Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bias Halter Top

It's so nice to post something besides recipes!

I've been finishing knitting-in-progresses left and right. This is mainly because, thanks to the GF thing, the stiffness and pain that had been progressively ruining my knitting habit has greatly diminished. How amazing.

This pattern was from the Summer 2007 issue of Knit.1 - The Green Issue.

It looks pretty nice on the model! The construction is interesting, too - the neck straps (I don't know how else to describe them) and body are knit in halves, then joined at the front and back center seam. The bottom stitches are then picked up and ribbed.

I really liked the process of this, and I'm semi-satisfied with the finished product.

For some reason, I chose to knit this in Caron Simply Soft Tweed. Don't ask me why - it seemed like a great idea at the time. I have this habit of knitting interesting pieces in mediocre yarn, despite the fact that I spin. This turned out a little... fuzzy.

I still could have knit this with cheap yarn - Lion Cotton-Ease would have been a good choice. Or any bulky tape, something with a matte finish.

As it is, I don't think I'll wear this many times, although I will probably knit another version in a more appropriate yarn.

comfort cookies

My consumption of sweets has skyrocketed post-GF diet. Prior to identification of gluten as the culprit, the consensus between me and my doctors was that my symptoms were a response to an intolerance of ALL grains and sugars. I would eat desserts randomly, but generally stayed away and almost never baked for myself.

No longer!

I would still like to curtail my sugar consumption, but my deal with myself for easing into GF life is that I will get used to the GF part first, and not restrict my food choices unnecessarily until I have worked through my psychological response to this new lifestyle.

Too much denial will screw you up and make it impossible to adhere to the guidelines that are MEDICALLY necessary. I'm not into self-sabotage anymore.

So now I am making cookies! I found this recipe somewhere on the Food Network site and adapted it. There will be more experimentation, but I don't really want to make cookies twice in one week, deal or no deal.

Chocolate Chip Sunseed Cookies

4 oz/1 stick butter
3/4 c. brown rice flour
1/4 c. sorghum flour
1/8 c. plus 1 TBSP tapioca starch
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/8 c. white sugar
2 TBSP molasses
1 egg
1 TBSP milk
6 oz. chocolate chips
1/2 c. sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 375 deg.

Melt butter in saucepan. Pour into mixer bowl.

Sift dry ingredients in new bowl.

In mixer bowl, cream melted butter with sugars, add wet ingredients and mix until smooth.

Slowly add dry ingredients. Mix for about 1 minute on low speed.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop tablespoons of dough onto well-greased cookie sheets. Sprinkle sunflower seeds on cookies, one at a time, and pat down.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until edges are browned.

This makes 2 sheets, or about 16-20 cookies. It's just my partner and I over here, so we don't need 4 dozen of these hanging out for the next week. Double or triple the recipe depending on your household needs.

Friday, October 12, 2007

my comfort food

I'm trying to get back into pasta, but I've gotten really used to not eating it. This is kind of weird for me, seeing as I was the kid who ate pasta 3x/day until I was about 23. I'm Italian, was raised vegetarian and am super picky. Pasta and cheese for breakfast! Pasta and cheese for lunch!

After pasta stopped being my friend, I tried to get into all of the pasta "alternatives". Its not like they weren't good, but the fact that they all cost more than twice of a box of rotini made me reject them on principle. And I still feel that way. It is total bullshit that a box of Tinkyada costs more than $3.

So I love pasta, but I've transferred most of my pasta recipes onto brown rice. (I can buy a 5lb. bag of brown rice at the Key Food for $2.50) This dish is a great example of one that works equally as well for both. Yay for me that I had some Debole's rice pasta in the cupboard, since I got home after a 10 hour day and was NOT IN THE MOOD to start up the rice cooker.

Pasta and Broccoli with Chicken

2 chicken breasts, sliced and poached
1/2 head of broccoli, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
a lot of olive oil
some tamari (about 2 TBSP)
3/4 box of pasta of your choice
Romano cheese, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste

Bring pot of water to boil, dump in pasta, stirring frequently. Drain, rinse.

Heat a few glugs of olive oil, add garlic, saute. Add broccoli, shake tamari over, pour about 1/8 cup H20 into pan, turn down heat to medium, cover. Allow broccoli to steam until bright green. Add cooked chicken, stir, add more water if dry. Cook until broccoli is tender but not too much. Add more olive oil if necessary. I love olive oil.

Stir chicken-broccoli and pasta together. Serve with Romano cheese and red pepper flakes.

This makes 2 large servings - or for me, one dinner and one lunch to bring to work.

Note that there is no salt added to the recipe. The tamari and Romano are salty enough, and most of us eat too much salt without adding it from a shaker. I notice that I have often used added salt as a flavor enhancer, which makes me eat more of something than I would have without it. I'm trying to learn that when food stops tasting good, STOP EATING.

This kept tasting good until I was contentedly full.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Fake Thai Noodle Soup

I really like those Thai Kitchen noodle soup packets, but they have like, no nutritional value whatsoever. I have to seriously doctor them before I'll even consider them as a meal option. However, they are a quick (10 min. max), cheap (79 c) and yummy recipe base. This is tonight's variation:

Fake Thai Noodle Soup

1 pkg. Thai Kitchen noodle soup (I like Garlic & Vegetable)
1 pkg. frozen spinach
2 eggs
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T olive oil
hot sauce to taste
GF soy sauce to taste

Prepare spinach according to package directions. Prepare noodles according to package directions. Saute garlic in olive oil. When soup noodles are softened, scramble eggs quickly in a bowl and then dump into soup. Turn heat down to low and stir until the eggs firm and feather. Simultaneously, strain the spinach and dump in the garlic/olive oil. Saute for a minute or so.

Spoon all of the spinach into a very large bowl. Pour the entire noodle soup over the spinach. Add A LOT of hot sauce and soy sauce to taste.

This meal is insanely cheap (about $2), healthy and filling. Some may balk at the thought of eating the entire package of spinach, but I didn't really eat any other vegetables today.

Quickest Dinner Ever

I'm obviously having camera issues.

So, my partner and I have been experimenting with fish sauce over the past couple of weeks, since I can't eat the local Thai takeout anymore.

I know a lot of folks develop pretty awesome relationships with their local restaurants, to the point where special gluten-free dishes are created in their honor. To be honest, that isn't really an option when you live in a super-crowded neighborhood and don't have the financial means to eat out very much. Restaurants generally only go the extra mile if they feel that you are a frequent spender of money in their establishment, or if they are hard up for customers.

So I'm choosing to use this situation as an opportunity to learn how to make Thai sauces, and I figured I'd start with the easy, basic recipes that I can adapt to whatever is in my fridge and pantry. You know, real people food.

I have a crazy schedule right now between school, work, an internship and my volunteer work. I often walk in the door around 9 or 9:30, starving. When its that late, I am not going to spend 45 minutes or even half of an hour on dinner. I want it NOW.

I am happy to report that I made this in about 15 minutes.

Kow Pad - Thai Fried Rice

3 T. olive oil (I definitely used more than this)
3 T. GF tamari
1 1/2 T. GF fish sauce
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 T. hot sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 eggs
1 c. peas

Thaw and heat frozen peas in 1/2 inch of boiling water. Drain. Heat pan, add oil. Add eggs to hot oil, scramble until cooked. Remove or push to side. Add fish, soy and hot sauce, stir. Add garlic. Stir. Add rice, mix & stir. Add peas and egg. Stir quickly to prevent rice from sticking. Adjust sauces as necessary.

I love this recipe because it's a great combination of good fats, protein, carbs & veggies, and can be adapted to whatever meat or fresh veggies you have on hand. The fact that I was able to make this on a bare-cupboard night without feeling deprived at all makes this recipe a great addition to my weekly repertoire of 15 minute dinners.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Yesterday was a day of failures. I had this idea that I would crank out a bunch of baked goods in a few hours, while simultaneously going to the gym and doing homework. The lineup included last week's Gluten Free Flax Bread, bagels and Gluten-Free Garbanzo Bean Cake. Easy, right? The only thing I hadn't made before was the chickpea cake, and that recipe was pretty much a no-brainer - or so I thought.

I used to be a baker at a vegetarian restaurant for a couple of years. So I understand that there are Bad Baking Days and Good Baking Days, and that there is little one can do once it has become a Bad Baking Day.

The day started out great - the flax bread did exactly what it was supposed to do. I substituted potato starch for the tapioca and used a greater proportion of rice flour to see if this would improve the texture and rise. To be honest, it looked exactly the same as the last batch - so just refer to the photo in the post previous.

While the flax bread was baking, I worked on the bagels, which were stickier and more difficult to shape than I remembered. I had to use a lot of butter on my hands in order to be able to poke holes in and stretch the dough balls. The idea was to then pop them in the turned off oven to rise after taking out the bread, leaving me with an hour to run to the gym - after which I would quickly bring a pot of water to boil.

No such luck. I raced home and found a pan of oozing, yeasty lumps that were clearly too fragile for handling, much less boiling. Yet I persisted, unwilling to quit until I found myself with a pot of stewed dough fragments. Needless to say, I threw the whole pan in the garbage. I thought about taking some pictures, but I was too pissed off to make a show of it. Not only had I wasted my time, but also a not-insignificant chunk of money. Gluten free baking ain't cheap.

So, to cheer myself up I decided to make Gluten Free Garbanzo Bean Cake, since I didn't think that I was going to mess up something with 4 ingredients. Too bad that I was in denial about it being a Bad Baking Day.

Gluten Free Garbanzo Bean Cake (single layer)

1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
3 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. chocolate chips
3/4 tsp. baking powder

Melt chocolate chips in double boiler (or use a metal bowl on top of a pot of hot water, like I do). Process beans, eggs, sugar and baking powder in food processor for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Add melted chips, process. Grease a 9 in. pan and pour in batter.

Bake at 350 deg. for 25 minutes.

The cake smelled wonderful and had risen pretty high - until I banged it against the stove as I took it out. Bad Baking Day. Now it looks more like a torte, which is actually fitting given its moist and dense texture.

Texture-wise, I think the batter could benefit from a more extensive processing. While bean fragments were not readily identifiable, I could sense a bit of chunkiness that kept me thinking of the opened can of garbanzos. Not the kind of image I want to have when I bite into a piece of cake.

Taste-wise, the chocolate flavor was low-key and not too sweet. I made a quick custard with the leftover egg yolks from the bread and topped it with some thawed frozen cherries, expecting some kind of chocolate-cherry-cream medley, and was pretty disappointed. The sweetness of the custard totally overpowered the cake flavor, allowing me to once again focus on its um, unique texture. Not awesome.

Over the course of the week I've been eating the cake by itself, and I'm happy to report that it is much better on its own - kind of a hybrid cake/torte/brownie. If I make this again, I'll serve it in small slices - maybe w/ a small sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


How fitting that my first blog post incorporates my first loaf of (gluten free) bread!

Now, I was a baker for a couple of years, but only did desserts. So I've never baked bread, period - not even the "real" glutened version. I think this might work to my advantage, seeing as I don't really have any habits or expectations surrounding bread creation to abandon.

I've been reading a lot of recipes in preparation, and had somewhat of a success yesterday with Sarah's Bagels from The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread. I'm not going to post about them because they came out rather flat, and besides, I forgot to take a picture after I sliced them in half and stuck 'em in the freezer. But suffice to say, they were yummy and I'm so psyched to eat sandwiches that will not cause me pain for the first time in years.

For today's attempt, I chose Gluten-Free Flax Bread. I've been slowly accumulating the array of flours, gums and starches that frequent GF bread recipes, and want to try them all out before I settle on my basic bread recipe. Today's leans towards the sorghum/garfava variety as opposed to yesterday's rice-heavy bagels.

It was my intention to follow the recipe to the letter, but I couldn't resist tweaking it a little:

Gluten Free Flax Bread

1 c. sorghum flour
1/4 c. brown rice flour
1/4 c. garfava flour
1/2 c. tapioca starch
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/4 c. flaxseed meal
2 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. salt

2 eggs
1 egg white
1 tbsp. flax meal mixed w/ 2 tbsp. H2O
1 c. warm H20
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 200 deg.
Combine dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients w/ hand mixer on low. Add dry ingredients slowly. Scrape sides, mix on low for 3-4 minutes. Turn off oven. Spoon dough into greased 9 by 5 loaf pan, and place in turned-off oven. Let rise to the top of the pan, about 80 minutes or so. Bake at 350 deg. for 40 minutes. Remove from pan, cool and slice.

It looks and smells so good - I can't wait for it to cool down so I can try it!

Edit - It is really that good! I ate 2 slices - one w/ butter and one w/ PB&J. There were no crumbles, and the flaxseed definitely gave it a more "authentic" texture. This recipe is awesome.
I haven't done the cost breakdown, but I think the whole thing was kind of expensive - mainly due to all of the different flours and the tapioca starch, which I don't have a cheap source of yet. So I will definitely be tweaking this, because the whole point of baking my own bread is to avoid paying $6 for a frozen brick.