s made by an Italian company, and in Europe the Italians are far ahead of the gluten free curve. The pasta had a nice flavor, but quickly became mushy and broke while serving. Not a bad thing if you have small kids, since you’d want to cut their spaghetti anyways, but you couldn’t twirl it. If I were to use this again, I would cook for a shorter period of time then is recommended on the package, rinse and coat in olive oil. It might hold up a little better that way. The pieces really stuck together.

Hodgson Mills: This New England company has a reputation for making fine flours, and they also have a gluten free facility. However, the Kitchen Divas in Training (and I agree with them) thought they should stick to their flour mixes. The pasta was just okay. It had a fine flavor, but turned mushy and fell apart. There was also a bit of a telltale “gluten-free” grainy texture that wasn’t very appealing. Again, if I were to use this pasta again, I would cook for a shorter period of time, rinse and coat in oil.

Ronzoni: This was a surprise. The pasta is made with corn and quinoa in addition to the rice flour blend. I don’t personally care for quinoa flour as it has a very distinctive, bitter aftertaste. And corn in pasta can also be a little off-putting- making the pasta too crunchy. But the flavor was very nice and the texture – albeit slightly more al dente than I usually prefer- was also good. The pasta was also pretty sturdy and didn’t fall apart. It also twisted on the fork nicely- much to the Kitchen Divas in Training’s delight- But this brand does contain mono and diglycerides.  You can read more about those here, and decide whether you like them or not.

Tinkyada: Still my favorite of the bunch. I don’t know what magic they put in their rice, but in my mind, this is still the best pasta on the market. A good al dente texture that doesn’t turn to mush if you accidentally overcook it, a flavor comparable to any glutenful pasta, and a flexibility that allows for significant pasta twirling.

I could not bring myself to cook the same exact meal for 4 nights in a row however, so the Kitchen Divas in Training helped me come up with a few fun variations. Happily all these recipes can be completed in under 30 minutes- making them the perfect school-night meal choice.

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Brunehaut Gluten Free Beer

Brunehaut Gluten Free BeerHappy Friday!  Do I have a treat for you today! I was fortunate enough to receive a few samples of an outstanding de-glutenized barley beer from Belgium, called Brunehaut.  For those of you who are beer aficionados, you know that Belgian beer is the standard bearer for high quality, sophisticated, subtle flavor. Of course, this might have something to do with the fact that they have a 1000+ year history of brewing beer! For years I have listened to Mr. Kitchen Diva wax rhapsodic about the finer qualities of the Belgian beers he loves to enjoy, while I sat crying into my weak, sorghum based lager. But, beggars can’t be choosers, and on a 106 degree day in July, any beer after a workout is a good one. But, now I get to be a chooser too! The gluten-free craft beer market is really exploding, and Brunehaut gluten free beer is a great-tasting addition. In fact, if I could get it where I lived, it would be at the top of my list. It should be at the top of yours too-especially if you appreciate Belgian Beer.

Brunehaut is a tiny little village in Belgium, just north of the French border. The history of the region is fascinating. It’s in one of those locations where the border tended to switch with some frequency. It wasn’t uncommon for residents during the middle ages and later to wake up one morning and find themselves living in a new country! In spite of the border changes, the local monastery managed to brew beer pretty continuously from about 1096 AD- plenty of time to get things right. Brunehaut Brewery has been in existence since 1890.

Brunehaut Gluten Free BeerWhat is so amazing about this beer is that it’s made with de-glutenized barley. A process which I am looking forward to learning about this spring when The Adventuresome Kitchen hits the road again- this time to France and Flanders! What’s exciting is that both the Brunehaut Amber and the Blonde are tested at less than 5ppm. To provide a point of reference, EU guidelines for gluten-free labeling have been set at 20ppm. Most companies though, are shooting for much less than that. You can safely drink both Brunehaut beers (Amber & Blonde). Now, here in the US, because the FDA has yet to set a standard for Gluten-Free labeling, Brunehaut is not labeled as gluten-free. But it is, and believe me- there is a big difference between de-glutenized barley based beer and other gluten-free beers. To my tastebuds it is a richer, deeper flavor.

The Amber paired beautifully with a block of Comte we had. And the blonde tasted very delicious with pizza and chile. What makes me so happy about discovering Brunehaut gluten free beer is that there are really some wonderful choices for gluten-free beer drinkers now. And while there is still no gluten free porter or stout on the market, I have no doubt that day will come.

If you’re lucky enough to live out West, along the Eastern Seaboard, the Upper Midwest, and the Ohio River Valley- this is your happy weekend- you can probably find Brunehaut right now on the shelves of your local liquor store. Check with your local distributor, as Brunehaut is distributing in 33 states!

May you all have a safe and enjoyable weekend, and consider Brunehaut gluten free beer for your next gluten-free beer run!

Ground Breaker Brewing

** Harvester Brewing Company is now Ground Breaker Brewing! Still the same fabulous beer though! They just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign so look for their beer to appear in cans soon!

Happy Friday fellow Foodies! Thanks to my friend Tana Fryer- proprietor of an awesome new joint in Tuscon called Blu-a Wine & Cheese Stop– for introducing me to what is quite possibly the best gluten free beer anywhere.

Harvester Brewing Company– a dedicated GF craft beer company in Portland Oregon (how come Portland has all the best beer?) is setting the GF Beer-world on fire. I tend to  be pretty skeptical of GF Beers. Before being diagnosed with celiac I was a craft-beer drinker who especially appreciated a good, thick, creamy dark beer. Stouts, Porters- you name it. I am desperately waiting for some brewing genius to come up with a GF Oatmeal Stout that will make my dreams come true. Sadly, that hasn’t happened yet. And in the meantime, I will have to comfort myself with the fabulous beer that is being produced by Harvester Brewing.

Since I don’t live in Portland, the only way I can get this beer is via mail at Let’s Pour. (click on the link and then search for ‘Harvester Brewing’) And so in the spirit of Adventure, I took the plunge and ordered a couple of bottles of each beer they offer.

I have to say- shipping was almost as much as the beer itself- but was it ever worth it.

Here’s a brief rundown of what I got in the mail:

Harvest Brewing Experimental Ale

Harvester Brewing Experimental Ale

This Experimental Ale was a fall seasonal produced with squash and spices. Of all their beers, this was one of my favorites. I don’t know if I got a bottle from the first batch, or the second, stronger batch-but either way, it was great, and it worked beautifully with our family favorite Vegan Chile. I found the flavor to be smooth, and the squash and spices subtle.

Harvester Brewing Pale Ale

Harvester Brewing Pale Ale

This was perhaps the biggest surprise for me. Unless it’s the middle of a God-Awful Sticky Kansas City Summer, I tend not to gravitate towards Pale Ale. Even then, my taste lies more in the Raspberry Ale land- like the one New Planet Beer makes. But this…. This pale ale was a delightful surprise. It’s not sour or overly hoppy. It’s light, balanced, and has a faint hit of citrus. I found myself gravitating to this repeatedly, and really enjoyed it- with or without food accompaniment.

Harvester Brewing Red Ale

Harvester Brewing Red Ale

It’s been ages since I’ve been able to enjoy a good Red Ale. I tend to gravitate to the more malty less hoppy beers, and no one in the GF Beer World has successfully managed to come up with a full-bodied Red Ale. Congrats to Harvesters for pulling this off.

Harvester Brewing Dark Ale

Harvester Brewing Dark Ale

Can I just start out by saying this beer pairs perfectly with a brick of Comté?!? It was so good in fact, that neither cheese nor beer lasted long.

I was initially surprised at how light the beer was in terms of mouth-feel. To me it’s reminiscent of the German Black-Beers. There is a definite toast that comes across in the flavor that I really appreciate.

One of the things I admire and respect most about Harvester Brewing is their dedication to locally sourcing ingredients. In this era of factory farming, I firmly believe that local/regional sourcing helps rebuild, preserve and maintain our local economies.

But what’s a celiac to do when your local economy (like mine) has no immediate plans or desire to hatch a GF Brewery? Well, fling your net far and wide, and support those who support a local economy somewhere.

My hat goes off to the Brewmasters at Harvester Brewing. You are doing incredible, innovative work, and bringing hopes of decent beer to celiacs everywhere. Just please, please, please- consider distributing beyond the boundaries of the Pacific Northwest? Pretty Please? I know some great shops in Kansas City who will happily carry your beer!

For those of you who are lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest- run- do not walk- to your nearest vendor and support these folks. For the record- Mr. Kitchen Diva, who can consume gluten at will, enjoyed these beers as much as I did.

In closing, I have one request for you folks at Harvesters- How about a Stout? Porter? Milk Stout, Coffee Stout, Chocolate Stout, Imperial Stout? Bourbon barrel aged Stout? If anyone can create something like this, I have faith it will be you!

Thanks for the great beer and keep brewing!

Gluten Free Pierogies

Gluten Free PierogiesNine and a half years ago, Mr. Kitchen Diva and I landed here in the midwest on a new adventure with nothing but our two kitties, a Ryder Truck full of mostly college-type furniture, and the apple of our eye- our eldest Kitchen Diva in Training. We had moved here for a job I took that among other things didn’t allow us to leave town during the holidays. That first year, far from friends and family, we were pretty lonely. But into our lives walked a Christmas Angel of sorts.

A fellow singer and adventurous chef took us under her wing and said “Let us be your family here!” She invited us for Christmas Dinner and didn’t bat an eyelash when I somewhat timidly mentioned my issue with gluten. In fact, she promptly set about making sure there was plenty on the menu I could enjoy. The twist in this story comes because everything on the menu was Polish. Kansas City has a very strong Polish heritage and community, and my dear friend and her husband both grew up in the heart of this community.

That Christmas, we were introduced to the delicious aromas and tastes of galumpkies, Traditional Polish Borschtborscht, and kapusto- all naturally gluten-free. We also tasted pierogies for the first time- yes, even me. My friend called a few days before Christmas saying she’d found a GF recipe for pierogies and would I like to come see how they’re made? Quite frankly, I was blown away.

Even after years of being GF, there are times when it still feels very awkward to disclose my dietary needs. There’s so much emotion tied up in food. Double that around the holidays. To this day, that simple act of hospitality has informed how I set my own table.

Treasured Polish Recipes for AmericansA few days before Christmas, the mini Kitchen Diva in Training (who was just more than two) and I arrived; aprons, rolling pins, and GF flours in hand to consult the grandmother’s Polish cookbook, and compare with a GF dough recipe we thought might work. A beautiful friendship was born in that warm kitchen 9 years ago. One that has sustained us, and led to many ensuing meals of Polish deliciousness. The pierogies? Not bad. Honestly, I didn’t care. I was so amazed someone cared enough to cook something special for me. We decided there was room for improvement, and over the years we’ve attempted to create Gluten-Free Pierogies off and on. A few years ago, Conte’s Pasta came out with their own version of Gluten-Free Pierogies. We started using them namely for the sake of time. Pierogies of any kind are an undertaking. We agreed there was still room for improvement.

Gluten Free Pierogi filled with potato-onion- cream cheese-green chile-bacon-chive filling.
Gluten Free Pierogi filled with potato-onion- cream cheese-green chile-bacon-chive filling.

Fast forward to this year, when for some crazy reason it seemed like I had gobs and gobs of time before Christmas. So I volunteered to tackle and improve our Gluten-Free Pierogies and bring them for Christmas Dinner. The traditional filling for Pierogies is a mixture of potatoes, onions and melted (usually cream) cheese. I got all ambitious and decided to improve upon this by adding green chiles, chives, and bacon. I even peeled the potatoes! Sadly, the filling was so delicious we gobbled it up while we were making and rolling the dough for the other fillings, and only made about 4!

We also made two additional fillings. The first blended crimini and black-trumpet mushrooms, onions, sour cream, rosemary & nutmeg. The second- butternut squash, onion, cream cheese, and sage.

According to the Polish Kitchen Diva, the dough we finally settled on ‘tastes like it should’. I don’t think there could be higher praise. Be warned- this dough is very delicate, and at times can fall apart. I found that a little water helped fix the cracks, and that in spite of the delicacy in rolling out the dough, it held up nicely through the boiling and frying steps.

On this Twelfth Night of Christmas, as we celebrate the end of a season and remember the gifts of the Magi- I invite you to remember those unbidden, seemingly small gifts you may have received from friend or stranger. The best gifts are usually not material. Rather they are acts of kindness, thoughtfulness, and hospitality. May we all have the grace to receive such gifts, and the boldness to pay them forward.

Gluten Free Pierogies-makes 2-3 doz depending on the size

IngredientsGluten Free Pierogies

1 cup sorghum flour

1 cup millet flour

1 cup corn starch

1 cup potato starch

1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1/2 tsp salt

2 large eggs

1 stick salted butter (if using unsalted, increase salt to 1tsp)

1 cup sour cream (full-fat)

ingredients for the filling are up to you

Directions

Gluten Free Pierogi doughBefore starting, have your filling ready to go, and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Allow all the dough ingredients up to room temperature- it’s important to let the butter get very soft.

Place dry ingredients in a stand mixer, or if working with a 1/2 batch, in a food processor. I actually prefer to make my dough in the food processor, so I work in 1/2 batches.

Give the dry ingredients a whirl or a few pulses so that they are sufficiently mixed together.

Mix the eggs and sour cream, and softened butter together. It should have a smooth consistency.  Add this to the dough. Mix or begin to pulse.  As soon as the dough has come together, pull it from the mixer/food processor and place on a large piece of floured (with cornstarch or tapioca starch) parchment. Break off a chunk of dough, and sprinkle with additional cornstarch (or tapioca starch). Knead gently, reflour, and roll to 1/8th inch thick.

Using a biscuit cutter, make circles in the dough and remove the scraps. Gluten Free PierogiesPlace a generous tablespoon of the filling in each center and gently fold the dough in half. Using wet fingers, press the dough together so that the edges are slightly scalloped. You can also use a fork to get a different look.

Note: This dough is very fragile and more prone to breakage. Overfilling will definitely lead to breakage. However, it’s easy to squish the dough back together again- they just won’t look as pretty.

Place 3-4 pierogies in the boiling water and cook for 5-6 minutes. They will begin to float to the top as they near readiness. Use a spider or slotted spoon to remove them from the water and gently shake them to remove excess water.

Gluten Free Pierogies boiling

 

If you are planning to fry and eat right away: Preheat a medium saute pan while the pierogies are boiling. Place a dab of butter in the pan (I am generous with my dabs, but the amount is up to you. You could even use Olive Oil).  Once the butter has foamed, place the boiled/shaken pierogies in the pan and fry on each side until they start to turn a nice golden brown. How long you cook is really up to you. I like the color of a longer-cooked pierogi, some prefer them gently warmed through and not golden brown.

If you are saving for later use: you may place the boiled pierogies in a storage container (I used a stainless steel mixing bowl) and place a little butter on them. The heat from the pierogies will melt the butter, and help prevent sticking when you’re ready to fry them. Seal. I have read that pierogies will last over a week in the fridge, and even longer if you choose to freeze them. Mine have never stuck around that long!

Ideas for fillings Mushroom filling for Gluten Free Pierogies

Potatoes, cheese, onion (traditional)

Sweet potato or butternut squash and onion

broccoli and cheese

sausage and onion, or sausage and kraut

mushroom and shallot

blueberries, cream cheese and lemon zest (dessert, obviously, sprinkle these with powdered sugar before serving)

apples, butter, cinnamon

You get the idea- PLAY!

Matt’s Bakery Taos

Matt's Gluten Free GoodnessIn a previous post a few weeks back, I remarked that the gluten-free world is exploding. When I was first diagnosed 15 years ago, I kissed pastries, pasta, and ‘regular’ foods goodbye. For the most part, this has been good for me. Being gluten-free has made me eat healthier food, virtually eliminate processed food (this is good, right?) and certainly made me more adventurous in many aspects of my life. I only began to attempt baking when the Kitchen Divas in Training reached school age. We still bake- but in the name of keeping most sugar out of our diet, the baked goods are few and far between. However, on the rare occasions when I meet a friend for coffee, I occasionally have a pang of wistfulness as I look at the pastry case. And the consolation that I’m saving calories/fat/sugar and being generally better towards my body is lost as I drool over slices of pumpkin bread, coffee cake, muffins and cookies. But, at least if you’re in Taos, New Mexico, redemption is on the counter of virtually every coffee shop in town.Matt's Gluten Free Goodness-unwrapped

Meet Matt Thomas, architect turned baker of gluten-free deliciousness aptly called “Matt’s Gluten-Free Goodness“.  Matt was diagnosed with celiac four years ago, and like most of us, was dissatisfied with what was available on the market. Only he did something about it, and “Matt’s Gluten-Free Goodness” was born.  Matt was kind enough to send me some samples of his cakes, and I have to say that you Taos folks sure are lucky! It’s  a good thing I live so far away or I’d have to seriously up my hours at the gym to compensate for consuming one of these lovely pastries every time I grabbed a cup of coffee!

The Kitchen Divas in Training and I sampled three cakes: Sour Cherry Chocolate Cake, Sunrise Lemon Pound Cake, and Canela-Bella Coffee Cake.

Sour Cherry Chocolate Cake

The Sour Cherry Chocolate Cake is fudgy, dense and chocolatey. As we were happily munching, someone remarked that this bore a slight resemblance to plum pudding. Now, my grandmother’s plum pudding was detestable, and had she taken some baking tips from Matt, we might have gobbled up every crumb. We think that the Sour Cherry Chocolate Cake would be just heavenly doused in Kirsch (a cherry liquour), flamed, and served with vanilla ice-cream. In fact- I think I need to order one for Christmas!

Sunrise Lemon Pound Cake

The Sunrise Lemon Pound Cake has a perfect pound cake texture and the burst of lemon is like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. Serve it up with fresh strawberries and whip cream for a beautiful addition to your brunch table.

Canela-Bella Coffee Cake

The Canela-Bella Coffee Cake was our favorite to enjoy with coffee and hot chocolate. This lighter cake struck the perfect balance of cinnamon and sugar without being too sweet- something that I really appreciate.

Are you drooling yet? Gnashing your teeth that you don’t live in Taos? No worries! Matt’s working on widening his reach locally, so look for his pastries soon in surrounding areas. And, if you’re farther afield, Matt did inform me when we chatted that he’s open to mailing some deliciousness your way. I felt like the pastries held up well in the mail and in storage. I actually put mine right in the fridge upon arrival because it was a few days before I could get to them, and they warmed up beautifully. It’s not too late to surprise the Gluten-Free person in your life with a little Holiday treat!

Matt can be reached through his website here: http://www.mattsbakerytaos.com/

Roman Night with ‘Around the Roman Table’

It’s fitting I should be writing this post today, a year after my grandfather- lovingly named “Great-Grandpa Dentist” by the Kitchen Divas in Training- suddenly passed away. A large part of my sudden hiatus from blogging last year was because I found I couldn’t write anything food-related without being overwhelmed with emotion for his loss. My grandfather was passionate about food, and in some ways sowed the seeds for my own journey into the food world as a young woman. He was also my most ardent supporter when it came to homeschooling. Every week or so a package would show up on my doorstep with art projects for the girls, books he thought we’d find useful, or cookbooks for the girls and me to use as part of our geography lessons. In fact- I received a package from him a few days before he died, and the resulting conversation we had was one I’ll never forget.

Around the Roman Table” by Patrick Faas is exactly the kind of book that would have shown up on my doorstep should Grandpa have discovered we were studying Ancient Rome. Truly, this book is one of the most fascinating, informative food books I’ve read in quite awhile. And, the ancient recipes which have been modernized for today’s cook are curious, creepy (yes, I find roasted Sow’s Udders a little creepy!), and at times downright delicious.

Roman Night was the culmination of our studies on Ancient Rome, and the last Feast Night of our year of ancient history. We have Feasted in the style of the Ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, Indians, Chinese, Meso-Americans, Greeks and Romans. All of it adapted to gluten-free where necessary, much of it just as is. The girls have made a 12-foot long 10,000 year timeline, learned creation mythologies, read stories, watched documentaries, researched clothing, daily life, agriculture, art, and of course- Food.

Here are just a few things we owe to the Romans:

Menus: Thanks to all the tavernas in Ancient Rome and the peoples’ insatiable demands for good food- tavernas started publishing what was coming from the kitchen.

Table Cloths: Romans reclined when they ate, didn’t use silverware, and so wiped their hands on the table-cloths. Some wealthy Romans had napkins attached to their togas. This was the highlight of the meal for the Kitchen Divas in Training- and many of the adults present- eating with fingers and wiping them on the tablecloth!

The multi-course meal: Yes- it all started here… aperetifs, first course, second course, dessert and after dinner drinks… If it sounds French, don’t forget the Romans occupied Gaul.

Gastronomy: Be it ostrich, bear, brains or sow’s udders. The Romans were the first folk who elevated cookery to an art.

The Roman diet was also the closest to ours in terms of the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables present. I was amazed as I read through Faas’s book, at how many recipes were for fruits and vegetables. Don’t expect similar uses or combinations of spices that we use today- The Romans heavily spiced many of their dishes- more akin to Indian Curry than present day Italian Food. Cilantro, Cumin and Coriander were present in nearly every dish, as was garum– a stinky fish sauce. There is speculation that the Romans preferred such heavily spiced meals because they were already showing signs of lead poisoning. Loss of taste is apparently a key sign of lead poisoning.

Here’s a run-down of our meal:

1. Promulsis- aperitifs: Chilled Honeyed Wine, Pickled Beets, Olives

2: Gustatio- starters: Soft Boiled Eggs w/ Pine Nut Sauce

3. Mensa Prima- first meal: Herbed Cucumbers, Columella Salad (fresh herbs mixed with salted fresh cheese)

4. Mensa Altera- 2nd main course:Fried Veal with Vin Santo reduction and white raisins, Tuna with Dates, Honey and Wine

5. Mensa Secunda- dessert with Passum (dessert wine): Pear Souffle, Fresh Fruit (we had the first peaches of the season!) Nuts and Honey.

The favorites of the evening were the  soft boiled eggs with pine-nut sauce, the veal, and the pear patina (souffle). The latter was so delicious I’d like to play with the recipe and then post it.

At the end of the meal I was left wondering if anything in the Middle Ages will be as interesting or as tasty as Ancient Roman Cooking. Only time will tell!

How to make stovetop popcorn

This whimsical concoction was dreamed up by the Kitchen Divas In Training over the Holiday Weekend during our Back to the Future marathon. Once I had shown them how to make stovetop popcorn, they managed to find a box of Gluten Free Ice Cream Cones in the recesses of a cabinet, and decided they’d like their movie popcorn and ice-cream rolled up into one.

I hesitated at first, but then thought- what the heck? The worst that can happen is they don’t taste that great. So we popped our corn and went Adventuring! They were delicious! If you like the salty/sweet combo, or like chocolate chips on occasion in your popcorn, you will love these. It’s a good thing we ran out of ice-cream and cones, because I easily could have enjoyed several more! This is the kind of item that should be sold at the Iowa State Fair this summer!

Now- a word about the popcorn: Do NOT- waste your money on microwave popcorn, or that premade junk you get at the store. First of all, it’s filled with all sorts of yucky stuff- partially hydrogenated oils- usually soy or cottonseed (Yuck…do you know that the cotton industry is the most egregious user of petrochemicals? 5lbs of chemicals for 1lb of yield. I do not want that stuff anywhere near my body, let alone in it!) Or, if it’s a “good for you” brand- it uses Palm Kernel Oil, which thanks to its rocketing demand as people give the heave-ho to the partially hydrogenated stuff, is a food responsible for millions of acres of rainforest deforestation. And the corn? If it ain’t organic- it’s GMO. No ThankYou, I’m a stovetop popper these days.

Now, some of you may say that pulling out the bag and popping it in the microwave is faster, but is it really? I can have an enormous bowl of popcorn ready in 6 minutes or less, made with real oil, real salt (if you like salt) and real corn- and instead of costing 2.99/bag- it costs me pennies. Do you know how much a pound of bulk organic corn costs? About 1.50, or less. Do you know how much corn is in 1 pound? A LOT of servings!

Below are the instructions for how to make stovetop popcorn– it’s so easy my 10 year old cooked it this weekend (I documented!)

 

 

1. 3 tbs oil with a high burning point- I use grapeseed oil. You could use corn, canola, or something else. As much as I like the flavor of olive oil, its burning point is too low. (btw the black flecks in this picture are not burned bits, but seaweed pieces from my fancy sea-salt)

 

 

 

 

2. Place oil in pan with a few kernels and some ground up salt (if you choose). Alton Brown turned me on to putting salt in the pan 1st. It flavors everything and you use way less. However- don’t add other seasonings first. I learned the hard way there, and burned my herbs and spices.

 

 

 

 

3. Place the lid on your pan (I use a medium sized one) and wait for the kernels to explode against the lid- peek if you need to. When the kernels explode add a generous 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels, slap on the lid and set your timer for 3-3 1/2 minutes.

 

 

 

4. Now comes the tricky part. Do NOT Walk Away! Agitate the pan continuously- you will hear the popping, and somewhere between 3 3 1/2 minutes the popping will virtually stop. Pull the pan from the heat- open the lid to let out the steam, and place it back on again for a count of 5- this will allow the last kernels to pop.. Give one last good shake and turn out into a bowl.

 

 

 

5. Flavor- add butter, olive oil, herbed garlic powder, parmesan cheese, nuts, whatever….let your imagination run wild.

 

 

 

 

 

6. Enjoy!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Now- for the corny cones- grab a cone and fill the bottom with popcorn. Add a nice scoop of chocolate ice-cream on top and then take a handful of popcorn and gently smoosh onto the ice cream. Eat fairly quickly because the hot popcorn does speed up the melting of the ice cream.

 

For Corny Cone: Add Ice-Cream and cover with popcorn!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delicious!  I kid you not.  Happy Start of Summer, Everyone!

Qwackers Gluten Free Crackers Review

No, these cute little Qwackers are not Lembas Bread, although we very well may decide that it is later this week when we’re at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis with 35,000 other people and not a gluten-free morsel in sight. The Kitchen Divas in Training are off on an exciting adventure of their own this week- their Robotics Team, The Rock’n Robo Rabbits, will be competing in the SuperBowl of Robotics- FIRST World Festival. Nine months ago, none of us had any idea you could put a bunch of fancy Legos together and turn them into a robot. I’ve learned words like “chassis”- yes people- I am an artist- until this year, that kind of stuff was foreign to me! I’ve watched my daughter learn to program, conduct research, and stand in front of a room of engineers and articulately talk about and demonstrate the qualities of her team’s robot. Pretty Impressive.

This week, we get to celebrate all that learning at a competition that will bring together 80 of the best teams (from a field of 15,000!) from around the world. I could not be more proud of my children- I get all weepy thinking about how incredible they are!

However- this week will not just be full of robotics challenges- we have to eat. And, when you’re in an entertainment arena full of junky food- 99% of it gluten-full- you’ve gotta be resourceful. We’ve baked bacon/egg/cheese/veggie muffins, we’ll be baking energy cookies, and taking a lot of fruit and string cheese with us…oh- and these cute little items as well. Who knew there was a gluten-free goldfish in the shape of a duck??

I didn’t, until about a week ago when this awesome blogger, Ryan, who’s part of a really great collaborative blog called Let’s Get Basted, found them for me. This blog is managed by four college students from James Madison University, and it’s well-written, fun, and engaging! The blog is directed to the college students on campus and is filled with easy cooking tips ranging covering a wide variety of subject matter- from eating on a budget, to one pan cooking, to what to cook to impress your date. Their commentary on college life is fascinating, and at times downright hilarious.

Why would an old lady like me follow a blog like this? These students developed their passion for food and cooking while on an adventure abroad- as did I, or were raised by foodie parents- like I’m trying to raise my girls. I can’t help but wonder if I would have started something like had the internet existed waaaay back in the dark ages of the late 80’s/early 90’s when I was in college. And, as I watch them write and grow, it gives me hope that my daughters won’t run to the nearest McDonald’s the moment they step foot on a college campus.

Ryan’s post “Goldfish Nachos” caught my eye and triggered my curiosity. While I may be a food snob most of the time, I do appreciate some good junkfood..namely Sonic chili cheese fries…and the idea of putting goldfish on nachos really struck my funny bone. It’s an easy recipe and definitely one we’ll try for a snack some night now that I have these GF equivalents to Goldfish. Ryan was kind enough to do some hunting around the internet based on a comment I’d left and sent me the link to purchase the Qwackers.

Knowing that we were headed to World Festival, I thought this would be the perfect time to try them out. At this time they only come in individual sizes, which is perfect for our traveling. They are also very reasonably priced.

The best thing about Qwackers is that they are not filled with a laundry list of preservatives and it shows in the flavor. They use real ingredients- including a sharp cheddar cheese. They are slightly denser than the Goldfish I remember, and my husband verified this. However, the flavor was spot on. All four of us sampled them last night and were thrilled with the taste- a nice sharp cheddar flavor and just the perfect amount of salt. We’ll be keeping them in our pockets at WorldFestival and purchasing more for the roadtrips to come. Thanks Ryan and the rest of the writers at Let’s Get Basted– keep up the great work.

As for me, I’m hoping to scout out the gluten-free scene in St. Louis- if you know of someplace we have to try, post a comment! And, if you’re in St. Louis later this week- stop by the Edward Jones Dome and cheer us on- we’ll be the ones wearing the bunny ears!

On that note- today I close with a link to a cool video the robotics team and I put together to showcase Kansas City and their research project, which was about….Food Safety…How fitting!

Gluten Free Straw and Hay Pasta

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! While we do get on our Irish around here, today’s post will not feature corned beef, colcannon, bannocks, boxtys or any other typical Irish fare…. But in keeping with the spirit of green everything today, this fun dish includes green pasta!

This recipe for Straw and Hay pasta was re-created by my oldest Kitchen Diva in Training. She has started working on geography by checking out cookbooks from different countries and then selecting a dish or two to prepare- how cool is that? And, since this has really been her project from start to finish, it’s only fitting that you hear from the KDiT herself about the ins and outs of this special recipe. Without further ado, I present to you one of my two amazing Kitchen Divas in Training!

KD: “A”, what was your inspiration for this dish?

KDiT: I like Italian food. I liked the way the straw and hay pasta looked with two different colors- green for hay and yellow for straw, and I liked all the ingredients used.

KD: Where did this dish come from?

KDiT: The city of Siena, in Tuscany.

KD: What was the biggest challenge for you?

KDiT: I think waiting for the pasta to cook.

KD: What was your favorite part of making the dish?

KDiT: I liked the cooking part- preparing and cooking the ingredients that went with the pasta.

KD: My favorite part was taking pictures of you. Did you have fun? What part was the most fun?

KDiT: YES!! I think it’s really fun when I get to cook- I make really good food. (She says with a satisfied smile…..)

KD: Yes, you do! What did you learn?

KDit: That the pasta takes a long time to cook; that you have to be super patient so that your food comes out the way it needs to be cooked. I also learned that Italian food uses lots of fresh produce….and lots of cheese!

KD: When I cook, I don’t really follow the recipe- I use it as a guide, and I always have to change something. You stuck to the recipe exactly the way it was written. Can you tell me your thoughts about that?

KDit: I stuck to the recipe because I wanted to try something new.  I like to cook the exact recipe out of the cookbook because sometimes when you cook off of the recipe it tastes different, and not like what the recipe intended. I wanted to see what this recipe tasted like!

KD: So, do you think you want to make another dish sometime?

KDit: Oh YES!!! (I was told I had to put in the capital letters!)

This dish comes from the children’s cookbook “Cooking the Italian Way” by Alphonse Bisignano. Thanks, A! You teach me so much when you cook. Enjoy the recipe and may your St. Patrick’s Day be filled with a little luck o’the Irish! Cheers!

Straw & Hay/Paglia e Fieno

4 servings

Ingredients 

4oz thin spinach noodles, uncooked (we used gluten-free)

4oz fettucini noodles, uncooked (we used gluten-free)

3 tbs butter,

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup peas

4 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced

3/4 cup heavy cream or half n half

1/2 tsp salt

pepper to taste

1/4 grated Parmesan, plus extra for the table.

Directions

Cook noodles in boiling salted water until they are al dente. Drain and toss with half the butter. Cover and set aside.

Melt remaining butter in a large saucepan. Saute garlic until golden.  Add peas and mushrooms and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. In a separate pan, heat the cream but do not boil.

Add the noodles, cream, salt and pepper to the vegetables and toss until noodles are thoroughly coated. Remove from heat and add cheese. Serve on warm plates.

Black Bean Pasta w/ Chipotle Lime Chicken

Black Bean Pasta w/ Chipotle Lime Chicken, may seem like a mouthful,  but when you try these flavors, I think you’ll agree that this is a fun and flavorful meal. A few weeks ago, fellow bloggers Lazaro from Lazaro Cooks, and Denise from Quickies on the Dinner Table, announced a fun contest (The Quickie Challenge) centered on noodles. Since I already have some fun noodle dishes posted, and a ton of cellophane noodles left over from this fall’s Japchae experience, I originally thought I’d try to concoct a new cellophane noodle dish..

But then, one of my favorite grocers showed me this black bean noodle in the gluten-free section… at first I cringed and passed. I’m not a fan of beany tasting pasta- in fact, a big complaint I have with many gluten-free products and recipes is the over use of bean flours- which you need to get a higher protein and strength factor in your cooking. I’d rather eat my beans whole, thank you very much. But he stood there telling me how another lady says they’re her favorite, and he keeps them in stock just for her…. Well, I was intrigued, and my imagination started snapping…

I asked the kitchen-divas in training- “what ingredients do you think of when I say black-beans?” it was unanimous- tacos with chile, tomatoes, avocadoes, limes, cilantro- in other words, a flavor powerhouse.. So I plunged! Why not put a little black dress on the typically mundane pasta noodles, drag out the red chile and hit the dance floor? The result was surprising- and delicious. Surprising because the black bean noodles didn’t have the obnoxiously bean-y flavor I was expecting- and delicious, because let’s be honest- who doesn’t love tender chicken marinated in chipotle and lime, dancing with avocado, cilantro, onions and tomatoes? Topped with a tiny gluten free cornflour madeleine, this dish was both sassy and sweet! Taco pasta or a new incarnation of the little black dress? I’ll leave it to you to decide, but I will tell you, I’ve made this dish three times in the last 10 days, and there have been no leftovers! So put on your dancing shoes, get into in the kitchen and enjoy!

Gluten Free Black Bean Noodle Pasta with Chipotle Lime Chicken

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 bag black bean noodles- I used “Explore Asian Black Bean Spaghetti” by Navan Foods

1- 1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breast

1/3 cup lime juice (juice from 1 ½ big limes)

2 tbs olive oil

1 tsp chipotle powder (more if you like it really hot!)

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

1 garlic clove, minced

pinch of salt

3 twists of the pepper grinder

1 onion, diced

4 tomatoes, diced

3 green chiles, diced (more if you like it hot!)

¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 avocado, diced

1 cup finely shredded jack cheese

Directions 

A few hours prior to your meal, place the chicken breasts in a plastic ziplock bag, and beat them flat with a rolling pin, or other heavy object. Check the bag for holes. There shouldn’t be any since the rolling pin has no edges, but it’s best to check. Provided the bag is hole-free, add the lime juice, olive oil, chipotle, cumin, garlic powder and clove, and the salt and pepper. Seal the bag and work the marinade into the chicken. When the spices have been evenly distributed, place the bag in a bowl (to catch any accidental leaks) and leave in the refrigerator for a few hours. When you are ready to cook, remove the bowl from the fridge.

Fill a stock pot with water, and set it on the stove to boil. If it reaches a boil before it’s time to add the noodles, turn down the heat and allow to simmer.

Lightly oil a large saucepan- I use my favorite cast iron fryer- and turn heat to medium. When the pan is sizzling hot, remove chicken breasts from the marinade and lightly pat dry. This will get a good sear on the meat and help give it a nice color. Sear for 3 minutes on the first side, flip and sear for an additional 4 minutes on the second side. When chicken is very firm, remove to a cutting board and cover with aluminum- chicken will cook a bit longer under the aluminum tent.

Salt the boiling pasta water- usually two teaspoons is sufficient. Add the black bean pasta as soon as the chicken has been tented. If the heat was turned down prior to boiling, return the heat setting to medium-high. Allow the noodles to cook until they have softened- about 6-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the diced onions to the pan that held the chicken. If the onions stick initially, you can ladle a few tablespoons of the marinade into the pan to deglaze. When the onions are translucent, add half of the chopped tomatoes, and the green chiles.  Allow the flavors to gently marry while the noodles are cooking.

When the pasta is cooked, drain, and add to the saucepan containing the tomatoes, onions and chiles. Give a quick stir to coat with the sauce and remove from the heat. Slice the chicken breasts diagonally. For presentation, place a nice mound of noodles in the center of each plate. Top with 4-5 slices of chicken, a sprinkle of the remaining fresh tomatoes, a sprinkle of avocado, a sprinkle of fresh cilantro, and a tiny bit of jack cheese. If you like, squeeze a little wedge of lime over the noodles, and top with a gluten free cornflour madeleine (recipe below). There you have it- all the flavors of a good taco in a fresh format!

Gluten Free Cornflour Madeleines

Makes 18-20

Ingredients 

½ cup tapioca starch

½ cup sweet rice flour

½ cup cornflour (not cornmeal- this is a fine, flour consistency)

½ tsp xanthan gum

6 oz salted butter

3 large eggs + 1 egg yolk

¾ cup sugar

1 ½ tsp vanilla

Directions

Allow butter and eggs to come up to room temperature. Preheat oven to 450. Butter and flour a madeleine pan. Sift dry ingredients.

On a flat surface, using a pastry scraper or a spatula, mash and work the butter until it’s soft and creamy, and easily pliable. Place softened butter in a small bowl.

In a separate bowl, or in your stand mixer, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla on high speed until the mixture is thick and very pale yellow- about 2 minutes.

Place the dry ingredients in the sifter a second time, and sift one third of the mixture over the eggs. Fold in and sift another third. Fold again, and sift the last third over the egg mixture. Fold in, and then scoop a large dollop of the batter onto the butter. Fold into the butter, then scrape the butter mixture into the egg mixture. Fold gently, and when the batter is nicely mixed, allow it to rest a minimum of thirty minutes.

When you are ready to bake, fill the madeleine molds about 3/4ths full, and cook until the cookies are golden brown on top, 8-10 minutes. Remove from the pans and allow to cool.

 

 

Product Review: Canyon Bakehouse

Look out Udi’s- there’s a new kid on the block who I predict will quickly command the largest marketshare in the gluten-free bread world. For those of you who, like me, have been on the hunt for the ultimate gluten-free sandwich bread, look no further. The bakers at Canyon Bakehouse have nailed a flour combination that is packed with whole grains at a reasonable price point. Did I mention they taste phenomenal too? I’m partial to the whole “delicious and nutritious” quote myself- I use it alot in my own blogging. And why not? Why shouldn’t nutritious food also be mind bogglingly delicious?

Intrigued,  I ordered one of each of their products and put myself and my three harshest critics- my gluten-bomb eating husband, and my two gluten-free daughters- on the job. If this bread could stand up to their expectations, then I knew we’d have a winner. Here are our thoughts:

Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns: Simply the best I’ve had anywhere. Makes me think I shouldn’t even bother developing my own. I honestly don’t think I could improve upon what Canyon Bakehouse has come up with here. There is a softness about these buns that rivals any squishy white-bread bun, BUT- these buns also have whole grain millet and sorghum- something found in all their breads- whole grains, little starches. I don’t know how they do it- my husband- the gluten eater loved them. They’re squishy- when was the last time you had gluten-free squishy anything? Way to go bakers!

Rosemary & Thyme Focaccia: Remember back before you or the gluten-free person in your life could eat out at an italian restaurant- perhaps a chain restaurant, and at your table would appear a delicious warm loaf of focaccia, just waiting to be dipped in olive oil, or ripped apart and consumed? Well, this is better. My girls were practically giddy having bread that was dippable and didn’t fall apart when they pressed it into the olive oil. And, this bread has garbanzo bean flour- how they managed to use garbanzo bean flour without a hint of beaniness is beyond me. Again- Way to go bakers!

Cranberry Crunch Muffins: These delicious muffins come wrapped in a cone of parchment- something appealing to my kids because I’d run out of muffin papers just that day making my own muffins, and had made parchment cones to finish my baking. Much easier to unwrap than muffin papers, with less mess and more cuteness. While we liked the muffins, we felt they were the weakest link in the Canyon Bakehouse array. But, in their defense, it’s hard to develop a muffin that won’t dry out in transport without making them sticky sweet or too dense. This muffin had a good crumb, but felt slightly dry. And, I personally prefer muffins that are less sweet than this one. On the commercial muffin scale I’d give it a 9. It’s certainly less sweet than others I’ve tried, and waaay more nutritious. I’d definitely purchase these to take to a meeting, or for an emergency snack if I didn’t have my own muffins on hand.

San Juan 7 Grain, Cinnamon Raisin, and Mountain White breads: To come up with one amazing gluten-free bread is wonderful and commendable, to come up with 3- well- I just don’t know what to say. The 7 grain bread was simply out of this world and took my back to my pre gluten-free childhood when my mother would bake multi-grain bread from scratch. This will be our new family bread. Same with the cinnamon raisin bread. To eat cinnamon raisin bread and have it not be overly dense was a gift. It also happened to be great bread for a turkey-mustard sandwich (if you like thanksgiving turkey-cranberry sandwiches- make a turkey sandwich with the cinnamon raisin bread!) Lastly, the Mountain White bread was my daughter’s favorite. They’re at the age when white bread is ‘cool’. It was a great bread, slightly sweet, but with a good tooth, and certainly more nutritious than typical gluten-free white bread.

And let’s talk about customer service: I ordered my bread online since they currently have limited distribution, and I didn’t want to drive the 1/2 hour to the one store in my area that carries Canyon Bakehouse. I was absolutely astonished when I got a phonecall from a very nice gentleman confirming my address. I live in a funky mailing area and the address I had given did not agree with the address that automatically came up in their computer, so he called to confirm my address! In all the years of ordering gluten-free products to my house, this was a first, and virtually guaranteed that I’d give them my business unless I encountered tasteless bricks in my delivery.

So Canyon Bakehouse folks, my question is this- when can I come take baking lessons from you guys? Thanks for making such a great product, stay true to yourselves and your mission- I hope to see your products in all my local stores soon!