Saturday, December 28, 2013

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

I riff on the basic rolled biscuit recipe in The Joy of Cooking and my gravy is very simple.

4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup cold unsalted butter (12 tablespoons or 1½ sticks)
¾ cup whole milk

Someone (Alton Brown maybe) said that Southern biscuits tend to be much lighter and fluffier than biscuits made elsewhere. Whoever it was ascribed this phenomenon to the days when flour was usually sold regionally rather than nationally. The wheat grown in the South is softer spring wheat than the harder winter wheat grown elsewhere (or at least it used to be) producing a lighter baked good.  I suspect that the preference of Southern biscuits over anything else is just stereotype at this point, but I'm a Yankee so what do I know?

I use King Arthur unbleached white flour (when I bake with wheat). I stir the flour in the canister before measuring, then run it through a sifter to add some air. I use a pinch more baking soda than the recipe calls for, and toss it in the sifter with the flour, so it all gets well mixed and aerated.

For fat, I use cold butter (frozen works amazing but I never have any in the freezer) and GRATE it into the flour with a large grater. Mix the grated butter into the flour with a fork until the pieces are well separated and coated with flour.

Add the milk, I use whole milk, the more fat the better! Stir just until everything is wet. Then knead in the bowl, just until it all comes together and the dough will pick up all the flour and bits on the bottom of the bowl. Do NOT over knead.

Roll out to an inch thick (much thicker than The Joy says) and cut with a big ol' biscuit cutter. Mine is probably three inches across. I only get five biscuits out of a single recipe—not the twenty, two-inch ones The Joy says this will produce.

Bake in a very hot oven (450F) for 10-13 minutes or until golden and crusty.

My gravy recipe is not much of a recipe because I never measure anything that goes into it.  Brown some ground sausage in a skillet.  Sprinkle the meat with a few spoonsful of flour.  Stir to coat and break up any clumps of meat or flour.  When the meat is cooked through, add milk a bit at a time.  Stir and let it thicken from the flour as it gets hot.  Continue to add milk in bits until the gravy is no longer too thick.  Season with fresh ground pepper and salt (if needed).

To plate, split biscuits, spoon the sausage gravy over the bottom halves of the biscuits, top with the upper halves. Serve with strong black coffee, American style.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Caramel Popcorn

Adapted from ImaLazyMom.

I used 2/3 C popcorn kernels, popped with as little oil as I could.

For the caramel, I used 1/2 C butter, 2/3 C evaporated cane juice, 1/3 C coconut sugar, 1/3 C honey, not nearly enough salt, a splash of vanilla and 1/2 t baking soda. 

Melt ingredients except baking soda and vanilla in a big pot--my big soup pot, it hardly covered the bottom to begin with but you need that much room to coat the popcorn--when it comes to a heavy boil, quit stirring, and boil (medium heat) without stirring for 5 minutes (could have gone just a bit longer), the syrup should start turning a darker color but don't burn it.

The boiling is key to a crunch rather than sticky, rip-out-your-dental-work final product.

Add the soda and vanilla and mix briskly.  It will get very foamy.  Add popcorn quickly and toss to coat.  Pour out onto parchment paper and cool.  Break into bits. 

Next time I will try maple syrup rather than honey and/or some darker sugars.  Or some lighter sugars and different flavoring.  Or maybe a bit of chile pepper!  Love me some heat with my sweets.  I might also add some roasted nuts with the popcorn before coating with caramel.

Grain-free, 5-Minute, Spicy Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Orange Sauce

Orange Sugar:

The zest of one medium orange (or a couple small tangerines)
4-6+ T granulated sugar (or evaporated cane juice)
Grind together in a coffee mill or small food processor. The wetness of the zest will make it pasty. If you want it more granular like sugar, add more sugar, but it will dilute the orange flavor some.


1 T coconut flour
2 T cocoa powder
4+ T sugar or evaporated cane juice (or sweeten to taste with preferred sweetener)
1/4 t baking powder
pinch salt
1 t cinnamon
pinch cayenne powder (to taste)

Mix dry ingredients well and add:
1 egg
1 T oil (can be omitted if you use high fat milk, or makes a denser moister cake if included)
3 T milk (non-dairy, whole milk, I like half-and-half)
1/2 t vanilla extract

Combine until thoroughly blended. Microwave for three minutes. Tip out of bowl onto plate. Let cool while finishing sauce.

Chocolate Orange Sauce:

2 T cocoa
4 T orange sugar paste (or to taste)
1/4 t cinnamon
optional tiny dusting of cayenne
2 T half-and-half (or 1 T low-fat dairy alternative and 1 T oil)

Melt in tiny saucepan (I used a metal one cup measuring cup) over medium-low heat until glossy and smooth. Pour over cake. Dust with cinnamon.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Prosciutto Crusted Quiche for One

 Single serving quiches and grain-free options abound on the internet but most of them don't really suit me.  Either they aren't really quiche or they aren't really crusted, more like baked scrambled eggs or a tart-crust that doesn't work so well with savory quiche ingredients.  I've also seen options that use bacon or ham as the crust but neither of those are dry enough to create a good crust.  Ham gave me a soggy-bottomed product and bacon shrunk up too much, letting the quiche leak out to engulf the meat.  Prosciutto shrinks but not so much and doesn't add much of its own liquid to the quiche.  As long as the prosciutto lines the baking dish completely without tears, the egg custard is well-contained.

Another problem plaguing the recipes I found online were the wild variations in egg-liquid-fat proportions.  Some were all egg; some were mostly cream. And some used low-fat milks and egg whites for "healthy quiche" that just made inedible food-like substances.    I often found myself running out of custard when filling different sized tins and having to guess-timate how to make up the difference.  I needed to find a way to make a little or a lot of custard and know that it would still taste right.  I searched classic recipe sites and older cookbooks for the right proportion of egg to dairy that would provide the rich creamy custard but remained adaptable to any size quiche.

Classic Quiche Ratios

1 egg : 1/2 C dairy : 1/3 C cheese : 2/3 C filling

For every egg, use 1/2 cup dairy (preferably full-fat or more), 1/3 cup cheese, and 2/3 cup of meat or vegetable fillings.  Fillings can be any kind of cooked meat or vegetables: most commonly bacon, ham, or sausage, mushrooms, onions, greens, and fresh herbs.  Asparagus, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, broccoli, leeks, pretty much anything.  Traditionally, quiche was a means of cleaning up leftover foods. It is only important that everything be cooked to remove the liquids from the foods that would compete with the custard.  Fillings should be fairly dry to keep the quiche from sogginess. 

Made in a jumbo muffin tin, these mini quiches are the perfect size for a hearty brunch.  For smaller appetites, the regular sized muffin tins are a better option.  I would also assume that this quiche could be made in a traditional 9-inch pie tin but I haven't tried it myself.  

To make the pictured quiches, use a jumbo non-stick muffin tin.  Do not grease or line with muffin cups. The combination of non-stick pan and prosciutto works just fine. I haven't tried this recipe without a non-stick pan.

Thinly slice 16 ounces of white or brown mushrooms and sauté in butter.  When they are nearly done, add 1 clove garlic, minced, and the finely sliced whites and the sturdier greens of 3 or 4 scallions, reserving the thinner greens for later.  Sauté the onions until translucent and the mushrooms are crisp on the edges.  Remove to paper towels to drain.  Julienne or finely chop a handful of fresh green herbs or baby spinach.  I think I used chives and spinach here. Keep the uncooked greens to no more than a 1/2 cup or they will add too much liquid to the custard.  The total volume of prepared filling ingredients should be 2 cups.

Grate 1 cup of peccorino romano. It is a very dry cheese so it keeps the quiche less soggy.  Other cheeses can be used but softer ones may create a bit more wetness and need a little longer to bake.  Romano or Parmesan also brown nicely on the top of the quiche. 

In a pourable bowl, whisk 3 eggs, 1 cup whole milk, and 1/2 cup cream.  Salt to taste, about 1 teaspoon, and a few grinds of black pepper.

I use prosciutto from Costco that comes in a double 12-ounce pack with 24 slices in each pack.  This recipe will use 12 ounces/about 24 slices of prosciutto.  Cut the whole stack of slices in half the short way.  Then arrange 3 or 4 half-slices of prosciutto in each muffin cup to line the sides and bottom completely.  Some shrinkage will happen so make sure that the prosciutto stands up a bit over the top of the cup.  These paper-thin slices tear easily so work carefully and layer as needed to cover holes. 

Add the mushrooms, scallions, and herbs or spinach, about 1/3 cup total, to each prosciutto-lined cup.  Add about 2 tablespoons grated cheese to each cup, on top of the fillings.  Fill each cup with the egg custard.  Add a bit of herbs, greens, or scallion rings to the top. 

Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes until the centers of the quiches are set and won't stick to a sharp knife inserted in the center.  There may be a bit of wobble.  Don't overcook.  Remove and cool in the pan for about 15 minutes.  Gently slide a wooden skewer or other non-stick-safe utensil around the quiches to separate from the pan.  Lift carefully in case some custard leaked (which is very likely) and stuck to the bottom.  If the eggs were fully set in the baking, they won't stick badly and will remove easily with careful treatment. Makes six.

Serve warm or cold with salad for brunch or supper, or with fruit and bread for breakfast. To serve at a later time, cool completely on a rack and refrigerate in a covered dish.  Reheats well in a microwave with a damp paper towel in 60-90 seconds.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Clean Out the Refrigerator Soup

As might be expected from the name, this soup is never the same meal twice.  Based on ingredients that are sitting around in the fridge getting ignored, the soup develops a flavor distinct to the leftovers from the previous week or so.  This version has a tex-mex, taco-y sort of flair largely because I was in a Mexican mood when I was buying vegetables but no one made mexican when they were cooking.

Clean Out the Refrigerator Soup

In the remains of last night's hamburger frying in the big cast iron skillet, I added the fat and cartilage scraps from some big steaks a few days ago. When it was hot, I added the last 1/2 cup or so of the Jamesons bottle and about 3/4 liter of bottled water that I found on the counter.  I scraped up the frond, let the mess come to a boil, then turned it down to a simmer while I made the rest of the soup.

Into another covered pot, I put the last 3/4 cup dried black beans from a bag in the pantry and covered it by two inches with water.  I brought this to a boil, covered, for five minutes, then turned off the heat, do not uncover, and let rest for 45-60 minutes.

In the bottom of a big soup pot, I poured a thin shimmer of olive oil and added several whole mini sweet peppers, searing all sides until the skin is well-browed, preferably blistery and a bit black. I removed to another dish to cool.  Then I added about 2 pints of whole grape tomatoes, letting them blister and soften,  without stirring, while I sliced or chopped carrots, celery with leaves, an Anaheim chili, and ear of raw sweet corn, three leftover cooked hamburgers, several shallots and three large cloves of garlic.  When the tomatoes began to split open and the juices mingle with the olive oil into a thickening slurry, I added the shallots and garlic and several grinds of pink salt, stirring briefly.  Cook until the shallots are translucent and the slurry begins to brown at the edges (do not let burn).

Then I added the carrots, celery with leaves, the Anaheim chili, and the hamburger to the tomato sauce. Stirred, salted again, and left it to sweat while waiting for the beans and the beef stock.  I sliced the remaining half serving of steak for garnish, chopped a handful of fresh oregano, and prepped the last of the cilantro and oregano for garnish.  When the sweet peppers were cool enough to handle, I sliced the softened flesh, discarding the seeds, stems and less-cooked parts.  I didn't add them until the end because long-cooked peppers disagree with me.  Same with the roasted cauliflower.

When the meat stock is flavorful (and reduced to about half), I strained it into the soup pot, reserving the scraps for the dogs.  After letting the beans sit in their water for nearly an hour, I drained and rinsed them, and added them also to the soup pot.  I also added three bay dried bay leaves, a dusting of cinnamon and cayenne, a pinch of chili powder, some ground black pepper, and a bit more salt.  Stir and let simmer until the beans absorb enough liquid to be soft, about 30 minutes.

Add in more liquid as necessary, a Corona would have been good. Stir in the sweet peppers, oregano, and cauliflower.  While those flavors mingle, score an avocado and slice a lime.

Also in the fridge was some spicy cole slaw I made a few days ago with shredded cabbage, grated carrot, celery, and slivered shallots, Anaheim pepper, and Fresno chili, dressed with lime juice, cilantro, and sour cream.  It wasn't great as a slaw but it adds a nice dimension of crunch and spicy chili bite to the soup, when added at plating.  Garnish with a few steak slices, diced avocado and a squeeze of lime.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Spaghetti Bolognese with Blackened Seared Tomatoes

I started out to make another dish entirely but as I was searing the tomatoes, I felt my vitality drain right out through my feet.  I had outrun my available energy and needed to lay down.  My hysterical illness does that to me when I attempt too much.

So, there is a pan full of blackened grape tomatoes that needs to become dinner and my husband steps in to turn it into his classic spaghetti bolognese.  I can't tell you exactly what went into this particular sauce since I was in another room with my feet up but from what it tasted like and what we had in the house, I can make an educated guess.

Sauce Bolognese with Blackened Seared Tomatoes

I know it started with a pint of grape tomatoes, halved, and placed skin side down in a very hot, dry, cast iron skillet.  The skin will blacken and the juices will begin to evaporate.  Don't stir, or stir ever so carefully if necessary, because if the juices drip into the skillet, they will burn and cause everything to stick.  When the skins are blistered and blackened and the flesh of the tomatoes has started to collapse, drizzle heavily with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher or sea salt.  Stir to coat the tomatoes.

Add 1 medium white or yellow onion, diced, and 3 cloves of garlic, minced. Sprinkle with salt and let sweat until the onions are mostly opaque.  Add a double handful of white or brown mushrooms, halved and thinly sliced. Sweat with the tomatoes and onions until the edges of the mushrooms develop a golden crust and the onions are translucent.  Add 1 lb ground beef, salt, pepper, and stir to break up the beef into tiny bits.

When the beef begins to brown, stir it up and add chopped fresh herbs, a handful each of oregano, basil, thyme.  When the herbs have become fragrant, add a long splash of white wine, and 1 15oz can Muir Glen tomato sauce. Stir and let simmer while the pasta cooks.

Pasta Tips

Cook pasta in plenty of water, crowding the pasta in the pot results in gummy noodles.  Salt the water well before adding the pasta but do not add oil.  The salt will be absorbed into the pasta, improving the taste.  Oil in the water will inhibit that osmosis.  Pasta should be cooked until the noodle will give to the pressure of the tooth when biting but not be still crunchy in the middle.  Do not overcook.  Err on undercooking because further cooking can take place after mixing with the sauce.  Drain but not vigorously, leave a bit of starchy cooking water to the noodles and do not add oil.  This starchiness binds the sauces to the pasta, helping to marry the flavor of the sauce to the noodles themselves. Toss the drained pasta into the sauce and toss to coat--if there isn't room in the sauce pan, return the pasta to the pot it was cooked in an add the sauce.  Add grated parmesan or romano at this stage so that it melts easily and incorporates well, becoming an integral part of the sauce itself.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Tuna Salad in Romaine Leaves

I used tiny heads of romaine that I get from Costco in five packs.  Chop off the root end and gently separate into leaves.  Clean if necessary.  The outer leaves work best for this recipe, save the inner smaller leaves for dipping into hummus or baba ganoush or spread with nut butter and craisins.

Tuna Salad

For this meal, I used one can of Whole Foods mercury-free tuna and one pouch of light chunk tuna in sunflower oil.  Put the tuna into a mixing bowl and break up the fish into small flakes or chunks with a fork.  Add the to bowl 1 medium shallot, finely diced, 3 thin stalks of organic celery with their leaves, thinly sliced and chopped; 1 carrot, grated; a 1 inch wedge of green cabbage, shredded, 2 Claussen kosher dill pickle spears, seeds removed, diced; small handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped.  

Mix ingredients well before adding dressings to avoid clumping of ingredients and to check the proportions of add-ins.  Add more vegetables as desired.  Add about 1/4 cup Brianna's Champagne Vinaigrette, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, and 1/3-1/2 cup Hellman's mayonnaise.  Mix well.

Spoon into romaine leaves, alternating the direction of the leaves on the serving plate.  Sprinkle the plate with celery seeds and fresh ground pepper.  Salt, if desired.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Homemade Almond Milk

Homemade Almond Milk

One cup raw whole almonds, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed.  One cup of  the best-tasting water you have available, I use bottled.  Sweeten and salt to taste.  I use two Medjool dates (pitted) and a few grinds of Costco's pink salt.  I used to use about a tablespoon of raw agave instead of the dates but found the dates give it a mellower depth of sweetness, and help cut the "wet cardboard" flavor.

I run the Vitamix for one and half minutes.  A regular blender would be even longer.  This really pulls the fats and flavors out of the nuts.

Pour through a fine sieve, milk bag, or I use a paint strainer from the hardware store. Squeeze out as
much moisture as you can.  Decant into a cool-looking old milk bottle.

Save the pulp for another purpose--crackers are what I usually make. Or granola bars.  I'm working on biscotti but have been unsuccessful so far. If you dehydrate the pulp, it's supposed to make the best almond flour.  The grossest-sounding use I read was a vegan cheesecake.  The raw vegan hummus might be okay.

Sourdough Toast with Butter and Jam

Sometimes nothing hits the spot like a slice or two of sourdough toast drenched with butter and strawberry jam.  None of this food was homemade, but it tasted like heaven in my mouth.  All those Continentals know a thing or two about breakfast.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fresh Strawberries and Banana with Vanilla-Glazed Buttered Walnuts over Yogurt

The yogurt is Strauss Whole Milk Plain Yogurt.  The strawberries and banana are just regular grocery store produce.  The walnuts I buy raw in the big Costco bags.  I glaze them as needed.

Vanilla-Glazed Buttered Walnuts

Heat a small cast iron skillet to medium high heat.  Melt a knob of butter--I used whatever was left in the butter dish, maybe 3 tablespoons?--in the skillet and add a big handful of walnuts. Add a big squirt--yeah, I know, how does one quantify--of previously mixed-together raw blue agave and vanilla extract.  Stir it all together.  As the liquids evaporate, the fats and sugars will meld together into a thick caramelly glaze.  Pour out of the pan onto parchment or a plate when the glaze has condensed to your preference (anything from syrupy to shiny candy shell).  Salt to taste while hot and sticky.  Let cool and separate with your hands--or just burn yourself adding it to the dish like I do!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sweet and Pungent Sesame and Chicken Salad with Spicy Coconut Cashews

As a diet and nutrition heretic, my only rule of eating is that food feed me body and soul.  After several days of unremarkable, unphotogenic, ultimately unpalatable food, food that sounded good when I was tired and hungry and just wanted convenience, I admitted that none of it was really making me feel good.  So, this morning, when my vitality was still high and not yet expended on crises of parenting or whatever, I started slicing and chopping and mandoline-ing.  (Is there a verb for using a mandoline?) 

The result was this asian-inspired, sweet and pungent, sesame and chicken salad.  The sesame-ginger dressing started out from a bottle but I spiked it up several orders of magnitude in the Vitamix. It was a great lunch.  So good I am repeating it for supper.  Apparently, though, I can't get enough of that spicy sweet combination and I added a big handful of these spicy coconut cashews to the redux.

I wish I had one of those gluten-free, rice-based beers that my husband thinks is so revolting but I find delightfully light and refreshing.

Sweet and Pungent Sesame and Chicken Salad

Using whatever tools and appliances you have at hand, finely slice whatever quantity and ratio you like of the following:

Green Cabbage
Romaine Lettuce
Red Bell Pepper
Anaheim Pepper
Cooked Chicken

(Other additions that would have been great if I'd had any in the house, fresh bean sprouts, water chestnuts, any of the many varieties of Asian mushrooms, bok choy.  Really, the possibilities are endless.)

Toss together in a large bowl with a tablespoon or so of dressing, just enough to get everything damp.  More dressing can be added after plating if more flavor is desired. Don't get the salad too wet; it will become soggy and the dressing flavors will overwhelm the sweet crunchy vegetables.

Sesame Ginger Dressing

I started with Newman's Own Sesame Ginger Dressing but it would probably taste even fresher and lighter starting simply with a light vegetable oil and a mild rice wine vinegar and soy sauce.  I put about a 1/4 cup dressing into the Vitamix and added a large clove of raw garlic, several chunks of dried candied ginger, and several shakes of red pepper flakes. After starting it whizzing around in the blender, I added a splash of tamari sauce and maybe 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil.  I might have added some sesame seeds.

Spicy Coconut Cashews

Heat a small cast iron skillet.  Toss 3/4 cup cashews in 2 tablespoons San-J Hot and Spicy Marinade and Stir Fry sauce and 1 tablespoon coconut oil until well coated.  Add to the hot skillet.  Stir frequently.  Cook until the liquid evaporates and the sauce has melded with the nuts.  Transfer to a mixing bowl and dust heavily with powdered coconut (I made mine by finely grinding some dried young coconut pieces in a coffee grinder).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Fish Tacos

Costco's Trident brand battered halibut is pricy but makes an excellent fish taco.  These pieces were leftover from someone's dinner last night--just baked frozen from the box, cooled and packed into the fridge overnight.  For lunch today, I reheated them in a cast iron skillet with a bit of grapeseed oil until the batter regained its crispy crunch.

While the fish reheated, I cooked some raw corn tortillas (also available at Costco) on a hot griddle: a minute or so on each side until they were cooked through but still pliable.  I also chopped some aging mixed greens found in the back of my refrigerator and sliced an avocado.

To assemble, lay out the tortillas on a plate, top with chopped greens, a piece of fish, a few slices of avocado, and a few generous spoonfuls of roasted salsa verde (Target's Archer Farms brand, it's very mild).  Fold the tortillas over the filling and stack next to each other.  Squeeze a twist of fresh lime juice over the plate and add a few grinds of Costco's pink salt.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sweet Potato Cashew Soup

(A West African soup adapted from this recipe)

Sweet Potato Cashew Soup

In 6 tablespoons of butter, melted, fry 1 cup raw salted cashews until browned.  Remove the nuts but keep the butter.  

Add the aromatics, 1 tablespoon minced ginger, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1-2 minced serrano peppers.  Add additional butter if necessary to sweat, 1 medium white onion, diced, 1 large sweet potato, diced, 2-3 ribs of celery, chopped, 1 large carrot, chopped. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 15 minutes.

Add 1 quart chicken stock (or other stock). Simmer until the potatoes are tender.  Removed the solid ingredients to a blender and process until smooth. Or use an immersion blender.  Return to the pot and add 1 14oz can full-fat coconut milk, 2 tablespoons soy sauce.  Adjust salt and pepper.

Serve in bowls over rice, if desired, and add the browned cashews.  Garnish with grated coconut, fresh cilantro/coriander, and/or serrano pepper.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dirty Chai Latte--Frappe Style (Dairy Free)

This recipe is an example of how failure is not a set-back, it is an inspiration to something awesome.

A few days ago, I tried to make a dairy-free chai ice cream.  It wasn't very good ice cream: it didn't churn or freeze well.  It was too light and airy and way too liquid when I scooped it out of the churn.  It froze very hard, melted very quickly, and had a flaky sort of texture upon scooping.  But it tasted good!

This morning, as I was grinding the daily coffee beans, I realized I had neither made almond milk yesterday, nor set any almond to soaking to make milk today.  I just wasn't in the mood for espresso.  That's an after-dinner coffee for me; lattes are my breakfast drink. I remember the too-melty, yummy-tasting ice cream.  Maybe I could just use that like milk.  Or frozen milk-like stuff.

I dumped my two shots of espresso into my Vitamix and dug out the ice cream.  I loaded up the blender and cranked it up to warp speed until everything was all thick and smooth.  Poured into my favorite cold drink cup, topped with a scoop of the frozen chai, this frappe-style frozen dirty chai latte was an amazing start to the day.

Of course, all the churning and freezing and scooping now seems like a lot of extra work on top of the already (slightly) labor-intensive effort to make the base.  Next time I try this, instead of attempting to churn it like ice cream, I will simply pour the base into ice cube trays.  And probably in a larger quantity since this recipe wont make a terrible lot of frozen lattes. And if I were really smart, I'd freeze some espresso ice cubes to use instead of hot espresso for an even thicker and freezy-er drink.

But, here's how I made the ice cream base:

Soak 1 cup of raw unsalted Almonds in a pint of filtered water for several hours or overnight. Strain, rinse, and add to the Vitamix.  

Brew three bags of Tazo Chai tea in a pint of filtered water.  Make it strong.  Remove the tea bags and open them, add the contents of the used tea bags into the Vitamix.  

Add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher, sea, or pink salt.  Sweeten to taste with preferred sweetener.  I used 1/4 cup coconut sugar.  
Add the pint of tea to the Vitamix. Cover and blend on top speed for 2 minutes (use a timer, it seems much longer than it is).   

Pour the thick mess through a milk bag (I use paint strainers from the hardware store) over a strainer.  Squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible.  Retain the chai-flavored almond pulp for another purpose (I'm still working on a biscotti recipe).

The strained chai almond milk is now ready for freezing.  Pour into ice cube trays and freeze until solid or overnight. Add chai cubes with fresh brewed espresso or expresso ice cubes to the Vitamix and whiz it up into a frappe-style dirty chai latte.

You can, of course, buy ready-made chai concentrate just like they use at Starbucks but it is pre-sweetened and I find it just nasty sweet, I wouldn't even order this drink there when I was drinking milk.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potato Chips

This easy (but not quick) recipe is simply one thinly sliced sweet potato--unless you have mad ninja knife skills, use a mandoline--deep fried in batches in a cast iron skillet in about 3/4 inch of oil or fat.  Sprinkle with sea salt or pink salt and the South of Beale spice mix.  Yes, there is a good deal of salt in the spice mix but I found that the sweetness of the sweet potato needed a little extra punch.  But then, I like (okay, crave--hey, I've got health issues) a lot more salt than most people.

I served these chips with an easy (and yes, this one is quick) sour cream and chive dip but found the dip overpowered the harmony of chip flavors.  Here's how to make the dip, but serve it with something else: a cup of sour cream (I use strained Strauss Whole milk yogurt, more flavor and doesn't upset my tummy like regular "sour" cream) and a handful of finely chopped fresh chives, a grind or two of pink salt, a pinch of fresh ground black pepper, and a tiny sprinkle or powdered roasted garlic. Mix and chill for at least thirty minutes to let the flavors marry comfortably.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Grain-free Mock Rye Crackers and Tuna Salad

The tuna salad is just a basic mercury-free canned tuna with some minced carrot, celery, pickle, chive, and mayonnaise, served on a bed of heirloom mini lettuce.

The mock rye crackers are the interesting part of this lunch.  I make almond milk two or three times a week and am always looking for something tasty to do with the resulting pulp.  I've been working on recipes riffing off this post from Elana's Pantry.  I highly recommend Elana's recipes--they almost always work well the first time and, even more importantly, taste great.

I've made several variations on Elana's crackers because I get tired of the same old thing all the time.  I still have trouble with the crackers having a kinda cardboard-y "health-food" texture but that is not too noticeable unless the crackers are eaten on their own.  And, sadly, my crackers always curl a bit, unlike Elana's lovely flat and perfectly edged crackers, because I can't get my oven as low-temp as her recipe calls for and my pizza cutter makes is wobbly and creates rather whimsical score lines.

Nonetheless, these added a nice crunch and rye-bread flavor while conveying the tuna salad into my mouth.

Grain-free Mock-Rye Crackers

 1 cup firmly packed almond pulp (I get this from one or two batches of almond milk)
2 tablespoons dark flax seed, ground, 
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon lightly crushed caraway seeds 
1/2 teaspoon finely ground coffee beans
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
additional salt and caraway seed for topping (I ran out and didn't finish the pictured crackers)

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Roll dough into a tight ball and press between two layers of parchment paper.  Roll out between the paper to no more than 1/8 inch thick (Elana says up to 1/4 inch but that doesn't work in my higher heat oven).  Remove the top paper and transfer the bottom paper with the rolled dough onto a flat baking sheet.  Score the dough into 2 inch squares with a knife or pizza cutter.  (I find that the pizza cutter is much easier to work with but mine is so wobbly that I end up with crackers anything from 1 inch to 3 inch crackers.  Obviously, I need to work on my fine motor skills.  Or buy a better pizza cutter.)

Bake at 350F for 10 minutes.  Without opening the oven, turn the heat down as low as it will go--my oven's bottom temperature is 170F--and continue baking until crackers are thoroughly dried and crispy. This batch took a surprisingly quick 45 minutes at the lower temp.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Refried Beans and Tortilla Chips

The beans from earlier in the week were such a hit with the family that I made a big pot of them yesterday (doubling the recipe).  Everyone had a bowlful, or two, after we all got home from our busy day but I was just too fatigued to think about eating--summer heat and my hysterical illness do not mix well, especially with being out and about most of the day.  After the sun went down and I had rested, however, I thought maybe some food would be good before going to bed.

So about 9:30 last night, I reheated the bacon grease left in the cast iron skillet from breakfast and tossed in a couple big scoops of beans from the bean pot.  As it sizzled and thickened and smelled just all bacony, beany scrumptious, I grated a wodge of cheddar cheese (because it was what we had, a Mexican cheese would have been much preferred).  I layered the cheese on top of the beans just as they were about a thick and delicious as I wanted.

When the cheese was all melty and bubbly, I put the beans in my favorite turquoise bowls that remind me of my Grandma, topped it with a bit more cheese and a big dollop of strained plain yogurt (like Greek yogurt, it's what passes for sour cream in our house).  I sat down with the bag of tortilla chips and dug in.

One of my daughters came by, saw the chips in bean dip happening, and joined in, polishing off half the bowl.  It was good to have a late night chat with a teenager.  Food is a powerful magic.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Grain-free Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

After some intensive healing work, I was grieving and spent a week eating nothing but popcorn and Coke.  Then I realized it wasn't really making me feel very good and that I might want to think about something a little healthier-for-me.  So I baked up a few batches of these cookie bars and ate only them for several days.

(recipe adapted from Making the World Cuter)

Grain-free Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

1 1/2 cups almond flour
1 1/2 tablespoons coconut flour
1/3 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup melted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Mix the dry ingredients except the chocolate chips.  Mix the wet ingredients separately and then add to the dry.  Mix well and the fold in the chocolate chips.

Turn onto parchment paper and cover with another sheet of paper.  Roll to a roughly 8 inch square.  Peel off the top layer of paper.  Cut into 2 inch bars with a sharp knife or pizza cutter (the baked cookies will only be scored from this step but it helps to prevent crumbling when cutting again after baking).  Transfer the parchment paper and cookie bars to a baking sheet and bake at 350F for 10-13 minutes.

Alternatively, press the dough into a 8x8inch baking dish.  Or, scoop spoonfuls onto parchment for cookies--press a bit flat because these cookies won't spread out like grain-based cookies.  I'm just lazy and prefer the bars.

Even my "health-food" hating teens gobbled these down.  I blame them for my needing to make so many batches.  I easily doubled this recipe to produce a whole lot of cookies--at least three dozen, maybe four, I forgot to do the math as I was breaking up the bars.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

South of Beale Popcorn

It might only be early June, but the thermometers here are already in the triple digits.  My car told me it was 107F/43C today.  Which means that I don't want to eat much in the way of actual food, certainly I don't feel like spending any time in the kitchen preparing it, and I'm craving something salty.  So I pulled out my bottle of homemade South of Beale spice mix.

This spicy-salty-sweet popcorn is my version of this Memphis restaurant's treat. I saw the chef assemble the spice mix on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. In fact, I backed it up and watched about six times, estimating the measurements, and what follows is my best guess. Well, and my own tweak.

SOB Popcorn Spice

1/4 cup coconut sugar (original: brown sugar dehydrated and ground)
1/4 cup sea salt (original: kosher salt)
1/4 cup paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated garlic

Place all ingredients in a small coffee grinder (I keep one just for non-coffee purposes) and grind into powder.

The restaurant showed the popcorn air popped, though I wondered whether they really popped enough with that dorm-room popper to supply the whole restaurant! I popped mine in a large aluminum pot with a blend of coconut oil and grapeseed oil.

Time to kick back with my kid and catch some of the James Bond marathon on REELZ.  Thunderball  just started.