Sunday, December 20, 2009

Irish Cream for the dairy-free soul

This gluten-free dairy-free thing isn't so bad. I eat pretty well, and most of the time, I don't miss a thing. There are a few creamy, glutenous delights, though, that every so often give me a moment's pause.

Bailey's Irish Cream is one of those things.

I'd found a recipe last year and made homemade "Bailey's", using heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk. I'd given some as gifts and had requests to make it again, but I can't make a recipe I can't taste. I also didn't want to make it with soy creamer - largely because I didn't think meat-and-potatoes folk would respond very enthusiastically to a gift of processed soy product, no matter how good it tasted.

Then, this fall, I fell in love with coconut milk. In custards, in pumpkin pie, it's a wonderful sub for cream or evaporated milk. For gift-giving purposes, coconut milk sounds a lot more enticing an ingredient than soy.

This recipe may get some tweaks down the line, but the first batch is tasting pretty awesome.

Coconut Milk Irish Cream
Vegan, gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free, yummy
Yield: Approx. 1 quart

13.5-fluid oz. can of coconut milk (not light)*
1 cup Almond Breeze, chocolate flavor
1 tsp instant coffee (or a shot of espresso)
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
dash almond extract (optional)
1/3 cup brown sugar (scant)
1/3 cup white sugar (scant)
1/4 tsp kosher salt (for table salt, use less)
1 cup whiskey

Whisk everything but whiskey in a large mixing bowl (or blender, if you prefer). Adjust flavor to taste, then add whiskey. (If you trust me implicitly, go ahead and mix it all at once, but after the first couple of whiskey-infused "samples", your judgment may become impaired.)


*My coconut milk comes in 13.5 ounce cans. If you have a larger can, go ahead and use it without adjustments. Also, the creaminess of coconut milk varies from brand to brand. The Chaokoh I bought at an Asian market (under $1 a can!) and Whole Foods brands are both pretty rich. Avoid "light" coconut milks, which are simply watered down. If you want extra decadent Irish Cream, you can open a second can of coconut milk without shaking it first, and skim off some of the coconut cream that has risen from the top.

*It may seem strange to use chocolate milk, but yes, chocolate is a traditional ingredient. You can substitute another brand, or make your own with dairy-free chocolate syrup and the milk of your choice.

*The mixture may taste strong at first, but let it mellow in the fridge for at least a day before you make any drastic adjustments. It should smooth out with time, and very possibly improve - the dairy version is said to be even better after a month, and I see no reason why coconut milk would make that any different.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Seems like some things shouldn't be dairy-free...

I couldn't resist picking up some gluten-free, vegan "bleu cheese" I spotted at Fairway. Blue cheese is something I thought I'd never again be within ten feet of. Once home, I just had to steal a taste - the texture is more like very firm tofu, but the flavor is not entirely unbluecheeselike. I wasn't expecting miracles, after all. This definitely has potential.

Will report back when I can answer the all-important question: How does it taste with BACON?

Sunergia Soyfoods site

Blueberry Cheesecake Smoothie

We interrupt this foodgasm to bring you this special report:

Cashews are my new best friends.

I'd read about various ways of using cashews to sub for dairy - cashew cream, cashew "cheese", but I was a little skeptical. There's just a bit of "What the??" factor to the idea of making cheese from ... nuts. Maybe something for crazy hardcore vegan people, but me?

Then The Fast One bought some trail mix with raw cashews in it. I had to admit, those things were pretty creamy, all right. A bag of the curvy fellas soon found its way into my shopping cart.

Then, this morning, hours of procrastination kinda ruled out pancakes for breakfast. Inspiration hit. I had no inkling how awesome the results would be. Simple ingredients, no added sugar, full of nutrients, and omg delish. WIN!

Blueberry Cheesecake Smoothie
1/3 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
dash salt
fresh lemon zest
1 T. ground flax (optional)

Cashews. OJ. Blend. Salt. Blueberries. Zest. Blend.

The flax was added for nutritional purposes only. It made the texture grainy, but I think it's a fair trade-off. Salt is key; if you're not getting cheesecakey goodness, you probably need more.

This could be made with more OJ for a more drinkable consistency, or less for a more sorbet-like dessert. I made mine somewhere in the middle.

Also available in Cherry Lime Cheesecake

Now, imagine how good the results could've been if I'd at ALL known what I was doing? Certainly, further research into the wonders of the cashew is on my to-do list. Could I really enjoy a pasta cream sauce again???

Sunday, August 30, 2009

One good turn deserves another

The man of the house made a Thai-inspired tofu-eggplant soup, finished with fresh lime and serrano peppers, that just knocked our socks off. Deliciousness like that really gets the creative juices flowing. I patted my happy tummy and decided there would be dessert.

I wanted to keep with his Thai-ish theme, so there would have to be ginger involved. Coconut, sure. Maybe even a little heat.

How does this sound? Coconut-milk ice cream topped with toasted pecans in a simple syrup infused with ginger, cinnamon, and just a wee sliver of serrano pepper. Sure, you can skip the pepper if you want, but the hint of heat definitely made the dish more interesting.

My quantities are guesses, as of course I don't actually measure, but they're there to give you an idea of the proportions.

Thai-spiced Pecan Topping
Serves 2; Prep time ~15 minutes
1/3 c. turbinado sugar (or use a blend of white & brown sugars)
1/3 c. water
6-10 thin slices of ginger root
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (or a cinnamon stick)
dash ground galangal (optional; I happened to have some, so why not?)
wee dash of cayenne or a few red pepper flakes, to taste
1/8 to 1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c. pecans, almonds, or other nutty goodness, broken into large pieces
splash of milk/soymilk/etc.

Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add ginger, spices and salt. Simmer on low to thicken.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the almonds on medium heat until fragrant, tossing occasionally and taking care not to burn them.

When the syrup has gotten, well, syrupy, stir in a splash of milk. Pull out the ginger pieces and anything else you've got floating in there. Taste & adjust the seasoning if necessary; don't be afraid to add salt, as a hint of saltiness will complement the ice cream's sweetness nicely.

Cool to lukewarm or room temp (I dunked the saucepan in a pan of cold water to speed the process) and spoon a base layer of topping into your serving bowl. Add a scoop of coconut, vanilla, or your favorite variety of frozen dessert, and top with more caramelly goodness. Serve immediately to your favorite resident chef.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pancakes P.S.

Immediately after inventing my pancake recipe, I found our pancake mix. OF course. And yet, I've still opted to make scratch pancakes. It's easy; they're tasty; why not?

The last time, I omitted the cranberries & pecans. Instead, before I gathered my other ingredients, I tossed the last of the frozen cherries and some frozen passionfruit puree* with a dash of water and a couple Tbsp of sugar, and let that simmer slowly in a small saucepan while I finished the pancakes. I threw in a bit of the nutmeg and citrus zest that I'd grated for the batter. By the time the pancakes were cooking, the fruit was thick and syrupy. I added a generous amount of maple syrup et voila! An absolutely amazing fruit compote transformed my ordinary pancakes into an exotic treat - with hardly any effort.

*Frozen tropical fruit purees or "pulps" can be found in most supermarkets with a Latino section - Goya is one brand. They come in flat rectangular bricks - you simply break off a chunk for your recipe or smoothie, and pop the rest back in the freezer for next time. They're a super convenient and cheap way to use exotic fruits - mango, papaya, tamarind (I use a microplane to shave some into Thai dishes), coconut, and of course passionfruit (maracuya or parcha in Spanish). Passionfruit margaritas, anyone?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Pancakes in the Face of Adversity

"Pancakes sound like a great idea," he agrees.

A quick rifling through the pantry and fridge reveals no pancake mix. Yes, I know, pancakes aren't that hard to make, but I'm still a little shy around GF flours, and, well, semi-lazy. Today, apparently would be the day of reckoning: scratch pancakes it would be.

Next step - survey a couple recipes on the internet and pick one or two as a jumping-off point. Of course, finding one that uses ingredients I have on hand would be key.

First recipe: buttermilk, butter, and artificial sweetener - gak! Second recipe: considerably more promising, except that I don't have half of the ingredients.

Then the FIOS guy announces our internet will be down for a bit. Fiance hints that he's really kinda hungry. There will be no more recipes.

One recipe, half the ingredients. So, giving credit where it's due, the original recipe is here. But I kinda mangled it. Deliciously.

Tasty Orange Cranberry Pecan Pancakes
2 eggs
1/2 c orange juice minus a Tbsp
Scant 2Tbsp oil + Tbsp yogurt, or 2Tbsp melted butter
dash xanthan gum (optional)
1/2 c high-protein flour (I used about 1/4c garbanzo, 1/8 soy, 1/8 brown rice)
1/4 c tapioca flour
1/4 c + 2 Tbsp starch (I used sweet potato; use what you have)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or a dash more)
dash ground nutmeg (fresh if you can)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt (1/2 tsp if using table salt)
fresh citrus zest (optional)
1/4 c dried cranberries
1/4 c pecans or walnuts

  1. Beat together eggs, juice, oil, yogurt and xanthan.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix flours, starch, spices, baking powder & salt. Use a strainer (if you have a dedicated GF one) to sift dry ingredients into egg mixture. Stir in cranberries, nuts and zest.
  3. Heat a large pan or griddle with enough vegetable oil to not quite coat the bottom (it should cover the whole surface after it heats up. When the oil is hot enough to lightly sizzle a test drop of water, scoop the batter 1/4 at a time. Add extra cranberries & nuts to any bare patches, if you wish. Flip when nicely golden brown.
I have omitted the xanthan gum without a problem - it was just a slightly thinner batter and, consequently, thinner pancakes. I've also subbed sorghum flour for the soy flour. Really, all you need is a 1/2 cup of high-protein flours - I take a 1/2 cup measure, dump in a little garbanzo, a little brown rice, a little soy, until it's topped up - you can use any blend that works for your pantry.

Serve with real maple syrup or honey. Mmm. If you don't devour them all, wrap them in plastic with waxed paper between and freeze to reheat on a lazy morning.

(I always forget to take pictures, especially when we devour them all...)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ethiopian Chicken

Wanted to do something different with chicken for dinner tonight. I love Ethiopian restaurants, so I wondered how close I could get in my own kitchen.

The answer? Not terribly.

While not quite what I expected, the result was delicious nonetheless. The chicken was fall-off-the-bone tender and infused with rich but delicate flavor. The infused oil was simply decadent. And of course, my version is naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free - you name it.

I started with this recipe and decided to take some liberties, including replacing the butter with olive oil. It took some time, but it wasn't terribly challenging. Once the oil is prepared and the onions are cooked, there's not much left to do besides letting it simmer and polishing off the wine. The measurements are approximate - this recipe has a lot of flexibility, so adjust the seasoning to your taste.

Ethiopian-ish Chicken
6 Chicken thighs, skins removed
1/2 lime
1 Tbsp salt
2-3 onions, chopped
1 tsp each fresh ginger and garlic (minced or microplaned)
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
1/4-1/2 cup red wine
1/2 c. infused oil (see below)
water to cover
Handful of spinach
Fresh cilantro or basil (optional)

1. Skin, trim and rinse chicken. Soak in salted water with lime wedges.
2. Place onion in large dutch oven or stockpot, without fat. Cook on medium-low, stirring frequently, until onions are tender. (about 15 minutes)
3. Meanwhile, infuse oil in a saucepan on low heat.
4. When onions have given up much of their moisture, stir in ginger, garlic and pepper. Cook for a minute. Add wine and reduce a bit. Strain infused oil into pot, discarding seasonings.
5. Remove chicken from brine and add to onions. Top off with water to just cover. Cook 45 minutes, allowing liquid to reduce. Add chipped spinach 5 minutes before end of cook time.
6. Serve over millet pilaf or other starchy goodness, with plenty of sauce and chopped cilantro.

Infused oil:
The original recipe called for infusing clarified butter with ginger, garlic, "1 tsp of fenugreek, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp basil, 1/4 tsp cardamon seeds, 1 tsp of oregano and a pinch of turmuric."

For my version, I warmed light olive oil on the lowest burner, adding approximately those spices, a bit of fresh basil and oregano from the garden, some grated ginger, a smashed garlic clove, and a dash of cinnamon and hot chili powder (I'd use more next time). This recipe would adapt well to any variation of similar seasonings that you have on hand.

Millet (or quinoa) pilaf:
In a small saucepan, I toasted a few cumin seeds, a clove, and 3/4c millet with a dash of the infused oil until the millet started to turn golden brown and fragrant. Added 2c water and a hearty dash of salt, pepper, a bit of ginger, and a diced nectarine (dried apricot would be fine, or golden raisins). Simmer per the package directions and finish with fresh cilantro or basil.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Who needs fancy flours?

I want to be home right now so I can try this recipe:

EDIT: Definitely recommended!! This could not have been easier to make - while the chocolate melts in the microwave, the garbanzo & egg is blitzed in the food processor. Add sugar and baking powder (I added a dash of coffee and vanilla), then the melted chocolate. DONE.

The texture is moist and dense but still has some lightness to it. There is not a hint of beaniness. It may sound strange to use garbanzos in cake, but actually garbanzo flour is a common ingredient in gluten-free flour blends. This is just a hydrated version of the flour :).

Next time I'll kick up the flavor with a bit of salt, cocoa powder, and some cinnamon (maybe a tiny bit of cayenne for a Mexican chocolate spin). A handful of walnuts may be in order; fiance's suggestion of toasted sesame actually sounds appealing. I look forward to many, many iterations of this wonderfully simply cake.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Something old, something new

What do you do when you have a day all to yourself? Why, grocery shopping of course! By the time I was done futzing around the house, it was too late for the Montclair farmer's market, but the Union Square Greenmarket's open till six!

Since my resident chef is away for the weekend, I exercised restraint in my ingredient purchases. I know me; I have a million recipe ideas, but I usually forget to get around to them. Ever.


Organic chard, Middle Eastern cukes, stalks of garlic and shallot (I'm told you can use the greens, too), lemon verbena
Also, yellow onions, tomatoes, luscious strawberries (half of which are in my belly), and delfino cilantro. I needed cilantro, but I was excited to see the delfino cultivar - it's supposedly an easier variety to grow, and thus far I've utterly failed at growing regular cilantro. It'll be nice to see if the flavor stacks up.

After I couldn't justify and/or carry any more greenmarket purchases, I wandered in the direction of public transit. That took me past the BBQ festival at Madison Square Park (where I saw a man schlepping literally half a pig), and I soon realized I was near the Asian grocery on 32nd Street. I'd been meaning to case the joint for possible GF finds.


Sweet potato starch, sweet rice flour, wasabi powder, loose green tea, nori wrappers, dried shitakes, and buckwheat/corn soba noodles (wheat-free). It was a challenge, since the packaging is English-optional, but fun nonetheless.

So, what does a lazy cook do when she arrives home at 8pm with gobs of exciting new ingredients? Rehash leftovers, of course!

Spicy Tilapia "Sushi" Rolls

From the kitchen: Leftover tilapia, mayo, lemon, sriracha
Veg from the market: Tomato, cucumber
And for the first time ever: Nori sheets, wasabi powder

Flake the tilapia with a fork. In a bowl, mix mayo, sriracha, lemon juice, a few grinds of pepper and a little wasabi; mix in tilapia pieces. Cut tomato and cucumber into matchsticks. Arrange tilapia & veg in an even line on nori sheet and roll. I used a little lemon juice to moisten and seal the edge. Slice. Devour.

Mind you, I've NEVER worked with nori before or attempted sushi, but I had this together in about 10 minutes. I wouldn't pretend to instruct anyone on the finer points of maki-making and defer to the myriad of advice you can find online. However, I hope maybe I can inspire you to actually try this sort of crazy idea, because if a n00b like me can do it, well, you know.
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Leftovers FTW!

Rice paper is a new food-crush of mine. Typically made from little more than rice flour, tapioca, and water, they're naturally gluten-free. I found mine at Whole Foods, but Asian markets will stock them, too. You can find rice paper handling instructions on YouTube - it's really not difficult.

They can be eaten cold, but today I decided to go for maximum caloric impact and try them crispy. They do tend to break and let oil in, though, so I ended up wrapping my rolls, seam-side down, in a second layer of paper.

Today's experiment began with a poorly-stocked fridge, other than a few leftover salads and last night's tilapia fillet. Of course, the filling options are legion - any tasty combination would work, as long as the textures are varied and it's got some crunch. A couple weeks ago, it was deli ham, snow peas, home-grown sprouts, tomato, eaten unfried as an afternoon snack.

Today's process:

1. Survey leftovers.
2. Heat the kettle & get the rice paper from the pantry.
3. Heat 1/2" oil in a cast iron skillet.
4. Dip 1 rice paper in plate of warm water till it just starts to soften.
5. Wrap tilapia bits, salad, and a drop of (optional) Sriracha hot sauce into a spring roll shape
6. Shallow-fry till crisp. Drain, cool.
7. Devour.

Here are more ideas for using rice paper from a gluten-free forum (tuna salad sandwiches??):

Spring rolls - bake em, freeze em

Lasagna, tuna sandwich, baklava??