Monthly Archives: December 2009

Welcome 2010: Top Ten Posts of 2009 (Plus a New Year’s Resolution or Two)

photo courtesy of Toby Harmon

In a few days, another decade comes to a close. Can you remember what happened 10 years ago? The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above the 10,000 mark for the first time. (This year, we were all happy that it reached that mark again!) It then proceeded to reach 11,000 less than two months later. The strongest tornado ever recorded in world history slammed into Moore, Oklahoma. George W. Bush announced that he would seek the Republican Party nomination for President. The world population reached 6 billion. (We’re now nearly at 6.7 billion!) And as 1999 came to a close, the world sat on pins and needles, wondering if Y2K was going to wreak havoc. (source: Wikipedia) My, how things have changed.

With the arrival of 2010, there are so many things to celebrate. Personally, I am so thankful that our family has fared well during this time of economic crisis. I am thankful that my family is healthy. In this past year, we lost family members near and dear to our hearts, but I am thankful that we enjoyed many wonderful years together. I look forward to the next year, and the next decade, as there are many wonderful things to come.

In the spirit of the New Year, I want to share with you all the top 10 successes of Tasty Eats At Home for 2009. These are the ten most popular recipes on Tasty Eats At Home. A few are prior to my gluten-free days – but upon realizing their success, I now wish to make plans to convert them to gluten-free and re-post them in the coming year. That way, everyone can enjoy them!

1. Vegetarian Bean and Pumpkin Chili, plus a Gluten-Free Cheddar Serrano Biscuit – This is a delicious and easy recipe. I love that it requires little active cooking time, it’s healthy, and it’s comforting. Oh, and of course, delicious! I plan on making another batch this week!

2. Korean Short Ribs Tacos – This was one of my favorite recipes to make! Ever since I learned of Kogi BBQ, I dreamed of the flavors in their tacos – salty, spicy, sweet, tangy – and I couldn’t stop thinking about them until I made this dish! I still have no idea if the recipe is close to the original, as I haven’t ventured to Los Angeles, nor has Kogi BBQ arrived in Dallas, but who cares? These tacos are so tasty, they’re craveable.

3. Thai Curry Pumpkin Soup and Gluten-Free Chive Biscuits – Is it a sign that more than one of my top recipes is vegetarian and healthy? I loved this soup, and have made it several times. It’s easy, and it’s hard to mess up. It also makes a perfect first course dish.

4. The Best Brownies in the World – These babies aren’t gluten-free as written. But I’ll let you in on a little secret – if you substitute rice flour for the regular flour, and add about a teaspoon of xanthan gum, you’d never know the difference. There isn’t much flour in the original recipe to begin with, so the texture doesn’t change much when converting it to gluten-free. I’ll definitely re-make and re-post these gluten-free soon. They’re so worth it.

5. Make-Ahead (Gluten-Free) Turkey Gravy and Stuffing – I can see how this is a favorite. When you have food intolerances, often times you miss those comforting foods you can no longer have, especially around the holidays. This recipe makes it possible to enjoy those favorites again. I’m definitely going back to this year after year for Thanksgiving.

6. Spiced Pear Jam – This reminds me – I wish I would have canned more jams, jellies, and pickles this past summer. It wasn’t all that difficult, and I love that I have a few jars left to enjoy through the winter. Definitely doing this again next summer!

7. Nopalitos con Huevos – This recipe was posted pre-gluten-free. Gluten-free chorizo can be found, but it’s not always easy. I have found that Whole Foods makes a gluten-free chorizo; they sell it at the meat counter. It’s quite tasty too. If you substitute a spicy breakfast sausage, this dish would still be delicious.

8. Chipotle Pork Tinga Tacos – Rick Bayless, how I love him. This recipe comes from his book Mexican Everyday, and is absolutely wonderful. I also love that it’s a slow cooker recipe, making my dinner prep a snap.

9. Exploring Texas BBQ – The recipes from this post are numerous, as this was one of my Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 events. It was probably one of the most fun events too – and what a great way for me to learn to smoke meat! We still talk about the barbacoa – how delicious it was, how incredibly huge that head was, etc. Great event, and I can’t wait until the next warm, lazy weekend, so I can crank up the smoker and create a delicious meal.

10. Turnip Green, Bean and Cheese Empanadas – Another vegetarian recipe, although this one isn’t gluten-free as written. No worries, though – I loved these so much, I’m determined to come up with a suitable gluten-free empanada dough to substitute. After all, there’s nothing quite as wonderful as a hand-held pocket of veggie and cheesy goodness! Stay tuned!

Are there any favorites that you have that didn’t make the list? What would you love to see on Tasty Eats At Home in 2010?

Of course, my New Year’s post wouldn’t be complete without resolutions. Apparently, posting my resolutions here forces me to focus on them. I have managed to achieve most of last year’s resolutions. I still need to work on expanding my knowledge of Indian cuisine, and I need to make a few key Mexican dishes, make sushi, fried chicken, and sausage. We’ll add those to the 2010 list. Here goes – ten Tasty Eats At Home resolutions for 2010!

1. Convert The Best Brownies in the World to gluten-free

2. Convert Empanadas to gluten-free

3. Perfect and post a gluten-free bread recipe

4. Expand knowledge of Indian cuisine

5. Learn to make posole and menudo

6. Learn to make sushi

7. Learn to make Southern fried chicken and chicken-fried steak, both gluten-free

8. Learn to make sausage

9. Incorporate more vegetarian dishes into our daily diet (and on the blog!)

10. Learn to make gluten-free puff pastry

Happy New Year, everyone!

Daring Bakers: Gingerbread House

When I read the challenge for Daring Bakers this month, I immediately felt that lump rise in my throat. Gingerbread house? Are you kidding me? (No offense to Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemon Pi - it’s a wonderfully festive idea!) It just seemed insurmountable. I’d never made a gingerbread house. And this baby had to be gluten-free.

Over the next few days, after I had time to digest the challenge and do a little research, I felt ready to tackle it. I looked around and found this pattern. Seemed simple enough to handle. And after researching gluten-free gingerbread, I decided on this recipe. I did choose regular butter instead of the margarine, I used more rice flour instead of the millet flour (I didn’t have millet flour on hand), and I opted to refrigerate the dough for several hours before rolling it out. I was so glad I did, because even rolling it out while chilled proved to be a test of patience. The dough was quite sticky and seemed to absorb a lot of rice flour – I kept dusting my board and rolling pin over and over, only to roll it out and have my cut pieces stick. When they didn’t stick, they came off of the board misshapen and I’d have to start over. It took me a while, but I did successfully roll and cut out two houses’ worth. Thankfully I had extras.

Once baked, they did warp a bit. No issues – I got out my knife and made cuts to make them fit. Easy peasy, or so I thought. I broke some pieces – and ended up with just enough pieces for one house. But they still didn’t fit together perfectly.

All in all, the house was a success – even if the sides didn’t fit together. (I’m so thankful for royal icing - it’ll stick any of those big gaps together!) I chose gluten-free candies (Dots, M&Ms, Sixlets, Hot Tamales, and Nerds) to decorate, and used Glutino pretzels for the roof. I wasn’t perfectly happy with it – but it was finished. The following day, my parents stopped by and I tried to show it off gain some sympathetic approval, and my husband mentioned to them that he’d never heard so many curse words come from the kitchen as when I was working on that house. Whoops. Guess my secret’s out!

What would I do differently next time? I might find a different recipe for the dough – but I have also since seen that there are molds for gingerbread houses. I think if I was to make one again, I’d definitely find some of these. Maybe that’s cheating, not sure! I just know it was quite an undertaking for me to finish this house!

All in all, I’m glad I participated in this challenge. Going beyond my comfort zone – that’s what it’s all about, right?

Last-Minute Christmas Treats – Toffee and Ginger Chip Teff Cookies

Before you think me a “Grinch”, I thought I better get to it and crank out some Christmas goodies. It’s not that I didn’t have intentions to make these sooner – it was simply that like so many of us this time of year, I was swamped with holiday tasks. But finally, all of the presents are wrapped, and the shopping for Christmas dinner is finished. Today was for cookies. I narrowed down my never-ending list to 6 goodies – and I managed to crank out 5 of them. These are the two best recipes from today’s efforts – and I’ve already eaten so much of both, I doubt I will need sugar again for a week. They’re addictive, I tell you.

The first is a toffee. Toffee is one of my favorite candies – and at the risk of blasphemy, I love it even more than chocolate. This toffee, though, not only has buttery, caramel-y goodness, it’s also topped with chocolate and sliced almonds. Need I say more? I will definitely be sharing this stuff, because if I leave it around the house, I’ll eat it all. No kidding.

The second is a gluten-free ginger, molasses, and chocolate chip cookie. Ginger and molasses cookies are also among my favorites – they’re something I make every year. This year, I wasn’t about to let a little thing called a “gluten-free diet” interrupt this tradition. These are also kicked up a notch, with chopped bittersweet chocolate chips, both ground and freshly grated ginger, and rolled in turbinado sugar, so they sparkle. That sugar adds so much to the cookies – a bit of sweet crisp on the outside before the cookie gives way to a soft interior. Honestly? I don’t miss my old cookies – this version is superior in every way.

If you have time left in your hectic holiday to squeeze in these delicious treats, I recommend that you do. Of course, the holidays aren’t the only time that these are welcome – personally, I’d be happy if these were shared with me anytime! Happy Holidays to you and yours.

Toffee, adapted from The Kitchn

1 lb unsalted butter

3 T water

2 c sugar

1/2 t sea salt

1 t vanilla

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)

1 c skiced almonds

In a large cast iron skillet, melt the butter, water, sugar, and salt over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon constantly, trying to keep the sides of the pan clean. Once at a boil, continue to stir rapidly, until the mixture is a deep golden caramel color. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Pour mixture into a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Allow to cool slightly, about 5 minutes, and sprinkle chocolate over the toffee evenly. Wait for another 5 minutes or until chocolate looks glossy, and with an offset spatula, spread chocolate out in an even layer. Sprinkle nuts over chocolate and lightly press in. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until firm. Break into pieces.

Makes 4 lbs.

 

Ginger Chip Teff Cookies, adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1/2 coarse turbinado sugar

6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely

1/2 c almond flour/meal

1 c teff flour

3/4 c potato starch

1/2 t xanthan gum

1 t baking soda

4 1/2 t ground ginger

1/2 t sea salt

1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/4 c blackstrap molasses

2/3 c light brown sugar

1 T freshly grated ginger

1 large egg, well beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place turbinado sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the almond meal, teff, potato starch, xanthan gum, baking soda, ground ginger, and salt.

Heat butter in a saucepan until just melted, and remove from heat. Add in molasses, brown sugar, and fresh ginger. If the mixture is hot, let it cool down a bit. It should be just a bit warm. Add the egg and whisk in. Pour this mixture into the flour and stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate.

Scoop out 1/2 tablespoon-sized balls of dough and roll in turbinado sugar. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets a few inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cookies have puffed up and are fragrant. Makes 4-5 dozen.

Kids in the Kitchen: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes

They were free this time around. Free to choose which meal of the day to prepare. Free to choose what they wished to make.

So of course, Brittany immediately chose something with an insane amount of chocolate. As any 11-year-old girl would, I suppose!

She wanted to make chocolate pancakes. But not just that. She wanted chocolate chips in the pancakes, and to sandwich the pancakes with a layer of peanut butter. And top with more chocolate chips. I knew I had to find a way to make this breakfast just a touch healthier than it would seem. But I had to be sneaky. These were supposed to be fun pancakes, after all!

So I turned to my two friends – coconut flour and agave nectar. I love using coconut flour in baked goods – it’s gluten-free, lower in carbohydrates, and high in fiber. It also seems to create fluffier, lighter baked goods than some other gluten-free flours – always a good thing when we’re talking pancakes. Agave nectar has less of an impact to blood sugar levels than sugar - an added bonus for you when you’re serving a sweet treat to kids – no crazy, out-of-control, hyped-up-on-sugar children! These weren’t health food by any means, but I did feel a bit better knowing I was making a few tweaks for the better.

These pancakes were pretty tasty – just the right amount of chocolate, and they were very filling. And for once, all of the kids enjoyed the meal! (If I haven’t told you before, I live in a house with some picky eaters.) I say that means these are definitely a keeper.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes

5 eggs, separated

5 T butter, melted

1/3 c milk

2 T agave nectar

1/2 t salt

1 t vanilla extract

1/3 c coconut flour

1 T unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 t baking powder

1/4 c chocolate chips, plus more for topping pancakes

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Separately, beat egg yolks until foamy. Fold together, along with melted butter, milk, agave nectar, salt, and vanilla. Whisk in coconut flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Stir in chocolate chips.

Heat a nonstick pan to medium heat. Spoon 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan. Allow to cook for 3 minutes or so and carefully flip. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes more or until cooked through. Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve with toppings such as peanut butter, maple syrup, and whipped cream, and top with additional chocolate chips. Makes about 9 pancakes.

White Bean, Kale, and Tomato Stew

Apparently I cannot get enough soups and stews this season. But what’s wrong with that? They’re filling, comforting, and many times, can be healthy. Take this stew, for example. It’s vegetarian. (Vegan, even, if you omit the Parmesan.) It’s gluten-free. It’s packed with fiber and nutrition. But that’s not even the best part. It’s cheap to make, and it’s fast and easy! If your December has been as busy as mine has, this will be a blessing! I made this the other night for dinner, which left me with plenty of time to wrap presents. It was delicious and so guilt-free that I even had seconds.

I’m a bit ahead of schedule for New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve already decided on one resolution – to incorporate more vegetarian and vegan meals into our diet. The reasons are plentiful – swapping more plant-based foods for the meats means our grocery bill will be lighter. Meals can be healthier. And our carbon footprint will be smaller. While I am not aspiring to become a vegetarian full-time, I do acknowledge and appreciate the benefits that healthy vegetarian meals can provide. (Healthy being the key word here – while french fries, ice cream, and candy can be vegetarian, I am not opting to pick up a steady diet of such things.) This will be a bit of a change of mindset for me. I am accustomed to making a grocery list and planning meals according to what proteins (aka meat) is on sale that week, or what meat I have in our freezer. I will have to make a concerted effort to plan for at least one meatless dinner every week. I’m excited about it. I hope to share with you some meatless, gluten-free meal options very soon!

For now, I hope you’ll enjoy this quick stew.

White Bean, Kale, and Tomato Stew, adapted from Serious Eats

1 ½ lbs kale, larger stems removed, and leaves chopped (can substitute swiss chard or other leafy greens)

¼ c olive oil

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

¼ t crushed red pepper

1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes

1 15-oz can of white beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups vegetable broth

Salt and pepper

Grated Parmesan (omit for vegan)

Fill a large stockpot halfway with water. Bring to a boil and then toss in the kale leaves. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 6-8 minutes or until leaves are tender (not mushy). Drain leaves in a colander.

Wipe out any excess water from the pot. Place back on burner and turn to medium heat. Add olive oil, garlic, and red pepper, and sauté for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the beans and broth, and bring to a boil again. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often.

Reduce heat to a simmer and add the kale. Cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with Parmesan.

Serves 2-3.

Daring Cooks: Salmon en Croute

So I finally did it.

I took a deep breath…

Closed my eyes…

And I took the plunge.

What “plunge”, might you ask?

I joined the Daring Kitchen and became an Official Daring Cook and Daring Baker! For those of you who are not aware, individuals can choose to become Daring Cooks or Bakers to challenge themselves to learn new techniques and recipes in the kitchen. Each month, one of the Official Daring Cooks/Bakers chooses a recipe, and all of the other Daring Cooks/Bakers join in the “challenge” by making that same recipe. It’s a wonderful way to step outside your comfort zone. And if you cook or bake gluten-free (like me!), sometimes it forces you to step WAY outside that comfort zone!

This month’s Daring Cooks challenge was chosen by Simone at JungleFrog Cooking. The challenge was to make salmon en croute – following a recipe from Good Food Online. Of course, I would have to find a gluten-free version of a shortcrust pastry. Unfortunately, there is not an abundance of gluten-free shortcrust pastry recipes out there. I chose one from The Cook and The Chef, using Pamela’s Baking and Pancake mix  for the gluten-free flour blend. I also used spinach, rather than watercress or arugula/rocket, as this was what the grocery had in stock.

As you can see from the photos, my crust was not perfect. It was quite “wet” and so it was a bit of an exercise in patience to wrap the salmon in the dough. It also slid a bit while in the oven and left cracks, in spite of my attempt to cut slits to allow steam to escape. But if you look really carefully, you can see that I did successfully cut a star shape out of the dough to place over my seam in the middle of the pastry.

But in spite of the less-than-perfect aesthetics, the dish was quite tasty. The salmon was so perfectly moist and flavorful, and even my spinach-fearing husband went back for seconds. I think that if I was to make this dish again (and I plan to), I’d search for a different shortcrust pastry – one that is a bit drier – but all-in-all, I’d consider my first Daring Cooks challenge mostly successful. I think once I have the pastry down, this would be an excellent dish for company!

Lentil and Sausage Stew

 This time of year, decadence reigns. Buttery, cheesy, rich – these are flavors welcomed in December. Chocolate-dipped, whipped cream-topped, caramel-filled? It’s the holidays; why not? And of course, only the prettiest and most elegant will do – perfectly shaped cookies and pretty cakes adorn most food blogs right now. Not that I’m pointing fingers; after all, I posted the most decadent hot chocolate ever just a few days ago, and I have plans to start baking cookies very soon – after I can stop drooling over others’ holiday recipes and narrow down my own “to do” baking list!

But there are many days in December that aren’t holidays. Many of the days in December we are rushing about and stressed, struggling to balance the preparation for celebrations in addition to our daily duties. Those days call for easy meals that still warm the soul and nourish our bodies. Those meals don’t have to be decadent (in fact, it’s best for our health if they aren’t!), and they don’t have to be fancy. Sometimes, simple and rustic is best. A lentil and sausage stew can be perfect for such a day.

I haven’t found many lentil recipes that I’ve truly been in love with. Yes, they’re healthy, full of fiber, a good source of protein; but most of the times, I’ve been on the fence about lentils. Apparently, I just haven’t looked hard enough. This stew changed my mind about lentils – the flavor is so big and bold in this stew that I couldn’t help but enjoy a rather large bowl. The jalapeno sausage brought just a hint of heat to the broth, but the vegetables and parsley truly brightened the flavors, and the smoked paprika added an additional depth. This was a stew I could make again and again. Which reminds me, I still have some left over. Lunch tomorrow? I think so!

Lentil and Sausage Stew, adapted from Good Life Eats

1 T vegetable oil

12 oz jalapeno smoked sausage, diced

½ large yellow onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ t fresh thyme, chopped

2 T sherry

3 c chicken or vegetable broth

2 c water

2 c dried lentils

1 t salt

½ t black pepper

1 t cumin

½ t smoked paprika

1 bay leaf

2 carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice

1 c spinach leaves, packed

¼ c fresh parsley, chopped

In a large pot, add oil and bring to medium heat. Add smoked sausage and brown, 4-5 minutes. Remove, leaving as much of the oil in the pot as possible. Add onion, carrots, and celery, and sauté until tender, 7-8 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and sauté another minute. Add sherry and scrape up any brown bits at the bottom of the pot. Then add broth, water, lentils, and seasonings and bring to a boil. Add sausage and carrots and reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer partially covered for 30-45 minutes, or until lentils and vegetables are tender. Stir in spinach and parsley and serve.

Lamb Moussaka

A month ago, if anyone were to inquire whether I liked moussaka, I likely would have responded with a “Moose-a-what?” Generally, I enjoy learning about various popular dishes from all around the globe, but this dish must have slipped past my radar. So when one of our Thanksgiving dinner guests (who wishes to remain anonymous) mentioned that she was bringing moussaka as her contribution, I immediately “googled” the dish to learn about it.

The exact origin of moussaka is unclear. Some claim it as a Greek dish (it is quite popular in Greek cuisine), but there are variations throughout the Mediterranean, including Turkey and the Balkans. (according to Wikipedia and other sites) Despite the countless variations, most recipes include a handful of principal ingredients: eggplant (aubergine), tomatoes, onions, and a crusty, creamy layer on top, usually comprised of a bechemel sauce.  (Bechemel is a white sauce, usually made of a flour/butter roux and milk or cream.) Unfortunately for me (and a great deal of other celiacs), bechemel sauce is a deal-breaker.

So when the moussaka arrived at Thanksgiving, I grilled (as politely as I could, of course, but a gluten-free girl’s gotta know whether she can dig in!) the “cook” about the ingredients she used. As she rattled off the (rather short) list of ingredients, (eggplant, tomatoes, onion, parsley, lamb, yogurt, egg…) I quickly discovered that I would be able to try this delicious-sounding dish! And delicious it was – bursting with savory and rich flavors. It seemed impossible how tasty it was – the dish was indeed more than the sum of its parts. I immediately cast aside all class and grace - I begged for the recipe.

I brought up the subject more than once during the remainder of the evening. Not that I really needed to – she already agreed to send it to me. In retrospect, I probably annoyed the hell out of her. In any case, she emailed me the recipe, so my shameless begging did the trick. I jotted down the ingredients needed on my grocery list for this week, and in spite of the lengthy time to prepare the dish (it takes a little more than an hour, which is usually more than I’ll tackle on a weeknight), I made plans to make this last night.

Let me tell you, it was so worth the wait! The yogurt-egg-cheese topping was beautifully browned with just a bit of a crunchy edge. The eggplant layers melded flavors with the lamb and tomato mixture to create a savory, luscious, satisfying filling. I couldn’t help myself – I had to have seconds. And some more for lunch the following day. This was one of those times where I wasn’t too sad that my husband isn’t a fan of eggplant or tomatoes – it just meant there was more for me!

This is the perfect dish for company. If you wish, you can prepare it up to 3-4 hours ahead of time, waiting only to bake it when your guests arrive. It will make the house smell heavenly. You can always round out the meal by adding a garden salad or a potato dish, if you choose.

Now, how to break the news to this guest that she will be asked to bring this dish next year…

 

Lamb Moussaka

2 large eggplants, thinly sliced

1-2 T olive oil

1 lb lean ground lamb (can substitute beef, turkey, or pork)

Salt and pepper

1 large or 2 small yellow onions, thinly sliced (should be about 2 cups)

1 t finely chopped garlic

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained

2-3 T chopped fresh parsley

2 eggs

10 fl oz lowfat plain yogurt, drained (see below for instructions on how to drain yogurt)

1 1/2 c finely grated Parmesan cheese

Lay the eggplant slices in a single layer over paper towels. Lightly salt both sides of eggplant slices and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes. Pat dry. Heat a skillet to medium-high heat. Brush a very thin layer of olive oil on each side of each eggplant slice. Add eggplant slices in a single layer in the skillet and brown on both sides. Set aside. (You will have to do this in batches) Repeat with remaining slices.

Add lamb to skillet and brown for 5 minutes, crumbling with spatula and stirring as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Add the onion slices and garlic and saute for another 7-8 minutes or until onion softens. Add tomatoes and parsley and bring to a boil. Quickly reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is completely tender. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Arrange half of the eggplant slices in a single laer in an oven-proof 13X9 baking dish. Add the lamb-tomato mixture, and then layer the remaining eggplant slices on top.

Beat the eggs in a bowl until doubled in size and foamy (I used my stand mixer for this). Add yogurt and continue beating until the entire mixture is fluffy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour egg mixture over the eggplant slices, spreading out in an even layer. Sprinkle Parmesan on top.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serves 4.

How to drain yogurt:

Draining yogurt results in a thicker consistency, much like Greek-style yogurt. Line a large bowl with several thicknesses of cheesecloth. Place the yogurt into the cheesecloth, then gather the ends and fasten them tightly with a rubber band. Hang the cheesecloth over the bowl, allowing it to drip the excess water into the bowl. (I suspended mine over the bowl by wrapping the ends of the cheesecloth around a chopstick and placing a binder clip to secure. You can also hang the cheesecloth over a cupboard knob and place the bowl underneath.) Allow to drip for at least 30 minutes, or longer if you want an even thicker yogurt.

Chocolate Banana Muffins

 

Shortly after removing gluten from my diet, I set out to conquer the mystery that is gluten-free baking. There have been successes, and oh yes, there have been failures. Gluten-free baking is tricky. You have to throw all of your “wheat flour” baking knowledge out the window. There is no kneading of bread doughs. Bread doesn’t “rise” in the same manner. The batter for cakes doesn’t always look like typical cake batter. Gluten-free batters and doughs react differently. The earliest tests of gluten-free baking either resulted in overly moist, crumbly messes, or dry-as-a-bone bread that you had to choke down. These occurrences happen less and less frequently as I practice, but in the interest of full disclosure, they still do happen from time to time.

But honestly? I feel more comfortable baking now than I ever did prior to my gluten-free days. Why? The need to experiment has freed me. When I used to bake, I felt that I had to strictly adhere to the recipe, or else disaster would result. I did not have an understanding of the roles each ingredient played in the finished product. Not that I’ve since come to a complete understanding of the science behind baking, but the use of alternative flours has opened my eyes. There are so many textures and flavors available. As long as I understand that I’ll need leavening, something to bind ingredients together, and a certain level of moisture, usually I’m pretty good to go. Not “Gee, I don’t even need a recipe anymore” good, but I can honestly say I’m a better baker now than I have ever been.

My current obsession is to take any ol’ recipe and convert it to gluten-free. I’ve had some success with this in the past (remember the tres leches cake?), but I’m still working on it. My hope is to not feel as though sacrifices have to be made because a gluten-free diet is required. We can have our gluten-free cake and eat it too, so to speak!

With this in mind, I present to you these chocolate banana muffins. The recipe is several generations away from its original inspiration (Elise’s banana bread recipe at Simply Recipes). These are some of the best gluten-free muffins I’ve ever made, if I do say so. They were moist and chocolatey, not overly sweet, with a tender crumb that held together well. Perfect for a holiday morning treat, or for any time of year.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Banana Muffins, adapted from Simply Recipes

3 ripe bananas, smashed

1/3 c melted butter

3 T peanut butter or almond butter

½ c white sugar

½ c light brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 t vanilla extract

1 t baking soda

2 t cinnamon

½ t nutmeg

2 T unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ t salt

½ c teff flour

½ c sorghum flour

½ c tapioca starch

1 t xanthan or guar gum

1-2 T turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In mixing bowl, add bananas, melted butter, and peanut butter. Mix on low until combined. Add sugars, egg, and vanilla and mix until combined. Sprinkle baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder and salt over banana mixture, and mix until combined. In a separate bowl, mix flours and xanthan gum. Turn mixer on medium-low and add flours in two batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed, until well-combined. Pour into prepared muffin pan  and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a minute or two, and remove from pan and place on wire rack to cool. Makes 12 muffins.

Want a chance to win a free 2010 North Texas Food Bank calendar and some other cool stuff? Check out my other blog, Feeding North Texas, for information! The giveaway ends December 18, 2009.

Kids in the Kitchen: Spaghetti Carbonara (Gluten-Free, of course!)

Matt loves pasta. Spaghetti, lasagna, and macaroni and cheese? These three dishes alone could make this boy happy for a long, long time. Italy was his country of choice this time around, which, naturally, pleased Matt. We discussed various Italian dishes, both pasta and non-pasta, but the mention of bacon and spaghetti – two of his favorite things in the world – made spaghetti carbonara the choice for dinner tonight.

Truth be told, spaghetti carbonara is not among my favorite Italian dishes. It’s a bit on the rich and heavy side, in my opinion. As this was the case, I have not made spaghetti carbonara prior to this evening. Nevertheless, I sought out a recipe that was sure to please. Emeril saved the day! (Every Emeril Lagasse recipe I have followed has turned out beautifully!) I followed the original recipe pretty closely – it’s relatively straightforward and simple – and it was pretty darn tasty, if I do say so.

Not one piece of shell was dropped in the eggs!

Matt enjoyed it a great deal. Of course, eggs, bacon, cheese, and spaghetti – what’s not to like?

Gluten-Free Spaghetti Carbonara, adapted from Emeril Lagasse

1/2 lb bacon, diced into 1/2 inch pieces

1 T chopped garlic

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb gluten-free spaghetti, cooked until al dente (I used Tinkyada Pasta Joy Brown Rice Spaghetti)

4 large eggs, beaten

Salt to taste

1 c freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 T chopped fresh parsley leaves

In a large saute pan over medium heat, fry the bacon until crispy. Remove bacon with slotted spoon or spatula and allow to drain on paper towels. Remove all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds, and season with pepper. Add back the bacon and pasta and saute for 1 minute. Season the eggs with salt. Remove the pan from heat and add eggs, stirring quickly, until eggs thicken but do not scramble. Add the cheese and taste; adjust seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley. Serves 4 generously.