Archive for January, 2008
Thursday, January 31st, 2008
I thought I’d end January with a contest, this time double food-related. Last time the contest was about animal tracks, this version will be about spore-bearing fruiting fungus bodies. Doesn’t that sound appetizing? I’ll fill you in on the nutritional aspects of fungus in a day or so, but for now, I’ll just open the door to guesses.
So, what is this? Be specific, no general answers. This is a two-part question; identify both versions. I’ll give it a week and the winner will be the lucky recipient of something kitchen or food related. And although I hate to discriminate, I can only ship to U.S. addresses. But I invite answers from anywhere on the planet. Even from Karen, my favorite ramblingspoon, who is off wandering around somewhere in northern Thailand.
The grand prize isn’t all that grand, but it is a fun little culinary-related gadget. It’s not worth shipping very far though, certainly not half-way around the world.
I’m thinking maybe Cindy, my busy little rocket-scientist/food-chemistry neighbor at cindalouskitchenblues will figure this one out fairly quickly. But who knows, she might be off messing with microquasars or busy unlocking galactic mysteries, so hurry and give it a try before she gets back.
Weird thing #1
Weird thing #2
The fork is for size perspective only. I wasn’t eating these things like this, but stay tuned for a recipe once we figure out what they are.
Tuesday, January 29th, 2008
Somewhere between the bizarre synthetic squishiness of bleached and refined Wonder Bread and the brick-like crumbly coarseness of gluten-free bread lies a good loaf of nutritious and sliceable gluten-free bread. I don’t eat bread very often but every once in awhile I WANT A PIECE OF GOOD BREAD. Stomp, stomp. You know what I mean, I know you do.
I’ve been baking, searching, testing, and tasting for ages and have recently put aside my lovely and expensive Zojirushi bread machine and am making some wonderful hand-crafted breads from scratch. I’ve also been whipping up some amazing semi-hand-crafted loaves from premixed blends, which is easier, but not all that much. Meaning it’s not that hard to make it from scratch.
But, first off – bread machine or no bread machine? What do you think? Depends on how much time you have and whether you want to deal with doing it all yourself or not. Bread machines are great because you can just dump everything into the machine, set the controls, and take off for yoga class. When you return, your house smells incredible and you’ve had a good workout while Ms. Zojirushi was busy baking you a nice loaf of bread. Simple – but not as good as it could be.
The bottom line is, gluten-free bread should not be kneaded and most bread machines run through a kneading cycle. Kneading develops the gluten, and since we’re avoiding the stuff in the first place, there’s no need to knead. That’s why making GF bread by hand is so much easier than making a loaf containing gluten. You get to skip some major steps. See – aren’t we lucky little bakers?
No, you don’t think so?
Well, check this out. Hearty Whole Grain Bread that is as good as it gets. It’s our favorite uncle Bob’s version of whole grain bread from Bob’s Red Mill. But it works much better without Ms. Zojirushi messing with things – unless you can program her to skip the shimmy-shimmy pole dance at the beginning of the process.
That over-mixing makes for coarser and more crumbly bread. The loaf pictured below took all of about 30 seconds to mix, no more or you’ll be back to baking edible doorstops. You do have to dissolve the yeast in warm water, mix up a few ingredients and let the bread rise in the loaf pan for 45 minutes or so before baking, but that’s about it. Easy-peasy, as my favorite Brit would say.
what you need (this is all listed on the package)
1 package Bob’s Red Mill Hearty Whole Grain GF Bread Mix
1 3/4 cups water
1/4 cup oil (I use Earth Balance vegan butter, but any oil will do)
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
*sometimes I add 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses
*follow Bob’s package instructions for making by hand
Now onto a less hearty version of homemade bread. This one makes great sandwich bread, or toast, or French toast, or a real grilled cheese sandwich if you’re totally down in the dumps and need some comfort food, or – well you get the idea. It’s good stuff (see below).
what you need (again, all this is listed on the package)
1 package Bob’s Red Mill Homemade Wonderful GF Bread Mix (I didn’t add the Wonderful in there, it’s the name of the bread, but I wholeheartedly agree)
1 2/3 cups warm milk (I use organic brown rice milk)
1 whole egg plus enough egg whites to equal 3/4 cup
1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
*follow Bob’s instructions for making by hand
Yippee – real bread and you made it from scratch (sort of)!
In good health,
Saturday, January 26th, 2008
Remember that tracking contest I had a couple of weeks ago? The little pine marten tracks on my Mary Jane ski post? Well, Janine’s mystery husband guessed right and won the prize. I thought I better show you what he won, so you’d know I followed through on my offer. Hope this techy base layer is keeping the phantom husband/contest winner warm in the Colorado high country!
The next contest and prize will be gluten-free food related since that’s what this blog is all about (with variations), so stay tuned.
Stay warm and healthy!
Thursday, January 24th, 2008
This is the second installment in a nutty series I launched a couple of days ago. I’ll start today with the basic walnut and follow up with two more exotic choices.
I love nuts – they’re a perfect addition to healthy food choices and walnuts are one of my favorites. They’re full of good protein and fats, vitamin E, and magnesium. A great source of vegetarian omega-3 fatty acids, studies show walnuts aid cognitive function, promote cardiovascular health, and have anti-inflammatory properties. Who doesn’t need a boost in all those areas? Walnuts are rich in the essential amino-acid l-arginine, which may help lower blood pressure. They also contain a antioxidant called ellagic acid which supports healthy immune function.
Although available year round, walnuts are harvested in the winter. Because of the high fat content in nuts, they should be used quickly or stored in the refrigerator – and eaten in moderation as they’re also high in calories.
Add walnuts to granolas, hot cereals, rice, salads, baked goods, pie crusts, or trail mix. Walnut oil also makes for rich and tasty salad dressings.
walnut hummus wraps
what you need
1 can drained chickpeas
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (omit if you don’t have them)
2/3 cups chopped walnuts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
sea salt to taste
large leaves of Romaine lettuce or Napa cabbage (washed and dried)
what you do
With the back of a fork, mash the chickpeas in small bowl. Stir in walnuts and sesame seeds. Whisk together the oil, lemon, garlic and salt. Combine the chickpea mix with the dressing and chill for an hour or more. Fill crisp lettuce or cabbage leaves with mixture and serve immediately.
* This recipe is a variation of one from Bryanna’s Vegan Feast ideas.
According to our friends at Wikipedia, pistachio trees have been around for about 80 million years. Eighty million – how do they know that? They also say that pistachios aren’t nuts in a botanical sense, but are in a culinary sense. Hmmm?
Okay – on to the nutrition part, which is what we really need to know about anyway. Although I must admit, I might throw out that 80 million year thing next time I’m snacking on pistachios at a party. Does that sound like you’re smart, or just esoterically strange?
Shelled pistachios are sweet and earthy-green in color. The green color is natural and comes from the chlorophyll in the nut. Don’t eat dyed-red pistachios – what is that all about? Pistachios aren’t red, they’re pale beige with a meaty-green hue to them. Whoever decided they should be red must not be aware that they’ve existed just fine in that drab natural color for the past 80 million years. Geez, why mess with a good thing at this point?
And get this, one ounce (just one) of pistachio nuts contain as much fiber as an apple and more than that in a half-cup of spinach. They’re also high in vitamin B-6, thiamin, phosphorus, and magnesium. Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Like the rest of the nuts, they’re high in fat so they go rancid quickly. High in fat also means high in calories, so go easy on the nuts.
Now – what are these little gems?
If you guessed hazelnuts or filberts (be honest), you’re right. Filbert is hazel’s domestic partner. They’re similar, hang out together, and depending on where they’re grown, are called one or the other. I’ll spare you the details as it gets a bit convoluted, but trust me, they’re the same nut. I love hazelnut flour for baking* and who doesn’t like hazelnut chocolate truffles? Or Nutella, one of my favorite backpacking staples. Nutella isn’t the most nutritious product around, so I’m really not advocating it, but it does serve its purpose out on the trail.
Speaking of backpacking and Nutella, here’s another riveting fact you can throw out at your next social event. The number of jars of Nutella produced in 1 day stacked up equals almost 25 times the height of Mt. McKinley. Oh my gosh – who is eating all this stuff?
Back to the healthy version, which is the source and that’s always best. Hazelnuts are high in thiamine and vitamin B-6, as well as other B vitamins. Like the rest of the nut family, they’re high in fat (not bad fat though), so store in the refrigerator.
* Hazelnut meal/flour is naturally gluten-free, has a sweet, nutty flavor that I love, and adds richness to baked goods. It’s also low in carbohydrates and high in fiber and protein. It’s a great ingredient for GF pie crusts. Substitute 20 – 25% hazelnut flour in your recipe. Yum!
Okay, that’s enough nut talk for today. Part 3 in this nutty series will follow.
In good health,
Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008
Nuts are a mainstay in my diet. I love them for lots of reasons, one being how versatile they are. I throw them in salads; blend them up to make nut butters and energy bars; use them to make granola and trail mix; add them to rice dishes; bake with them in the form of nut flours and meals; eat them by the handful; and on an on. There’s no limit when it comes to creative ways to use nuts in recipes. That’s what’s so great about cooking and baking – you get to make things up, color outside the lines, have fun, and not follow directions.
I’m going to provide you with a launching pad of information and some ideas about nuts. This post is part 1 in a nutty series.
Okay, what are these little gems?
If you guessed macadamia nuts, you’re right. Macadamias are large, spreading evergreen trees native to the rain forests of Australia. They were introduced to Hawaii and California in the 1880s and two of the original trees are still standing on the Berkeley campus of the University of California.
According to a 2003 study sited in The Journal of Nutrition, macadamia nuts, despite their high level of fat, favorably modified lipid profiles in men with high cholesterol levels. Organic macadamia nut oil offers a healthy one-to-one omega-3/omega-6 fatty acid ratio, has a higher smoking point than olive oil, is incredibly versatile, and tastes pretty yummy drizzled on fish, veggies, or salads. The chopped nuts taste great in baked goods, homemade trail mix, and tossed into spinach salads. It also makes for a nice (although rather expensive) moisturizing oil.
I love pecans – must be that sweet tooth of mine. I add them to my granola, put them in cookies, use them in my apple pecan cheesecake, and mix them into salads. They’re sweet and rich, but aren’t at the top of my nutritional profile list. They have a relatively high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids – the other way around is much better. They’re also high in calories.
On the other hand, they’re low in sodium and cholesterol. Plus they’re rich in manganese, which helps maintain normal blood sugar levels, promotes healthy thyroid function, and aids in keeping bones strong and healthy.
These are Brazil nuts and despite their name, the largest exporter of the nuts is Bolivia and not Brazil. The tree is huge, reaching 100 to 150 feet tall with a trunk diameter of 3 to 6.5 feet. It’s one of the largest trees in the Amazon rain forest, which I find fascinating. These trees often live for more than 500 years and can even reach 1,000 years old if conditions are right. Isn’t that cool?!
According to Wikipedia, Brazil nuts are harvested from wild collection rather than from plantations. This model is being advanced as a sustainable way of generating income from the rain forest without destroying it.
Brazil nuts are high in saturated fat and can be substituted for macadamia nuts in many recipes. They’re also commonly used in fruitcakes or pressed for oil. Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, magnesium, and thiamine. Some studies suggest selenium is protective against prostate cancer.
Shelled nuts that contain a lot of fat, like macadamias and Brazil nuts, become rancid fairly quickly, so store them in the refrigerator.
Friday, January 18th, 2008
place: Taos, New Mexico
date: January 18th – 21st
Enjoy your weekend. I’ll be enjoying mine!
In good health,
Wednesday, January 16th, 2008
At the end of this recipe, I have some links for new information on celiac disease and health.
what you need
1 pound ground bison
1 – 2 cans red kidney beans or pinto beans (or 1 of each)
1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles (14.5 ounce can) *
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 – 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small jalapeno, finely diced (none or less if you don’t like spicey)
1 can tomato sauce (pasta sauce or pizza sauce also works) *
1 tablespoon chili powder *
salt to taste
dash cayenne pepper or other seasonings *
toppings (so people can pick and choose)
grated cheese (colby/monterey jack), chopped lettuce, chopped avocado, sour cream (whatever toppings you want) *
what you do
1. In a large skillet, saute chopped onion, minced garlic, and ground bison in oil. If your skillet is big enough, you can add the other ingredients to that pan, if not transfer to a bigger pot.
2. Add the other ingredients (except the beans), cover and simmer on low heat for 1 – 2 hours, adding a little water if needed. You don’t want things sticking to the bottom of the pan.
3. Add the beans, let them heat through.
4. Serve with gluten-free corn bread.
* I like to use Muir Glen Organic fire roasted diced tomatoes with medium green chiles. Depending on what I have in the freezer, I sometimes use my own roasted, peeled, and frozen green chiles. I also use the 14.5 ounce can of Muir Glen Organic pizza/pasta sauce. This recipes is a guideline, nothing you need to adhere to. Be creative.
* I use Santa Fe Seasons Six Seasonings and Chile Blend in my chili con carne (probably about a tablespoon or more of the Chile Blend and a teaspoon of the Six Seasonings – I love these spices and use them in lots of soups and stews). Last I checked, I was told they were GF, but things change, so you might want to check with manufacturers before ordering any spices or herb blends.
* I don’t like sour cream, but some people do, so I like to make up a variety of toppings depending on what I have on hand so people can do their own thing. It makes it more fun!
before . . .
after . . .
what you do
Follow package directions, this is about as easy as it gets and it’s wonderful GF cornbread. Choose your own version of milk and butter (I make mine dairy-free). Make sure all the ingredients you use are at room temperature, it’s not necessary, but it works much better that way. Use a cast iron skillet if you have one – that’s how corn bread should be made. At least in my mind; that’s how my grandmother and mother made it, so what choice do I have, but to follow tradition? Note that I decorate (isn’t that lovely) my own personal butter containers so I don’t get wheat cooties from other people double dipping.
(news alerts below)
Celiac patient opens Albany cafe with gluten-free options (Times Union; Albany, NY, 1/10)
Broccoli packed with digestive benefits
Researchers link enzyme to new treatment options for celiac disease
Monday, January 14th, 2008
Surprise – this post isn’t about food, nutrition, recipes, or gluten-free living. But it is about health and well-being. Skiing, hiking, climbing, and wandering the backcountry are just as nourishing to me as a warm bowl of homemade soup. The solitude, peace, and beauty of the wilderness energizes my spirit and calms my soul. I’m a gemini, so you can look at this blog as dual-natured and a bit contradictory. Gluten-free Betty Crocker meets wilderness woman.
Those of you searching for a nice gluten-free bread recipe might want to skip the rest of this post and go directly to my archives file. Or, sit back and enjoy a little glimpse of winter in Colorado’s high country. To get a perspective on this post, refer to my “high country hello and tracking contest” post from last week.
So, what do you guys think? Here is my original photo again, followed by animal tracking information from the Colorado Division of Wildlife. If you’re wondering how this connects to gluten-free living, none of these animals eat wheat, barley, or rye. Not naturally anyway. I’m referring to a species-spanning version of the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon rule to tie this into gluten-free food. Yeah, I know – it’s a leap.
The question was – What little critter made these tracks? Comment suggestions were snowshoe hare, cotton tail rabbit, or pine marten.
Check out my ski pole grip compared to the tracks. The tracks were small and went from the base of one pine tree to the base of another, which most likely indicates a squirrel, although it could have been a pine marten.
The illustration below shows the tracks left by a snowshoe hare, running through the snow. According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, mice, rabbits, hares, and squirrels are hoppers, meaning they over-step their front feet with their back feet (think leapfrog), leaving distinct front and rear foot tracks. The back feet are often much larger than the front feet (see below). Although cottontail rabbits and showshoe hare tracks are quite common in the Colorado mountains in winter, the photo I took was not of rabbit or hare tracks since the foot sizes from front to back were so similar. Hares have much larger back feet (6 inches or more). Mice tracks (also hoppers) are often accompanied by a drag line down the middle, left by the tail.
The tracks shown below are from a pine marten. It’s hard to tell from this picture, but they do look a lot like the photo I took. The thing I question is the distance between the front and back tracks. My photo shows them closer together. Pine martens and short-tailed weasels (also called ermine) are bounders.
My guess is that the little guy (or girl) was a squirrel, possibly an Abert or pine squirrel, but since I’m not absolutely sure, the closest (and maybe correct) answer is pine marten and that would be Janine’s behind-the-scenes husband’s answer (say that fast 3 times).
* Janine, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you a prize, small as it may be.
So, the moral to this story is – we can find nourishment in many different ways, so get outside and enjoy the fresh air and vibrancy of nature. Yum!
In good health,
Sunday, January 13th, 2008
Good soups make for wonderful comfort food, so in honor of National Soup Month (January),
I thought I’d start from the very beginning with tips on how to make homemade stock. It’s so much better than the canned stuff and makes for a great launching pad for all kinds recipes. You can use it instead of oil or butter for sauteing veggies or in place of water when cooking rice or other grains. Plus, you don’t have to feel guilty about throwing away scraps of food. You’re recycling and can give yourself a few points for being green.
There’s also no reason to buy those weird little compressed cubes or tiny granules made from unknown ingredients. I checked several instant bouillon products and found most had at least 15 to 20 different things (seriously, unknown things) listed on the label, some which may contain gluten. The number one ingredient was usually salt, then on to sugar and hydrolyzed corn protein. After that, many of the ingredients had chemical names. If you can’t read the label, then it’s probably not real food. Why do we need 20 different substances to make a microscopic granule of broth? Especially when most of us toss perfectly good stock ingredients down the garbage disposal.
And don’t worry, you won’t be slaving away at the stove brewing things up for hours. It’s very easy and can even be part of your clean-up routine if you’ve just roasted a chicken. I don’t have a recipe, but here are the basics. Be creative and use what you have on hand.
First, check out my “garbage” jar I keep in the fridge. Nice and colorful, isn’t it? There are a few beet greens (don’t overdo it on the beets or you’ll have pink stock); the peelings and ends of carrots; the ends of leeks and onions; some mushroom stems; the little leaves from a head of cauliflower; peelings from zucchini; a couple of questionable tomatoes; a half of a raw sweet potato that was somehow never used; a few wilted spinach leaves; the moderately funky ends of some celery; a few spiders and a lizard tail.
Anyway, you get the picture – it’s a great way to use up the marginal veggies in your fridge. Add a handful of dried mushrooms and some herbs to the mix and it will really kick up the flavor.
what you do
Put assorted veggies in a large, deep stock pot. The pot should be about half-full with veggies. Add some garlic, fresh or dried herbs (parsley, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, a couple of bay leaves), salt, 2-4 whole black peppercorns, a chopped shallot, and some dried mushrooms, which aren’t necessary, but they sure add a nice earthy flavor and substance to the stock. If I’m in the mood for a little zip to it, I add some chili powder, chopped jalapeno, or red pepper flakes. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil, turn heat down, put a lid on it, and simmer for about 1 or 2 hours. Cool and strain. Vegetable stock will keep in the fridge for about 5 days and in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.
what you do
This doesn’t look all that appetizing in this form, but once it’s strained and the fat is skimmed off, it’s wonderful – much better than the store-bought version. Take the carcass from your roasting chicken, put it in a large pot and add 3 or 4 garlic cloves; several whole black peppercorns; a handful of herbs (parsley, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves); some celery, onions, and carrots if you have any; and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 1 to 3 hours. Skim the fat off and strain. Store in the fridge for 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.
Use either of these stocks for a variety of different soups. All you need is 5 or 6 cups of the broth; some sauteed garlic, shallots, or onions; a variety of veggies; some fresh herbs; sea salt and ground pepper; potatoes or GF pasta; and some chicken or meat if you’d like.
In a large pot (like the one above), melt a couple of tablespoons of butter (or use olive oil) and saute the garlic and onions. Add the stock and other veggies. Bring to a boil, lower the temp and simmer until veggies are tender. Season as you like.
* Tinkyada gluten free pasta products don’t turn mushy. They have a variety of different brown rice or veggie pastas; all are certified Kosher, many are organic, and all of them are good!
Enjoy! And take part in National Soup Month, not that I have any idea what that means in the big picture, but at least it might give you incentive to brew up some, good, healthy soups.
In good health,
Monday, January 7th, 2008
Hello from way UP yonder in Colorado.
In my 2008 New Year’s Day post I used the word intentions rather than resolutions and movement rather than exercise. One of my intentions is to be more active, spend more time outside, have more fun. I’ve spent too many hours sitting at my desk the past year and don’t want to repeat that in 2008 – I say as I sit smack-dab in front of my computer. Right now maybe, but Friday I was at Mary Jane Ski Area (Winter Park) having a great time following through on my intention. There’s nothing like blue skies, fresh powder, and a little altitude to elevate your mood, no pun intended.
By the way, Mary Jane Ski Area was named after a real Mary Jane who had a thriving business going during the 1800s. Mary Jane lived in a little town called Arrow, which is now the base of the ski area. She was a lady of the evening and provided “friendship” to the miners, rail yard workers, and loggers during those long, cold, snowy winters the Colorado high country is famous for. She definitely understood the economics of supply and demand.
(All you Jim Bridger’s out there can scroll down for the tracking contest.)
Mary Jane’s Panorama Express lift is the highest 6-person lift in North America (called a six-pack lift). It’s also powered by 100% wind energy credits which is pretty cool.
This is a view of the continental divide from the top of the aptly named Panorama Express, which gives access to over 1,000 acres of skiable terrain. Yippee! The peak on the left is James Peak and on the right is Parry Peak. I’ve climbed James many times (even in winter), but not Parry. I’ll put that on my intentions list.
This sign sits at 12,060 feet. Fifty degree or greater pitch? Cliffs, rocks, and hazards? No hot chocolate with marshmallows? I’ll have to think about it.
Whew . . . I mean, oh, darn.
Just in case.
Name these tracks and I’ll send you a lovely door prize. Seriously, I’m not kidding. You might win something good – something that has to do with the great outdoors. Well? Give it a shot.
One more view. Sorry I don’t have a better camera. Or photographic skills for that matter. Hopefully this National Geographic shot will give you enough information to guess which little high country critter left these tracks.
Peace to you in 2008!
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should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.