Friday, January 29, 2010

Interviews with Michael Pollan

If you're like me, you enjoy reading and hearing about relevant health and nutrition issues.  Michael Pollan's books are informative and open your eyes to the many problems in our diet and food supply.  Here are some links to recent interviews about his new book Food Rules.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gluten Free Crunchy Bread

crusty bread on board

When was the last time you sunk your teeth into a decent crunchy gluten free bread? 

crusty bread french toast

With its crunchy crust and chewy interior, this bread is perfection straight out of the oven.  The leftovers make great french toast the next morning. Did you know that french toast is called "Lost Bread" in France?  That's because it's typically made with old bread, usually baguette slices--ah, such delicious practicality!

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crusty bread slices

Crusty Gluten Free Bread (makes one round loaf)
This recipe is based on the French Baguette recipe featured in a 2008 issue of Living Without magazine.

1 cup garbanzo bean flour
3/4 cup arrowroot starch
3/4  cup tapioca starch
1/2 brown rice flour 
2 tsp xantham gum
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp GF dry yeast

1 1/2 cups barely warm water
1 tbsp olive oil

Oil + Cornmeal for the pan and dish

  • Oil a pyrex or ceramic 2 qt casserole round-dish 
  • In a mixer, combine the first 8 ingredients and mix at low speed for a few minutes while you prepare the wet ingredients (olive oil+water) in a small bowl
  • Keep the mixer on and pour the wet ingredients into the dry. When the batter forms, increase the speed to medium  and mix for 5 minutes.
  • Transfer the batter to the pyrex or ceramic dish and cover with a clean kitchen towel.  Keep in draft-free area and let rise for 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 400F.  Place a medium bowl filled with water on the bottom rack of the oven.  Oil a cookie-sheet and dust with cormeal.  
  • Invert the bread onto the prepared cookie-sheet and place in the oven.
  • After 15 minutes, very carefully remove the bowl of water from the oven and dump the content in the sink.
  • Continue baking for another 15 minutes or until the crust is golden and the internal temperature reaches 200F.

Printable Recipe

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    Colorful Salad with Avocado Cilantro Dressing

    Avocado Salad Dressing Bowl

    Fresh is in order even in the Winter months.  It provides a much needed burst of sunshine.    Making a salad dressing at home takes only minutes can elevate a boring salad to something spectacular.  I used frozen avocado for my creamy dressing.  It works great when this fruit is out of season.

    This salad features a wealth of textures, providing  a little something for everyone: crunchy peppers, nutty pepitas, perfumy cilantro, sweet carrots, smoky roasted corn and refreshing romaine leaves.  The final touch is the creamy lime-cilantro dressing.

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    avocado salad dressing close up

    Colorful Salad with Creamy Avocado Cilantro Dressing (serves 6)
    Can be prepared ahead of time.  Refrigerate the salad components separately from the dressing and mix together just before serving.

    2 cups of thinly shredded carrots
    2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
    1/4 cup cilantro leaves
    1 cup roasted corn kernels, thawed
    2 cups red bell pepper, diced
    2 romaine heart salad, torn into bite size pieces
    1/4 cup pepitas

    1 avocado
    1/4 tbsp olive oil
    2 tbsp fresh lime juice
    1/4 cup cilantro
    1/4 tsp ground cumin
    1/4 tsp garlic powder
    2 tbsp water

    • Place all the salad ingredients in a large bowl
    • In a blender or food processor, blend all the salad dressing ingredients until smooth.
    • Mix the dressing in with the salad just before serving.

    Printable Recipe

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Spinach and Bean Enchilada Casserole


    Some favorites are born out of necessity.  Although I have been making this dish for many years, I still remember how it came about: I needed dinner, I had very little in the fridge and going to the store was not an option.  I combined refried beans with spinach into an enchilada dish that soon became a family favorite.  It's sort of  a Mexican-style lasagna, with tortillas filling in for the pasta.  This casserole is practical for a weekday meal and yet memorable enough for your best company.  I love to make a colorful salad coated with homemade salad dressing.  Later on this week, I'll feature a delightful salad that compliments this enchilada casserole to perfection.

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    spinach bean casserole dish

    Spinach and Bean Enchilada Casserole (Serves 6)
    This is a great make-ahead dish, just like lasagna it improves over time.  It will keep in your fridge for a few days.

    16oz Refried Beans
    16oz chopped Spinach, thawed and squeezed dried
    2 cups tomato sauce + 1/2 tsp of ground cumin (mixed well together)
    6 corn tortillas, soaked in hot water to soften
    1 1/2 cup Mexican Cheese Shredded

    • 350F Preheat oven
    • Oil a lasagna dish
    • Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the dish
    • Place strips of the corn tortillas to cover 
    • Spread the refried beans evenly
    • Add the spinach on top in an even layer
    • Sprinkle 1 cup of the cheese 
    • Add the remaining strips of tortilla on top of the whole thing
    • Finish with the remaining tomato sauce
    • Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top
    • Bake covered for 20 minutes and uncover and bake for another 10 minutes or until bubbly.

     Printable Recipe


      Friday, January 15, 2010

      Gluten Free WholeGrain Baking Fun


      A while back, my friend Marie gave me the most delectable jars of homemade Quince Jelly. Any excuse is good for making some homemade bread, so I set out to provide a delivery-device for this lovely jelly.  This earthy bread made good use of the quinoa flakes in my pantry and provided the perfect partner for this rare treat.

      Whole-Grain Bread with Quinoa Flakes 
      (makes 2 small loaves)

       This is a variation on one of my favorite breads. I love exploring new ways of incorporating more wholesome ingredients into my recipes and this one is a winner. It will taste wonderful straight out of the oven with some good salty Irish butter and your favorite jam. Slice and freeze the rest for later use.

      1 cup bob's red mill GF mix (or other brand)
      1/2 cup teff flour
      1/2 cup buckwheat flour
      1/2 cup brown rice flour
      1/2 cup quinoa flakes
      1 tsp salt
      2 tsp xantham gum
      1 tbspn GF dry yeast

      2 cups room temperature water
      1 tbsp vinegar
      2 tbsp olive oil
      1/2 cup egg white beaten

      • Mix together in a mixer the dry ingredients.
      • In a bowl mix the wet ingredients
      • Combine the wet into the dry ingredients and mix on medium speed for 3 minutes (scraping the sides if necessary)
      • Cover the bowl with a clean towel and Let rise for 45 minutes
      • Oil two 3" x 8" loaf pans
      • Transfer batter to the two loaf pans and cover again with the towel
      • Let rise while the oven preheats to 375F
      • Bake for 50 minutes
      • Unmold and let cool on a rack.
      Printable Recipe

      Tuesday, January 12, 2010

      Amaranth Black Bean Patties

      amaranth patties

      I am not sick of amaranth yet.  This will, however, be the last post on this minuscule seed for awhile. 

      I am on a mission to make my life both more nutritious and convenient.  My children and I are in school all day.  We all prefer brownbagging over scrambling to find something that we consider acceptable outside the home.  These amaranth patties are easy to take with you.  Pack them alongside a vegetable salad and you are in for a delicious lunch.  They taste great hot off the griddle or at room temperature the next day.  Here are some other make-ahead dishes you might enjoy at school or at work:

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        amaranth tower

        Amaranth Black Bean Patties (makes 12)

        2 cups of cooked amaranth*, cooled enough to handle
        1 cup cooked black beans
        2 tbsp green onions, chopped
        1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
        1/2 cup Mexican cheese, shredded 
        1/4 cup egg whites
        2 tbsp pepitas (optional)
        1/2 tsp ground cumin
        1/2 tsp ground coriander
        1/2 tsp sea salt
        Olive oil for griddle

        *The amaranth should be cooked according to packaging.  I use a 1:1 water to amaranth ratio. Otherwise it cooks like rice:  simmer covered for about 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and set aside for 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork.

        • Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl
        • making amaranth patties
        • Take 1/4 cup of the mixture and form into a patty.  Continue with the remainder of the mixture until until it is all gone.
        • Heat a griddle on medium-high (400F)
        • Coat with olive oil
        • Gently place patties on the griddle without overcrowding.
        • Fry patties for about 6-8 minutes on each side.  Handle them carefully when the first side is ready to be flipped so that they don't fall apart.  They should be golden and feel somewhat firm when tapped with the back of the spatula.
        • Serve right away with some guacamole or fresh salsa or let cool and refrigerate
        Printable Recipe

          Thursday, January 7, 2010

          Amaranth Continued...Spinach Amaranth Herb Salad

          amaranth salad in bowl

          In continuing with my Amaranth exploration, here's a lovely, refreshing salad that will bring some much needed sunshine to gray days of Winter.  My family loved this creation so much they asked me to make it again before they were even done with the first batch.  I've put it on my list of convenient lunches to take with me to school this quarter.  I might throw in some more vegetables and some sheep feta.  This way I can feel good that I am eating  healthy even when away from home.

          amaranth salad 2

          Spinach Amaranth Herb Salad (serves 6)
          Inspired by Tabouleh, this salad is refreshing and delicious.
          As an alternate instead of the fresh herbs you can use 1/4 cup of dry Ghormeh Sabzi herb mix (available at middle eastern grocery stores) but still include the fresh chopped spinach.

          2 cups amaranth
          2 cups of water
          1/2 tsp sea salt
          1/4 cup olive oil
          1/4 cup fresh lime juice
          1/4 tsp ground cumin
          1/2 tsp ground coriander
          1 garlic clove, minced or crushed
          1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
          2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
          1/4 cup chopped cilantro
          2 cups finely chopped baby spinach

          • Simmer covered on a low flame for 12 minutes.
          • Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool slightly.
          • In a small bowl mix: olive oil, lime juice, cumin, coriander, garlic and chopped herbs.
          • Mix the salad dressing in with the cooked amaranth and chopped baby spinach
          • Refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors blend together.

          Printable recipe

          Monday, January 4, 2010

          Amaranth: packed with nutrition

          mortar amaranth

          Amaranth is commonly referred to as a grain because of its appearance and nutritional profile.  It's actually not a grain at all:  it's the seed of a beautiful flower called Amaranthus, said by gardeners to be very easy to grow.

          Both leaves and seeds are edible and enjoyed in various parts of the world.  The name of this wonderful plant comes from a Greek word that means "everlasting."  The plant itself comes to us from the Aztecs, however.  There are many legends attached to it, and it was an integral part of the Aztecs' diet and religious rituals. 

          photo courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons

          amaranth grain closeup

          Amaranth's nutritional pedigree reads like manna from heaven. It is bursting with important nutrients--just take a look at its nutritional profile:

          1 cup of Amaranth uncooked contains:
          26g of protein
          13 g of fiber
          31% Daily values of Calcium
          82% Daily values of Iron
          14% Daily values of Vitamin C

          The protein in Amaranth contains both lysine and methionine which makes it an especially good source for vegetarians. It contains no gluten (yeah!) and is a good source of vitamin E (tocotrienols).

          Amaranth needs to be stored in an airtight container because of its oil content. I keep mine in a jar in the refrigerator. I try to use it within three months because the oils can go rancid if kept much longer. The good news is: it's delicious and very versatile.   You should have no problem eating it often. It can be popped like popcorn, cooked like grits, and transformed into delightful patties-- the list goes on and on. You can also add Amaranth flour to your baked-goods in moderation.  I would start by replacing 1/4 cup of your flour mix with it.   It's a great binding agent so too much will turn your bread gummy.

          This week I will be sharing two recipes for Amaranth.  
          Today's recipe is Popped Amaranth Cereal with Sesame Seeds and Crystallized Ginger

          amaranth cereal with ginger

          This breakfast or snack is packed with wholesome ingredients.  It comes together in minutes and is such a nice change from a bowl of porridge.

          Coming up in my next post:  Spinach Amaranth Herb Salad

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          amaranth cereal ingredients

          Popped Amaranth Cereal with Sesame Seeds and Crystallized Ginger (makes 1 serving)
          One of my daughters doesn't like milk of any kind, so she enjoys hers with a little bit of
          orange juice. It can also be altered for a vegan diet by choosing one of the vegan milk and sweetener options listed below.

          2 tablespoons of Amaranth Seeds
          1/2 tsp cinnamon
          1 tbsp sesame seeds
          1 tsp of crystallized ginger, minced
          sugar, honey or agave nectar to taste (optional)
          1/4 cup milk, soy milk, almond milk or orange juice

          • Heat a thick-bottom pan to med-high temperature.  When a drop of water energetically dances in the pan you are ready to add the amaranth.
          • Add to the pan 1 tablespoon of the amaranth and stir.  It will start popping soon after.  You'll need to have a lid to prevent the seeds from flying all over the place.
          • It only take seconds and they burn fast-- keep a vigilant eye and transfer to a bowl as soon as most of them have popped. Then proceed the same way for the next tablespoon.
          • Add cinnamon and sesame to the bowl with popped cereal and mix well.
          • Then sprinkle the minced crystallized ginger. Add the sweetener if you are using it.  
          • Finally,  pour your milk of choice over the whole thing and serve.
          Printable Recipe

          Breakfast is Ready!
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