Posts from the ‘Cooking Techniques’ Category

Red Velvet Beet Cake

This is attempt number two in efforts to create a more cake-like red velvet made with beets. The first attempt of making this cake was a failure that actually turned into tasty dark chocolate brownies. My adaption was a big success! The confection had a nice cake consistency and sweet flavor. The folks at my work greatly enjoyed it (despite that most of them are not accustomed to gluten-free or vegan specialty foods; some even asked for my recipe). Unlike the brownies, the cake batter has more fruit puree, no chocolate chunks, and less cacao powder and beet puree, so it is not as dense. I used the same frosting recipe as with the brownies.

Red Velvet Slice 01

Red Velvet Beet Cake
Adapted recipe from Jen Cafferty’s recipe on the Gluten-Free Food Examiner.

Yields 15 to 20 Servings

Ingredients
2 T Chia or Flax Seeds, course ground
6 T Warm Filtered Water
1 C Cacao Powder
1/2 C Unsweetened Apple Sauce
1 1/2 C Unsweetened Pureed Pears
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 – 1 1/2 C Evaporated Cane Juice or Turbinado Sugar
1 3/4 C Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 tsp Xanthan Gum
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
2 Medium Beets, scrubbed, trimmed
1 T Fresh Lemon Juice
2 oz Gel or Liquid Red Food Coloring
Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
Red Sanding Sugar, optional*

Red Beets

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub the beets clean with a vegetable cleaning brush under cool water. Trim off the end of the tail and the top. Foil-wrap beets and place on foil-lined baking sheet. Roast 45 minutes. Cool slightly on wire racks away from heat. Unwrap and quarter. Puree in food processor with lemon juice. Set aside.

Foil-Wrapped Beets

In a small bowl, beat chia or flax seeds and water with a fork until smooth to create “egg” substitute. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent clumping.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour-dust a glass 9″ x 13″** baking dish. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix cacao, apple and pear sauces and vanilla. Set aside.

Into a medium bowl, sift flour, xanthan gum, 1 cup sugar, soda and salt. With an electric mixer, gradually add in cacao-apple mixture. Blend in “eggs,” beets, and food coloring. Beat until fully incorporated. Adjust batter to desired level of sweetness with remaining sugar, mixing in a quarter cup at a time.

Red Velvet Beet Cake

Bake for at least 30 minutes (mine took 70) or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool thoroughly on wire rack.

 

Frost and decorate as desired. If you are using frosting that was prepared ahead of time and chilled, let it soften at room temperature to prevent separation. Make sure to stir it well before applying it to the cake. Serve and enjoy!

Decorated Cake 01

*To include a colorful decoration without adding extra sugar, even out the cake with a long serrated knife, carefully slicing off the top and trimming the sides to make them flat and level. Crumb the cut-off potion in a food processor. Use the crumbs in lieu of sanding sugar to decorate the cake after frosting.

Red Velvet Slice 02

**If desired, bake the cake in two round cake pans. Use the frosting as the cake topping and filling.

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Pudgy Pies

I first tried out cooking hand pies with this method several years ago while car camping with Adriann and a bunch of other friends. I tested out hers to make a very yummy snack and have wanted a set ever since, especially now that we have a fire pit on our back patio. Unfortunately, other than on Amazon or other online stores, pie irons are rather challenging to find. So when I saw them in one of our local overstock stores, I bought two right away as an early Valentine’s Day gift for my husband. Pie irons are fantastic usually long-handled cast iron hand-pie makers (like a waffle irons) for cooking over an open flame or camp fire. You can either use dough or slices of bread to make the piecrust, but keep in mind that thinner crusts will allow more room for fillings. They are easy to make in these irons and are an incredibly simple comfort food. The outside is nice and toasty, while the fillings are warm and gooey on the inside. Since you get to choose your own toppings, you can make the pies meaty, cheesy, vegan, gluten free, healthy, or however you like.

Pie Irons

To make a hand pies, put a slice oil or butter-side down (to prevent it from sticking to the iron) onto the bottom half of the iron. Place your fillings, like fruit preserves, chocolate, nut butter, meat, eggs, cheese, etc., in the center of the bottom bread slice; make sure you include an ingredient that acts as a binding agent, otherwise the pie will not stay together as well. Lay a second slice of bread over the top of the fillings with the oiled side up. Close the the iron, so the top bread slice covers the filling. Clamp the iron closed. Trim off any excess bread sticking out from the sides of the iron. Place the cast iron over the fire, holding onto the wooden (or otherwise insulated) handles. Bake the hand pie for about four to six minutes rotating occasionally.

There are all sorts of recipes you can try. Richard O’Russa wrote a great looking cookbook and you can find even more recipes from Rome’s online shop, which features more information about the devices. I am sure you can find other hand pie recipes for baking with pie irons elsewhere on the the internet, as well, like here. You can also check out Pudgy Revolution’s Pudgy Pie Test Kitchen You Tube series, and if you really like their recipe ideas, you can support their pudgie pie cookbook Kickstarter.

Almond Milk

There are generally several types of nuts and seeds that you can buy in the grocery store bulk section, including unsalted, salted, organic, non-organic, gourmet flavors and candied. Due to a law made in response to few years of harmful bacteria contaminated produce, regular raw almonds are illegal to sell in stores, which forced businesses to sell only chemical or high-heat treated almonds. This makes raw almond availability rather scarce, and now raw almonds have to be bought directly from the growers. For some odd reason, this law only pertains to almonds, seeds, grains or other nuts.

I made the strange observation earlier this year that some grocers are selling organic sprouted almonds; I am guessing that this is due to the additional processes that the nuts must go through before they are sold to stores (someone please correct me if I am wrong). Maybe no one thought to sell them this way before, or maybe there was too much speculated financial risk of the projected cost. I am not sure, but these days people are definitely willing to pay for the convenience and availability of store-bought raw almonds. Let me tell you, sprouted almonds are more expensive and have a stronger flavor; a rare few tasted as intense as alcohol-free extract. It might be possible due to their increased nutrients and flavor from sprouting that fewer almonds are needed to make nut milk with the same amount of flavor, which may also help to balance out the price. As these almonds are already prepared through sprouting, they do not have to be soaked, which saves a bit of time and labor. Personally I still like purchasing raw almonds directly from the growers at the farmers market during peak season, since I don’t mind soaking and dehydrating the nuts myself.

Please see my previous cashew milk blog entry for general directions for making non-dairy milk. I have included some suggestions for sweeteners and spices.

Plain Almond Milk
My husband and I prefer to make lots of plain unflavored milk at once, so we can use it in a wide variety of foods, from smoothies to soups. Adjust the milk proportions and flavors as you like.

Yields 6 Cups

Ingredients
2 C Prepared Almonds
6 C Filtered Water
1 Pinch Sea Salt

Directions
Process the almonds, salt and water until the nut pulp is fine and the liquid turns white; the nuts can’t be over-blended. Strain the mixture through fabric, like cheese cloth or a nut milk bag, making sure to squeeze the ground almonds within the fabric to release more liquid without letting the pulp squish through. Set the pulp aside. Store the milk in a sealed jug or jar(s) in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.

Notes:
Reserve the pulp for another batch of milk, or dehydrate it into almond meal to later use.
You can also freeze the milk into cubes to melt into hot tea or coffee or make into ice cream.

Spaghetti Squash

A bit ago, I volunteered for two days at the second annual National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa (of all places). I had a blast and saw so many fantastically amazing animals, fruits and vegetables. One of the great things about the event, was the decorations, which consisted of mostly hard skinned melons, gourds and squash. Since I worked until closing I got to take a bunch home, including three spaghetti squash! Who doesn’t love free organic heirloom produce? For that matter, who doesn’t like free food? I was in absolute awe of the huge piles and towers of melons and squash at the expo, which I hope to post more about another blog entry soon. Now on to the squash!

Spaghetti Squash is an oblong pale to bright yellow skinned variety of winter squash with bright yellow flesh inside that separates into noodle-like fibers. It is a wonderful alternative to wheat-based pasta. A one-cup serving has only 43 calories, 10 grams of carbohydrates and a lot of nutritional value. It has over two grams of fiber, lots of water, three percent of your daily value of calcium and iron, five percent vitamin A, eight percent vitamin B6 and nine percent vitamin C. Check out this site to find out more information.

Small & Large Spaghetti Squash

Here are some ways to prepare spaghetti squash. I prefer to steam it in the oven; see the instructions below. There are lots of recipes on the internet for spaghetti squash that look awfully yummy, especially since you can use it to replace grain-based pasta noodles. How about making an herbed or spiced pasta, like this one over at Smitten Kitchen or the roasted squash recipe from Martha Stewart Living? Just like with regular spaghetti noodles, you can also dress the squash with sauce of many varieties, like this recipe that uses tomato sauce. You can always check out my post on pesto recipes, where I listed a bunch to choose from. This website has even more recipes.

Oven-Steamed Spaghetti Squash

Start with a spaghetti squash of any size. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Be careful when cutting the squash, since it is round. Don’t let the knife slip and cut you. Trim off the ends, occasionally turning the squash order to slice all the way through.

Now cut the squash in half. Use a mallet to get the knife all of the way through if you must to get cut through tough skin. If you do have to use a mallet, firstly, only use a metal knife. Secondly, protect your cutlery by placing a padded layer between the mallet and the knife to prevent denting and warping. I used a silicone gripper for opening tight jars, but you can also use a really thick towel or potholder.

Scoop out the squash strings that run parallel to the long cut edges along with the seeds. You can save the seeds for roasting later; they roast up just like pumpkin seeds.

Put the two halves side by side in a large glass 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish. If your squash is really big, you can use two baking dishes, a basting pan or a broiling pan without the grill. Fill the pan of your choice with half an inch of filtered water.

Cover the pan tightly with foil. Bake the squash for 50 minutes to an hour. Remove the pan from the oven and uncover the squash. Let it cool on a trivet on the counter for 30 minutes or until it is not to hot to handle comfortably.

With a large spoon, separate the skin from the flesh. You may have to peel and break it off a bit at a time with your fingers. Transfer the flesh to a large mixing bowl. Separate the fibers with your hands until they look like noodles. At this time, you can mix in other vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat or vegan sausage and sauce.

Kelp Noodles


Kelp noodles are great! These may look strange, maybe like they made out of plastic, but these sure are edible and healthy. They are like rice-based glass or cellophane noodles but are made out of sea vegetables (kelp and sodium alginate from brown seaweed) and water and can be used just like any other type of pasta noodle. Kelp noodles are a raw, vegan and gluten-free alternative to pastas made out of rice, buckwheat, wheat, and other grains. Think of these noodles like other raw vegetable “noodles” made with “spiralized” zucchinis or cucumbers (this is the slicer I use, and here are some delicious looking recipes) or like cooked spaghetti squash. Since kelp noodles are made out of seaweed, they are rather nutritious, containing your daily value of 15 percent calcium, 4 percent iron and 4 percent fiber, only 6 calories, and no carbohydrates. That’s pretty amazing for a food is that is clear!


Kelp noodles have an extremely mild seaweed flavor and are very easy to season with herbs, spices and dressings. It’s usually a good idea to use some sort of acid in your sauce to marinate the noodles and soften them, unless you like your noodles a bit crunchy. Although the noodles are healthier for you raw, you can cook them with stir-frying or boiling. Kelp noodles are good in soup, salad and pasta dishes. Your possibilities are really endless, since these noodles are so versatile. Sea Tangle Noodle Company makes plain and green tea flavored kelp noodles, and Gold Mine Natural Foods also makes plain flavored kelp noodles, too. There are all sorts of recipes I want to try making with kelp noodles. I’m going to post some more recipes that I want to try out and got a few from the back of the Sea Tangle Noodle Company kelp noodle package.


Kelp Noodle Salad
I adapted this recipe from one that was printed on the back of the kelp noodle package so that we have actual quantities and not just a list of ingredients.
Serves 6

Ingredients
1 pkg Kelp Noodles, rinsed, cut into desired length
3 – 6 T Honey Mustard Salad Dressing
3 Cucumbers, trimmed, seeded, thinly sliced or spiral cut to desired length
6 Carrots, trimmed, sliced thinly
Salt, to taste

Directions
Combine the ingredients in a large glass mixing bowl with a wooden or plastic spoon. Set the sauced noodles aside for 20 to 30 minutes to soften them. Stir in salt to your preference. Serve.

Easy Chicken Tastada Salads

This meal totally felt like cheating. It was way too easy and quick, but I’m glad it was. I can’t eat too late into the night and go to bed right after dinner due to my acid reflux issues. Without time to go to the store or cook anything more complicated, I’m glad we had all of the ingredients to make these. It was a relief to not have to really think about making dinner after a long day of helping my mom at work.

We used my parents’ non-stick tortilla bowl makers, which I had never seen or heard of before. They are amazing! I remember making tostadas when I was younger with flat tortillas that were crisped in an oiled frying pan. (Now mind you, those are really good and provide a sense of nostalgia.) It’s neat to make your own restaurant-style bow

ls without frying; it’s much healthier, too.  Here is a recipe at eHow.com that uses a large metal bowl in the oven as a mould. Another method to make the bowls is in the microwave if you don’t have baking moulds; the tortillas need a little bit of oiling though.

Easy Chicken Tostada Salads
Serves 8 to 10

Salad Ingredients
8 – 10 8″ Guerrero King-Size Gluten-Free White Corn Tortillas
Store-Bought Whole Rotisserie Lemon and Herb Free-Range Chicken, boned, shredded
1  14.5 oz Can Spiced Black Beans, rinsed, cooked to tender in 1/3 C water, strained
3 Small Hass Avocados, skinned, pitted, sliced
1  Lemon or Lime, juice of (1 T)
2/3 C Daiya Pepperjack Style Shreds, optional
2/3 C Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds, optional
2/3 C Queso Fresco Cheese, shredded, optional
6 C Mixed Lettuce Greens, torn into bite-size pieces
1 Handful Red Fingerling or Cherry Tomatoes, halved
1 Handful Golden Cherry Tomatoes, halved
1/2 Cucumber, horizontally halved, sliced
3 Scallions, trimmed, sliced
Favorite Jarred Salsa and/or Hot Sauce of Choice
1  2 1/4 oz Can Pitted Sliced Black Olives, optional
Italian or Mexican Spice and Herb Vinaigrette, optional

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place the tortillas into 2 or 4 non-stick tortilla bowl-shaped shell makers, depending on how many came in your set, on a large jelly roll baking pan or cookie sheet. Bake the tortillas for 15 minutes. Once they are crispy, let the tortillas cool for 5 minutes before  transferring them to a cooling rack or trivet. Repeat baking the tortilla shells in batch until you have enough shells.

In a small bowl, toss the avocados and lemon or lime juice together. Set the avocados aside. Mix the cheeses together in a medium bowl with a fork. (I had to fluff ours, since my brother shredded the cheese the day before and chilled it in the refrigerator in a covered bowl.) Set the cheese aside. Toss the salad ingredients together, from lettuce to scallions,  in a large salad bowl. (I accidentally added the avocado to the to the salad, so I tossed the whole salad in lime juice. After mixing the salad together, we found it hard to find the avocado, since it shifted to the bottom of the bowl with other heavier ingredients.)

Line up your layer bowls to assemble your tostada salad bar. This way everyone can layer the chicken, beans, cheese, salsa, hot sauce, salad, avocado, olives and dressing on their shell as they prefer. (I spooned my salsa on top of my salad layer, where as my parents like theirs between the cheese and salad layers.) Have each person start with a tortilla bowl shell on their plate and then proceed through the line. This is much easier than placing all of the bowls at the dining table and serving every bit family style.

I know I listed a bunch of different options; you can include as many or as few in your tostada salad bar and in your own tostada as you like. Although I like many of the ingredients listed above, I have to limit my consumption of them, so no cheese or salsa fresca for me. (Just in case, I also took a special digestive pill before eating, too.) You can also make yours as spicy or mild as you prefer, too, depending on which spices, salsas or sauces you use.

Although it’s bad for portion control and my metabolism, I had not eaten for several hours while helping my mom at school, so even though I ate my tostada salad slowly, I was still hungry afterward. I think I made the smart choice. In lieu of having a whole other tostada or a sugary dessert, I ate more of the green salad with some of the salsa verde and Italian dressing mixed in. This salad was tasty, satisfying and exactly what I needed. It’s always better to fill up on vegetables that are full of nutrients than carbohydrates late in the day unless you plan on exercising soon after you eat them anyway, or so the fitness and nutrition specialists tell me. 😉

I hope you enjoy this recipe, like my family did. How do you make your tostadas? What garnishes do you sprinkle on top of yours? Which quick and easy meals do you make that only take a few minutes to make? What do you make for yourself and your family when you are tired and pressed for time?

Things I Love Most in My Kitchen Right Now: Part 3

I love my Ninja Master Prep Food Processor!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was another outstanding wedding present from my friends Jessie and Trish (as seen in this post about MacNCheese).  The Ninja Master Prep is awesome. I use this bad boy all the time.

I’ve never used the Magic Bullet   But the Diana at Culinary Therapy loves hers.  That’s guacamole in there, btw.

I’ve used a food processor like this one, but much, much older and clunkier.  I was not a fan of all the hard to store sharp bits.

I use my Ninja at least three times a week, if not three times a day.  Today I used it to chop pecans for banana bread and chop olives for pasta salad (mexican inspired pasta salad with corn, olives, fresh tomatoes, taco seasoning, mayo, and Frank Hot Sauce, for those interested).  I use my ninja for garlic all the time and it still doesn’t smell like garlic.  Onion is also great to chop in here, since I usually cry from chopping onions myself.  Its great for pureeing soup or making smoothies, too.  My next big projects for it are going to be hummus and pesto.  I think why I really like this so much more than my blender is I can get every little bit of my food out of it.  My blender has a section in the bottom under the non-removable blades that just holds stuff.

Do you have a food processor?  Is it collecting dust or whirling away?  What is your favorite use for a food processor?

(No, I am not getting any money for writing this, or any previous post in which I love something.)