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Passover – Ma’amoul Cookies

April 17, 2017 Leave a comment

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Over the weekend, we got to go to celebrate Passover with one of our family members (family by choice, which can be the best kind). She’s not so much into the pomp and circumstances that come along with it so, as one would expect, we focused on food. Most of the food (ok, 90% of it!) was made by her and was gluten free, so I got to have a weekend “off” from cooking. Except…

I was told about some cookies that were semi-traditional for Passover called Ma’amoul. They are date filled cookies that are just awesome. I’ve heavily modified the recipe I found on Food Network’s website if you look for it there (and want to make it not GF).

Ma’amoul Cookies

Filling:

  • 12 oz finely chopped dates
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp orange zest

Dough:

  • 2 cups White Rice Flour
  • 2/3 cup Potato Starch
  • 1/3 cup Tapioca Flour/Starch
  • 1 ½ Tbsp Xanthan Gum
  • 1 ½ Tbsp Powdered Sugar
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 1 cup Unsalted Butter
  • ¼ cup Canola Oil
  • ½ Coconut Milk (or cow milk works too)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Put all of the filling ingredients in a food processor and combine till uniform.

In a stand mixer (or mixer of your choice), add all of the dry ingredients and mix together, then add all of the wet ingredients and combine (but don’t over-work the dough or it will be bricks). At this point, my dough seemed dry, so I added a little more water and combined by hand till it just started sticking to my hands.

Take a golf ball sized piece of the dough and then put it in the palm of one hand, then use the other hand to flatten it out until it is about 3” across and circular in shape (I won’t lie, this was the hardest part…for me, what worked was to use my fist and then to smash and twist my fist into the dough).

Put about 1 Tbsp of the filling mixture into the dough, and work the edges around till you’ve covered all the date filling. Turn it over and then flatten it onto a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Don’t flatten it too much or bad things will happen (think end of the world…or at the very least, end of the cookie).

Once you’ve worked your way through all the dough and filling, put the cookie sheets in the oven for 25-30 minutes. When they come out, you can press interesting shapes into them (I used the head parts of Star Wars cookie cutters). If you don’t want to use the shapes that is fine too, I guess. Then, lightly dust powdered sugar over the top and let cool. I don’t know what the point of putting the shapes onto the dough are as you cover them up with powdered sugar, but that’s what I read…so…

Anyway, as you can see from above, the cookies turned out really well and were well received. If you make these, don’t get frustrated with the flattening bit…it took me till the 8th one before I figured out what worked for me! As always, happy eating!

Categories: Uncategorized

Mardi Gras Means King Cake – Gluten-Free!

March 3, 2017 Leave a comment

20170225_132810Ok, so it really doesn’t mean “King Cake”, but that’s one of the things I miss the most now that I live so far away from Louisiana and am Gluten Free. I’ve attempted to make King Cake several times over the last couple years and while the taste has always turned out pretty good, the looks…well, let’s just say that I would get 0 points for plating. This time, I used a bunt cake pan and, as you can see, it held the ring shape perfectly after baking.

Having said that, this year I did something different that, I’m pleased to say, worked out swimmingly and I plan on sharing what I did here. Keep in mind – you’ll need to make the dough the night before you want to bake this!

The thing that always got me was the dough (who can mess up the filling?!). This year, I went with a brioche dough instead of relying on either a cinnamon roll type dough or something similar.

Note: I recently read that for GF flours, you should always weigh the stuff as the grains are different sizes so you never get what you actually measure out. If you need a good GF flour recipe, I suggest using Betty Hagman’s tried and true 3:1:1/2 mix of Rice Flour: Potato Starch: Tapioca Starch until you get to the required weight/measure. Recipe as follows:

Gluten Free King Cake

1 ½ Cup warm water

1 Tbsp Yeast

1 Tbsp Salt

8 Large Eggs (beaten)

½ Cup Honey

3 Sticks (1 ½ Cups) Butter (melted)

7 ½ Cups (or 2 lbs 5.5 oz ) Gluten Free Flour

2 Tbsp Xanthan Gum

Combine the water, yeast, salt, honey, eggs and butter in a large mixing bowl (I used my stand mixer) and let sit for 10-15 minutes.

Start mixing in the flour/Xanthan Gum slowly (again, I used stand mixer), until everything is combined (the dough isn’t going to look like proper dough yet).

Lightly cover the mixing bowl with a tea towel and let this sit on the counter for a couple hours (I want to say I waited 4 hours or so just to be sure) and then…throw (or gently place) it in the fridge.

The Next Day:

Take half of the dough out of the mixing bowl (put the rest back in the fridge) and roll it out in a rectangular shape (I actually used the above mentioned tea towel as a ruler as its length was the same as the circumfrence of my bunt cake pan).

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Add whatever filling you want. You want to cover about 2/3 of the rolled out dough. I used a simple mixture of brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and nutmeg, but you can use whatever fillings you want…it’s your King Cake!

Roll this up starting on the long side where you have filling (not the blank long side).

Now, I rolled mine out on cling film which aided this next bit, but you may have a better suggestion/option: Pick up your King Cake roll and place it in a well-oiled bunt cake pan.

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Place this in a pre-heated oven at 350 and bake for 45-50 minutes (your mileage may vary).

When it’s done, take it out and let it rest for a while, then turn it out on a flat surface (whatever you are going to serve it on). You can then decorate the top with icing (I used powdered sugar and a little water) and the usual sprinkles (green, purple and gold).

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So…there you have it. This worked for me and I’m pleased with the results. If you try this out, let me know how it turned out and, as always, happy eating!

Categories: Uncategorized

Christmas At Our House

January 25, 2017 Leave a comment

provitica-2Yeah, I know it’s January…but some people still have their Christmas tree up, so I feel ok about this. For now.

Four years ago, while driving home from some random outing (probably to get groceries or something fun like that), I turned to my wife and said, “Name the first country you think of.” We had been trying to figure out what to make for Christmas dinner for a while (traditional/off the wall/something not traditional but tasty/etc) and my thought was we would fix whatever the traditional Christmas food (when possible/if celebrated) was for that country. Being rather pleased with myself for coming up with said idea, I didn’t bother telling her what the question was for or what she was picking.

“Uzbekistan!” she replied with little to no thought.

Talk about a plan backfiring. “Uzbekistan?! Of ALL the countries in the world, you pick Uzbekistan? I was expecting “Mexico” or “China” or something like that…but Uzbekistan?!”

“Yep. Uzbekistan.”

I then proceeded to explain to her what she just decided and we had a good laugh about the whole thing, but were determined to make it work. Not having any clue at all what people in Uzbekistan eat, I feared the worst. As it turns out, I shouldn’t have.

We’ve done this every year for Christmas and it’s turned into a fun way to explore foods from around the world and to learn things about the people that live there. The following are the countries we’ve “been to” so far, along with the foods we ate:

Uzbekistan:  Plov (this is also known as Pilaf) is rice with all sorts of spices and lamb meat and garlic (mmmm…garlic). I also marinated some steak in the same seasoning combination as was in the Plov and then grilled it on skewers. While probably not legit Uzbekistani preparation, it was REALLY good and we’ve made it a couple times since then.

Brazil: Marinated some shrimp in coconut milk and some spices and grilled these as well as some steak. I also made a black bean stew called Feijoada, along with some rice, that was really good. A friend of ours came over and brought Flan that she made.

Croatia: We started with a shrimp dish, then had Pasticada (this wasn’t our favorite and I’m totally taking the blame for that). Our friend came over again and brought Roasted Lamb (under the bell) that was phenomenal. Seriously, look that one up and give it a go sometime. I also made Povitica for dessert (pictured above). That was probably my favorite part. It was a little dry, but I was able to offset that by mixing up a quick frosting/glaze out of orange juice and powdered sugar. Good stuff.

This year was Greece: We started with Avgolemono (egg/lemon/chicken broth soup) and a Greek salad. Next was Dolmandes and Moussaka (Dolmandes were good, but labor intensive (pro-tip: get the insides done and throw it all in the fridge to cool off…MUCH easier that way!)), the Moussaka was not my favorite, but most of it was gone by the end of the evening). Finally, we had Melomakarona which are little cookies soaked in a honey/lemon sauce that soaks into them. Really yummy.

Anyway, that’s our new tradition…pick a random country and make the food that is traditional for that place for Christmas. Our first snag comes with this next Christmas as the country chosen (I now get a random number from one of the people that will be eating dinner with us): Saudi Arabia.

So…if you know of any good Saudi Arabian recipes that are traditional for winter, please let me know and, as always, happy eating.

Categories: Uncategorized

Fried Fish and Hush Puppies

November 4, 2015 Leave a comment

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Hi…remember me? Yeah, it’s been a while. I have a good reason, but at this time, I can’t really get into it. Suffice it to say, my time hasn’t been my own of late (no, I wasn’t in prison…haha) but I’m determined to make a concerted effort to write in this here blog once again. Why? Honestly, I miss writing and I haven’t stopped eating yet…so the whole “I can’t have gluten” thing hasn’t fixed itself and probably never will.

Anyway, food. I still like food…a lot. We have this give and take relationship at present and it’s working for us (truth be told, it’s working better for the food than for me, but that’s the way it goes sometimes, I guess). I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with different things and have come up with some tweaks to previous recipes posted here, as well as some new things…so let’s get on with it.

I’ve missed the bad things in life. That’s not to say that eating better hasn’t had it’s side effects…but, food is just so comforting, and fried food is doubly so. This last weekend, I did some more experimenting with different batters etc and have MAYBE gotten this fried fish thing down. And, did I mention hush puppies? Oh…I see in the title I did…well, I made those too. Here goes…

3 fillets of Cod (I bought frozen stuff as Montana isn’t known for fresh sea food…can’t imagine why…)

2 eggs

A little bit of water

Mix egg and water mixture till it’s…well-mixed? Cut the fillets into 3 equal pieces and then place them in the egg mixture. I let them sit there for a while before cooking.

For the breading:

1 Cup Corn Meal (I was going for the southern style fish fry)

½ Cup Corn Starch

½ Cup Potato Flour

1 Cup of crushed up Rice Chex cereal (trust me, it’s awesome)

2 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp garlic powder

Put the above in a plastic bag and then shake it all up (with the bag closed, mind you).

Oil:

I used Canola oil. I know it’s not the “best” oil for frying and stuff, but we didn’t have any peanut oil so I used what we had.

I put about ½ Gallon of oil in a dutch oven and set it to medium heat. It’ll get to about 350 degrees F.

When the oil is good and hot, take a piece of fish out of the egg mixture and put it in the bag. Make sure the breading completely covers the piece of fish, and then tap off the excess breading. Put the fish back in the egg mixture (yeah, I double dip) and then repeat the process. Gently place the piece of breaded fish into the oil. Repeat this for the pieces of fish that are all the same thickness (you will have 3 pieces of fish in the oil at a time…the same thickness means they will cook evenly).

Repeat the above for the other 6 pieces of fish. Be sure to watch the oil temperature as when you add the fish, the temp will drop.

Hush puppies:

1 ½ Cup corn meal

¼ Cup corn starch

¼ Cup potato flour

2 tsp Xanthan gum

2 tsp baking soda

1 ½ tsp kosher salt

2 tsp sugar

Put that all in a bag and (with the bag closed) shake it up till it’s all mixed well.

1 Cup milk (buttermilk or otherwise)

2 eggs

2 Tbsp oil

¾ Cup (or more!) grated onion (trust me on the grating…it makes it turn out right)

Put the dry ingredients into a bowl, then add the milk, eggs, oil and onion. Stir till it’s mixed (but don’t over stir!).

To make the hush puppies, I took a regular tablespoon and formed balls by rolling a heaping spoonful around in my hands.

Fry these as above (oil about 350 or so) till they are a nice golden brown color.

When done…eat them while they are still warm. Your tastebuds will thank you.

Anyway, I promise to try and write more often. Until then, happy eating.

Gumbo – Gluten Free

January 17, 2013 2 comments

gumboBefore I begin with the gumbo recipe (which, by the way, turned out awesome!), I figured I would share a link for anyone else who might be GF and looking for deals: Gluten Free Saver. I just came across this site after I saw someone else who was GF posted it on Facebook. They have a deal of the week or something and the discount is usually pretty good, and shipping is already included in the cost!

Ok, now…on to the gumbo.

I wasn’t born in Louisiana (as anyone who has heard me talk can obviously tell), and while my family still lives there, the thing I miss most (other than them, I mean) is the food. Certainly NOT the heat, humidity and possible hurricanes! Anyway…the food there is awesome. Gumbo is no exception when it comes to good food.

With the help of a friend of mine who lives in South Louisiana, I’ve modified Alton Brown’s gumbo recipe (found HERE) so that it’s GF and seriously OM NOM.

Here goes…

  • 1/3 Cup vegetable oil (I used Olive Oil, but anything will do…I think)
  • 1/3 Cup Corn Starch
  • 1/3 Cup Potato Flour
  • 1 Tbsp Xanthan Gum (I think you can leave this out…)
  • 1 lb Chicken (cut into small pieces and cooked)
  • 1 Quart Chicken Stock
  • 1 Cup diced onion
  • 1/2 Cup diced celery
  • 1/2 Cup diced green peppers
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic (honestly, I think I added more than this)
  • 1 Can Rotel Tomato (the small can…either Hot or Original as Mild is too…mild)
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb Andouille Sausage, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and browned (I found this at Albertsons, of all places, even here in Montana!)
  • 1 tablespoon file powder (I didn’t use this at all)

From this point on, just follow Alton’s recipe in making the roux and then the assembly of the gumbo. I ended up letting mine sit on the stove top at a LOW simmer for 3 hours or so. It didn’t hurt anything and probably helped condense some of the flavors a bit. I served mine over rice that I made using chicken stock (instead of water) and it was seriously good stuff.

Anyway…there it is. If there are things I should change, PLEASE let me know. If you try it out and like it, let me know…and, as always, happy eating!

EDIT: I’ve edited the amounts and types of flour as well as specified the type of Rotel after further experimentation. This yields AMAZING results.

Categories: Alton, Cooking Tags: , ,

Going Gluten Free – Interesting Side Effect

January 9, 2013 1 comment

Pickles and Jam

So, I’m rapidly approaching my 2 year anniversary for going GF and, I can honestly tell you, it’s getting much easier. That’s not to say that it is EASY…but it’s not near as bad as I thought it was going to be…which is a really good thing.

As you can see above (the picture, mind you), we’ve been doing some canning over the last couple months. I honestly can’t recall how many quart jars of pickles, beets and jam that we’ve put away, but there are quite a few of each. The pickles are saltier than the store-bought ones, and I couldn’t figure out why that was until I realized that I was using the recipe for pickled green beans (which would logically require more salt). We happen to like them the way they have come out, so I guess that’s all good. If anyone ever has problems with too much sodium, however…we’ll have to adjust that a bit. The beets were good also and the jam…well, you can never go wrong with home made strawberry jam. We also tried our hand at Huckleberry Jam but, having never made it before, we neglected to strain all the pulpy stuff out…so it’s a bit grainy. Still edible…but grainy. Lessons learned.

Made some gumbo this last weekend and already have plans to tweak it a bit to make it better. I won’t mention which recipe I used (I’ll say it was by the one chef I enjoy watching, though)…but once I get everything perfect, I’ll post it up for critique. This weekend, we’re making more and it’s going to be better.

Anyway, the title suggests that something has happened that wasn’t expected and, while that is true, to some extent I should have realized this would be en effect. February 2012, we had a weight screening at work and I was frustrated with my weight, but didn’t put too much worry into it as the first couple months of 2012 were BUSY (bought a house, got married, moved our office into a new building). Since then, and as of this morning, I weigh exactly 53 lbs less than I did then. I freely admit that I’ve been trying to watch what I eat a little better, but that hasn’t stopped us from eating Chicken Fried Steak, spaghetti (with rice noodles, of course) and whatever else we want…just being mindful of how much we eat. It’s made a huge difference.

Why this wasn’t really expected is that it hadn’t dawned on me that, as every time I ate I got sick, my body was basically in starvation mode and was holding onto as many calories as it could. Nothing would stay in me long enough to digest! Now…well, now everything is “normal” (I put it in quotes because this IS me I’m talking about here, and “normal” isn’t a word I would use to describe myself).

Anyway, that was good news and an excellent way to end this post. Happy eating!

Even now, I get cravings.

December 11, 2012 Leave a comment
Alton Brown is a god among men...

Alton Brown is a god among men…

Greetings fellow lovers of food. Well, food lovers who aren’t loved by their food? People who enjoy food under certain constraints? Anyway, if you are reading this, either you are another of the growing number of those of us who have some sort of gluten allergy (be it Celiac Disease or just an intolerance for that stupid protein chain). I welcome you…you aren’t alone.

I was at the local coffee place the other morning (I’ll call it “Barstucks” just so nobody knows what place I’m talking about…hehe) and happened to look through the glass case at the fine assortment of baked goods and had my first real craving in a long time. You know, it’s been almost 2 years since I ran my little experiment and discovered that I have negative reactions to gluten…and I honestly thought I was over this “gluten craving” thing. Well, I’m sad to say that, no…I’m not. The apple fritter (which I realize is REALLY bad and not om nom at all) was calling my name. It wasn’t this quite whisper of a calling…it was a “name shouted from mountain top using a bull horn” type of calling. That fritter loved me, and I loved it. We would grow old together and…well, I wanted that fritter more than I’ve wanted any baked goods in quite a while.

Strangely, I just smiled and shook it off. I say “Strangely” because, let’s face it, when it comes to food some things are hard to ignore. I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that had I taken a bite of that flaky, sweet, baked deliciousness, that I would have been sick. Not just for an hour or two…but for days. It just wasn’t worth it. Nothing, really, is worth it to be honest.

I guess I’m writing all this down because I know I’m not the only one that fights urges. Sure, we all fight the urge to say words to co-workers who clearly aren’t using their brain (assuming they have one) or to smack those people upside the head (when they deserve it, I mean…hehe)…but fighting the urge to eat something that you know you shouldn’t, to me anyway, is more difficult. We can do this…we’re all strong people who don’t want to face the consequences of poor decisions. The thought of being sick for days (or up to a week sometimes!) isn’t worth the 5 minutes of sheer joy one would get from an apple fritter. I have to believe this is true…

Anyway, Thanksgiving just passed and Christmas is RIGHT around the corner. I still haven’t figure out how that was possible…but…sure enough, it is. My wife and I had a couple people over (none of which have food allergies) and I made a completely GF meal. It was OM NOM! The turkey (pictured above…all thanks go out to Alton Brown for the recipe!!) was perfect. I also made dressing out of some pumpkin bread that had been part of an experiment that didn’t have the desired results. Let me tell you…the sweet bread with the herbs and salty flavors were a PERFECT combination. Had two pies (one pumpkin and one pie I’m calling an Apple Crisp Pie) with GF crusts that were great as well. All-in-all, a very successful meal.

I’m starting to experiment some more with food and am having fun in the process. I made a batch of pumpkin bread (recipe in the blog somewhere) in which I substituted half of the pumpkin with apple sauce (the thought being Apple and Pumpkin are both Fall fruit/vegetables that both pair well with cinnamon and the other spices). It was om nom as well. Made some more pickles and pickled some beets with a friend of mine. More jam (strawberry and huckleberry this year) was also made. It’s been a productive Fall…and I’m looking forward to more experimentation as the year comes to a close.

If you are struggling…know that you aren’t alone. We all face the demons from time to time. We can do this…we can.

As always, happy (and healthy!) eating!