Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chocolate-Juniper Cake with Milk Jam Crème Fraîche

It took me a while to make this recipe from Bon Appétit, mostly because it seemed complicated at first to adapt it to be lactose-free. And to tell you the truth, I didn’t use crème fraîche, I used lactose-free sour cream, and I really like the extra tang this gave to the mixture, though my milk jam / sour cream ration was higher than called for in the recipe. Basically, the way to make milk jam is to simmer (lactose-free) milk with sugar until the milk turns a reddish-brown, like caramel. The result is not unlike dulce de leche, come to think of it. I made half of the amount in the original recipe and still had plenty for the cake; I smeared the rest on toast. The amount I’m giving below is the one I used, because I don’t see the point of having too much of it left over. The other neat thing about this cake is that it is sliced in bars, which are then rolled around in sugar and caramelized in a pan (this is really fast and not as much of a pain in the a** as it seems).

I was surprised by how much the juniper came through in this cake, and it went quite well with the salt in the moist crumb and the crunchy, sugary exterior. Not to mention the sour cream milk jam mixture! There’s also a mix of hot and cold in this dessert that I find very pleasant. I really, really liked this dish. The Engineer is in agreement, as he said that it was “the most original and interesting cake you’ve made… Yeah. You’ll have to make it again. I heartily approve.” And the second evening, before dessert, he said, “You have no idea how much I’m looking forward to this.”

For the cake
2 tsp. (heaping) juniper berries
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 2/3 cups sugar, plus more for coating
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
¾ cup buttermilk (i.e., 2 or 3 tsp. vinegar and top it up with lactose-free milk)
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. water

For the crème fraîche milk jam
1 cup lactose-free whole milk
½ cup sugar
1 cup lactose-free crème fraîche or lactose-free sour cream

For the cake
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Coat a 13x9x2" glass baking dish with nonstick spray (mine is metal and it worked fine). Line bottom with parchment paper; spray parchment and set aside.

Toast juniper berries in a small skillet over medium heat until aromatic, 2–3 minutes. Let cool. Finely grind in spice mill.

Sift flour, 1 2/3 cups sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and ground juniper berries into a large bowl.

Whisk buttermilk, oil, eggs, and water in a medium bowl. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Pour batter into prepared baking dish; smooth top.

Bake cake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 35–40 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cover and chill in freezer until frozen, about 2 hours. (The cake can be made 3 weeks ahead. Wrap in 2 layers of plastic; keep frozen.)

Unwrap cake and invert onto a work surface; discard parchment. Using a long serrated knife, trim cake to form clean edges. Cut cake in half lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise into 1¼ “–wide bars. (I cut the whole cake, then put the bars I wouldn’t eat right then back in the freezer and did the next step only before serving dessert each time. Believe me when I say it’s worth it.)

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour a layer of sugar onto a plate. Roll each bar in sugar, coating completely. Working in batches, caramelize cake in skillet, turning with tongs to brown evenly, about 30 seconds per side per batch (be careful; the sugar burns quickly). Serve warm, with milk jam crème fraîche.

For the milk jam crème fraîche
Bring milk and sugar to a boil in a medium pot over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar (take care that milk doesn’t boil over). Reduce heat to low. Simmer gently, whisking occasionally, until milk is thick, turns light reddish-brown, and measures scant ½ cup, 40–45 minutes. Transfer jam to a heatproof jar; let cool. (The jam can be made 1 week ahead. Cover; chill.)

Whisk together 1 Tbsp. milk jam and crème fraiche in a small bowl. Add more milk jam to taste to sweeten, if desired. (I used a liberal amount, really.)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Baked Avocados with Salsa

Here’s a recipe that leaves some room for interpretation. Basically, you halve and pit an avocado (or two), fill it with salsa, top it with breadcrumbs and bake it. But the salsa you use can be homemade or jarred, or it can be just plain chopped tomato. You can use olives or bell peppers if you wish. You can omit the breadcrumbs and/or parmesan. The recipe below makes 2 servings as a side; what I did was make more salsa and save it for a second avocado the next day.

1 ripe avocado
¼ cup bread crumbs (gluten-free if you wish)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese (optional, but really good)
1 Tbsp. basil, chopped
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
½ cup tomato salsa (such as this one)

Preheat oven to 450 °F.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, garlic, cheese, basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper; set aside.

Cut the avocado in half and remove pit. Divide the salsa between the two avocado halves. Top with bread crumb mixture. Place on a small baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Cakes au jambon et aux châtaignes

Cette recette s’appelait à l’origine « Cakes au parfum de châtaigne » et a été publiée dans Elle Québec (mais je ne la trouve pas sur leur site). Je l’ai vulgairement adaptée en utilisant du Spam poivré au lieu du jambon de parme. Bon, je vous explique : l’Ingénieur est revenu de l’épicerie une fois avec une boîte de Spam. J’étais aussi consternée que vous! Il a juré qu’il s’agissait d’un article promotionnel gratuit avec autre chose qu’on avait sur notre liste d’épicerie. Bon, soit, toujours est-il que je ne savais pas quoi faire de ça! J’ai fini par l’utiliser ici, et je recommande (parce que le Spam, ce n’est pas fait pour être dégusté, il faut le mélanger à quelque chose). Et puis, bon, dans notre coin, c’est plus facile à trouver que du jambon de parme, aussi. Mon moule à petits cakes donne 6 gâteaux, alors que la recette en prédisait 8, mais c’est flexible, comme vous voyez. Je vous écris mes autres adaptations dans la recette. J’ai beaucoup aimé le résultat!

100 g. de jambon de parme (ou 340 g. de Spam au poivre noir), coupé en morceaux
50 g. de pignons
100 g. de farine de blé
50 g. de farine de châtaigne
1 c. à soupe d’épices mélangées (j’ai pris 1 c. à thé de muscade, 1 c. à thé de cumin et ½ c. à thé de piment coréen; j’avais assez de poivre dans le jambon pour ne pas vouloir en ajouter)
11 g. de poudre à pâte (soit 1 sachet de levure chimique)
3 œufs
1 c. à thé de sel
1 c. à soupe de sucre
125 g. de yogourt nature sans lactose
4 c. à soupe d’huile d’olive
50 g. de raisins secs dorés
50 g. de parmesan râpé
1 c. à thé de romarin frais, ciselé
6 feuilles de sauge fraîche, ciselée
1 c. à thé de thym frais, ciselé

Préchauffer le four à 300 °F. Beurrer et fariner les moules à gâteau.

Dans une poêle, faire dorer le jambon de parme, puis les pignons.

Dans un petit bol, mélanger la farine de blé, la farine de châtaigne, les épices et la poudre à pâte.

Dans un grand bol, fouetter les œufs avec le sel et le sucre. Ajouter le yogourt et l’huile d’olive et bien mélanger, puis ajouter les ingrédients secs et mélanger de nouveau. Ajouter le jambon de parme, les pignons, les raisons secs dorés, le parmesan et les herbes et mélanger.

Répartir la pâte dans les moules. Cuire pendant 20 minutes au four préchauffé. Démouler le laisser refroidir. Servir chauds, tièdes ou à la température ambiante.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Banana Quinoa Muffins

Here’s a recipe that I adapted slightly from the package of Shiloh Farms quinoa flakes I got recently. (The link goes to the company’s recipe on the website, but it differs from the one on the package, which is below with a few tiny modifications.) These muffins were pleasantly moist and plump, and I loved the taste of quinoa with banana. The Engineer also loved them, and never questioned the mix of flours used (I think he still doesn’t know they were gluten-free). These disappeared quickly!

2 medium mashed ripe bananas
2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil or canola oil
1 egg
½ cup lactose-free milk
¾ tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup brown rice flour
½ cup quinoa flakes
1/3 cup organic cane sugar
1 ¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 °F. Grease a muffin pan (or use paper liners).

Combine bananas with wet ingredients; mix well. Mix dry ingredients in another bowl. Combine mixtures until blended, but do not stir too much.

Spoon batter about into the muffin tin (you should have all 12 cups about ¾ full). Bake about 16 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Self-Saucing Ginger Pudding

This simple dessert recipe is from Jules Clancy’s blog Stone Soup and was also in her free e-cookbook. She has these beautiful 1-cup capacity ramekins to make 4 servings of the pudding, but my ramekins are too small, so I ended up using one big dish to make a single pudding that we split in 4. It worked really well, and this dessert was a hit with both of us! I only used 1 Tbsp. of ginger, because I wasn’t sure how much the Engineer would enjoy, but it was milder than I expected and I’d use a bit more next time.

100 g (3½ oz.) unsalted butter or margarine
1 – 2 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
200 g (7 oz.) brown sugar, divided
2 eggs
100g (3½ oz.) self-rising flour (or 1 ½ tsp. baking powder + all-purpose flour)
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Prepare 4 1-cup capacity ramekins or dishes (I greased a single big dish that I normally use for soufflés.)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and add ginger and HALF the brown sugar (100 g. / 3 ½ oz.). Stir and then add eggs, stirring well after each. Lightly mix in the flour until just combined. Don’t worry if there are a few lumps. Divide cake mixture between ramekins or dishes.

Combine the remaining HALF of the brown sugar with boiling water. Pour over the cake mixture. Cover loosely with a large piece of foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5 minutes until puddings are puffy and golden.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Gratin de courge spaghetti

Partie sur ma lancée des agrumes, j’essaie de cuisiner avec des ingrédients de saison, quitte à manger des plats semblables plusieurs semaines de suite. J’arrive à la fin de mon trip « courge d’hiver », qui a commencé avec une recette de soupe soleil, puis une trempette à la courge butternut et au parmesan qui était délicieuse! On en a mangé un peu en trempette, et le Petit Prince a beaucoup apprécié le reste comme souper. (C’était d’ailleurs aussi le cas de ce plat de patates douces à la noix de coco et à la vanille.) Pour un plat d’accompagnement plus consistant, par contre, voici un gratin de courge spaghetti, que j’ai fait avec de la crème sure sans lactose. L’Ingénieur n’en raffolait pas, mais moi, j’ai adoré! J’ai servi ce plat avec des magrets de canard aux bleuets.

1 courge spaghetti de taille moyenne
2 c. à soupe de beurre ou de margarine
1 petit oignon jaune, coupé en deux et tranché finement
¼ c. à thé de flocons de piment coréen ou de piment rouge, au goût
1 c. à thé de thym frais
sel et poivre, au goût
½ tasse de crème sure sans lactose
½ tasse de fromage cheddar fort râpé, divisé

Préchauffer le four à 300 °F. Beurrer un plat à cuisson carré de 8 pouces.

Couper la courge spaghetti en deux et retirer les graines. La placer dans un plat couvert, avec ½ cm d’eau, et faire cuire su micro-ondes pendant 10 à 12 minutes, en la retournant à la mi-cuisson.

Pendant ce temps, dans une poêle, à feu moyen, faire fondre le beurre, puis ajouter l’oignon, le piment coréen et le thym et faire cuire jusqu’à ce que les oignons brunissent. Saler et poivrer, au goût.

Avec une fourchette, gratter l’intérieur de la courge spaghetti pour en faire des filaments et les mettre dans un bol. Y ajouter les oignons, la crème sure et la moitié du cheddar et bien mélanger. Transférer le mélange dans le plat à cuisson préparé et saupoudrer du reste du fromage. Faire cuire au four pendant 15 à 20 minutes, jusqu’à ce que le dessus soit doré. (J’ai mis le mien sous le gril pendant 5 minutes à la fin de la cuisson.)

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Two kinds of pancakes

I tried a few kinds of pancakes recently. The first was a grain-free pancake made with coconut flour, but I didn’t like it and won’t be making it again. I think I like coconut flour best when it’s combined with other flours, not on its own… The other two were big hits, though, so I want to share the recipes. They happen to be gluten-free, but that’s somewhat of a coincidence. I think that the reason they tasted so good was that they had all these different grains in it, as opposed to just wheat, so flavors like corn and buckwheat and oat really made them stand out. The first recipe, Blackberry Farm Griddle Cakes, is from the RSVP section of Bon Appétit. The first batch was what I call “the dog’s pancakes”, because they fell apart, but once the skillet was seasoned after that, it was a breeze. And we both loved them! I think it yielded something like 18 pancakes.

1 large egg
2 cups buttermilk (i.e., 2 Tbsp. vinegar, and top it up with lactose-free milk)
¼ cup pure maple syrup
1 cup gluten-free oat flour (I pulsed rolled oats in the food processor)
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal (I used the one as finely ground as flour)
1/3 cup brown rice flour
¼ cup buckwheat flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter or margarine, melted
vegetable oil (for skillet)

Whisk egg, buttermilk, and maple syrup in a small bowl. Whisk oat flour, cornmeal, rice flour, buckwheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk buttermilk mixture into dry ingredients, then whisk in butter until no lumps remain.

Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat; lightly brush with oil. Working in batches, pour batter by scant ¼-cupfuls into skillet. Cook until bottoms are browned and bubbles form on top of griddle cakes, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until griddle cakes are cooked through, about 2 minutes longer.

The other recipe was printed on my box of Ancient Harvest quinoa flour. It was also delicious, and didn’t have the caveat of “dog pancakes” on the first go-round. I really loved these. The recipe yields 10 to 12.

1/3 cup quinoa flour
1/3 cup cornmeal (I used the one as finely ground as flour)
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 Tbsp. natural cane sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk (i.e., 1 Tbsp. vinegar, and top it up with lactose-free milk)
1 egg

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, mix the vegetable oil, buttermilk and egg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until combined.

Pour about ¼ cup of batter onto prepared griddle (I used vegetable oil in a pan set over medium heat). Turn cakes as soon as they are puffed and full of bubbles, but before the bubbles break.

(*Low sodium adjustment: omit buttermilk and baking soda. Instead, use lactose-free milk and increase baking powder to 1 ½ tsp.*)

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Product reviews

Kale has jumped the shark. It’s now available in plastic bags of prewashed, chopped leaves. You may think it’s more convenient than a bunch of kale, but it turns out that the leaves have been chopped whole, stems and all! But the stems are too tough to be eaten, especially raw. I had to individually rip stems of pieces of kale leaves for a salad, which took me longer than ripping off one stem and then chopping each leaf. Take my word for it, you’re not actually saving any time with those bags. Plus, they’re huge, so there’s always kale left over after your recipe… I made pesto to avoid wasting anything.

You know those Dansk butter cookies sold in a pretty tin? Maybe you have them on fancy occasions, but in any event, they are a special treat for both myself and the Engineer, which we now keep in our emergency kit (so we eat them before the expiry date and replace them). It turns out that Dansk also makes a cholesterol-free version, which happens to be vegan! Dansk butter cookies with no butter (so no lactose), and no eggs either. There’s something to celebrate!

It can be hard to eat on the go if you have food restrictions. There’s a new product called Primal Pacs that I tried a few months ago. It’s made for people on a Paleo diet (so it happens to be gluten-free and lactose-free, too) and contains organic grass-fed beef jerky, macadamia nuts, dried cranberries and dried mangoes. I liked the variety in the pack, because bringing too much of one food means I get tired of it quickly. That being said, it turns out I’m not crazy about beef jerky (although it is helpful to chew on when your plane is descending). The mangoes are my favorite part. I’ve still got a few packs, which I’m keeping for day trips.

I tried one of Candle Café’s frozen dinners, the Macaroni & Vegan Cheese (available at Whole Foods). I was looking forward to it, as NYC’s Candle Café and Candle 79 are regarded as some of the best vegan/vegetarian restaurants in the country! While I was happy with the taste of the dish, what I didn’t like was that the orange “cheese” fused into a solid blob in the microwave, instead of melting to a consistency that would have blended more evenly. It was shredded before being frozen, though, so I think it could be remedied simply if they would just mix it evenly into the noodles before packaging it. Other than that, it’s quite good!

I tasted Savoy Sorbet’s lavender flavor, which had been intriguing me for a while. It’s a very clean flavor, basically just lavender with a bit of lemon, though there’s a somewhat bitter finish. There’s also vodka in there, to prevent the sorbet from freezing into a block of solid ice, but you can’t taste it. The sorbet is scoopable, but you won’t be able to get nice, round scoops out of it. Overall, I see it more as an entremets sorbet than a dessert, and I must admit I don’t serve entremets, so that’s a bit disappointing. I think I’ll try adding lavender to a vegan ice cream eventually, that would be more my thing.

I tried Li-Lac’s marzipan acorns. The green version I got has pistachio flavor, though I must admit I feel it’s gotten lost in the marzipan. It does go really well with the dark chocolate, though, and they’re just sweet enough. While I really enjoy these and only savor one on occasion, to make them last, I have to admit I feel like they’re not *that* special. By that, I mean that any chocolatier worthy of the name should have something similar (but whether or not they do is another matter entirely), so it may not be worth it to send to New York for them, as good as they are… That being said, they are delicious, and once I offered some to the Engineer, he just plowed right through them and heartily approves. I do like Li-Lac’s selection, though, as well as their motto (“Stubbornly old-fashioned since 1923”), so maybe we’ll try more of their confections another time.

I also tried a variation of Vosges’ bacon bars (oddly, not shown on their website). It’s called simply Mo’s Cinnamon & Sugar Bar: a dark chocolate with smoky bacon, as usual, but this one is paired with cinnamon sugar. I really liked it, and the Engineer, who normally doesn’t like this stuff, kept going back for more this time. (Plus, have you seen their spring and Easter lineup this year? Crispy carrot chocolate rabbit, three smaller flop-eared bunnies, plus Wandering Rabbit pistachio and hazelnut truffles and white chocolate strawberry lemon caramels, chocolate eggs, a giant enchanted mushroom with a smaller toadstool version, Les Fleurs du Chocolat collection... They do have Easter sets like the Birdcage and the Hatbox, but what I would really like is a mix-and-match set at a lower price-point. I have to admit that I love gawking at the high-end Vosges items, though, including a pink slab of agate with the edges gilded in 24-k gold leaf, which was paired with a Fleurs du Chocolat truffle set for $400 and is completely sold out!

On a non-food related topic: remember when I had recommended the O-Cedar ProMist mop? Mine had stopped spraying properly, so I contacted their customer service. They walked me through various trouble-shooting steps, and I had to admit that it was my fault for storing it upright with liquid still in the tank (it was just water and vinegar, but it should definitely be stored empty). And get this: even though it was my fault for misusing it, the company sent me a brand new mop, entirely free of charge! I’m really thrilled with them and, as I still love that mop, I really recommend O-Cedar! (And for dusting, I like E-Cloths.)

Finally, you might remember my preference for pants with an elasticized waist – really, I should say pants without a button, because otherwise I sound like a fashion disaster. I hadn’t been able to find good ones lately (well, not including maternity jeans), but now I’ve got some pull-on boot-cut jeans by Jag, which I love. They fit well and are exactly what I’m looking for. Too bad they only come in one color…

Friday, April 04, 2014

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole

Well, it’s a good thing I haven’t had to pass drug screenings recently, because I’ve eaten A LOT of poppy seeds. After the muffins, I made poppy seed hamantaschen for Purim, and then this chicken casserole from The Kitchn. Casseroles are a Southern comfort food, and the Engineer confirmed that he indeed felt very comfortable eating this! I had to modify the recipe a bit, replacing the evaporated milk with a soy substitute and using lactose-free sour cream instead of crème fraîche, though if I had been in Canada, I would have used lactose-free cream to make crème fraîche. The Engineer and I both absolutely loved the results! In fact, this was one of his favorite dinners, ever. The Ritz crackers on the topping take this casserole from good to outstanding. Next time, I would make two casseroles and freeze one. With our appetite, this yielded 4 servings.

For the casserole
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup chicken stock
2/3 cup soy milk powder, mixed with ¾ cup water
2-3 large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
8 oz. (1 cup) room temperature lactose-free crème fraîche or sour cream (see above)
1 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
8 oz. wide egg noodles
3 cups cooked, chopped chicken (from 1 rôtisserie chicken or 2 chicken breasts)
1 splash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco, or to taste

For the topping
1 cup crushed butter crackers, such as Ritz (from 1 sleeve)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. poppy seeds

For the casserole, preheat oven to 300 °F. Lightly grease an 11” x 7” (medium-sized, 2-quart) baking dish.

Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until thick and golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and ¾ cup of the soy milk mixture, followed by the garlic cloves. Continue whisking until the mixture is very thick and creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Discard the garlic cloves. Fold in crème fraîche or sour cream and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Stir in egg noodles and cook until al dente, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain but do not rinse; return the noodles to the pot.

Stir the chicken and milk sauce into the noodles. Season with hot sauce and additional salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the noodle mixture to the prepared baking dish; pour the remaining soy milk mixture evenly over the top.

For the topping, transfer the crushed crackers to a small mixing bowl. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add the butter, olive oil, and poppy seeds to the crumbs and use a fork to combine. Scatter the topping evenly over the casserole.

Bake until golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.