Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Culinary Quest

Two posts in such a short time is really amazing.  This is what happens when you are on a Culinary Quest.  Somewhere around 2004 I began embarking on an amazing virtual journey.   Once a year I have traveled the world and sampled culinary delights from India, China, Greece, Spain and my neighbors to the north, Canada, and so many more.  Zaar World Tour, ZWT as it was called, was a great time to enjoy and experiment.  

This year we started a new journey, Culinary Quest.  So far we have visited Russia where I enjoyed borscht (Chicken and Vegetable Borscht) for the first time.  I hopped back and forth from Russia to the southern states of the U.S.  While in the south I sampled Country Fried Pork Chops with Cream Cream Gravy, Country Fried Meatloaf Sandwich and found an another amazing sandwich, Fried Green Tomatoes BLT.  All of these wonderful dishes I have been able to make and enjoy gluten free.  

The road on my virtual journey has now taken me and others to South America and Italy to enjoy, sample and create.  Each country, each cuisine offers it's own challenges.  While in Italy I enjoyed Simple Puttanesca Sauce, one of the 9 nine amazing super sauces commonly used in Italian cooking.  In South America we were given the challenge of creating a dish using the Grain of the Gods, Quinoa.  

Quinoa has been dubbed a "Super Food".  The crop is grown for the edible seeds which can be quite bitter if not washed thoroughly.  Fortunately, most producers wash the grain to remove the bitter coating.  The coating is natures way of protecting the crop.  

Combine the Grain of the Gods with black beans and you have an amazing and nutritious meal.  Black beans are common throughout Latin America, Cuba and even Creole Country in Southern Louisiana.  Black beans are low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein, fiber and potassium.  

My creation for this challenge combines quinoa with black beans and the abundance of the summer with fresh corn, peppers and tomatoes.  First, I assembled all the ingredients and went to work, chopping and dicing.

 Quinoa and Fresh Vegetable Salad

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 ear fresh corn, husked, silks removed
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 vine ripened tomato, seeded, diced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1 small to medium jalapeno pepper, seeds and membrane removed, finely minced
1/3 cup black olives, sliced
 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 lime
2 tablespoons olive oil
 1/2 cup Queso Fresco cheese, crumbled
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Rinse quinoa under running water.  Preheat a saucepan over medium high heat.  Add quinoa and lightly toast grains until dry and fragrant.  Add in the vegetable stock, bring to a low boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes.  Water should be absorbed and the grains will fluffy nicely with a fork.  Pour into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

While quinoa cools.  Wrap corn in parchment paper and microwave for 2 minutes.  When cool enough to handle cut the kernels as close to the cob as you can without scraping.  Do not scrape the cob.

To the cooled quinoa add in the fresh corn kernels,  black beans, tomatoes, diced bell pepper, onion, jalapeno pepper, chopped basil and black olives.  Toss to combine.  With a citrus reamer, extract the juice and pulp from the lime and drizzle over the salad.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Add crumbled cheese, tossing to combine.  Serve at room temperature or refrigerator for several hours to allow the flavors to blend and serve chilled.

Serves 4 to 6

Hubby and I had a discussion on whether this should be served at room temperature or chilled.  I enjoyed it both ways but I think he may have been right with chilling first.  Please don't tell him I said so.  We enjoyed this last night for a light supper served on baby mixed greens with Gluten Free Brazilian Cheese Buns.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Crock Pot Apple Butter

I have been in Atlanta the past several days doing Grandma duty.  It is awesome to live closer and be able to be more involved in the lives of my grandchildren.  I had planned to take the camera and work on a blog post while there.  That didn't work out as planned since the camera was still sitting in the dining room when I returned.

Somehow I managed to accumulate a ton of fresh apples.  Fresh only means fresh for a short period of time.  What to do with apples that may be getting a bit past their prime?  Apple Butter!  I remember the first time I made apple butter.  Don't ask me what possessed me to do so.  The first go at apple butter was a bit more time consuming than what I do today.  

Thanks to my Vita-Mix the apples are washed, cored and cut into eights.  They then go into the crock pot and are tossed with the sugar and spices.  The lid to the crock pot is left slightly ajar to allow some of the steam to escape.  After cooking overnight on low, the apples are given a quick stir and then cooked an additional 3 to 4 hours on high.  

During this process the jars are sterilized and readied for the butter.  Since the jars are 8 oz jelly jars, the pasta pot makes a wonderful alternative to the water-bath canner.  After the apples are cooked, they are tossed into the Vita-Mix and processed.  The end result is a nice thick apple butter that has the added plus of the fiber from the peel.

Crock-pot Apple Butter
10 medium size apples, washed, cored
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt

Place washed and cored apples in crock pot.  In a 4 cup measuring cup mix together the sugar, spices and salt.  Cover and cook overnight on low.  Next morning stir, turn up heat to medium, leave lid ajar to allow evaporation and cook for an additional 3 hours or until soft and nicely colored.  Put cooked apples in Vita-Mix container and process until smooth.

Return apple butter to saucepan and bring to a boil stirring constantly so it doesn't burn.  Fill 4 half pint sterilized jars with hot apple butter.  Leave a 1/4 inch head space and remove air bubbles with a dull knife.  Wipe jar rims clean. Place lids and rings on jars.

Process in a water bath as per your local Extension Office recommendations.  Remove jars and allow to cool.  The lids should seal as the jars cool.  Test seals and store in a cool, dry place.

The recipe was found at Simply Canning and was adapted by me.  For my purposes a cup of sugar is plenty.  Depending on the variety of apples, you might be able to get by with 3/4 cup of sugar.  I do like the idea of leaving the peel* on and cutting them into eights really speeds things up.

The yield on this recipe was 4 wonderful 8 oz jars of rich fruit butter.  Enjoy! 

*A friend of mind got a really good laugh at the missing "l".  Glad I could help brighten your day.  :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fresh Baked Sourdough Biscuits (Gluten Free)

Have you ever wandered down the grocery isle and gazed upon all the varieties of frozen biscuits?  Those things bake up fresh and hot with no real effort.  They are great when you have company and want to have hot biscuits and gravy.  

Last year at Christmas, I prepared brunch on Christmas Day.  My daughter loves biscuits and sausage gravy.  I used those frozen biscuits and in no time at all had wonderful hot (gluten filled) biscuits to go with my gluten free gravy.  Typically when I make biscuits I always take leftovers, wrap them in foil, freeze and then reheat.  They are good but nothing beats piping hot biscuits fresh from the oven.

Several months ago I started using Gluten Free Biscuits Made with Baking Mix by King Arthur Flour.  They are the best!  The recipe makes 8 biscuits so I always have "frozen" pre-baked biscuits in the freezer.  Someone on the King Arthur site asked if the biscuits could be frozen before baking and Jon@KAF said that the biscuits could be frozen before baking without a problem.  This got me to thinking.  How about making sourdough biscuits that are gluten free and freeze those before baking.

Flourish had a recipe and directions for making sourdough using Floarapan. I bought the Floarapan and in no time at all I had this beautiful and active gluten free starter.  The starter has been going strong for months and I am getting back into gluten free baking.  Earlier this week I got my courage up and made biscuits, froze them and this morning had a fresh baked gluten free sourdough biscuits and all I had to do was pop it into the toaster oven at 400° for about 20 minutes.

I had tried this several weeks ago and it wasn't until last week, quite by accident that I discovered if you let the biscuits begin to defrost before putting into the preheated oven they bake up high and proud.

Sourdough Biscuits (Gluten Free) 

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small chunks
1 cup  King Arthur Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Mix*
1 cup  Gluten Free Sourdough Starter (King Arthur Flour)
2 large eggs
1/8 to 1/4 cup cold milk 

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with blade attachment combine the baking mix with the freshly fed starter.  Add in the butter a bit at a time and pulse just to combine but leaving small butter "chunks" in the dough.

Add in the eggs and enough milk to make a biscuit like dough, pulsing until combined.  The dough should be stiff enough to gently fold other itself and knead but not sticky.  Turn dough out on a lightly floured board and fold over a couple of times.  Gently flatten the dough to about 3/4 inch thick.  Lightly flour a biscuit cutter and press straight down.  Scrapes of dough can be reshaped, flattened and cut into biscuits.

Place cut biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  Preheat oven to 400°.  Lightly brush tops of biscuits with milk or melted butter.  This will help to promote browning.  Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 22 minutes.

Yield:  8 (2 1/2 inch) biscuits

Now I can have this

with these fresh from the freezer to the oven.

Please note that the recipe lists the milk as 1/8 to 1/4 cup.  If you have ever done sourdough baking you know that starters differ in consistency.  I would suggest starting with the lesser amount and going up from there.

What's fresh biscuits without sausage gravy?  Here is the recipe for the gluten free sausage gravy that is so quick to make and can be ready in less time than it takes to bake the biscuits.

Sausage Gravy (Gluten Free)

1/2 lb lean bulk pork sausage
 2 tablespoons butter
2 to 3 tablespoons gluten free flour blend
2 to 3 cups milk
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Over medium heat, brown and crumble sausage.  When sausage is browned, add in butter and allow to melt.  Sprinkle with gluten free flour blend, salt and pepper.  Stir until combined.

Gradually pour milk over sausage mixture stirring constantly.  Add a pinch of sugar and allow to bubble and thicken.  When gravy is thickened to desired consistency remove from heat and serve over fresh baked hot biscuits.

So yes you can make biscuits, freeze and enjoy later.  You can also have a delicious gluten free sausage gravy and enjoy pure comfort food while being gluten free.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Cornbread is King

Cornbread is truly King in a small town just north of me.  South Pittsburgh, TN is the home of the National Cornbread Festival.  It is held the last weekend of April each year.  The first year we lived in these parts it rained and we opted not to attend.  This year we had the opportunity to visit the festival.  My husbands and I both really enjoyed Hammer's Cornbread Alley.  Were the recipes gluten free--NO.  I did pay the price and leanred that my decision to be gluten-free was the right one.

Nine different organizations in the area competed for the honor of having the best original recipe for cornbread.  For the price of $4 you were given a plate and an opportunity to take a stroll down Cornbread Alley.  At the end of your stroll there is a place where one can savor the samples and add a dollar or two vote to the individual  jars set-up for each entry.  This year Hubby and I enjoyed everything from Lemon Coffee Cake to Timber Hushpuppies.

Currently, there are many of us creative cooks, traveling the globe together on a Culinary Quest.  Our challenge is simple, to develop an original "cornbread recipe" and share it with others.  Well I took up that challenge.  With blueberries being in season I couldn't resist.  We love blueberry muffins.  But how about Blueberry-Lemon Cornbread Muffins that are gluten free? Yesterday, I put on my creative cap and went to work in the kitchen.  I came up with a delicious muffin that is slightly sweet and loaded with juicy, plump blueberries.

Blueberry-Lemon Cornbread Muffins (Gluten Free)

1 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (Stone ground adds more texture.)
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 t. grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons King Arthur Cake Enhancer (Optional) 
1 cup organic plain yogurt
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled or
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon zested lemon peel 
Cooking Spray
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
coarse sugar (Optional)

Preheat oven to 400°.

In the medium bowl to a stand mixer add the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt and nutmeg.  If you are using the King Arthur Cake Enhancer add it now.  Whisk together at medium speed to thoroughly combine.

Add in the yogurt, coconut oil or butter and eggs.  Beat with paddle attachment until smooth and creamy.  With a spatula fold in blueberries and lemon peel.  Divide batter between a 12 tin muffin pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Lightly sprinkle tops with coarse sugar if desired.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until an instant read thermometer registers 210°.  

Yield:  12 muffins

The muffins were made with a coarse grind cornmeal and polenta could probably be used successfully.  Also, the flour was Artisan Flour Blend from Pamela's Products.  The flour blend can be used on a cup for cup exchange for all-purpose flour and has the starches and binding agents added.

The King Arthur Cake Enhancer is listed as optional.  I have found that using this in gluten-free baked goods helps to extend the shelf life.  Also, I love the crunch that the coarse sugar gives to the muffin tops.  

My youngest granddaughter loves blueberries.  As she has said over and over "They are my favorite."  I may save her a muffin or 2 or at the rate they are vanishing it may be necessary to make another batch for my next Grandma Visit.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Donut Party

There is absolutely nothing better than getting to have your grandchildren visit.  It is something I look forward to and the main reason we moved only 2 hours away.  This month will mark the second year that we find ourselves in Tennessee.  It has been a time of adjustment and a time for family.  

While last summer was great this summer has been even better.  I had the privilege of having the oldest up the first week of June for Aquarium Camp.  This was followed up with both of them being here for Vacation Bible School and then just this last week the youngest got to come for Aquarium Camp.

The oldest one is 7 and was a Polliwog this year.   She put it best when she said that she liked being her with just Grandma and Papa.  This gave her special time together with us.  Her camp was pretty much a full day so I spent time on the road again.  Brought back memories of when the children were younger and car pools.  There was one day in particular I remember well.  

We were living in Richardson TX at the time.  I dropped off my son for his Karate lesson, then proceed in route to pick-up another ballerina and driving down to University Park in pouring rain.  It was then necessary for me to drive back to Richardson to pick-up my son from his class and then return to University Park to pick-up the 2 ballerinas.

Of course in the pouring rain traffic was a mess and the going was slow.  As I was nearing the pick-up point for my son I feared that the water was going to come into the vehicle and/or flood out the engine.  I was driving a Chevy Blazer at the time.  My nerves were on edge by the time I got to where I was going and as my son climbed into the car I breathed a sigh of relief.  I had made it in one piece.  This was the day that I figured if I had been driving in a straight line I might have just made it to Longview, TX.

I can't look at my 2 granddaughters without remembering times with their mother.  I am really blessed to have 2 wonderful children and 2 fantastic granddaughters.  Both of the girls enjoyed their time at Aquarium Camp this year.  It was a fun time for them and a time of making memories for me.  Both said they are looking forward to going again next year.

They also really enjoyed time spent at Vacation Bible School.  I purchased a CD of the songs they learned and they love to listen to anytime they are in the car.  The little one asks to listen to her Jesus music.  I was truly blessed in that I had the opportunity to spend time with each alone and then with both together.  

When they come they always want to make donuts.  I have a mini electric donut maker that is perfect for making mini donuts but it is time consuming.  After a couple of times making donuts I realized it wasn't the making the donuts that they enjoyed but the decorating.  When they were here for Vacation Bible School, I had about 2 dozen or so mini-donuts made and in the freezer.  The donuts were set out the night before and the next morning all I had to do was make a chocolate glaze.  The oldest swears that Grandma's chocolate glaze was just like Revolution Donuts.  Thank you King Arthur Flour for helping me to make memories.

Mini-Donuts Gluten Free

1 box (15 oz) Gluten-Free Doughnut Mix 
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons oil (I use coconut oil.)
2 large eggs
1 cup milk (I use almond milk.)


Chocolate Glaze (Recipe given below.)
Colored Sugars
Colored Sprinkles
Confectioners Sugar
Shredded Coconut
Chopped Peanuts

Mix together the butter, oil and half the mix, beat together until well blended.  Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each, scraping the bottom of the bowl to make sure all is thoroughly incorporated.

Add the remaining dry mix alternating with the milk, blending and scraping bowl after each addition.

Preheat the electric mini-muffin maker or preheat oven to 375°.  Using a pastry bag, fill the wells 2/3 full.  Close the lid for the mini-muffin maker or place filled pans in oven and bake until browned.  If baking in the oven it will take from 8 to 10 minutes for the small donuts to cook.  With my mini-maker I find it is best to flip the donuts a couple of times while baking for even browning.

While the donuts cool make the glaze.  King Arthur has a recipe for  3 Easy Glazes on their website.  I have tried all 3.  The favorite of my grands is the chocolate.

Chocolate Glaze

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (Nestle brand is gluten free.)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (Costco brand is gluten free.)

Place the chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave for 30 seconds, stir and continue microwaving and stirring frequently until melted.  The glaze should be smooth and shiny.  Stir in the vanilla extract

Once the donuts are cooled or defrosted, prepare the glaze, have an assortment of toppings available and let the fun begin.  They want to take some home to share with Mom and Dad.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Southern Fried Okra aka Crusty Okra

Every recipe has a story and this one is no exception.  For years I struggled to make really good crispy fried okra.  In 2009, I stumbled onto a recipe that has become my go to recipe for making "crusty" okra as my granddaughters call it.  

After going gluten-free, I found that this recipe works just as well with an all-purpose gluten free flour blend as it did with wheat flour.  I am so grateful to 1 Fat Chef for posting his secret to success. The recipe belongs to him.  Over the years I have developed my own secrets for breading and frying and will share them here.

My granddaughters love the "crusty" okra.  When they visit, I try to have a Ziplock bag of breaded okra ready in the freezer to go into the hot oil.  When they were here in November 2013, I had fixed them corn as a vegetable side for Thanksgiving.  The little one informed me later that she really didn't like corn.  When asked what she did like without hesitation she said okra.

The conversation soon turned to breakfast for the next morning and the youngest said she wanted okra for breakfast.  Now that is loving it!  We did settle on more of a breakfast thing with the promise of "crusty" okra for dinner. 

Southern Fried Okra

1 quart fresh okra, washed
2 to 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (gluten free)
1 teaspoon seasoning salt or Cajun Seasoning
 fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 to 1 1/2 cups stone-ground yellow corn meal
1 egg beaten
canola oil
coarse salt

Cut tops off okra pods and cut the pods into 1/2 to 3/4 inch rounds.  The tail of the pod can also be used.  Place the cut okra into a 2 quart container with lid.  I use my Season Serve Serve Container from Tupperware.  Sprinkle the okra with the flour, seasoning salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Place the top on the container and shake to thoroughly coat.  Remove the top and check to make sure the okra is lightly dusted with flour.  This is the first secret to success.

Once the okra is lightly dusted remove from container using a Frying Strainer.  Shake out excess flour and return flour to Season Serve Serve Container.  Making sure the okra has a light dusting is the second secret to succeeding.

Pour the beaten egg over okra, place top on container and shake, shake, shake.  Sprinkle 3/4 to 1 cup of the stone-ground yellow corn meal over okra and shake, shake, shake.  Add additional corn meal as needed.  The okra should be coated and "dry" not wet. 

Making sure the oi is ready and frying in small batches is the final step on the journey to really good "crusty" okra.  Preheat oil to 400°.  If you don't have a frying thermometer, place the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil.  If it "sizzles" the oil is ready.  I always test it with a piece of the breaded okra.  When the okra browns and rises to the top it is done and the oil is ready.  The okra should be fried in small bathes as not to cool the oil down. 

As the okra cooks it will brown, even gluten free, and rise to the top.  Remove okra from oil with strainer and place on a plate lined with a paper towel.  Sprinkle with coarse salt to taste and enjoy!  The recipe makes about 4 to 6 servings.


Note:  The okra can be breaded and frozen for later.  To freeze I place on a cookie sheet and do a quick freeze.  Then bag the okra for later use.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cornbread Time

Cornbread has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Growing up Southern probably has something to do with that.  For me cornbread was always cooked in a cast iron skillet.  A little bacon grease was put into the pan, the pan placed in the oven to preheat while the cornbread batter was mixed, the melted grease poured into the batter.....sizzle, sizzle, sizzle.

A friend recently was on a search for a cornbread recipe using corn flour.  Seems that corn meal, one of the main ingredients in cornbread, isn't available world wide.  Stop to consider for a moment ingredients.  What goes into cornbread?  Cornmeal, flour (usually), baking powder, eggs and milk.  Some type of sweetener possibly but southern cornbread isn't usually sweet.  If sugar is added maybe a touch or so.  After living out west I learned to make cornbread with all sorts of wonderful ingredients.  There is green chili, cheese, jalapeƱo, cream corn, etc.  I even learned about the joys of blue corn meal.

Well as a true Southern I had never making cornbread with corn flour but I was game.  I did an on-line search and thanks to Oprah, found a recipe.  For those of you who know me know, I don't follow directions well.  I did some presto change-up and came up with a winning cornbread muffin recipe.  In has a nice crust which was important as well as a nice texture.  

Corn Flour Corn Muffins

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 c. gluten-free flour blend (I used Pamela's Artisan Flour Blend) or
all-purpose gluten laden flour can be used
1 c. corn flour
1/4 c. coarse grind yellow cornmeal
1 T. baking powder, gluten free
2 t. sea salt
1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, beaten
1 c. milk (I used almond milk.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and lightly flour a 12 tin muffin pan or spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Melt butter in small saucepan and allow to cool while mixing batter.

In a medium bowl combine  flour blend, corn flour, baking powder, sea salt and brown sugar until combined.  Add in beaten egg and milk.  Mix well and then add in melted butter.  Stir until thoroughly blended.  Scoop mixture evenly into the prepared muffin tin and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes.  For gluten free the internal temperature should be 210°.

Allow to cool for a few minutes and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  Can be served fresh from the oven or frozen and reheated later.  

If baking gluten free make sure all ingredients are labeled as such.  Bob's Red Mill sells a gluten free corn flour and Calumet Baking Powder is gluten free.