2015-03-27 Fabulous Friday Finds

An otter at the Sonoran Desert Museum hosts the blog this week

An otter at the Sonoran Desert Museum hosts the blog this week

Ever since I made a S’mores Pie (I am still working on the recipe for the blog) and got to use my neglected kitchen torch, I’ve been searching for more ways to use my kitchen torch. It’s still sitting on the counter, waiting. It was part of a creme brulee set, but I’ve never made creme brulee (didn’t really like it, even when it was an option for me), so it never really got used. This list and this other list have some ideas on what else I can torch in the kitchen. I think my favorite is the idea of brulee-ing a sugar coat on top of my oatmeal. I might eat a lot of oatmeal for a while…

Thinking ahead to the glut (and, for me, boredom) of zucchini season, and trying to remember that the slow cooker is awesome in the summer, too, this quinoa and summer squash stew sounds great — and I don’t think it’d be at all harmed by leaving out the bit of cheese. This dream of summer brought to you by the 40ºF temperatures on Tuesday afternoon and getting to take my coat off outside.

I’m (Denise) still on an Asian food kick and craving fried food, and this recipe for Crisp Hoi An Pancakes fits the bill. There’s also very few substitutions I’d have to make.  

And this one is for Mary Kate. Although it uses sweet potatoes, I don’t know why regular potatoes wouldn’t work either.  Check out this recipe for Homemade Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Tater Tots. And again, there’s little I would have to modify, woo hoo!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Rice Vermicelli Salad Bowls with Beef

Steamed Rice Vermicelli Salad Bowls with Beef

Rice Vermicelli Salad Bowls with Beef

I love Vietnamese food. Seriously, I love it. Before the corn allergy, our local Vietnamese joint could recognize my voice before I even finished stating that I wanted to order takeout. The owner knew my name and my husband’s name, and what we generally ordered. If Shawn forgot what I wanted when stopping in to pick up dinner on his way home from work, the owner could reel off my five or so favorite dishes until Shawn heard the one that jogged his memory.  I used to get #23 with Beef, i.e. Steamed Vermicelli Patties or Banh Hoi, that you wrap up in rice paper yourself, probably more than fifty percent of the time. So it was inevitable that I figure out how to make it myself in a way that’s safe for me. However, I didn’t actually do the rice paper and make my own fresh/salad rolls, because it’s winter (yes, I know it’s technically spring, but that’s not what’s outside and it snowed yesterday), I just moved, and I’m really tired. It’s all the good stuff without the rice paper wrapper, that’s all.

Rice Vermicelli Salad Bowls with Beef

Serves 4 or 2 really hungry people with maybe enough for a bit of lunch the next day.

Beef and Marinade:

  • 1 and 1/2 pounds of beef sirloin beef tips, sliced across the grain into pieces about 1 1/2 to 2 inches long and 1/4 inch wide
  • 1 garlic clove, minced and crushed to a paste (if you don’t have a garlic crusher, just mince it and smoosh it with a metal spoon)
  • 1 shallot, finely minced, or 1/4 of a small onion, finely minced
  • 1 Tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons of oil (make sure it’s safe for you, I used grape seed oil)
  • 1 Tablespoon of soy sauce (I do well with San-J Tamari Gluten Free Soy Sauce, the alcohol is from cane sugar not corn), but if you can’t use soy, try Mary Kate’s recipe for a Soy-Free, gluten-free “Tamari Sauce”
  • 1 Tablespoon of Sriracha (I use my own homemade from this recipe, but I use rice vinegar instead of distilled)
  • a bit of oil for frying

Salad Fixings:

  • 1 – 8 ounce package of fine rice vermicelli (for reference, this is what I used, no affiliation with Amazon, just ease of linking)
  • Scallion Oil Garnish (here’s the recipe, although I used grape seed oil)
  • fresh mint or fresh thai basil or both
  • Spring Mix lettuce
  • tomatoes, sliced
  • cucumbers, sliced
  • bean sprouts (I didn’t use them, but just because the grocery store didn’t have them today)

Condiments of your Choice:

Slice your beef to the correct thinness and length if you haven’t already.

Sirloin beef tips, sliced into smaller pieces, cut across the grain

Sirloin beef tips, sliced into smaller pieces, cut across the grain

Place garlic, shallot (or onion), brown sugar, oil, soy sauce and Sriracha in a bowl large enough to place the sirloin tips.  Mix the ingredients well so that the sugar dissolves.

Marinade, well combined.

Marinade, well combined.

Add the beef and stir well.  Set the beef aside let it marinate while you work on the rest of the dish.

Beef combined with marinade.

Beef combined with marinade.

Fill a large pot with 3 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add your rice vermicelli and let boil for 3 minutes. Drain and place in a bowl to cool.

Rice vermicelli cooling.

Rice vermicelli cooling.

In a skillet (I used a cast iron wok, because it’s new and I wanted to play with it, but you can use a cast iron skillet or other skillet), heat a bit of oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, place the beef in the skillet, making sure not to crowd, or have more than one layer.

Beef cooking in cast iron wok

Beef cooking in cast iron wok

You may (will) need to do it in batches. When you have a nice sear on one side, flip the beef over and sear the other side. Tongs really help for this. Depending on your skillet and your stove, it’ll take 2-4 minutes a side to sear (this make take some experimentation on your part). You might want to put the beef on a plate as you do batches.

Beef on a plate after being cooked in batches

Beef on a plate after being cooked in batches

Once you have finished cooking the beef, it’s time to assemble your salad bowl.  Place some of the vermicelli in the bowl (you may need to cut it, as the noodles are long). Add the other salad fixings of your choice, and some of the beef.  Then add the condiments of your choice and voila!

Steamed Rice Vermicelli Salad Bowls with Beef

Rice Vermicelli Salad Bowls with Beef

 

Almost like the old days!

2015-03-20 Fabulous Friday Finds

springness

springness. just in case spring is not yet happening where you are

This recipe includes couscous, which is obviously wheat, but with millet or sorghum, I think this roasted carrot dish would be amazing. There were roasted carrots on my bowl at Agno Grill in Philadelphia, and they were so very good. And I even have carrots.

Need some breakfast ideas? I always do. Some of these are allergy-friendly, and the millet breakfast porridge sounds like it might be worth trying. Does anything else trip your fancy?

I’ve been craving bread with butter all week. Still haven’t found a decent gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, corn-free bread, but once I get all unpacked, I’m going to work on it more.  Here’s a recipe for gluten-free, vegan bagels that I found that I’d like to try once things settle out from Petite Allergy Treats

Also, here’s an interesting Green Cauliflower Wing recipe that looks pretty good. And the Spicy Orange Glaze sauce on the same post also looks pretty good. It’d be great for vegetable tempura. 

Have a great weekend everyone! Think spring thoughts. 

Chinese-Irish Baked Latkes

Chinese-Irish Baked Latkes

Chinese-Irish Baked Latkes

Hey, here’s an ethnic mash-up for you. My Irish family always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day rather traditionally, in part because my grandfather’s birthday was the 16th and he loved the traditional corned beef and cabbage. Personally, though, I would survive just fine without ever seeing that again (there was an incident involving snow, Georgia, a cancelled party, and corned beef and cabbage for about 30 consumed by the six of us for, oh, about eternity. BLECH.)

However.

Potatoes in all their forms are one of my favorite things on earth. And I’m not actually all that Irish by blood. So I’ve been thinking of ways to mash my Chinese heritage and my Irish heritage into a dish, via midwest America, and I found it via Hanukkah’s latkes. Latkes are the best holiday food anyone has ever invented in the history of all things. Now the symbolism of latkes is focused on the oil not the potatoes, but for St. Patrick’s Day, it seems right to minimize the oil and focus on the potato, no? To hold everything together, instead of egg and flour, I’ve made a homemade sweet and sour sauce, with an added (optional) bonus of hot, and added broccoli for flavor and color (it’s green, right?).

So I bring you the Chinese-Irish St. Patrick’s Day Latke. It’s possible that the story here makes sense to exactly one person in the world (me), but the flavors will make sense to a lot more of you. These are vegan, gluten-free, ethnically diverse, and baked, because frying is just messy. I hope you enjoy them.

Raw latke materials

Raw latke materials

Chinese-Irish Baked Latkes

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (cider or white, your choice)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons tapioca starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional or adjust to your taste)
  • about 1 inch of a chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and smashed (I just use the pot lid to smash)
  • 2 large baking potatoes, washed and peeled (1.5 to 2 lbs.)
  • 1 large head of broccoli, trimmed (1/2 lb.)
  • oil to grease pans

First, make the sauce. Whisk all ingredients, water through ginger, together in a saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling, and cook, whisking regularly, to reduce to about 1/2 cup, total (a little less than half its original volume, and pretty thick). This takes 10-15 minutes. Strain out ginger and red pepper flakes (the taste of both stays in the sauce, I promise). Set aside while you prep the vegetables.

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Prepare two pans by spraying or brushing with oil.

Wash the broccoli and potatoes. Peel the potatoes. Chop both into sizes that will fit in your food processor.

Put the broccoli through the shredder blade and then empty into a large mixing bowl. Peel the potatoes and then shred them. Wrap the shreds in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze as much liquid out as you possibly can. Twist and wring — you will be surprised how much liquid is in them, and this makes your patties soggy. Squeeze a little longer than you think you should. Empty them into the bowl as well (and rinse the towel).

Mix the broccoli and potatoes, then add the sauce. Mix. It seems as though it will not come together — but it will. I found a rubber spatula worked best for this, and I had already dirtied one scraping the sauce into the mix; so perfect.

latkes ready for oven

latkes ready for oven

Scoop scant 1/4 cups of the mix onto the greased trays. Flatten these out and neaten up the edges. Don’t skip the neatening! Those bits will burn (as you can see in the photos). Bake on a center rack (not the bottom rack! Ask me how I know.) for 10 minutes, then flip all patties and bake for another 5-10 minutes (this seems to depend on the weight of the pan you are using).

Enjoy hot.

2015-03-13 Fabulous Friday Finds

Grand  Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

Happy Friday the 13th!

I keep meaning to write a post about this, but I (Denise) bought a house, and we’ve been in the process of moving and unpacking and all other manner of chaos. It’s food allergy-related because I needed a garden because corn is the devil and is in everything. My friend Mary S of the green thumb sent me this link with timeline for starting seeds, which I need to do pretty soon as I’m already a tad behind.  

And since I’m trying to organize my new kitchen, and I need to deal with my pot lids, I found this post from the Kitchn on 10 Smart and Cheap Ways to Organize Pot Lids.

I (Mary Kate) do still not have a house. But that’s because when you build things, sometimes you unearth other things, like the Black Plague. And Bedlam. Please note before clicking: this link is not about food. It is about archaeology and construction and digging up skeletons. I think these things are cool and interesting; so do many of my friends and co-workers. Your interests may vary. Click accordingly.

As you can tell, I didn’t read all that much about food this week. I’ve been focused on my own recipes, and hopefully that’ll pay off for you on Monday. In other news, tomorrow is Pi Day of the Century (3.14.15), and our favorite spice company, Penzey’s, has a really interesting take on what that could mean. Denise and I are pretty big science geeks, and cooking is some amazing science, but this takes that connection to a different level. I, for one, appreciate the prompt to think bigger.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Crispy Duck

Crispy Duck

Crispy Duck

Crispy Duck 

  • 1 whole fresh duck (or some duck legs or breasts if you don’t want to deal with a whole duck)
  • 1 Tablespoon of sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons of Chinese Five Spice
  • a pair of good kitchen shears
  • roasting pan that can fit a rack in the bottom
  • oven safe cookie rack that fits in the roasting pan

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Remove the giblets from the duck, and using your kitchen shears cut out the duck’s backbone, and then cut the breast down the center so you have two half pieces of the duck. I also trimmed the first two sections of wing off, as I didn’t want them to burn during the cooking process. (Save the giblets, backbone, and wing sections to make stock later, or discard if you don’t want to use them.) Trim any extra fat away from the duck, and remove any remaining quills. Using a sharp knife, score the skin of the duck, but do not cut so deep that you cut the meat.

In a large shallow bowl, mix the sea salt and Chinese Five Spice so that it is mixed thoroughly. Placing each half of the duck in the bowl one at a time and use your hands to coat both sides of the duck half with the mixture.

Place the seasoned duck halves on the rack in the roasting pan. The rack allows the duck fat to drip to the bottom, otherwise you’ll be spooning fact out as the duck cooks. (You’re also going to want to save this fat to use later, it’s a great cooking fat, especially for those of us with no safe butter, margarine, or shortening.) 

Seasoned duck halves before cooking

Seasoned duck halves before cooking

Place the duck in the pre-heated oven and roast for about two hours, turning the duck halves every half hour. Once the duck reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, turn the oven up to 425°F for 15 minutes to really crisp up the skin.

Cooked duck halves

Cooked duck halves

Remove the pan from the oven and let the duck cool enough that you can remove the meat from the bones without burning your fingers to bits. Then remove the meat from the bones. (Save the bones to make stock later, or discard if you don’t want to use them.) 

Duck meat removed from the bones

Duck meat removed from the bones

You can eat this with Chinese pancakes, sliced cucumbers, scallions, and Hoisin sauce, like you would eat Peking Duck. Since I didn’t want to try to deal with coming up with a recipe for gluten-free Chinese pancakes, I used rice paper and ate the duck with lettuce, rice vermicelli noodles, sliced cucumber, sliced onion (I forgot to buy scallions), Carrot and Daikon pickle, homemade plum sauce, homemade Hoisin Sauce, and homemade Sriracha.

Enjoy!

Crispy Duck in rice paper with rice vermicelli and veggies

Crispy Duck in rice paper with rice vermicelli and veggies

2015-03-06 Fabulous Friday Finds

Moody twilight shots of the Dana Hall facade (the real one, not the false brick one) at Agnes Scott College, Decatur, GA

Moody twilight shots of the Dana Hall facade (the real one, not the false brick one) at Agnes Scott College, Decatur, GA

Happy first Friday in March, everyone. To pre-ruin your weekend, remember to lose an hour Saturday night just so that you can be confused about what time it is for the next two weeks (or is that just Mary Kate?).

Since it’s still not spring anywhere on our continent, it’s still time for warm foods. But maybe it’s time for warm foods with a spring-ish twist? I’d love to try this baked lemon risotto with some nice green vegetables (and I’d just omit the cheese), and I still have half a container of arborio rice. Hello, dinner. I’m always a fan of finding a lazier way of doing something, and baking risotto (or even “risotto”) sounds like a fabulous technique.

I’m also planning whip up this tribute to Spock, in honor of the late Leonard Nimoy: Vegan Vulcan Plomeek Soup. This is the best recipe I’ve seen for it, by far. And Vulcans are my spirit aliens. (“Me” being Mary Kate. I’m not sure Denise has a spirit alien. She does not watch as much TV as I do.)

I’m (Denise) pretty sure I don’t have a spirit alien, and having now just Google-d it and become none the wiser, I’ll just say that I’m more Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy than Star Trek. But I’m much more Lord of the Rings actually, and height issues aside, I’m probably a Hobbit, although I would prefer to be an Elf or a Wizard, but hey, who wouldn’t?  But in any case, since the color of the green is the traditional space livery of the Betelgeuse trading scouts in the Hitchhiker’s Guide, here’s a recipe for Avocado Alfredo which makes the noodles pretty and green. And to continue with the theme, here’s some Green Chile Enchilada Quesadillas, which are also pretty and green. I need to get a hold of some of this Otto’s Cassava Flour and try it out. 

Have a good week everyone!

Making Vegan Gluten-free Thin Mints

Vegan Gluten-free Thin Mints

Vegan Gluten-free Thin Mints

My friend Corinne, of sparecake, decided to move out to Wyoming for a job. So I went down to spend a day hanging out with her before she left. We’ve cooked together a few times — Corinne isn’t gluten-free, but her mom is, so we’ve tried out some recipes. For this final attempt, we did a Frankensteined faux Thin Mint, using the cookie from one cookbook and the chocolate “frosting” or glaze from another because that’s what we had all the ingredients to do.

The cookies were not exactly like the originals, but were still crisp and chocolatey and minty, so overall, I’ll call this a success. We did reduce the amount of mint extract in the chocolate coating by a lot, as it was almost dental cleaning strong the first time around. Interestingly, there is no mint in the cookie part of a thin mint. Who knew? It’s just in the chocolate glaze.

The dough for these cookies was super dry, and we had doubts it would hold together for rolling or cutting, but it did both admirably.

This dough is pretty dry. But it ends up tasting good.

This dough is pretty dry. But it ends up tasting good.

Cut out cookies.

Cut out cookies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So this dough involves cutting in the shortening, “kneading” the very dry dough until it sort of holds together, and then rolling and cutting. After the cookies are baked and cooled, add chocolate mint coating. It is a few more steps than “regular” cookies, but, hey, this is re-creation. Miss Girl Scout cookies? This is the recipe for you.

For the full recipe, I’m going to shoot you over to Corinne’s site, sparecake. For the allergic, you will need a non-dairy milk, a safe-for-you shortening, and a meltable safe chocolate.

Citrus-spiced Beef Short Ribs

Citrus-spiced Beef Short Ribs with mashed potatoes and green beans

Citrus-spiced Beef Short Ribs with mashed potatoes and green beans

There are two times of the year when I want to eat like the midwesterner I am — dead of winter, and height of summer. And by that, I mean there are two times of the year when I think of meat, first, and then figure out what goes with it. In the summer, I just want to grill things. But in the dead of winter, I want hearty meat and potatoes and veg meals. When I was at the grocery store browsing the meat section, I found some beef short ribs that just looked good — I’d never cooked beef ribs before, nor short ribs of any sort, but trying new things is sort of the point of this blog. So I bought them.

I looked up some things online — a few recipes for beef short ribs in particular, as well as some technique-focused posts on braising. I followed this post for the cooking technique, more or less. And I decided to go with a sort of sweet-and-spicy, braised in the oven beef dish. It was definitely a winner, and this is a perfect mid-winter dinner — it’s hearty and warm and sort of comforting. I highly suggest serving with mashed potatoes, and I added green beans for the vegetable. I’m thinking that bok choy might taste great with the sauce, though.

A note on the sauce — the beef gets just a hint of the spice of the red pepper flakes. The sauce itself, which still contains the actual flakes, is a good deal spicier. Adjust the measurement according to your tastes.

Ideally, use one covered pot or pan that you can do the stove top searing and then the oven braising in — fewer dishes is good for sanity and the environment, plus all the flavor stays together. If you have a Dutch oven, this is the time to use it. As soon as I sort out enough stuff in my storage area to create space to store one, I am buying one. I used my cast iron skillet and covered it tightly with foil as it doesn’t have a lid. This worked great, although I do need to re-season after cooking with an acidic citrus juice for a few hours. It was worth it.

Citrus-spiced Beef Short Ribs

Citrus-spiced Beef Short Ribs

Citrus-spiced Beef Short Ribs

  • 1.5 lbs beef short ribs, bone in, separated into individual bones
  • salt and pepper to season the ribs
  • 1/2 of a medium (baseball-sized) onion, halved and sliced thin (I prefer sweet onions)
  • large pinch of salt (probably about 1/8 teaspoon)
  • 1 Tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1/2t – 2t crushed red pepper flakes, adjusted to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 1 large grapefruit, juiced, with pulp in OR 1 cup of grapefruit juice
  • 1.5 inches of ginger, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut amino acids, gluten-free tamari, or faux soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.

Heat your chosen cooking vessel over medium high heat. If you’re not using a seasoned cast iron pan, brush or spray just a light coat of oil on the pan’s surface.

Season your short ribs with salt and pepper, both sides. When the pan is hot, add the ribs. Sear well on both sides, and I also seared the edges of the few really thick ones. More flavor is always worth the effort. Remove the seared ribs to a plate.

Add the onions with a pinch of salt, and cook until translucent. Then add the garlic and cook, stirring, until starting to turn golden. Add the pepper flakes and stir (but also, stand back and don’t breathe the steam right away!). Scooping all of this to one side of the pan, add the ribs back and then spread the onion-garlic-pepper mix over them.

If using, sprinkle the sugar on the ribs. Scatter the ginger slices, add the coconut aminos, and then add the grapefruit juice and water. Cover your pot or pan, and slide it into the oven. Cook for 2.5 hours.

After removing from the oven, let the dish sit for at least 15 minutes. I then sliced through the thin membrane holding the meat to the bones so I could just serve the meat. Serve topped with the pan sauce, but leave the ginger rounds out.

As the post from The Kitchn suggested, if you find beef ribs to be fatty, you can either trim the fat (not all that highly suggested for this cooking method) OR cook them ahead of time and scoop the fat off the cooled sauce. I didn’t find them to be too greasy or fatty this time around, and enjoyed the richer sauce over mashed potatoes. Your tastes may vary, so know that this is an option.

Enjoy with mashed potatoes and the vegetable of your choice.

 

2015-2-27 Fabulous Friday Finds

IMG_0397

Happy Chinese New Year! Actually, this was 2013. I hope it’s nicer this year.

I miss cheese still, and I miss jalapeno poppers.  The Minimalist Baker has a Vegan Jalapeno Pepper recipe using cashews that might work for me if I can replace the nutritional yeast.

This might be interesting to check out, a recipe for Authentic Italian Chickpea Flat Bread. I can think of a lot of ways to use this, and it seems like a relatively easy recipe. 

Hey, epigenetics! What turns our genes on or off? I mean that more like a light switch, not in a centerfold interview way, but this is one of the most fascinating pieces of genetics, to me (Mary Kate). What on earth makes your immune system all of a sudden decide that some foods are enemies and must be attacked? We don’t know yet. This is where I think the answer lies.

This is exactly the type of meal I love making when I cook on weeknights — quinoa, mushrooms, and spinach? Yum.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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