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Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

“B” is for…

“B” is for….

BUTTER!
I made it myself!
With cream, in a jar that I keep on a shelf.

The cream comes from cows
Oh so gentle and mellow
Their milk’s always white, but the butter is yellow!

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No matter how many times I see it, the transformation from white cream to bright yellow butter is always amazing. It is incredible that simply agitating the cream for a while causes that thick, white liquid to separate out into a yellow solid and a thin, clearish liquid! You can experience this wonder of God’s design in your own kitchen, without any special equipment! All you need is cream and a jar. I used about 2.5 cups of cream, and a gallon jar. Pour the cream into the jar, put on the lid and shake! (This is fun for kids to take turns shaking, and see who will have the jar when the cream “breaks” into butter and buttermilk!).

If you have a stand mixer, you can use that if you prefer. It will take a while, so be prepared to let the machine run 10-15 minutes. Make sure to use the splash guard, if you have one (and to stand by and watch closely if you don’t!) because the butter breaks suddenly, and the resulting buttermilk is Very sloshy!

After you have butter, you need to squeeze out all the leftover buttermilk, and wash the butter. If you leave a lot of milk in the butter, it will go rancid quickly. Form the butter into a ball, and submerge in cool water. You can work it around with your hands or a paddle or spoon to squeeze all the milk out. Keep changing the rinse water until it runs clear–then you know all the milk is out! Now is the time to salt your butter and knead the salt in. You could also add honey or herbs at this point, for fancy butter!

Enjoy!

The milk used in this butter is from 100% grass-fed cows; they never eat anything else. It is also fresh, unpasteurized, so that it retains all its vital nutrients. That is why the butter turns such a nice shade of yellow. If you try this with store bought, pasteurized cream, the butter will usually turn out white (and not nearly as tasty!). I am blessed to have access to fresh-from-the-farm milk, which makes it possible for me to enjoy dairy! (I cannot drink pasteurized milk without ill effects.)

For more information about fresh milk, http://www.realmilk.org is a great resource!

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Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4 NIV)

Le Fou, I’m afraid I went shopping.

A dangerous pastime….

I know.

Especially GROCERY shopping, when one has food allergies. This particular trip was fraught with more-than-usual peril, for a couple of reasons. First, I was hungry. We all know the Most Important Rule of Shopping, right? Well, I broke it. Second, I was craving pizza. No, not craving pizza, CRAVING PIZZA!!!. And doughnuts.

My sensible brain knew that this meant I needed to examine what I’d been eating lately and see if some gluten had accidentally slipped in. (Later, I did just that and discovered the culprit: a snack bar I’d bought for grab-and-go mornings without reading the label carefully enough! This is my number one reason for not shopping while hungry or tired.) But my sensible brain was out to lunch or otherwise not functioning, due to those selfsame cereal bars, no doubt.

As a side note…I read a fascinating article in the most recent issue of Living Without magazine on the topic of gluten sensitivity and depression. As mentioned in the article, unreasonable sadness and lethargy, brain “fog” and body aches are some of my first indications that I’ve accidentally eaten gluten, but I often don’t notice them until the more obvious symptoms show up. I found it an interesting read, and a good reminder of things of which I should be aware.

Anyway…back to my shopping trip. See the verse up there at the top? I firmly believe it! And I believe that it applies to little, everyday things as much as to big, life changing things. We are “worth more than sparrows” and our Heavenly Father cares about our daily lives. My “heart’s desire” at that present moment was Pizza. At least, I thought it was. Another wonderful thing about God, though, is that He knows us better than we know ourselves….

I could tell you a long story about all the things I found in the store that I considered special blessings for my frustrated heart, but it would take a loooooooong time. I shall give you, instead, the condensed list:
1. Red grapefruit, which is one of my Favorite things, was on sale!
2. A lovely ranch dressing for my salad
3. Many of the things on my shopping list were on sale.
4. Salted Caramel Häagen Dazs bars…require no comment.

And the pièce de résistance…..

5. When I got to the specialty frozen foods section, whence I meant to buy a frozen pizza from Udi, if it didn’t cost an arm and a leg, I found……

Not only were the pizzas ON SALE (and you and I both know what a rare occurrence that is!), but they also had a NEW item from Udi…….Flour Tortillas!

Almost overcome with excitement, I checked out and hurried home!

If you are eating gluten free, you’ve probably experienced several attempts at a “flour” tortilla; those frozen brown things that crumble when thawed, or those stiff ones that wouldn’t even dream of rolling up. Maybe, like me, you’ve even made your own. Homemade ones can be pretty good, but only fresh out of the pan. What you don’t eat, you may as well make into chips because they’ll be chips tomorrow whether you like it or not, amiright?

Not these. These are Amazing. They came frozen, but I stuck them in the fridge to thaw, and tasted one as soon as I could! I couldn’t believe my mouth…chewy, dense, flexible….exactly as I remembered gluten flour tortillas! (and no, I don’t work for Udi)

I made this….

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See how they folded over without cracking?!??!!!? I put those under the broiler with cheese sprinkled on top, then folded them as I put them on the plate!!!

They are amazing to eat. So….real. And “real” is what I was really wanting, that day in the store.

Does it surprise you to hear that I haven’t yet eaten the frozen pizza?

That guacamole on top is easy-peasy, too. I’ve been seeing a lot of über complicated guacamole recipes lately, and I just don’t understand.

“Oh, Bert! Why must you complicate things that are really quite simple?”

Why, indeed? Try this one. Mary Poppins would approve.

1 avocado, peeled and pitted, mashed or diced just as you like (or more than 1, to have enough to share!)
Some:
Cilantro
Lime juice
Salt
Pepper

Optional:
Tomatoes, diced
Onion, diced
Jalapeño, diced finely

I say “some,” because guacamole is really a matter of taste. Start with a little. Taste. Add more. Taste. Repeat until it’s good! The “optional” ingredients are all good, but you can make good guacamole without them. I like tomatoes, but my last batch didn’t have any and it was still mighty tasty! If you’re feeling Really lazy, throw in a jar of salsa!

Thanks for sharing my day of delightful blessings!

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. (Psalm 37:3 NIV)

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Happy birthday to my blog!
It’s about one year old!
I’ve had lots of fun!
And there’s more to come!

Just over one year ago, I started this blog, something I’d been wanting to do for several years. I’m so glad I did–the experience has been quite entertaining! And now it’s time to celebrate!

What better thing for a celebration but cake? Specifically…

Monkey cake!

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My mom and I created this particular monkey for my grandpa’s birthday. He (the monkey) is gluten free, dairy free (except for the ears), corn free, soy free, and delicious!

He’s made of:
1 Betty Crocker gluten free vanilla cake mix
2 Kinnikinnick gluten free chocolate doughnuts (ears)
2 chocolate macaroons (eyes)
1 string of raspberry “licorice” (fruit rope)
1 batch of frosting (recipe below)

Gluten free, Dairy free Frosting

Ingredients:
1 cup shortening (I use Earth Balance)
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (corn free!)
1/4 cup milk (cow, rice, coconut, whatever!)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/2 cup cocoa powder (for chocolate frosting)

Method:
Mix together shortening and powdered sugar with a stand or hand mixer. Once well mixed, add milk and vanilla (and cocoa, if using) and mix well again. If it’s too dry or stiff, add more milk a little at a time until it looks like you want.

Enjoy, and Celebrate!

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Merry Christmas!

It finally feels like Christmas to me, today. School is out! Vacation is here! We had a dusting of snow earlier this week!

Tonight is my first night off of the Christmas holidays, and what am I doing? Cooking, of course!

Today I made Chex mix and pear jelly! The Chex mix is delightful, and dairy and gluten free! (Just substitute 1/4 cup of olive oil for the butter in the recipe on the box, and add a little extra salt. Tastes just as good, and you don’t have to wait for the butter to melt!)
The jelly is still boiling in the pot, but last time I stirred it, a little got on my finger…it tastes pretty yummy!

Tomorrow: cookies of many kinds! My baking list is ambitious (it always is!), and I may not make it through all of the deliciousness, but it is fun to have many options!

…Hey, I’m back. Thanks for waiting! I had to go jar up the jelly. This is the first time I’ve made jelly! Can you tell I’m a bit excited about it???

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As I stirred the jelly tonight, I was thinking about what I was doing at this time last year. (not Exactly this time…I’m the polar opposite of a numbers genius…just this season). I was a student then, working hard in an online court reporting school, so I was looking forward to a double vacation: no work AND no homework!!! Then I got a phone call, informing me that, due to a change in academic progress requirements, I was being dropped from the court reporting program. Merry Christmas. Without boring you with a long saga of the joys and frustrations of learning machine shorthand, it is hard to explain how frustrating this news was. I spent hours on the phone, talking to strangers far away, trying to convince them to fix the problem, do something different, or at least understand and pretend to care about what a third of their students were going through. (Those of you who know me know how much I enjoyed that stressful experience…) As person after person gave me a resounding, “TOO BAD!” I realized that God must have a different plan for me.

Just after that, a friend sent me an email, one of those forwards that circulates every so often. Usually I just skim through, but this one had a message for me. Somewhere in the middle it said, “When it seems that God is taking something away, you don’t need to try to hang on to it. He is getting your hands empty so He can fill them with something new in His plan for you!”

I decided to be excited, and to look for these new things God was bringing into my life.

I have now been a full year as a free, non-student. As I stirred the jelly some more, and checked on the Chex mix in the oven, I began making a mental list of blessings I have had this year that would not have been possible had I still been in school:

Time to try many new cooking experiments, like pear jelly!
I was able to take an assignment interpreting a week-long overnight outdoor school, which was an incredibly memorable experience! If I had needed to focus on homework, I couldn’t have gone on that trip.
I just bought a new car, which I can afford because I am not having to pay for school.
I got to relax and play in the summer, instead of practicing shorthand all the time!
I have the time and energy to work on a special sign language teaching project with my boss this year, which I am really enjoying!

These are just a few that came quickly to mind. There are many others!

Have you seen the movie, Joseph, King of Dreams? (That seems like a non sequitur, but it isn’t. Trust me.). There is a beautiful song in that show that is one of my favorites. Here are some of the words:

I thought I did what’s best, I thought I had the answers,
I thought I’d found the surest road, but that road brought me here.
So I put up a fight and told you how to help me
And just when I have given up, the truth is coming clear
That you know better than I, you know the way
I’ll let go the need to know why, for you know better than I…

Look it up on YouTube, it’s pretty!

Not only is it pretty, but the message is a good reminder. It is so very easy to get discouraged or sad when things don’t go the way I hoped or planned. It helps me to remember that God is in control, and that His plan is the best one!

My plan for tomorrow is cookie baking! But if God has a different plan, that’s okay. I’m excited to see what He wants me to do!

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Hello my friends! Today we are making macaroni and cheese. Gluten free, dairy free, soy free, corn free, artificial colors free! Free of many allergens, but still full of taste. No story, really, just yummy foods.

I will tell you that this cheese recipe is incredibly versatile. It makes a delicious cheeseball, and works great in lasagna and quiche, and on pizza (let it stiffen a bit before putting it on pizza, unless you have a nice, high-edged crust). I’ve even made cheesecake and “cream cheese” frosting with it! It is great on nachos, mixed into chili as a dip, or anywhere else you use melted cheese.

The Basic Cheese
(at my house we call it “Daddy’s Cheese” because he is the dairy-free one, but we are all willing to eat it!)

 1 cup raw cashews

3 packages unflavored gelatin

water

lemon or lime juice

garlic powder

onion powder

salt

½ red bell pepper (this is for taste and color, but is optional)

Grind the cashews in your blender. While they disintegrate, sprinkle the gelatin over ½ cup of cold water. After it gels, pour in ½ cup of hot water and stir until the gelatin melts. Add this melted mixture to the blender with the nuts and blend to mix. Add the juice of ½ a lemon or lime. Next, add ½ of a red bell pepper, chopped into chunks. Blend until smooth, then add the other spices to taste. When the seasoning is perfect, pour into a shallow container and place in the refrigerator to solidify. (When solid, this cheese has a “velveeta-like” consistency.)

 Variations:

For a sweet “cream cheese” style:
Omit garlic and onion powders and the red bell pepper.
Add about a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a little sugar (to taste)

For a delightful alfredo sauce:
Omit bell pepper.
Add some oregano, thyme, and basil to the spice mix.

 For a nacho cheese:
Add some cumin and chili powder.
Macaroni and Cheese, Dairy free and Gluten free

Prepare some gluten free pasta, according to its directions.

When it is getting close to done, start the cheese, using the basic directions above (and adding whatever flavors you like best.)

At the point where the recipe tells you to pour the cheese into a container, pour it onto your drained pasta instead!

Eat and enjoy!

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I love to cook!

Being in the kitchen, surrounded by flavors, scents and textures is an experience that is at once envigorating and relaxing for me.  I like to try new things, and I like old “standards” that can be depended on to always come out right.  For me, cooking is like music or art–creative expression. 

I am often thankful that God made so many different foods!  When you have to make radical changes in your diet (as my family did a few years ago), you are doubly grateful for the “interesting” foods most Americans have not heard of.  “Weird food” becomes everyday normal, and in the process, your appreciation of God’s creativity and bountiful generosity expands! 

Anyone who lives with a restricted diet either eats the same five things all the time, or does a lot of experimentation in the kitchen.  When a recipe turns out great, we revel in the enjoyment of it.  When an experiment goes awry…we laugh and say, “that was interesing…on to something else!” 

Have you heard Laura Story’s song, “Blessings”?  Part of the chorus says “What if Your blessings come through raindrops…What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?”  Having to radically change one’s diet is a difficult trial, but through those “raindrops” comes the incredible blessing of discovering a wealth of foods you may not have ever experienced otherwise!

Case in point….Buckwheat.

Have you had it?  Outside of a pancake?  It’s a pretty neat grain.  Contrary to it’s name, Buckwheat is not wheat.  It is a gluten-free grain!  Buckwheat groats can be toasted (called kasha) and eaten as a hot cereal, or they can be ground into flour and used in baked goods.  Using Buckwheat flour alone, or mixed with other gluten-free flours, I have made delicious bread, crackers, and muffins! 
The result of my most recent foray into the Buckwheat Realm was these noodles….

One of my favorite food-related memories has its roots at the Oregon State Fair.  My parents and I would go to the Fair every year, and our lunchtime tradition was to acquire warm paper plates piled high with yakisoba noodles and delicious lemony chicken, an elephant ear or two, and some cold lemonade and sit down to enjoy!  Some years we chose a spot at one of the long outdoor tables and listened to whatever act was performing on the stage (I recall several bluegrass bands, a troupe of square dancers, and a hypnotist).  Most times, however, we chose to retire to the quiet calm of the nearby horse arena and watched draft horses pulling sleds, or tiny ponies pulling carts.  It was always a relaxing, enjoyable time. 

Ever since we started cooking gluten-free, I have wanted to recreate that Lemon Chicken.  I was thrilled to learn that soba noodles are traditionally made with….you guessed it!….Buckwheat!  Off I scampered to an Asian market!  Only to be disappointed, because nearly all the soba noodles commercially available are made with mostly wheat flour.  Some didn’t contain any Buckwheat at all!  😦

Well….Yakisoba got put on the back burner for a while, while I tackled other experiments like Strawberry Shortcake, Pie, Cream Puffs, Bread-Worth-Eating, and Pizza. (among other things…)

Here we are, 8 years after beginning to experiment with gluten-free cooking with my family, and about 2 years after having to completely eliminate gluten from my own diet….revisiting Yakisoba.

This makes me smile.  I cannot tell you how much. 🙂  🙂  🙂

These noodles are yummy.  They are chewy, and take on the flavor of whatever sauce you dress them with.  They are a first attempt experiment, which means they’re not perfect…yet.  But they are a beautiful beginning!

Making these noodles takes time and energy.  It took me about three hours from mixing flours to boiling noodles.  The good news is, the recipe makes a LOT of noodles, so the next batch will be super fast!

I read a lot of recipes before deciding to try making soba.  I watched a lot of chefs on Youtube.  Finally, I decided to just go ahead and try it!

Most recipes called for buckwheat flour, with a little wheat flour added.  I decided to use a little gluten-free flour mix I had on hand (thanks to my lovely sister who mixed up a big batch at Christmas time for our baking!) to replace that wheat flour. 

I mixed the flours by hand.  Most of the chefs I watched do it that way, and it is fun!  Be aware, Buckwheat sticks to the skin as tenaciously as Pacific Northwest sand.  It took me a few minutes of washing to be rid of all the tiny particles clinging to my hands!

Ordinarily, I’d have measured all the ingredients by weight, since that is a much more accurate way to cook than using volume.  However, I didn’t have the right size battery for my kitchen scale, so I had to resort to the “before-I-knew-better” method and measure with cups.  🙂

Next comes the kneading!  This is the part that is incredibly relaxing, provided you don’t mind getting VERY sticky!  I couldn’t take a picture because both my hands were mired down with gooey dough.  Imagine the mudpies you made as a kid, mixed with sand.  Kinda like that!

Just when you begin to despair of ever having anything dough-like…it miraculously all comes together!

The dough feels amazingly soft and pliable…reminiscent of brand-name playdough (but not so smelly, and gluten-free!).  I had so much fun working with it!

Time to roll the dough!  Really take the time to roll this as thin as you can, and you’ll be happier with the noodles.  You’ll also make more noodles than if you leave the dough too fat.  After the dough is rolled into a rectangle, you can fold it up to make cutting easier.  (I recommend watching a video of a chef doing this.  It is much easier to understand than written directions!)

Even after rolling the dough thicker than I should have done, and cutting my first set of noodles a bit wider than I wanted, I still ended up with oodles of noodles!

I cooked some of them right away, but I dried the rest on a clean sheet in the guest bedroom.  I spread them out all over the sheet and left them until they were completely dry (about 12 hours).  Then I gathered them up into a gallon-sized baggie to save for later!

To the freshly cooked noodles, I added mushrooms, scrambled eggs, garlic, ginger and onions, with a splash of gluten-free soy sauce and a dash of red pepper flakes on top.  Delicious!

Next time, Lemon Chicken! 🙂

Buckwheat Soba Noodles

Ingredients:
4.5 cups buckwheat flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1.5 cups gluten-free flour mix (I used the recipe in Silvana Nardone’s book, Cooking for Isaiah.)
1 cup Potato Starch (plus extra for dusting kneading surface)
2 cups hot water

Method:
1.  In a BIG bowl (you need lots of room for mixing), mix together the dry ingredients with your hands (or a whisk)
2.  Add about two thirds of the water and mix with your hands (or a spoon, if the water is too hot at first).  You want to make sure all of the flour is moistened.
3.  Add the rest of the water and knead like crazy!  The kneading process takes a long time.  Take handfuls of dough and squeeze them, then break up the dough into pebbles.  Squeeze and press, squeeze and press.  At first, the dough will seem too dry.  Then, all at once, it may seem too sticky!  Persevere.  Squeeze, press, start to bring the dough together into a ball.  Keep kneading!  After a while, it will become a beautiful, soft dough.  When it becomes enough like a ball to stay together, turn the dough out onto a surface dusted with potato starch and knead a bit more until it is lovely and soft.
4.  Separate the dough into 4-6 balls.  Return all but one to the bowl and cover them with a damp cloth to prevent drying.  Roll the dough into a rectangle, about twice as long as it is wide and 1/8 inch thick. 
5.  Dust the top of the dough with a tiny bit of potato starch and fold in half lengthwise (the “hot dog” way).  Dust with more potato starch and fold again, widthwise (the “hamburger” way).  Depending on the size of your dough, you can fold again if desired.
6.  Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 1/8 inch wide strips.
7.  If cooking immediately, add pasta to plenty of boiling, salted water.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, until al dente.  (Noodles should be slightly chewy.  Be careful to not overcook or they can fall apart in the water!)
8.  If drying noodles for later use, spread them out in a single layer and leave until completely dry.

Enjoy!

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