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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

Off Gluten, what’s normal any more?

February 11, 2011 Leave a comment

A while back, when I first started this whole “no gluten” thing, I tried making Beef and Cheese Enchiladas but I tried using the corn tortillas instead of flour…well, for obvious reasons! The corn tortillas were, of course, gluten free, but as they were corn, they ended up breaking before I could even roll them (you know what I mean…you start to roll it and the thing cracks open thus spilling all the goodness out into whatever container you were going to place the wonderfully rolled versions into). Well, I tried not to get frustrated and ended up making something that was equally as good, but decidedly not enchiladas. I call it…Enchilada Casserole! (Please note, I’m fully aware that this existed WELL before I made it at my house…but I was rather pleased with myself for rolling with the setback and just making something yummy anyway.)

Make the enchilada filling as normal (1/2 onion sauteed, 1 lb beef browned and drained, 3/4 cup enchilada sauce and a good handful of cheese all mixed together).

Put a thin layer of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of the casserole dish (or whatever) and spread it evenly over the surface.

Put corn tortillas one layer thick over the whole bottom (overlap where necessary…and it will be necessary).

Put the meat mixture over this layer of tortillas and spread it out evenly.

Put some more cheese and more enchilada sauce over the top of this (who doesn’t want cheese…honestly?).

Put another layer of tortilla shells over the top of this, put even MORE cheese and the rest of the enchilada sauce over the top of this.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or so (you’ll know when it’s ready…the cheese will look like molten goodness and the smell…ooooh the smell…).

Other than trying to make things work with cooking, I’ve noticed some side-effects to this whole thing. Now…I’m not entirely sure that this is all related, but I can say that I wasn’t experiencing these issues before…so take it all with a grain of salt.

I’ve been having some really bad dreams. Like…BAD bad dreams. As in, wake up in the middle of the night and not want to go back to sleep bad dreams…and generally all revolving around the bad relationships that I’ve had in the past. After doing some online research, I have found that I’m not the only one with this problem (not the bad relationships part, although I’m sure that’s true as well, but the dreams)…the bad thing is, from what I’ve read, this could take weeks to months to get over. One person said that your body has gone without REM sleep for so long that it’s trying to catch up and making up for lost time. Stop already! I get it…I’ve had bad relationships…but they are all in the past. And nobody wants to relive bad memories. So…here’s to hoping it passes quickly.

Eat on, my friends.

Categories: Uncategorized

You win some…you lose some…

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Vince Lombardi, former coach for the Green Bay Packers, once said, “Dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you are willing to pay the price.” This quote, and the hundreds of others that came from him, is something that I need to keep in mind as I go through this process of learning how to cook once again. That sounds VERY fatalistic (sorry), but the growing pains I’m going through are, by definition, painful. It’s not as easy as I thought it was going to be. Quite frankly, it’s hard, but given the fact that I feel so much better both physically as well as emotionally…isn’t that a price worth paying? I think so…I just have to remember that.

This weekend was a weekend of experiments…both successful ones and total failures. I’ll talk about the failure first, then the success…simply because I want to leave you, dear reader, with a game winning home run rather than a epic failure.

Mardi Gras season is upon us. Well, I say “us” in the global sense as I no longer live in Louisiana. While you can take the man out of Louisiana, you can never take Louisiana out of the man…or something.  Anyway, I decided that I wanted to try and experiment and make a King Cake. I took a recipe by Emeril and made it Gluten Free by just substituting GF AP flour. Well…through a cascading series of mistakes, the King Cake ended up being something more along the lines of building materials instead of something that was yummy to eat (truth be told, I didn’t eat any of it and Kate managed to choke down a small piece). The mistakes I think I made: 1) While proofing the dough, don’t set it above the exhaust from the oven as it will (and did) cook some of the dough. 2) I think, but am not sure, that I need to subtract a little of the flour for each of the tsp of Xantham Gum. 3) The dough was dense…I’m not sure how or why, but I have to figure this out or will be doomed to repeat the mistakes.

So, on top of the King Cake experiment, Kate bought me a gluten free baking book and I picked one of the yummier (is that a word? Most yummy? Yummiest? Whatever) sounding recipes to make…Lemon Loaf Cake. If you’ve ever been to Starbucks (if you haven’t you must be from Mars), you may have seen their Lemon Loaf Cake there. Well, that was what I was hoping to be able to duplicate. I ended up making two batches of this because the first one came out tasting better than I had hoped…and, um…well…we ate it all. Oops! I made more and brought some to work today. It’s pictured above with some Strawberry Sorbet that just made everything taste awesome (well, it tasted awesome by itself, but awesome + awesome = awesomer…or something).