Gluten Free French Toast

Cornbread French ToastContinuing with our breakfast theme this week, I’d like to discuss gluten free french toast. French toast is super easy to make gluten free- all you need is gluten free bread, or in this case, leftover cornbread (Thank you to fabulous photographer Rebekah West for the brilliant idea!)

In this case, we actually used leftover Polenta Cake compliments of David Lebovitz. If you don’t subscribe to his blog, and you love French food, I highly recommend it. I find many of his recipes easy to convert without losing the essence of what’s he’s working to create. Polenta cake is a great combination of polenta, almond flour, and a tiny bit of regular flour ( to sub, we used 3 tbs corn starch, 3 tbs sorghum, and 1/2 tsp xanthan gum) the result is a flavorful, not to sweet cake that’s perfect in french toast for breakfast the next day. *Hint- do NOT leave out the lemon zest- it’s key.

polenta cake french toastFor a slightly less sweet breakfast, leftover cornbread is perfect. It has more flavor and texture than sandwich bread, and although it’s somewhat unusual- why not? We loved the result.

We also recommend adding additional butter to the pan once the toasts have been cooked on one side- even throwing some butter on top of the cooked side and letting it melt in. By adding the butter at this point, instead of at the table, the butter is allowed to seep in the flavor permeates the toast. We especially like salted butter for this, as the contrast between the tiny bit of sharpness you get from the salt compliments the sweet of the egg mixture and the maple syrup.

Lastly, I have to brag on my budding photgraphers. The Kitchen Divas in training are responsible for all the pictures in this post- both of them! I confess, it’s much easier to cook while you have a ‘staff’ of people willing to document!

gluten free french toast

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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.

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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.

Kansas City Restaurant Week 2015

KC Restaurant weekDid you know what Zagat has rated Kansas City the Number 1 Bargain in dining? Pretty cool, huh? Over the last few years, Kansas City has been featured as a Top Destination by the likes of Conde Nast, Travel & Leisure, Saveur, and the Today Show.

Kansas City has a lot more going for it than barbeque and baseball. We’ve got a world class performing arts space, an affordable cost of living, a lively arts scene, and an independent restaurant scene that is grounded in local food.

Restaurant Week is a great time to check out some of the best Kansas City establishments without breaking your pocketbook. Not only do you get to taste some incredible offerings from some of the best chefs in the country right now, like James Beard award winner Colby Garrelts (both his restaurants- Bluestem & Rye are participating), but you’ll be helping a number of local charities too- like my favorite, Cultivate Kansas City, who works to grow food, farms and communities for a healthier local food system in the Kansas City area.  The pre-fixe 3-course menus cost $15 for lunch and $33 for dinner. Best to make your reservations while you can- many will sell out every table this week!

Many of the selections are gluten-free, and BRGR will serve any burger on the menu on a GF Bun. Look through the list- it’s extensive and see what tickles your fancy. If you’re a KC local- tell us where you dined!

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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Affäre: Fabulous Food and Gluten-Free Done Right

Recently, I wrote about getting gluten bombed at a local establishment well known for serving gluten-free items on their menu. Suffice it to say I’ve been pretty skittish about eating out anywhere since then. However, Mr. Kitchen Diva took me out on a date to a restaurant I’ve been hearing great things about and dying to try-  Affäre, located at 1911 Main Street. God bless him, he called ahead ask if they could work with a gluten issue and to make sure there would be safe items for me to eat, and when I arrived, this was waiting for me at our table. I cried a little..

Affare Menu

In advance of our arrival, our server had starred the items on the menu that are naturally gluten-free, and underlined menu items I would need to leave off so that a plate could be gluten-free. She also assured me that the folks in her kitchen were aware of my issue and that I would be safe in their hands. I cried a little more… (just kidding, but I was blown away by their care and concern, and their desire that I have a positive experience)

Affäre is one of a handful of German restaurants that have popped up in Kansas City in the last few years. I can’t speak to the others, because in my experience there’s not alot on a German menu that is naturally gluten-free, and so I haven’t bothered to check them out. Clearly, at least where Affäre is concerned, I was very wrong.

Chef Martin Heuser (who was incidentally nominated for a James Beard award for his outstanding work here in 2013), and his wife Katrin- who’s also a Sommelier, have created a delicious and innovative menu that is based not only on German tradition, but on sourcing local and seasonal produce. Their philosophy of supporting their local food economy as much as they can is one that resonates deeply with me. And for me as a consumer, there’s something very gratifying about eating at a local restaurant that is committed to serving local food.

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The ambience at Affäre is also right up my alley. Low backed booths interspersed with wooden chairs and small tables covered in heavy white linens provide intimacy in a room with an industrial feel- exposed brick and ductwork. There are also farmhouse style tables for larger parties. A number of local artists are featured on the walls, and while we were there Metropolis was playing on the TV behind the bar. My own aesthetic is very much vintage meets industrial, and I think they’ve struck a great balance. The juxtaposition they’ve created visually compliments what’s happening on the plate too- Vintage German meets Modern meets Local Food… For instance- Bison is prominent on the menu, and beautifully executed- whether as carpaccio with truffles, or as hanger steak with kartoffelplätzchen (potato cakes).

Since we are the adventurous type and there were so many delicious sounding options we couldn’t decide between, we opted to put ourselves in their hands and ordered the 4 course tasting menu,  adding paired wines. Every course was perfectly balanced and a delight to our senses. We especially loved the pickled butternut squash..I mean really- who thinks to pickle butternut? And yet when we tasted it, we wondered why everyone isn’t doing it. Brilliant.

Affäre also cures and smokes all their charcuterie- hams, bacon, sausages- you name it. If you’re in love with their bratwurst (we are) you can even purchase a pack of 5 (fully cooked) to take home and grill.

We enjoyed a perfectly prepared salmon with perhaps one of the most innovative sauces I’ve ever encountered: oyster-marzipan sauce… I really can’t even begin to describe the way the flavors unveiled themselves in my mouth… So good I wanted to lick the plate. Again, I kept thinking- HOW do people think this stuff up? And for the first time ever, I drank a German Pinot.

Duck & Quail Plate Affare

For me, wine pairing is the other half of what makes a great meal taste great. I love wine- but I love wine more with food. Recently, and for obvious reasons, I’ve spent most of my time learning French wines. I know next to nothing about German wines. Katrin introduced me to the wines of her favorite region in Germany, Bavaria to be exact- Franconia, where they’ve been making wines for over 1200 years, and a German red called Trölinger.

Affäre also has regular happy hour specials and no corkage Wednesday nights if you’d like to try your own hand at pairing a bottle. Frankly, I prefer to put myself in Katrin’s extremely capable and creative hands. Be sure to visit their website so you can ogle their beautiful food photography. My attempts at discreet photography don’t do their food justice.

Parking was also not an issue for us. I know many folks have been avoiding Downtown and the Crossroads because of the street car construction, but there’s a lot just a few doors down, and the parking instructions on Affäre’s site are very clear. Don’t let your aversion to a bit of construction deter you from an incredible dining experience.

I would like to thank Katrin and Martin and their outstanding staff. We had a beautiful experience and will be back as soon as we can for more!

 

Oak Street Mansion, Kansas City

Oak Street MansionJust before the holidays, Mr. Kitchen Diva and I had the opportunity to get away for a long weekend. It was much needed, and for various reasons- mostly having to do with time- we opted for a ‘staycation’ not far from where we live.

Kansas City is routinely making top 5 and top 10 lists for food tourism, sports, arts, and livability. If you’re coming from afar, or just need a romantic staycation to recharge your batteries, look no further than the Oak Street Mansion. Built in 1907, the Mansion was purchased in 2010 and lovingly restored for two years by the Sabates family.

 

AbstractRoomJust a stone’s throw from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, the Oak Street Mansion is an ode to art and artistry. Each room has an art-related theme, complete with gorgeous works on the walls. There is a gallery with changing art, as well as a permanent collection that owners Roland & Maria Sabates are happy to take you through. If you prefer to wander on your own, there is a book of the Mansion’s artwork in every room. Well worth the read if you have the time.

From the Oak Street Mansion, it’s easy to walk to the Country Club Plaza, or take a quick drive to any of Kansas City’s foodie and arty neighborhoods– there is plenty to experience here!

IMG_1256They were also very willing to make a delicious gluten-free breakfast. I was surprised and delighted to see my own mixes featured on the breakfast menu! John Sabates, one Maria & Roland’s sons, runs the kitchen and is highly creative. Breakfast was a daily feast, and one morning he even made gluten-free red-velvet scones! If you’re around in the late afternoon, plan to sit by the fireplace and enjoy a complimentary glass of wine, along with specially selected charcuterie.

 

Charlie Bird
Charlie Bird

 

However, in warmer months, the gardens are  inviting and filled with sculptures- so you could enjoy your wine al-fresco when the weather permits.

 

 

 

 

 

We’d love to thank the Sabates family for a lovely stay, and for contributing to the vibrant arts culture that Kansas City is becoming celebrated for nationwide. We’ll definitely be back soon!

PS- the mattresses were heavenly!

Even the lights are works of art!
Even the lights are works of art!

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!

Gluten Cross Contamination- at home & in restaurants

glutenfreeI want to talk a bit about cross-contamination. Normally I try to focus on the positive aspects of being gluten-free; helping people to be proactive in their cooking and travel, and trying in my own life to experience fully the fabulous gluten-free options that are available to us.

But as I sit here reeling from the effects of serious gluten contamination Saturday evening at the hands of an inexperienced and very careless server at a restaurant we frequent often, I feel that I need to address the very serious issue of cross contamination and the ramifications of the gluten-free ‘fad’.

For me being gluten free is not a ‘fad’. I’m not gluten free out of a desire to eat better, lose weight, avoid GMOs, or any of the other trendy reasons people go gluten-free these days. I have always said if you feel better not eating gluten, then don’t eat it. But for me, eating gluten-free is a matter of life and death. Let me explain what happens in my body when I have 2 BITES, yes 2 Bites of bread.

  • Within the hour I experience severe intestinal cramping which will last 6-8 hours. This isn’t like PMS cramps, this is like chef’s knives slicing apart my insides…
  • Within 24-48 hours I will experience a painful and unattractive acne breakout around my chin and lips. If I’m lucky the swelling will recede in 7-10 days.
  • Within 24-48 hours my legs will start itching. Depending on the amount of gluten ingested, they can stay itchy for 2-3 weeks. At its worst, its an itchy, blistery rash. At its best, a little cortizone and deep breathing can control the itching and it will dissipate in 7-10 days.

Forgive me if I get a little irritated when I hear waitstaff saying “a little cross contamination is okay”…

This happens whether or not I take a sip of beer (somebody served me a margarita spiked with beer at a party and didn’t tell me) or eat a bite of a Rice-Krispie treat (Rice Krispies have malted barley syrup making them not gluten free)

This is why 20ppm is the allowable gluten level for anyone with Celiac…that’s the amount of flour that fits under your pinkie fingernail…maybe 2 crumbs. Studies show that nearly 45% of ‘gluten free’ food manufactured in a facility containing wheat has more than the allowable gluten level. That means no Trader Joe’s lemon mustard aioli…It should be gluten free. It’s made with oil, lemon, mustard, eggs, etc.. No flour whatsoever. But it’s manufactured in a facility containing wheat- and even though their line might be far away from where the flour is, I can’t risk that jar being one of the almost 45%.

dsc03066And here’s the rub. The gluten-free fad has done wonders for raising awareness about gluten. When I was diagnosed almost 17 years ago with Celiac, people looked at me like I had 8 heads when I asked if certain foods contained gluten. Now, many who work in food service are at least aware. The problem is, many are not aware of the serious consequences that some of us have when we ingest gluten. Or they foolishly assume that people are asking for gluten free for frivolous purposes and don’t bother to be meticulous in the kitchen.

Successful gluten-free eating outside the home is a two-way street. It is the responsibility of the gluten-free eater to be proactive, ask questions, and ultimately decide for themselves what they feel comfortable consuming. And it is the responsibility of the restaurant, managers and staff if they are claiming they have gluten-free offerings to ensure those items going out to the gluten-free table are indeed gluten free. Apparently easier said than done. But I do believe continued education helps, which is why I’m being so forthcoming about what happens to me when I ingest gluten.

Restaurant owners/managers/servers- I’d love to hear from you. Gluten Free-ers, I’d love to hear from you too..

Here’s what I personally would like to see and experience in a restaurant:

  • Accurate menu descriptions… If you state on a menu that something is gluten-free, then don’t EVER send anything out on that plate containing gluten. It’s one thing for me to ask and verify that something is gluten-free, but well meaning grandparents, babysitters, parents of friends etc. will likely be too trusting and believe that everything on the plate is gluten free.
  • Instruct your waitstaff to never ever ever say something is gluten-free if they don’t know. Ever. The correct answer should always be, “I don’t know. Please don’t taste anything until I’ve verified with the chef/manager.” I will happily wait if it means avoiding hours and days of discomfort.
  • Come up with a system on your line to alert line cooks and expeditors that a ticket is gluten-free. This could be as simple as a red marker, or an extra button on the computer tickets.

In return I (and hopefully other gluten free diners)

  • Will be patient. I recognize I may be the first gluten-free diner you’ve encountered. I will answer your questions, and am willing to read labels or speak with the chef.
  • Will make an educated and informed decision about what (if anything) I feel comfortable eating in your establishment, and I will not complain if your kitchen is run in a way that makes me not feel safe. Since we’re not in Paris and there are no gluten free restaurants in the US (that I know of) I recognize I’m only 1 customer among many, and that your restaurant may not be a good fit for my needs.
  • Will be a loyal customer if I feel safe eating in your establishment. And will tell all my gluten free friends to support your restaurant too.
  • Will politely inform the managers if there has been an issue. (no need for tantrums)

Profit margins in restaurants are razor thin, and studies show that restaurants who maintain a reputation of being a safe place to eat gluten-free see a 17% increase in their bottom line… That’s huge. I also eat locally. I’ve found the kitchens and staff at local restaurants are far more willing to go the extra mile to earn and keep gluten-free diners’ business. While many chains are hopping on the gluten free bandwagon, most also have a CYA disclaimer saying they can’t really guarantee gluten free… Fine, that’s their prerogative, but that’s not quite good enough for me.

Have you been cross contaminated? Share your experiences below. Know of a safe and delicious restaurant? Share that below too. Check out our gluten free travel page for write-ups on places we’ve enjoyed. More will be coming in 2015!

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Rickoli Brewery: Brewing DELICIOUS Gluten-Reduced Beer

Brewery Rickoli On TapWhen was the last time you enjoyed a really GREAT beer? In fact, when was the last time you had YOUR CHOICE of several great beers??? Ever? Since before you were diagnosed with Celiac, or gluten-intolerance, or a gluten-allergy? For me it’s been 16 years…. Yes, 16 years of being in a gluten-free beer desert.

Now there have been tiny oases over the years…Harvester Brewing in Portland OR, comes to mind- they are brewing quite possibly the best gluten free (meaning brewed with gluten free grains) beer in the country. (They ship outside of Portland, and if you want a treat- I highly recommend their St. Denny Dubbel) Then there’s New Planet Beer in Boulder- also using gluten free grains and I can buy them at my neighborhood liquor store. They sell a fantastic Raspberry that’s perfect for our hot, humid summers, and a Brown that is out of this world. They rock the Brown..

Brewery Rickoli What's On TapThen there’s Brewery Rickoli, a nano-brewery located in Wheatridge, Colorado, which has been on my radar for about a year. My friend Elke sent me a link to their website exited that they were brewing ALL their beers with the gluten-reducing enzyme Clarex (Clarity Ferm). Originally used to stabilize beers and prevent chill-haze, it turns out the secondary application is denaturing the gluten molecule in a way that the beers are consumable by many celiacs and test- with current testing methods- at less than 20ppm. However, this process is not without controversy. Very heated controversy.

Check out the links above here and read about it yourself if you don’t believe me. In a nutshell the ‘gluten-free grain’ brewers claim their products are better and safer for celiacs than the ‘gluten-reduced’ brewers. The ‘gluten-reduced’ brewers respond that you just don’t get great beer flavor without barley. I think they’re both right. I mean- where’s the ‘gluten-free grain’ Guinness equivalent? Or the whiskey barrel aged stout? The Vanilla Porter? Right now the ‘gluten-free grain brewers’ haven’t figured it out. And thankfully, there are more traditional brewers who are realizing every day that adding an enzyme to bust up a gluten molecule doesn’t hurt the quality of the beer, and gains them entry into a previously closed market.

I do appreciate that for now the FDA and Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) are very clear on differentiating between ‘gluten-free’ and ‘gluten-reduced’. I want to know exactly what’s going in my body. Anecdotally, some folks have had no problems with ‘gluten-reduced’ and others have. If it’s labeled clearly, then you get to decide. Ultimately, I think the market will support good taste- for the same reason craft beer sales have been skyrocketing and Budweiser sales have been slipping. Everyone loves a good story, and everyone loves a good locally produced hand-crafted beer. Which brings me back to Rickoli..

Brewery Rickoli SamplesThese guys make some seriously good beer. And so much of it, that I was informed if I ordered a tasting portion of everything they had on tap that I would be consuming over 93oz of beer!! (That’s well over a 6pack for those of you interested in the math) However, Brewmaster Rick Abitbol was happy to pour me tiny sips so that I could at least taste most of what was on tap when we visited.

In some ways, I was like a kid in a candy shop. When you have that much selection, you don’t know where to start. Like wine tasting, I decided to start at the light end and work my way up. Really it’s all great, and if there’s a specific style of beer you love, Rickoli is sure to either have it on tap or be brewing it soon. Their line-up is constantly changing- all the more reason to make this a regular hang-out if you live in the Denver Metro Area. Plus, Rick is just so darned cool and knowledgeable!

Of special note the day we were there was the Double Cream Ale- a rich, creamy ale with a whopping 8.6%ABV, The Social Lubricant Scotch Ale 8%ABV..it’s so good even the shyest among you will start chatting with your neighbor! The Elke Brown- named after my good friend Elke, and while I loved so many, this was the one I purchased a growler of to take on the road.

A Taste of HeavenAnd now- let’s talk Stout..

To me this is the Holy Grail of Gluten-Free/Reduced beers. For 16 years I have been crying for a stout that wouldn’t wreck my insides. When the time finally came to try the stouts I was actually a little…nervous…  Like going to a High School Reunion (which I have successfully avoided for 20-something years) nervous. Or meeting your college sweetheart years later…Would I still like stout? What if I’d been waiting for this magic experience for 16 years and it turned out I didn’t even like stout anymore? I was worried my tastebuds had changed…

So what was it like? Unexpected. Rich. Different…Delicious.

We were lucky enough to be at the brewery the weekend they were tapping 3 versions of their Monolith- an American Imperial Stout. On tap that day was the traditional Monolith, Monolith aged in locally produced merlot barrels, and Monolith aged in bourbon barrels.

Brewery Rickoli MonolithThe Merlot Monolith was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. One doesn’t usually consider two-fisting dark beer and red wine. First off, you could really taste the merlot in the beer. Second- it rounded out and added a mildly fruity note to the beer. It was creative, definitely unexpected, and really good!

My favorite had to be the bourbon barrel aged Monolith. For years, I have inhaled the tantalizing aroma of Mr. Kitchen Diva’s bourbon barrel stouts from places like Goose Island & Stone Brewing. The idea of getting to drink one made me positively giddy. Did it live up to my expectations? Well, yes. What was interesting to me was that my overall impression was that it was delicious, and far richer than I had remembered. I think my tastebuds have definitely suffered during the 16 year drought. I didn’t have much because I felt like I could easily overwhelm my body. I recommend enjoying it in small amounts if it’s been awhile since you’ve had a thick, rich, beer.

Infinitus PieSince Rickoli is so small, they don’t have much food on hand to accompany their beers. They have hummus & veggie cups for the gluten free, and a few gluten-bombs for those who prefer. However..they do allow you to bring in your own food, and there just happens to be a pizza joint (Infinitus Piewith quite possibly some of the cleverest graphic design I’ve seen for a pizza company)around the corner that makes a really good gluten free pizza crust. And they deliver.. Did I mention they were delicious??

Lastly, Rick mentioned that Rickoli is hoping to get bottling capacity soon… and while I recognize it may still be some time before those bottles make their way to Kansas City, one can always hope!

Gluten Free Meatloaf w/ Barbeque Sauce

Gluten-Free MeatloafThere is nothing attractive about meatloaf…..except the taste. To be honest, until last week, I’d never made gluten free meatloaf. It’s not on my list of favorites. My impressions of meatloaf from childhood are less than positive.

But after repeated requests from Mr. Kitchen Diva- it’s his favorite after all, I took the plunge. Only in my case, because I can’t stomach the thought of cooking an enormous lump of ground beef with only eggs and breadcrumbs, I ‘hippiefied’ it with the addition of carrots and kale. Then I “Kansas Citified” it with the addition of our favorite locally produced BBQ sauce, Oklahoma Joe’s Cowtown Bar-B-Q Sauce.

Oklahoma Joe’s is a barbeque joint in a gas station at the confluence of KCK and KCMO. They have the reputation of being the best barbeque in the world. Seriously. People wait in a line that wraps around the gas station for hours for this stuff, it’s that good. We locals know better than waiting and just call it in. Their sauce is gluten free (yay!) and it’s also without that other nasty ingredient- high fructose corn syrup. Oklahoma Joe’s has a thriving mail order business which I linked to above- if you’re curious or just plain love good barbeque sauce, head over and order a few bottles. I promise you, your tastebuds will thank you! And when you get your jar in the mail, you can make this gluten free meatloaf and think about making Kansas City your next vacation destination!

 

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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!

Sauteed Kale with Quinoa- 20 Minute Easy Meal

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! This also happens to be the 3rd Anniversary of The Adventuresome Kitchen- so my heartfelt thanks to all of you who have shared the journey and spread the word about this community. Without your support and encouragement, none of this would have been possible. I am so excited about what The Adventuresome Kitchen will be rolling out in the next couple of months- so stay tuned!!

GF Irish Soda Bread FinalOne of the inspirations for starting this blog three years ago was my ongoing effort to come up with a good Gluten Free Irish Soda Bread. I don’t make it much anymore- especially since our diet has moved away from a lot of unnecessary carbs. But for St. Patty’s or another special occasion, where you want a simple quickbread with great flavor and texture,try it out.

Pan Seared Chipotle Rubbed Corned BeefI’m very proud of it. And, upon further review- since it’s yet again cold and rainy- I think perhaps some pan seared chipotle corned beef is in order too!

However- if simple and fast is all you have time for- and that about sums up my life these days. Enjoy a nutritious, healthy and delicious meal of Sauteed Kale over quinoa. We’ve been eating this a lot lately. It’s one of those dishes that leaves you filled up both in stomach and heart. And it’s super high in protein and antioxidants. How can you go wrong?

Sauteed Kale with Quinoa

IngredientsSauteed Kale & Quinoa

2 cups uncooked quinoa (we used tri-color, but any will do)

4 cups water

2 bouillon cubes (optional)

16oz de-stemmed kale leaves, chopped into small strips

2 tbs olive oil or butter

salt or other herbs of your choice

lemon juice and/or parmesan for garnish

Directions

Rinse quinoa and place in a medium pan with 4 cups water. Add bouillon or salt if you desire. Bring to a boil and turn heat to low. Cook until water has absorbed and seeds have popped- about 20-25 minutes

When the quinoa is ready, heat a large skillet. Add olive oil or butter. When the olive oil shimmers, add the kale. Saute very briefly- no more than 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. The residual heat will wilt the leaves the rest of the way. Add salt, truffle salt, herbes de provence, or other seasonings of your choice.

To serve- place quinoa in a bowl, top with Kale. Garnish with your preferred flavorings: A squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of parmesan, or a drizzle of garlic tahini or even pesto. YUM!

See? I told you this was easy!!

A Gluten Free Dinner Party Menu

Pan Seared ScallopsWe had some friends over for dinner the other night. Normally when I host an intimate gathering I get out the fancy dishes and I spend all day in the kitchen concocting. But these days, with our mile-a-minute life, I just don’t have the time. I wanted to put together something elegant and flavorful, that wouldn’t take me hours of prep time.

I grabbed dessert from our neighborhood chocolaterie- Annedore’s. Sadly for my waistline Annedore’s is within walking distance of our house, and over the last year we’ve become regulars. Happily for my tastebuds, I love everything they make! I am absolutely not ashamed to buy dessert- especially from an artisan.

As for dinner? For the first time ever, my prep time took less than an hour. And dinner came together very quickly once our guests arrived. It was great to enjoy our guests as well as the food, and I will definitely be pulling these recipes out again the next time we have company- in about 3 weeks! Below is our dinner party menu, complete w/ paired wines.

Aperitif: Goat Brie, cured olives, and marcona almonds. Wine: Andre Delorme Brut 100% Chardonnay- sparkling reserve

1st: Pan Seared Scallops in brown butter with Orange Hollandaise w/ vanilla & rosemary. Served with roasted asparagus and garnished with truffle salt. Wine: 2011 Domaine Talmard Macon-Chardonnay, unoaked.

2nd: Argula tossed with mustard tarragon vinaigrette, served with chopped apples & bacon. Lemon zest. Wine: 2011 M. Chapoutier “Belleruche”. Cotes-du-Rhone.

Dessert: Annedore’s Fine Chocolate– dark chocolate covered strawberries and dark chocolate Imperial Truffles Wine: Ramos Pinto Quinta de Ervamoira 10-Year-Old Tawny Port

The wines can be found locally at my favorite wine store- Cellar Rat Wine Merchants. I love being able to take my recipe ideas in and get great wine recommendations. Excellently paired wine and food elevates even the simplest of meals. And if you’ve never taken a recipe in to a wine shop and asked for a pairing recommendation, I suggest you do so- next meal! Any wine-person worth their salt will hook you up with something delicious. If they can’t- find a new shop!

What are your favorite go-to recipes when throwing a dinner party? Pork loin? Pasta? Grilling in the summer? Post your favorites in the comment section, and don’t be afraid to try something new!

Snow Day Homemade Marshmallows

David Lebovitz's MarshmallowsKansas City was the recipient of an epic- century sized- snowstorm today. We’re at over 12 inches and counting- making this the largest February snowstorm since 1900. And- this wasn’t your typical blizzard- here in the midwest we get Thundersnow! Yes- you read that right- Thunder, lightening, and heavy snow- all at once! Thankfully, there were no “snow-nado” warnings!

Now for those of you who live out west or in New England, 10-12 inches may not seem like much. But to the flatlanders out here 3 inches is enough to cancel school and tie up traffic for a good day or so. And when we start getting into the double digits- well- besides sledding, making snow people, and shoveling out the cars from the driveway, there’s not much else to do besides make hot cocoa and watch movies… Unless you feel brave enough to tackle homemade marshmallows!

Not feeling like reinventing the wheel, I hopped online and ended up at David Lebovitz’s site. Not only do I love reading about Paris, but David is great at sweets- something I am not. So, when I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone- this is where I go.

The Kitchen Diva in Training hard at work
The Kitchen Diva in Training hard at work

I was happily surprised to discover that marshmallows are one step removed from italian meringue, which I am now very comfortable with thanks to our Adventures in macaron making last month!

They are super easy, and taste Waaaaaay better than the plastic-y cylinders we all grew up eating. We added a touch of peppermint schnapps to ours, and then toasted them in our mini oven to gently carmelize them. They were the perfect addition to our post-snow shoveling cocoa!

For a great read, and a beautifully easy marshmallow recipe- click here. And the next time it snows buckets in your neck of the woods- try making your own marshmallows!

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Remember- we’re experimenting with Gluten-Free Croissants this month….. How’s it going? Post your comments below.

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!

How to Make Macarons Part 3: *Epic* Fail

Hollow shells from over beating the meringue and cracked shells from not enough macaronage
Hollow shells from over beating the meringue and cracked shells from not enough macaronage

I don’t fail. I epically fail. Which, if you’re going to fail at all is the way to go. No half-assed, wimpy attempts that inevitably result in disaster. If you’re gonna fail, go down in flames.

Failure is not all bad. Thomas Edison went through 10,000 incarnations of the light bulb before landing on incandescent genius. Scientific studies even show that the more you fail, the faster you learn. Makes sense. So- failure in this household is not only an option, it’s expected in the name of learning. What happens when we encounter colossal failure? Well as long as nobody has been injured, it generally results in lots of sheepish laughter.

As in this week’s Macaron experiment. Boy did I blow it. I tried a different recipe because the process was simpler, and as the youngest Kitchen Diva in Training wanted to get in on the action, I figured this would be more her pace than the in-depth versions of Pierre Hermé. Of the two young ladies, she is definitely the more passionate in the kitchen. And when she saw her sister making macarons ‘all by herself’ she insisted in choosing one to make on her own as well.

This week, we used Brave Tart’s basic macaron recipe, and went for the Champagne and Roses flavors variety. Sorry, Stella- our colossal failure has nothing to do with your recipe, and everything to do with user error!

Here’s what we learned this week:

1) We definitely overbeat our meringue. Macaronage

This, in fact, was our number one issue. People always say baking is an exact science, which it is…..but, I’m finding it’s also highly intuitive, and you have to be bold enough to know when to trust your intuition.

For instance- one of the things I was very curious about with Brave Tart’s recipe is the meringue making process. Much easier for a 6yo, because you through all the sugar and egg-whites into the bowl and let ‘er rip. The addition of salt alters the flavor somewhat, but also helps stabilize the meringue (provided you don’t overdo it.) We doubled our batch, which was our first problem. Stella is very clear about how long to whip the meringue, and I went a lot longer because I wasn’t getting a big blob of meringue stuck in my whisk- the reason, I learned when I made a second attempt with the regular sized batch, was because I had too much meringue in my bowl. When I whipped again- I got an ENORMOUS blob..clue, that for me and my bowl, I likely went too long. I did, as the pictures sadly show.

2) You can simultaneously overbeat and underbeat your egg whites!

Notice the little 'nipple' on the left macaron. Not enough macaronage. The pair on the left was the only non-cracked pair from the second batch, and the only two that grew feet.
Notice the little ‘nipple’ on the left macaron. Not enough macaronage. The pair on the left was the only non-cracked pair from the second batch, and the only two that grew feet.

On batch two- I not only overbeat the meringue, I under-macaronaged! In layman’s terms, this means I over inflated the egg-whites in one step, and then failed to deflate them enough in another step. You can see this by all the little ‘nipples’ on the top of the cookies… sigh.

Brave Tart’s recipe also calls for adding the almond mixture to the egg whites, not the other way around. I’m used to adding the whites to the flour. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t make a difference one way or another, but I think I was definitely more freaked out about over incorporating with the heaviest stuff on top. I think this is one reason why I didn’t macaronage long enough. In fact, the reason we salvaged any at all from the first batch was because the mini Kitchen Diva in Training insisted on mixing it herself. Apparently, she knew what she was doing!

3) Food Coloring Fades in the Oven

Eek! Houston- we have a problem
Eek! Houston- we have a problem

 

Who knew? No one was more surprised than me when the pretty pink circles came out brown, footless, and horribly cracked. Stunned, speechless. The second attempt was much pinker because I used a TON of red food coloring. Red is definitely less forgiving than yellow in the oven.

 

 

4) I really, really need a new oven

For the first time *ever* my oven temperature started fluctuating wildly. At one point it was actually the set temperature, which meant it was too hot for cooking macaron. I’m just going to have to deal with this little bit because I refuse to spend money on a new oven right now. If I buy a new oven, we will end up moving in less than 3 months. Guaranteed, and I will have purchased my dream oven for someone else. No thank you! Of course…what if we wanted to move? hmm….maybe a new oven is in order.

In Conclusion Piping the macarons

So I failed. Big Whoop. Were they delicious? Umm…… YES! Did we eat more broken, hollow, cracked ones than we should have? Hell yes. Am I going to curse myself for setting up a year of sugary, carbo-loaded, fatty baking challenges for myself? Probably. It’s too cold to run and I don’t have much self discipline to yoga on my own. A moment on the lips….

We did pick a few of the least ugly ones to try out the champagne flavored buttercream. The hollow batch still stated great- was kind of chewy, but again that’s a selling point for some. I prefer more pillowey myself, and the second batch (likely not over cooked), even in its under-macaronaged state, definitely softened to a more pillowey state.

Here’s the deal: For those of you reading this- don’t let this deter you from trying to make macarons- any macarons. Pierre Hermé is my macaron hero, but so is Stella Parks. Both are innovators, both have endeavored to simplify and demystify macarons, both are doing tremendous work by testing the boundaries of flavor and ingredients. I love this. I will probably go back to my Pierre Hermé Italian Meringue method, because for me, that feels more comfortable. Truthfully, if I had the time, I would continue to work on Stella’s method until I could perfect it-because it’s way less hassle. And, for the record (my sincerest apologies Monsieur Hermé) I don’t leave my egg whites out for a week. I don’t have the counter space. And I don’t use mineral water- I use tap water. They still taste great.

And that, my fellow kitchen adventurers, is the whole point.

Next Week: Tune in for the last installment of Le Macaron

For the time being, we'll be enjoying our champagne and roses separately.
For the time being, we’ll be enjoying our champagne and roses separately.

 

Some friends and I will be venturing into foreign territory as we develop our own macaron. What will happen? It will be an adventure.

Have you been brave enough to attempt some macarons this month? Email your pictures to adventuresomekitchen(at)gmail(dot)com. I’ll post them in our final installment. Feel free to post your stories and experiences here.

How to make Macarons Part 1: Beauty & the Beast

Pierre Hermé: MacaronsThis is part 1 of our 4 part mini series- How to Make Macarons.

For those of you who have read my Gluten-Free Paris posts, you will know that I am a huge fan of Pierre Hermé. I feel his macarons are by far the best thing going on in Paris. Last year for Christmas, Mr. Kitchen Diva gave me his fabulous Macarons book. The pictures are glorious and enticing, and Monsieur Hermé works to break down the very intimidating macaron process. I found his directions to be clear and concise. In fact, he writes that he had his 10 year old daughter test the basic macaron recipe and make them by following the steps he outlines in the book.

Well crap. If a 10 year old can do this, why can’t I? And for that matter, why am I letting a ‘leetle cookie’ intimidate me? Eesh. So I began by working through Monsieur Hermé’s recipe.

Here’s what I learned during attempt #1:

1) I need a new oven. I won’t be purchasing a new oven anytime soon, so I am going to have to work with what I have. This means cooking only 1 pan of macarons at a time- on the top shelf. You can see from the pictures below, my first pan of macarons turned out beautifully- they had perfect feet, glossy tops, and were cooked to the right consistency.

The macarons on the bottom shelf of the oven did not fare so well. They were lumpy, cracked, and their bottoms scorched. This is indicative of poor airflow, and a different temperature…I don’t quite understand myself how a macaron can be simultaneously overcooked on the bottom and undercooked in the middle… I think it may have something to do with number 2.

This was the first batch on the top oven rack. Notice the happy feet, uniformity of shape, evenness across the top and the glossy texture
This was the first batch on the top oven rack. Notice the happy feet, uniformity of shape, evenness across the top and the glossy texture

 

 

This was from the same batch but placed on the bottom oven rack. Notice the crumple-y, uneven texture and the cracking.
This was from the same batch but placed on the bottom oven rack. Notice the crumple-y, uneven texture and the cracking.

2) I have a few cookie sheets that need to go to the great recycle bin in the sky. One in particular is so bad that every macaron scorched on the bottom. The other I think I can work with by placing the parchment paper over a silpat- which I will do in round 2.

Scorched.
Scorched.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) I really need some piping nozzles. Sadly, I thought I had them, until I frantically went searching for said large piping nozzle after I had already made my fillings. I ended up going the MacGuyver method and made my own piping bag with a ziplock. It was okay. It lacked a bit of control and so my macarons were varied in size.

I put the whole batch in a big ziplock. The later macarons spread further. Next time, I'll only work with a little batter at a time.
I put the whole batch in a big ziplock. The later macarons spread further. Next time, I’ll only work with a little batter at a time.

4) Although my first batch of macarons (on the top shelf of the oven) were cooked beautifully, I suspect that part of my issue was that I didn’t quite beat my meringue high enough, as the other batches were slightly gooey in the middle. This feature was actually a bonus for one of my tasters, but it wasn’t what I was going for.

5) I would like stronger flavor from my fillings. For attempt 1, I made a Pierre Hermé-style chocolate macaron shell and filled some with a pumpkin pastry creme and others with an orange curd. I found myself wanting more intensity to balance the chocolate. Of the two- I liked the pumpkin pastry creme the best

The prettiest for the pictures. Pumpkin filling is on the left, orange curd is on the right. Next time, I will make the filling a little more generous.
The prettiest for the pictures. Pumpkin filling is on the left, orange curd is on the right. Next time, I will make the filling a little more generous.

6) Making macarons is always better with company. The youngest Kitchen Diva in Training helped with production this time, took most of the pictures you see on the blog today, and was great in the encouragement department. In fact, at one point when I was grumbling about what I’d do next time, she ran to the ‘fridge and pointed to a magnet we have. “Never, Never, Never Give Up- Mommy” she said in her pipey voice. “Remember, you always tell us that the fastest way to learn is to make lots of mistakes!” Ah yes, out of the mouths of babes. I really do have the most adorable children.

I also discovered some great troubleshooting websites:

http://foodnouveau.com/2011/12/16/destinations/europe/france/a-macaron-troubleshooting-guide-useful-tips-and-advice-to-master-the-french-delicacy/#equipment-09-double-baking-sheets

http://notsohumblepie.blogspot.com/2010/08/macaron-troubleshooting-new-recipe.html

http://misohungrynow.blogspot.com/2011/01/troubleshooting-macaron.html

My favorite online macaron resource is written by the witty and engaging Stella Parks from BraveTart. Stella was named one of the top 10 Pastry Chefs of 2012 by Food and Wine Magazine. Her posts are informative, funny, and inspiring. She demystifies much of the macaron making process, and reminds us not to get too caught up in seeking perfection. She makes macarons in a totally different way from Pierre Hermé, but I’m guessing they are no less delicious. I’ll be attempting Pierre Hermé one more time next week, and then moving on to one of Stella’s fabulous concoctions.

Never Never Never Give Up

For next week: I’ll be hitting my local kitchen store to purchase a few more cookie sheets, some piping nozzles, and maybe even some fancy gel food coloring. I’ll be honing in on how to manage my wildly inconsistent oven, and lastly, I’ll be inviting the oldest Kitchen Diva in Training to take the lead in the next round of baking.

 

 

JOIN ME: Grab a friend or two and jump in! Feel free to post your comments and email me pictures at adventuresomekitchen(at)gmail(dot)com.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Pastry Creme-makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

1/3 cup sugar,

2 tablespoons cornstarch

4 large egg yolks

1 cup eggnog

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1 tsp cinnamon

Directions

Place egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch in a medium bowl and whip at high speed until the mixture is thick and color is pale yellow. Meanwhile, using a stainless steel saucepan, bring eggnog, pumpkin, and cinnamon to a simmer. As soon as the mixture begins to show the tiniest bubbles, slowly pour about 1/3 of the mixture into the eggyolks- whisking constantly! This is called tempering the eggs, and is a crucial step in the custard/creme making process. Otherwise you end up with sweet scrambled eggs!

Next, pour the warmed-up yolk batter into the hot pan with the remaining eggnog. Whisk constantly and remove from the heat when it begins to bubble. Pour into a large stainless steel bowl. I like larger bowls because it helps cool the mixture faster- more room to spread out.

Stir with a lifting motion for a few minutes to release some of the heat. When the mixture has partially cooled, place a film of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry creme, removing any airbubbles, and place in the refrigerator. The mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.

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/

Cafe Gratitude

There’s a new restaurant in town that has captured my heart and my imagination. Cafe Gratitude is a new restaurant in Kansas City that is vegan, has a mission to use locally sourced ingredients, and is almost entirely Gluten-Free! I went there for lunch a few weeks ago when my Mother-in-law was out for a visit and was blown away. One of the most impressive parts of my experience there was reading the menu- every menu item is a personal affirmation! How lovely to sit and read a menu of “I Am Fabulous”, “I Am Trusting”, “I Am Extraordinary”- how can you not love food that makes you feel so loved and beautiful?!?

And the food was good, too. So good, in fact that I forgot to take pictures! We don’t eat out very much anymore- in part, because as the kids have grown and we’ve tried to preserve our budget, we’ve discovered we’re a lot more picky about where we spend our dollars. It’s disappointing to spend 40 or 60 dollars on a meal that’s not as good as what you can create at home- for less than 1/2 of the cost. However, Cafe Gratitude will be a place we return to when we can- the food and flavor combinations were delightful, reasonably priced, and the atmosphere was uplifting. Another touch I loved was that the waitstaff posed a question of the day- one we could answer or not, but it was posed to get us thinking. Our question: Who are you in love with today? Lastly- I was impressed that there was a selection on the menu that was priced as donation only, with the understanding that you may pay what you choose, and that no one will be turned away. In this day of increasing food insecurity for the poorest among us, it’s nice to know that anyone can come to Cafe Gratitude and be fed a wholesome, nourishing meal. I’ll be supporting them again for this reason alone. Check out their inspirational menu here.

The photos included in today’s post are a riff on the meal I enjoyed at Cafe Gratitude- I Am Whole. I didn’t have sea vegetables to add to mine, so I used zucchini noodles (made by using my carrot peeler) gently warmed with a little olive oil and ginger. The kimchi was homemade (napa cabbage, radishes, onions and poblano peppers mashed into a quart jar, salted and left to ferment for a week on the counter- YUM!), as was the tahini (process sesame seeds in your food processor until smooth, slowly add sesame oil until you create a paste. For this post I added the juice of one lemon and a heaping spoonful of herbed garlic powder.) Serve over quinoa with shredded kale, carrots, chopped tomato, avocado, and a sprinkling of almonds. It tastes best when you mash it all together. We’ve also tried the leftovers with a fried egg on top!