Game Day Snacks Part 2: Crab Bites with Easy Cocktail Sauce

Gluten Free Crab Bites w/ Cocktail SauceeGame Day Snacks Part 2: Crab Bites w/ Easy Cocktail sauce. In homage to the Seafood culture of this year’s two Superbowl cities, here’s another easy recipe sure to be a game day hit.

I’m lucky- I’ve lived in Seattle twice. Once as a kid, and again as an undergrad (go Dawgs!!) Every time I get back to the PNW there are a few musts on my list: A ferry ride across Puget Sound (this used to be preceded by a stop at Ivar’s for clams and chips, but not since my celiac status), a meander through Pike Market, Oysters at Elliott’s on the bay (temporarily closed until 6/30/15 due to seawall construction), a stroll across the UW Quad through Central Plaza and left to Drumheller Fountain to gaze out at Lake Washington and hopefully catch a glimpse of Mt. Ranier. And if it’s Dungeness Crab season, finagling an invite to a crab boil.

The first time I ever experienced a crab boil I was 19 or 20. Some friends had been out crab fishing all day- which in reality means dropping anchor, then a crab pot, and then drinking beers (and in their case, I am sure getting high) for several hours. Once the crabs were hauled in, a big backyard bonfire was lit and a huge pot of water set in the fire to heat. In went the crabs, and the rest they say is history- or dinner.

There is really nothing quite like sitting out under the stars with friends on a chilly night, next to a roaring fire, tearing apart crab that 4 hours earlier was swimming at the bottom of Puget Sound.

Crab Bites with Cocktail SauceShort of magic bonfire experiences, these cute little crab bites or mini crab cakes are perfect with a homemade cocktail sauce that’s liberally seasoned with fresh horseradish.

And on a sauce note, I’ve quit buying condiments like cocktail sauce and horseradish mustard. Most of them are filled with funky ingredients like cottonseed oil – yuk, cotton is the most heavily sprayed/fertilized crop in the US- maybe the world, averaging 5 lbs of petrochemicals for every 1 lb of yield…Why on earth would you put those seeds in your body? Or it’s soybean oil which isn’t much better… No thanks…not when fresh cocktail sauce takes about 6 seconds and 5 easily pronounceable ingredients to make…

Don’t have time to roll the mixture in bread crumbs? Leave out the egg and breadcrumbs and you have a delicious, nutritious crab salad- perfect for your next luncheon or brunch.

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Game Day Recipes Part 1: Cheesy Shrimp Puffs with Chimichurri Sauce

Cheesy Shrimp Puffs with Chimichurri SauceGame Day Recipes should be more than nachos and beer. Not that there’s anything wrong with nachos and beer, but they’re predictable and who wants to be that? This year, in homage to Boston & Seattle (two of my fave cities in the US, and whose food cultures often center around seafood) we’ve created some tasty finger food accompanied by sauces that will tackle your tastebuds like a defensive lineman.

Today’s recipe can be considered a tribute to Boston- while I would have preferred to call these Lobster Puffs- and if you have the funds, that would taste *amazing*, shrimp is a much more budget conscious alternative.

If you’re planning on visiting Boston, make sure you plan to eat a meal or at least a bite at Legal Seafoods on the Harbor. If you love anything that swims or scoots on the ocean floor, this is the best place to get it in Boston. Plus, you have the added benefit of being able to watch all the waterfront activity.

Cheesy Shrimp Puffs with ChimichurriNow, chimichurri sauce may not seem like a typical New England accompaniment, but we like the garlicky, vinegary kick that chimichurri provides, and the balance it creates in contrast to the richness of seafood. There’s a reason fish ‘n chips always come to the table with vinegar!

If you’ve never heard of chimichurri, it’s basically the South American version of pesto. Made with a combination of Parsley, Oregano, Cilantro, Garlic, and Olive Oil, it’s great on everything from fried eggs to steak, to seafood. We’ve given you the recipe to make a few cups- perfect for game day dipping.

Oh, and for the junior chefs out there- this is a recipe you can easily make on your own. The tiniest Kitchen Diva in Training told me rolling the mixture into balls was just like playing with play-dough!

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Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie & Cranberry Pear Salad – 2 Easy Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes

Easy Make-Ahead Thanksgiving RecipesFor those of you who are working right up until the Holidays- I sympathize. For those of you who work retail, hospital shifts, night jobs, or more than one job- I really sympathize.

If you’re a working foodie- this time of year can be really tough to channel your inner Kitchen Diva, work, be attentive to family and friends, and take care of yourself… I know. I’m right there in the trenches with you this year… Happily, sales of my GF Pie Crust are out of control…I’m excited…but that also leaves little time for much else..blogging? Recipe development? Photography? Housecleaning??!!!?? Thankfully (or not-so-thankfully, depending on how you look at it) a malfunctioning mixer and a delay in an ingredient order left me with time to catch up on some much needed kitchen activity.

I am not hosting dinner this year..But, I still intend to eat well with a few friends and play in someone else’s kitchen. What’s on our menu? Easy stuff. Stuff I’m making tomorrow with the Kitchen Divas in Training so I can sleep in on Turkey Day and loll about in my pajamas taking in the Macy’s Parade with the girls while sipping a mimosa and enjoying a gluten-free scone! So what’s on the dinner menu??

  • Duck Confit (already made, you can check out the pics on our Facebook Page)
  • Smoked Chicken Liver Pate w/ Gluten Free Baguettes
  • Baby potatoes roasted in duck fat and truffle salt (pop in the oven at 400 and cook stirring occasionally until done)
  • Fresh Cranberry Pear Salad (Recipe Below- only 20 min to make and seriously delicious)
  • Roasted Brussels (Check out our Adventuresome Kitchen Recipe with Mint Sauce)
  • Roast Duck or Goose (we’re channeling our Pilgrim roots and dispensing with the Turkey (but I’m not making that!!)
  • Gluten Free Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie (Easy, No Bake, and all the Pumpkin Pie Flavors you love- Recipe Below)

Now that might seem pretty ambitious to some of you- but here’s the deal: With the exception of the baguettes which are a little more involved, everything else listed above is 10-15 minutes of prep and into the oven, or can be completely made in 20 minutes or less… My kind of food these days.. All of it can be made now or on Thanksgiving and still taste great.  My point? Even if you’re crazy busy this year and the thought of cooking makes you want to take a nap…pick one or two fast, easy recipes and eat well. Your tastebuds will be the first to Thank you!!

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Grilled Peaches

Grilled Peaches side 2We are at the tail end of peach season here in Kansas City. The late varieties are showing themselves by the bushel at the farmer’s markets. Three years ago I took the plunge, decided we probably weren’t going to be moving anytime soon, and purchased three dwarf peaches for our backyard. I have been in peach heaven ever since. Why I waited so long to plant peach trees I will never know.

But, for those of you who own fruit trees, you know that when the harvest is in, it is IN! We have had peaches covering every available surface for the last 4 weeks. I know- my life is so hard. I will tell you though that the fruit flies are getting a little bit annoying.

So- what do do with all those peaches? Eat-em of course! We’ve enjoyed:

  • peach pancakes
  • peach sangria
  • peaches on salad, yogurt, and granola

But I think the new favorite would have to be grilled peaches. They are so easy, and are a great way to use up the less desireables- you know the ones I’m talking about- they may be bruised and beat-up. Perhaps you had to cut a bit out, or maybe they’re slightly green. Grilling brings out all the sugars and sweetness, and the flavor here was enhanced with a healthy sprinkle of cinnamon. Although I think cumin would be great too.

We enjoyed our grilled peaches plain, and over bitter greens. And the leftovers? They went into a boozy adult shake! Summer in the backyard doesn’t get much better than that!

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From the Junior Chef: Egg Salad Snack Bites

Egg Salad Snack BitesHi Junior Chefs, it’s ‘A’ from The Adventuresome Kitchen. I’ve just started back to school, and if you’re like me- I bet you’re really hungry when you get home every afternoon. Learning really gets your appetite going!

Here’s a delicious, easy snack I whipped up. Although it would also work great as a meal for lunch too. Egg salad is filled with protein, so it really tides you over until dinner, and gets you through your afternoon activities. The addition of dill pickles in this recipe gives a nice tangy contrast to the richness of the eggs. And I like the paprika not just for flavor but for color. Don’t you like eating pretty food? Plus, by using different cookie cutters you can inject your personality into it. I like that.

Be sure that you have an adult help you when you cut the eggs and pickles- if you’re using a sharp knife, you need to have an adult with you to show you how so that you keep your fingers safe. Eggs are soft enough though, you could probably use a butter knife.

I hope you enjoy this recipe- we do! And if you make it at your house, take a picture of you and your creation and have your grown-up post it on The Adventuresome Kitchen Facebook Page! Have a great week at school, and have fun in your kitchen!

Thanks for reading,

‘A’

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Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

A New ChapterAnd just like that, a new chapter has begun in the lives of the Kitchen Divas in Training- and therefore ours. Today, with a good measure of excitement and a few salty tears, my precious, magical, incredible daughters attended their first day of public school. They are happy, so I am happy. The nervous excitement was palpable this morning as we left the house, and when I walked down the street to collect them this afternoon,  they literally bounded home- brimming with stories of how their day went, what new friends they made, and how excited they are about all that lies in front of them. As a parent- can you ask for anything more?

Getting to this point was not easy. We have wrestled with this for months. First one way, then the other. In the final moments, when I just couldn’t stand the agony any longer- when my worry had exhausted me to the point of surrender- I finally said “I don’t care where you go or what direction you choose- I want you to be happy in your heart” I had asked this before, but I think they were worried about disappointing us.

It’s funny though, when given the freedom from adult repercussion, children are remarkably clear about what they need and what makes them happy. I think adults have a hard time hearing that…. We have baggage….We think we know better.

But we are not them. We haven’t had their experiences, their joys or their heartaches. And if homeschooling my children for 2 1/2 years has taught me anything, it’s taught me that my daughters are powerful. Resilient. Strong. Brilliant creatures who love me with the same fierceness that I love them. And that no matter what -we are here to help each other become fully who we are. They have taught me too.

This new direction means radical change for us in some ways. We’ve had complete freedom from traditional discipline. My children listen to their bodies- sleep when they’re tired, eat when they’re hungry. Unfortunately, the mass education of children in this country doesn’t allow for that- it would be too chaotic. And so we adjust. Earlier bed, earlier rising. Dinner before- God forbid- 6PM!! Discipline. Rigor. Schedule. Not evil words by any stretch of the imagination, but a new challenge.

Roasted Red Pepper HummusSo-as we move into fall, we’re attempting meal planning, shopping lists, schedules- left-brain orderly stuff. I’m grinning and laughing as I write this- because underneath this unruly artist is a disciplined, type-A planner… And I’m not one to shy away from a challenge.

What does this mean for my cooking? Fast, easy, bulk, finger food, etc… Lunches of hummus and veggies, extra big dinners so we can have leftovers, cooking extra on the weekends…all good- just different. And so today- I give you an easy, adaptable roasted red pepper hummus recipe. We live off of hummus in the summer- and make this with many variations. It’s so easy- even a 7 year old can make it- although they might need help with the can-opener! We hope you’ll enjoy this as much as we do.

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Welcome Note

 

Easy Coleslaw Recipe

Fruity Summer SlawThis super easy coleslaw recipe is from the oldest Kitchen Diva in Training. You’ve already seen some of her fabulous pictures, but she and her little sis are pretty regular recipe developers these days, and you really should benefit from their creativity.

All of the recipes from the Kitchen Divas in Training- since they’re designed by young ones- are super easy (which means they don’t take much time to whip up), and they taste great!

One thing I love about this recipe is that it doesn’t call for mayonnaise, making it the perfect picnic item. No chance of food spoilage here. Likewise, it’s paleo, vegan, egg free and dairy free. With all that ‘free-ness’ happening you might also think it’s free from flavor- but it’s not!! The sweet from the apples and raisins,  and the crunch from the cabbage, carrots, & nuts make this quite addictive!

So- without further ado- I present to you ‘A’! (PS- she took the food pictures too!)

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Hey little chefs, it’s ‘A’  from the Adventuresome Kitchen!

Today I made a delicious Summer Salad. It works great for a refreshing snack, or even for lunch. I’m calling it ‘Fruity Summer Slaw’. It’s easy to make and tastes good too.

 

 

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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.

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Sweet n Spicy Popcorn

Gluten Free Fondue

Kansas City Blizzard 2013Before I get going, I must thank my friend Steve, author at Oui Chef, for inspiring me to hop on the fondue bandwagon last night. Kansas City has been buried under snow again. This is highly unusual- especially considering that the last two winters left us with less than 11 inches of snow combined! Steve is one of my favorite bloggers. He trained at Le Cordon Bleu, and is passionate about subjects such as local food and food sustainability. And most importantly, teaching his children to cook- as am I. While not everything on his blog is gluten-free, it’s a place I go for inspiration and encouragement to explore new flavors and techniques. If you don’t subscribe to his blog-you should!

Yesterday, Steve posted a great fondue recipe by Rachel Ray (it also happens to be gluten-free!). As I was sitting at home wondering what to cook as the snow started to fly- fondue seemed perfect. It brings up images of snowy chalets, cosy fires, and decadent eating.

gluten free fondueNow, I am probably the only fondue fan in the world who doesn’t actually own a fondue pot. They’re unitaskers, and I am firmly opposed to unitaskers. Until I can justify a rarely used piece of equipment taking up precious space in my cabinets, I won’t be buying a fondue pot. But don’t despair. If you find yourself in the same boat, a good stainless steel pot or my favorite- enameled cast iron, will do the trick nicely. I pulled out my small Le Creuset and went to town. If you opt to use a regular cooking pot, your fondue will thicken as it cools and get a bit stringy. If that bothers you- simply place the pot back on the stove for a few minutes to melt everything again.

My gluten free fondue recipe was adapted from The Bonne Femme Cookbook. Many cheesy fondue recipes call for the addition of a few tablespoons of flour. You can easily substitute sorghum flour, rice flour, or even cornstarch in these instances, and not compromise the flavor or texture of the end result.

herbes de provenceI also opted out of the traditional nutmeg seasoning in favor of the sunnier and warmer flavors invoked by herbes de provence. I happened to be lucky enough to receive some freshly dried herbes from my dad, and they’ve gone into everything I’ve made over the last few days. They are a great way to jazz up everything from broccoli to eggs to soups and salads.

Lastly, there are no hard and fast rules about what to serve with fondue. We enjoyed broccoli, mushrooms, gluten-free toasted garlic bread (directions will appear below), pears & bresaola. Basically- anything you enjoy with cheese is a candidate to dip in the fondue pot. As always- feel free to modify this recipe as your heart desires. Fondue is a fun finger food to enjoy with the people you love!

Gluten Free Fondue (a main dish for 4 or an appetizer for 8-10: adapted from The Bonne Femme Cookbook)

gluten free fondue with gluten free garlic toastIngredients

1 1/4 lbs shredded gruyere, emmental, or comte cheese (or a combo)

5 tbs sorghum flour (other gf flours would work too)

1 garlic clove, + 2 tbs minced garlic

1 1/2 cups dry white wine (we used a burgundy)

3 tbs herbes de provence

2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup milk

Directions

Toss the shredded cheese with the flour. Make sure that the flour is evenly distributed and coats and many of the cheese shreds as possible.

Rub the whole clove over the inside of the pot. Place the minced garlic and the wine in the pan. Bring to a simmer. Add the cheese one handful of a time and allow to absorb completely before adding the next handful. It is really important to not let the mixture actively boil. Your pot needs to be hot enough to melt the cheese, but not so hot that it boils. For my stove, this was just under the half-way mark on the stove.

When the cheese has been fully incorporated add the milk, herbes, salt & pepper, and continue to stir. The fondue is ready when it’s a thick, liquidy (ie non-stringy) mass. Bring to the table and enjoy with your dipping ingredients.

Dipping Ingredients

raw vegetables or fruit, gluten-free crackers, or gluten-free garlic bread. Gently roasted vegetables (enough that they’re partially cooked and softened, but not so much that they’re mushy- you want them to hold up in the sauce)

roasted broccoli & mushroomspears & pomegranates

To Make Gluten Free Garlic Toast

gluten free garlic toastTake 4 (or whatever number you like) pieces of gluten-free bread. Place them on a toaster oven tray or a cookie sheet if using the oven. Brush olive oil over the tops- make sure you get into the little nooks and crannies. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or until you start smelling the bread toasting.

Remove from the oven. Take a clove of garlic, cut off the end, and rub it vigorously over the toasted top. One clove is usually good for about 4 slices. Of course, if you like bread that is more garlicky- you can be more generous, or scrape the garlic on both sides of the bread. Discard the skins and enjoy!

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.

Thai Cashew Sauce- a delicious Thai Peanut Sauce Substitute

Thai Cashew SauceIn addition to dealing with the ups and downs of being Celiac, I am also allergic to peanuts (there are other things I’m allergic to, but those two are the worst offenders and the ones I have to avoid completely). I am extremely grateful that my peanut allergy was diagnosed long before I ever had an anaphylactic reaction. While the smell of peanuts makes me feel yucky, the worst I get upon accidental consumption is a bad case of indigestion.

I count myself among the lucky.

The only place I find myself really wishing peanuts weren’t so evil for me as at the Thai restaurants we like to frequent around town. Most Thai food is naturally gluten-free, and I find that I prefer the fresh flavors and lack of soy sauce over Chinese food. How can you not fall in love with a bowl of Pho with its cilantro, basil, chile, and lime? And the spring rolls! Mr. Kitchen Diva informs me that spring rolls are even better dipped in the peanut sauce….sigh…That left me with only one choice- make my own substitute.

Cashews seemed like the obvious choice, especially becuase they are so prevalent in Asian cooking. You could easily use ready made cashew butter for this, I didn’t have any on hand, and found it just as easy to grind my own cashews. In addition to using the sauce for dipping home made spring rolls, we discovered it tasted great on gently sauteed kale. I’m ready to schmear it on a piece of toast next!

Below you’ll find the recipe for the Thai Cashew Sauce, and a few basic instructions for making your own spring rolls. Spring rolls, like pizza and pasta, are a great canvas for whatever you like. We filled ours with rice noodles, fresh basil,  and a shredded salad (recipe to come in the future) the Kitchen Divas in Training invented. While we call can use more practice in the act of rolling, the end result was delicious and we’ll be happy to attempt them again in the near future. In fact, the next time I go out for Thai food, I’ll be packing this along in a mini to-go container!

Remember, this month’s GF Baking Challenge is to tackle Le Macaron! Join me and feel free to post your comments or questions. Better yet- send me a photo of your baking experience and I’ll post it on the final month’s round-up!

Thai Cashew Sauce- makes about 3 cups

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups cashews (we used roasted & unsalted, but you could use any kind)

1 can of coconut milk (do NOT use lite coconut milk!)

1/2 cup brown sugar Thai Cashew Sauce

1/2 cup water

4 tbs Thai red chile paste (we used Thai Kitchen- use more for more heat)

2 tbs rice wine vinegar

1 tbs fresh ginger (1 tsp ginger powder would also work)

juice from 1/4 of a lime

1/2 tsp salt (omit if you are using salted cashews)

3-10 drops of fish sauce

Directions

If you are grinding your own cashews: Place cashews in a food processor and grind. In order to get a smooth paste you may need to add a bit of oil. We used toasted sesame oil, but you could use grapeseed, canola, or another unflavored oil. I do not recommend using olive oil.

In a medium saucepan, place all of the ingredients- including the cashew paste. Stir over medium heat until well combined and slightly soupy. Mixture will firm up in the refrigerator. You can soften it by adding a bit more liquid, or rewarming. Will keep at least a week in the refrigerator.

 

For making Spring Rolls

Making spring rolls is easy. Before you assemble them, make sure you have all of your ingredients laid out and ready to go. You can fill spring rolls with pretty much anything you like, fresh vegetables, tropical fruits, tofu, meats..the possibilities are unlimited.

Spring rolls are made from rice paper, which is naturally gluten-free. You can find them in both small and large sizes in the asian section of your market, or at an asian specialty store.

Soften the rice paper round in a bit of warm water. We find a  large dinner plate works perfectly for this. When the paper has fully softened, lift it up, gently shake to remove extra water and lay flat on your prep surface.

Place your ingredients in a mount slightly off of center. To wrap, fold the shortest end of the paper over the filling and pull tight. Next, fold over the sides so that the filling doesn’t fall out. Then roll tightly on itself. Et Voilá!

Thai Spring RollsRolling Thai Spring RollsThai Spring Roll

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Gluten Free Pumpkin Hush Puppies w/ Green Chile & Chimichurri Sauce

Happy Thanksgiving week! This fun Southeast meets Southwest munchie is the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving breakfast while you’re parade watching, or as an appetizer while you’re cooking for the main event. Of course, if the eaters in your house are like mine, there won’t be enough to serve for breakfast or an appetizer- most of our hush puppies were consumed right out of the fryer!

Like many recipes, these gluten-free pumpkin hush puppies are a cinch to make. So easy in fact, that the Kitchen Divas in Training did all the mixing! Traditional hush puppies are a combination of cornmeal and flour. Just a simple substitution of cornstarch for flour and not only are they safe to eat, they are just as delicious as anything containing gluten. The combination of cornflour and cornstarch creates a crispy golden outside, while not becoming too doughy or starchy on the inside. For those of you who may be wondering- cornflour is more finely ground than cornmeal. I like it here because it creates a softer texture on the inside. If you don’t have cornflour in your cupboard, don’t despair, you can either put some cornmeal in a food processor and break it down, or you can use cornmeal in the actual recipe. The texture will be more rustic, but that’s not going to impact the flavor one bit. 

We paired these puppies with a tangy chimichurri sauce, but they could easily be served with sour cream and salsa, or cilantro-yogurt. I think they’ll pair nicely with a breakfast mimosa too! Enjoy- and wherever you find your self, with whatever company you share, may the food you enjoy and the bread you break together remind you of the blessings you enjoy in this life!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Hush Puppies w/ Green Chile

Makes about 3 dozen

Ingredients

3/4 cup cornflour

1/4 cup cornstarch

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 can of pureed pumpkin (15oz)

1 small can of diced green chile (4 oz)

3-4 oz crumbled bacon, prosciutto, or diced ham (about 1/2 cup)

4 oz shredded jack cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 eggs

coconut oil for deep frying

Directions

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add shredded cheese and bacon and toss to coat (this helps to prevent clumping of the ingredients). In a separate bowl, combine egg, pumpkin, and green chile. Add to the dry mixture and stir gently to combine.

Heat oil to 340℉ and scoop about 6 spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil. (I use a melon-baller) sett the timer for 2 minutes as soon as the last scoop has been added to the oil. At about 1 minute remaining, flip the balls in the oil so that they evenly brown. They will be a nice golden brown by the time 2 minutes are up. Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to cool.

Serve with chimichurri sauce, cilantro-yogurt, or sour cream and salsa. Here’s a quick recipe for chimichurri sauce.

Chimichurri Sauce

6 garlic cloves

1/2 small onion

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1/2 cup olive oil

scant 1/4 cup cider or red wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine garlic, onion, and cilantro in a food processor. When the garlic, onions, and cilantro are minced, add the olive oil and vinegar. Continue to puree for another minute. Pour into a small bowl and serve.

 

 

Citrus Fennel Salad

To coin a Cole Porter phrase- It’s Too Darn Hot. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found as I’ve matured that I have an increasingly smaller temperature gradient that works for me… not too hot, not too cold…and truthfully, if I had to choose- as much as I love hot weather, I’m more comfortable bundling up in silk long johns, furs and mukluks, than I am spritzing myself with cooling spray and sticking my head in the freezer. Quite frankly, I don’t know how you folks who live in hot areas do it… Heat just makes my head want to explode.

So when the thermometer goes way up what do I do? Pop the wine in the freezer, make a batch of gazpacho (something we’re doing in June these days thanks to an overly warm winter), and follow it with a fennel-citrus salad. Super-fast, super-easy, super-cool. It’s all I have energy for. And for dessert? Fresh peaches from the trees in the backyard. Pure unadulterated sweetness. Eat your heart out Julia Child. Sometimes the best recipe is food the way nature intended it. Until my next post- stay cool- whether by pool, air-conditioning, or basement.

Citrus Fennel Salad 2Citrus Fennel Salad

ratio: 1 orange to 1 head of fennel

1/8th lemon & lime

1 tbs + olive oil

drizzle of champagne or other light vinegar

1 tbs sesame seeds for every fennel/orange combo

Directions: Slice fennel and orange into small pieces. Drizzle olive oil and vinegar over the mix. Squeeze the lemon & lime over the mix and toss. Add sesame seeds and toss again… This is a very laissez faire type of recipe- meaning do what is easy and what feels right to your tastebuds. It’s too hot to do anything else. Really- if you could twitch your nose and have the ingredients mix themselves- that would be best.

Pisco Sours, Gluten Free Huancaina Sauce, & Lomo Saltado

Themed nights seem to be turning into a regularity around here. And although our Peruvian night meal was more of a celebration and send-off, we definitely learned a few things.

A good friend and fellow foodie, who lived in Peru the better part of last year, offered to share a few things he’d learned how to cook there before jetting off on his next adventure. These recipes come straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak- right from the kitchen of some delicious and unknown restaurant in Cusco, and straight into your stomach!

I have found that while traveling, food can be the great equalizer and ice-breaker. Ask anyone to show you a favorite recipe and you have an instant rapport- not to mention an insight into their culture and a shared experience of enjoying a meal together. There are days when I think that if our world leaders just duked it out in the kitchen, we’d be a lot better off.

We began our evening with the traditional Peruvian cocktail- Pisco Sours. Pisco is a liquor native to Peru, made from grapes. It is not like Grappa- which is made from pomace- the pulp, seeds, and stems of leftover wine grapes. It’s more like vodka made with grapes.

Pisco Sours- 4-5 servings (about 1/2 pitcher)

3 parts (Shots) pisco

2 tbs sugar or simple syrup

juice from 1 lime (2 parts/shots)

1 egg white

handful of ice-cubes

Directions: throw all ingredients into a blender and mix until the egg-white gets frothy. Serve with a dash of bitters. We used Peychaud’s, but angostura bitters are more traditional.

I think this recipe is delicious-and has the potential for tons of variation. Add a flavored simple syrup, muddle with herbs…make your own version- you can’t really go wrong with good bones like this.

Next up on our list of Peruvian delights was the famous spicy-cheese sauce Huancaina, served traditionally over cold potatoes. This was flipping delicious and the sauce, downright addictive. I think it’s going to have to be my new nacho sauce. The leftovers were great on everything. It had never occurred to me that one could make a cheese sauce without melting the cheese, but that is exactly what we did, thanks to the addition of evaporated milk. My favorite flavor in this dish comes from the traditional Peruvian chile paste, Aji Molido. It ranks right up there with good New Mexican chile, and I will be ordering it in bulk. Of note: Traditional Huancaina is made with Saltines- and therefore, one of the few things in Peru that celiacs must avoid. Keep that in mind should you decide to travel there.  We all liked this dish so much that it may have to make an appearance at our annual 4th of July Picnic!

 

Gluten-Free Huancaina Sauce (or Papas con Huancaina)

8oz queso fresco (any farmer’s cheese will do, or even a pressed ricotta)

1 bag Aji Molido (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic

1 can evaporated milk

6-10 gluten-free crackers depending on how thick you like the sauce. We used Glutino

splash of olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Directions: Throw all the ingredients in the food processor and run until thick and smooth- about 1 minute. Add more crackers to get the desired thickness. For a traditional presentation, serve over cold potatoes. Can be used over rice, as a sauce to anything- stirfry, eggs, for nachos- you name it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, we enjoyed the traditional street-fare Lomo Saltado – literally translated as “jumped loin”. This is basically South American beef stir-fry served over rice and with french fries. I was surprised to learn that populations from Southeast Asia began migrating across the Pacific and settling in Peru in the mid-19th century. With them came their food, and an early version of East meets West Food Mash-Up! The beef in this dish is traditionally marinated in soy sauce, so again- be aware should you travel to Peru- this dish is likely not for you. Again- I was surprised and delighted by the flavor in this dish. Spicy warm chiles meets soy sauce, garlic and vinegar. You could even add ginger!

Lomo Saltado- serves 8


1.5 lbs beef (Strip or skirt steak will work nicely here)

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

3 red bell peppers (we used multi-colors)

1 large tomato

1 bag of frozen french-fries

1 bag Aji Molido or 1/2 a bag of its spicier counterpart Rojo Cojido

gluten-free soy sauce (tamari), vinegar, salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook french-fries in the oven according to instructions. While they’re cooking…..

Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper cover with a combination of soy sauce and vinegar. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.

Chop onion & garlic, set aside. Chop peppers, set aside. Chop tomato, set aside.

In a large bottomed medium-hot pan (ideally a wok), sear beef to desired doneness, set aside. Drain pan, add a splash of oil, then add the onion. Briefly saute until softened (you can cook these down further if you prefer). Remove from pan, add peppers. Saute until softened (again- you can cook these to whatever level of doneness you prefer). Slice beef on the diagonal, replace all ingredients in the pan, give a quick stir and add the tomatoes. Turn off the heat- the residual heat from the pan and food will cook the tomatoes. Add the Aji Molido or the Rojo Cojido. Serve over rice, add the potatoes to the top, garnish with more spicy goodness if you so choose, and enjoy!!!

 

How to make stovetop popcorn

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

6. Enjoy!!!

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

How to Make Dill Pickles- EASY Recipe

Today I’m going to share with you my grandma’s recipe for how to make dill pickles. And the best grilled cheese sandwich to accompany them. The last few weeks have been a perfect storm of birthdays, blizzards, chaos, and life-changing events. The kind of stuff that drives you to the cupboard looking for chocolate, marshmallows, popcorn, and well- if you’re me- Pickles.

I didn’t consume a store bought pickle until I was in college. Seriously. I grew up on homemade pickles- jars and jars of them- stored in our basement. The recipe was my grandmother’s, received from a friend of hers, and adopted by every member of our family. They were so good we could house an entire jar in less than 15 minutes. Needless to say, when I moved into my first apartment and I used up the last jars of pickles that had been sent with me from the supply in the basement, I was sorely disappointed. There’s nothing quite like the crunch of a garlicky dill pickle. My kids now have the pleasure of snacking on them after school, and a jar is always lurking somewhere in the ‘fridge.

So why are pickles comfort food for us? Because the sour crunch alone is enough to knock you out of any stressed-out reverie; because they elevate a grilled cheese sandwich from mere comfort food to something achieving comfort food Nirvana. On a cold, confusing day is there anything better than a snobby grilled cheese sandwich, a cup of cocoa overflowing with marshmallows, and a crispy pickle on the side? I think not… And these sandwiches aren’t your everyday grilled cheesey goodness- they’re loaded with mustard, ham, mayonnaise, 2 kinds of cheese, and plenty of pickles….sigh……I feel better already.

Obviously we’ve consumed more than grilled cheese and pickles these last few weeks, and I have done some playing in the kitchen- the results of which will be showing up soon on these pages. But in general, we’ve run through our entire list of comfort food, a freezer full of stocked up soups made from recipes you already have, and have laid low- weathering more than blizzards. And now, with the driveway shoveled, a new direction determined, and a hint of sunshine peeking through the clouds, we’re ready to embark on a new chapter of this adventure called life. Personally, I’m glad that the pickles are never far away.

Snobby Grilled Cheese Sammies

Makes as many as you need

Ingredients

Your favorite sliced bread

ham- one slice per sandwich

mustard

mayonnaise

cheese- this uses a combination of Jack and Cheddar

dill pickles

Directions

Lay out the bread pieces facing each other. Smooth mustard on both pieces of bread. On the ‘bottom’ slice, place a slice of ham, a layer of cheese, a layer of pickles, and another layer of cheese. Place the ‘top’ slice on the bottom slice. Coat the outside of the ‘top’ slice- the slice that will go face down in the pan- with mayonnaise.

Heat a griddle or saute pan over medium and place a pat of butter in the pan. When the butter foams, place the mayonnaise side of the sandwich on the pan. Spread mayonnaise on the facing-up side. Mayonnaise burns faster than butter, so it’s important to regulate the temperature of the pan. You don’t want to scorch your bread. Another trick to regulate the heat is to add a second pat of cold butter to the pan. You can gently lift the sandwich with a spatula so the butter gets underneath. When the bread has browned to your desired doneness- flip the sandwich and repeat for the other side.

For the ultimate comfort, serve with Grandma Natalie’s Dills and a cup of hot cocoa filled with marshmallows.

Grandma Natalie’s Easy Dill Pickles

Makes as many as you like

Ingredients

Cucumbers- smaller ones may be left whole, larger ones may be quartered into long spears, or sliced in disks

Fresh dill – 2 heads per quart jar

garlic cloves – 1 peeled per quart jar (I always use 3-4 per jar)

alum- about 1 tsp per quart jar, about the size of a pea (1/8-1/4 tsp) for smaller jars

mustard seeds- about 1 tsp per quart jar

white vinegar

water

salt- coarse sea salt or kosher pickling salt is fine. If you use fine salt, you will need less.

Directions

Sterilize quart jars, lids and rings. You can purchase canning supplies at any hardware store. I recommend using wide-mouth jars- it’s easier to get the pickles out. While you can sterilize everything on the stove in boiling water, it’s just as easy to throw everything in the dishwasher (by themselves, and without soap). Many dishwashers today have a sterilization button too. This keeps the jars hot too. Use your own judgment here- if you’re worried, then you should sterilize the old-fashioned way.

While the jars and lids/rings are sterilizing, make the brine using a large stockpot. How much brine you need will depend on how many jars of pickles you are using. As this is just vinegar, water and salt, I always make extra and then pour the remainder down my drain to help clean the drain a bit. This is the proportion you want to remember.

1 cup of vinegar, 2 cups of water, 1 tablespoon coarse salt. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer gently while you are preparing the pickle jars.

Once the jars are sterilized, scrub the cucumbers, slice if you want spears or disks, and pack them in the hot jars.

Next, add to each quart jar the dill, garlic, alum, and mustard seed. While you’re welcome to play around with the ingredient proportions- adding more garlic like I do, or adding hot peppers, tarragon or whatever else stirs your fancy- DO NOT change the alum proportions… alum is key to the crunchy success of your pickle. If you add too much alum your pickle will be bitter, and you will be sad. If you don’t add enough alum your pickle will be limp- and does anybody enjoy a limp pickle?

Fill the packed jars with the boiling brine- all the way to the top. Seal the jars- the heat from the brine will create the vacuum. If you like, you can write the date on each lid. Place the pickles in a dark, cool place and allow to cure for a month.  The pickles will last a really long time- I’ve had pickles that have cured for a year- but usually they don’t last that long. If you have a bumper crop of cucumbers this summer, consider giving these as Christmas gifts- they’re delicious, and who doesn’t love a homemade gift?


Baked Fennel a lá Française

Credit for this recipe belongs to a dear, dear friend of mine who came to spend New Year’s Eve with us this year. Kelly loves Italy the way I love France, and she made a version of this for our New Year’s Eve feast. I, of course, don’t know how to leave a recipe alone, and so the next time I made it- because it is very delicious and very easy to make- had to change it up. I’ll give you the French inspired version first, followed by the traditional Italian way taught to me by Kelly. Either way you prepare it, you will not be disappointed! And, if you feel so bold, you can change a few things and make it your own. Bon Appétit! Or, as the Italians say- Buon Appetito!

 

 

Baked Fennel a lá Française

Serves 4 as a small side dish- if this is dinner, make more!

Ingredients

one fennel bulb, chopped lengthwise

3-4 tbs olive oil

2 slices of cured ham such as jambon d’auvergne, jambon serrano, or prosciutto, diced

1/4 cup of shredded comté (preferably aged), parmigiano reggiano will also work

1 tbs breadcrumbs (gluten-free if need be)

Directions

Place fennel in an oven proof baking dish. Drizzle the olive oil over the fennel. Sprinkle on the meat, then the cheese, and lastly, the breadcrumbs. Bake in a 375 (fahrenheit) degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the fennel has softened. How easy was that??

Italian Version

Chop one fennel bulb lengthwise and place in an oven proof dish. Cover with 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs and drizzle with olive oil- about 5-6 tbs. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, or until fennel is thoroughly softened. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately. How’d I do Kelly??


 

Cream of Zucchini Soup & Haricorts Verts with Shallot Mustard Viniagrette

Joyeux Noel!!

In this household we celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, and although we’ll have to leave our mini-tree here in the beaucoup petite Paris apartment, the Spirit of Christmas we’ve encountered here will follow us all the way home to Kansas City! It is remarkable that The Adventuresome Kitchen’s first-ever roadtrip is beginning to wind down- just as my french is beginning to show signs of improvement! Today nobody asked me if I prefer to speak in English! Of course, I am far from being able to converse about topics other than food, but I am happy with small improvements!

One of the things that has really impressed me about cuisine here is the availability of high-quality fresh produce in every neighborhood. I think it is one of the reasons that as a culture the Parisians tend to be far healthier than their city-dwelling American counterparts. For example, in Kansas City, there are vast stretches of the city that have no grocers- so no fresh fruits and vegetables, no quality meat or dairy.. How can you be healthy if the only option close to you is a QT or a DQ?? Here, the produce is so fresh, and so beautifully and artfully displayed you can’t help but fall in love with an attractive looking clementine, or a beautiful leek. I think we’ve actually eaten more produce here than at home- and that’s saying something! When you have access to quality ingredients, often they demand a simple preparation. Fresh greens with a simple vinaigrette, or even just a squeeze of lemon. Or a few veggies brought together in a simple soup. Being here for two weeks, and living with a dorm fridge has radically altered how I approach meals- and I have to admit, I like it. There’s a local grocer I go by every day on the way home from picking up the girls from school, and when I get home I plan to try to shop like I have here. We’ll see if it works stateside. But I digress…

For our family, Christmas Eve has always been the pinnacle of Christmas Preparations. As a former full-time Church Musician, the entire focus of my fall, starting in about October, was Christmas Eve. In years past, Christmas Eve began with a festive family luncheon of seafood and champagne before heading off to several hours of services, culminating in a late-night drive home through the Christmas lit streets. Now, even though there is no marathon of Christmas Eve services to oversee, the tradition of seafood, champagne and Christmas lights still continues. Here in Paris, among other things, it’s oyster season (it’s also Truffle season, but that’s a future post!) So what better way to spend Christmas Eve than visiting my local market street in search for stellar ingredients including freshly harvested (as in that morning!) seafood? We enjoyed a lunch of fresh oysters and lentil salad (also a new favorite!) right on the street, then bought a dozen to bring home. Champagne is always a stellar accompaniment to oysters, but we’ve also learned that Muscadet, a white wine from France’s Atlantic coast, is an often suggested pairing with oysters here. If you love oysters, it’s certainly worth checking with your local wine vendor to see if you can purchase a muscadet- it’s a briney, mineraly compliment to a fresh oyster!

Christmas Eve in Paris wouldn’t be complete without Foie Gras!  I confess, that I absolutely Love foie gras. Can’t get enough of it, and I’m also proud to say that my girls seem to be following in my footsteps. How lucky were we to learn that the local butcher we’ve befriended makes it in house? Maybe it was knowing the maker, maybe it was the excitement of being in Paris for Christmas, but it was the most heavenly foie gras I’ve tasted- like silk, with a perfectly seasoned flavor that just melted in your mouth! We paired it with fresh greens and a simple mustard vinaigrette (recipe below!). You can see from the picture, that a little goes a long way- and that really is the key with any rich food- be it foie gras, caviar, oysters, chocolate or macaron- indulge moderately.

Our evening ended by celebrating Christmas Eve with our temporary neighbors at the parish church- for us, St. Eustache. Although this church was built during the 1500’s, there’s been a parish present there since the 1200’s… talk about history. The soaring gothic cathedral houses an enormous pipe organ, and every window and side chapel was lit with candles. It was quite an  experience to sing ancient carols in such a place.

Christmas Day dawned, and the first sunny day of our whole visit shined gloriously down on us. We enjoyed a second round of feasting, including the pinnacle- a Bresse Chicken! The bird is every bit as delicious as it’s rumored to be, and deserving of its own post. But as a teaser, here are the preludes- a creamy zucchini soup recipe given to me by a dear friend of my grandfather’s here in Paris, and simple haricorts verts (that’s green beans for the rest of us!) A delicious and necessary contrast to the preparation of the Bresse Chicken. It’s only the third day of Christmas, so keep feasting, wherever you are!

Mustard Vinaigrette

use for salads or over vegetables

Ingredients

2 tbs olive oil

1 tbs good quality mustard

2 tsp sherry or red wine vinegar

Directions

Mix ingredients together vigorously until an emulsion has formed. Adjust mustard/vinegar to taste and drizzle over fresh salad greens.

Cream of Zucchini Soup

This recipe came to me from a dear friend of my grandfather’s. The original recipe calls for zucchini, bouillon, and Vache qui rit (laughing cow) the small triangle processed cheeses that you see in the grocer. I couldn’t find at my local grocer, and opted for creme fraiche, as well as adding a few extra ingredients. Whatever incarnation you choose to use with this recipe, the end result is a simple and tasty soup.

serves 4

Ingredients

2 small-medium zucchini, peeled and diced

2 shallots, finely diced

2 tbs butter

2 cups water

1 bouillon cube (I used chicken, but vegetable is okay too)

1/2 cup creme fraiche, or 2 triangles of vache qui rit

1/4 cup fresh tarragon, finely minced

Directions

Place butter in a 4-quart sauce pan. Heat on medium until butter foams. Add shallots and gently stir. When the shallots have begun to turn translucent, add the zucchini. Stir to incorporate, and cover. Allow to cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Zucchini is a high-water content vegetable, so the water in the zucchini should be enough to prevent them from sticking. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them, and add a little butter or water if necessary.

When zucchini has softened, add 2 cups water and one bouillon cube. Bring to a boil and turn heat to low. Using a heavy fork, or an immersion blender, puree to your desired degree of thickness. Add creme fraiche or the cheese and stir gently to incorporate. Add tarragon, stir for another minute, and serve immediately.

Haricorts Verts (Green Beans) with Shallot Mustard Vinaigrette

serves 4 as a side dish, double for more substantial portions

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups green beans, stems removed

3 tbs butter

3 shallots, diced

1 tbs sherry or red wine vinegar

1 tbs good quality mustard

Directions

Bring a medium sized pot of water to boil. While you are waiting for the pot to boil, place a bowl in the sink, fill it halfway with water, then fill the remaining part with ice.

When the pot is boiling, add the beans. Cook for 3 minutes, until the color has turned bright green. Pour off the boiling water and add the hot beans to the ice-bath. This stops the cooking, and preserves the brilliant green color of the beans. When you are ready to serve the beans, place a saute pan over medium heat. Add the butter, and when the butter is foaming, add the beans. Sautee for 1-2 minutes and add remaining ingredients. Cook until beans are warmed through and still bright green. Serve immediately.