Brown-bagging it! (Link Love)

I’ve less than a week until my summer job starts, which means going up to school everyday. (Hurray friends as coworkers! Boo, eating up my gas budget.)  It also means  bag lunches, lest I spend all my paychecks on fast food.  Not as satisfying and certainly not as healthy.  I’ve begun planning (porkbutt in the crockpot one busy Sunday can last for lunches all week-pulled pork sandwiches, pupusas, carnitas, chili) and stocking up (my freezer is packed!)  Another week, I’m planning on a big batch of fried rice, so I spent yesterday fiddling with my potstickers recipes.  I’m a sucker for Asian food, especially dumplings, and recently found  http://www.asiandumplingtips.com/.  Its like heaven in a website.  Best of all, they’ve organized their recipes to include a gluten-free section.  I’ve been searching for authentic asian recipes for a while, knowing that many foods are already made without wheat ingredients, without needing any tampering and changing.

It was here that I found Bahn Xep Chay Dumplings.  I much prefer meat in my dumplings, but the dough looked promising.  Look at that picture!  Smooth, cohesive dough without any gluten?  I was beginning to think it was impossible.  But this dough worked perfectly, with the oil keeping it from being to sticky, it really did look and feel like playdough.   I used Kate Chan’s filling recipe from my last batch of potstickers and the flavors were lively and delicious against the dough’s simple background.  Once I learned the tricks for keeping the dough from cracking it was easy enough.

Bahn Xep Dough Tricks:

  • Always keep dough and finished dumplings under a damp papertowel
  • -Press these with a circular stamp or a tortilla press in between wax paper–I used one long strip folded in half over the dough.  **And, before I pressed the nub of dough flat, I ran wet fingertips over the surface, this was just enough water to keep to dough pliable.
  • -Release both sides of the dough from the wax paper before added the filling–pull the paper from one side, then flip the circle over (still on the wax paper) and pull the paper from that side as well.
  • -Place the filling just off of center in the circle, and then fold the dumpling together, pressing the edges together while still between the wax paper.  This helps fight against the cracking.
  • -While these won’t hold up to boiling, I dunked each dumpling individually into a pot of water before placing it in the steamer.  Make sure they don’t touch each other!   I prefer crispy dumplings, so I fried them up in a frying pan with a touch of canola oil after steaming.
  • -I fried the entire batch of dumplings before freezing, because I didn’t want the dumplings to stick together.

Prep for Potstickers.

I also tried my hand at Nicole Hunn’s Won Ton Wrappers.  I used my whole grain mix (quinoa, millet, sorghum, brown rice, oat, and corn flours + various starches, at the moment).  While I froze most to be used later, I still had a little dumpling filling left over, so I filled one or two of the wrappers and cooked those up (these stood up to boiling, then frying).  While still good, I don’t think whole-grain potstickers will be a fad catching on anytime soon.  Some inherent part of potsticker delight is biting into that slightly soft, doughy wrapping.  Even so, I could tell that these wrappers have great promise for raviolis (somehow, the wholegrain is more acceptable with Italian fillings) and egg rolls!  I can’t wait to wrap up a few of those. Not to mention all the lovely little quiche cups and sorts of fillings I can bake up in these.

In the meantime, I’ll keep stocking up for lunches for the next month.  I might get a few odd looks pulling rhubarb out of my lunchbag, but delicious lunches are well worth it!

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Summer Discoveries

Here is why I really came to post today, before I realized that it had been far too long and wrote up a catch up post as an excuse to dump all the photos off my phone.

But I meant to share my discovery, very exciting, entirely accidental, and rather delicious.  In the past few years, our backyard has…gone to seed.  When the kids of the house grew old enough to stray first from the sandbox, then the playground, and finally the trampoline, we kind of let wilderness take over the back corners, and only mowed once in a blue moon.  So it was much to my surprise when I looked out the kitchen window and saw something red.  Familiar red.  I traipsed out through the wild grass to the bush that had taken over underneath our dogwood tree.  And I found raspberries.

Small, but lovely little raspberries fringing the outermost stalks of the bush.  Cropping up out of the wilderness corner entirely on their own.  We never planted raspberries.  Neither did the nearest neighbors.  But in a blink, I was back through the years of my childhood, when family friends kept raspberry bushes in tall, tidy rows on their land.  Each child would be handed a little cardboard carton and we would all go out to strip the ripe fruit from the branches, filling the cartons, and stopping to visit the spaniels on the run line before returning indoors to the adults, trading the berries (what wasn’t already eaten) for one treat or another.

Granted, out little bush isn’t much…

 

A tidy handful was all I managed, taking the ripe fruit, and there was perhaps half as many berries not yet ripe on the bush.  I spotted a few completely closed pods, so maybe we’ll get some more fruit in a week or so, but my curiosity-driven research found that only second-year-and-older stalks actually produce berries, and, as this is the first year anyone has noticed the fruit, my guess would be that we have a young plant.

I’m curious if I could root some clippings, and perhaps cut back a little wilderness to foster the growth of more berry bushes.  There’s a project to look into.  For now, I’ll watch for the rest of the berries.  There won’t be enough to make anything, but they’re sweet enough on their own!


Catching Up (Link Love)

I know, I know, it’s been weeks. I’m sorry.  I got very busy between graduations, weddings, new cars, internship applications, resumes, dead laptops, new laptops, river trips, Doctor Who, and catching up with friends, to name a few.  There was a fair amount of cooking in between, but only about half were photographed.  I need to get better at that.  I never have my camera around, though I do have my phone, so we’re settling for  poor-quality images of end products at the moment.  Usually my hands are too covered for me to stop for a snapshot.  But, here are the last few weeks, a la android phone:

My new (and first) car!  Her name is Tabitha and I love her.  And yes, I went through all of college without a car.  It was barely possible and generally depressing.  No more, though!

I painted a bench to look like bricks. In the middle of a June afternoon.  Talk about alumni spirit…(though the bench is pretty epic, I must say).

My mother and brother drove down to North Carolina to look at his college, and came back with more flours than I could imagine!  It was all very exciting! (And if you look in the  upper corner, there are my new copies of Shauna Ahern’s and Karen Morgan’s cookbooks, courtesy of friend who tried giving up gluten, only to later find she was lactose-intolerant.  She kindly handed off the cookbooks to me and I’ve been ravenously reading ever since.)

Mexican for dinner: Chicken Enchiladas made from the recipe on the back of the Philidelphia Cooking Creme-Santa Fe Style.  This recipe was fantastic!  (And yes, these cremes are gluten-free!)  Absolutely delicious and really easy to put together.  Of course, I used corn tortillas instead of flour, but just by layering two (think Venn diagrams), they wrapped around the filling.  Also my sister’s Two Bean Salad which is incredibly simple.  Sometime, I’ll post the recipe, which is barely a recipe, as its all pretty much to taste.  This salad is great by itself, but it makes a large batch and we use it throughout the rest of the week on tacos or rice; I’ve even cooked some into an omelet.  The final bowl is queso, from a recipe that was not a favorite.  I won’t be making it again.

Baked eggs with smoked gouda and tarragon and GF bread.  Its one of the first recipes in Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: simple, comforting, and most importantly, in my book: an egg dish!  I love eggs with an unhealthy passion.  While I lived on campus, all of our late-night food options made a weak attempt at diner fare with burgers, pizza, and breakfast dishes, and all I ever ordered was eggs.  I can and will eat eggs at anytime of day or night, and am always looking for new ways to cook them.

Blueberry pancakes.  These were made with GF Bisquik, which makes the most phenomenal pancakes. I like them better than any traditional wheat pancake.  I followed the recipe on the back of the box and dropped in a handful of blueberry right before I flipped the cakes, while the top batter was still soft.

Twice Baked Potatoes.  I could easily live off these.  I even cheated and microwaved them for the first part, so, they probably took about 30 minutes total to throw together.  I mixed sour cream, a dollop of cream cheese (would have been amazing with chive, but regular worked fine), bacon, shredded monteray-jack cheese, salt & pepper with the mashed potato innards before scooping it all back into the potato skins.  Sprinkled with more cheese and chopped green onions and popped them into a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, until everything is bubbly.

The complete (heart-attack) dinner.  We had bacon nearing its expiration, so I was looking for ways to use it up.  Needing to go to the market gave me the sausages (it was that or porkbutt and I did not have that much time).  I’ve been on an asparagus kick lately (seriously, its probably my favorite vegetable these days), and had never tried the bacon-asparagus combo.

I don’t know how I lived before this.

Seriously.

I’ve been wrapping up a single bunch for breakfast, frying it in a pan on the stove and topping it with eggs.  I’ve had it three days in a row.  I might have a problem.  But anyways, the rest of the dinner was rounded out by the leftovers of the bean salad.  Altogether, probably not the healthiest of dinners, but absolutely delicious nonetheless.

Nutella Brownies!  I’ve posted the recipe previously, but let me reiterate: these are perfect!  And, best of all, an entire batch only makes 12 mini muffin cups-worth, so if you have no self-control (like me), you don’t have much chance of going entriely out of control.  Even in a household of 3, you can only snatch a few of these bites before they are gone.

 And here begins my one and only attempt in the past three weeks to document the process of baking, like a proper foodblogger (I won’t start on my feelings of proper/improper food-blogging.  That’ll get its own post one day.)

Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cupcakes from The Blackbird Bakery Cookbook.  Ingredients for the cupcakes themselves.  I forgot to take a picture of the frosting ingredients.  Strike one.

Then I only remembered to take a picture right before I stuck ’em in the oven. Strike two.

And skipped over the frosting making and process entirely.  Strike three.  Ah well, who cares?  They got made and that’s all that matters.   To be honest, the cakes themselves were a tad too dry, though the peanut butter frosting can and will be my sustenance for the rest of my days.  Seriously.  What’s better than peanut butter icing?  Anyways, I kept these in the fridge to keep them fresh, and liked them so much better when cold.  The temperature seemed to excuse the dry cake, and made the PB frosting the texture of fudge.  So good.  Speaking of fudge, I should put up my recipe for 5-minute, 3-ingredient, no-work fudge.  Now that one is to die for…

Berry cobbler!  We had blueberries that were on the brink of spoiling, and strawberries up to our ears, so I chopped them up, macerated for a minute or two in lemon juice and a sprinkle of sugar, and topped with oatmeal crumble topping.  It was especially exciting, because instead of the gluten-filled AP flour in the recipe, I could use oat flour!  (And tapioca starch, to balance things out.)  I’m not sure why, but the ability for pure flavor like that makes me giddy.  And it was amazing.  I pulled it golden and bubbly from the oven and remembered that I had leftover heavy cream from the cupcakes.  Thank you, Magic Bullet Blender–I had whipped cream in seconds.  Which melted entirely when it hit the hot crumble, but boy was it delicious.

And finally, I made Graham Crackers. It’s summer and I wanted s’mores, darn it!  How hard is it to stock GF graham crackers next to the nut-thins and chocolate wafers?  I’ve seen GF grahams, I know they exist.  I used them in the GF version of my mom’s twix bars last Christmas.  But, despite several shopping trips to several stores, I had no luck.  So I stopped whining, put on my big girl pants, and made my own.  And they were good.  Just barely soft, but crunchy, lightly touched with cinnamon and honey. And absolutely perfect for s’mores.  In fact, making these led to meeting up with friends and a fire pit, which led to a weekend filled with s’mores, hammocks, good conversations, river trips, and movies under the stars.  Amazing what one little recipe can start… 🙂


Leftover Round-up: Fried Rice

Last night was a leftover meal.  With a little over a week and a half home, and my constant cooking, the fridge has been filling up with bits of this and that and Tupperware.  I’ve tried to keep using the leftovers for lunch the next day, but a few stubborn containers have been leering at me whenever I open the door.  As mentioned yesterday, I’m fairly addicted to our dumplings, despite the flaws, so we continued with the Asian theme.

Steak Fried Rice, Gluten-Free Chicken Potstickers, Homemade Dipping Sauce

Fried Rice

Leftovers:

  • 1/2 lb. finely diced Steak (Memorial Day grilling) (*can replace with mushrooms/veggies/tofu/etc, anything on hand)
  • 4 stalks chopped Green Onions (Starting to wilt)
  • 1/2 c. chopped Sugar Snap Peas (Just about expired)
  • 2 minced Garlic cloves (drying out a bit)
  • 2 lg chopped Carrots (dry as well)

Other ingredients:

  • 3 c. cooked Brown Rice
  • 1 med. chopped Onion
  • 2 tsp. Canola Oil
  • 1 tsp. Sesame Oil (optional)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. Ginger (didn’t have fresh root on hand, so I just used the ground spice)
  • 1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. Sesame Seeds
  • Salt & Pepper

I really got the hang of fried rice when I accepted what it was–leftovers.  Traditionally, the dish is made with day-old rice and whatever bits of veggies and meats are left over from previous meals–ham from breakfast, the veg that didn’t quite get eaten at yesterday’s dinner, the one unused egg.  The day-old, cold rice is the trick: fresh rice will stick together and won’t fry up crisply in the oil.  Also, don’t overload on the veggies–too many will turn your rice soggy.  Even though it means a bit more clean-up, I relay the cooking of the ingredients, removing each after cooking until mixing them all together in the final step.  This also helps with overcrowding the pan (especially when you are wok-less, after your brother’s friend used a sharp spatula to mix in it and scraped off the nonstick surface).  This dish is especially easy, as you don’t really have to measure any of the ingredients.  I’ve made mine by eye and been quite happy every time.

So, last night, I allowed our largest frying pan to heat, added about a teaspoon of oil and added the last chopped quarter of a white onion and two cloves of mince garlic.  I sauteed these for about two minutes, until fragrant and the onion had turned translucent, the edges just beginning to turn color.    Into the pan, I added a handful of chopped baby carrots, the sliced white parts of 3 green onions (I reserved the green portion for later), and the remains of our sugar snap peas, chopped (a little more than a handful).

I continued to sauté this mix until the veggies were warmed through, but still crisp, and seasoned with the spices (salt, black pepper, ginger, cayenne).  Then I cleared the whole mix into another bowl off the heat to wait. I had enough oil remaining in the pan to just throw in my chopped steak.  It was maybe about 1/2 lb, all together, leftover from Memorial Day.  We served it topped with blue cheese butter, alongside grilled asparagus and shallots, but the steak itself had only been previously seasoned with S&P and cooked to medium.  I cooked the steak until browned and warm and added it to the Reserve Bowl with the veggies.

I added a bit more oil to the pan and scrambled 3 eggs (the favorite ingredient in our household) that had be beaten with a touch of soy sauce, sesame oil, and S&P.  After those were cooked through, into the bowl they went.

Now comes the tricky part: the rice.  As I mentioned, day-old cooked rice is best (jasmine variety), but we only had brown rice and I never, ever remember to cook rice beforehand.  Usually this meal is a standby when I’m out of ideas.  So, instead, I made the rice that afternoon, and spread it all across a jellyroll pan and put it into a 150 degrees Fahrenheit oven for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  This helped to dry the rice out as it would overnight.  I was running out of time, so I popped the whole tray into the freezer for about 20 minutes, until it was nice and cold.  If you have more time, just leave the rice in the fridge until dinner, or do it the authentic and easier way: use actual leftover rice!

Anyways, one way or another, I had my rice.  I added sesame oil to the pan this time, as I love the flavor, but more canola or vegetable oil would work just fine.  I made sure the entire pan had been coated with the oil, gave it a minute to heat up, and then added my rice, stirring quickly to get every  grain coated with the oil.  Then I let the rice sit for one-two minute intervals, to allow a bit more frying.  I  did several of these “intervals”, stirring so the rice on top had a chance to fry.  Then I added soy sauce (I’ve found La Choy and Target’s store brands to be wheat-free) until it looked about the right color and stirred until all the rice was coated.  Another one or two frying “intervals” let the soy sauce caramelize and gave me the chance to season again with the spices (ginger, cayenne, S&P).

My veggies, eggs, and meat were still warm (and I didn’t have anymore room in my pan) so I transfer the rice to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mixed it all up.  If you have the room, transfer all ingredients back to the pan, and allow to reheat for a minute or two while you mix everything together.  At this point, I stirred in the sliced green portion of the green onions, and a spoonful or two of sesame seeds.

This fried rice was served with a couple of dumplings (pre-made and frozen the day before) and a homemade dipping sauce (soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, cayenne, S&P–all mixed to taste).  It was a delicious, easy meal: excluding my rice catch-up-manouver, the whole process took about 30 minutes from chopping to sitting down at the dinner table.  The fried rice was lovely, not sticky, but not too dry, and the steak worked especially well with all of the other flavors.

Easy, delicious, and it clears out the leftovers!


Baking Break-throughs (Link Love)

I spent yesterday evening with my lovely friend A, working on a recipe I’ve been wanting to try for weeks.  I’m slowly building up my base of flours and starches–not enough to try any basic mix yet, but I now have white rice flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, and corn starch, in addition to some store-bought GF AP mixes (Pamela’s, Bisquik, etc).  Fiddling with the ratio of egg to flour and adding rice flour to my mother’s gluten-full popover recipe led to the best end-result yet, though I have many more modifocations to make before I’m truly happy.  But today was a huge step in the right direction!  Mom approved, and even likes the extra bit of chew in the GF version compared to her usual recipes.  Its starting to feel like I’m understanding the interplay of flours and starches a little bit more, which is a welcome alternative to staring dazedly down at all of the little bags of white stuff.

Rice flour popovers 

Still, while I’m happy to find I have fairly easy access to these flours and starches (and I haven’t even visited the local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, yet!), I still need to find the balance in consumption/use to expense.  I can’t afford to buy new packages of flours every week.  Thankfully, being back home (and sharing a kitchen and food with family, rather than 5 roommates each buying their own food and promptly forgetting about it in the cramped recesses of our fridge) means I have much better access to fresh and varied produce and meats, with less strain on my budget and less fear of the food spoiling.  I’m far less reliant on starches than I was at school, where the mediocre meals had to been rounded out by rice, or more commonly found, potatoes, to actually feel substantial.

A few weeks before graduation, I stumbled across Kate Chan of Gluten Free Gobsmacked’s recipe for Chicken Potstickers.  I’ve been holding off as I tracked down all of the ingredients, but A and I both needed a distraction, so last night, we set to work.  I was a little intimidated, having never made pasta dough (with or without gluten), much less a filled, gluten-free pasta.  And though we were initially skeptical about the small quantities of ingredients going into the filling, it turned out to be more than enough.  In fact, we ran out of dough before running out of filling, and fried up a couple “meatballs” to finish off the chicken mixture.  With our inexperience, I’m quite pleased with how they came out.  We should have rolled the dough a tad thinner, and cut bigger circles, but we ended up with well over 40 miniature dumplings and an encouraging feeling of success.  I was further surprised at how much the dough puffed as it boiled, our little minis were nearly full-sized when cooked through and crisped.

Frying Chicken Potstickers 

Mom and the Brother were at work during this adventure, so I’ve used that as an excuse to pull out a batch for dinner tonight, along with some quick fried rice to use up leftover steak and veggies.  We’ll see what they’re opinions are, but, at the very least, I’m ecstatic.  I’ll admit, asian dumplings and pizza (okay, and Bagel Bites–I did survive 3 years of college before my diagnosis) have been my most missed foods. Between these darlings and Shirley at Gluten Free Easily’s recipe for Flourless Pizza, I’ve been deliciously satisfied!

Flourless pizza with sausage & tomatoes