Thursday, July 20, 2017

Gluten Free Banana Strawberry Cake

I used to make this wonderful Strawberry Bread for my son when he was little, but it was very sugary so I didn't make it very often. He reminded me of it the other day and I decided to make a Gluten Free version that was sweetened mostly with fresh fruit. I had two Bananas that were turning brown and I only eat them out of hand when they are still a bit green. That's usually when I make Banana Bread. I also had a handful of Strawberries in the fridge that needed to be used up and that was the inspiration for this cake. I borrowed a recipe from The Loopy Whisk blog, but changed it by adding more Banana and leaving out the Lemon Juice and Lemon Zest and putting in Strawberries instead of Blueberries. I also sprinkled the top with a little Turbinado Sugar (Sugar in the Raw) to give it a shiny and slightly Caramelized surface. My son was so happy as it tasted a lot like both of his childhood favorites - Banana Bread and Strawberry Bread put together. I made it all in one bowl and it turned out perfectly.  I call it a cake because I baked it in a cake pan. I'm just hoping that there is a piece left for tomorrow morning as I think it would be perfect for breakfast!

Gluten Free Banana Strawbery Cake (based on The Loopy Whisk)

2 medium ripe Bananas, mashed
1/3 cup melted Butter
2 Large Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup Sugar
1 cup Gluten Free Flour (I used King Arthur)
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
Pinch of Salt
1 cup of cut up Strawberries
For topping:  2 teaspoons Turbinado Sugar (can also use regular Sugar)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a square cake pan. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the Bananas, Butter, Eggs, Vanilla and Sugar. Add in the Gluten Free Flour, Baking Powder, Baking Soda and Salt. Stir to combine thoroughly and pour into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the Strawberry pieces and press them down lightly into the batter. Sprinkle with the Turbinado Sugar and place in the oven. Cook for about 30 - 35 minutes or until the top is lightly golden brown and springs back lightly when touched with your finger. Cool before serving. The flavor actually gets better after it sits a bit.

Five Element Analysis

This is a sweet dessert so it is naturally an Earth Element food and the Bananas add even more Earth. The Butter, Vanilla Extract and the Gluten Free Flour made primarily from Rice brings in the Metal Element. The Strawberries contribute the Fire Element. So this is a good dessert to serve with a dinner that is primarily composed of Water and Wood foods, like Fish and Vegetables. Remember a light meal will leave more room for this lovely Cake!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Retro Taco Salad

When I was in junior high school, my favorite class was Home Economics. I loved that class so much that I wanted to major in the subject in college, but was convinced by my father to choose Psychology instead. Strangely, many of the recipes I learned then are still stuck in my memory and Taco Salad is one of them. I remember at that time that it involved cooking ground Beef and adding Taco Seasoning to it and then assembling a salad that involved Lettuce, Tomatoes, Tortilla Chips, Kidney Beans, Cheese, Black Olives, Sour Cream and Salsa. I remember feeling daring because I added in Red Onion! 

Today I had a hankering for that salad and decided to recreate it by taking out the Cheese and Sour Cream for starters and also seasoning the ground Beef from scratch instead of relying on a packaged mix. If you still like that flavor, feel free to use the mix that you can still buy at the store in your version. I put Black Olives on my son's portion and put Cheese on his portion too. I left out the Beans, as they don't agree with me. However, they do add another great layer of flavor and texture and if you are a vegetarian, the Kidney Beans can act as the protein instead of the Beef. 

To update this Taco Salad, I added some Romaine Lettuce along with the original Iceberg, as it is a bit more nutritious. And because I like color, I used Blue Corn Tortilla chips. Instead of Sour Cream and Salsa, I mixed together Mayonnaise and Salsa. I made a great big bowl of Taco Salad and it was divine!  It also brought back many happy memories of making this for dinner for my family and yet it was also just a bit more refined than my previous version. You know what? It's still a great summer salad!

Retro Taco Salad

For the Beef:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 of a Red Onion, chopped
1/2 pound ground Beef
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
1/2  teaspoon ground Cumin
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/4 cup Chicken Broth (or Beef Broth)

Brown the ground Beef, Garlic and Red Onions together in a frying pan until the beef is no longer pink. Drain the fat or blot the pan with a clean paper towel. Then, add in the Seasonings and the Broth. Cook until the Broth is nearly evaporated. Cool slightly before using in the salad.  

For the Salad:

4 cups Lettuce - a combination of Iceberg and Romaine
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, cut into slices
2 cups Blue Corn Tortilla Chips (can also use regular ones), very lightly crushed with your hands to make smaller pieces


1 small can (or 1/2 can) drained Kidney Beans
1 small can sliced Black Olives, drained
1/2 cup shredded or cubed Cheddar Cheese
1/3 cup Sour Cream to replace the Mayonnaise

For the Dressing:

1/3 cup Best Foods (or Hellmans, Heinz or Kraft) Mayonnaise
1/2 Red Onion chopped
2/3 cup jarred Salsa (I used Trader Joe's)

Mix together with a whisk until blended.

To Assemble the Salad:

In a large salad bowl, put in the Lettuce, Tomatoes along with the Kidney Beans and Black Olives (if using). Top with the Tortilla Chips and then the ground Beef. Pour the dressing on top and toss thoroughly. Add Cheddar Cheese (if using) and serve immediately. If serving later, leave off the dressing and omit the Tortilla Chips unti already to serve.

Five Element Analysis

Salad is a Fiery food and this salad incorporates a lot of the Fire Element. It is composed of Lettuce, Tomatoes, Salsa, Chili Powder and Cayenne too. The Earth Element is present in the Tortilla Chips and the Ground Beef.  The Mayonnaise adds some Metal and Water (because of the Eggs) and the Red Onion, Garlic and Spices contribute even more of the Metal Element as does the Cheddar Cheese (if you use this ingredient). The Water Element is seen in the Kidney Beans because they look like Kidneys and Black Olives because the Lives are a Water Color (if you are using), but the Olives are also part of the Wood Element as is the Chicken Broth.  There are so many ingredients in this salad that there is an intrinsic Five Element balance in one big bowl!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tamari and Honey Glazed Salmon and Simple Rice Pilaf

Lucky me - my sons went fishing in Alaska and brought back some amazing King Salmon, Sockeye Salmon and Halibut and my freezer is stocked with fish!  I'm especially happy because I rarely buy King Salmon as it is so expensive and I love it. I'm sharing an Asian glaze that I use to bake and/or broil Salmon (any kind) and it just highlights the Salmon so well. I bake it in aluminum foil so that the flesh of the fish soaks up some of the sauce first and then open up the packet, turn the Salmon over and brush it with a bit more glaze and broil it to get a caramelized top. You can of course skip this step and make it easier for yourself by putting the Salmon in the foil skin side down and opening up the packet to finsih it by broiling it The thicker the piece of Salmon, the longer you have to cook it. When I serve it, I sprinkle the Salmon with Sesame Seeds. I love to serve this preparation of Salmon with Rice Pilaf, which cooks in about the same amount of time as the Salmon and a green vegetable, usually steamed. For me, it's one of those perfect dinners!  

Tamari and Honey Glaze

1/2 cup Tamari
1/3 cup Honey
3 Tablespoons Shaoshing Rice Wine or Mirin (Japanese Rice Wine)
pinch of White Pepper (can also use Black)

In a small frying pan, heat the Tamari, Honey, Rice Wine and White Pepper until the Honey is fully incorporated. Pour into a small bowl and let cool slightly.

For Salmon

1 to 1 1/2 pounds of Salmon filets
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil (I used Safflower)
Tamari and Honey Glaze
1 Tablespoon toasted Sesame Seeds

Heat the oven to 400 degree   Place a large piece of Aluminum foil on a baking sheet and cover with 1 Tablespoon Oil. Place the Salmon skin side up on the foil and pull up all the sides of the foil. Pour 1/2 of the Tamari and Honey Glaze over the fish. Or, place the Salmon in the foil skin side down and pour the glaze over. Seal the foil and place in the oven to bake for 15 - 20 minutes for a thick piece of Salmon. For a thinner piece, it will take only about 10 - 12 minutes.

Take the Salmon out of the oven and turn the oven to broil. Open the foil packet very carefully and pull the foil away from the fish. Remove the fish from the foil packet and place the Salmon directly onto the baking tray with a large spatula, this time with the skin side down. Or, just open the packet if you have placed the Salmon skin side down.  

Brush the top of the Salmon with the remaining glaze and place into the broiler for about 5 - 7 minutes to caramelize the glaze, being careful not to burn it. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with Sesame Seeds. Lay over a bed of Simple Rice Pilaf to serve.

Simple Rice Pilaf

2 Tablespoons Salted Butter
1 Shallot, minced
2 cups Basmati Rice
3 1/3 cups Chicken Broth 

In a small pot, melt the Butter and add in the Shallots. Cook, stirring until you can smell their fragrance and add in the Rice. Cook until the Rice becomes a bit opaque and add in the Chicken Broth  Bring to a boil and cover.  Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, fluff with a fork and put the cover back on for 5 minutes.

Five Element Analysis

Salmon belongs to the Water Element and the Tamari and Sesame Seeds add even more.  The Wood Element is represented but the Chicken Broth in the Rice and the Green Vegetable you serve. The Fire Element is present just a little bit in the Rice Wine and White Pepper. The Honey contributes the Earth Element and the Rice, Shallot and Butter add the Metal Element.  Add a dessert made from a Fire fruit would make this a balanced Five Element meal!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Corn Salad with Italian Flavors

I clearly can't resist the lure of fresh corn at the Farmer's Market as I bought it again. So, I decided to make a Corn Salad with Italian flavors as the Tomatoes were also looking good. This is a very simple salad and tastes a like a Caprese Salad full of fresh Tomatoes and some Basil minus the Mozarella Cheese and of course adding Corn. My daughter in law suggested that we add some cubed Mozarella, but I didn't have any and I do think it would be a good addition. In this salad, I did peel the Tomatoes to highlight the difference in textures between the Tomatoes and Corn. It was a lovely and delicious side dish for a summer evening!

Corn Salad with Italian Flavors

2 large Ears of White Corn, shucked
3 Roma Tomatoes
20 or so Basil Leaves, cut into little pieces
2 - 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Optional:  8 oz. Mozarella Cheese cut into cubes

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the Corn for 3 - 5 minutes. Put the Roma Tomatoes into the water for 1 minute and then remove to peel off the skin and chop. Remove the corn when done and cool before slicing the corn off the cob.  

Place the Corn kernels and the Tomato (and Mozarella Cheese if using) in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the chopped Basil Leaves and Salt and pour on the Olive Oil, tossing to mix.

Five Element Analysis

Corn is sweet and yellow so it belongs to the Earth Element. The Tomatoes contribute the Fire Element and the Basil Leaves add in the Metal Element. Mozarella Cheese would bring in even more Metal.  The Olive Oil adds the Wood Element. Only the Water Element is missing which is why we served this as a side dish to grilled fish.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Cherry Clafoutis - Gluten Free

Cherry season is just starting here in Washington and I’m getting a bit impatient for the best Cherries to show up. So, I ended up buying some of the first Cherries I found at the Farmer’s Market and they just weren’t fully ripe. So, I will wait until next week to get some better ones as I like to get them fresh from the growers. And, whenever I have fruit that is underripe or a little overripe, I cook it. So, I decided to make a Cherry Clafoutis. This is one of the desserts that I used to love to make during summer and just haven't thought about making it since I've gone Gluten Free. 

For those of you who don’t know, Calfoutis is a French dessert that is like a cross between a flan and a cake and I think it tastes like a Dutch Baby Pancake. It is usually made with dark red Cherries with the pits left in to give it a bit of almond flavor. I don’t like having to pit cherries when they are already in my mouth, so I add just a bit of Almond Extract instead. I used Soy Milk although you can certainly use regular Milk. You can also add other stone fruits, cut up and even Blueberries, but then it is called a Flaugnarde. After it comes out of the oven, it falls slightly and is dusted with Powdered Sugar and served warm.

I was so pleased at how my Clafoutis turned out and I thought it was beautiful with Queen Anne Cherries, although dark red Cherries are a bit more dramatic looking. It also tasted just like it was supposed to – delicious!  If there’s any left after you serve it, Clafoutis is also very good for breakfast! 

Cherry Clafoutis – Gluten Free

3 Large Eggs
2 Tablespoons Melted Butter
1 ¼ cups Soy Milk or Regular Milk
2/3 cup Sugar
1 cup Gluten Free Flour (I used King Arthur Gluten Free Multi Purpose)
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
½ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
½ teaspoon Almond Extract
3 cups pitted fresh Cherries
1 heaping Tablespoon Powdered Sugar

Turn the oven on to 400 degrees. Butter a deep dish glass pie pan. In a bowl, mix 2 Tablespoons of the Sugar with the pitted Cherries.

In a mixing bowl, combine the Soy Milk, the remaining Sugar, Butter, Eggs, Vanilla and Almond Extracts and Flour. Whisk until mixed – it should feel like pancake dough. 

Pour into the prepared pan and place in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes. Then turn down the heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for another 15 – 20 minutes or until the top is lightly golden brown and the Clafoutis is springy to the touch.  Remove from oven and cool. Sprinkle with Powdered Sugar sifted through a metal strainer before serving. Serve warm if possible. 

Five Element Analysis

Well as a dessert, you know this is primarily an Earth food, but the Cherries bring in a good amount of the Fire Element and the Extracts, Gluten Free Flour, Butter and Milk contribute quite a bit of the Metal Element too.  So this s a very good dessert for a meal with Seafood or Pork Sausages as the main dish and green vegetables as the side to bring in the Water and Wood Elements for a balanced Five Element meal. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Sorghum BLT Salad

The really good thing about being Gluten Free is that you end up adding all these other grains to your diet, most of which that I never even thought of eating before. And they are delicious. One of these grains is Sorghum, which I've learned to pop - it's like little mini popcorn and it's so good!  encourage you to add Sorghum to your kitchen cupboard as it is a highly nutritious and delicious grain But I wanted to find some other ways to use this amazing grain, so today I created a kind of Pasta Salad but substituted Sorghum. When you cook Sorghum, it ends up looking a bit like Israeli Couscous, so it it certainly good as a side dish to stews and it can be added to soup. In this recipe, I treat it like Pasta. I made some Sorghum by cooking it in Chicken Broth to give it some flavor and because I was craving a BLT sandwich and I'm out of GF Bread, I made  BLT Salad instead. It was so good!  I added chopped Tomatoes, crumbled Bacon and just a bit of Mayonnaise - Sir Kensington brand - my new favorite.  I served it on top of a bed of Iceberg lettuce and it was the perfect Summer lunch!

Sorghum BLT Salad

1/2 cup Sorghum
1 1/2 cups Chicken Broth
2 large Roma Tomatoes, cored and diced
4 - 6 pieces of Bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 Green Onions, trimmed and sliced into small pieces
2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
1/2 head Iceberg Lettuce, washed and torn into bite size pieces

In a small pot, add the Sorghum and Chicken Broth and bring to a boil. Turn down heat to simmer and cover, cooking for 45 - 60 minutes. Sorghum should be chewy tender.  Remove from heat Drain any additional liquid if any is remaining and let cool.

Add the Sorghum to a mixing bowl. Add the Tomatoes, Bacon Pieces, Green Onion pieces and Mayonnaise. Stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Place lettuce leaves on a serving platter and mound the Sorghum mixture on top to serve.

Five Element Analysis

Sorghum is considered an Earth food in Chinese Medicine and it is very good for the Spleen and Stomach. The Green Onions add the Metal Element, whereas the Bacon contributes the Water Element. The Wood Element is represented by the Chicken Broth and the Tomatoes make sure that the Fire Element is present too. This is a balanced Five Element food and lovely for a summer lunch!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Corn with Asian Flavors

I bought an abundance of fresh Corn at the Farmer's Market and cooked as quickly as I could as my Pennsylvania Dutch grandfather taught me to do. He was so obsessed with fresh Corn that he wouldn't even pick it unless the pot of water was on the stove ready to cook it! I remember that the Corn was so delicious cooked this way, as it just bursts with fresh Corn flavor and you barely needed any butter. I don't grow my own Corn, so the Farmer's Market corn is the next best thing and they always assure me that it was picked only the day before and sometimes that morning. I sometimes think I can tell the difference  In any case. I bought more corn than we could eat so I had to think of some new way to use it. I cut the kernels off the cob and then sautéed some Green Onion tops in Salted Butter and then added the Corn and some Tamari - Asian style.It was so simple and so delicious! The Tamari (you can also use Soy Sauce) adds a unique savory taste that I think balanced out the sweetness of the Corn. The flavor was so intriguing that the more I ate, the more I loved it! I may start making a Tamari, Green Onion and Butter Sauce to spread on fresh cooked Corn on the Cob, I loved the flavors so much. So, here's a new way to dress your fresh corn. This is a great side dish with BBQ, especially if you are grilling meats with Asian flavors like Ribs. I hope you enjoy Corn this way too!

Corn with Asian Flavors

4 ears of corn, shucked and cooked (boiled for no more than 5 minutes)
3 Tablespoons Salted Butter
4 Green Onions, green tops only, sliced thin
1 Tablespoon Tamari (or Soy Sauce)

Cut the cooked Corn kernels off the cob carefully using a serrated knife.  

In a large frying pan, heat and melt the Butter. Add in the Green Onions and the Corn and cook until hot. Then sprinkle on the Tamari and stir to blend.  Serve hot.

Five Element Analysis

Corn is a very Earthy food as it is sweet and yellow. The Butter and Green Onions bring in some of the Metal Element and the Tamari adds just a hint of the Water Element. If you serve this with Pork Spareribs as I did, it contributes more of the Water Element. I also made a Spicy Sichuan Cucumber Salad that brought in Vinegar for the Wood Element and lots of Chili Oil for the Fire Element and made some Rice for the Metal Element.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Romesco Sauce

I roasted several Red Peppers the other day and then didn't use them as I expected to for Bruschetta. So, I made them into a Romesco Sauce instead. This is a Spanish sauce, - actually it's from Catalan - that combines roasted Red Peppers with Garlic and Olive Oil and ground Almonds or other nuts like Hazelnuts or Pine Nuts. Some cooks add in some Tomato Paste, but I like the pure faste of the Peppers. Others add some Smoked Paprika, which is good, but I think it tends to dominate the flavor. In a pinch, you can use bottled roasted Red Peppers, but it just doesn't have the same depth of flavor. I keep it simple and the end result is a delectable dip or spread that I think is just perfect for Sandwiches - my personal favorite is to make Chicken or Roast Beef Sandwiches with it or to serve it with broiled Fish. Originally it was developed to be served with grilled Fish and even as a dip for grilled Spring Onions. I often serve it as a dip with Rice Crackers and really, anyway that you serve it, Romesco Sauce is delicious!  

Romesco Sauce

3 Medium Red Peppers, cut in half, seeds and membranes Removed
1/2 - 3/4 cup Raw Whole Almonds (no need to peel)
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil for roasting + 2 additional Tablespoons for Sauce
2 teaspoons Red Wine Vinegar
1 large Garlic Clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Optional:  1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste or 1/2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika (Pimenton)

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover a sheet pan with parchment. Take the 6 Pepper Halves and drizzle 2 Tablespoon of the Oil over the cut side. Turn over and drizzle the remaining 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil over the top. Place in the oven and roast until the tops of the Red Peppers become lightly blackened and blistered - about 25 minutes. Remove Peppers to a bowl with Tongs and cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and let steam for an additional 20 minutes.  When cool, peel off the skin and cut into strips. There should be about 1 - 1/2 cups.

Place the Almonds in a food processor and finely chop them - if there is more than 1 cup Red Pepper, use 3/4 cup almonds. Add in the roasted Red Peppers, the 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, the Red Wine Vinegar, Garlic Clove and Salt. You can also add in the Tomato Paste or Smoke Paprika if you are using them.  Puree until smooth. Place in a container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serve at room temperature.

Five Element Analysis

With the main ingredient being Red Peppers, this is a Fiery food and Tomato Paste and Smoked Paprika, if you use them, add even more Fire. The Wood Element is seen in the Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar.  The Almonds bring in the Earth Element. The Water Element is missing, which is why this sauce would be so good with Fish and I serve it with Rice Crackers which contributes the missing Metal Element.