Thursday, December 10, 2020

Fry, Fry Away



 BS"D

So the item I had to sit on my hands for this Black Friday--which unfortunately lasted a whole month this year--was an air fryer. Now, I've been bucking the trend on air fryer's for a few years now. If you haven't seen one of these popular items in person, let me fill you in. They are very large and the size of the cooking basket is very small. I tried a friend' in what seemed to be the most popular size, and the basket was adequate for maybe two people. They do have large ones, which are about the size of my microwave. I have very limited counter space, so even the kitchen appliances I use almost weekly like my KitchenAid mixer, Instant Pot (electric pressure cooker) and Crock Pot need to remain stashed elsewhere. And, the elsewhere space is in short supply too. In the past couple of years a better option has emerged-- the air fryer ovens. Essentially they are toaster ovens with an air fry feature. This seemed reasonable to me, but I replaced my toaster oven not so long ago. Lastly, there is a lid you can buy for the Instant Pot that turns your Instant Pot into an air fryer. The catch is it costs about as much as a dedicated air fryer. The draw of this is you don't need to have an entirely different product taking up space in your kitchen.

When I tested my friend's fryer I made egg rolls, crispy tofu and breaded chicken fingers. What I learned is:

1) It is not oil free. I was surprised by the amount of oil the recipes called for to be brushed on the food.

2) You have to turn the food every few minutes. The egg rolls were the most amazing product of all. But, I wondered if it was worth it just for one amazing dish. Could I buy eggrolls every so often and be just as happy with the end product?

3) See 2 above. For people on special diets tools like an air fryer, which produce food that's hard to find in restaurants as gluten free or allergen free may be worthwhile.

4) As previously mentioned, the basket on the air fryer is small. For a normal family dinner I would have to do many batches.  So although the chicken fingers came out good, they weren't markedly better than when I oven fry a large quantity on a cookie sheet.

5) The tofu came out not terribly different than when I oven fried it, and was a bit more styrofoamy in texture.

Trying to keep the negatives in mind, I survived another Black Friday and Cyber Monday without an air fryer. But, I do love a crispy crunch. What I figured out is that most of the things coming out of the air fryer were similar to my tried and true convection-oven frying method. In fact, many reviewers mention that an air fryer is essentially a convection oven, which uses a fan to circulate heat evenly throughout the oven. 

My tried and true method is cooking spray (or oil) below, cooking spray above and high heat. The general rule is that for convection ovens you set the temperature 25 degrees below the desired temperature. So if the recipe calls for baking the dish at 400F degrees, you will set the convection bake to 375F degrees. If you don't have the convection feature, it's generally fine too. Just make sure the baking tray is set in the middle of the oven and has nothing above it to hinder crisping.

For Chanukah, it's customary to eat foods deep fried in oil to remember the miracle G-d did for the Jews who managed to capture and rededicate the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after it was desecrated by their enemies. They found only one small vial of consecrated oil to light the menorah, but it miraculously lasted for 8 days--the time it was needed to produce new oil.  That generally translates to latkes and donuts in modern times. I personally hate deep frying. I find the smell invasive, the process somewhat scary, but the resulting food delicious albeit tough to digest.  This oven fried smashed potato appetizer is a great substitute for the heavier, traditional latke. Bonus, it also requires no grating of the potatoes!  I pair it with tzatziki a Greek yogurt and cucumber dip, which cuts the oily taste with a nice hit of acid from the yogurt and lemon juice.

So whether you fry, air fry, or oven fry, enjoy your special holiday foods with those that are special to you.

You may use plain non-dairy yogurt or non-dairy sour cream, such as Tofutti brand, as a substitute for the Greek yogurt in this recipe. If you substitute a regular cucumber for the cucumbers called for in this recipe, deseed before chopping.  An air fryer may be used instead of the oven cooking method. Follow your manufacturer's recommended settings for french fries, and adjust according to doneness of potatoes. This is an attractive dish as an hors d'oeuvres or an appetizer.

Easy Crispy Smashed Potatoes and Tzatziki Appetizer

12 small Yukon Gold or New potatoes

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)

sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Tzatziki

2 Persian cucumbers (or 1/2 an English cucumber), unpeeled, diced

Juice of 1/2 a lemon (about 1-1/2 Tbsp.), more to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh, chopped dill, additional to garnish

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (or non-dairy sour cream or plain yogurt)

sea salt and black pepper, to taste


For Potatoes:

Pre-heat convection oven to 425F degrees (if using a regular oven, set at 450F degrees).  Spray a non-stick cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

Wash and dry potatoes. Poke in several places with a fork. Set on a microwave safe plate and cook on high for 4-5 minutes until soft. If your microwave has a "Potato" button, use that.  Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Transfer potatoes to a flat surface between two sheets of parchment paper or foil. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, or a frying pan, flatten each potato to about a 1/4 inch thickness. Transfer to prepared cookie sheet using a spatula. 

Mix together olive oil, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Brush on top of potatoes.  

Bake in pre-heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes until tops appear golden brown and crisp. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to serving tray.

For Tzatziki:

Mix together all the ingredients for tzatziki and place in a plastic container or covered bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve:

Arrange potatoes on serving plate. Top with a dollop of tzatziki. Garnish with dill sprig.

Yield: 1 dozen

 



Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Simply Thankful


 BS"D

So I realized that we haven't been home for Thanksgiving since another pandemic, Swine Flu. At that time my egg allergic child, who could not get the vaccine, contracted the virus. It was almost a non-issue for most families in the United States, as there was thank G-d an available vaccine. When Rosie contracted it, she was still a toodling toddler, and of course to say I was "alarmed" is a gross understatement. It turned out to not be as bad as some colds she's had. Unfortunately, Covid hasn't been so kind to millions worldwide.  For many, their lives became unexpectedly complicated this year, and for some almost unbearable. 



I have always found the going around the table saying what we are thankful for to be kind of corny and cringy, as it's very personal. But, this year, although I'm reluctant to say that anything good has come out of a situation where over a quarter of a million of our countrymen have died, I have noted a few things in the "good" category (besides the many blessings we experience daily K"H): 

*The child whose specialty was melted soy cheese on a rice cake has learned to cook---and well.

*I was reminded how hard our teachers work to prepare and lead their classes, by actually hearing my kids classes.

*As an introvert who values alone time, I learned I can have some equilibrium with everyone home.

*My children learned how to clean for Passover because they were zooming at home in the weeks leading up to it, and I had no cleaning help. 

*I learned I could not have a breakdown in the above situation.

*My mother broadened her computer skills thanks to her social activities turning to zoom.

*The child who often misses the school bus can now do her classes at home.

*My family has recognized and encouraged my writing endeavors due to the many letters to the editor I've written, and have had printed, on Covid related issues.

*People have gained a broader understanding of what it's like to be alone on holidays, etc., and perhaps relate to those who are without family.

I encourage you to reflect on the good that may have come out of your pandemic experience.

It's very easy for those who have a family unit, or social pod, to downsize and "keep it tight", as our Governor has asked of us. But, it's for those sitting alone that I feel a pain in my heart. I hope they find solace in either a phone call, zoom, favorite movie, pet or comforting holiday food. Keeping it simple isn't bad as long as we are at peace with the situation within ourselves. I'm making a very basic pumpkin pie---the Libby's back of the can recipe. After trying many different more gourmet recipes over the years, I've always come back to the simplest recipe as my favorite. For the easiest crust, next to store bought, try this recipe. Enjoy, and may there be better days ahead.

Check out my pie making tips on youtube.com.

I have adapted the recipe to be dairy free by substituting canned, full fat coconut milk, and I used a frozen Gluten Free crust. If you wish to make your own crust, you can use this very easy foolproof recipe. For an egg free version, substituting a 1/4 cup silken tofu for each egg or an equivalent egg substitute is the best option.


Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie

by Nestle Tollhouse

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Easy Peasy Lemon Cheesy Muffins

13 Research Based Health Benefits Of Lemons


BS"D
If you have some cottage cheesy,
and you want a recipe that's easy.
Try these muffins so lemony. 
Your guest will think they're heavenly!


Cottage Cheese Is the New Greek Yogurt - The AtlanticAs usual, I'm pressed for time before the upcoming holiday of Shavuos, therefore my quippy and to the point blog post. It's traditional to eat dairy food on Shavuos for several reasons, which Chabad.org does a better job of explaining then me (click on link). This easy recipe is perfect for a snack or as a side dish to a big green salad on the holiday.


I used the "Cottage Cheese-Dill Bread" recipe from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen as a jumping off point for this recipe.



Easy Peasy Lemon Cheesy Muffins

non-stick cooking spray
1 cup cottage cheese (preferably whipped)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar (for a sweeter muffin use 1 cup)
Juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
2 cups all purpose gluten free flour blend (with xanthan gum)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray (you may line with paper cupcake cups if you like). Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together first 5 ingredients. Add sugar, lemon and lemon zest; stir until well combined.

Add dry ingredients and stir until well combined.

Spoon into muffin cups filling 3/4 full.

Bake in pre-heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until no longer wet in the middle.

Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 1 dozen. May be frozen.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Pickle Chicken

BS"D

Is it a trick or a treat? When you find a surprise flavor or hidden ingredient in a dish are you pleased or peeved?  Given all the hype about chicken sandwiches lately, I've been wanting to try a copycat of some of the more popular fast food items, but found the obstacles great and the need for many subs due to my family's food allergies (i.e. soy "buttermilk", GF flour), although I'm generally not daunted by such things. But along the way of my chicken recipe search, I came across a trend of brining the chicken in pickle juice! "Eww" or "Ohh"...you decide.
Image result for pickle jar
After the pickles were all eaten in a medium sized jar (which took about 1 day in my house), I stuck the leftover brine in the fridge until I was ready to cook my chicken later in the week. A great sale on chicken legs dictated the cut of chicken I would use. I decided to keep it simple and just used pickle juice and a about a tablespoon of agave nectar, to take the edge of the acidity of the brine, to marinate the chicken. I marinated it overnight, then crumb coated with GF panko and rice crumbs for a majorly crunchy coating. I prefer to oven fry my chicken (and many other things), it's simpler, less messy and healthier. It yielded  a perfectly browned and crispy coating!


But, the proof is in the eating. After the initial crunch of the coating, I was gifted with one of the most tender pieces of baked chicken I ever sank my teeth into. The brining really did the trick to soften the meat.  The taste was  a surprise. To me it tasted like a chicken or turkey sandwich with pickles on it, which I love!  To others who tasted it, they couldn't quite place the taste at first and then they reconciled that it looked like one thing and tasted like another.

We decided that these would work great with pickle strips and a creamy dip like ranch or creamy jalapeno. The dish isn't hot spicy, but rather has a bright "zingy" flavor. The type of pickle juice you use will affect the dish too. I don't recommend using a too sweet variety like bread and butter, but dill or half sour would work well.  Overall, this chicken dish is a great addition to the plethora of pickle flavored foods from potato chips to ice cream.


As mentioned above, you can use any cut of chicken and any type of gluten free bread crumbs. To pump up your pickly flavor, you might want to try pickle flavored potato chips crumbled up in place of some of the bread crumbs. 
Pickle Chicken

1 chicken cut into 1/8ths (or equivalent amount of other cuts of chicken)
Juice from a 32 ounce jar of pickles (can be less, as it just needs to cover chicken)
1 Tablespoon agave nectar or honey
2 cups gluten free panko or favorite bread crumbs
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon spicy paprika
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Sea salt, to taste
non-stick cooking spray

Place chicken in a non-reactive bowl or baking dish (like pyrex) or a large ziploc. 

Mix together the pickle juice and agave or honey and pour over chicken to coat. Cover with plastic wrap or lid, and refrigerate 8 hours to overnight, turning midway through marinating time.

Place panko and spices in a paper or plastic bag, big enough to hold a piece of chicken. Shake to combine.  Spray a non-stick baking pan with cooking spray. 

Drain pickle juice from chicken and discard. Put chicken pieces in bag of crumbs one at a time, and shake well to coat. Place chicken on baking pan. Generously spray top of chicken with cooking spray.

Bake at 375F (for whole pieces) for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes (or until a meat thermometer reaches the correct temperature for doneness). 350F for half an hour for chicken cutlets, until they are no longer pink inside. Serve hot.

Yield: 6 servings

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Holy Zeppole!

BS"D


When I was a child we lived near a very Italian neighborhood. I recall their annual fairs where we could enjoy a ferris wheel ride, carnival games and the smell of frying zeppole dusted in powdered sugar that seemed to be everywhere.

For Chanukah, when Jews traditionally eat fried food, my neighbor's daughter will usually show up at our door with a plate of fresh sfenj, the Moroccan equivalent of a zeppole. They are always fresh and tempting, but neither Lillie nor Rosie could partake b/c of the wheat and eggs (or so I thought). Then this past year, I came across a sfenj recipe with no eggs! I thought I discovered something new. After some research and discussion with me neighbor, I found that traditionally sfenj doesn't have eggs. So I reverse engineered the recipe to make a gluten and dairy free version and lo and behold they were lovely.  I felt the addition of seltzer water, citrus flavor gave the lift much needed in an egg free dough, but also the citrusy hint so common in Italian desserts.




What I discovered, in a very Proustian moment, was that my kitchen smelled like those long ago Italian fairs, and the sfenj was reminiscnet of zeppole in taste and appearance. Further digging found that would be the case.  The recipes were near identical, and the end product certainly so.


With Mardi Gras coming up this week, and fried goodies abounding, I'd like to share this recipe. For whatever religious holiday you observe, or non at all, these zeppole/sfenj/fried dough beauties are delightful for dessert or brunch. Check out the "How To" video on You Tube below.



You can substitute granulated sugar mixed with cinnamon for the powdered sugar, or drizzle with melted chocolate. A favorite restaurant dessert in the past few years is zeppole with several dipping sauces like raspberry, chocolate and caramel.



Gluten Free Vegan Zeppole (Sfenj)


¼ cup warm water
2 ¼ teaspoons (1 packet) powdered yeast
2 tablespoons granulated Sugar (up to a ¼ cup may be added for a sweeter dough)
3 cups All Purpose Gluten Free Flour Blend with xanthan Gum (such as Bob’s Red Mill 1-       to-1 GF Flour or King Arthur Brand)
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups seltzer (plain or lemon or orange flavored)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Canola or favorite vegetable oil for frying (about a half-gallon)
Powdered Sugar (optional)

In a large mixing bowl whisk together with a fork warm water, yeast and sugar. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until bubbles appear.

Add flour, salt, seltzer, vanilla and cinnamon. Beat on medium heat or mix with a large wooden spoon, or your hands, until very well combined.

Cover and set aside for 3 hours. They dough should about double in size.

Heat oil in a large pot or wok to 375 F degrees. Put a piece of carrot (optional) in heated oil to keep from over browning.   Scoop up batter with a soup spoon or 1/8 cup measure. Using another spoon, shape into a mound and transfer to oil. Fry about 4 sfenj at a time. Fry for about 3-4 minutes per side, until deep, golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack set on top of a cookie sheet to cool for a few minutes.  Toss in powdered sugar or drizzle with honey and serve.

Yield: About 12

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Turkey Time

Image result for cornucopia"



BS"D

So this year both grandmas quit Thanksgiving. They declared "it's too much" and handed off responsibility to the next generation.  Of course, while offering to prepare their most beloved dishes!  However, I see the next generation isn't much into "patchkeing". That is "fussing around" for the non-Yiddish speakers. And in all fairness, today's generation of women normally have a full load balancing work and family life. If they have a day off they are not getting up at 6 am to baste a big bird, they are sleeping in for a change.  So prepared items are increasing in popularity. Some opt for a full meal from the supermarket deli, while some will buy the bird and prepare the sides or vice versa. Pot lucks are a viable option too.


Image result for take out containers"

However, when you are dealing with food allergies and Celiac disease purchased meals and potlucks are a minefield. The host generally will not be able to answer questions regarding ingredients and cross contamination. The dozen or more people contributing dishes to the potluck will not necessarily adhere to your level of caution when cooking the meals. And, one of the biggest hazards this time of year is the buffet table. It is a veritable nightmare for the food allergic. Spoons designated for items that are "safe" for you are plunged into something "unsafe" by unaware guests.  So the safest way to go in my experience is bring your own "safe" food items. If you are bringing enough to share, explain to your host you need to take your portion first due to cross-contamination issues. I find the best way to do this is serve yourself in the kitchen before the dishes even come to the table.


Image result for buffet table full of fodd"

Another caveat is that big bird. Although everyone thinks it's so plain, there are certainly hidden allergens in it's preparation--especially store bought.  I like using the Reynold's Kitchen bags for preparing the perfect turkey, but it calls for a couple of tablespoons of flour put into the bag (I use gluten free). Unfortunately, many hosts don't realize this is problematic. Nor do they think the ingredients they rub on the skin are a big deal. Cries of "I just used a little flour." or "Just peel off the skin." abound.  Obviously, it is very problematic and enough to ruin a food sensitive person's holiday, even cause them to need medical attention.  So given it's unlikely you are going to make your own turkey, parts are a viable option.  As soon as November hits my supermarket has legs, wings, half breasts and more on sale.  It's also a good option if you want to make the more manageable turkey breast, yet still have some dark meat.  My family loves the crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside turkey leg recipe below. This year I made them when I first saw the legs in the store, and vacuum sealed and froze them for the big day.



You can use a variety of spice profiles for this recipe. If you prefer substituting a coffee rub or Italian seasoning blend for the spices, the end product will be just as great!

Easy Roasted Turkey Legs

Non-stick cooking spray
4 turkey legs
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
sea salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400F degrees. Spray a large baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.


Place turkey legs end to end in baking pan. In a small bowl, mix together remaining ingredients.

Rub turkey legs with olive oil and spice mixture (this may be done up to 8 hours in advance).

Stick a meat thermometer in fattest part of one turkey leg---not touching the bone (unless using an infrared thermometer).

Bake at 400F degrees for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F degrees and bake for an additional 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until temperature of meat is 180 degrees.

Allow to rest 15 minutes before serving.

Yield: 4 turkey legs


Thursday, September 26, 2019

Round and Round We Go...Oat Challa I Love You So!



BS"D
Image result for oats flour
So it's that time of year, or new year, I should say. We welcome the Jewish Year  5780 I"H in just a few days. There are certain traditional items used in the Rosh Hashana meals, such as apples dipped in honey and round challas--which symbolize the cycle of the year.  Although there are usually a few round gluten free round challas in my local supermarket freezer, they tend to be expensive even for the small ones. Lillie has expressed she wants one bigger than her usual standard muffin sized gluten free challa she uses every Shabbat, but understands she doesn't need a full sized one for her personal use.  Enter the wonder that are Texas-sized muffin tins. They also go by the name extra large muffin tins. They have come in handy in a number of applications, I decided to use them to make larger, round personal sized challas for the holiday.
Image result for golden raisins
Since I'm busy making a wide variety of foods for the four meals we'll eat over Rosh Hashana, I wanted something that wasn't too time consuming to make. I don't find that yeast in oat challa has an especially profound affect. There are no strands of gluten being built up, and no puffing of the challa due to the yeast in the manner you find in wheat challa.  So, I felt that a more quick bread approach, using baking powder or soda would be fine. I was inspired by an Oat-Pecan muffin in Mollie Katzen's The Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook, and used some of her ratios as a starting point.  I traded the pecans for golden raisins, another Rosh Hashana tradition, and made a mixture of both oat and all-purpose gluten free flour with xanthan gum.



The result were light and fluffy individual round challas in nearly no time at all. No waiting for the dough to rise, and a recipe that could be mixed by hand if needed.  They froze well and we look forward to trying them out. Have a sweet and happy new year!

Image result for oats flour


I made my oat flour by grinding 2 cups of old-fashioned oats in my food processor until finely ground. You may use this method or buy gluten free oat flour. 


Gluten Free Individual Round Oat and Raisin Challas

Non-stick cooking spray
1 1/2 cup gluten free oat flour (or 2 cups old fashioned oats)
1 1/2 cups gluten free all-purpose flour with xanthan gum (I used Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 GF Baking Flour)
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup non-dairy milk, e.g., soy, almond or flax (with 1 Tablespoon vinegar mixed in)
1 egg
¼ cup vegetable or olive oil
1/3 cup honey
½ cup golden raisins

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. Spray 12 regular muffin cups or 6 Extra-large (Texas) muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray. 

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oat and all-purpose flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add milk, eggs, vegetable oil and honey until well combined. You may use an electric mixer on medium or large spoon for mixing.

Stir in raisins. 

Spoon batter into muffin pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out dry.

Cool on a wire rack. Best served warm.

May be frozen well wrapped.

Yield: 6 large or 12 regular muffin sized rolls