Hey, it’s our second burger post! I really hope you’re finding some options or getting some ideas about what to bring to barbeques this summer — or what to serve at your own.
For some reason when Denise and I were discussing burgers, I was somewhat fixated on Indian spices. I love Indian food, but there are so many allergen pitfalls when ordering out that I’m finding it easier to make my own at home — and easier now that I can run some of my cooking choices by my Indian neighbor. He approved the spice mix I’m going to give you below, so it must be good, right?
You can buy tandoori spices. Tandoori chicken is a reasonably classic Indian dish, named for the clay oven in which chicken is baked after being marinated in yogurt and spices. By briefly marinating and then grinding the chicken, adding some cashew nuts for creaminess, we can skip the yogurt part, and in this case, a grill stands in for the fancy pointy-topped oven. By making your own spice, you can more carefully control the flavor of the burger, but if you’re not up to it, not interested, or in any way disinclined, seek it out pre-blended.
Tandoori Chicken Burgers
Tandoori Spice — makes enough for 2-3 recipes of burgers
- 1 Tablespoon ground fenugreek
- 1 Tablespoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1-1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1-1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika (regular, not smoked)
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (you can buy this ground, but it’s worth it to grind your own)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon cayenne, depending on your desire for heat, as well as spice
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1/2 cup lemon or lime juice
- 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup cashew pieces
- zest of one lime (organic if you can get it)
- 2- 3 Tablespoons tandoori spice
- lime wedges, for serving
First, marinate chicken thighs in the citrus juice and vinegar for about 30 minutes — if the marinade doesn’t quite cover the chicken, add water to cover.
Lay the chicken out on paper towels to drain and dry.
In your food processor, grind the cashews to a fine consistency. I find that I need to pulse my food processor, as just turning it on tends to make nut butter instead. Remove the nuts to a mixing bowl.
Grind the chicken in the food processor, then add it to the mixing bowl.
Add the lime zest and seasoning, and mix all the ingredients well. You can try using a spoon, but you really need to mix with your hands to get everything well-incorporated. Mix until you think it’s well-blended, then mix a little more. A note on the seasoning range — if you’re a lover of Indian food, or spices, or both, go all in with the 3 T measurement. If your company is a little more mixed (children, unadventurous eaters) ease them into the fun with the lower amount of spice.
Now shape the patties and lay them out on a parchment or plastic wrap covered platter and refrigerate for an hour or overnight. This recipe should make 4 regular burgers or 8 slider-sized burgers.
Grill until the interior temperature of the burger reaches approximately 160F. Serve with sliced cucumbers on a bun of your choice.
First off, just wanted to relate one of my (Denise) recent discoveries/unventions this week (unvention is intentionally misspelled, it’s a term knitters often use for something they figured out that probably someone else has before, but it’s new to them and awesome). Since I’m wicked fussy about my coffee, and nothing’s really worked for me as a creamer, I make my own cashew milk, which works beautifully in coffee if you don’t have an allergy to them. And as I don’t have a Vitamix (if anyone wants to blow $400-500 for no reason and give me a present, just let me know), I’ve been straining out the grit/sludge/remains out of the cashew milk and saving them in a container in the freezer because I’ve convinced myself that I’m going to use them to figure out how to make dairy and coconut free chicken korma at some point (I’ve been saying that for months and months, probably at least eight). And since they’re $9-12 a pound depending on where you get them. But after recent experiments, I decided to take the cashew remains out of the freezer and see if I could use them to make another batch of cashew milk. The recipe I use is the Rawtarian’s, but I skip the almond extract since I’m allergic to almonds. So I took a cup of cashew remains, and only 1 cup of water, and blended them using varying combinations of high, low and ice crushing settings on my blender. And I let it blend for quite a while. Then I added the remaining water and other ingredients, sans almond extract, and voila, a whole new batch of cashew milk that tasted just as good as the first batch. When I went to strain the milk, nothing wound up in the strainer. I don’t know if it’s the freezing the cashew remains, or if it’s the starting with a lower amount of cashews to water, but it worked the way I thought it might after recent experiments, and it’s going to save me a boatload of money if I can get two batches of cashew milk out of one cup of cashews. The next time I make cashew milk, the next experiment will be to see if I can use just half the amount and pulverize the crap of out them with the smaller ratio of water and cashews at the beginning of the process so I don’t have any cashew remains, but still have a lovely strong cashew milk for coffee. If it works, I’ll throw up an actual recipe for it.
I’ve been doing some research in the event that I have to go corn free, which would mean no Earth Balance vegan margarine. I found this Cashew-Based Vegan Butter (Palm Oil-Free, Soy-Free) recipe. It has coconut oil in it which is a no go for me, but I’m thinking about trying it using cocoa butter instead, if the sky falls in and the corn challenge doesn’t go as I hope.
I also drink a lot of soda, which isn’t possible for the next two weeks or so until I do my corn challenge. So I’ve been using this article to make my own soda syrup for my Sodastream. I’ve been using cane sugar to be sure there’s no corn in it.
Sometimes, you might learn things the hard way — how to avoid allergy contamination from your date, for example.
Remember when I gave you 8000 words on tea? Twinings has developed a tea to be brewed on board airplanes. That’s the kind of cool problem-solving the world needs.
Allergic Living magazine has a new poster on anaphylaxis — it’s worth checking out as a reminder of the symptoms and treatment.
Hope you all are having a fabulous week and if you find cool stuff, let us know.
So we’re heading into picnic and cookout weather, and we have some holidays coming up that might result in you getting invited to some cookouts. Mary Kate and I thought it’d be a good idea to have some burgers that are safe for those of us allergies that we can prep ahead of time and bring with us to throw on a grill. Now you may be saying, Denise and Mary Kate, why wouldn’t ground beef be safe? Well, it is–unless someone decides to season it with ranch dressing. And unless you’ve seen the package for the hot dogs, they might have milk in them. And I know people who soak their chicken in buttermilk before grilling or frying it. It’s a lot easier to bring your own food and be sure you can eat something, than to sit at a cookout all afternoon looking at food you can’t eat. So with that in mind, we’ve come up with some great recipes that you’re going to be seeing pop up here and there over the next few months. Because it’s going to be summer, and we need to cook stuff outside with fire!
- l lb bag of garbanzo beans/chick peas (soaked overnight, see below)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 6-8 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup of parsley, chopped
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 teaspoon of coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
- 2 teaspoons of cumin
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (depending on your spice tolerance)
- 2 Tablespoons of garbanzo bean/chick pea flour
- A food processor (you really can’t do this in a blender)
Place the garbanzo beans in a large bowl and cover them by 3-4 inches of water. Let them soak overnight. They should double in size.
Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans thoroughly. Unless your food processor is a heck of a lot bigger than mine, you’re going to have to do the following in batches. Place the garbanzo beans, onion, garlic, parsley, salt, coriander, black pepper, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, and flour in the food processor and process until a rough coarse meal forms, so that it’s somewhere between a paste and the size of millet or quinoa. To do this, I had to process garbanzo beans in three batches, leaving them a bit rough, dumping the processed garbanzo beans into an appropriately sized holding bowl. Then I put about half a cup of the processed garbanzo beans back in the food processor along with the onion, garlic, parsley, salt, coriander, black pepper, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, and flour, and processed it. Then I dumped the completed mix back into the bowl and stirred it with the plain garbanzo beans and then ran the whole mixture back from the food processor to ensure that the spice mixture was evenly mixed with all the garbanzo beans.
You can make the garbanzo bean mixture the day before you intend to serve the burgers to make the day of cooking easier. If you do, cover the mixture with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator until you need it.
If you’re cooking these on a grill (yes, it is possible), make your burgers slightly smaller, more like sliders because they’ll hold together easier. Spray down your grill with grilling spray, checking to make sure it’s safe for your allergies. Depending on the heat of your grill, cook each side 2-3 minutes at least each side. Only turn them once otherwise you make make a mess. To get them golden brown, we cooked them on a hotter grill that we thought appropriate at first.
If you don’t have a grill, you can cook them in a skillet with some vegetable oil. Fill a skillet with about a inch of vegetable oil and heat the oil at medium heat. Cook them for 2-3 minutes per side until they are golden brown. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels.
Serve your falafel in a wrap with Tzatziki Sauce, some lettuce, and other veggies or put it on a burger bun with the Tzatziki Sauce.
Since we can’t have falafel without Tzatziki Sauce (well, you can, but it’s better with), I had to get together a recipe. I started with a recipe at The Vedge, and added some additional things I like to it.
Tzatziki Sauce (Using a Cashew Base)
- 1 cup cashew pieces (raw, unsalted) and soaked overnight in water (covering cashews by 2-3 inches)
- 1 cup water
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of dill weed (optional)
- 4 Tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 medium cucumber (peeled if waxed) and diced (I used two pickling cukes, and left the skin on)
Drain the cashews and place in a blender. Add water, lemon juice, garlic, and salt to blender. Blend until completely pureed, better to over blend than to not blend enough. You want it as smooth as you can get it.
Pour cashew mixture into a bowl that will hold it, the dill, the parsley and the cucumber. Add dill, parsley, and cucumber to the cashew mixture and stir to mix well.
You can do all this in the blender if you want, but I like chunky cucumbers in this sauce. Refrigerate for at least an hour, and use on falafel, gyros, wraps, salads, as a dip and so on. Or you could use large slices or chunks for a salad or side dish, and do a much smaller dice or in the blender for a sandwich slather.
Let us know what you think
Food Allergy Awareness week is May 12 through May 18, 2013. So here’s some information to get you ready for it.
So often times, it feels that the majority of resources available to discuss living with food allergies is actually geared towards parenting children with food allergies, or to diseases often confused with allergies like Celiac disease. Celiac is not an allergy; it is an auto-immune disease. Cross-contamination issues are similar to those with allergies, though, so they seem to get lumped together often. And parenting kids with allergies is probably wicked hard. But I don’t need to learn how to talk to teachers or deal with field trips or birthday parties. I am an adult who theoretically can advocate for herself and her own health, right?
One of the reasons we started the blog was that we weren’t find the recipes we needed to eat well with multiple food allergies. As with so many things, though, the deeper into it you get, the more you realize that the solutions are not simple. Food allergies don’t just affect what you eat, they affect how you live. They affect how you socialize, how you interact with the world, and often how you feel about yourself.
As with so many other issues, what I have found to be most helpful in dealing with all the many social situations that become awkward when you have food allergies are the personal stories shared on the blogs of other adults with food allergies — and the stories shared in their comments. More than anything, social awareness of what an allergy is and how you can (as a non-allergic person) do to ease the way would be the most helpful advocacy I can think of. Here are some great links:
Alerting your new office that you have food allergies This link is actually misnamed, as the Ask A Manager question is from a new employee who has CELIAC DISEASE, which is, as I said above, not an allergy. Same advice applies, though.
Amanda, from Celiac and Allergy Adventures, has a great series on socializing with allergies.
The Allergista discusses skin and food allergies, with great information and resources.
This week I found a PDF you can download of the
Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States from the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases. Sounds like a laugh riot, right? But I actually learned some stuff reading it, so it might be good to take a look at it.
I also found an online class on Food Allergen & Gluten Intolerance Safety Awareness Training for restaurant servers, but might be also really useful for those in our lives might need a little education about food allergy issues. It’s only $15.o0.
I’ve posted this in one of our Friday posts before, but it bears repeating – Five Things Every Boss Should Know About Food Allergies.
Let us know what articles and resources you recommend for coping with adult food allergies, particularly adult onset food allergies. Have a good awareness week all!
On Monday, April 29, 2013, I had some more scratch test allergy testing done because I was having symptoms similar to those I had before I realized that the milk allergy was bad and couldn’t be ignored any more (see my Denise page, which will have to be updated at some point for reasons that will become apparent), and again a year or so later, just before I tested positive for coconut, almond, egg, clams, and crab. So after hemming and hawing and hoping it would freaking go away for a few months (please don’t do what I did, I’m an idiot), I dragged myself into my allergist’s office for more testing.
I got a 2+ for lobster and 1+’s for wheat, corn, potato, chicken, celery and onion. For the 1+ results, the allergist says this result means I have approximately at 25% chance of having a true allergy for these reactions. I’ve been told to do a food avoidance for these and then do a challenge for each ingredient to determine which ones actually cause symptoms. So, here’s the thing. I know it’s at least one of them, and one of my 1+ results from the last round of testing, egg, causes me huge distress when eaten, totally belying its puny 1+ reaction. Here’s the other fricking thing. This brings me to a total of SIXTEEN foods and food derivatives that I have to avoid to do this challenge. Now just for fun, since corn is not a top 8 allergen and doesn’t have to be declared or labeled separately, go look at this list of possible corn derived ingredients. Then go look at this list of foods and products that you may not recognize as containing corn. I thought wheat was bad before I started looking at this stuff, but seriously, I think corn is the worst. And I’ll totally lose being able to eat most Asian food out at restaurants, which will be really, really annoying. And why can’t the FDA get it through its head that people would be best served by having all this stuff labeled?? But actually, I know why and it involves the moment of little pieces of green paper, to borrow a phrase from Douglas Adams.
I haven’t started the elimination process yet, because I’m thinking that while I’m at it, I should just freaking get tested for celiac as well and get it over with, thanks to Mary Kate’s sharing of Celiac Disease Symptoms from the Gluten Dude, and since I still I need to be eating wheat in order for the test to work. In addition, there’s a crapload of stuff I have to sort through and figure out and learn. But at this point, it’s looking like a lot of plain beef or pork, plain vegetables, and rice in my future for the avoidance part of the challenges. Please send good thoughts for the challenges that I was just having a bad day and my skin was pissed off at me and it just decided to fake me out, because it was in a mood. And if some of these results are in fact true allergies, join me in crossing my fingers, eyes and toes, that one of them isn’t f-ing corn. I’ll seriously take all of the rest of them as true allergies as long as corn isn’t one of them (knocking on wood so the universe doesn’t b*tch slap me with corn, just for hoping that it isn’t).
I drafted the above paragraphs the day after I received the results, and I’ve been letting them sit so I could go back and write it to show both the reaction to the testing, and the later consideration after I’ve had time to think about what it means. Which would be good if I were at that point, but the thing is, I’m still reacting and in denial. I haven’t started the elimination process because my doctor appointment with a new primary care practice (don’t get me started on that whole thing) isn’t until later today, where I’ll start the process for getting testing for celiac. I don’t think that this will become real until after I try to eliminate everything and see what is actually is causing the problems and what isn’t, although the possibilities are causing huge anxiety. Also, if it’s corn, and I have a reaction to Earth Balance and have to make my own margarine, I’m probably going to have a huge temper tantrum. I’ll try to contain it and not expose the blog reading public to it, and try remember that at least I still have the option to make my own and be positive, but I may be cranky for a bit. Being optimistic and positive is not one of my normal states of being (and anyone who knows me in real life is probably busting a gut laughing right about now at the understatement). I’m also trying not to get ticked off in advance by stuff I might never be able to buy or use again until I know that I have a reaction, but I’m anxious about it. And at the same time, I’m afraid that even if all or some of this round of positives are allergies, that this isn’t the end. From the original diagnosis of three food allergies in 2000 to the testing in 2011, I added six additional food allergies. Now in a two year span, I’ve added another seven potential food allergies with this round of tests. My pointed little logical brain can’t help but say, “so does this mean that I’m just going to keep adding more food allergies over the course of my life? I’m 41. What will be left for me to eat?”
I’ve been through this before, so I know I’m just going through the normal stages of this process, and I know I’ll get to the other stages eventually. Like being at the place where knowing is better because I can control it and I will feel better and be happier once I have a handle on what the problem is. But I’m just not there yet, I’m still angry and anxious, which causes me to be more angry because I seriously don’t like being anxious. Before I got the results, I thought I was ready, and that it wouldn’t be this hard this time around because I’ve been through this twice before and you’d think I’d be used to it. Oops, guess not. I thought about waiting to share this post until I had moved farther along the continuum, but maybe it’ll help others with first time food allergies realize that this is part of the process and it’s okay.
Anyway, that’s the beginning of the new battle, just as I thought I was getting the handle of things with the other nine. Any helpful references or pages you guys have for any of the new list, would be most appreciated. I’ll be posting some updates as I do the elimination and challenges.
Be careful out there.
You know, if you have a good list of allergies, as Denise and I both do, breakfast can be one of the worst meals. If you eat meat, bacon is usually safe, though sausage might or might not be. Take out eggs, gluten for pancakes and waffles… well, you get the picture. I miss going out for breakfast. And as much as I love them, I’m actually getting bored of cereal and hash browns for breakfast.
So why not polenta? I have eaten leftover corn polenta for breakfast (the kind that comes in a nice tube at the grocery store), and it’s great as a savory breakfast, but I started thinking of the millet polenta in Vegan with a Vengeance — that was the first polenta I ever made and the first time I’d eaten millet. We used to buy it for the parakeets we had growing up, and I still sort of think of it as bird food. But it’s really tasty!
This recipe easily doubles into a 9×11 pan, but for one breakfast or one person who doesn’t want to eat it for 9 days, do this in an 8×8 pan. My favorite part is that all the work is done ahead of time, with maybe 10 minutes of work in the morning — and most of those are what some recipes call “inactive” time. I am not a morning person.
In a sauce pan, mix
- 1 cup millet, rinsed
- 1 1/2 cups orange juice
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 Tablespoon oil, shortening, or Earth Balance (use coconut oil if you can)
- 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
Bring this mixture to a boil, turn it down, and let it simmer for 30-35 minutes.
In a separate small pan, heat
- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 Tablespoon orange juice
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
When the blueberries are soft, mash them with a fork or potato masher, just until you have a rough jelly.
Into a greased 8×8 pan, put half the millet mixture in the pan, smooth down, spread the blueberry mix on top, and then add the second half of millet mix and smooth it out.
Allow it to cool at room temperature and then refrigerate.
You will need
- 1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil, Earth Balance, or other oil of your choosing (just enough to coat the bottom of your skillet)
- Maple syrup
In the morning, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add your oil — this isn’t absolutely necessary, but it will promote a good browning, which really makes the polenta to me. Pan fry on both sides, 5-7 minutes per side.
Plate and drizzle with maple syrup. Pour it on slowly to allow it to soak in. Oh, and get the real stuff — you’re worth it.
What do you eat for breakfast? Do you rely on the same standards, over and over, or do you mix it up?
Let’s kick it off with an important image that isn’t ours — Gluten Dude’s Celiac Disease Symptom chart. This chart is made from symptoms as shared by those diagnosed with celiac, rather than by medical texts, and this is particularly important given that the medical community doesn’t have a great track record with celiac diagnoses. IF YOU THINK YOU MIGHT HAVE CELIAC, get tested. Don’t just start a gluten-free diet to see. You need to be regularly eating gluten for the tests to be conclusive. Celiac is not an allergy. It’s an autoimmune disease. But given that some of the food concerns are similar, we hope our gluten-free recipes will work for our celiac friends, too.
Sort of obsessed with the idea of tamales lately, and here’s a vegan recipe from Terry Hope Romero. Just in time for Cinco de Mayo!
And in keeping with that theme, here’s some Quinoa Taco “Meat” from Fork & Beans, it’s gluten, egg, and dairy free, and vegan.
Also coming into the summer season, we all need to cool down with some lovely drinks, and here’s some ice cubes with lemon, berries and mint frozen into them for a yummy treat.
I’m looking for new and interesting things to try, and this Ethiopian Sweet Potato and Lentil Wat with Injera Flatbread looks fascinating. It’s vegan and gluten free, using teff flour to make the Injera Flatbread.
And lastly, a Pear Sorbet recipe that uses white wine, or apple juice if you don’t imbibe. But it looks really fabulous and easy!
Hope you all are having a fabulous week and if you find cool stuff, let us know.
Since we’ve focused this month on recipes inspired by cuisine from the continent of Asia (I know, we never said there was a theme, but there was. We’re wily like that.), I thought tea would make another good subject for another research-based (some might say “nerdy”) post. Tea is the second most popular drink in the world. In the world, people — second only to water. I know I’m part of that statistic. I was only an occasional tea drinker until graduate school. You know what’s colder than a New England winter? A Pacific Northwest winter. I know, the thermometer says it’s warmer, but it’s wet and sinks into your bones. So you drink hot beverages — coffee, hot chocolate, and TEA.
And why not? Tea, at its root, is an easy drink to make — pour hot water over some leaves. It works with a variety of leaves, in fact, giving us tea (leaves from the camellia sinesis plant) and tisanes, which are commonly called “herbal teas” in the US.
I would guess that most people drink tea because they like the taste — and there are so many varieties that I imagine nearly anyone can find something that they enjoy. But tea has been used for centuries as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Western medicine is now studying the potential health benefits of tea. One meta-study (review of all the other studies to gather the data in a single place for analysis) assembled the following list of tea’s benefits:
Recent human studies suggest that green tea may contribute to a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer, as well as to the promotion of oral health and other physiological functions such as anti-hypertensive effect, body weight control, antibacterial and antivirasic activity, solar ultraviolet protection, bone mineral density increase, anti-fibrotic properties, and neuroprotective power.
But what IS tea? Tea is the leaves or leaf buds of the camellia sinesis plant, which, left to its own devices becomes a tree, but is generally kept pruned to about waist-height for ease of harvesting. Tea is harvested by hand, with the leaves being picked every few weeks. The earliest harvests are generally the most prized, and different seasons produce different teas.
In 2009, I took a trip to China, and we visited a tea plantation near Suzhou, site of all the photos I’ve punched into this post. At the plantation, we were ushered into a lovely building, with a courtyard teapot fountain (top photo) and a tea tasting room that looked out over the bushes. All the tea here is picked by hand and processed (dried) on site. They produced 4 grades of tea, and the top two (Empress and Grade A) are never exported. Quality tea leaves like these can be re-used up to 5 times, so about all day.
Tea is native to China, and the Chinese drink their tea green — unoxidized. Tea was oxidized and compressed for trade, but the Chinese traders considered this an inferior version of the drink. Tea hit a cultural high point during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), when it was used for social ceremonies as well as in Buddhist ceremonies. Lu Yu wrote what may be the first tea manifesto, in which tea appreciation, using Taoist and Buddhist principles, could enhance one’s life — help you live your philosophy, and enjoy the moment. To this end, specialized tea wares, including ceramics, began to be developed Japanese Buddhist monks studying in China at this time discovered tea and its ceremonies, which they brought back to Japan.
As Japan’s tea culture flourished, the Manchu or Qing Dynasty in China changed the ethnicity and dominant traditions of the ruling classes. The Manchu were the primary market for the “inferior” oxidized teas that earlier Chinese dynasties traded at the borders — the precursor to what we know as black tea. They drank their tea dark, strong and with milk — fermented mare’s milk. This is the tea culture that the British Empire first encountered, and explains the popularity of black tea with milk as tea spread to Europe.
Tea spread first to Europe, and then to England, which is how it becomes part of the story of the US. The first sale of tea in London was in 1658, and tea became a fixture of British life when Charles II married Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza, a tea drinker. Chinese tea was traded through the Dutch, who had a monopoly on tea, and even when the Chinese began to trade directly with British merchants, it wasn’t enough. Tea was popular everywhere, including in the British colonies, including the one Denise and I both live in now.
The 1773 Boston Tea Party, besides being an important historical landmark event, seems to be a high point for high school history, given how well it is remembered (I vaguely remember a re-enactment class, and I grew up in the South. If you ever get a chance, go to the Old South Meeting House re-enactment in Boston — it’s worth the trip.) The really short version? The colonists were tired of being taxed by the British, and began to boycott their imports. The Dutch were more than happy to sell their tea without a tax, so to undercut them, the British decided to empty some warehouses of tea at low cost to the colonists. The colonists? Didn’t take the bait. They asked the governor to send the three ships back to England without unloading. When the governor refused, the Sons of Liberty, dressed as Native Americans, boarded the ships and dumped the tea overboard.
Tea was also the beginning (and end result) of another war — the Opium Wars of 1839-1842 in which British traders tried to make back the money they paid the Chinese for tea by importing Indian opium into China. China lost, and badly, not only paying for the war, but giving Hong Kong to the British. Remember when Hong Kong was “repatriated,” if that’s the right term? In 1997? All over TEA.
As part of the great sales pitch at the tea tasting room in Suzhou, we were given tea to taste, but also demonstrations of green tea’s detoxifying power — but wait, it also absorbs fat! And this dirt in the water! According to my journal notes, green tea steam can be a great eye moisturizer (I had forgotten all this, but allergy season is a great time to test it out), and green tea bags can be used to absorb fat in a soup stock (I never tried this either, but there’s no time like the present).
Fresh tea leaves contain about 4% caffeine, and scientists have speculated that it may be a chemical defense system for the plant. Tea also contains flavinoids, vitamins, and polysaccharides, as well as amino acids. One of these amino acids is L-Theanine, an amino acid that naturopaths say stress depletes in your body, but which provides a calm, alert, and focused mental state. I want a calm, alert, and focused mental state, don’t you? That may be why I drink so much tea.
Given all this, what teas do I drink? I admit that, lovely as loose tea is, it’s not my go-to tea method. I usually have tea bags in my purse (always) or carry-on bag (when flying). The photo above is just my collection of teas at work, where they take up valuable real estate on the printer. The small green canister up there was the last bit of tea from my trip to China, and the aluminum canister holds all the many assorted teas and tisanes I’ve collected over time. The boxes include two tisanes — a Celestial Seasonings Tangerine Zinger and a peppermint, which is great for all the digestive fun that can come with food allergies and intolerances. The two teas are Irish Breakfast and Bancha Hojicha. Bancha hojicha is a toasted/roasted Japanese green tea better known in my office as “magic tea,” as it was introduced to me as a hangover cure (my hangover was from benedryl, sadly, but you know what? It works, so it IS magic). I did look up Irish Breakfast tea versus English Breakfast tea — both are black tea blends, they are just different blends. The internet consensus seems to be that IB is stronger than EB, possibly with higher concentrations of Assam tea (Indian tea).
Starting with Lu Yu, there have been many theories and philosophies on how to make the best, most perfect, most enlightening cup of tea. There is an actual international standard for making tea for tasting — ISO 3103. (Wikipedia link –the official ISO is a pay-to-read site). Green tea should be steeped in water just under boiling, not quite boiling, as it can become bitter — this seems to be even more true with the lesser quality leaves that tend to be found in mass produced green tea bags. At home, I admit, I like the ritual of my tea kettle, but I rarely make a pot of tea. At work, I use the hot water spigot, and it’s even less ritualistic, but I’m in it for the taste.
So. Tea. Do you drink it? What do you love? What did I miss that you still want to know? Please ask. I probably read about it and just couldn’t fit it in.
Tea catechins’ affinity for human cannabinoid receptors (study on how tea works)
Mary Lou Heiss and Robert Heiss, The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide. Ten Speed Press, 2007.
Before the food allergy apocalypse hit, one of the things I really liked to do was to make my own Peking Ravioli (aka Potsticker, Wonton, Gyoza, etc.) or whatever you want to call your basic Asian style dumpling. Apparently you only call them Peking Ravioli if you live in the Northeast because that was what Joyce Chen called them in her restaurant in Boston in the 1950′s–the things you learn when blogging. But in the before times, in the long, long ago, I liked to make them by buying pre-made wonton wrappers at the grocery store, which, at least for the grocery stores in New Hampshire, all contain egg. So I thought I’d try to come up with a gluten free vegan wrapper so Mary Kate could eat some too. (I can have wheat, at least for now. More food allergy testing later today. Please cross your fingers for me that they don’t find any more food allergies, and if they do, it’s an easy to avoid one like a fruit.) My gluten free vegan dough attempt was pretty much a spectacular failure, and it’s going to take some more research and some more work, but I’ll keep trying. At the same time, I had decided to try an egg free dough that I had found using all purpose flour (warning: I mean a real wheat flour) and boiling water, because I knew I was going to have too much filling, and I like to do a lot of experiments at once because you’re more likely to have at least one success. The egg-free real wheat flour version worked. Again, I promise to keep trying for a gluten free version.
Anyway, the really nice thing about this recipe is that you can make a bunch of them up, put them on parchment paper on a cookie sheet (this is prior to cooking them), making sure they don’t touch and then throw them in your freezer on the cookie sheet until they are frozen solid. Then you can pop them into a ziploc freezer bag, and you can take a few out here and there to use whenever you want, to steam, to pan-fry or to put in soup, because they’re not frozen together in a lump. It’s labor intensive for an afternoon on the weekend, but then you’ll have lots and lots of dumplings for whenever you want!
Pork Peking Ravioli (aka Potsticker, Wonton, Gyoza, etc.)
Makes about 35-38 dumplings if you roll out your wrappers to 3 inches in diameter and to an 1/8 of an inch thick.
Dumpling Dipping Sauce (only if you pan fry or steam them, see directions below)
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of Huy Fong Vietnamese Chili Garlic Sauce (depending on your proclivity for spice)
- 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ginger, grated (I used a Pampered Chef Microplane Fine Grater)
- 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
Dough for Dumpling Wrappers
- 2 cups of all purpose flour
- 1 cup of boiling water
- extra all purpose flour for rolling out dough
- 1/2 lb of ground pork (try to get 80/20 if possible)
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed into a paste or very finely minced
- 1/2 medium carrot, very finely grated (I used a Pampered Chef Microplane Fine Grater so it was nearly mush)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger, very finely grated (used the microplane grater again)
- 2 green onions or scallions, finely chopped with green tops
- 2 cups of Napa cabbage, shredded and very finely chopped
- 1/4 cup of minced water chestnuts (I used a Pampered Chef food chopper, but a knife works too)
- 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons of Huy Fong Vietnamese Chili Garlic Sauce
2 teaspoons of cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
Pan frying Ingredients
- 1 cup of chicken stock (check the label if using store bought)
- 2-3 tablespoons of sesame oil
First, if you are steaming or pan frying your dumplings and you need dipping sauce, put all the ingredients for the dipping sauce in a small bowl, whisk the ingredients together until they are well combined, and then put it aside until your dumplings are cooked. (I forgot to take a picture, sorry.)
To make the dough for the dumpling wrappers, I used my stand mixer with a dough hook, but you can just use a bowl and a spatula too. Place the flour in the bowl and mix the boiling water in slowly until the dough forms a ball. If using a mixer, continue on low speed to knead it for a few minutes. If using the low tech method, knead it with your hands for a few minutes. Shape it into a smooth ball and place it in a ziploc bag to rest a bit while you make the filling.
To make the filling, prepare all the ingredients if you haven’t already. I grated the carrot as finely as shown below:
The Napa cabbage, I sliced very finely with a very sharp knife, aiming for a width of a quarter of an inch or less, and then chopped the slices into smaller pieces:
Place ground pork, garlic, carrot, ginger, green onions, Nappa cabbage, water chestnuts, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, chili garlic sauce, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl, and mix throughly using your hands. You might want to put it in your refrigerator while you roll out the wrappers.
Now it’s time to make your wrappers. You can roll out your dough on a very clean counter top, a dough rolling mat, or a cutting board. I used a rolling pin and a biscuit cutter which was three inches in diameter to make the wrappers. Spread some flour over the surface of your work area. This dough is very sticky, you’re going to need quite a bit of flour for dusting, and it’s much easier to do it in small pieces. I only rolled out enough dough to cut out 2 or 3 wrappers at a time, as any larger attempts stuck to the mat too easily. Take a piece of the dough about the size of a plum, and using your flour to dust liberally, roll the dough to about an 1/8 of an inch thick and use your biscuit cutter (cookie cutter, or even a water glass in a pinch) to cut out the wrapper. Take your scraps and a bit more of the dough, and knead them together a bit and roll out a couple more wrappers. Keep doing this until all the dough is gone.
Again, this dough is very sticky, make sure you dust them liberally before putting them in a pile. I didn’t and I had several wrappers stick together, which I then had to roll out again when I tried to use them.
Now it’s time to make your dumplings. I just want to say that this is a much softer dough that your usual wonton wrapper you get from the grocery store, and it’s harder to get a “pretty” result. And I’m not an expert by any means. So go check out this video by an expert for different shapes and techniques if you need a better explanation than the one I’m about to attempt. Especially once you see the picture of my completed ones below. Take a wrapper, hold it open in the palm of your hand. Place about a teaspoon or so of filling in the center of the dumpling and fold up the sides of the wrapper, pinching it shut, making little pleats if you have that kind of dexterity.
Now you get to choose how to cook them. I provide three methods below, but the first, Pan-frying, is what I used this time:
Pan-frying Dumplings: Place a little sesame seed oil in a skillet (which must have a tight fitting lid) over medium heat. Add dumplings, but so that they do not touch and have enough room to cook separately.
Fry until golden brown, and then turn to fry the other side to the same golden brown color as shown below:
Once both sides are golden brown, add a quarter cup of chicken stock and put the tight fitting lid on the skillet. Continue to cook over medium heat while dumplings steam from chicken broth for another 3 – 7 minutes (depending on whether they were fresh or if they were dumplings you froze to use later) making sure to test one to see if they are done before serving. You may need to adjust your cooking times. Continue to fry and then steam dumplings in batches until you have cooked all the dumplings you intend to serve. Serve with dipping sauce.
Steaming Dumplings: Use a metal steamer basket or a bamboo steamer in an appropriate size pot with a tight fitting lid with enough water so that it will not touch the dumplings. Place the dumplings in a single layer in the steamer. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and put the lid on the pot. If the dumplings are freshly made, cook for 5 minutes or so, but test one to see if they are done before serving. If you froze your dumplings to use later, don’t thaw them, but cook them for about 15 to 20 minutes, testing to see if they are done before serving. Serve with dipping sauce.
Dumplings In Soup: You can do a quick wonton soup, using some chicken broth, some green onions, some Napa cabbage, thinly sliced carrots and some of your dumplings. Bring the chicken broth to a boil, add the dumplings and carrots, and then reduce the heat to medium. When the dumplings and carrots are cooked, add the green onions, Napa cabbage and cook for a minute or two more. I like to add some white pepper or Chinese Five Spice to season it as well. This is a really quick dinner if you’re using dumplings you froze to use later, and some frozen homemade chicken stock, or a store bought version (checking the labels of course).
Hope you like these, and I will keep trying for a gluten free version I like to share.