Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Foto: Chicken-Tomato Soup

The nip of crisp, cool fall mornings is definitely in the air 'round our parts these days, which has us thinking about hearty, flavorful soups that warm us from the inside out. With the last of the season's tomatoes, we whipped up this chicken variation to our standard tomato soup recipe (on page 72 of our cookbook, Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking). In our original recipe, you add chicken stock to tomatoes and sauteed onions and garlic. This time around, we create a chicken stock from scratch first (plus some tasty pulled chicken for the soup) by stewing chicken thighs. The result is a soup with a bit richer and "rounder" flavor, plus the chicken meat, which makes it more of a meal than an appetizer.

Chicken-Tomato Soup

4 chicken thighs
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
8 tomatoes, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Add the chicken and thyme to a pot, cover with water, and boil until the chicken is done (about 1.5-2 hours, or until the chicken falls off the bone easily).
2. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool. Discard the sprigs of thyme (or better, compost them!). Reserve the chicken stock in the pot.
3. Meanwhile, in a second pot, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until the onion is translucent.
4. Add the tomatoes and reserved chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer - stirring occasionally - for about 30 minutes.
5. While the soup is simmering, shred the chicken. After the 30 minutes, puree the soup with a handheld immersion blender, then add the shredded chicken.
6. Continue to simmer the soup until reduced by about a third, roughly 30 more minutes.
7. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Note: Depending on your tomatoes and particular batch of soup, you can simmer for longer to reduce the soup more, thicken the soup, and intensify the tomato flavor. Conversely, if your soup is too thick, you can always thin it down by adding a little bit of water.

We recommend pairing the soup with a nice gluten-free baguette loaf.


- Pete

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Restaurant Review: Waffle Frolic, Ithaca, NY

The Waffle Frolic storefront on the Ithaca Commons pedestrian mall

A No Gluten, No Problem reader familiar with scene in Ithaca, New York recently tipped me off that there was a new gluten-free joint in town: Waffle Frolic, on the Ithaca Commons (Ithaca's downtown pedestrian mall, similar to Church Street in Burlington or Pearl Street in Boulder). As you may know, Kelli and I both graduated from Cornell in Ithaca, and she's originally from Ithaca (with family still in town), so we get back there pretty regularly. Including last month, for my big race. Naturally, I couldn't resist paying a visit to WF.

Where the waffle magic happens...

Ahead of time, I contacted the owners to get the scoop on their gluten-free goodness. They replied (and I paraphrase): "We use a separate waffle iron for our GF waffles, and ensure that all utensils used to make the waffles are all clean. We make all batches of this batter first of the day as well. We change gloves while handling the waffles once a GF ones comes up." Good stuff, and it didn't end there. They continued: "We also keep our fryer GF. Our fried chicken, waffle dogs, etc. are all made with Bob's Red Mill GF all-purpose flour." Sweet. They also stock a variety of other GF goodies, including potato chips and cookies from a local GF bakery.

The standard waffle

Once we were in Ithaca and my big race was over, I did what any responsible GF foodie would do - I made haste to Waffle Frolic and promptly ordered a standard GF waffle with a side of pure maple syrup, plus an order of fried chicken. For breakfast.

The waffle was large, with deep squares perfect for accepting copious amounts of maple syrup. The bottoms of each square were fairly crunchy, while the rest of the waffle was firm but still chewy. The flavor of the waffle - apart from the maple syrup itself - was a bit sweet. My immediate reaction was that it tasted like a "carnival" waffle, the kind you might find at your local county or state fair. In short, it was good. Very good.

The fried chicken

The fried chicken was equally good. Perfectly cooked. Piping hot chicken, moist inside. Crisp gluten-free batter. Surprisingly non-greasy.

The bottom line: if I lived in Ithaca, I could easily see myself developing a Waffle Frolic addiction. Whether for breakfast or for a late-night snack, it truly hit the spot.

- Pete

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cupcake Voting, Revisited

Okay folks. We're a few days into voting, and I've been very excited to see all of your votes coming in! Keep it up!

But I also have to remind people: I specifically said that you can ONLY vote by leaving a comment for your favorite flavor in the post. I also said that you CANNOT vote by email, text or phone. And yet, I've received at least 10 votes by email. I do not have the time to compile those votes and transfer them to the blog post (I'm too busy baking cupcakes with Kelli!). If you emailed me, your vote will not be counted. Please visit the blog post in the link above and cast your vote there.

Also, if possible, please log in when casting your vote, so we can "verify" your identity. Earlier today, we got 3 votes within 4 minutes, all for carrot cake, all by people listed as anonymous. Look. I love carrot cake as much as the next person. But when 3 anonymous people cast 3 votes for the same flavor in 4 minutes, I get suspicious that someone is trying to skew the results. If that's the case, not cool. The whole idea of the vote is to make you - our beloved readers - a real and active part of the cookbook process.

Keep the voting going! So far, it's looking like a tighter race than I thought it might be, with some unexpected front-runners!

- Pete

Monday, October 18, 2010

Let the Cupcake Voting Begin...

Okay everyone. After two weeks of submitting your favorite must-have gluten-free cupcake flavors, it's time to begin the voting. Check out this awesome list of flavors you submitted, and vote for your favorite by leaving a comment in this blog post. After two weeks, we'll tally the results and post the winning flavor on Monday, November 1!

Remember, this is like American Idol or America's Got Talent... Vote! Otherwise don't get upset when your favorite flavor doesn't win.

Also remember, this is not like AI or AGT... You may only vote once. You cannot vote by text or phone or email. You can only vote by leaving a comment in this post!


Carrot Cake
Red Velvet
Pumpkin with Cream Cheese Frosting
Pumpkin Cream Cheese with Cinnamon/Nutmeg Streusel
Turtle Cupcake (nuts, chocolate, caramel)
Pineapple Upside Down
Dark Chocolate with Chocolate Ganache
Chocolate with Fudgy Icing
Chocolate Peanut Butter
Key Lime Pie
Black Bottom Cupcake with Cream Cheese Center
Dark Chocolate with Coconut Center
Lemon Blueberry
Lemon Poppyseed
Butter Pecan
Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Double Chocolate Chip Zucchini with Cream Cheese Frosting
Marble Cake
Gingerbread/Spice Cake with Cream Cheese or Pineapple Frosting

Thanks for all the wonderful submissions! (I list them basically in the order in which they were submitted...) Let the voting begin...

Cheers, Pete

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Foto: Cherry-Vanilla Cupcake

For today's Friday Foto, I thought I'd keep it simple... and also give you a bit of a preview with what we've been up to lately, working on the upcoming cupcake cookbook and all. Fittingly enough, today marks the final day of submissions for your favorite cupcake flavor you'd like to see in the cookbook (the readers' choice cupcake). Monday we'll start the voting! (If you haven't submitted your flavor yet, do it now!)

Not wanting to skew the submissions and voting at all, I've gone with a cupcake flavor no one has yet submitted: cherry vanilla. The cake is built using our Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend, and the cherry-vanilla cupcake features a vanilla cupcake with chunks of fresh (or frozen) cherries, topped with a cherry-vanilla buttercream. Divine. (If I do say so myself...)

Have a great weekend! Time to bake more cupcakes...

- Pete

Monday, October 11, 2010

Gluten-Free Brewing: Sisters Saison

GF Sisters Saison

On Friday - in anticipation of watching some football this past weekend - I did a post about cooking up your own batch of chicken fingers from scratch. And what goes better with football and chicken fingers than beer? They're almost a holy trinity of fall season spectator sport enjoyment.

While there are an increasing number of gluten-free beers hitting the market, I've been continuing to experiment with brewing my own gluten-free beer, partly because I enjoy making the foods I eat from scratch, but also because I'm interested in brewing GF versions of beer styles that haven't yet hit the market (and probably won't anytime soon in a GF iteration). Witness my Sisters Saison.

Saison is a beer style native to Wallonia, a French-speaking agricultural corner of Belgium. It was traditionally brewed during the winter, so that it'd be ready to drink during the summer, especially around harvest time. It was refreshing and low in alcohol, and was something of an "anything goes" style, because - since saisons were brewed during winter - these "farmhouse ales," as they were known, contained whatever grains were leftover from the previous year.

The style has more recently undergone a resurgence in popularity, especially abroad, and especially in the United States. Here, the beer retains much of its traditional character, although we've pumped the alcohol content a bit. Most US saisons are in the 5-8% ABV range.

For my GF saison, I used:

5-6 gallons distilled water
1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp gypsum
12 pounds sorghum syrup
1 oz sweet orange peel
1/2 oz crushed coriander seeds
1 oz Czech Saaz hops
1 oz Amarillo hops
1 tsp Irish moss
White Labs Saison yeast blend

The table salt and gypsum - added to the water - gave me the proper pH and balance of minerals. The sorghum syrup provided the fermentable sugars. The orange peel and coriander rounded out the flavor profile. The Saaz hops were my bittering hops. The Amarillo hops were my aromatic hops. And the Irish moss helped to clarify the beer.

My goal was to create a hoppy, flavorful GF beer in the 7-8% ABV range. At the end of the brew day, things were on track. The starting gravity of the beer was a high 1.076, which only makes sense, because to get higher alcohol content you have to start with higher sugar content. Afraid that the full 5 gallons of sugary wort would shock the yeast, I first made a one pint starter with a little bit of wort so that the yeast could "wake up" and multiply before I added them to the full batch. Then it was time to wait and let them do their thing.

Fermentation took forever (so it seemed). It was six full weeks before the beer was ready to finally bottle. All the while, the yeast were churning away on the sugars, converting them to alcohol. The final gravity for the beer came in around 1.027 - still a bit sweet, but also about 7% ABV, right where I wanted to be. Then I bottled the beers, and a few weeks later, they were ready to drink.

How satisfying the beer is now! Ready to drink at harvest time, and named the "Sisters Saison," since the beer was brewed and bottled over the course of us having our second daughter, Charlotte.

The beer is hoppy, and strong, and quite tasty. The Amarillo hops really come through. The beer did end up a little sweeter than I would have liked. And it has some subtle cidery notes owing to my use of sorghum. But on the whole, it's good stuff!

- Pete

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Foto: Chicken Fingers

Sometimes, I get a serious craving for pub food. Especially now that it's football season. For me, two appetizers that come to mind more than any other are mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers. Page 56 of our cookbook, Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking, includes a recipe for mozzarella sticks. In today's Friday Foto, we tackle the other half of the equation - chicken fingers. Sure, you can always go with a store-bought convenience chicken finger from the gluten-free section of your supermarket's freezer - such as Bell & Evans, which we recommended in our Chicken Fingers Versus post - but making them from scratch is pretty easy, you can probably do it for cheaper, and you have total control of the ingredients and process. (Plus, the finished product is mighty tasty...)

Chicken Fingers

1 pound chicken breasts, cut into strips
Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend
2 eggs
2 tbsp water
1 1/3 cups GF bread crumbs
Garlic Powder
Dried Oregano
Dried Basil
Olive Oil

1. Add about half a cup of GF flour to a shallow bowl. Whisk together the eggs and water in a second shallow bowl. Add the GF bread crumbs to a third shallow bowl. Season each with salt and pepper. Add some garlic, basil, and oregano to the bread crumb bowl and stir to mix.
2. In a medium to large skillet, add enough olive oil to cover a chicken finger about halfway. Bring up to temperature over high heat, then monitor the temp to keep it sizzling hot, but below the oil's smoke point.
3. Meanwhile, start breading your chicken fingers. Dredge first in the flour on both sides. Then coat in the egg wash. Finally, give it a coating of bread crumbs.
4. Pan fry in batches, until golden brown on one side. Then flip the chicken and pan fry on the other side. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate and let cool. (You can always cut through your thickest chicken finger to make sure they're cooked all the way through.) Repeat until you've cooked all the chicken.


Bread Crumb Tip: Lately, our go-to method for making quick and easy bread crumbs is to buy a box of standard Almond Nut Thins. Pulse them in a food processor to make crumbs as fine as you'd like. Then season as per the recipe above with salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano, and dried basil. This method makes exactly 1 1/3 cups of GF bread crumbs. Easy!

- Pete

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Product Review: Estrella Damm Daura Gluten-Free Beer

In the United States, we've come to understand that "gluten-free beer" means not just beer without gluten, but more specifically, beer brewed with gluten-free grains, such as sorghum, rice, corn, millet, quinoa and buckwheat. In Europe, on the other hand, the landscape of gluten-free beer is a bit more complicated. Yes, you have GF beers brewed from GF grains. But you also have GF beers brewed from barley - yes, barley - in which the gluten that would normally be present in the beer is removed through a specialized brewing process. Perhaps most confusing of all, you have brewers - such as Estrella Damm in Barcelona, Spain - who brew two "identical" versions of the same beer, one gluten-free, the other not.

Estrella Damm and Estrella Damm Daura provide a case in point. Both are essentially the same beer...described as a Spanish or Mediterranean style Pilsener. However, the Daura version goes through a special brewing process, reliably removing the gluten to a level below 6ppm, less than one third the international standard for gluten-free certification. (I won't go into the specifics of how they get the gluten out here...that's for a different post.) The beer has earned quite the accolades, taking home the title of "world's best gluten-free beer" at the World Beer Awards in 2008 and 2009. (In an insult to us GF beer drinkers, for 2010 the WBA didn't include a GF beer category. Harumph!)

When I saw a four-pack of 11.2-ounce bottles of the Daura beer at my local liquor store, I couldn't resist picking some up (despite the $8.78 price tag). It's been years since I'd had a barley-based beer. After drinking alternative gluten-free grain beers for the last 3.5 years, and hearing - seemingly incessantly - how inferior they were to "real" beer brewed from barley, I expected my first sips of Estrella Damm Daura to be like the clouds parting and the heavens singing. Instead, I was disappointed.

Sure, the beer had a distinct barley flavor that simply doesn't come through in American gluten-free beers. And yes, the beer lacked any of the cider-y, sweet notes common to many GF beers, especially those brewed from sorghum. But its overall flavor was mediocre at best. It reminded me of all the cheap barley beer I've had in my life. In fact, the most immediate reaction I had to the beer was a flashback to my early college years, when we drank pretty much whatever we could get our hands on, or afford. (Ahh, what a trip down memory lane...)

Don't get me wrong. The beer is good, and quite drinkable. A few cold bottles easily slide down the hatch on a warm fall afternoon. But if you find yourself faced with an American GF beer brewed from GF grains, and a European GF beer brewed from barley, you'd be wrong to immediately assume that the barley-based beer would taste better. Estrella Damm Daura is a good addition to the spectrum of GF beers, and it's definitely worth a look - especially because it tastes so different from what else is out there. At the end of the day, though, I'm becoming increasingly convinced that the best GF brewers out there can do as much with gluten-free grains as other brewers can with barley.

- Pete

Monday, October 4, 2010

Our next cookbook!

This is the first Monday in more than 5 months that I haven't posted a Physical Challenge update. (That only makes sense, given that the physical challenge itself - the Virgil Crest Ultra - was last weekend.) It seemed only fitting to mark this Monday with another kind of big news. And on that front, Kelli and I are delighted to announce the scheduled publication of our next cookbook! It's due out in Spring 2011, and is coming from The Experiment Publishing, the same folks that brought you our debut release, Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking. This time around, we're focusing on one thing: gluten-free cupcakes.

Right now we're up to our eyeballs in recipe testing and photography. But given that the book isn't due out until Spring 2011, why are we telling you now? Because we want you to be a part of the process! What is your favorite cupcake flavor? What "traditional" cupcake is an absolute must-have in a gluten-free version, because life isn't worth living without it? Tell us, by leaving a comment on this post.

We'll compile the responses for the next two weeks, running through Friday, Oct 15. Then, starting on Monday, Oct. 18, we'll open up the list to two weeks of voting by you, the readers of No Gluten, No Problem, running through Friday, Oct. 29. The cupcake flavor that gets the most votes will be included in the cookbook, and the person that originally submitted the flavor suggestion will receive a complimentary signed copy of the book upon publication. The winning flavor will be announced here on Monday, Nov 1. Sound good?

So start your engines, and let the cupcake creations begin...

- Pete