Monday, December 26, 2016

Russian Tea Cakes - Gluten Free

Russian Tea Cakes are one of my family's favorite Christmas Cookies. It's basically a  shortbread that's made with ground Walnuts and coated with Powdered Sugar. It's crumbly and rich at the same time. They are known as Mexican Wedding Cakes if you use ground Pecans iand these cookies are also called Snowballs in some parts of the country. I've been searching for a good Gluten Free recipe and I've tried several but finally found a good one from Bob's Red Mill. They used Hazelnut Meal for what they call their Holiday Tea Cookies, which I'm sure makes a great cookie, but I substituted Walnuts. And, I lowered the salt content slightly as their recipe made a very salty cookie. The best news is that absolutely no one realized that the cookie was Gluten Free! That's when I know that I've achieved my goal - to make really delicious cookies that just happen to be Gluten Free!

Russian Tea Cakes - Gluten Free adapted from Bob's Red Mill

1 cup Butter, softened (2 sticks)
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar + 1 1/2 cups for Coating
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 cups Gluten Free Flour (I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour) 
3/4 cup Walnuts (rounded)
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Grind the Walnuts in the Food Processor and put aside in a small bowl. Then put in the Butter, Vanilla and Powdered Sugar and mix until very creamy. Add in the Vanilla Extract and incorporate fully.  Then add in the Flour and Salt and mix again. Remove to a bowl and stir in the Ground Walnuts. Make walnut sized balls and place on plates. Cover with Plastic Wrap and refrigerate the cookies for 2 hours up to overnight. 

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the remaining Powdered Sugar in a bowl, and roll each cookie in the sugar.  Then put onto a parchment of Silpat covered baking pan.  Cook for 12 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned at the edges.  Cool slightly, then take each cookie and carefully roll in powdered sugar before placing on a rack to cool completely. Roll the cookies in Powdered Sugar again before serving. 

Five Element Analysis

Walnuts belong to the Water Element and they are considered very good for your Kidneys and your Brains, since they look like them. The Rice Flour and Butter contribute the Metal Element along with the Vanilla. The Sugar and the Tapioca and Potato Flours in the mix add the Earth Element. So, only the Fire Element and Wood Element are missing, so have these cookies with some Tea or Coffee that adds Fire and make sure that the Wood Element is present in another food later. Like I said in my last post, I made sure that I made some Passion Fruit Bars for my cookie plate that contributed the sour flavor of Wood to create a balanced plate of cookies!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Molasses Ginger Cookies - GF

Every Christmas, I look forward to making Molasses Ginger Cookies, but now that I've gone completely Gluten Free, I haven't found a recipe I loved until this year!  It's from Bob's Red Mill and uses their Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour, which already has Xanthum gum in it.  If you want to make these cookies with other Gluten Free flours, check to make sure that ingredient is in there. And, of course I had to tweak the recipe by adding in Candied Ginger and fresh Ginger Juice to up the flavor and also a little bit of Nutmeg. They were wonderful! I only made a half batch (that's the recipe below) to test them and now I'm making another full batch because they were so good. They reminded me a bit of the GF Ginger Cookies from Trader Joe's, but they were softer and chewier. I'm so happy that I finally found a recipe that works for my favorite Christmas cookies! If I find anymore, I will be sure to post those too.

Molasses Ginger Cookies – GF adapted from Bob's Red Mill
6 Tablespoons Butter softened
¼  cup Sugar + additional ¼ cup for rolling the cookies
¼ cup Brown Sugar
¼ cup Molasses
1 Egg
1 teaspoon ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated Ginger (optional)
1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground Cloves
1/8 teaspoon of Nutmeg
¼ teaspoon Salt
¾ teaspoon of Baking Soda
1 ¼ cup Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Baking Flour
½ cup Candied Ginger, cut into small pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, cream together ¼ of White Sugar and all of the Brown Sugar and the Butter. Add in the Molasses and the Eggs and mix thoroughly- the mixture will look curdled.  Add in the Spices and Ginger Juice, Salt, Baking Soda and Flour, Mix until well combined and add the Candied Ginger.  The dough will be soft and wet.  Roll spoonfuls of the dough into 1” balls and roll in the additional sugar. Place on a parchment covered baking sheet 3-4 inches apart. Cook for 15 minutes or until the cookies are set at the edges, but still slightly soft and puffy in the center. Cool slightly and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Store in an airtight container. 

Five Element Analysis

Cookies always belong to the Earth Element because they are so sweet and this is no exception. The ingredients in the 1-to-1 Baking Flour add in more Earth from the Potato Starch and the Tapioca Starch, but it also brings in some of the Metal Element from the Rice Flour.  he Spices and Butter contribute more of the Metal Element and the Molasses and Egg contribute the Water Element. By the way, Molasses helps build blood so you can say these cookies are somewhat healthy! Anyway, these cookies are perfect with a cup of Tea or Coffee, which would add the Fire Element. Only the Wood Element is missing, so be sure to add a food from that element some other time in the day to create a balance. I'm personally going to make some GF Lemon Bars to get some of the Wood Element on my Cookie Plate!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tamari Almonds and Sunflower Seeds

I serve snacks in my Master Face Reading Program and one of the most appreciated and now requested recipes is Tamari Almonds and Sunflower Seeds. This is one of those recipes that is so simple that all it requires are the ingredients in it's name: Tamari and Almonds and Sunflower Seeds - that's it!  And, all you have to do is heat the raw Almonds and Sunflower Seeds in a small frying pan until they are hot and then sprinkle with Tamari and keep stirring until it dries up and coats them. How easy is that?  What emerges from the pan, is a savory delight!  Tamari is not as salty as Soy Sauce and the Umami flavor is just perfect if you like crunchy snacks. You can actually use any kind of nut or seed with this simple recipe and it's always delicious. You can add other seasonings too if you want, like Garlic and Onion Powder or Smoked Paprika or ground Cumin, but I love the simplicity of this recipe. Tamari Almonds and Sunflower Seeds are also very good on top of Salad. I often double or triple this recipe to serve a crowd and it's always a crowd pleaser. This is truly one of my favorite snacks!

Tamari Almonds and Sunflower Seeds

1 cup slivered raw Almonds (can use whole Almonds as well)
1 cup raw Sunflower Seeds
1 - 2 teaspoons Tamari

In a small frying pan over medium, cook the Almonds and Sunflower Seeds until they are hot and you can smell their fragrance. Drizzle the Tamari over them and stir quickly to coat and cook only until the Tamari drys up. Turn off the heat, cool and serve.

Five Element Analysis

In Chinese Medicine Almonds are good for the Lungs and they belong to the Earth Element Sunflower Seeds and Tamari represent the Water Element and support the Kidneys. So this snack is good for you too! Eat these with a cup of Tea to bring in the Fire Element and make sure that you eat a Wood food too, like some Kale Chips or even some Celery and Dip to create a Five Element balance.  

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Turnip and Rutabaga Chips

I've been writing and editing my cookbook and working on recipes makes me very hungry!  And, my snack of choice lately has been a lot of packaged Potato Chips. So, I decided to go a bit healthier and make some different kinds of veggie chips. Today I made Turnip and Rutabaga Chips. Now, most people aren't fond of these two vegetables as they've often been a winter standby that are usually mashed. When raw, they have a bit of a mustardy smell and taste, but when they are roasted they get sweet and if you slice them thin enough, they make fabulous chips!  

Turnip and Rutabagas are different colors - Turnips are white and Rutabagas are a lovely soft yellow/orange. Together they are beautiful as well as delicious when made into chips. They are also very good for you. They are part of the family of Cruciferous vegetables that have anti-cancer properties and are full of phytonutrients and they are also high in fiber. In Chinese Medicine, they are said to cool the blood and the qi and help you get rid of phlegm so they are perfect foods for the  cold and flu weather. They are also good for digestion.

These chips are very easy to make and the only skill required is that you slice the pieces very thin - best to use a Mandoline if you can. I like them in half moon shapes as they area bit easier to manage and tend to get crispier. Then you toss them in Olive Oil and a Seasoned Salt of your choice or just salt and pepper and cook them in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Crisp them just a bit more if you like under the broiler. Let them cool and you will have made Turnip and Rutabaga Chips.  Some will be super crispy and some will still be soft - it's a mixture of textures.  As for flavors, they are savory and a little bit sweet too - a perfect snack and healthy too!

Turnip and Rutabaga Chips

4 small Turnips, stem ends cut off and peeled and cut in half
2 medium Rutabaga, stem ends cut off and peeled
1/4 cup Olive Oil
3/4 teaspoon Seasoned Salt (I used Paul Prudhomme's Vegetable Magic) or Salt and Pepper

Heat the oven to 400 degrees and get two baking sheets ready by putting Parchment Paper on them.

Slice the Turnips and Rutabagas as thin as you can up to 1/4 inch wide - the thinner they are the crispier they will get but they will burn easier.  Place them in a mixing bowl and add the Olive Oil and Seasoned Salt.  Mix thoroughly.

Pour onto the prepared baking sheets and spread them out so that each chip is touching the Parchment and they are not overlapping. Place on upper and lower racks. Cook for 15 minutes and turn - place the pans back in the oven on the other rack  Cook for an additional 15 minutes. Remove all the chips that are browned.  

Heat the oven to broil and return the chips to the oven one pan at a time. Broil for up to 1 minutes, watching carefully so they don't burn and remove from the oven. Repeat. Let the chips cool before serving.

Five Element Analysis

Turnips are a white pungent vegetable so they belong to the Metal Element and the Seasoned Salt adds a bit more Metal because of the Spices in the mixture. If you use Salt and Pepper, you are brining in just a hint of the Water and Fire Elements.  Rutabagas because of their color are more of an Earth vegetable so that element is represented too. The Olive Oil contributes the Wood Element so be sure to bring in more of the Water and Fire Element foods at another time.  I drank tea with my Chips so that added some Fire too.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Persimmon Halwa

Not too long ago, I had a great Carrot Halwa at my local Indian restaurant. It was part of the buffet and I was really surprised by how good it was. I actually thought it was Persimmon at the time. I wanted to make it at home, but I still have this thing about cooked carrots and couldn't get myself to do it. Then I realized that I had some slightly overripe Fuyu Persimmons and if I'm going to eat them out of hand, I want them crisp. I  thought about making a Persimmon Bread with them, but then I got the notion to actually go ahead and make Halwa with them.

Halwa is an Indian term for sweet or dessert and the kind of Halwa I'm talking about is a pudding made out of all sorts of different ingredients. In the Fall and Winter, it is served hot and the main spice is Cardamom. It is rich and creamy and absolutely delicious. I used Ghee and Almond Milk and honestly, it probably would have been even richer with Cream, so if you can use Cream, I'd try it. If you want to be authentic, as I've never seen Persimmons used before in Halwa, make it with 1 pound of grated Carrots, but be sure to  increase the cooking time and double the amount of Ghee, Almond Milk (or Cream) and Sugar. I like my pudding to have some texture so I left the Persimmon a little chunky.  Cook it for longer and mash it if you want it smoother. 

Persimmon Halwa is very easy to make and can be made very fast so it's just perfect for a last minute dessert. And, Persimmons are sweet enough so that very little sugar is needed. I was always told that Persimmons were good for coughs, so I am hoping they will do their magic for me that way too.  I was so happy with this luscious and exotic dessert!

Persimmon Halwa 

4 Fuyu Persimmons
4 Tablespoons Ghee
1/4 cup Almond Milk (or Cream)
2 teaspoons up to 1 Tablespoon Sugar to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground Cardamom 
4 Tablespoons slivered Almonds - 1 Tablespoon per serving

Cut the Persimmons in quarters, removing the stem end and peel. Then chop it up.  Melt the Ghee in a frying pan over medium heat and add the Persimmons. Cook until the Persimmon is soft and hot and the color has gotten lighter, about 3 minutes. Add in the Almond Milk and cook until the liquid is mostly gone, about 5 minutes. Then stir in as much sugar as you like (I used only 2 teaspoons) and continue to cook until the sugar is mixed in fully and the Halwa gets sticky and thick, about 2 -3 minutes. Stir in the Cardamom and remove from the heat. Divide into 4 bowls and sprinkle slivered Almonds over each. Serve hot or warm.

Five Element Analysis

In Chinese Medicine, Persimmons are thought to clear heat and lower Blood Pressure. They are also supposed to be very good for your complexion as well as helping to relieve coughs.  Their lovely heart shape and red color shows that they are a fruit that belongs to the Fire Element so in this dish that element is covered. The Cream if you use it, the Ghee and the Cardamom contribute the Metal Element and the Almond Milk, Almonds and Sugar make sure the Earth Element is represented too. This would be a lovely dessert to serve with a Water food like Fish as a Main Course with some Green Vegetables served with it to bring in the Wood Element, creating a balanced Five Element meal.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Mini Meatball, Mushroom and Potato Soup

We had snow last night and today here in Seattle and I stayed inside, as I don't drive well in ice and snow. I love snow, but just looking at it makes me feel cold so I must eat soup. Tonight I made a soup that combines the flavors of Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes and Mushroom Gravy. I actually thought about just making Meatloaf, but my son doesn't like it. He does however like Meatballs, the smaller the better. He also doesn't like any kind of potatoes that aren't crispy. The good news is that he did like this soup and I loved it! If you want it to be creamier, you could add some cream, but I like broth. For me, it was a big bowl of comfort! And it was really easy and fast to put together too. Just perfect for a cold night outside, while we're enjoying our delicious soup inside!

Mini Meatball, Mushroom and Potato Soup

1 pound of ground Beef
1 Egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup Oatmeal or GF Bread Crumbs (or 2 pieces of GF bread without crusts, crumbled)
2 Tablespoons Ketchup
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt
3 Tablespoons Butter
1 medium Yellow Onion, chopped
20 medium Button Mushrooms, sliced and then cut in half
4 Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes (about 4 cups)
6 cups Beef Broth 
2 cups Water
pinch of fresh ground Black Pepper
Chives, minced for garnish
Optional 1/3 cup Cream and 1/2 teaspoon Tamari

Pour broth into the Soup Pot and add the Potatoes, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.

Meanwhile, combine the ground Beef, the Egg, the Oatmeal (or Bread Crumbs or Cubes), the Ketchup, the Seasoned Salt and the Worcestershire Sauce in a mixing bowl until well blended. Make into mini Meatballs, about 1 teaspoon each and place in a large frying pan. Heat frying pan to medium heat and cook the Meatballs until at least two sides of the Meatballs are browned. Add the Meatballs into the Soup, leaving the drippings in the pan.

In the same frying pan, melt the butter, add the Onion and Mushrooms and cook until the Onion is translucent and the Mushrooms are soft. Add to the Soup with the pan sauce and a pinch of Black Pepper. Add cream now, if using it.  Cook together on simmer for 15 - 20 minutes or until Potatoes are soft. Serve with a sprinkling of Chives on top.

Five Element Analysis

This is a very Earthy Soup as Beef, Oatmeal, Mushrooms and Potatoes are all Earth foods. So it's a very grounding soup and good for the Spleen. The Butter, Onion and Chives contribute the Metal Element as does the Cream if you use it. The Egg and Worcestershire Sauce bring in a bit of the Water Element and only the Ketchup adds the Fire Element. So, we had this with a Green Salad that included Tomatoes and a Vinaigrette Dressing to create a balanced Five Element meal.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Lea's Sukiyaki

I spent my early years living in Japan and I still have a great love of Japanese food. One of the dishes I love most is Sukiyaki, which is a kind of Japanese hotpot. My Mom learned how to make this from our cook.  Once we were back in America, we used to eat this regularly as a family and we cooked it using an electric skillet in the middle of the table. We all cooked our own meat and served ourselves as much as we wanted. These days, I don't have an electric skillet and I don't really know why. So, I cook it on the stove in my wok and serve it on the table directly in that. I'm thinking now I should ask my kids to buy me an electric skillet for Christmas, so maybe next time I cook it, we can all cook our own ingredients the old fashioned way. 

Today, I'm going to give you my Mother's recipe for Sukiyaki and it's one of my all time favorites too. Most of the time at restaurants, I find the Sukiyaki to be too sweet. In this recipe, the basic flavoring comes from Caramelized Onion, Tamari and Mirin. My Mom always said that it was important to cook some of the beef first to make the sauce taste right.  I add in diluted Beef Broth although she used to use Chicken Broth to make a sauce that's more like having a little soup in your bowl that's completely slurpable. It's also great over Steamed Rice. I like to use Shirataki Noodles, which are made out of a kind of Japanese Yam. They are slippery and crunchy and are often advertised as having no calories so have become popular and are much easier to find now. But, if I can't find them, I use Bean Thread Noodles instead. I also use Napa Cabbage and sometimes Baby Bok Choy as I like the dark green color of the leaves, a carton of Soft Tofu and some Enoki Mushrooms and sometimes Shitake Mushrooms too. It's quite common to see eggs cooked in the hot broth too.  

It doesn't take long to make Sukiyaki and it feeds a lot of people. It stretches one pound of thinly sliced Beef a long way and there's additional protein with the Tofu. If you want to serve it as a hotpot, create a tray of ingredients and make the basic sauce first, bring it to a boil in your electric skillet and let people swish and dunk their beef and add their vegetables, tofu and noodles simmer away until they are tender. Serve with ladles for each person.

Lea's Sukiyaki

1 pound thinly sliced Flank Steak (partially freeze first to cut slices thinner)
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 large Onion, thinly sliced
1 1lb package of Soft Tofu, drained and cut into 1 inch squares 
4 cups diluted Beef or Chicken Broth (1/2 Canned Broth and 1/2 Water unless using homemade Broth)
1/4 cup Tamari
1/4 cup Mirin (Japanese Sweet Rice Wine)
4 cups of Napa Cabbage pieces
2 cups of Baby Bok Choy, ends cut off and cut into small pieces
8 - 10 dried Shitake Mushroom, soaked in Hot Water to soften and sliced
A Handful of fresh Enoki Mushrooms, rinsed and ends cut
2 packages of Shirataki Noodles drained or 6 ounces dried Bean Thread Noodles (3 small bundles) soaked in hot water to soften
3 - 4 Green Onions, ends trimmed and cut into small pieces

Optional:  If desired, crack 4 eggs into bowls and gently add them to the simmering Sukiyaki and let cook for 3 - 4 minutes before serving.

As a hotpot: In a large, deep frying pan or wok, heat 2 Tablespoons of Oil until hot. Add in the Onions and cook, stirring frequently until they are just beginning to brown.  Add in 1/4 of the Beef and stir until it is no longer pink. Add in the Broth, Tamari and Mirin and some of each of the vegetables and tofu and bring to a boil. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more Tamari if you want it saltier or more Mirin if you want it sweeter. Then you can have everyone add in what they like to cook in the broth.  

If serving already cooked:  In a large, deep frying pan or wok, heat 2 Tablespoons of Oil until hot. Add in the Onions and cook, stirring frequently until they are just beginning to brown.  Add in all of the Beef, Bok Choy and Napa Cabbage and stir until the Beef is no longer pink. Add in the Broth and seasonings, add in the Mushrooms, Tofu and Noodles and bring to a boil. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cook for 15 minutes on Simmer. Sprinkle with Green Onions and serve with Steamed White Rice.  

Five Element Analysis

With this many ingredients in this dish, you can be pretty sure that a lot of the Elements are covered. To start with, Beef belongs to the Earth Element and the Mushrooms add even more, so that's the main Element of this dish. However, the Tofu, Onions, Green Onions and Rice also bring in a lot of the Metal Element. The Tamari, Shitakes and Eggs bring in the Water Element, whereas, the Napa Cabbage and Baby Bok Choy make sure that the Wood Element is present. Only the Fire Element is left and that is represented by the Mirin. So, that's the weakest element, so be sure to serve this dish with Tea or some Hot Chili Sauce to make a balanced Five Element meal.   

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Korean Mung Bean Pancakes

My Mother used to live near a Korean Market and whenever I would go and visit her, one of the treats I would pick up for us to eat was Korean Mung Bean Pancakes. These are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside with a delightful little crunch that comes from all the vegetables that make it a very healthy snack. It is often made with Kimchi and also meat, usually pork. I knew that they couldn't be hard to make, so one time I bought some Mung Bean flour to make them and they were good, not great.  So, I eventually asked a Korean friend how to make them right and she informed me that these pancakes need to be made with soaked and ground Mung Beans and that was the secret to perfect Korean Mung Bean Pancakes. I've been making them for years now and never thought to put them on this blog until I made them today when my son asked me if I had posted this recipe yet.  This was after he devoured his first two pancakes and was reaching for more. So here's the recipe that I make. It's pretty simple once you remember to soak the Mung Beans ahead of time - usually overnight. I don't usually add Kimchi as I like to use shredded Napa Cabbage more, although Kimchi is certainly very tasty and gives it some heat and even more authentic flavor. I also add in Bean Sprouts, Red Pepper and Carrots along with Garlic and Green Onion. I like to chop everything up as the Pancake stays together better, but the traditional way is to have the vegetables cut into shreds.  Meat can be added or not if you prefer to keep them vegetarian. I serve it with a simple Tamari and Sesame Oil Sauce although adding Rice Vinegar to this is good too and so is adding Chili Oil. I've included that recipe below. This a delightful and delicious snack that I make even for breakfast!

Korean Mung Bean Pancakes

2 cups dried yellow Mung Beans
Water to  cover by 4 inches
1 1/2 cups or more Chicken Broth (or Vegetable Broth)
1 1/2 cups Bean Sprouts, chopped
1 cup chopped Napa Cabbage leaves
1/3 cup chopped Red Pepper
1/3 cup Carrot, peeled, sliced, cut into shreds about 1 inch long and then cut in half
4 Green Onions, cut into small pieces
2 large Garlic Cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Salt
Vegetable Oil for Cooking - 1 Tablespoon per batch, about 1/2 cup
Optional: 4 ounces of cooked Pork, 4 ounces of chopped Kimchi (instead of Napa Cabbage)

Soak Mung Beans in a large bowl overnight. Drain and rinse and then return to the bowl and add Boiling Water to cover.  Drain and add to the food processor. Add in the 1 1/2 cups of broth and Puree until smooth. Add in an additional 1/4 cup of broth if the mixture is too thick. Remove to a bowl.  Add in all the vegetables and meat if using and stir to mix up.  

Heat oven to 250 degrees.  Heat a large frying pan and add 1 Tablespoon of Oil, heat and using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop up the Pancake mixture and make 2 large pancakes. Use the spatula to pull in ragged edges.  Cook on medium high heat until the bottom is golden brown and turn carefully. Cook until the other side is completely browned. Don't worry if the pancake breaks, just pull it back together. This will take about 4 -5 minutes per side. Place cooked pancakes onto a large baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm while you complete the other pancakes.  Add an additional 1 Tablespoon of Oil before cooking each batch of pancakes. Remove from the oven when you are done and serve with dipping sauce or a drizzle of Tamari and Sesame Oil.

Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup Tamari or Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Seasoned Rice Vinegar
1 teaspoon Roasted Sesame Oil
1/4 teaspoon Chili Oil or more to taste

Five Element Analysis

Mung Beans belong to the Water Element and the Pork if you are using it adds even more as does the Tamari and Sesame Oil in the Dipping Sauce. The Napa Cabbage contributes the Wood Element and so does the Kimchi, if you use it and the Vinegar in the Dipping Sauce adds even more. The Red Pepper makes sure that the Fire Element is present as does the Chili Oil in the Dipping Sauce and the Carrots do the same for the Earth Element. The Metal Element is represented by the Green Onions and Garlic. Korean Mung Bean Pancakes end up being a balanced Five Element Savory Snack!

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 Flour)
2 - 2 1/2 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 Drippings from a Roast Chicken (or reserved Chicken Backs from Spatchcocking) or 6 bone-in Chicken Thighs
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.


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!