Tag Archives: gluten free

Setters & Spotters

Our son Russell was a bit of a trend setter at his Montessori School. During the winter months he didn’t want to stop wearing his favorite short-sleeved tee shirts so he simply layered them over turtlenecks or long-sleeved tops. More than one mother came up to me came up on the playground during pick up time to moan about how their kid insisted on dressing just like Russell (which given the winters in New England seemed like a good thing so I was unclear what all the moaning was all about). Then there was a “unicorn horn” phase, which is where he made a ponytail from his bangs and give this tuft of hair the illusion of being more horn-like he gloped on copious amounts of hair gel (there were not too many copy cats for that trend). He really knew how to rock the mix and match look as you can see below, I’m sure you’ll agree the dinosaur tie is an inspired addition. My son’s personal style was unique and a perfect reflection of who he was. Sometimes I wished I was as self-assured as he was when it came to wearing clothes.Russells favorite mix and match outfitMy Mom likes to tell me I too had some trendy moments in my youth, though they were more focused on food. Thinking back it seems totally logical. Julia Child had opened culinary doors in the 1960s so that by the time I was a teenager, busily taking every home ec course offered at my high school, all sorts of foods were starting to appear in restaurants, cookbooks, some of the more upscale grocery stores, and on TV. Looking back I realize I wasn’t a trend setter like Russell, but rather a trend spotter. Which makes complete sense since my hyper focus on food and cooking allowed me to know when something new, exciting or different was happening. One of the advantages of middle age is that, much like a five-year-old, you really don’t have to give two figs for what other people think, which leaves you wide open to follow your own path – starting a trend, finding one to follow, or merrily pursuing your own non-trendy path. Your choice.Cauliflower on cutting board Though I have practically no interest in current food trends, it doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention to what they are. In case you were wondering cauliflower is the trendy vegetable of 2017 (bye-bye kale and brussel sprouts). Continue reading

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Clementine Cake …. Again

Sometimes you can’t stop thinking about someone, which might be labeled as passionate, obsessive, or in the worst case scenario, as stalker-ish behavior. If that’s how we think of person fixating on another person, what do we call someone who can’t stop thinking about a recipe? More specifically a cake. Obsessive, compulsive, maybe even a little dessert crazy? Whatever you call it, let’s admit it isn’t completely normal. Which pretty much describes me for the last few weeks, making the Clementine Almond Cake again, and again, and again.

If you read about the Clementine Almond cake last month and had your fill then you may want to stop reading now. Or pop over and enjoy some other food blogs like Molly Yeh or Sara & Hugh Forte or Beth Kirby. Of course if you want to follow me down the rabbit hole come along…

One of the things I wondered about with this recipe is the almond flour. I started with Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour, which while yielding delicious results, was rather pricy (in my opinion) at $13/pound. In the weeks I’ve been testing and retesting this recipe Stop N Shop has the almond meal/flour on sale for $10/pound. Trader Joe’s has a version of almond flour with the skin still on which goes for around $6/pound. The skin off version is more delicate in both taste and looks, but the question remains if it is worth nearly twice the price?

Clementine Almond Cake with and without skin in the almond flour

According to two out of my three taste-testers (Dan our plumber, Bill our neighbor and Shawn) Continue reading

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Hit or Miss Valentine

Consistency is not my middle name, at least not when it comes to Valentine’s Day. Sometimes I make cards, often I don’t. Occasionally I’ll bake up dozens of sugar cookie hearts and elaborately decorate them à la Martha Stewart with enough red food dye to make your teeth pink for days. Then the following year(s) I find I can’t be bothered to dig out my heart-shaped cookie cutters, let alone root around in the basement for my box of food dyes. I feel like I’m the poster child for a hit or miss Valentine gal.

Anatomical knitted heart by Hilary Zaloom

My friends are not like me. They actually plan ahead for Valentine’s Day. Hilary’s Vday imagination seems to know no bounds and each year sees her creating something more fantastic than the year before from an anatomically correct knitted heart to  sculpted love token molded from the red wax covering babybel cheeses. Diane’s family celebrates with a meal of red & pink foods. The mother of one of my daughter’s friends goes to an annual Valentine card making party where dozens of people drink hot chocolate and eat fun food while chatting and crafting Vday cards like maniacs. Perhaps I need to wrangle myself an invitation to that soirée. Even Julia Child and her husband Paul sent out Valentine cards instead of Christmas greetings, well they did that because they couldn’t get it together in December, but still.

Valentine's Day card of Julia and Paul Child

This year I found the cake – a glorious cake – with which all Valentine’s Days (and many other days of the year) should be celebrated. It’s path to my oven came by way of Jessica last week on knitting night that she had found in the New York Times, which purports to be an old Sephardic recipe John Willougby got from Ruth Levy who had the cake made for her by a woman named Dawn Datso. Got that? Continue reading

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Indian Pudding as Birthday Cake

Last Friday there were five more candles on my birthday cake than there were when I started this blog. Yup, it’s that time of year. Time to sing the song, put on the birthday hat, and celebrate. Which all happened after a day of zooming back and forth across the state.

Since Isabelle needed to pop over to Hanscom Air Force base to tie up some AFROTC stuff the celebratory birthday eating began at Sofra in Cambridge with their Turkish style breakfast and a pistachio pop-tart. Ana Sorten’s flavor combinations are truly five-star. If you ever are in the greater Boston area I would highly recommend you make time for a detour to check it out. Of course if I, like my sister, lived a few miles from Sofra’s front door I might stop cooking all together.Breakfast at SofraOn our drive back to western side of the state Isabelle asked what I wanted for my birthday dessert, since it’s a tradition in our family that the birthday gal or guy gets to choose the meal and dessert*. Jokingly I told her I wanted, “all the deserts associated with Massachusetts – Boston Cream Pie, chocolate chip cookies, and Indian Pudding.” It wasn’t clear who was going to make the birthday dessert(s) but I knew that somehow there would be something sweet to fill the bill. Honestly I would have been happy to make my own cake/dessert since being in the kitchen is so relaxing; I just didn’t have the time.

When everyone had reconvene back at the house in the early evening we popped over the bridge to the Blue Heron Restaurant for cocktails and hors d’oeuvre. Shawn had a fabu dinner planned at home for later, but I wanted a little bit of an adult beverage sparkle as well as a few foods I was unlikely to cook at home. Their hand cut french fries with homemade truffle mayo are swoon-worthy, as are their chickpea coated fried calamari.

With my birthday bookended by visits to two of my favorite eateries, followed by hubby grilling up some lamby chops, it was a pretty sweet day in the food department. The proverbial cherry on top was Isabelle directing Russell (via text) to stop by Paul & Elizabeth’s restaurant to pick up a few servings of their Indian Pudding. My 55th birthday was complete.Indian Pudding a la ModeIf you didn’t grow up in New England, or spend some time here, it is likely that you have no idea what Indian Pudding is. Continue reading

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Vegan Pumpkin Date Nut Balls

Sometimes you never know what will suit. You can make all the educated guesses you want, but people will surprise you with their likes and dislikes.

So it was interesting for me to note which foods went first at the church coffee hour Shawn and I hosted a few weeks ago. In the blink of an eye two dozen of Rick Ellis’s deviled eggs disappeared, which made me glad, since they had been the last thing I prepared the night before and I almost didn’t make them thinking I had plenty of food (which I did, but then you have the question when is enough enough?). Inspired by Julia Child, the hard-boiled eggs first have their yolks pressed through a chinoise sieve so that the yolks transform into yellow yolk clouds. Next some room-temperature butter blended into the yolk clouds (along with a spoonful of dijon, mayonnaise, a squirt of fresh lemon juice, and a dash of cayenne) which combines to make these the most etherial deviled eggs that will ever pass your lips. Tired and cranky as I was the night before I was glad to have made the effort when I saw what a hit they were.Gluten Free Pumpkin Date Nut BallsThe next platter of food to vanish was Isabelle’s Vegan Pumpkin Date Nut Balls. It almost doesn’t feel like a recipe to me since they don’t go in the oven or get cooked, but they were a smash hit and people were popping them into their mouths as if they were candy. Continue reading

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Golden Weekend

It has been a golden weekend here in Western Massachusetts. Not so much the weather, rather it has been two days of pure gold with what’s been going on. Continue reading

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Hand Held Salad

I’ve been on a roll lately – Vietnamese Spring Roll that is. It started because we had one of those wicked curve balls mother nature loves to throw at New England in late spring. Between mud season and summer we get slammed with a few beastly hot days. Hot enough to make your brain so fried you only think about finding a swimming hole and all the ways to not cook dinner.

After the mini heat wave I had to make food for a few events where there were folks who couldn’t eat gluten. My answer again was platters of Vietnamese spring rolls. Loads of crunchy vegetables and rice noodles wrapped inside a paper-thin pieces of rice paper. They fit the gluten free (and vegan) needs beautifully. 

I also love them because similarly to make-your-own pizzas or maple syrup sundaes you can customize them to anyone’s taste. If you make them small enough so there isn’t any double dipping, they are a great addition to a casual outdoor party. You can also eat them with your hands so I give them a high-five for being fabulous finger food!

vietnamese spring rolls

The secret to Vietnamese spring rolls is prep, prep, and more prep. You really can’t start assembling them until all your ingredients are washed, sliced, and diced. I use my Japanese mandoline for much of the julienne work. Mostly my fillings are based on a hunt through the fridge and garden to see what is available at that moment. If I’m out of scallions I use red onion. My son Russell doesn’t like avocados or mint so I leave then out of his rolls. The noodles don’t need to be cooked – just soaked in hot water for several minutes then drained. If the rolls are more of a dinner item than hors d’oeuvre add a little protein with  either cooked shrimp or tofu. The possibilities are endless.

Fresh Spring Rolls

Carrots, julienned

Hydroponic Cucumber, julienned (I use the skin, but not the seed part)

Mint leaves

Avocados, thinly sliced

Scallions, thinly sliced

Lettuce or baby greens

Rice Noodles, soaked in hot water then drained

Red Onion, thinly sliced

Cooked Shrimp, sliced in half

Firm Tofu, drained and sliced in batons

Spring Roll Papers

Dipping Sauce (we use sweet chili sauce)

making spring rolls

Bowls of prepped vegetables ready to roll

I find these easiest to make one at a time. I wet some paper towels and place them on my work surface then dip a rice paper into the bowl of water making sure all of it gets wet. Don’t leave it to swim. Just dip in, pull out and let drip, then lay it down on the paper towel. It only takes a few seconds. As it starts softening from the water you can start building.

If you want to see a step by step tutorial check out the White on Rice Couple’s blog post on spring roll assembly. I like to close both ends, but if you want to try Diane’s version with one end open go right ahead. Another thing to keep in mind is whatever you put down first will be what shows through the rice paper so if you’re going for pretty build accordingly.

It’s a good idea to put some of the softer foods next to the delicate rice paper to minimize (or hopefully eliminate) tearing. Which means save the carrot sticks for the middle. If, despite your best efforts the spring roll tears when your rolling it up then you have cook’s prerogative to taste test.

rice noodles and wrappers

The choices of spring roll skins is pretty vast. I find them at supermarkets, co-ops, natural food stores, and my international market. The skins are hard discs until soaked in water which means when you store them you want to keep them from getting damp, so don’t forget to seal your ziplock bags tight!

vietnamese spring rolls and dipping sauceI’d love to hear what your favorite combinations are.

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