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.

 

 

 

cleansink

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!

DSC05735

Sweet and Spicy Popcorn & Taking the Gentle Path

Taking the Gentle PathTake the Gentle Path…..so says George Herbert. Why do I know this? Because late last night, before she went to bed, my ever so precocious daughter was reading me a small book of inspirational sayings…. yes, sometimes we have interesting choices for bedtime.

She looked at me after she read that and said “Mommy, you need to take the gentle path. You always take the ‘too hard path’….. deep breath.

Out of the mouths of babes.

I suppose the easy thing would have been to laugh it off and cart her to bed, but with my heart in my throat I asked her to elaborate. She very gently told me about all the ways she sees me taking the ‘too hard path’ every day- Things that I wouldn’t even think about, but to an observant and wise 7 year old, are very important. It was a lot to digest. After helping her to bed I spent a sleepless night pondering our conversation.

The EyesWhat does ‘Taking the Gentle Path’ mean? Do I really take the ‘too hard path’? And if so, what does that mean?

Is the Gentle Path taking the easy way out? Or is it ‘The Road Less Traveled?’

Quite frankly, I thrive with a bit of challenge in my life. High goals & high obstacles, which when you meet them net you great feeling and spectacular mountaintop views. The first time I went mountain biking? I biked nearly 11 miles uphill. I live big.

There were several questions I wrestled with as the solstice moon tracked across the bed…. What if the Gentle Path is….b.o.r.i.n.g??? If I take the Gentle Path does it mean I’m not living up to my potential? Does taking the Gentle Path mean I will suffer with a messy house the rest of my life? Does it mean I won’t be successful? Does it mean my children won’t be equipped to thrive in the 21st century they’ve inherited?

OR….

Does it mean I’ll be more successful? That my brilliant, lovely daughters will survive and thrive in this rapidly changing world? That nobody but me cares if my house looks like a trash heap? (still not buying that one…) Is it okay NOT to struggle? Does it mean that my painfully wise children will be proud of me? 5am came, the birds started singing, and still I had no answers…

24 hours later, I still have no answers…but I have committed to being intentionally present, to not letting stupid, insignificant, small stuff get the better of me, and to ask ‘What is the Gentle Path?’ as our family wrestles with our ever more complicated life in the coming weeks.

She Knows Yoou

In the spirit of ‘The Gentle Path’, we hung out a lot today…made yummy popcorn and watched movies… I’ve been in love with spicy popcorn ever since I ate several times at the Moonshine Grill in Austin. (you can see my post about it here). I had maple sugar on hand, and piment d’esplette (a basque chile powder) that I brought home from France. Turns out it makes great caramel corn… If you make it on the stovetop, you’ll definitely get some burney bits…but in light of today’s post- life is often about what you do with the burney bits.. Are you going to obsess about the burney bits and ignore the fabulous flavors in front of you? I think not… toss the burney bits and go watch a movie with your family… or if doing that is too much- I give you permission to go buy caramel corn.

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:5]

 

Sweet n Spicy Popcorn

This will be our reply to violence…

DSCN1854Today’s post was to have been a frothy round-up about eating gluten-free in Omaha, Nebraska, where I spent the weekend. Yet again my heart is saddened by a horrific act of violence that leaves me once again explaining to the Kitchen Divas in Training that the world IS a beautiful, wonderful, and largely safe place. That most people are good, generous, and kind-hearted. And that Love does win. It must win. But explain that to the parents who lost their 8 year-old son tonight. Or to the person who in a moment of joy lost their leg. I am raw. I have deep ties to Boston, and tonight I keep looking at the many threads of my life that tie me to that beautiful city.

I typically have two responses to tragedy- I make music, or I cook. Tonight I don’t have the energy for either. Like you, I am questioning the madness of a person or people who could behave so hatefully and with such lack of regard for human life and the ties that bind us to one another.

My friend Elke posted this great quote from Leonard Bernstein- one of my all time favorite composers and conductors: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” When I went hunting around for that quote, I discovered that it was part of a larger statement he made in response to the assassination of President Kennedy. What he said then still resonates now- especially in light of today’s events. I hope that the following words will give you sustenance and food for thought in the coming days. (you may find the original site here)

 

from Tribute to John F. Kennedy
Speech made at United Jewish Appeal benefit
Madison Square Garden, New York – 25 November 1963

My dear friends:
Last night the New York Philharmonic and I performed Mahler’s Second Symphony — “The Resurrection” —in tribute to the memory of our beloved late President. There were those who asked: Why the “Resurrection” Symphony, with its visionary concept of hope and triumph over worldly pain, instead of a Requiem, or the customary Funeral March from the “Eroica”? Why indeed? We played the Mahler symphony not only in terms of resurrection for the soul of one we love, but also for the resurrection of hope in all of us who mourn him. In spite of our shock, our shame, and our despair at the diminution of man that follows from this death, we must somehow gather strength for the increase of man, strength to go on striving for those goals he cherished. In mourning him, we must be worthy of him.

I know of no musician in this country who did not love John F. Kennedy. American artists have for three years looked to the White House with unaccustomed confidence and warmth. We loved him for the honor in which he held art, in which he held every creative impulse of the human mind, whether it was expressed in words, or notes, or paints, or mathematical symbols. This reverence for the life of the mind was apparent even in his last speech, which he was to have made a few hours after his death. He was to have said: “America’s leadership must be guided by learning and reason.” Learning and reason: precisely the two elements that were necessarily missing from the mind of anyone who could have fired that impossible bullet. Learning and reason: the two basic precepts of all Judaistic tradition, the twin sources from which every Jewish mind from Abraham and Moses to Freud and Einstein has drawn its living power. Learning and Reason: the motto we here tonight must continue to uphold with redoubled tenacity, and must continue, at any price, to make the basis of all our actions.

It is obvious that the grievous nature of our loss is immensely aggravated by the element of violence involved in it. And where does this violence spring from? From ignorance and hatred —the exact antonyms of Learning and Reason. Learning and Reason: those two words of John Kennedy’s were not uttered in time to save his own life; but every man can pick them up where they fell, and make them part of himself, the seed of that rational intelligence without which our world can no longer survive. This must be the mission of every man of goodwill: to insist, unflaggingly, at risk of becoming a repetitive bore, but to insist on the achievement of a world in which the mind will have triumphed over violence.

We musicians, like everyone else, are numb with sorrow at this murder, and with rage at the senselessness of the crime. But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same. This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. And with each note we will honor the spirit of John Kennedy, commemorate his courage, and reaffirm his faith in the Triumph of the Mind.

printed in FINDINGS by Leonard Bernstein © 1982, Amberson Holdings LLC.


Mushroom Leek Frittata & Roasted Asparagus- Under 30 Mins.

Mushroom Leek & Goat Cheese FrittataSpring finally arrived with the Easter Bunny this past week. And we welcomed it in style! To see a round-up of some of the fabulous food we cooked up in The Adventuresome Kitchen for Easter, go check out (and be sure to ‘like’) our facebook page.

While this post does include an egg recipe, it won’t be a ‘what to do with your leftovers’ kind of recipe. For that- I recommend checking out my Pesto Deviled Eggs. I did toy with the possibility of a new deviled egg recipe, but that will have to wait for another day. We ate all our hard-boiled eggs!

So in the spirit of fast meals- which seems to be how we’re rolling in the kitchen these days (With the exception of super-fancy-snobby-food-extravaganzas like Easter), it was breakfast for dinner again the other night. I tend to gravitate towards frittatas over omelets because I confess, I have trouble flipping the omelets. Julia Child might say that I’m not committed enough to my flipping- and that very well may be the case. There has to be no fear when it comes to flipping the omelet. Incidentally, if you want to read the best-ever description of flipping an omelet, go out and purchase Deariea biography of Julia Child by Bob Spitz. His description of her first television appearance will have you crying with laughter.

At any rate, I like frittatas because they’re fast and they make a great canvas for whatever leftover food pieces you need to rescue from certain death in the back of the fridge.  Oh yeah- and they’re naturally gluten-free, so they’re a no-brainer. Quiche, omelets, risottos and polentas can all work in the same manner, but I say frittatas are the fastest and easiest- hence their continual appearance in my kitchen.

This mushroom leek frittata also includes goat cheese. If there had been any leftover bacon from Easter (there wasn’t), I would have added that as well. The roasted asparagus literally took 10 minutes and cooked while the frittata was finishing in the oven. So delicious there were no leftovers!

The Adventuresome Kitchen is working on some long-term and very exciting projects, including collecting stories of people’s gluten-free experiences. If you are interested in sharing your story, or know someone who would be willing to share their story, please contact me at: adventuresomekitchen (at) gmail (dot) com

Mushroom Leek Frittata w/ Goat Cheese

Ingredients

See how the egg is starting to pull away from the pan? This mean's it's ready to go into the oven!
See how the egg is starting to pull away from the pan? This mean’s it’s ready to go into the oven!

6 eggs

1 1/2 cups chopped leeks (about 2)

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

1/2 cup goat cheese

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil- about 2 Tbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Heat a large pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, drizzle a generous swirl of olive oil in the pan (this is not an exact science). When the oil shimmers add the leeks and mushrooms. Cook about 5 minutes, until they are softened. Allow any juices to cook off so the pan is fairly dry.

While the leeks and mushrooms are cooking, beat the eggs and whisk in the goat cheese. Most of the goat cheese will ‘melt’ into the eggs, but there will be some pieces that don’t. This is fine.

When the leeks and mushrooms are ready, add in the eggs and give the pan a quick swirl to evenly distribute the egg mixture. Don’t stir the eggs- unless you want egg scramble (which would be okay). Sprinkle salt and pepper over the mixture and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes.

When the eggs start to pull away from the pan, and begin to get a little firm in the middle, place the pan in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes.

The eggs are done when they are firm in the middle- 10-12 minutes.

Oven Roasted Asparagus

Oven Roasted AsparagusThis is one of my favorite ways to prepare asparagus. For a small batch, use the toaster oven,  for a larger batch, use the regular oven.

Rinse the asparagus and snap the bottom ends off. If you’ve never snapped asparagus, it’s pretty easy. Grab the woody end with one hand, and hold the stalk with the other. Bend until it snaps. This gets rid of the tough woody part.

Place asparagus side by side on a cookie sheet and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to your desired taste. Cook at 375 degrees fahrenheit for 10 minutes. Et Voilá! Finger licking good.

Gluten Free Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Gluten Free Chocolate Pumpkin PieIt’s Pi-Day! Pie Day….3/14 What better way to celebrate than with a gluten free chocolate pumpkin pie?

3.14 Pi… I was never great at geometry. And although I forget the exact formula to find the area of a circle, I do remember pi. However, I much prefer contemplating this circle of chocolate pumpkin pie perfection invented by none other than my oldest Kitchen Diva in Training. She has not yet engaged in the geometry struggle. I hope that when she does my negative feelings don’t rub off on her. And, if she struggles- I hope she remembers the joy she found in filling the area of this circle with something that brought a smile to our faces.

Make a pie today. Make several.. Roll out your dough and contemplate how many bites it will take to fill the tummies of those you love. That’s my kind of geometry.

The Kitchen Diva in Training with her creation
The Kitchen Diva in Training with her creation

 

Can’t get enough of Strawberry- Rhubarb? Try this pie

Berry Pies more your thing? Try these

Or if a twist on Apple Pie is what you prefer, try this.

 

 

 

Gluten-Free Chocolate Pumpkin Pie -makes 1 pie

This pie, based on my Oma’s pumpkin pie and redesigned by my daughter, is dense, creamy, and VERY easy to make. My kind of pie.

Ingredients

Gluten Free Chocolate Pumpkin Pie1 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

2 TBS Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

1/2 cup of small chocolate chips

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups pumpkin (this is slightly less than 1 can- if you like a super-pumpkinny flavor, use the whole can)

3/4 cup milk (we used 2%, but you could use a fatter milk, or even non-dairy)

Directions

Place all ingredients in a bowl, and mix until thoroughly incorporated. We used our stand mixer.  Pour into an unbaked (gluten free )piecrust and bake at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 50-55 minutes.

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!

Salmon in Parchment a lá Rosalie

Salmon ready to be cooked in parchment
Salmon ready to be cooked in parchment

Have you ever been on the receiving end of an epic meal? I can think of at least three such meals off the top of my head: The Inn At Bay Fortune on Prince Edward Island where I spent an incredibly romantic evening on my honeymoon (pre gluten-free). Our meal here was so fantastic I was dizzy. And not from the wine! It was the first time I realized that a meal could be a full-on sensual experience. This realization inspired me to start actively pairing food and wine, and taking serious flavor risks in the kitchen. I wanted to recreate how I felt eating this meal all the time!

And yes, nearly 15 years later, I could tell you exactly what we ate!

The second such meal was at Q’s at the Hotel Boulderado in Boulder. This was my first fancy gluten-free meal, and it was a revelation. I could still enjoy an incredible, flavorful, visually stimulating, and texturally interesting meal and feel great after! More recently, Salon Helene Darroze in Paris was another epic meal. It was also the first super fancy meal (not cooked by me) that the Kitchen Divas in Training got to enjoy. They savored every bite and commented on the dishes as if they were the Iron Chef judges. It was truly delightful.

What constitutes an epic meal? In my mind there are 3 things:

  • Company: A meal shared is a meal enjoyed. Food is meant to be shared, lingered over, experienced. The better the company, the better the meal- even if the food is average. Laughter can fill us up as much as the food.
  • Food that is prepared with heart and care: Notice I didn’t say super-snobby, fancy ingredients, fine crystal, etc. Often snobby-food meals like that are epic. But eat in a fine establishment with a rude waiter and your hopes for epic-ness are dashed. When you’re aware that you’re eating food that has been prepared with love, it’s transformative- no matter where you happen to eat it, or what the food is. I can think of a picnic I enjoyed in the middle of an ancient stone circle on a cool, sunny March day in the Cotswolds over a dozen years ago. We enjoyed freshly made local cheese and beer while we waited for the faeries to hop out and dance with us. Incredible. I can still remember the conversation I had with the shopkeeper who told us what cheese and beer to buy and where to find the faerie circle.
  • Heightened Senses: Think about the meals you’ve had where you remember the minute details of smell, texture, music, taste…Those meals that engage all of our senses, or that sharpen them, are the ones we remember for years to come.
Whether it's a meal for 2 or 20. Any shared meal can be epic.
Whether it’s a meal for 2 or 20. Any shared meal can be epic.

The other day, my friend Rebekah, who is currently living in a tiny village in Southern France, excitedly skyped me to tell me about this epic meal she’d enjoyed the night before. By the end of our conversation not only was I dying of jealousy, but I wanted to recreate a tiny fraction of what she experienced. This recipe is a loose interpretation of one component of her host Rosalie’s epic meal, and is named in her honor. I hope I get to meet Rosalie someday. She sounds like my kind of fellow cook and food-lover.

Saumon en PapilloteI have never made Salmon en Papillote before, and was surprised at how easy it was. The prep time is more lengthy than just putting salmon in a ziplock to marinate, but the results are worth it. The salmon is juicy and the flavors are intense. Don’t be afraid to really pile on the flavors. Salmon is rich and if you’re too delicate with your seasonings you will be left wanting something more from the dish. I was surprised at how generous I needed to be with the herbes de provence I used.  When I daintily sprinkled the herbes over the first few pieces, we couldn’t even taste them! It took sprinkling the herbes through every layer before they stood out and really added something to the dish!

Poached egg with Saumon en PapilloteBecause this dish at its core is so simple, you have complete freedom to add or subtract flavors based on your own personal tastes. Food should be a reflection of who we are, and those personal touches are often what elevates a meal from sustenance to memorable. In fact, we added a poached egg to the leftovers for breakfast, along with more herbes de provence, lemon zest, and truffle salt. Ooh Lo Lo! I just wish I had a bottle of champagne on hand to accompany it.

So here’s a toast to the Rosalies of the world. The love you bring to others through your food is a gift indeed!

What epic meals have you experienced in your life? Share them in the comments!

Saumon Rosalie (Salmon in Parchment a lá Rosalie)

Saumon en PapilloteIngredients

Salmon Filets, sliced into little 3-inch squares. (we used 2 sizable filets and made 10 packets.)

Fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly

Fresh tomatoes, sliced thinly

Fresh basil leaves- enough for 1-3 leaves on each piece of salmon

olive oil

1 tsp Herbes de Provence for each salmon packet

salt

1 lemon for zesting

Directions

If your salmon does not come de-skinned, remove the skin. Slice filet into 3-inch squares. No need to be exact on this. I made the squares bigger on the thinner side of the filet, and some squares were more rectangular. Do what seems right for your meal.

Cut a length of parchment paper- about 8-10 inches wide. Fold it in 1/2 with the short sides touching. Then fold in 3rds- so it’s about the size of an envelope, and turn the paper so it’s long and skinny and fold in 3rd again so that it’s a rectangle that can fit in your hand. Unfold the 3rds, but leave so that it’s still folded in 1/2- you should see 9 sections. Pre folding helps once you’re folding the parchment around the filet. I learned this the hard way!

Place a filet in the center of a folded piece of parchment. Sprinkle a bit of salt and part of the herbes de provence. Add a piece of mozzarella (Cream cheese can also work as a substitute). Sprinkle more herbes de provence. Add a thin slice of tomato, or two. Sprinkle more herbes de provence. Top with a few basil leaves and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

Just about anything can be used to close a parchment packet
Just about anything can be used to close a parchment packet

Fold the packet around the salmon and tie with a bit of string. You will notice in these pictures that I used kitchen string, satin ribbon, and a clothespin. I discovered just as I reached for the string that the Kitchen Divas in Training had absconded with my kitchen string and used it for a Mideval art project of epic proportions! Use what you’ve got on hand- the oven temperature is only 350, and will likely not damage anything you use to secure your packets.

Place the packets on a cookie sheet or in a shallow pan and cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (about 180 degrees Celsius) for 20-25 minutes. The thinner filets will be done at 20. The thicker ones need a little more time.

IF and only IF, you know your fishmonger and you can get superfresh salmon – we cannot here in the Midwest- you might cook your thicker filets to 20 minutes. This would be very tender in the center. Ideal, but only if you trust your food source. Otherwise, make sure your fish is opaque at the center.

To Plate: Unwrap the packets and slide each piece of fish onto a plate. Sprinkle with more herbes de provence, a tiny bit of salt (we like truffle salt for this) and a generous sprinkle of lemon zest. You could even squeeze a bit of lemon over the top.

Most importantly- enjoy with people you love!

Gently reheat leftovers and top with a poached egg.
Gently reheat leftovers and top with a poached egg.

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.

The History of Crepe Day

Gluten Free Galette on the Griddle
Gluten Free Galette on the Griddle

Happy Ground Hog’s Day! Happy Crepe Day! (In our house that’s gluten free crepe day!)We’re halfway through winter!

The History of Crepe Day

Crepe Day is February 2nd, and in Europe is also called St. Brigid’s Day, St. Bride’s Day, or Candlemas. In France, Crepe Day is called Chandeleur. Originally a Pagan fertility and planting festival called Imbolc paying tribute to the Mother Goddess Brigid,  it was co-opted by the Catholic church in the Middle Ages and turned into a celebration marking Christ’s presentation at the temple.

This is where the Candles come in- Priests would bless candles on this day and hold candlelight processions honoring the idea that Christ was the light of the world. However, the Goddess Brigid was so popular throughout the British Isles that the priests eventually made Brigid a ‘Saint’ and gave her the feast day of February 1. The origins of Brigid predate even the Celtic Druids, and as February 2nd marks the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, this date has been important to humanity for millenia. It has always been associated with light coming out of darkness, new growth and birth. In fact, many farmers today begin planting spring crops like peas, kale, radishes and broccoli on February 2nd.. (at least if you live in a place where the ground is likely to be unfrozen!)

Gluten Free CrepeIn France- Chandeleur has become “Crepe Day”. People across the country take the opportunity to stop and make crepes together. It’s said that on February 2nd,  if you can flip a crepe with only your right hand you will have good fortune for the rest of the year! I like that, and intend to make some crepes today.

I realized that I have several gluten free crepe recipes already posted- so below you’ll find links to previous Adventuresome Kitchen Gluten Free Crepe posts. Wherever you find yourself, and whatever your spiritual belief- know that for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere- we’re halfway to warmer, sunnier days! Cheers!

Basic Crepe Recipe
Basic Crepe Recipe
Gluten Free Chicken & Spinach Crepes
Gluten Free Chicken & Spinach Crepes

 

Gluten Free White Asparagus Crepes
Gluten Free White Asparagus Crepes

 

Gluten Free Galette de Sarrasin (Gluten Free Savory Crepes)
Gluten Free Galette de Sarrasin (Gluten Free Savory Crepes)

How to Make Macarons Part 4- The Kansas City Experiment

Gluten Free TiramisuThis is The Adventuresome Kitchen’s final installment of How to Make Macarons. (really we should call this post Gluten Free Tiramisu)

“There are never any mistakes- only happy accidents.” So says my PBS painting hero Bob Ross. I used to be transfixed by Bob Ross’s shows as a child- and I actually learned a thing or two about painting. But what always stuck with me was his cheerful demeanor whenever the paintbrush slipped and left an unexpected mark on the canvass. He never grumbled (granted- it’s possible those moments were left on the editing room floor) and cheerfully changed course based on what was happening in the moment.

Gluten-free cooking is a lot like that… sometimes you just have to change course. We gluten-free bakers and chefs are pioneers. We constantly live on the edges of what’s possible- often not by choice. For me that means lots of trial and error-being willing to make grand mistakes for the sake of learning and growing. And, when life gives you lemonade- or flat macarons- you’ve got to be willing to recognize the fabulous “not macaron” in front of you and develop a new dessert.

My final macaron experiment did not go as I had planned. I had grand visions of a new macaron called “The Kansas City”… fabulous blend of maple, pecan, bourbon and bacon. “Un Homage” to Kansas City and the Southern/Midwestern borders it straddles…. what I got something new and unexpected. Well many somethings new…My first attempt in grinding my own nuts led to a very delicious maple-pecan butter. I’ll be using that as a filling for one of my croissants this next month. The second something  looked and tasted more like a really awesome GF ‘Nilla Wafer (even though there was no ‘nilla in this whatsoever!) than a macaron! Go Figure!

Maple-Pecan Butter

Gluten Free 'Nilla Wafer

 

 

 

To make our newly named GF ‘Nilla Wafer, we subbed out pecans for almonds and used maple sugar and maple syrup. To be honest- that was the most unscientific thing we could have done. When working under proper conditions with plenty of time- you should only ever change one variable at a time….never all of them! But- would I have ended up with a GF ‘Nilla Wafer if I’d tried that? Nope….so there you go- a case for just going for it and seeing what happens.

Notice the 'fishy' macaron on the left!
Notice the ‘fishy’ macaron on the left!

To those of you who joined me on the Macaron Journey this month- thanks for your participation, and I hope you enjoyed the results- whatever they were.  My cousin Hannah sent me a few pictures of her Macaron party.  Hannah and her friends are to be commended. They are college students with limited equipment, and in this case, also limited ingredients! They did a great job, and I’m so proud of their endeavors! I have to point out that Hannah is an aspiring Marine Biologist, and so it’s fitting that one of her macarons looks like a little fish!

To create GF Tiramisu, use my GF Ladyfinger recipe here, or use your failed macarons.

The Kansas City Tiramisu incorporated maple sugar and bourbon in place of white sugar and marsala, used sprinkles of pecans and maple sugar, and a bacon garnish.

IMG_0541

 

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.

White Bean and Kale Soup w/ Chorizo

Gluten Free Soup with KaleHappy Friday! Did you know that Italian Wedding Soup has nothing to do with weddings? It has to do with the ‘marriage’ of flavors. And while I would love to eat this white bean and kale soup w/ chorizo at a winter wedding, I think that you’ll find the ‘marriage’ of these flavors perfect for a winter day.

Dinnertime has become synonymous with ‘quick and easy‘ around here. The Kitchen Divas in Training have finally reached the age where they are often running in opposite directions. And anyone who thinks homeschooling will simplify your schedule?

Ha! Think again! While our lives are simpler in some ways- for instance there is not mad chaos from 7-8am every morning- our schedule seems to become increasingly complicated.

It’s one pot cooking these days. Less mess, less clean-up, less headache. That leaves more time for mastering how to make macarons, or anything else we decide to cram into our busy schedule.

While I made this soup on the stove, it could easily be made in a crock pot. If you’re using dried beans, you could even start the chorizo and beans the night before, and add the additional ingredients in the morning.

Remember, the trick to super-bright green kale (and super nutritious) is to cut up the kale and place it raw in the bottom of each bowl. The heat from the soup is more than enough to wilt the kale. What are your quick and easy dinner tricks these days?

It’s not too late to challenge yourself with Gluten-Free Baking. Join us this month as The Kitchen Divas and I learn  How to make Macarons! Feel free to post your comments and stories below, or email me pictures of what’s happening in your kitchen!

White Bean and Kale Soup w/ chorizo-serves 6-8 with leftovers

Ingredients Gluten Free soup with Kale and Chorizo

1 lb chorizo (links or ground)

2 cups white beans, dried and soaked (about 2 cans)

2 cups chopped potatoes (about 3 medium sized red potatoes)

1 small-medium onion, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

3 carrots, diced

3 quarts water

There is no salt in this recipe because there is enough salt from the chorizo. However, you are welcome to season with additional salt at the table.

Directions

Gluten Free Soup In a large soup or stock pot, saute the chorizo. When the chorizo has browned, pour off the fat, and if they are in link form, take your kitchen scissors and cut them into small bite-sized pieces.

Add the onion, carrots and celery, and sauté for 2-3 minutes- until the onion has softened. Add the potatoes and beans. Cover with water and place the lid on the pot. Allow to come to a boil and simmer gently until the potatoes and beans have softened- about 30 minutes.

If you are using dried beans, you will need to allow the soup to remain at a nice bubbly boil for 30-45 minutes, so that they will fully soften.

When you are ready to serve. Cut up the kale and place it in the bottom of each bowl. Pour the hot soup over the kale and enjoy!

How to Make Macarons Part 2: The Inca – or lost in translation

The Inca
The Inca

This is the second installment of The Adventuresome Kitchen’s 4 part “How to Make Macarons” series. Join me by posting your stories, thoughts and questions, or by emailing me a picture of what you’re working on in your kitchen!

Maybe it’s that we read the recipe 25 times. Maybe it was the sunshine, or the incredibly smooth school-day, or the fact that since I wanted my daughter to succeed at this, I took it down a notch from warp-speed and wasn’t a total spaz while I was cooking. Did you know that? I’m often a total spaz in the kitchen. A whirling dervish; a white tornado. Pots and pans seem to enter my gravitational pull and then get flung aside with enough force they could be catapulted into orbit like the Voyager heading to Saturn. I nearly set a dish-towel on fire the other day. Mr. Kitchen Diva would beg to differ and say that I did set it on fire.

In spite of the high energy in the kitchen, stuff rarely boils over, burns, spills, or catches At work in the kitchenfire. And somehow in the midst of the creative frenzy that is my brain,  I manage to take pretty copious notes. But with a Kitchen Diva in Training at the helm today, working on a complicated recipe she picked out, things had to slow down. What ensued was a luxurious afternoon spent cleaning, prepping, measuring, timing, teaching, singing, dancing, and enjoying the fruits of our labor.

 

 

Pierre Herme Macaron - The Inca

 

The elder Kitchen Diva in Training, just past 11, went for Gold- literally! She picked a lovely, somewhat intimidating macaron called The Inca. Lemon yellow with gold glitter, its filling is comprised of avocados, bananas, white and dark chocolate. We were all a bit unsure when she picked it. I’m guessing it’s not the most popular treat in the macaron shop- but it should be. Holy Guacamole Bat-Man! This filling could exist on its own as a cream pie and people’s eyes would roll back with ecstasy. It’s not too sweet, just slightly tart, and Ka-Pow! Then you’re hit with a tiny square of bittersweet chocolate. This is why Pierre Hermé is the master.

As for the process? Well, it was a little tricky. There were some language issues in this recipe that were not resolved either with editing or translation. Namely with the drying of ripe bananas. The recipe calls for 120g of ripe bananas to be ‘sprinkled’ with lemon juice and dried in a low oven for 2 hours. The recipe then says to chop it into 60g pieces for the ganache filling? Whaa? 60g is most of a banana, and there’s no way that’s going to fit in a piping tube… And, as you can see from the picture below- ‘sprinkling’ with lemon didn’t quite get the job done. Those babies went straight into the trash. Cue the whining trombones.

We tried again with the last banana we had left and tossed them all liberally in the lemon juice with much better results.. Now, I admit, perhaps the tang of the lemon might not be what Monsieur Hermé was after, but they were good, and at least they didn’t turn black!

I'm guessing these are Not exactly what The Master was envisioning.
I’m pretty sure these are not exactly what The Master was envisioning.
Take 2: These look much more appetizing. The difference? Tossed in Lemon Juice.
Take 2: These look much more appetizing. The difference? Tossed in Lemon Juice

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank goodness we’d read the recipe 25 times! One of the challenges I told my daughter about is that often things happen very fast in the kitchen- even when I’m not flying about at light speed. Sugar hits a temperature and has to be moved to the egg whites. Egg whites have to be whipped only so much or they go from light and fluffy to saggy and separated in the blink of an eye. If you’re prepared, and you’ve considered your work space, set up your ingredients, and know your recipe, you can tackle these timing issues with ease- and hopefully without throwing too many pots and pans into orbit. And if you’re very lucky, your macarons will turn out just like the picture!

The finished product!
The finished product!

Here are some of the things we learned today:

Piping Le MacaronI need 5- yes 5 cookie sheets to fully pipe a batch of macarons. Back to the kitchen store before Friday.

I need more piping nozzles. They definitely work better than the ziplock bag, but we had to stop during piping to replace the bags etc.. It would be much easier with 4 bags and 4 nozzles set out ready to go.

My oven is simultaneously too hot and too cold. It runs 25 degrees cold. But today while we were baking, I realized that 350 degrees for these yellow macarons was too much. They were sticking to the parchment and were slightly gummy on the inside, even when their tops showed they needed to be pulled from the oven. Ultimately, we landed on 300 degrees for 14 minutes. They peeled off the parchment with the ease of a ripe banana, and were perfect on the inside.

MacaronageChocolate colored macarons are infinitely more forgiving than lemon yellow colored macarons. There’s no hiding when they’ve been ever so slightly over done.

According to the Kitchen Divas in Training, macaron parties are lots of fun and the only way to make macarons is in a group.

The younger Kitchen Diva in Training is getting quite good at photo documentation. Most of the pictures you see today are hers, or her big sister’s.

The elder Kitchen Diva in Training really shined. She was nervous about piping,

Et Voila!
Et Voila!

macaronage-ing, working with boiling sugar, but she rocked it all, and showed herself she can do anything in the kitchen.

You’re never too old to have fun getting covered in gold glitter.

Anyone can make macarons. Yep. You read that right. It’s true. Anyone can make macarons.

Lastly- these macarons should always be enjoyed after a delicious bowl of Vegan Chili!

There are still two weeks left to join in the macaron fun! Grab a friend, or tackle it on your own. You too can master these delicious gluten-free treats! Next week, the younger Kitchen Diva in Training will be picking out one of Brave Tart’s magic creations to try in our kitchen!

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!

Red Onion Confit

New Year's Eve 2013“Tomorrow is fresh, with no mistakes in it.” says Miss Stacey from Anne of Green Gables. I always feel that way at the beginning of a new year. The New Year is fresh, stretching out before us with hopes, dreams, and goals- just waiting for us to dive in.

We all have New Year’s rituals. For some it may be writing resolutions, staying up until midnight to watch the New York City ball drop, or having a champagne toast New Year’s morning. For me- it involves cleaning like a madwoman. For years now, I have spent the final days of the year cleaning out, organizing, and decluttering. It’s been my way of making room for whatever might come to me in the new year. I firmly believe you have to make space for the things you want in your life. And for me, New Year’s cleaning is an act of creating space for new opportunities, new relationships, and new outlooks (not to mention, I really do enjoy a clean house!)

There will be some changes coming to The Adventuresome Kitchen this year; changes that I’m very excited about. For starters- this month I’ve created a specific challenge around the GF baking that intimidates me the most.

January’s challenge? Le Macaron!

My first and so far-only attempt! Beginner's luck is good!
Le Macaron: my first and so far-only attempt- I Love Beginner’s Luck!

I’ve had pretty good beginner’s luck with Macarons, but always shy away from them when it comes to baking. Why? Basically, I’m a big chicken. No Longer! 2013 is the year of facing down fears in the name of Adventuresome Cooking!

I invite you to join me in this month’s challenge. Let this be a forum for ideas and help to your fellow GF bakers. At the end of this month, I will post about the experience. Send me your photos and input, and I’ll post those too!

There will be other changes as well- more restaurant and product reviews, an update to Gluten-Free Paris (!), and a few other surprises you’ll just have to wait for.

A fast, easy, and deliciously elegant accompaniment to any cheese board.
Red Onion Confit: A fast, easy, and deliciously elegant accompaniment to any cheese board.

 

In the meantime- if you’re looking for something quick and elegant to bring to a New Year’s dinner or bowl-watching party- look no further. This red onion confit is the perfect blend of sweet and savory, and a lovely addition to a baked brie. Instead of spending twelve dollars or more on snobby jelly, why not spend a dollar or two at the most for a red onion, a little sugar and red wine, a few figs and some fresh rosemary?

Happy New Year fellow GF Foodies! I wish you all the best in this fresh, unblemished New Year. May your wildest dreams- in the kitchen and beyond- come true in 2013!

 

 

 

Red Onion Confit

IngredientsFreshly Chopped Red Onion

1 med-large red onion, diced

1 cup diced figs (I like the mission or turkish ones)

1 cup red wine

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tbs salted butter (unsalted is okay, but add a dash of salt)

2 tsp fresh, finely chopped rosemary + a sprig for garnish

a few twists of fresh cracked pepper

 

Directions

Fig, Sugar, & Red Wine mixture.
Fig, Sugar, & Red Wine mixture.

Melt the butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Remember to always heat the pan first, then add the fat when the pan is hot. Add the onions and stir occasionally.

In a separate bowl, combine figs, sugar, and wine. A word about red wine– I believe you should use wine you would actually drink- i.e. a decent bottle. Others say two-buck chuck is fine since you’re boiling it. While the subtleties of a nicer bottle may be erased with the heat, the overall character of the wine will remain. If you start with vinegar, you will end with vinegar. Otherwise, why cook with red wine at all, and  just use cheap vinegar?

When the onions are soft- in about 10 minutes- add the bowl of figs/sugar/wine. Stir until the liquid has reduced by half, and has thickened- about 10 more minutes.

To serve: Place several spoonfuls over a warmed brie wheel and garnish with chopped rosemary, a few twists of the pepper mill and a fresh rosemary sprig.  OR: Place in a decorative bowl and garnish with the herbs/pepper.

Once cooled, you may place in a jar or tupperware. It will keep in the fridge for up to a week- if it lasts that long. We polished ours off in two days!

 

Shrimp Scampi w/ Black & White Quinoa

DSC04941I’ve never done this before, but last night I found myself cruising through my recipe notebook looking for something to cook. I came across a recipe I’d scribbled down the night we had a few good friends passing through on their way to a new city and new jobs. One of the ingredients was *extra love. We talked about Strega Nona’s pasta pot that night, and how food is better with extra love. I’ve modified the recipe to work with quinoa instead of pasta- but you could easily return it to pasta and substitute lemon (an original ingredient) for lime. I like quinoa, and when I cook with starch I try and use it as much as I can. It’s nutritionally denser, and therefore better for your body. The love is still in the recipe, and I hope as you go about the busyness of your holiday schedule you make room for extra love in your kitchen!

 

Black and White Shrimp Scampi

1 cup dried black quinoa Black & White Quinoa

1 cup dried white quinoa

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails can be on or off)

6 oz sundried tomatoes (chop if they don’t come that way)

1 small jar (4 oz) of capers, drained

1 bulb garlic

zest and juice of 3 limes

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

shredded parmesan for garnish

4 tbs olive oil

*extra love

Directions

Black & White Shrimp ScampiRinse quinoa. Add to a medium pan and fill with 4 cups of water. Add salt if you desire. If you don’t want to reserve extra quinoa for breakfast the next day (recipe forthcoming) you could cook with chicken stock. Cover and cook over medium heat. When the water boils (usually evidenced by a rattling lid or steam sneaking out the sides), turn to low and carry on with the rest of the recipe.

Smash and peel the garlic cloves. Heat large saute pan over medium. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil. Add the garlic, give a quick stir to coat and then turn heat down to medium-low. It’s very important not to scorch the garlic.  If it turns brown it will taste bitter.

Add sundried tomatoes and capers. Stir again. Zest and juice the limes, and set aside. Finely chop the parsely and set aside. Add the shrimp to the large pot with the garlic and tomatoes. Heat through if already cooked, or cook until bright pink if the shrimp are raw. Remove from heat as soon as shrimp are ready.

When the quinoa is cooked and is light and fluffy, remove from the heat and reserve about 1/3 of the cooked quinoa to cool. Place the rest in a large serving bowl and add the parsley and lime-both zest and juice. Toss until evenly distributed. Make a hole in the center of the bowl and add the shrimp mixture. Garnish with parmesan if you like. Don’t forget to add the extra love- it’s the most important ingredient.