Friday, August 31, 2007

Tropical (un)Wholesome Goodness

I am in a mood.

Imagine that.

I have been a good girl all week with the non-smoking thing. I have not had a drag. Not that I haven't thought about it. But I know that if I take one drag, it's all over.

And it's Labor Day weekend! Three days of busting butt at the barn (nice alliteration, huh?). We are one month from opening weekend and I am starting to get nervous.

Now, if the pictures I post below aren't there, I will fix it. Someone (-cough-TheMan-cough, cough-) neglected to pay the phone bill so I can't get at my Flickr account. Should be rectified shortly, and I will replace the pictures when I can get at them.

Let's see. What else is new, since my mind is on what's cooling on the counter right now. Oh yes. A new puppy shot for you...

And here's what's on my countertop, calling my name...

Banana Coconut Muffins
Adapted from a recipe on Epicurious

2/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 ripe bananas, mashed (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup butter, melted (I seem to be on a roll for high-fat recipes lately)
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a regular muffin tin or mini-muffin tin and set aside.

Sift together the flours, xanthan gum, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the butter, egg, bananas, sugar, vanilla, and coconut. Fold in the flour mixture until the flour is just moistened.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Bake until lightly browned, about 17 minutes for mini-muffins and 25 minutes for regular-sized muffins.

Monday, August 27, 2007

I've been tagged...

Jean from Gluten Free Organics tagged me for a meme that's been floating around. Here goes:

The rules for this meme are:

1. Let others know who tagged you.

2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.

3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.

4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

So. Eight random facts about me. Geez.

Un. I was painfully shy until I started tending bar at the age of 24. Yes, shy, believe it or not.

Deux. I am a book-a-holic. Between what I have stored upstairs on bookshelves and also in the basement, I bet I have well over 5,000 around here. And they've all been read more than once.

Trois. I took 4 years of French in high school and another year in college, which taught me that I didn't learn shit in French class during high school. I still remember bits and pieces and if you give me a little time, I can still translate on paper. I gave up a chance to go to France in order to buy my first professional-model flute.

Quatre. If I don't get a nap on my days off of work, I get very surly.

Cinq. The animals run my life. Oh wait. You already knew that.

Six. I will search out the bargain every time, except when it comes to food. Then, I splurge.

Sept. Most days, I just don't wanna get out of bed. It's nice and snuggly warm there with the zoo.

Huit. I feel goofy trying to come up with 8 things you don't know.

And now, I tag...

Well, hell. Everyone I had listed here has already been tagged. So if you're a gluten-free blogger that hasn't done this meme yet, consider yourself tagged.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I see a weight gain coming on

I quit smoking yesterday at noon. Since then, I have been wearing a nioctine replacement patch and trying to keep busy. One of the things I do when stressed is cook. I hope I don't eat everything in sight while gaining control over my nicotine cravings. Just in case, I bought some baby carrots to chomp on.

But still, I baked this morning. Here's another family recipe converted to gluten free.

Cherry Almond Coffeecake

For the cake:

3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
8 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla

For the filling:

1 can cherry pie filling
1/4 tsp almond extract

For the topping:

1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9x9 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

In a bowl, combine these cake ingredients: brown rice flour, tapioca starch, sweet rice flour, salt, xanthan gum, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the vanilla, egg and milk; mix well with a spoon. Add the melted butter and beat well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spread evenly, and set aside.

Combine all of the topping ingredients in a small bowl (I use my fingers for this). Sprinkle half of the topping over the cake batter and set the rest aside. Sprinkle the almonds on top of the topping.

In yet another bowl, combine the cherry pie filling and almond extract. Spread the mixture evenly over the top of the topping. Finally, sprinkle the remaining topping over the top of the cherries.

Bake for about 60 minutes - the top will be golden brown. Let cool for 15 minutes befure cutting.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Baking for Bette

Sea at Book of Yum is hosting a GF blog event in honor of Bette Hagman, a pioneer in the world of gluten-free cooking and baking. I have two submissions for this event.

When I first started toying with the idea of being gluten free last summer, I did what I always do - research on the web and get some books to read. I started my quest with Amazon and, in entering the words "gluten free" in the search engine and selecting cookbooks, all of Bette's books popped up. Because there were so many of them, I figured that she knew what she was doing and ordered two, "The Gluten Free Gourmet" and "The Gluten Free Gourmet Cooks Fast and Healthy." When they got here, I did what I always do with a new cookbook - read it through from cover to cover, marking what I thought I might like to try. There were lots of multi-colored post-its sticking out from the margins. She is the one that told me that yes, I could be gluten free and not miss a thing.

As I gained confidence in my GF baking skills, Bette's books stayed on the shelf more and more often because I got away from the whole flour mix thing. However, there are 2 recipes in "The Gluten Free Gourmet Cooks Fast and Healthy" that I go back to time and time again. These two recipes are pictured below...

Brownie Pie - chocolate decadence for a chocoholic like me

Cheese Crackers - because who doesn't love a cheesy cracker?

If you have this book and haven't tried these two recipes yet, do. They're simple and oh so tasty.

And Bette (see Sheri waving to the finally-blue skies above), thank you for all your hard work from those of us that benefit most. You will be missed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I needs me one of these

In my inbox this morning was a link to this...

Somebody out there loves me.

I gots to get me one of these. I just need to figure out how to connect it to my kitchen sink cold water line and drain instead of a toilet. I have moved the litter box on my boys once before and will NEVER NEVER NEVER do it again. I learned my lesson.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

At long last...meatloaf

Cravings can be a horrible thing. They badger and wheedle and whine at you until you give in...or figure out how to give in.

The family meatloaf recipe uses oatmeal. Oatmeal. Well, hell. I haven't gotten to the point yet where I am willing to spend big dough on GF oatmeal, especially since I used it so rarely in my gluten days. So, do I use bread crumbs to replace the oatmeal? Rice crackers? Oh, the dilemma.

Mom and Dad put ketchup on the top of their meatloaf. The Man and I prefer cream of mushroom soup, but the GF kind I appear to have bought stock in (I have 2 cases in the basement, people) is looser than the old Campbell's kind. So, did I want to use that? Hm.

Here is what I ended up with. This is the family recipe with my original tweaks, along with the switch-out. Feel free to actually use GF oatmeal if you have any.

I used the cream of mushroom soup. Served tonight with smashed baby red potatoes with sour cream and chives and scalloped corn.

Sheri's GF Meatloaf

1 pound ground meat (I used ground sirloin, but you can also use ground chuck, turkey, chicken...)
3/4 cup cooked white rice (or oatmeal)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup tomato juice**
1 beaten egg
Your preferred topping (ketchup, cream of mushroom soup, whatever)0

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients gently as to not overwork the meat (it will become tough); I use my hands. Push the mix into a ball and remove from the bowl, placing it on a jelly roll pan or other baking dish with sides. Shape into a loaf and then place into the oven.

The meatloaf needs to bake for an hour and fifteen minutes for beef (internal temp of 160 degrees). Thirty minutes into baking, pour your topping on and return to the oven.

When done, remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Recipe test: Alton's GF Chewy

In my former life (read: before the severe food poisoning in March 1997 that most likely was my gluten-problem trigger; I was sick every time I ate from that moment until going GF last October), I had something of a sweet tooth. If it was sweet and didn't run away, I ate it. If it tried to run away, I gave chase and beat it down until it cried, "Fine! Eat me! You'll pay for it later!"

For 10 years, I rarely ate a cookie or enjoyed a piece of cake. I thought for quite a while that my problem might have been sugar-related, so I tried to stay away.


Several weeks ago, Food Network's Alton Brown had a food allergy based show that featured his gluten-free chewy chocolate chip cookie. I DVR all his shows (love him, love him, love him) so I can watch them when The Gidge isn't being a demon dog.

Imagine my surprise when Alton started talking about replacements for wheat flour! Holy old cow!

Now, a side story based on my adoration for my favorite TV chef. As you may or may not know, in addition to "Good Eats," Alton also does a show called "Feasting on Asphalt." The second season of this series takes him up and down the Mississippi River.

One of those Mississippi River stops was on a tow boat owned by The Man's company, which is based in New Orleans.

And The Man didn't do a damn thing to get me an autograph. He didn't call any of his coworkers, nothing. He's lucky I didn't call up a lynch mob on his ass.

Back to the Chewy. After watching the show...twice...(god bless DVR) I printed the recipe and read it through. My first thought? HOLY HELL, THAT'S A LOT OF BUTTER!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, 8 ounces - or two sticks - of butter. I suppose, if you are gonna be bad, you should be bad.

And GEEZ! TWELVE OUNCES OF CHOCOLATE CHIPS? That's a whole damn bag! I guess we're going to be REALLY BAD.

Well, I couldn't stomach all those chocolate chips, so I cut it in half. And I added a 1/4 cup of macadamia nuts I had sitting around (chopped up, not whole). But otherwise, I followed the recipe to the letter. The dough is chilling right now, so I will be back in an hour or so.

Two hours later...

So, here's a GF Chewy.

Here's a GF Chewy, broken in ha
lf (still warm).

How does it taste?

I now have a love-hate relationship with Alton. I still love him, but I hate him for ruining my dinner.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Comfort food can be ugly

I was in sore need of comfort food this evening. You see, I noticed something horrifying this afternoon.

The Gidge is in heat.

Oh. My. God.

My little girl is growing up.

So after loading my face with dinner, and now typing this, I will head off to PetCo to diapers.

Sweet Salmon with Cheesy Garden Vegetables

I only made one piece of salmon, so that's what these measurements are for.

For the salmon:

1 salmon fillet

1 tbsp dark brown sugar

1/2 tsp dijon mustard

A pinch of ground ginger

1 tbsp butter, melted

For the vegetables:

1/2 a large zucchini, sliced into coins and then chopped into quarters (about 1 cup)

8 plum tomatoes, quartered

1 large potato (courtesy of the neighbor who grows them in big buckets), cubed

2 tbsp olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Fresh ground pepper to taste

1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a drop of olive oil in the bottom of a baking dish and smear it around with a paper towel. Place the salmon fillet in the dish.

Combine the remaining salmon ingredients in a small bowl. Liberally spread the glaze over the salmon; place the salmon in the oven and bake until it flakes easily with a fork (10-25 minutes depending on the thickness).

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the potato and cover; stir occasionally. When the potatoes are nearly done (just starting to get fork-tender), add the zucchini and cover again. Stir occasionally. When both the potatoes and zucchini are cooked through, add the tomatoes and remove the skillet from the heat. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes so the existing heat in the pan warms the tomatoes. Add the cheese to the top, allow a minute for the cheese to melt, and serve.

Makes 2 Sheri-sized servings (1 for a person with a big appetite).

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A yummy recipe and other tales

Tonight I made another recipe from Carol's new book, but I will get to that momentarily.

The Stepson drove his car up here for the first time yesterday. He fixed it up with help from his grandfather and stepdad. I am quite proud of him - we were afraid we were going to see a rust-bucket when he finally got it up here.

Somebody has new clothes.

Ever think about buying a dog car seat? They're ridiculously expensive. The Gidge doesn't like to ride in the car unless she can see out the windows, so when we go somewhere, she's riding in my lap, putting her paws on the steering wheel, and just generally getting in the way of safe driving. So I started looking into a car seat for her.

I can't remember what the website was that put it into my head that I could make one. But it's simple - buy a tote big enough around for the dog to lay down comfortably, cut holes in it for the seatbelt to feed through, fill it with foam, and put a cover on it. That's exactly what I did, and this is what I ended up with.

I attached a thin leash to the headrest of the seat and have now gotten a harness for her to wear and to hook it to (when we tested it out last night, I was afraid she was going to hang herself if she tried to jump off the seat). On the test drive, she whimpered for the first couple of blocks because she couldn't get at me, but once she realized she could see out the windows.... Ladies and gentlemen, we have a success!

I have begun wearing aprons when I cook. More often than not, I am wearing a white shirt. I make a mess when I cook.

I have a lot of stained white shirts.

I had one apron with my name on it that I got years ago, but I wanted a couple more. Here's the latest:

This is the last recipe I will post from "Gluten-Free Quick & Easy." Honestly, this book has a lot of good stuff in it and I bet I will find more that I enjoyed as much as I did this one. The salsa has just a tinge of sweetness from honey so it went with the salmon wonderfully.

I changed things a bit to suit what I had in the house, so I have added those changes in italics.

Teriyaki Salmon with Tomato-Cucumber Salsa
From "Gluten-Free Quick & Easy" by Carol Fenster, PhD


4 (4 ounce) salmon fillets
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce (I used this)

Tomato-cucumber salsa:

1/4 cup diced cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 diced English cucumber (I used a normal cucumber from the garden)
1 tbsp rice vinegar (I used regular distilled white vinegar)
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar
1 tsp canola oil or sesame oil (I used canola)
1/4 tsp table salt (I used sea salt)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint (I skipped because I didn't have any)

Place the salmon in a heavy-duty food storage bag. Add the teriyaki sauce, seal the bag, and refrigerate, making sure that the salmon is coated with the marinade.

Combine all the salsa ingredients in a small bowl, tossing well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate if you are making it several hours ahead. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Heat a grill to medium (I used a plain ol' frying pan). Remoe the salmon from the marinade and discard the marinade. Grill the salmon, skin side down, until it reaches the desired degree of doneness. Remove the salmon from the heat and serve immediately with the salsa.
Go get the book. Really.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Where the *BLEEP* have I been?

Ever noticed that life seems to enjoy conspiring against your wishes? By being totally cool?

Harry Potter. The last book rocks. But before I would allow myself to read it, I had to go back and read the other six books. Because I am totally weird that way. Before I see the current movie, I am compelled to watch all the previous ones first. Which I haven't done yet, because we recently got a satellite dish and I have been DVRing and watching all the Good Eats episodes on Food Network.

Courtesy of the publisher, I recently received a copy of Carol Fenster's new cookbook, "Gluten-Free Quick & Easy." Before I start picking out recipes to try, I have to read the whole thing through, cover to cover. I tried the first one tonight, which I will get to in a bit.

Sensing a pattern here? Just Not Dinner, aka Anal Are Us.

Amy's sent me some samples this week - thankfully, they're all products I have never had, namely because I have not seen them in any of my local stores. Maybe they'll read this and fix that little problem. I have eaten one and not been totally impressed. But again, I will get to that later.

We have begun working in earnest on this year's Haunted Barn. I spent several hours on Sunday covered in cobwebs and other unappetizing things while cleaning out what was left behind by the critters that inhabit the place in the off-season. Ew.

Last week Friday, someone I admire a great deal asked me to cook all of her meals for her. She is following the LA Weight Loss diet plan - quite successfully, I might add. However, she loathes cooking. Eating healthy and well and no cooking do not go hand-in-hand very well. So I have begun a new venture - private/personal chefdom. On Sundays, I make 3 meals per day for Monday through Wednesday, and on Wednesdays, I make 3 meals per day for Thursday and Friday (and sometimes the weekends, too).

God, PLEASE let my parents bring me my dishwasher.

While the foods I am cooking for her fit quite nicely into the gluten-free lifestyle, for the most part, it's all pretty bland for my tastes. The diet plan only allows so many condiments, fat, and dairy per day. When I come up with something truly magnificent (and there will be), rest assured that it will show up here.

But now.

I tried the Amy's GF mac and cheese. Eh. The pasta was too mushy for me and the sauce seemed gritty. It might have seemed weird to me because I didn't put my normal ketchup on it (I know - shut up!); I wanted to taste it by itself. It's not a bad product, but it's not something I would buy. But then, I rarely (even in my gluten days) eat packaged mac and cheese without some major doctoring.

More Amy's down the road as I eat my way through the samples.

Carol Fenster's new book. I like it. If you're looking for gluten-free dinners that can be put together in a hurry, this is the book for you. The only thing I have found that I don't like is that the side dishes chapter is pretty thin compared to the other chapters.

I made the Balsamic Marinated Sirloin Steaks tonight. I put the meat into the marinade at 6 this morning so it had plenty of time to soak in. My mistake, most likely, was that I used a piece of meat that probably needed 24 hours in the marinade to do it justice - a buffalo steak. The game-y taste (which I like, by the way) overpowered the marinade, even though I made the full recipe for only 1 steak. So, when I make this again, I will try a beef sirloin and I expect better results.

No picture - I had to cook the steak so long to get it done that the outside was a bit charred (nearly 2" thick - I won't do that again).

Balsamic Marinated Sirloin Steaks
From Gluten-Free Quick & Easy by Carol Fenster

1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp table salt, divided
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 sirloin steaks (6 ounces each) or similar cut

Combine the wine, oil, vinegar, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the black pepper in a heavy-duty food storage bag. Add the steaks, seal the bag, and shake to blend the ingredients. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Remove the beef from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Discard the marinade.

Heat a barbecue grill to medium heat. Sprinkle the steaks with the remaining 1 tsp salt and grill them to the desired degree of doneness. Remove the steaks from the grill and let stand, covered, 15 minutes. Serve hot.