Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Snow Day Recipes


So we've been having a lot of unseasonably snowy days here in the Northeast. Purim plans were sent askitter with an unseasonal snow storm, and on Friday, the first day of spring ("yeah, right, sure!"), another one.

So our plans to join family in New York for Purim were turned topsy-turvy. This was especially appropriate for Purim, the holiday that celebrates unlikely outcomes through the infinite hand of G-d. So I adapted, pulled a brisket out of my freezer, and was inspired by an item I received in a shaloch manos (one of the gift baskets of food that are customarily exchanged on Purim). The magic ingredient? Root beer! I recalled a very good barbecue sauce prepared by a local chef that used root beer, and decided to give it a go.  The result was delicious, and our Purim meal was saved.

As the snow blanketed the yard outside my kitchen window on Friday afternoon, my  mind turned to the very delicious harbinger of spring, asparagus I had purchased earlier in the day. Running out of time before Shabbat settled in, I decided to use a very easy and flavorful method I like for vegetables...roasting.  I can prep the dish in about 5 minutes, and leave it to cook in the oven and put my efforts elsewhere. Served hot fresh out of the oven, or cold the next day it was delicious, and did remind me that there would be greener, brighter days to come.

I hope you enjoy these recipes, even without the snow!

This brisket recipe can be used for the upcoming Passover holiday if you omit the dried mustard and switch out the root beer for cola, as you probably won't easily find kosher for passover root beer.

Snow Day Root Beer Brisket

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 onions (any type), thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1-4 to 6 pound beef brisket
1/4 cup powdered onion soup mix
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard  
ground black pepper, to taste
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1-12 ounce bottle barbecue sauce (I used hickory flavor)
1-12 ounce can root beer or cola (not diet)
1/4-1/2 cup water

Heat a large stock pot to medium-high heat. Add oil, when it begins to shimmer add the onions and salt.  Cook until translucent. Reduce heat to medium-low and saute until onions begin to brown.

Rub brisket with soup mix, brown sugar, dry mustard, black pepper and garlic.  Place over onions in stock pot.  In a medium sized bowl, stir together barbecue sauce and root beer or cola.  Pour over brisket so that's it's totally covered. Put lid on pot. And bring up to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook for 3-5 hours until tender. Check pot after an hour of cooking, and add water around brisket if the sauce looks too thick. Turn brisket and baste halfway through cooking time.

Remove brisket from the pot and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Thinly slice against the grain. Serve "smothered" with onions and pan gravy. You may slice beef in advance, return to pot and reheat for 30 minutes before serving. Make sure any sliced meat is covered with gravy before storing.

Serves: 8-10

This is the perfect elegant vegetable side dish for any festive spring meal. The amounts of the herbs and olive oil vary depending on how many bunches of asparagus you use.

Herb Roasted Asparagus

1-2 bunches of asparagus, washed and checked for bugs
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Marjoram or basil
Fresh lemon juice

Heat oven to 450F degrees.

Hold each asparagus stalk in one hand, with the other hand,  hold the bottom of the stalk and snap off the hard part. It usually snaps at the appropriate spot naturally. Repeat for all stalks.

Lay stalks in a thin layer in a non-stick 9x13 baking pan or cookie sheet.  Drizzle with a thin layer of olive oil. Sprinkle with herbs and spices to taste.  Toss to coat evenly. Bake in pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes, until just fork tender.  Turn once or twice during baking.

May be served hot or cold. Drizzle with lemon juice before serving.

Serves: 6-8

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Thanks a Lox!


So there are some things in cooking you try to make at home because you're adventurous and because you want to see if you can actually do it and have it come out right. Choux pastry, macarons and cured fish would be in this category.

From a most unlikely source I was inspired to make lox at home. I recalled from my adolescence that my mother made gravlax from scratch once, presumably inspired by the same spirit of adventure as me. I recall it involved putting the salmon in vodka and turning it daily for almost a week. As a child, I recall wondering why this dish was taking so long to be ready!

But the recipe I came across only takes 2-3 days. While flipping through a really great Thai cookbook (Thai Food and Cooking by Judy Bastyra and Becky Johnson), I saw a picture of something that looked like the lox I've been eating on my Sunday bagel my whole life.  I always thought of this iconic pickled salmon dish as a Jewish, Russian and Scandinavian specialty. So it turns out, it's not actually part of Thai cuisine, but the authors used traditional Thai spices such as lemongrass, red chili and kaffir lime leaves to make a Thai inspired version of "Gravadlax".  As it turns out, on the snowy day I decided to make this dish, I did not happen to have lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves in the house.  But I did have some of the other items, and combined them with my knowledge of the traditional gravlax flavor profile. When the dish actually turned out o.k., and looked decidedly "loxy" to boot, it was sort of a like doing a cartwheel for the first time and feeling surprised you landed on your feet---then throwing up your hands in triumph.

This version differs from traditional gravlax, in that it only utilizes a dry rub, and no liquid in the form of vodka or Aquavit is added. As the dish sits for several days, liquid from the fish leeches out into the dish. 

The preparation takes just about 15 minutes, and then you have to commit to flipping the fish over once a day for 2-3 days (I suggest 3). So, although from a distance making lox at home seems daunting, it's really quite easy. And, quite economical. You should absolutely use fresh fish, but even so, fresh salmon costs about half that per pound of store bought smoked salmon or lox (if you want to know the difference between these two click on this link). The spices are all pantry staples, and I estimate cost less than a dollar total.

I made maki sushi rolls with my fresh lox:

Remember to use a non-reactive container like Pyrex or ceramic for this dish, as it contains acidic ingredients that can react with metal over the several days it is curing.

Homemade Citrus-Ginger Lox
 (adapted from Salmon Marinated with Thai Spices, Thai Food and Cooking by Judy Bastyra, et. al., p. 163 ,)

1 1/2 pounds of tail piece (skinny end) of salmon
4 teaspoons coarse sea salt or kosher salt
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, peeled (do not use powdered)
grated rind of 1 medium lemon
1 teaspoon black peppercorns crushed*
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, or 1 scant Tablespoon dried
2 dried bay leaves

*The easiest way to do this is zip them into a plastic sandwich bag and pound them with a mallet until broken into coarse pieces

Rinse and pat dry salmon. Run your fingertips over the salmon and pull out any bones with a pair of pliers.  Place in a non reactive baking dish. 

In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients except bay leaves.

Rub spice mixture evenly over both sides of the salmon. Place bay leaves in baking dish.

Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over salmon, and a second piece over baking dish.  Weigh down salmon either by placing a cutting board (or piece of wood) that fits inside baking dish over salmon and placing a brick or several heavy cans on top of board.  Or, Place large cans (such as 28 ounce cans of tomatoes), that cover most of the surface of the salmon, directly over plastic wrap.

Refrigerate for 3 days. Remove weight and plastic wrap and flip salmon pieces once a day.

When curing process is completed, remove the salmon from the baking dish and scrape off any spices. Rinse in cold water and pat dry. The finished salmon will keep for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator, or you can seal it tightly in plastic wrap, or vacuum pack and freeze.

To serve:  Slice salmon very thinly holding a sharp knife at an angle, in the same direction as the white "zig zags" on the salmon. Tightly seal remaining salmon in plastic wrap.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Mess ups and Mixing it up...


So, I skeptically bought and have been testing Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free1-to-1 Baking Flour in various applications. It contains:  White Rice Flour, Whole Grain Brown Rice Flour, Potato Starch, Whole Grain Sweet White Sorghum Flour, Tapioca Flour, and Xanthan Gum. When it first came out I was hesitant to buy It, as Bob's Red Mill Original Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking  Flour was the first gluten free all purpose flour I tried over 5 years ago when Lillie was first diagnosed with celiac disease. And, I thought the end result with the original flour was awful. The first GF cookbook I bought called for this blend, and it just tasted, "garfy" as I called it, from the chickpea and garfava flour in it, as well as its coarse texture.   I was majorly disheartened. Then after setting on a quest to find the holy grail of gluten free flour blends, I settled on Jules Gluten Free, and decided to give up my quest of ever increasing choices on the market. Plus, all the gluten free cookbook authors seem to feel they have the "best" blend ever, resulting in me spending $8 or so on a particular ingredient of the blend, and needing to use only 2 Tbsp. of the pound bag. So far none of them beat out Jules in taste, texture or odor (yes, this is a "thing" with gluten free flour). But, then I began hearing good things about Bob's new product and felt as a responsible blogger, I needed to review it. Price wise it's comparable to Jules, which I can get on sale with free shipping for about $14 for a 5 lb bag (normally it is$19.95 per pound). Bob's Red Mill is  Gluten Free1-to-1 Baking Flour $7.99, 44 ounce (2.99/pound) at my local supermarket.  So I whipped up a batch of  a new cookie recipe I invented, using plump and luscious dried Montmorency cherries paired unsweetened coconut flakes. I was pleasantly surprised Although, there was more of a smell with the Bob's than with Jules the flour, it was not pronounced, and disappeared when baked. The texture of the finished product was good, and I didn't notice any grittiness. I went on to make banana muffins, and found similarly good results. My only complaint is that the Bob's didn't brown as well as Jules. But, not browning well is a typical problem with gluten free flours. The last big benefit is that Bob's product is corn free, while Jules contains corn in two ingredients. So for those with a corn allergy, Bob's is a better option.

So my conclusion is that I highly recommend the Bob's Red Mill new product. It's an improvement over his original, which did not contain xanthan gum and did contain bean flour, lending a gritty texture and off taste. The new flour is quite good as it claims "cup for cup" replacement  of flour in recipes. Of course, when converting any glutenful to gluten free recipe, one must fiddle with liquid amounts, as the gf flour absorbs differently. Price wise, it's a good bet for premium GF flour, and of course it's readily available in chain supermarkets, so it can be picked up when needed immediately, without doing an online order, or setting out for the health food or specialty store.  Taste wise, I still would place Jules about 5% above Bob's. However, I think Bob's is really a good bet. It edges out King Arthur, which had done well as a premium GF supermarket blend, but it was flawed in that it did not contain xanthan gum, and therefore couldn't be considered a complete gf flour blend, in my opinion.  As well, King Arthur is more expensive pound for pound.  Bob's has a reputation for integrity, and I'm glad they took the time to work out a really great blend for their respected customers.

The Maven's Tip for lining baking pans: Spray cookie sheets with a light mist of water before placing parchment paper on them. This causes the parchment to adhere to the pans with no slipping.

Chocolate-Cherry Coconut Cookies For All

1 cup vegan margarine (such as Earth Balance brand)
2/3 cup granulated sugar (Florida Crystals or Coconut Sugar is fine as well)
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour
1 cup gluten-free old fashioned oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup olive oil (not Extra Virgin)
1 - 10 ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (non-dairy)
1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line 2 large baking pans with parchment paper, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat margarine until fluffy.  Add sugars and vanilla extract; beat on medium speed until well combined.  Add flour, oats, baking soda and salt. Stir until just combined. Beat in olive oil until the batter is thick and smooth.  Stir in remaining ingredients.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Drop by two-tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Flatten tops slightly with fingers.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

Let rest on baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Yield approx. 4 dozen

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Feliz Januca


Once again it's that happy time of year, Chanukah, where the Jewish people celebrate the miraculous victory of the Maccabees over the Greek Army and the reclaiming of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. 

We traditionally eat food fried in oil to commemorate the miracle of one tiny flask of pure oil, which was meant to last one night, but lasted for eight nights following the siege.  Ashkenazi Jews, those from Eastern Europe, traditionally eat potato latkes and applesauce--foods that were plentiful in their native region. For Sephardi Jews various fried dough dishes like Sfenj in Morocco and YoYos in Tunisia are popular.  The grandmother of all of these is likely Spanish bunuelos (pronounced boon-way-lows). These fried dough balls can be found in cuisines across North Africa all the way to Turkey and Latin America. In Mexico they take the form of fried tortillas sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and in Columbia a soft cheese is added to the batter (personally I think the latter is perfect for Chanukah, because we also eat dairy to commemorate the role of Yehudit (Judith) in the Chanukah victory).

I decided to play around with the bunuelo recipe to develop one my whole family could eat. This meant making one that was gluten free, non-dairy and egg-free. I had an idea to sub the egg with soy yogurt and it was a Chanukah worked!

Last month I met a hard working gal named Orly who has designed a line of gluten free flour blends (each complete with xanthan gum), that are specialized for different types of baked goods, i.e. cakes, cookies, breads, etc. I would like to suggest trying the Blends by Orly-Manhattan Blend for the bunuelos.  It is gluten, soy, corn and dairy free and optimally formulated by this pastry chef to produce the best taste and texture for each particular type of baked good.


If you do eat dairy you may wish to sub the soy yogurt with plain or vanilla flavored dairy yogurt. If you can't have soy or dairy there are a variety of options such as coconut milk and almond milk yogurt.

Vegan Cinnamon-Sugar Bunuelos

2 cups Gluten Free Bisquick (or All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour blend with xanthan gum plus 1 Tablespoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 ounces soy yogurt
1 cup plain seltzer
48 ounces canola or vegetable oil for frying
1/2 peeled carrot or 2 baby carrots (optional)
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (I used McCormick brand, but you can make your own by mixing together 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon)

Note: If you add a piece of carrot to the oil when frying, it absorbs the icky brown film that sometimes develops when doing several batches of fried items. 

In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together Bisquick, sugar and nutmeg.  Stir in yogurt and seltzer until well combined.

Heat oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven to 375F degree (on my gas stove, that is about the 7 or 8 mark on the dial). Put a small piece of batter into the oil and see if small bubbles form around dough--you're oil is ready at this point. Add the carrots.

With slightly damp hands or a cookie scoop, form batter into walnut sized balls. Gently drop about 4 at a time into the hot oil.  When the submerged part begins to brown, after about 3-5 minutes, turn with tongs or a slotted spoon and fry on other side for the same amount of time, until golden brown. Remove from oil with tongs or slotted spoon, and place on a wire rack set on a cookie sheet or paper towel to drain off excess oil.  Repeat with remaining batter.

Place cinnamon-sugar in a clean paper bag or small bowl.  Toss several bunuelos at a time in cinnamon-sugar to coat. Best served warm. Store in airtight container for up to 2 days.

Yield: approximately 18 bunuelos

Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer breeze drifting away...


One of the down sides of travelling on a special diet is that you can't just stop at any local cafe on the way for local specialties. You have to plan, plan, plan. Travel for celiacs, food allergic, or anyone else on a special diet, this usually involves a combination of  trolling the internet for gluten free/allergy free friendly restaurants, phone calls to confirm they can accommodate your needs, and a whopping big bag filled with your favorite travelling food to hold you over in between.

I try not to let this get me down when I travel, and instead focus on the place I'm visiting and enjoy the sites and experiences.  Nevertheless, sometimes you just want to try that pain au chocolat in Paris, or soft pretzel on a New York street cart--but you can't. What you can do is find a GF/allergy friendly alternative, or make one at home.

Some foods evoke a place with one bite. The quintessential lobster roll is a Maine summer in one bite. The classic Maine lobster roll consists of generous chunks of lobster mixed with a lightly seasoned mayonnaise sauce on a hoagie roll. Since I don't eat shellfish, and a glutenny roll is out, I created my own in my home kitchen with Dyna-Sea Lobster Bites (made from pollock) on an amazing Udi's baguette.

So the next time you're sitting on a cliff overlooking a lovely beach in Maine, don't let the smells wafting from the lobster roll stand behind you get you down.  Focus on the breeze and the rolling tide and enjoy the moment--you can make your own when you get home!

If you want to try some of the awesome Udi's products, and many other great gluten free products, head on over to the Gluten Free Expo in Secaucus (that's Seh-Caaaw-kus for those of you who don't live in Joisey) from September 6-7, 2014 at the Meadowlands Exposition Center.  Meet up with other GFers, see gluten free cooking demos, and meet some of the people who make the products that make our lives easier--not to mention yummy samples! Follow this link and enter the discount code EXPONJ20 to receive 20% off your ticket purchase. Read on for giveaway info...

I'm giving away 2 sets of 2 tickets free in a random drawing.  Enter by leaving a comment below. Tell me your favorite food you discovered on your travels that you just can't live without. Contest ends at 11:59 p.m. on 8/26/14.
Notta Lobsta' Roll
serves 4
1-16 ounce package Dyna-Sea Lobster Bites, thawed
1/3 cup chopped scallion
1/4 cup minced celery
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
sea salt and white or black pepper to taste
1/2-3/4 cup mayonnaise or Vegenaise
2- Udi's baguettes, cut in half crosswise and lengthwise
4 lemon wedges
In a medium sized mixing bowl, stir together all ingredients except baguettes and lemon wedges. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Wrap baguettes in aluminum foil and heat in a 275F degree oven for 8-10 minutes, or until warm.
Place baguette halves on individual plates, split side up, and fill with a generous amount of the salad mixture.  Serve garnished with a lemon wedge, and if you want to be really authentic, a bag of potato chips!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

On the road again


It seems like in the summer everyone is coming and going, whether it's vacations, camp, or visits to grandma. When you're on a special diet, travel is not as easy as throwing a few things in a suitcase. You have to plan out your meals and anticipate where you can buy provisions, if needed.

Certain standbys have helped me in the past, such as tuna in vacuum sealed packets, cheese sticks, and power bars.  KIND is the only brand I can think of that makes power bars with discernible ingredients. Now they've come out with some great new flavors, as well as a line of granola-- which they call Healthy Grain Clusters--that is gluten free and follows in the tradition of using healthy, real ingredients you can see. It comes in a variety of flavors from the traditional, like Oats and Honey to the temptingly gourmet like Vanilla Blueberry with Flax Seeds.

The Raspberry Clusters with Chia Seed has just the right balance of crunch and chew and is not overly sweet---a mistake many granolas make. One thing I like about the resealable bag the product comes in, is it's very packable, it's much more compact than a regular box of cereal, and it can serve double duty as a breakfast (or any other meal) and a filling snack.
There are new "savory" flavors that KIND is offering in their Strong and KIND bars, which boast a whopping 10 grams of protein, all from whole food sources like nuts and legumes. The bold flavors include Roasted Jalapeno, Honey Smoked BBQ and Honey Mustard. They are a welcome change from the sweet choices of most power bars. When I travel I find sometimes the most portable things are sweet, like power bars and dried fruit---so this is a nice change! The Hickory Smoked flavor tastes a bit like biting into a steak that has a crunchy element, if that makes sense.

I also have the opinion of a "guest blogger" on the new KIND products.

    Hi, it's Lillie.Now that it's summer and I have free time I get to write a post on my Mom's blog:-).
YAY! I'm going to write about KIND granola clusters. I had the rasberry chia clusters and they are good.Daisie and Posie even asked for more! I had the granola in milk and Daisie had granola in yogurt.You can also eat the clusters right out of the bag. And the chia adds healthy omega-3.
And if you like chocolate throw in some.Chocolate has healthy antioxidants.These tasty clusters contain 5 whole grains, are GF, and are low in sodium. And by the way KIND makes good bars.
Well enjoy!:-D                
 Here is a simple yogurt parfait, if you're travelling, it's easy enough to
just buy a container of yogurt and sprinkle the KIND granola on top for a simple breakfast or lunch:

The amounts vary depending on the size of your bowl or glass.

KINDly Crunchy Yogurt Parfaits

In a small dessert bowl or clear lowball style glass layer the following:

Fresh Berries
KIND Healthy Grain Clusters

Cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Muffin Man


I am the muffin man, muffin man, and I live on Drury Lane, da, da....  

Ok, I remember my mom singing that to me as a child and I pictured a person that was made out of muffins--a la the gingerbread man. Now I know they mean the muffin baker. And why shouldn't there be a song about the person who creates those lovely, pillowy treats that range from the healthful to slightly sinful? Now Garden Lites, the people who brought us those flavorful little gluten free veggie souffles, have come out with a line of delicious frozen muffins (4 to a box), that my kids enjoy eating as a treat, and I enjoy eating because they're healthy and taste great.  I have one child who tends to run late, and grabs a gluten free muffin on her way out the door. Since I don't always have time to make them myself, I am grateful for the healthy options Garden Lites is offering, such as Zucchini Chocolate, Veggie Blueberry Oat and Carrot Berry Veggie muffins (just to name a few). My favorite are the vibrant carrot muffins. The veggies in question are well concealed, and the kids just think the muffins taste yummy. 

Like most other food "trends*", such as low fat and low carb, often the packaged offerings are nothing more than junk food with a "health halo". But the new muffins from Garden Lites, like their classic souffles, are products I really have confidence in for my family.  I had to scramble to get the last one from the box before my daughter got to it, but was happy to see it is stocked in my local supermarket!

*I'm sorry to lump gluten free in the category or a "trend" as whether it's in or not, celiacs need to eat gluten free. 

A new trend I've noticed is the  use of muffin pans for more than just, well muffins.   You can make mini quiches, crustless or otherwise, meatloaves (a favorite in our house), kugels, challah rolls and so much more. It is an especially useful tool for the food allergic/sensitive as you can keep batches of these foods in ziplocs in the freezer, and pull them out as needed. So if the individual on a special diet is eating somewhere they need to bring their own food, they can just pull it out or microwave the perfectly portion controlled item.

They also make neat ways to prevent old favorites, which I've found kids respond to especially well. For example the classic, huevos rancheros,  salsa, corn tortillas and eggs looks positively adorable made in a muffin pan, and you have the bonus of being able to make them for a crowd rather effortlessly.

For those dairy allergic sub soy or rice cheese in this recipe, or omit completely. For egg allergic, layer refried beans or a black bean and corn mixture under the salsa. Enjoy!

Huevos Rancheros Muffin Cups

12 cup non-stick muffin pan
cooking spray or favorite oil (about 1 Tbsp.)
8 small corn tortillas

1 1/4 cups chunky style salsa, divided
8 medium or small eggs
1/4 cup shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese
1 ripe avocado, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sour cream, optional
 Pre-heat oven to 400F degrees.  Spray 8 muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray. Place tortillas in muffin pans, they will flute up like a flower. Lightly spray edges with cooking spray, or brush with oil (you may also lay them flat before putting in muffin cups and brush with oil).
Spoon approximately 2 tablespoons of salsa into each tortilla. Crack each egg into a custard cup and carefully pour into muffin cups, keeping yolk whole. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until yolk is firm, but still somewhat runny. 5 minutes into baking time, remove from oven and sprinkle with shredded cheese.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around edges of muffin cups and carefully transfer to serving plate.  Serve warm, garnished with avocado, sour cream, if desired, and additional salsa.

Serves: 8