Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Risotto with Mushrooms and Peas


There are times when I crave a certain food and while I know I can go to a local restaurant to order it, I decide that I'd much rather make it myself. Mostly, because then I know exactly what's in it. In the case of Risotto, I know that it has Parmesan Cheese in it, which is one of the reasons why it is so delicious, but by making it myself I know how much is in it and that makes a difference for me. I use only a small amount. 

Risotto has a reputation for being hard to make, which is not true. It is actually really easy, but it does take time and you do have stay there and stir. I consider it an exercise in mindfulness and I find it very calming. And, the end result is so creamy and savory and good that it is worth the wait!

Mushroom and Pea Risotto

1 ¼ cup Arborio Rice
4 ounces of Butter
1 Shallot, trimmed and minced
1 cup White Wine
2 – 2 1/4 cups Chicken Broth
½ cup chopped Mushrooms
1/3 cup Frozen Peas
2 Tablespoons up to ¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese

Melt 2 ounces of Butter in the bottom of a small pot.  Add in the Shallots and cook until they become soft. Then add in the Rice and stir to coat and cook until it just starts to turn lightly gold, stirring often. Add in the Wine and stir until it nearly evaporates. Then add in ½ cup of Broth and cook until it nearly evaporates while stirring and repeat with another ½ cup of Broth until all the Broth is used up.  Remove from heat and check for doneness.

In a small frying pan, heat the remaining 2 Tablespoons of Butter and cook Mushrooms until soft. Add Peas and cook until they are warm.  Then add the Mushrooms and Peas to the Risotto. If the rice is cooked (just barely al dente), you can stir in the Parmesan Cheese and cook until melted and incorporated. If the rice still needs more cooking time, add in ¼ cup of Broth and cook until it is absorbed and then add the Parmesan Cheese.

Five Element Analysis

Rice, Parmesan Cheese and Butter along with the Shallots makes this a very Metal food. But the White Wine adds some Fire and the Chicken Broth and Peas bring in the Wood Element. The Earth Element is represented but the Mushrooms So, be sure to serve this in a meal that contains at least one dish made up of a Water food.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Shepherd's Pie



I have a peculiar love of meat in gravy with mashed potatoes. I think it goes back to my primary school days where the only thing I really liked from the school cafeteria was ground beef in gravy served over mashed potatoes. I would buy lunch every time they served it. The rest of the time I packed a lunch. You have to remember that at home until I started cooking, I almost always ate Chinese. So, one of the firsts things I made when I started cooking was - you guessed it - ground beef in gravy!  I still love that combination but since discovering that I can't do any gluten, it was quite discouraging as I never liked gravy made with cornstarch. The revelation that Sticky Rice Flour (Mochi) made gravy taste like real gravy was huge! Now, I like it even better than the original and has allowed me to make all kinds of things that I thought would be memories.  Last night, I made Shepherd's Pie. 

Now I can't claim that this is an authentic version, but it was very satisfying and very tasty!  If anyone out there doesn't know what this is, it is basically ground meat, usually lamb cooked in a gravy with onions, carrots and peas and a mashed potato topping. I like ground beef better and I also like to add mushrooms. To make it pretty, I sprinkled Cheddar Cheese  on top for my daughter in law who loves Cheese and just scraped mine off.  I also made the Mashed Potatoes with whipping cream as the potatoes should taste rich and creamy. If I was making this for a vegetarian friend, I would probably use all Mushrooms instead of meat and use Vegetable Broth. Shepherd's Pie is comfort food at it's best and made me very happy. It's also good made ahead, refrigerated and popped in the oven later. But don't freeze it, as mashed potatoes don't do well in the freezer. Like always, I tend to mush the mashed potatoes into the meat mixture and loved it!

Shepherd's Pie

1 pound of ground Lamb or Beef
1/2 pound of Button Mushrooms, cleaned, stem removed and cut into a small dice
1 medium Onion, chopped into small pieces
2 Carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into a small dice
1/2 cup frozen Peas
1 teaspoon Seasoned Salt or Sea Salt
2 Tablespoons Butter
4 Tablespoons Sticky Rice Flour (Mochi)
1 3/4 cup Beef Broth
2 teaspoons Gluten Free Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon Tamari

In a large saute pan, melt the Butter and add in Mushrooms, Onions and Carrots. Cook until Onions are softened. Then add in the ground meat and Seasoned Salt and cook until it is no longer pink.  Add in the frozen peas and sprinkle the Rice Flour over and stir to mix in. Pour int eh Beef Broth and add the Worcestershire Sauce and Tamari. Cook until thickened - about 5 minutes.  Pour into a deep dish pie pan.

Mashed Potato Topping

2 pound Russet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
4 Tablespoons Butter
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
2 teaspoons Salt

For topping:  1/2 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Put the Potato chunks into a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until Potatoes are fork tender.  Drain off water and mash them. Then add in the Butter, Cream and Salt. 

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Spoon dollops of mashed Potato over the meat mixture and smooth to make a kind of frosting. Sprinkle with Cheddar Cheese and place in the oven on top of a Sheet Pan in case it bubbles over. Cook for 30 minutes.

Five Element Analysis

The Elemental makeup of this dish changes based on the kind of meat you use. Lamb is considered a Fire Meat, whereas Beef is part of the Earth Element.  The Mashed Potatoes, Mushrooms and Carrots and Beef Broth are all Earthy, whereas the Peas are part of the Wood Element. The Metal Element is represented by the Butter, Cream and Onion. Only the Water Element is lacking a strong presence, except for the Salt so be sure to serve a Watery food with it. 


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Carrot Cupcakes


I was in the mood for something sweet yesterday afternoon - it was around tea time and i didn't have much in the house that was already made - no Gluten Free cookies or cakes to be found. So, I just had to make something. I decided to make Carrot Cupcakes as it least it has the perception that it is just a bit healthier since it contains a vegetable!  I also wanted to bake a cupcake that didn't use almond flour for a change so I went with a recipe from Serious Eats (a great food website by the way) and made only enough for 12 cupcakes and frosted it with my own version of Cream Cheese frosting because nothing goes better with Carrot Cake than Cream Cheese frosting. I plan on using this same recipe for Zucchini Muffins as well. Carrot Cake is one of those foods that I am willing to take a Lactaid pill for!  Anyway, the Cupcakes turned out wonderfully. They were light and fluffy and delicious. I ate two and I'm going to have another one (or two) for tea time today!

Carrot Cupcakes adapted from Serious Eats

1 1/2 cups Gluten Free Flour Mix (I used Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 which includes Xanthan Gum)
1/2 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon 
1 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Vegetable Oil
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 cup Grated Carrot (about 1 very large or 2 medium trimmed and peeled Carrots)
Optional:  1/2 cup chopped Walnuts or Pecans

Turn oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper.

Mix together the Gluten Free Flour with the Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Salt and Cinnamon in a bowl. 

In a stand mixer or a bowl with a hand mixer, mix together the Sugar, Oil, Vanilla Extract and Eggs until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in the Flour Mixture and mix to combine about another minute. Then add in the Carrot and Walnuts by hand with a spatula.  

Spoon into the cupcake tin and bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.  Cool and then frost.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz stick of Cream Cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Optional:  1 teaspoon Cinnamon for sprinkling on top

Cream together until thoroughly blended. Use to frost cooled cupcakes.

Five Element Analysis

As a sweet dessert, you know automatically that this is part of the Earth Element, but it is even more Earthy as one of the main ingredients is Carrots. The Gluten Free Flour mix is made mostly of Rice Flour which contributes the Metal Element as does the Cream Cheese and Cinnamon and Vanilla Extract. The Walnuts and Eggs bring in the Water Element. Be sure to eat these with some Tea or Coffee to bring in the Fire Element. And either before or after, make sure you have some Wood foods to create balance.  





Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A More Authentic Bolognese Sauce


I recently talked to an Italian friend from Bologna about what was considered authentic Bolognese Sauce. She gave me the recipe from the Accademia Italian della Cucina. It has very specific instructions about what to use and what was most surprising was the use of only a small amount of triple concentrated Tomato Paste.  The other "authentic ingredients" included Pancetta, Ground Beef, Onions, Carrots, Celery along with Whole Milk/Cream and White Wine. You will notice that there is no Garlic and no herbs in the ingredient list. This is actually considered a Meat Based Sauce not a Tomato Based Sauce. 

The only ingredient that was hard to find was the triple concentrated Tomato Paste.  I used to have some that I brought back from Italy but I didn't want to wait to try to order some online. So I used regular Tomato Paste and the amount called for just wasn't enough Tomato flavor for me so I used 1/3 cup instead of just just 2 ounces. If you like a more pronounced Tomato flavor use the whole 8 oz can.  

This was the best version of Bolognese I have had outside of a restaurant. I served it with La Venzian Gluten Free Fettucine and it was so delicious and so much more authentic!

A More Authentic Bolognese Sauce

1 1/2 pounds Ground Beef
8 ounces Pancetta (I get mine from Trader Joe’s in 4 oz packages)
1/2 cup minced Carrots
1/2 cup minced Celery
1/2 cup minced Onion
1/3 cup Tomato Paste (you can add 2 more Tablespoons if you want)
1 cup White Wine 
1 1/2 cups Whole Milk (I used Lactose Free) or 1 1/4 cup 2% milk with 1/4 cup Cream
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 teaspoon Salt
Sprinkling of Black Pepper
Optional:  up to 1/2 cup Beef Broth

Fry the Pancetta gently in the Olive Oil until it starts to release it’s fat - be careful not to burn. Add the vegetables and cook until the onions soften and become more transparent, stirring often. Add the Beef and cook until no longer pink.  Add the Tomato Puree and the Wine, mix well. Add the milk a little at a time until it is fully incorporated, stirring often.
Season with Salt and Pepper and cook on a low heat for 1 hour.  If it starts to dry out, add a little more Milk or Beef Broth.


Serve with Fettucine or Tagliatelle Pasta.

Five Element Analysis

Beef belongs to the Earth Element as do Carrots so this is a primarily Earthy dish.The pasta made from Corn adds even more of the Earth Element. The Pancetta contributes the Water Element and the Tomato Paste and White Wine both bring in the Fire Element.  The Wood Element is represented by the Celery and Olive Oil, whereas the Onion, Butter and Milk make sure the Metal Element is present too. This ends up being a balanced meal all by itself and anything else you serve is extra!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Smashed Baked Potatoes


I heard about Smashed Potatoes a while ago and finally got on the bandwagon and I'm sure glad I did.  When you cook Potatoes this way, you get the soft goodness of the inside of a Baked Potato with the delightful crunchy bits of a Roasted Potato. Topped with Butter, Bacon Bits and barely cooked Green Onion, it was divine!  My daughter-in-law also topped hers with some Sour Cream and was delighted with this dish too. I used small Red Potatoes that I boiled for just 20 minutes before smashing them and finishing them off in a hot oven.  This is going to become a family favorite and if you haven't made Potatoes, this way, I encourage you to try this recipe right away!

Smashed Baked Potatoes

12 small Red Potatoes, washed
2 Tablespoons Vegetable
5 Tablespoons Melted Butter
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt 
4 Slices of Bacon, cut into small pieces
4 Green Onions, trimmed and cut into small pieces

Place Potatoes in a medium pot and cover with Water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for about 20 minutes or until a fork can be inserted easily into a Potato. Drain and reserve.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Drizzle Oil over a sheet pan. Place Potatoes on the sheet pan and smash using a potato masher until the Potatoes are about 1/2" thick.  Drizzle the melted Butter over the Potatoes and then sprinkle with Sea Salt.

In a frying pan, cook the Bacon pieces until crisp and then add in the Green Onion pieces. Stir until the Green Onion pieces wilt slightly and drain the Bacon and Green Onion bits on a paper-plate lined Paper Towel

Place in the oven and cook for 25 minutes. Sprinkle the Bacon and Green Onion pieces on top of the Potato and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Serve with Sour Cream if desired.

Five Element Analysis

Potatoes belong to the Earth Element. The Green Onions and Butter contribute the Metal Element and the Bacon brings in the Water Element. The Wood and Fire Elements are missing so this would be a great side with Chicken (for Wood( and a salad (for Fire) or Lamb for Fire and green vegetables for wood or any Wood or Fire vegetarian options that create balance.




Monday, March 26, 2018

Wild Rice Salad


I bought a lot of Wild Rice last year at a discount food warehouse and it's just been sitting in one of my glass canisters on the kitchen counter just begging me to cook it. Wild Rice is a true rice by the way, it is the seed of an aquatic plant.  When cooked, it has a slightly nutty flavor and is a bit chewy. The good news is that it is also gluten free.  So, I finally grabbed some and made a Wild Rice Salad.   was in the mood for something a little sweet and a little tangy so I used a Balsamic Dressing with dried Cranberries along with chopped Parsley, some Green Onion tops and toasted Sunflower Seeds. It was amazing!  And, like may grain salads, it tastes even better the next day!  

Wild Rice Salad

1 cup dried Wild Rice
4 cups boiling Water
1 bunch of Parsley, leaves pulled off the stems and minced (about 1 cup)
13 cup Green Onion tops, sliced thin
1/2 cup dried Cranberries
1/3 cup Sunflower Seeds
3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Sugar

Heat the Water in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the Wild Rice, reduce the temperature and simmer for 45 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly

In a large bowl, mix together Parsley, Green Onions, Cranberries, Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil, Salt and Sugar. Stir to combine and add in the Wild Rice. Toss and let sit for at least 15 minutes or refrigerate.  Add in Sunflower Seeds just before serving.

Five Element Analysis

Wild Rice is considered a Water food and the Sunflower Seeds add even more of this element.  The Parsley adds some of the Wood Element as well as some Metal. The Wood Element is further enhanced by the Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil. The Cranberries bring in the Fire Element and the Metal Element is also represented by the Green Onions. Only the Earth Element is deficient as the sweetness of the Sugar and in the Balsamic vinegar is very little Earth, so be sure to serve this wonderful Salad in a meal with that Element involved like Root Vegetables, Squash or Beef.  




Friday, March 16, 2018

Quick Chicken Tinga


I was in the mood for tacos the other day and decided to make a quick version of Chicken Tinga as the filling. This is a dish of Shredded Chicken wrapped in a sauce of Tomatoes and Chipotle Chiles. I like to make it myself so that it's not too spicy. It's very fast to make. You cook the sauce while you are poaching the chicken and then blend them together for just a little while longer. It's also so simple - all that's required is boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts, Canned Tomatoes and canned Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce. I added some onion slices for some texture. I cooked the Chicken Breasts in some Chicken Broth to give it a bit more flavor.  I served it in small steamed corn tortillas topped with a bit of Cilantro  Chicken TInga is  such a delicious taco filling!

Quick Chicken Tinga

2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut in half across the middle
4 cups Chicken Broth or Water
1 Tablespoon Oil
1 medium Onion, sliced thin
1 can of Chopped Tomatoes
1 teaspoon of Sugar
1 teaspoon of Salt
1/2 can up to 1 whole can ( 7 ox)  of Chipotle in Adobo Sauce, chopped

in a medium pot, pour in Chicken Broth and add in the Chicken Breast pieces. Bring to a boil and then turn down heat to a simmer and oook for 25 minutes.  

Meanwhile, heat the Oil in a frying pan. Add in the Onion and cook until soft. Then add in the Chipotle Chiles and the Adobo Sauce along with the Tomatoes.  Season with Salt and Sugar. Taste and adjust as desired. Cook for 5 minutes on Medium Heat to blend the flavors. Turn off until the Chicken is done.

When the Chicken is done, remove it from the Broth onto a cutting board and let cool slightly. Then, using two forks, scrape of shreds of each piece until all the Chicken is shredded.

Add the Chicken into the Tinga Sauce and toss to coat. Heat for an additional 10 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Use for Tacos, Burritos or Quesadillas..

Five Element Analysis

Chicken belongs to the Wood Element. The Tomatoes and Chpotle Chiles contribute the Fire Element and the Onion makes sure that the Metal Element is also present.  Both Water and Earth are missing but using Corn Tortillas for tacos adds in the Earth Element and Beans served on the side make sure the Water Element is also included in a balanced Five Element meal.