Category Archives: Recipes/Tips

Warmer Bugs

As the temperature has begun to increase recently, the various trees and insects have started to bloom and buzz. I happen to like most little creepy crawlies, but the rash of very animated Stink Bugs  that have decided to burst out of hiding with great joy are somewhat less than joyful to me.

Also a big kill-joy is the rate at which the overly zealous trees are polluting my air with pollen. I know the survival of their respective species depends entirely on filling the atmosphere with high levels of potential offspring, but the effort, in my humble, non-tree-life-form opinion, could still be effective with a little less output. That said, I am attempting to cope with “Seasonal Allergies”. I need some help to fight back… will you aid my cause?

I would like to find a food based attack plan, and my current remedy attempts include:

Increased Vitamin C (from supplements, so not really a food)

Adding Tumeric (in fairly large amounts) to food during cooking

Eating Parsley, which could help with detoxifying the body

Tried eating local raw honey, but hasn’t seemed to help

I would love some more ideas, so please leave me a comment!

-sn

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Can the impending zombie apocalypse makes for good eating habits today?

   I’m surrounded by science geeks. I know this, because every once in a while I see a coworker wearing a lab coat. Of course, I probably don’t need the visual confirmation, since I have the pleasure of overhearing conversations in the lunch room that go like this:
 
  Normal person 1:    “Would you like one of my sodas?”
  Normal person 2:    “No, I stay away from caffeine. Sodas are not very good for you anyway.”
  Normal person 1:    “Yeah they might take years off your life, but I figure it’s best to live while you’re young.”
  Normal person 2:    “And there’s always the zombie apocalypse.” Normal person 2 is now Geek 2
  Normal person 1:    “That’s true, it could happen any day. How does not drinking soda help?” Normal person 1 = Geek 1.
  Geek 2:    “Well, the first 48 hours are critical. I want to be able to stay alert and awake, which will be a lot harder if my
  body is already used to caffeine. So, if I avoid caffeine for now, I’ll be in better shape when the zombies come.”
  Geek 1:    “Ah, that makes sense!”
 
   So, at least in this case, one positive outcome of the impending zombie apocalypse is good nutrition decisions. It remains to be seen if this kind of good sense will catch on, but we can always hope. Maybe I could start a rumor about soaked dried nuts being a good emergency food to have on hand…

Gluten free chicken pie

According to legendary chefs, making the perfect pot pie starts with Stromboli. Or at least that’s what I would say, though perhaps I am not yet a legend. There is a slightly epic story behind my assertion, however. And this is how it goes…

Once upon a time there was a Beautiful Maiden (my lovely wife), who pined for a Stromboli (that part is true, so she looked up a recipe online), and enlisted the service of her faithful companion (that’s me) to fullfill her destiny (or at least fill their stomachs).

The result of her quest revealed the Holy Grail– a gluten free Stromboli crust! (I’m actually not exaggerating here, it’s really good!) But if this fairy tale ended here, only part of the story would be told.

The happy couple looked upon the Stromboli they had made, and thought ‘This dough might perhaps be formed into the crust for a pie, being so manageable and soft. Perhaps a pie of chicken?’

With this very thought before them the whole week, they assembled the great assortment of needed items (um, that’s just basic chicken pie filling: carrots, onion, potato, peas, and of course, chicken). Then, following the ancient traditions, the formed their dough and began to bake (true enough, but we really based it on the recipe found here: Gluten-free pizza crust recipe, tarte style).

The product of their labor was, well, see for yourself:

I would offer you a slice, but it was all consumed. If you are sufficiently intrigued, you can make one for yourself:

Here’s the process (we used half of the original recipe for the pie crust, it made enough for a crust and a top. My version is below):

Chicken pot pie filling/gravy (you can use your favorite grandma’s recipe instead if you like)
Ingredients:
one bunch of carrots
½ an onion
6 oz of peas (we used ½ bag of frozen peas)
3 medium potoes
2 cups of chicken (free range organic slow cooked)
2-3 teaspoons of arrowroot powder (or your favorite thickener)
1 cup of chicken broth (enough to make a slurry of the veggies)
Sea salt (to taste)

Directions:
Chop all the veggies and cook in a saucepan with the broth. Add chicken and stir in arrowroot until thick. Pour filling into crust and bake as instructed below.

Gluten free pie crust, from: Torte Style Gluten-free Pizza Crust- by Sara
Ingredients:
½ cup brown rice flour
½ cup sorghum flour
¾ cups tapioca flour
½ cup yogurt (we used cow yogurt and sheep yogurt at different times, both worked well)
1 sticks of butter (¼ pound), completely melted
1 tsp salt
½ Tbsp xanthan gum
Arrowroot powder to roll dough

This recipe makes two, 10” pie crusts, or one crust with top

Directions:

Cream the yogurt and butter together. Add the flours, xanthan gum and salt and continue to mix until well combined. This part is probably best done with a pastry cutter if available. Cover with a towel and let sit at room temperature overnight or 12-24 hours.

Scrape dough out of the bowl and pat into a ball. Cut into two pieces. Flour a counter or large cutting board with arrowroot powder. Form each half into a ball and then roll into two 10” rounds. Transfer to an oiled pie pan and then finish the edges to make the crust. Prick crusts well with a fork.

Bake pie at 300 F for 15-30 minutes until golden brown.

Note: for some pies the crust can be prebaked. for the chicken pie, we filled the crust before bakeing in order to seal the top crust over the pie.

Results:

And now the pie has become a legend.


Collards

I grew up in the south. In spite of this, I survived to adulthood without the foggiest idea of what collard greens are. So, for those of you who are as uninformed as I was, here is a brief introduction:

Collards are broad leaf-like objects constructed by angry garden gnomes out of high density rubber and aircraft grade titanium. Intended by the gnomes as personal protective shields, collards are able to survive all but the most intensive heat, and have a tough stem that is best removed before eating. Their high degree of resilience allows collards to resist the attacks of insects, disease, and photon torpedoes. Thus, they grow quite well in the south, where such things are common.

With this in mind, I can now acquaint you with the classic southern approach to eating collards… try not to taste them. Collards have an incredibly unremarkable flavor, which is characterized as bitter. In good southern style, the typical treatment is to add fat, acid, and heat to mask the less desired flavor, while drawing on the bitter edge. So, here’s the recipe:

First, remove the stem rather far up the leaf. Next, cut the leaves into strips or small pieces, chop one small onion, and set aside. In a pan large enough to contain the collards, cook several pieces of bacon until crispy, then add onion and cook until onion is mostly done. Next add some water, vinegar, and the collards and cook until collards are soft enough to eat.

Ingredients:
One bunch of collards (about 8-10 leaves)
One small onion
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (probably any kind would work ok)
3-4 strips of bacon (turkey bacon did not produced the proper effect when I tried to substitute)
Enough water to cook the collards

I’m not very specific about the water here because I’ve never measured it. You should need around a cup, but the idea is to mostly steam the collards. You don’t want to make a stew, and you are supposed to consume the liquid with the greens.

It is possible to simply steam collards and eat them as you would any other green, but the steaming process leaches out some of the nutrients you may want to keep. So, if the only green thing you find at the market this week is a few tough shards of leftover gnome defenses, try out the southern style. You might actually like it!


chili w/out tomatoes (or winter bean soup)

There is probably a hilarious coincidence behind the English word chilly (origin ~1570) and the Spanish name of the chili pepper (~1500). Nevertheless, the irony is that chili, formed by adding lots of chili pepper to meat and beans, goes well with chilly weather.

The modern American version of chili almost always contains tomatoes, a delicious fruit to which my wife is allergic. This allergy, and our combined desire for good chili, drove us to explore some tomato-less recipes. The first step in the most promising versions began with mixing several types of beans. Obviously, kidney beans were necessary, but we were surprised to find the addition of great northern, navy, and lima beans, and even various lentils.

Once we assembled a collection of beans to our liking, we soaked them overnight. Now here I must add that in a second run of this recipe we bumped our menu by one day, and the beans soaked for an additional day. This was one of our best culinary accidents yet. By soaking the beans for one day, they begin to sprout, which leaves them tasting a little ‘green’. The second day of soaking killed this taste, and made for a good flavor. Page 495 of NT indicates that beans should be soaked for ‘…a long time’, but does not indicate if more than one day would be harmful or not, so I don’t know the impact on nutrition after a two day soak.

Anyway, we then covered the beans generously in chicken broth, and simmered for awhile on low. Next we browned some ground beef with a chopped onion and chili spices. Mixing the meat into the pot with beans, we let this simmer until we were too hungry to wait, and ate it topped generously with cheddar cheese and cilantro. We probably only let this cook for 2-3 hours total, but longer would be better. Below I’ll try to give the full recipe. One note, I prefer a very un-spicy version of chili, so if you like the hot stuff, modify to your preference.

Chili (bean soup for a cold day)

1 lb. ground beef or lamb
1.5 – 2 cups of mixed beans (navy, great norther, kidney, lima, and lentils + whatever you like)
3-4 cups of chicken or beef stock
1 onion
heaps of cheddar cheese
1 clove of garlic, crushed (optional)
Fresh cilantro as garnish (optional)

Spices:
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Directions:
Soak beans for 1-2 days in water, then drain and cook on low in broth. Brown meat on medium and onion, adding spices except basil. Taste spices when meat is sufficiently cooked, make adjustments. When meat is nearly done, add basil and garlic to the beans. After the meat is seasoned correctly (defined by you), add the meat to beans and simmer on low until you think it’s done (an hour or so).

So that’s the basic approach. This makes a good (heavy) meal for a cold day, we got about 4 serving out of these amounts. You could probably make this vegetarian style by subtracting the meat and substituting for the broth.

Try it out yourself! You have plenty of winter left to go, so you have no excuse.


Whole grain flour

It is a well known fact that flour is explosive. It is also well known that anything explosive contains energy. The energy of flour is typically calculated in Calories (that’s a thousand Chemistry lab calories), and according to me is the primary nutritional goal of any flour based food (such as bread).

There are several ways to deliver this explosive to the powerful muscles requiring the energy, but the debate on methods of delivery that I have seen to date are not about the explosive at all. Instead, the discussion centers around everything except energy. Like Iron, Vitamin-B, Vitamin-E, and Fiber. With the exception of Vitamin-E found in the germ of certain grains, these nutritional goodies are found in the husk (or bran). Any grain that is sold with it’s original bran included (rather than having the bran stripped by clever machines) is called a whole grain. I definitely used to enjoy ‘white’ grains, and despise whole ones. (Not only because it’s harder to ignite whole grains, but I thought they tasted better). However, by an interesting path, I now prefer the whole grains. This path is a twisted story of the non-energetic nutritional components of grain.

On page 25 of Nourishing Traditions, an important note is made concerning the loading of whole grains into our body. A natural substance found in whole grains binds to a number of useful nutrients, like Iron, Zinc, and Calcium. Enzyme inhibitors present in whole grains also prevent absorption (digestion) of other useful things. Now, what the book doesn’t mention at this point is that energy is still largely available in these whole grains. Anyway, Nourishing Traditions goes on to deliver the punch line: we can neutralize the inhibitors! By fermenting our whole grains, the micro-organism that eat grain in the wild will destroy the inhibitors for us. Alternately, if you sprout your grain, the natural mechanism in the seed (grain) will get rid of the inhibitors. Up to this point I have not mentioned exactly what grain I am talking about. In fact, it doesn’t seem to matter. Vitamin B was discovered in the husk of rice, and the vitamin content of most other grains is also in the bran. My discovery concerning the fermentation of flour had a bit more to do with Teff.

A smallish angry, seed, Teff is gluten free, making it a prime target for my kitchen experiments. Mixing teff flour into various recipes, I noted that the soaked teff became more elastic and pliable. This seems to be the case for most flours, except perhaps for the very fine powdery types like tapioca. Anyway, while the nutritional aspect of flour is improved by soaking or sprouting, I personally like the superior cooking quality of soaked flour.

So try your own today, any flour will do. Let me know how it works!


Flour

I am the last person you should ask: ‘what kind of Gluten free flour do you use’? So, instead of waiting for you to ask, I’ll make a stab at telling you. My answer to the question above is rather complex. That is to say, I have not condensed my answer to a usefully short reply. But here is the what I have found:

I use a number of flours that about 4 years ago I would have labeled ‘exotic’. In fact, I now have a flour stock that looks like it belongs in an apothecary (and another cabinet that is an apothecary, but that’s a different story). From the South American supergrain Quina flour to the (slightly odd) Italian Chestnut flour, my chosen powders are collected from around the world. I also us a considerable amount of Buckwheat since it’s pretty cheap. (Don’t let the Buckwheat name fool you, it is not related to Brussels sprouts. It’s actually in the same family as Rhubarb and Burdock1. Oh, that means it’s not related to wheat either.)

So, when mixing up a flour for a recipe, I try to envision the end product, and then examine my opinion of my flours. I usually have some fine powdery types like Tapioca (my favorite), Arrowroot, or Potato starch (I haven’t used potato). I also keep some ‘soft’ flours, like Sorghum, Quina, or Amaranth, and some dense, or oily flours, such as those from Hazelnuts, Walnuts, or Chestnuts (Chestnut flour has a very smokey flavor, which is amazing–but use sparingly). I also think about using stronger tasting flours such as Buckwheat, but it depends on what I’m making. It needs to balance with the other flavors. I have started toying with Rice flour, but it sucks all the moisture out of my baked goods, so I’m keeping it around for very moist recipes. I think it works okay for dusting a surface to roll out dough, especially since I don’t like throwing away expensive flours.

So, how do I choose? First off, I have had very little success making an all-purpose-blend. If I’m mixing flour for a nice moist chocolate brownie, I’ll lean toward soft and oily flours. If I want a doughy-soft fluffy bread-like cakes, I go for mostly soft flour, but some powdery, and I’ll focus on trying to make things stick together. Now, this sounds a lot like chaos, but in fact it’s a bit more like experimental Chemistry. Once you try out a combination, you get a feel for what the flours will do for you.

So, grab yourself a test tube (mixing bowl), a couple simple reagents (we shouldn’t try for nuclear-pharmacology right off), and try substituting your own Gluten free flour in a recipe. It’ll be fun!

Oh yeah, and don’t be afraid to throw out any really terrible results. After all, good Chemists know the difference between an experiment and a lab accident (unless it’s Cold Fusion…)

 

1. There is some discussion as to whether Burdock will stay in the family, but it’s pretty closely related one way or another.