Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Foto: Spinach Almond Pesto

After talking about it for weeks, I can finally say it - spring is definitively here! We're beyond the threat of frosts, the daily temperature's been climbing, and there's been no shortage of rain. Our garden is off to a great start...tomatillos, 3 types of tomatoes, 2 types of peppers, walla walla onions, and more are all vigorously germinating and growing from seedlings into full-fledged plants.

Of course, we have basil. Lots of it. Just in the last week, the plants have undergone changes. The two tiny leaves present when the basil germinated have given way to the first larger, shiny, fragrant leaves that we all think of with basil. If you gently rub your fingers on them and take a whiff, there's the unmistakeable scent that can only be basil.

These developments have me thinking of later this summer, when I expect we'll be making plenty of pesto (usually made with basil and pine nuts). For today's pesto, though, we're bucking the traditional version and sharing an alternative pesto of Kelli's creation made with spinach and almonds. We both remarked how much like pesto it still tasted. (We'd probably need to taste the two pestos side by side to really note the differences.) Regardless, it's a fresh, healthy and flavorful way to dress up your gluten-free pasta.

Spinach Almond Pesto
Makes about 6 servings

5 ounces fresh baby spinach
3/4 cup whole blanched almonds, lightly toasted (400 deg F for 6 minutes)
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup extra light olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb cooked gluten-free pasta
Pecorino Romano cheese (optional)

1. If you haven't done so already, lightly toast your whole blanched almonds by roasting them in the oven at 400 deg F for about 6 minutes.
2. Add the spinach, almonds, and garlic and pulse to combine and form a paste.
3. With the food processor running, drizzle in about 1/3 cup olive oil (using slightly more or less as necessary) to achieve the desired consistency.
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Add to your favorite cooked gluten-free pasta and toss to coat.
6. Serve, optionally topping with a little bit of grated Pecorino Romano cheese.


This recipe is: gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, fish-free, shellfish-free, refined-sugar-free, vegetarian, vegan

- Pete

P.S. In the interest of bloggerly love, we've also posted this recipe over at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free's Slightly Indulgent Tuesday post.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

More Flour for Thought

In keeping with the "rewind" theme of recent weeks, today I'm rewinding the blog and taking a look back at the Great Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend Nutritional Comparison. Originally encompassing 9 prominent GF flour blends, it now includes 12 blends, plus the additional of two forms of wheat flour. The results paint an even more comprehensive and insightful picture of nutrition in gluten-free baking. Enjoy and ponder...

- Pete

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Foto: Easter Cupcakes

Passover is in full swing, and Easter is now just three days away. It's a festive time that for me brings back many fond memories from my childhood...and ushers in continued traditions that I look forward to each year. Like mock cake, a Polish sweet bread with poppy seed filling that we bake each Christmas and Easter.

This Easter is different for us than ones in years past. When we lived in Colorado, we celebrated Easter with our "Colorado family." It was a wonderful, warm gathering of friends who are as close to us as our blood relatives are. Now that we live in the New York's Hudson Valley, our Colorado family is far off, but our blood family is in our own backyard. On Sunday, we'll head to Kelli's sister and brother-in-law's house in northern New Jersey.

We offered to bring dessert, and they happily accepted. Our plan is to bring fruit tart cupcakes (upon request), but we couldn't resist the opportunity to make an extra batch of Easter-themed cupcakes. As many of you know, our second cookbook - Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes - comes out in just five weeks! So, we repurposed the chocolate cupcake recipe from the book, paired it with a chocolate American buttercream (powdered sugar frosting) also from the book, and topped it with sweetened flaked coconut and pastel colored candy to create these cute bird's nest cupcakes.

Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp GF pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend
1 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 tsp GF baking powder
3/4 tsp GF baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Line a standard cupcake tin with paper liners.
2. Heat the butter, water and cocoa in a saucepan over medium heat until the butter is melted.
3. Meanwhile, put the sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the butter-cocoa mixture and mix at low speed for about 5 minutes, until cool.
4. Add the egg and mix to incorporate.
5. Add the sour cream and vanilla, mix to incorporate, and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
6. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients - the flour through the salt - and whisk to mix.
7. Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix for about 10 seconds at medium-low speed to incorporate with the wet ingredients.
8. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for an additional 5 seconds at high speed, just until everything is mixed and smooth.
9. Divide the batter evenly among the paper-lined cups. Make the top of the batter as smooth as you can.
10. Bake for 25 minutes.
11. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove from the tins and let cool completely on a wire rack.
12. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the chocolate frosting.

Chocolate Frosting
Makes enough for 12+ cupcakes

1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick), room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp GF pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup GF semi-sweet chocolate chips or pieces, melted

1. Cream together all ingredients except the melted chocolate, until light and fluffy.
2. Mix in the melted chocolate. If the frosting is too thick, mix in additional heavy cream 1 tsp at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.

To finish the cupcakes:
1. Use a small palette knife (or whatever works) to spread each cupcake with a layer of chocolate frosting. Leave the frosting higher around the edges, so you have a depression in the middle.
2. Sprinkle the perimeter of the cupcake with sweetened flaked coconut.
3. Place 2-3 candies in the center of each coconut "nest."


This recipe is: gluten-free, peanut-free, fish-free, shellfish-free.

A couple of notes:
1. To make this recipe egg-free, dairy-free, refined-sugar-free, and/or vegan, follow these recommendations for allergen-free baking.
2. We used pastel-colored peanut M&Ms for our "eggs" in the nests, but you could also use gluten-free jelly beans, chocolate eggs, candied almonds, or any other GF candy of your preference.

- Pete

P.S. In the interest of bloggerly love, we've also posted this recipe over at Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free's Slightly Indulgent Tuesday post.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Something to Wine About

Spring is a season known for rebirth. Easter, just a week away, is about another kind of rebirth. And recently on this blog, we've been going through a rebirth of yet another kind. We're revisiting old blog posts and updating them with new information. One of last week's posts - Worth the Weight - took a look back at the Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend post and recipe, which we've updated with grams measurements for all you bakers who like to do your thang by weight instead of by cup measure.

This week, we're taking a look back at Wine, Lose or Draw, in which we addressed some common concerns and myths about the gluten-free status of wine. Earlier this month, a new peer-reviewed study came out that raised new concerns in the debate. (Many thanks to No Gluten, No Problem reader Mike D. for tipping us off to the new study!) We recap the study, and provide our own analysis of the results. If you need a refresher, the full blog post is there to read. For those of you already familiar, just scroll down to the update to get all the dirty details.

Lastly, let's pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly and do a little announcing the winners of last week's Evol Bowls giveaway! Using our trusty random number generator, we've selected five winners to each receive a coupon for a free Evol Bowl. One lucky grand prize winner also gets a T-shirt. The winners are:

Malia J.
Elizabeth P.
Cathy P.
Lorraine H.
Diane M. (grand prize winner!)

Congratulations everyone! And thanks to everyone who tossed your name in the hat. Winners, please email me your mailing address so we can send you your goodies!

- Pete

Photo courtesy Stock.Xchng / HybridSis

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Foto: Black Bean Soup

Lately we've been making a lot of pureed soups. They're a great way to sneak lots of different vegetables into a super tasty dish. Plus they're easy to make and easy to clean up! Today's black bean soup recipe is a perfect example. Kelli dreamt up the recipe, though I'll take credit for the addition of the corn, which makes for a nice sweet touch to the dish.

Black Bean Soup
Makes 2-3 servings

3 strips bacon
1 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
1/2 cup diced tomatoes with liquid (from a can)
1/4 cup corn kernels, plus extra for garnish
1 15.5-oz can black beans, rinsed
2 cups GF chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the bacon strips in half, then cook in a medium saucepan until crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside. When cool, crumble.
2. Saute the onion and garlic in the bacon fat over medium heat, until the onions are soft and translucent.
3. Add the spices and saute for 30 seconds more.
4. Add the tomatoes, corn, beans and chicken stock, plus 2/3 of the crumbled bacon, and puree with an immersion blender.
5. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to simmer and cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until reduced by at least 1/3 and until the soup reaches the desired consistency.
6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
7. Serve, garnishing each bowl with corn kernels and crumbled bacon.


This recipe is: gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, shellfish-free, fish-free, refined-sugar-free.

The recipe is easily made vegetarian by omitting the bacon and using vegetable stock in place of chicken stock, but I'll admit...the bacon really adds another dimension to the flavor.

- Pete

P.S. In the interest of bloggerly love, we've also posted this recipe over at Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free's Slightly Indulgent Tuesday post.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Product Review: St. Peter's Sorgham Beer

Before you jump all over me for the spelling of this blog post's title, no, that's not a typo. Today we're reviewing St. Peter's Sorgham Beer. (I'm not going to get into whether or not the brewery has misspelled the name of the central grain in their brew... All I'll say is that the Latin name for the genus is Sorghum. Do with it what you will.)

St. Peter's is a brewery based in the United Kingdom. They make plenty of traditional barley-based beers, but they also make a gluten-free beer, which in the U.K. is sold as St. Peter's G-Free, and in the U.S. as St. Peter's Sorghum - ahem, Sorgham - Beer. I've heard about it for a while, but until recently, hadn't seen it at any of my local beer distributors. It's sold in the brewery's signature oval bottle in 500ml quantities, which translates to 1 pint 0.9 oz in the U.S., or not quite a bottle and a half of "standard" beer.

At $6.50 per bottle, it's fairly pricey, and quite a markup over its price in the U.K., where you can buy the same bottle for the equivalent of about $4 U.S. Even so, it's not priced noticeably different from other such imports, like Green's.

Upon pouring a glass, I immediately noticed a nice initial foamy head that lingered for at least several minutes as I got out the camera to snap these photos. St. Peter's describes it as a clean, crisp Pilsener-style lager. (The lager is an interesting choice, given that the brewery is known for its authentic English-style ales.) They also noted aromas of citrus and mandarin (which seems redundant, doesn't it? Isn't mandarin by definition a citrus flavor?). The sorghum beer is brewed with Amarillo hops.

Here's our take on the beer:

Pete - Coarse carbonation. Dry and bitter. A certain maltiness to it (akin to a malted barley beer). Not very hoppy. A different flavor profile than any other sorghum beer I've tried.

Kelli - Smells "beer-y." Pinches the side of your tongue. Missing a depth of flavor component. Lacks finish.

We both agreed that the more we drank it, the more we liked it. But the beer remained dry and bitter. Having brewed myself with sorghum, Amarillo hops and orange peel, it was interesting to see how different this beer tasted - I detected very little of the Amarillo hops, and no citrus notes, in the St. Peter's, contrary to their description.

It's not a refreshing beer like, say, New Planet. That said, there's absolutely a place for bitter beers in the wide world of brewing. It'd be very interesting to directly compare St. Peter's with RedBridge and Bard's, which are also bottled all-sorghum lager beers.

With the steep price and the coming summer, when refreshing beers are more the norm, I probably won't be drinking much St. Peter's. But as an occasional splurge - perhaps paired with a fall Oktoberfest meal - this bitter beer would be a winner and a welcome addition to the gluten-free beer rotation.

- Pete

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Worth the Weight

I'm keeping today's post short and sweet, primarily because it's about an important update to an older post. Many of you have been asking us about baking by weight with the Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend. Well, we finally pulled the trigger on a digital kitchen scale, and at long last, I'm happy report I've updated the recipe. You'll find information for mixing up the blend by weight, and for baking with the blend by weight.  (You'll also find all the old info about mixing and baking with the blend by cup measure.)

To celebrate (heck, we'll use any excuse) we're doing a giveaway. Following our review of the Evol Bowls, the company unexpectedly sent us a little "care package" to say thanks for the review. Well, that's against No Gluten, No Problem product review policy, so as per usual, we're passing the goodies along to you! This time around, we'll pick five (5) winners. Each winner will receive a coupon for one free Evol Bowl, redeemable anywhere they're sold. And one of those five lucky winners will also receive an Evol T-shirt. Email me to enter, and include "Evol Giveaway" in the subject line. I'll accept entries through midnight Eastern time Sunday, and announce the winners Monday next week. Good luck!

- Pete

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Foto: Chicken Tikka Masala 2.0

More than a year and a half ago, we posted a Friday Foto recipe for chicken tikka masala. It was a favorite of ours then, and has remained a favorite since. But over time, the recipe - as we make it regularly at home - has undergone some major changes, such that the version we make so often today is pretty much a distinct recipe from what we made back then.

This was partly a result of natural "drift" in the way we prepared the dish. But it also has been an intentional shift driven by two motivations. 1) The original dish included chicken grilled with a yogurt marinade. We wanted to simplify the preparation to make the dish easier to make and more accessible. (Hence, no grilling and no pre-marinade.) 2) We wanted a better depth of flavor in the sauce, or at least a slightly different flavor profile. Today's Friday Foto is the result.

Chicken Tikka Masala 2.0
Makes 4 servings

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp garam masala
1 14.5-ounce can tomatoes (diced, no salt added)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup GF chicken stock
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Heat a bit of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the chicken until cooked, seasoning with a dash each of salt and pepper. Remove from the pan and set aside.
2. In the same skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter and the additional tbsp of olive oil. Saute the onion, garlic and ginger, until very soft, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the spices and stir to combine. Cook for one additional minute.
4. Add the tomatoes, heavy cream and chicken stock. Using a handheld immersion blender, puree until smooth.
5. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Add the chicken, and simmer for an additional 10-20 minutes. (Simmering for longer will yield a richer, more intense flavor and thicker sauce.)
6. Add the fresh cilantro immediately before serving. Serve over rice.


This recipe is: gluten-free, egg-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, fish-free, shellfish-free, refined-sugar-free.

- Pete

P.S. In the interest of bloggerly love, we've also posted this recipe over at Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free's Slightly Indulgent Tuesday post.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Lesson of Mise en Place

If you've ever prepped ingredients and organized your kitchen before tackling a recipe, then - whether you know it or not - you were probably doing a bit of mise en place. It's a French cooking term that literally means "putting in place," often translated into English as "everything in place." You know...mincing the garlic, dicing the onion, chopping vegetables, measuring spices. Each in its own bowl. Then, when it's time to make a recipe, everything is ready to go and you can simply "plug and chug," as one of my high school math teachers used to say.

The idea of mise en place has all sorts of applications to other parts of our lives. As a writer, I do mise en place when working on a feature story for a magazine. For me, the process of writing is part intuitive and part deliberate action. Usually, the overarching arc of a feature's narrative falls into place in my head, largely without effort. Often while I'm out on a long run. This is the intuitive part. I drop that overarching narrative arc into a Word doc as a rough outline. It helps to organize my thoughts, so that I know how the story weaves together.

Then comes the mise en place, the deliberate effort. Feature stories are complex, requiring multiple interviews and myriad sources of information. Keeping them all in my head, at the ready, as I work my way through an outline, fleshing out a story, is a difficult task. A current feature I'm writing today is a perfect case in point - it involves extended interviews with at least 6 different people, plus more than a dozen additional sources of information. And so, I do mise en place. I take each interview, each source of information, and drop the relevant quotes and info into my master outline where they belong. By the time I've added my last source to the document, my general outline has become a detailed one. I have a recipe (the outline) and the ingredients prepped (the quotes and sources). Mise en place. All that's left is to do the cooking (the writing) plug and chug through my detailed outline and turn that mass of information into a compelling narrative (hopefully, tasty food for the reader).

Living a happy, healthy gluten-free life requires a bit of mise en place, too. You need a positive diagnosis, or at the very least, not a mis-diagnosis. You need the support of family and friends. You need to understand the gluten-free diet, and avoid cross-contamination or overlooked sources of gluten. If any of these components is not in place, it increases the likelihood of failure or bumps in the road.

Another way to think about mise en place is as a foundation. Take the time to build a strong one, put in the initial effort, and what follows gets infinitely easier.

- Pete

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Foto: Chipotle Fish Tacos

As I went to bed last night, I fully expected to wake up to a winter wonderland this morning. The mid-Hudson Valley was under a Winter Storm Warning, and in our neck of the woods, we were expecting 6 inches or more of heavy, wet snow. I can now report that we received exactly zero inches of accumulation. Which leads me to conclude that either a) the National Weather Service was playing an April Fools prank on us all, or b) the meteorologists got their forecast wrong (not that that ever happens...).

And so here I am, beating the same old drum... we're caught in a climatological purgatory, straddling winter and spring. To try to help push Mother Nature decidedly in the direction of spring, I'm channeling a dish we posted in a Friday Foto one year ago, in April 2010. Mahi-mahi fish tacos. Back then, the preparation was simple - fresh fish, seasoned with salt, pepper, fresh garlic, and lemon juice. This time around, we've kicked the fish tacos into high gear, with a chipotle agave marinade. We've broiled them again, but this time we've cut the fish into cubes before coating in the marinade. The result is an oh-so-perfect balance of moist, white fish inside to caramelized deliciousness outside.

Chipotle Agave Fish Tacos
Makes 2-3 servings

1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 tbsp agave nectar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 lb mahi-mahi or other firm white fish, cubed

1. Preheat the broiler in your oven or toaster oven.
2. Combine all ingredients through and including the olive oil in a medium bowl and whisk to mix well.
3. Add the fish and toss to coat.
4. Place the fish, evenly spaced, in a shallow baking/roasting pan. Drizzle the fish with any remaining marinade from the bowl.
5. Broil for about 8 minutes, or until the marinade begins to caramelize, and the fish flakes easily and is fully opaque through the center. During broiling, brush the fish every 2 minutes or so with the marinade in the pan.
6. Serve with a wedge of lime.


This recipe is: gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, shellfish-free, refined-sugar-free.

Note: If your marinade seems too thick, add one additional tbsp each of agave nectar and olive oil. Also, if the fish is caramelizing on top too quickly before it's cooked through, you can always carefully turn over the cubed fish to expose the bottom sides to the broiler.

The fish has a great sweetness with a little bit of following heat (from the chipotle). Squeezing a bit of fresh lime juice over the top really brightens the flavor. We've paired it with fresh corn tortillas, jasmine rice, and sauteed peppers and onions, but you can go as tame or wild as you like your tacos to be!

Have a great weekend!

- Pete

P.S. If you love this recipe, you'll also definitely want to check out our recipe for ancho-agave shrimp!