Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Black Sesame Fig Steamed Pudding with Miso Butterscotch Coconut Sauce: April Daring Baker's Challenge

Pork fat is all the rage these days in sweets. Bacon in chocolate, prosciutto ice cream, lard caramels. Duck fat isn't doing too poorly either. But suet. Poor suet, beef fat, used to make bird feeders (along with millet incidentally, one of my favorite grains). It gets no respect. It isn't surprising that the British use it in steamed puddings, since British food gets no respect either! But thanks to Harry Potter my kids think British food is worth trying, and they certainly were up for this month's Daring Baker challenge.

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

Monday, April 26, 2010

New Method to Achieve the Gooey Gluten-free Cinnamon Spiral Buns You Crave

It occurred to me one night that the process for making gluten-free cinnamon rolls might be different. See, gluten-free batter rises better if it is wet, but if it is too wet, you can “roll” it easily. The result of most GF cinnamon rolls are stiff “rolls” that taste good, but are a bit dry and hardly gooey. So, how would you make a spiral with a wet batter? Suddenly the image of a bicolor cupcake frosting came to mind. Eureka – just pipe it!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Finding the Ultimate Gluten-free Brownie Mix and Super Rich GF Brownie Recipe

Chewy or gooey? Cakey or fudgey? Sweet or dark? Edge or middle? Brownies are a divisive matter. Still food companies sell millions of brownie mixes each year whicj seem to cater to that middle of the road brownie lover. For Celiacs growing up on Betty Crocker, there are tons of options out there to fulfill that brownie nostalgia. I admit I had stuck my nose up at box mixes the first time I made brownies from scratch many many years ago. It was so easy and cheap, it hardly seemed worth the mix. Plus I am a dark chocolate dense brownie lover - which isn't the typical mix option.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

New and Tasty - Yes Tasty - Gluten Free Cereals

You rarely hear of a "local cereal." Everything is made by one of the big companies. A couple weeks ago we were meandering through the Milk Pail Market in Mountain View (a totally fun store by the way), to find a very nice couple sampling their new breakfast cereal. Called Crunchfuls, it looks like cheerios but it is gluten-free! It is made by a company called Pulfoods and they reportedly make snack foods as well.

I was more intrigued by the use of lentils and pulses, which means better nutrition than the other gluten-free cheerios on the market. So, I gave it a sample. The chocolate is very sweet, reminding me of the Koala Crispies. Aaron loved them of course - they are chocolate. The caramel is much less sweet, but still rather sweet. Aaron didn't reject these cheerios look alikes like he has almost all others, and he has actually asked for it in the morning for a week. This is unusual for him, as he usually begs for cereal and then eats oatmeal every morning. He eats them in plain yogurt. The ingredients are pretty straightforward - lentils, rice, cane syrup, etc. Although they are sweet, they have less sugar than many cereals and have good fiber and protein, which is often missing in cereal, especially gluten-free cereal. We will likely be buying more.

 In other gluten-free cereal news....

Nature's Path Cereal has come out with two new flavors. Aaron used to eye all those flakes and clusters type cereals and wish he could have some too. I spotted these new products on vacation, and immediately wanted to try them. I am a sucker for maple, so we first tried the Crunchy Maple Sunrise. It is sweet, but actually doesn't have as much sugar as many of the non gluten-free flake cereals (7g per 2/3 cup). The nutritional profile was decent enough. It has a nice strong maple flavor and works well in a yogurt parfait or milk. Aaron then tried the Crunchy Vanilla Sunrise and enjoyed that flavor more (he is a vanilla fan, while I prefer maple). Aaron downed just about all of the boxes in short-order.

Disclosure: I paid full price for all cereals.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cyrus, Healdsburg, CA

Here's a quick tip on how to dine at a two star Michelin restaurant known for fantastic service when you have Celiac disease. Call, make a reservation and let them know you can't have gluten. Then just sit back, eat, and enjoy. That is what I did at Cyrus in Healdsburg.

OK, maybe it isn't quite that easy, but close. We are fortunate that dining out these days needn't be onerous. When making a reservation at a high-end restaurant it is usually very simple. I always note my food restriction in my online reservation, and then call a few days ahead to remind them. Cyrus has a direct chef's line, which is even better. When I arrive at the restaurant I confirm if they don't get to it first.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sunday Dinner, April 18, 2010: Welcome Back Sunshine , Plus Gluten Free Empanada Recipe

I am warm again. From the sun/ski burn on Isaiah's face you would never believe that I missed the sunshine, but the last few days I have been basking in almost summer. There is something about sunshine that says full aromatic flavors, and since my boys think that they are either Mexican or Indian, culinarily speaking, Mexican it was. The meal balanced earthy flavors of chilis with sweet overtones from pineapple, orange, beets and guava. A nice welcome back to Bay Area blue skies.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Daring Cook's Challenge: A fresh and CSA style take on Brunswick stew

We were supposed to be camping this week, but the rain and a great deal in Tahoe forced us to the snow. I am not a cold weather person, but the boys were so excited I couldn't deny them! So I am here with 10,000 layers of clothes, and actually having fun. And as a bonus, the weather actually fit this month's Daring Cook's challenge - Brunswick stew.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Welcoming Baby Boys with Brunch

As a mom of 3 boys, my life is all boys. There are days I wonder why they have to wrestle all the time, in the middle of the grocery store. I listen to long discourses on legos, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones and it is a good thing I am not squeamish around bugs, snakes, and toads. Can I call myself an expert on boys yet?

Two friends are expecting their first boys in a month - with identical due dates! Sounds like a good excuse for a party to me, and what better theme than "Everything Boy".

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Sweet Week: Tasting the Local Offerings

OK. So maybe I went overboard this week. But it was time to taste the sweet life in Palo Alto. Believe me, I held back. I wanted to go to on an ice cream crawl of San Francisco, pick up some additional chocolates, and even test out some dessert recipes I have in mind. Stay tuned for those desserts: I have some novel approaches in mind of gluten-free cinnamon buns, low-fat and of course gluten-free mousse for a healthier indulgence, and still need to test out some chocolate sable and brownie recipes.

In the meantime, here are some notes from this week's haul.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Comfort with a Twist: Milk and Cereal Cookies

There is a craze emerging. Move over matcha, cereal milk is becoming a favorite flavor profile. Cereal milk you say? Popularized by Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar, this is flavor echos that best part of breakfast - slurping down that slightly sweet corn scented milk at the end of breakfast. What can be more comforting than cereal milk - even adults still slurp down the milk shamelessly.

I spotted these Milk and Cereal cookies from Lemon Pi. I love her blog, photography and creative recipes. I knew these would be perfect finish to my Easter meal. Different, yet comforting.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Celebration: April 4, 2010

Easter is an intensely special and intimate holiday for me. It is foremost a religious holiday framed by springtime. The spring flowers, the sun breaking through rain clouds, the almost instantaneous appearance of blossoms on the tree all signal the end of cold, drizzly and dark.  It enlivens me and reminds me of what is of foremost importance. The sacred songs of Easter augment the beauty of springtime, and touch me deeply. I am reminded of my potential, renewed in my hope and dedication, invigorated and mostly humbled as I contemplate my indebtedness to my Savior. 

This is of course a food blog not a religious blog, but Easter is the one meal that can't be separated for me. Our tradition is meld the two in a symbolic meal - a Christian Seder if you will. Each dish is inspired by a sacred text or song. The theme, dishes and text change every year. This year, scripture and song encapsulated the pleadings of men and Christ captured my heart. So here we submit our Easter meal with the inspiring verse. Should you wonder why any particular course was inspired by the text, leave a comment and we are happy to elaborate.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Brown Butter Hazelnut Bars: Potluck Gold

Here is the quandry. I love fancy desserts: precious little french mousse cakes and tartlettes. But when it comes to the good old American BBQ these just don't fly. You need something people can pick up and eat, something rich and homey, comfortable. In the sea of brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and those supermarket cookies with sprinkles (you know what I am talking about and you know you secretly like them), diversity is key. Well, look no more - these bars are perfect for the potluck.

 These bars work for any season and can be embellished as you desire. You can change up the nuts, add dried fruit (cherries or mango would be wonderful), change the topping (toasted coconut anyone?). This time I added bananas, which tasted good but were unnecessary. Regardless, these are close your eyes and bite very slowly good.