Friday, December 2, 2016

Chinese Potato Salad
















I bet you didn't know that there was such a thing as Chinese Potato Salad. Or maybe you didn't realize that potatoes were part of Chinese Cuisine, but they are. The difference in the way the Chinese chefs cook them is that they are barely cooked and not at all starchy so they are much more like a vegetable. In fact, a lot of people are served stir fried Potatoes in restaurants in Beijing and don't even realize they are potatoes because the texture is so very different to the way we cook potatoes in the West. It's probably most like German Potato Salad in the use of Vinegar.  Now, stir fried Potatoes are quite wonderful and actually tastes very much like this salad, the only difference is that it is a hot dish and often is cooked with Hot Chiles. Chinese Potato Salad is always served cold, which really means room temperature. It's really a delicious Potato Salad, flavored with Chinese Black Vinegar, Tamari and Sesame Oil. The Potatoes and slivers of Carrot are barely cooked in salted water and then tossed with the dressing. It actually takes longer to cut the vegetables than it does to cook them!  Other ingredients can be added if you like. Red or Green Peppers are very nice and so is slivered Green Onions although they should be used raw. The Potatoes and Carrots maintain some crunch and the potatoes are much more vegetal than you would expect. This dish is so good that I just can't stop eating it whenever I make it!

Chinese Potato Salad

4 medium Red Potatoes, peeled
1 Carrot, trimmed and peeled
Water for blanching
1 Handful of Cilantro Leaves
1 1/2 Tablespoons Chinese Black Vinegar (Chinkiang)
1 1/2 Tablespoons Tamari
2 Tablespoons Roasted Sesame Oil
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt

Cut the Red Potatoes and Carrots into 1/4 slices and then cut again into shreds. Heat a small pot of water and when it is boiling, add in the Potato and Carrots pieces. Cook for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water and place in a serving bowl.  

In a small bowl, mix together the Vinegar, Tamari, Sesame Oil, Sugar and Salt. Pour over the Potatoes and Carrots and toss to combine. Sprinkle the top with the Cilantro. Toss several more times before serving.

Five Element Analysis

This dish is very Earthy as both the Potato and Carrot belong to that Element. The Tamari and Sesame Oil contribute the Water Element and the Vinegar brings in the Wood Element.  The Cilantro makes sure that the Metal Element is present too. So, this would be an excellent salad to serve with a main dish that has some Fire or hot Chiles in it!


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Delicious Gluten Free Gravy






















Here's the last Thanksgiving recipe I am going to post today. This recipe for gravy was a special request at our Thanksgiving celebration. Although this is a Gluten Free Gravy, it was so good that the person who asked me for it isn't even interested in that - she just loves the way it tasted! I love when Gluten Free food doesn't taste like it's Gluten Free! Now, I personally think that Gravy is the trickiest Gluten Free food to make for Thanksgiving. If you use Cornstarch or Potato Starch, the Gravy comes out kind of gluey and gummy. I've spent several years now missing the rich gravy that comes from creating a roux - that mixture of butter and flour that you cook until it is a rich brown that is the flavor base of gravy. 

So, today I experimented with a recipe from Shauna James - the brilliant blogger of Gluten Free Girl. She recommended using Sweet Rice Flour (often called Glutinous Rice Flour but there is no Gluten in it! And, regular Rice Flour won't do....) She mixes that with Butter to make a real roux before adding the Chicken Broth. Her version says that the roux turns into a kind of paste, which she then adds back carefully in pieces to her hot broth. Mine didn't do that and it was a simple thing to pour cold (pre-made broth) into the roux to make the best Gluten Free Gravy I have ever had!  It is creamy and rich and just so perfect with Turkey!  

I think the secret was using homemade broth. I didn't make the Turkey this year and if I had, I would have used the neck and wing tips and drippings to make the gravy. Instead, I made a savory Chicken Broth from the bones of a Rotisserie Chicken that I bought at the store  the other day. I cooked it for a long time with Celery, Carrots and an Onion. I salted it just the way I like it so I wouldn't have to do that when making gravy. It was waiting for me it the refrigerator, which gave me one less thing to do on Thanksgiving Day.

And, because I can't leave well enough alone and I had enough broth left, I made another version with Roasted Garlic - 10 cloves!  I'll post that recipe below too. It was just divine! Probably too adventurous for some people, but I loved it. I could also see adding in some sautéed Mushrooms and using Beef Broth when you have a roast.  I plan on using this tomorrow with the leftover Turkey I plan to make a Turkey Tettrazini with Gluten Free Spaghetti and Mushrooms. Finally, a good Gluten Free Gravy recipe has been created - thank you Shauna!

Delicious Gluten Free Gravy from the Gluten Free Girl

4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted Butter
1/4 cup Sweet Rice Flour (also called Mochiko or Glutinous Rice Flour0
2 cups of Chicken Broth or Turkey Stock (see recipe below)

In a large frying pan, melt the Butter. Add in the Sweet Rice Flour and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium low heat for 6 - 7 minutes or until the roux is a golden brown. Add in the Chicken Broth and stir constantly until the gravy is thickened - about 6 - 7 minutes.

Homemade Chicken Stock

Bones, Skin and Drippkings from a Roast Chicken
6 cups of Water
1 medium Onion, roughly chopped
2 stalks of Celery, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 large or 2 medium Carrots, washed and stem and root ends removed, chopped roughly
1 Tablespoon of Salt and more to taste
fresh ground Pepper

In a large pot, add in all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 - 3 hours. Taste and add more Salt and Pepper as desired. Strain and reserve Stock for later use. 

If you decide to add the Roasted Garlic Cloves, puree the Roasted Garlic with about 1/2 cup of Water in a food processor or blender and add into the roux along with the other 1 1/2 cups of Broth.

Roasted Garlic Cloves

10 Garlic Cloves peeled
2 teaspoons Olive Oil
Sprinkling of Salt

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Place Garlic Cloves on a piece of Aluminum Foil and make a little cup with the foil. Pour in the Olive Oil and sprinkle with Salt.  Close up and place in a heat proof little pan and roast for 40 minutes. Remove and cool.


Five Element Analysis

Chicken and Turkey Broth belong to the Wood Element and the Celery in the broth adds even more.  The Onion from the broth and the Roasted Garlic, if you use it contribute the Metal Element along with the Butter. The Carrots in the broth bring in some of the Earth Element. The Salt is the only representative for the Water Element so be sure to serve a Water food in the meal to create a Five Element balance.


Gluten Free Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting




















Here's the other different thing I made for our Thanksgiving meal. My daughter in law requested a Pumpkin Cake and she wanted a Cream Cheese Frosting so I got a recipe from Betty Crocker actually as it is based on their Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix. I did however, have to change things up a bit as that's what happens when I get a recipe from someone else. However with baking, I tend to follow the main part of the recipe because that's chemistry. Anyway, the original recipe was for Pumpkin Spice Bars, which is more of a cookie. So, I cooked it in a smaller pan and cooked it for less time. I also used Pumpkin Spice Mix, as I had some from a previous recipe that I wanted to use up since I won't use it again until next year and I left out the raisons as I don't really like them. I used my own Cream Cheese Frosting recipe (good on Carrot Cake and the previously posted Butternut Squash Almond Cake) because the recipe from Betty Crocker wanted you to use their packaged frosting and I like homemade much better! I also made Candied Cinnamon Pumpkin Seeds to sprinkle on top instead of using Walnuts. It was fabulous - so delicious! It was moist and tasted like a Thanksgiving cake should taste - full of Pumpkin Pie flavors. The frosting was rich and creamy and tangy and the Candied Pumpkin Seeds just took it over the top. Of course I tasted it before I served it so I could post this for you and I will arrange slices on individual plates when I serve it. I actually think this cake would be good anytime and not just for Thanksgiving. I hope you had a wonderful one!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 box of Betty Crocker Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix
1 can (15 oz) Pumpkin
1/2 cup Butter (1 stick) softened
1/4 cup Almond Milk (can also use Soy Milk or regular Milk)
2 heaping teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
3 Eggs

Heat the oven to 350 degrees  Lightly grease a 9 x 11 inch pan. In a large bowl, mix the Cake Mix, Pumpkin, Butter, Milk, Pumpkin Pie Spice and Eggs for a bout 2 minutes.  Spread the mixture in the pan.  Bake for about 20 minutes or unit the top is lightly browed and very slightly springy to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool for 2 hours.

Sugared Pumpkin Seeds

1 cup Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)
2 Tablespoons Butter 
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
Pinch of Salt

Melt the Butter in a small frying pan and add the Brown Sugar. Stir to mix thoroughly and add in the Pumpkin Seeds and Salt. Cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour the Pumpkin Seeds onto a plate to cool.

Frosting

8 ounces of Cream Cheese
1/3 cup Powdered Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

When ready to frost, mix the Cream Cheese, Powdered Sugar and Vanilla Extract thoroughly.  Spread on the cake with a spatula in a thin layer.  Sprinkle the Sugared Pumpkin Seeds on top.

Five Element Analysis

As a dessert, you know that this is going to fall under the Earth Element and because it is also made with Pumpkin, it's even Earthier!  The Metal Element is represented by the Rice Flour in the Cake Mix (although it adds more Earth too as it also has Potato Starch) and the Spices. The Pumpkin Seeds contribute the Water Element. Only the Fire Element is missing and that is easily remedied by serving this cake with some Tea or Coffee!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Cranberry Relish with Middle Eastern Flavors

It's Thanksgiving tomorrow and I've had a fun day prepping. Several things are best made ahead so that the cooking doesn't get overwhelming the day of the big dinner. And, every year I have to take at least one dish and change it up so that the meal doesn't get too traditional. This year I chose to change the Cranberry Sauce and convert it into a slightly more savory relish. I decided to go with some vaguely Middle Eastern flavors as I decided on using Pomegranate Molasses instead of Vinegar. That led me to adding some chopped Dates and Honey and some Shallots sautéed in Olive Oil. I also added a tiny bit of Cinnamon to give it that special flavor and some Chicken Broth to make it more savory. It reminded me a bit of Fessenjan without the Walnuts and I love it!  I did make a regular, simpler Cranberry Sauce for the purists in my family, but I am very pleased with this new version - it's tart and tangy with a deep sweetness from the Honey and Dates and savory too from the Chicken Broth and Shallots. This may be a regular on my Thanksgiving table!

Cranberrry Relish with Middle Eastern Flavors

1 12 oz bag of fresh Cranberries, washed and picked over (remove soft ones)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Shallots, minced
1/4 cup chopped Dates
3 Tablespoons Honey
1/4 cup Pomegranate Molasses (can substitute Lemon Juice)
1 large clove Garlic, Minced
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 cup Chicken Broth (can also use Vegetable Broth or Water)

In a large frying pan, heat the oil and add the Shallots and Garlic. Cook until softened. Stir in the Dates, Honey, Pomegranate Molasses, Chicken Broth and Salt. Cook until the Cranberries pop stirring frequently and the sauce is thickened. Chill to serve later.

Five Element Analysis

Cranberries belong to the Fire Element as does the Pomegranate Molasses, but they are both so sour that they bring in the Wood Element too. The Chicken Broth adds more of the Wood Element. The Fire Element is represented by the Dates and Honey and the Garlic and Shallots contribute the Metal Element. Only the Water Element is missing so this condiment would also be great with Fish or Pork and is a good Fire Element addition to a multi course meal like Thanksgiving!



Thursday, November 17, 2016

Meat Stuffed Manicotti


Today I'm posting something that I made but I didn't eat because it's full of Gluten and full of Cheese, but oh my it's delicious!  It was a special request from my son as this dish was one of his favorite foods when he was much younger.  He was a funny kid because he didn't like Pasta with Tomato Sauce except for Lasagna and Manicotti. If I ever served him Spaghetti, the only topping allowed was Butter and Parmesan Cheese and when he got older he added some Garlic Powder. So, this dish was something I made a lot and for some reason, I haven't made it in years. I remember that I got the original recipe from the back of the Manicotti box, but whatever kind of Manicotti that was, I couldn't find it in the store. So, I made it from memory and it turned out perfectly! 

The Manicotti is boiled briefly and then stuffed with a mixture of cooked Ground Beef and Onions along with Mozzarella Cheese. I also remember leaving out the Parsley back then as any fleck of green wasn't allowed, but today I did add it in. And, I used the food processor to make the meat mixture finer as way back when, little pieces of onion were not allowed and I wanted to make it authentic to the original recipe. Once the Manicotti is stuffed, it is baked in Marinara Sauce and sprinkled with more Mozarella and later, some Parmesan. This dish can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to cook it. Meat Stuffed Manicotti was one of my go-to dishes for baseball and soccer potluck dinners and it was always a big hit. If you freeze it, you just have to cook it longer.  My other son took some home with him and loved it too and he's the one who asked for the recipe.  This is also a great stuffing for big Shells and if you want you can change the stuffing to all Cheese - mixing Ricotta with the Mozzarella. But I was recreating a favorite meal from the past and my kids always loved them stuffed with meat. Oh I wish I could have eaten it - it smelled so good and apparently it tasted great too - just like my kids remembered!  

Meat Stuffed Manicotti

1 8 oz package of Manicotti - about 14 pieces (I used American 
Water and Salt to cook the Manicotti
1 pound lean Ground Beef
1 medium Onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Salt
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 cups grated Mozzarella Cheese + 1 additional for topping
1/2 cup Parsley Leaves, minced)
4 cups Marinara Sauce (I used Classico Tomato and Basil)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

Bring a large pot of Salted Water to boil.  Add in the Manicotti carefully. Bring back to a boil and cook for 7 minutes. Drain the hot water and refill the pot with cold water. Then remove the Manicotti to cool on a large sheet of Aluminum foil on the counter (big enough to cover an 11 x 13 inch glass pan).

In a large frying pan, heat the Olive Oil and add in the Onions, Salt and Ground Beef. Cook until the Ground Beef is just barely pink and remove from heat.  

Place the 2 cups of grated Mozzarella Cheese in a food processor. Add in the Ground Beef and Onion Mixture along with the Parsley leaves. Pulse a few times until the mixture is blended. This step can be eliminated and the Beef and Cheese can be mixed together thoroughly in a bowl but I recommend using your hands to blend it. If you are using the food processor, be sure to remove the blade from the mixture. 

Spread 1 cup of Marinara Sauce on the bottom of an 11 x 13 inch pan (or you can use two smaller ones). Pick up one Manicotti and place in your left hand facing up vertically and start to stuff the meat mixture into it, leaving about 1/2 inch open on each side. Place the stuffed Manicotti into the Marinara Sauce in the pan. Repeat until all Manicotti are stuffed. Then pour the remaining Sauce over the top. Sprinkle with 1 cup of Mozzarella Cheese. Cover with the aluminum foil. The Manicotti may now be refrigerated or frozen until ready to cook.

If cooking immediately, bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove the Manicotti from the oven, take off the the foil and sprinkle on Parmesan Cheese and turn the oven to broil.

If baking previously refrigerated Manicotti, you may need to cook the Manicotti for an additional 5 - 10 minutes. Remove the Manicotti from the oven, take off the the foil and sprinkle on Parmesan Cheese and turn the oven to broil.

If baking a frozen Manicotti, place in a cold oven, turn the heat to 350 degrees and cook for 2 hours. Remove the Manicotti from the oven, take off the the foil and sprinkle on Parmesan Cheese and turn the oven to broil.

Return the pan back to the oven and broil for an additional 3 - 4 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown. Serve immediately.

Five Element Analysis

Pasta is made of Wheat so that brings in the Wood Element. The Ground Beef contributes the Earth Element and the Marinara Sauce brings in the Fire Element. The Cheese adds the Metal Element. Only the Water Element is missing so be sure to add in  something from this Element - I suggest a Lacinato Kale Salad with Walnuts to create a Five Element balance.  


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Mushroom and Tofu Stir Fry


I just came home from a trip where I was visiting my Mother. I brought her lots of take out Chinese food which I mostly couldn't eat as the dishes were not Gluten Free. One of the dishes I craved the most was a simple stir fry of Tofu and Shitake Mushrooms. So as soon as I came home, I went to buy some pressed Tofu and cooked it with three different kinds of mushrooms. Tofu is really a wonderful high protein food that takes on the flavor of the sauce. I always say that people who don't like it just haven't had it cooked right.  When you make it the Chinese way, it is full of flavor!  For this dish, I used fresh Button Mushrooms, Dried Shitake Mushrooms and dried Mu'er or Wood Ear Mushrooms reconstituted. Combined in a stir fry with some Green Onion slivers, Garlic, Oyster Sauce and a splash of Tamari, it was the centerpiece of a delicious meatless meal! 

Mushroom and Tofu Stir Fry

4 oz pressed Tofu
3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil (I used Safflower)
2 cloves of Garlic, minced
8 - 10 Button Mushrooms, washed, stem trimmed and sliced
8 dried Shitake Mushrooms, rehyrdrated in boiling water (save about 1/4 cup for the sauce)
1/2 cup Mu'er - Dried Black Fungus or Wood Ear Mushrooms, rehydrated in boiling water
3 - 4 Green Onions, ends trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces and shredded lengthwise
1 Tablespoon Oyster Sauce (I used Lee Kum Kee Gluten Free)
1 teaspoon Tamari

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add in the Tofu and cook until it is hot and starting to brown slightly. Add in the Garlic and the Mushrooms. Cook until the Button Mushrooms are soft. Then add in the Green Onion, stir a few times and then add in the Shitake Water, Oyster Sauce and Tamari. Cook, stirring often until it is bubbling hot and the sauce has thickened slightly. Serve with Rice.

Five Element Analysis

Tofu belongs to the Metal Element because it is a White food, but it also has aspects of Water because it is made from Soybeans. The Oyster Sauce and the Tamari and the Shitake and Mu'er add even more Water, although the last two being Mushrooms, also add in the Earth Element along with the Button Mushrooms . The Garlic and Green Onions contribute the Metal Element along with the Rice you must serve with this dish. The Wood and Fire Elements are missing so be sure to serve it with a Green Vegetable for the Wood Element and serve Tea and Hot Chili Sauce to bring in the Fire Element to create a balanced Five Element meal.



Saturday, November 12, 2016

Gluten Free Butternut Squash Almond Cake


I don't get a craving for sweets very often and when I do, I don't want something too sweet.  I tend to like sweet breads - usually Banana Bread. But I didn't have any Bananas. I thought about making Zucchini Bread, but didn't have any Zucchini either. I did have a big Butternut Squash and I only used a little of it.  Since I was seriously in the mood for something sweet, I decided to experiment and I made a wonderful Gluten Free Butternut Squash Almond Cake that was so good! I adapted a recipe from Martha Stewart for Zucchini Cake that turned out to be a little bit more complicated than I expected. The tricky part was getting the Eggs and Sugar really whipped and frothy in an adapted double boiler before mixing it with the other ingredients. Her recipe was for a Zucchini Cake and it had a Cream Cheese Frosting. I'm not a big frosting fan, so I opted for a sprinkling of Cinnamon Sugar and instead of Vanilla Extract, I used Pumpkin Pie Spice. The Butternut Squash gave it just the right moistness and the cake was even better this morning - yes I did eat cake for breakfast!  It tasted a lot light Carrot Cake, only lighter. I might serve this instead of Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving  I liked it so much!

Gluten Free Butternut Squash Almond Cake

3 Large Eggs
½ cup packed Light Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
4 ounces of Butter (1 stick), melted
1 ½ cups Almond Flour (Almond Meal)
¼ cup Potato Starch + 2 Tablespoons
1 ¼ teaspoon Baking Powder
¼ teaspoon Salt
1 heaping Cup grated Butternut Squash
1 ½ teaspoon Sugar
¼ teaspoon Cinnamon

Butter a round 8 or 9 inch cake pan.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, mix together the Almond Flour, Potato Starch, Baking Powder and Salt. Put aside until needed.

In another small bowl, combine the Sugar and Cinnamon.

Heat a pot with one inch of water in the bottom, bring to a boil and turn down to a very low simmer. Put a heat proof bowl big enough to go on top. Crack the eggs in and whisk until foamy, about one minute. Then add in the brown sugar and whisk until the Sugar is dissolved and the mixture is very foamy. Take off the heat and use either a hand mixer or pour into the bowl of a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment on high until the mixture is thick and frothy – about 7 to 10 minutes.

Then gently fold in the melted Butter and the Almond Flour mixture with a spatula and pour into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the Cinnamon Sugar mixture place in the oven. Cook for 25 – 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with some crumbs sticking to it.  Let the cake cool completely before serving.

Five Element Analysis

As a dessert, you know that this is going to be an Earth food, but this one is particularly Earthy as it is made with Almond Flour, Potato Flour and Butternut Squash along with Brown Sugar. So, this is a an almost Completely Earth dish, except for the bit of the Metal Element with the Spices and the Water Element with the Eggs. The good news is that it is very grounding as well as delicious and satisfies the sweet craving while being full of Squash!