Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Hier, l’Ingénieur et moi sommes allés souper chez Laloux avec mes parents. Cela faisait partie des restaurants que je voulais essayer, et je n’ai pas été déçue! Ce bistro français a un décor simple et chaleureux ainsi qu’un personnel à la fois sympathique, efficace et ultra-poli.

J’ai commencé avec une entrée de salade verte avec vinaigrette à l’échalote confite; la portion était extrêmement généreuse, avec diverses laitues empilées dans l’assiette et arrosées d’une délicieuse vinaigrette (dont je n’aurais toutefois pas pu identifier la saveur). L’Ingénieur a pris le maquereau mariné (tangerine de miel, carottes et vinaigrette au yuzu), tandis que mes parents ont tous les deux commandé la salade d’asperges (jambon fumé, crumble à la muscade et gruyère). Les poissons au menu sont obtenus de pêcheries durables et responsables parrainées par Ocean Wise, ce que je trouve fantastique!

Comme plat principal, j’ai choisi un filet de bœuf (en spécial du soir au même prix que le contre-filet) avec émulsion d’ail noir, fricassée de têtes de violons et de pommes de terre rattes avec sauce forestière au thé du Labrador. C’était absolument délicieux! J’en remangerais toute la semaine, si je le pouvais. L’Ingénieur s’est gâté avec un plat de saumon et de crevettes avec risotto (il adore le poisson et les fruits de mer, et comme vous le savez, j’en cuisine vraiment très peu!); mes parents ont tous les deux mangé les pétoncles avec gnocchis noirs et aïoli vert. Tout le monde était très satisfait.

Pour le dessert, nous avons tous pris le cake au pavot avec crème anglaise au citron, crumble de chocolat blanc, gel de citron Meyer et petites pousses de coriandre. Il y avait du lactose, oui, mais pas énormément. J’ai été un peu déçue par le gel de citron Meyer, qui était à peine visible étalé dans l’assiette, mais le tout était excellent (même avec la coriandre), et je pense que le gâteau aux graines de pavot était parmi les meilleurs que j’ai mangé de ma vie!

Nous avons tous aimé découvrir ce restaurant, que nous classons parmi les bonnes adresses de Montréal.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Batch of links

- A few ideas on how to get your bacon fix if you are vegetarian or vegan.

- As I feared: the so-called gluten-free pizza at Domino’s isn’t actually free of gluten, as Domino’s cannot provide an environment free of cross-contamination. I take issue with the use of the term “gluten-free” in this context, then, as do others (see here or here).

- And while I’m linking to Gluten-Free Girl (Shauna Ahern): it boggles my mind to read all the vehement comments in response to her posts on Epi-Log (the Epicurious blog), to which she recently started contributing. For example, she recently wrote one about how to cook gluten-free for guests, which I found to be helpful for anyone who has to feed someone with gluten intolerance (or sensitivity) and isn’t sure how to go about it. But go take a look at the comments on that post (which are presented in reverse chronological order): immediately, she is assaulted by people saying that they wouldn’t dream of imposing those kinds of restrictions on their hosts (“how dare she be such a demanding guest”, “she doesn’t represent the celiac community”), and other people criticizing her lack of medical knowledge, even though she never claimed to be writing from a medical perspective. I don’t understand what has ruffled people’s feathers here; all she does is remind us about cross-contamination, either from the ingredients themselves or from surfaces and utensils in the home, about not going overboard making elaborate gluten-free dishes when a simple (safe, inexpensive) meal will do, and about not hesitating to ask your guests for help or guidance. That’s all perfectly reasonable to me. Moreover, when I host dinner guests, it is extremely important to me not to make them sick! If I’m preparing food for someone with a nut allergy, I find it crucial to avoid serving nuts or anything that could have been cross-contaminated (and when in doubt, I either omit the ingredient or ask that person for his advice). The same applies if I’m feeding someone with gluten intolerance; it’s true that in this case, feeding them gluten would “only” make them sick for a few days, not kill them from anaphylactic shock, but I still don’t want it to happen. And as someone who is lactose-intolerant, when I go to dinner at the house of a close friend or relative (who is obviously aware of my condition), I don’t expect the whole meal to be lactose-free, but I do expect to be able to eat enough there safely to be satiated. Who are those people who would have guests over and not care about their safety? And who are those people with food restrictions who don’t care what they are fed? I just can’t understand that! It’s been like this on every one of her posts, and I am just flabbergasted as to why readers are so angry and hostile toward a columnist. Some go so far as to say that anyone with positive comments is either a personal friend of Mrs. Ahern or one of her “white knights” she’s had to call to her rescue, as if she were some kind of fraud. Some find her snobby, but I find her so very down-to-earth (I mean, just because she’s not telling you how to make a gluten-free bologna sandwich doesn’t mean she only eats fancy food; obviously you must know this if you read her posts, since you’re on a food blog in the first place). If you don’t care about what you feed people, then given the post’s title, it clearly wasn’t for you in the first place.

- When I went gluten-free, a Tumblr site that had me laughing out loud, about the problems faced by people avoiding gluten. It’s cathartic!

- Massachussetts could become the first state to ban food waste! Instead of throwing food away, businesses would have to dispose of it through programs that reuse it for composting or energy. Brilliant!

- I’m usually a very quiet person, and I certainly don’t yell at the television often. Prior to last week, the last time I remember yelling at the screen was while watching Paula Deen make something (some kind of chicken casserole drowned in dairy), and as she said “Now just sprinkle some fresh parmesan on there,” she poured out stuff from a green can (um, hello? stuff from a can has nothing to do with fresh parmesan!). But last Friday, May 19th, I was watching the morning news program from an Arkadelphia hotel room and heard that the Louisiana Senate has overturned a law adopted by the House that would have banned the use of hand-held cellphones while driving. That in itself is frustrating, but according to the newscasters, the reason given by the Senate is that there is no evidence that using a cellphone while driving is any MORE dangerous than, for example, reading a newspaper while driving. Wait, what?!? That’s right, the Louisiana Senate thinks it’s fine to read the morning paper while driving to work! GAAHHH!!! Start by outlawing reading newspapers and books while driving if that’s really the problem, then move on to cellphones, people!

- I haven’t mentioned it on here, but of course I’ve been trying to keep up with the student strike in Quebec and discussing it with friends on Facebook and with the Engineer. Here’s an article that does a pretty good job of summing up recent events. I won’t go into a diatribe to fully explain my position argument by argument, but suffice it to say that I think the students and their supporters make very valid points. Of course, I do not condone any actions that result in violence, intimidation or destruction of property, be it from students or police officers, but the actions of some cannot (or should not) detract from the overall issues at stake. While the government does have a point in that universities cannot continually operate in the red, I do not like its kneejerk reaction of hiking tuition fees, especially since it hasn’t worked all that well since 2007. And I think it took too long to offer to talk with student associations. There are other problems to deal with such as mismanagement of financial resources by the universities themselves as well as poor long-term prioritizing by the government. I also don’t believe that it’s fair to compare Quebec only to provinces and states within geographical proximity to say that tuition fees should be higher without also acknowledging that those states are in the developed country with the highest tuition fees in the world, the biggest student debt in the world, and very poor social mobility. How about comparing ourselves to countries where state investment in education pays off, like Denmark or Sweden? Anyway, all this to say that I hope the government and students can resume good faith negotiations soon and agree on a solution to solve the immediate problem, then go from there.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Manger sur le pouce

Si on continue à voyager comme ça chaque été, « Manger sur le pouce » va devenir une chronique bi-estivale! Ce coup-ci, l’Ingénieur et moi avons essayé d’autres chaînes de restauration rapide pendant le trajet.

Tout d’abord, nous nous sommes arrêtés chez Starbucks, car j’avais entendu dire qu’il y avait un nouveau menu fraîcheur avec des sandwichs et des salades. Mais une fois sur place, déception : aucune salade, et juste trois paninis, tous avec du fromage. Bon, les petits desserts format une-bouchée sont quand même super, mais ça n’aide pas pour le repas, surtout que nous ne buvons pas de café ni de thé.

Ensuite, Taco Bell, aussi pour le nouveau menu fraîcheur. Mes réactions sont mixtes. En fait, on y a mangé deux fois, de mémoire en Arkansas et en Indiana. La première fois, j’ai commandé le burrito au poulet (menu Fresco) : il m’a coûté $1.98 avec les taxes. C’était surtout un mélange de riz et d’assaisonnement, avec un peu de poulet et un morceau de tomate (on était bien loin de l’image de l’annonce!). C’était si peu comme portion que j’ai dû en commander un autre pour ne pas avoir l’estomac dans les talons. J’en ai conclu que ce n’était peut-être pas santé, mais ce n’était toutefois pas aussi gras que bien d’autres options, ça avait l’avantage de ne pas contenir de lactose et ce n’était pas mauvais du tout. (L’Ingénieur a trouvé son repas infect, mais il a commandé trois tacos qui n’étaient pas sur le menu Fresco.) La deuxième fois, j’ai commandé tout de suite deux burritos au poulet. Et là, surprise : ils sont $2,79 chacun avec taxes, ils ne contiennent pas de riz mais sont plutôt remplis de purée de haricots noirs, de tomates et de laitue en plus du poulet et de l’assaisonnement. Avec un burrito et demi, j’en avais plus qu’assez (un seul aurait suffi), et c’était bien meilleur que le burrito avec riz. Somme toute, une bonne option sur la route – mais comment savoir ce qu’on va manger à telle ou telle succursale? Dans ma tête, ça reste donc une option, mais une option non fiable.

Une fois au Canada, je trouve qu’il y a des choix relativement santé (ou du moins, pas horribles) chez Tim Horton. Cependant, je trouve dommage qu’ils aient arrêté de mettre des tomates dans leur club sandwich au poulet rôti (qui n’a d’ailleurs plus grand-chose d’un club).

Enfin, on a innové un peu en apportant des sandwichs aux œufs et du fromage pour faire un pique-nique la première journée. C’était selon ce qui nous restait dans le frigo avant de partir, et sans glacière ni certitude d’avoir un frigo à l’hôtel, on ne peut pas emporter davantage qu’un repas. Cependant, c’était un repas très agréable! Je vais essayer de planifier mes menus avant les départs de façon à avoir de quoi faire un pique-nique, maintenant, ça vaut la peine.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

LA soupe au poulet

Une dernière recette avant que je prenne la route pour le Québec… On prend un trajet qu’on connaît déjà cette année, car il s’agit du même qu’on avait choisi l’année passée (avec escale à Whitmore Lake, petite ville pittoresque au Michigan, où on peut très bien manger au Captain Joe’s Grill - il y a de bonnes chances que je commande de nouveau les mêmes plats!). Notre printemps à San Antonio s’est bien déroulé, et nous avons gardé notre habitude des sorties mensuelles : randonnée à Stone Oak Park en janvier, rodéo en février, spectacle de comédie de Bill Maher au théâtre historique Majestic en mars (plus de la visite), et visite éclair à un carnaval de la Fiesta en avril. J’avoue avoir été déçue par ce dernier, mais il faut comprendre que la Fiesta, bien qu’ayant des origines historiques importantes, est aujourd’hui un amalgame d’événements officiels mais très disparates (et je dirais même : pas rapport). Il faut bien choisir ses sorties, je crois; le carnaval où nous sommes allés aurait pu être n’importe quelle fête foraine.

Après ce billet-ci, il va y avoir un petit silence, le temps qu’on voyage et qu’on se remette à cuisiner. Je pense ne pas apporter mon appareil photo avec objectif macro, car il prend beaucoup d’espace, et mes recettes estivales sont toujours moins soignées que le reste de l’année de toute façon.

Revenons-en à nos moutons! J’ai fait une des soupes de poulet du livre À la di Stasio 3, et c’était probablement la meilleure soupe au poulet que j’ai faite! J’ai utilisé une base de bouillon de poulet biologique de marque Better Than Bouillon (la seule marque que j’achète, maintenant), et sinon, j’ai suivi la recette. L’utilisation du gingembre et du curcuma était géniale! Le rendement est entre 4 et 6 portions.

2 c. à soupe d’huile d’olive
2 tasses de poireaux (partie blanche et vert pâle) en tranches fines (ou 1 oignon en dés)
2/3 tasse de céleri en dés
6 tasses de bouillon de poulet
¼ c. à thé de curcuma
1 morceau de 2" de gingembre râpé (ou 3 feuilles de lime kéfir)
1 poitrine de poulet cru (ou un reste de poulet cuit), en morceaux
1 tasse de quinoa cuit
3 tasses de jeunes épinards
4 oignons verts hachés finement
quartiers de lime (facultatif)
sel et poivre, au goût

Dans une casserole, chauffer l’huile, faire revenir le poireau et le céleri 10 minutes. Saler à mi-cuisson.

Ajouter le bouillon, le curcuma, le gingembre, le poulet s’il n’est pas cuit et laisser mijoter jusqu’à ce que les légumes et la viande soient cuits, de 15 à 20 minutes. Vérifier l’assaisonnement.

Au service, ajouter le quinoa et le poulet s’il était déjà cuit, les épinards et l’oignon vert. Réchauffer quelques minutes. Accompagner de quartiers de lime si désiré.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

White Bean Ragoût with Toast

Right off the bat, I changed this recipe from Bon Appétit, because the first thing it wanted you to do was make something like 3 cups of soffritto, then use ½ cup and freeze the rest for another use. Um… no! I’m trying to empty the freezer right now, and with the way I cook, I just know I’m not going to get around to using the rest of it anytime soon. So we reduced the amount of soffrito and used all of it in the recipe, with great results. We also used less broth and cooked the whole thing less; that’s the version I’m giving you here. It was a simple, homely meal that was surprisingly good and satisfying. I think the soffritto and garlic gave it a lot of flavor! It’s also got some nice umami going on with the parmesan and tomato purée. The Engineer and I both enjoyed it very much.

1 medium onion, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more
kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 garlic cloves: 1 finely grated, 1 halved
1 tsp tomato paste
4 to 6 1-inch-thick slices ciabatta
8–10 Tbsp finely grated parmesan, divided
2 15-oz cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups vegetable broth, divided
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Pulse onion in a food processor until finely chopped but not puréed. Transfer to a medium bowl. Pulse bell pepper in processor until finely chopped but not puréed; add to bowl and mix well.

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion mixture (it may splatter) and season with salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring often, until vegetables are completely softened, about 15 minutes. Add finely grated garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until tomato paste begins to turn deep red, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 °F. Rub bread slices with cut sides of remaining garlic clove. Place bread on a baking sheet and sprinkle 1 Tbsp parmesan over each slice. Toast until cheese begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Heat soffritto and beans in same skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in 1 cup broth; bring to a boil. Simmer, scraping up browned bits, until liquid is slightly thickened, 3–4 minutes. Add tomatoes and remaining 1 cup broth; simmer until tomatoes are tender, 3–4 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbsp parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide bread among bowls. Top with some bean mixture and broth. Garnish with remaining 2 Tbsp parmesan and parsley. Drizzle with oil, if desired.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Coral obsession

Pinterest serves many wonderful and indispensable purposes in my life, one of which is to highlight particular obsessions I might have. I started my account around the time that Dear Sister told me her wedding color was coral. Obviously, I was aware of the color before, and as a matter of fact, liked it very much. But ever since she told me, I’ve been pinning coral dress after coral dress (even though I hardly wear dresses, which itself has more to do with shoes than anything). My boards have a knitting pattern for a coral cardigan, coral shoes that did not fit me and a tutorial for coral barrettes. Coral pyjamas, a coral jacket and coral throw pillows. Even coral furniture, coral flowers and coral accessories. So I gave in to the coral obsession and bought some coral fabric to make a dress, finally.

The pattern I used was Simplicity 2362, view E (which is meant as either a day or an evening dress, and really wasn’t too hard to make). Let me say it loud and clear: Thank God for muslins! I actually took the time to make a muslin with my dress pattern, and it was a life saver. It allowed me to make mistakes on a practice dress and also showed me how to alter the pattern to get something that fit me well. I lengthened the hem, added more elastic under the arms, and did away with the interlining altogether. I also shortened the width of the back and added a pleat on each side of the back of the skirt to compensate. And I made straps instead of a halter top. I’m still not quite happy with the zipper, though this time part of that has to do with the fact that I preferred an invisible zipper to a regular one, and I had to make do with something that’s not quite the right shade. That being said, this dress fits me quite well. I love the empire waist and the fact that it has pockets!

According to the pattern, I should have needed 2 ½ yards of fabric (including lining), but the 2 yards of dark coral linen I had bought from Mood Fabrics were enough. I paid $10.15 for the pattern, plus $27.99 for the fabric (including taxes and shipping). I already had the thread, the elastic, and the hook-and-eye closure and paid $2.99 for the zipper. Factor in maybe $5.00 for 2 yards of muslin, and that brings the grand total to just over $46.00. Not bad! As of now, my plan is to wear it to my sister’s wedding, since I’m not quite happy with the result of my dress alteration (orange dress) and haven’t found a shrug, despite lots of searching. I’m really happy with how this dress turned out, though, and I’m considering making another one in black.

Sweet Potato Patties

I won’t call these sweet potato burgers, because the patties fall apart, and to me, that’s not a good burger – or at least, not convenient. That being said, these patties are delicious! I had two recipes that were very similar, the first from Healthy Happy Life, and the other adapted from it at Love & Lemons. I used mainly the first one, though it’s interesting to note that where it used white beans, the other recipe used tofu, so that’s a variation to keep in mind. The seasonings are also quite adaptable; both recipes take things in different directions, and I chose yet another by adding cumin and garlic powder to the mix. I’ll write out the options below. Note that I ran out of panko crumbs after the first batch, so I made the second batch with matzo meal (which, interestingly, wasn’t even kosher for Passover). I really liked the result, though I had a slight preference for panko over matzo meal. The Engineer had his burger-style, while I had mine without bread (the green sauce in the picture is my tamarind-cashew crack sauce, but regular condiments will do).

2 cans cannellini white beans, drained and rinsed (OR 4.5 to 5 oz extra-firm tofu, crumbled)
1 large sweet potato, baked/peeled/mashed (about 2 cups)
2 Tbsp tahini
2 tsp maple syrup or agave nectar
¼ cup wheat flour
salt and pepper, to taste
optional: seasonings (whatever you have on hand: for example, 1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning or Cajun seasoning; 1 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp minced rosemary, 1 minced clove of garlic; my variation was 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp Korean pepper, 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast, ½ tsp cumin and ¼ tsp garlic powder)
½ cup panko crumbs (or matzo meal or regular breadcrumbs, in a pinch)
safflower oil for pan
toppings: avocado, tomato, Dijon mustard, whole grain buns, romaine, onion, sprouts

Place mashed sweet potato in a bowl and add the white beans (or tofu) and mash together.

Mash in tahini, syrup, flour and any additional seasoning. Your mixture will be quite soft and moist, but you should be able to form a patty. (I found that the patties were hard to shape and fell apart very easily, but both recipes said that was to be expected. Add more flour or a scoop of breadcrumbs to thicken the mixture if needed.)

Heat 1 Tbsp safflower oil in a pan over high heat. Form a patty from mixture and coat in panko crumbs. Then drop the patty in the pan. Repeat until the pan is filled. Cook until browned on both sides. (You could also bake at 425 °F for 15-20 minutes, until the edges are browned and crisp. If baking, use less panko.)

Serve on toasted bun or open-faced (I think that’s the way to go), with lots of toppings. Or serve without a bun, with a mixed greens salad.

Vegetarian Jambalaya

Jambalayas always intimidate me a little, because I don’t like seafood and because I don’t like spicy foods. But of course, if I make my own jambalaya, I can avoid those two problems! I had two recipes I wanted to try, and I made the vegetarian one first. It’s originally a vegan recipe I found on The Kind Life, but I used some vegetarian bacon and vegetarian chick’n that aren’t vegan. I also changed the spices a bit to make sure it was mild, though I served it with sriracha sauce on the side for the Engineer, who preferred his that way. The dish wasn’t hard to prepare, and we had a lot of leftovers (which I think would freeze well).

1 onion
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1 red chili pepper (optional, I didn’t use it)
1 tsp chili flakes (I used Korean pepper, which is much milder)
4 slices vegan or vegetarian bacon or vegan chorizo
1 Tbsp smoked paprika (I used half that amount)
1 red bell pepper
1 cup short grain brown rice
1 tsp tomato/vegetable purée
1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses
1 cup vegan or vegetarian chicken-style pieces
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup sweet corn (canned, fresh or frozen)
tabasco or sriracha sauce (as much or as little as you like)
large handful of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley

Heat a little vegetable oil in a pan. Finely dice the onion and add to the pan along with some seasoning. Allow to soften for a few minutes. Mince the garlic and finely chop the chili (if using) and add to pan along with the chili flakes.

Cut the “bacon” into chunks and add to pan along with the paprika and cook until it starts to color.

Cut the pepper into large pieces, add to pan, season and allow to soften with the other ingredients.

Pour in the brown rice, give it a stir and then add the tomato purée and chopped tomatoes. Season, add the molasses and one cup of water. Shake in a good amount of tabasco sauce (I didn’t use it here). Fill the cup with water and set aside – you will use this water throughout.

Allow to gently simmer for 30 min before adding the frozen chicken-style pieces – if using refrigerated pieces instead of frozen, they will take less time to cook. If it becomes too dry, add more water, like you would do for a risotto. Cook for a further 15 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked.

A few minutes before serving, add the peas and sweet corn and allow them to gently cook before sprinkling in the parsley ensuring to reserve some for when you plate up. Season and/or add more tabasco if necessary.

Serve in bowls and sprinkle with parsley.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


I’m finally getting around to reviewing the first BabyCakes cookbook, which came out three years ago (for those who don’t know, BabyCakes is a vegan bakery in New York that’s gotten rave reviews; they’ve since opened bakeries in Los Angeles and Orlando as well). I was a little angry when the first printing came out, because the tagline on the cover page of the first edition said “Vegan, Gluten-Free and (Mostly) Sugar-Free from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery”. The problem? While all recipes in the book are wheat-free, a lot of them contain spelt – which is NOT gluten-free. The editor who wrote the tagline basically hadn’t taken the time to find out what he was talking about. (The author of the book does discuss ingredients and substitutions here, and she’s well aware that spelt contains gluten.) In the second printing, it has been corrected to “Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery”. I still have an issue with the word “sugar”, because it is used here as a synonym for “refined white sugar”, but there are tons of different sweeteners that still qualify as sugar without being the white refined stuff. A second cookbook has been published since then.

I was drawn to the idea of a vegan baking book because of my lactose-intolerance for the most part, and I also loved the idea of reducing sugar in my desserts. Because both the book and the shop were getting such rave reviews, including from non-vegans and from people who do eat wheat and, alright, because of the awesome trailer too (it’s too good not to share), I put the book on my wish list and got it for the holidays. I’ve made four recipes from it and I think I can talk about it in more general terms, now.

I started with the vanilla cupcakes, which happen to be gluten-free to boot. The recipe for both cupcake and frosting is on Epicurious. I made a half recipe, because I never want more than a dozen cupcakes in the house! My expectations were high, because this cupcake was once crowned the best cupcake of New York City (the best of ALL cupcakes, including non-vegan ones and wheat-based ones). However, my experience was quite different. I didn’t make cupcakes, I made little bricks! And the frosting never firmed up (which, according to BabyCakes' troubleshooting page online, tends to happen). They were so bad that I threw some away. ME, of all people, I threw away cupcakes – that speaks volumes. I’m not sure what happened. Perhaps I made a mistake when halving the recipe; perhaps the fact that the ingredients are written out in volumes instead of weight was a factor, as this is even more crucial when baking gluten-free; perhaps some of my ingredients weren’t fresh enough (this does happen with some gluten-free flours in my pantry). As for the frosting, I do know that it’s not the recipe used in the actual bakery; the one in the book was written to be more accessible to the home cook. So I’d love to try this recipe one more time if I ever get measurements in weight, but until then, I’m not touching it again.

After that, I made the red velvet cupcakes. I halved this recipe as well, but it turned out better. Then again, it calls for spelt flour, which gave them a consistency more like what I’m used to. They were a little dry, so I’d bake them a little less if I made them again. They were good, but not sweet at all, so they definitely need the frosting. I didn’t use the BabyCakes frosting this time, but one of my own (for a vegan frosting to pair with red velvet cake, you can try this fluffy buttercream one or that cream cheese one). The recipe for the cupcakes can be found here. As I said, they’re pretty good, but they’re certainly not dethroning my go-to utterly ridiculous red velvet cake.

The third recipe I tried was the banana bread, because it did look really good. I adapted the recipe a bit because I did not like that it called for a smaller-than-standard loaf pan AND had quantities planned in such a way that you DEFINITELY had batter left over. I put the whole thing in a regular loaf pan and baked it 10 minutes longer, and it turned out great. It could have gone wrong, because it can be hard to bake gluten-free goods in big pans, but seriously, it was nicely baked all the way through. At first, I wasn’t too sure about using Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour, as the recipe calls for, because it contains chickpea flour and fava bean flour, neither one of which is the best choice for desserts, in my opinion. However, this isn’t really a dessert, more like a snack or breakfast item, and it worked well. That being said, Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour is cross-contaminated by nuts; if you want to make this banana bread nut-free, try making your own all-purpose flour using a recipe such as this one or that one.

When I first tasted this banana bread, I thought it wasn’t sweet enough and decided I would definitely add chocolate chips next time. But when I had it again in the morning, it was perfect as it was! I like to cut myself a thick slice, toast it and spread a little margarine on it. This bread, despite being gluten-free, held together just fine in the toaster. It’s moist, delicious, and if I hadn’t made it myself, I’d have never known it was vegan or gluten-free. It’s also healthier than most banana bread recipes, so I really recommend it! It disappeared in two days. I’ve written down the recipe below, with my modifications (a version of the recipe is available on the BabyCakes website here, though it’s not quite the one printed in my cookbook; interestingly, there’s less batter total, but a higher ratio of sweetener and six times the vanilla).

Finally, I decided to make a half batch of the chocolate chips cookies, which is still about 2 dozen. The recipe said to use a melon baller to portion out the dough; that seemed very small to me, so I used my cookies scoop, which is bigger than a melon baller but smaller than an ice cream scoop. I realize now that I got 25 cookies by halving a recipe that the book claims makes 36 cookies in all, so clearly the author’s melon baller is even bigger than my cookie scoop! This recipe also calls for Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour, and as it turns out, BabyCakes’ chocolate chip cookie recipe is the one printed on the package of flour! These cookies spread more than I thought they would and were perhaps over-baked by a minute or two, but they were still very good. And again, I certainly don't miss the gluten. They also gave me the opportunity to try a new-to-me product, Ricemellow Creme, which is essentially the vegan equivalent of marshmallow crème. It contains only four ingredients, but mostly brown rice syrup, so it’s much less processed than marshmallow crème and doesn’t contain refined sugar – though it is super sweet. It’s not pure white, more of a pale café-au-lait, because of its contents. I used it to make a version of this suggested by BabyCakes: cookie sandwiches, which I popped in the freezer for a while before eating. It felt very decadent! I wrote the recipe below; it is also available on Oprah.com.

So overall, there are things that I don’t like about this book, like imprecisions in quantities or amounts that are wrong for the size of pan specified (that being said, those things have been amended on the website, so I wonder if a third printing of the book would have the corrections as well). I feel like I shouldn’t have to tinker with a printed recipe to get it to work; I can tinker with it to suit personal preferences, but that’s another matter. Still, I think that this cookbook has a lot of potential. I might try a scone recipe next.

BabyCakes’ Banana Bread
2 cups Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour (I know it’s a volume, but it worked for me)
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup coconut oil, plus more for pan
2/3 cup agave nectar
2/3 cup rice milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups mashed bananas (I used 3 bananas)
1 cup vegan chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 °F. Brush your loaf pan with oil (or use vegan margarine) and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, and cinnamon. Add oil, agave nectar, rice milk and vanilla and then mix again. Fold in bananas (and chocolate chips, if using) until nicely distributed.

Pour batter into loaf pan and set in the oven. After 20 minutes, rotate the pan 180 degrees. Continue baking for about 25 minutes longer, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let banana bread stand in the pan for 20 minutes. Gently run a knife around the edge of the cake, cover the top of the pan with a cutting board and invert the loaf onto the board. Carefully lift the pan away and re-invert the bread. Covered with plastic wrap, it will keep at room temperature for 3 days.

BabyCakes’ Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Note that I halved this)
1 cup coconut oil
6 Tbsp homemade applesauce or store-bought unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups evaporated cane juice (i.e., unrefined sugar, so I used my regular evaporated cane sugar)
2 cups Bob's Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose baking flour
¼ cup flax meal
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp xanthan gum
1 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 °F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (I used silpats).

In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, applesauce, salt, vanilla and evaporated cane juice. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, flax meal, baking soda and xanthan gum. Using a rubber spatula, carefully add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until a grainy dough is formed. Gently fold in the chocolate chips just until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Using a melon baller (or small cookie scoop; see above), scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the portions 1 inch apart. Gently press each with the heel of your hand to help them spread (this was definitely not necessary in my kitchen). Bake the cookies on the center rack for 15 minutes (I would say a bit less), rotating the sheets 180 degrees after 9 minutes. The finished cookies will be crisp on the edges and soft in the center.

Let the cookies stand on the sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack and cool completely before covering. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Optional: Slather on an extremely generous dollop of your favorite frosting (or a marshmallow crème equivalent; see above) between two cookies; eat as is or freeze them first.

And on a happy note

I don’t share too much personal information online, but I figured some people might be interested in this tidbit, since it does pertain to the way I eat (which is 90% of this blog) and my health. Six months ago, my cholesterol was a bit high; it had gone up for no obvious reason that I can pinpoint since my checkup previous to that. I’m blaming the Engineer’s cakes until further notice, but maybe someone looking at the recipes from last fall could give me fresh perspective. Then I announced that I would try to be a vegetarian 50% of the time (of which half would ideally be vegan). And after 4 months of this, my cholesterol has dropped by 38 points! The only other change in my diet is that I try to have “better” desserts after lunch (like a yogurt instead of a cookie) and using safflower oil instead of olive oil for cooking. Plus, my LDL went down and my HDL went up even though I had stopped taking omega-3 supplements (I can’t swallow pills and couldn’t find anything I liked better than this, which tastes horrible). So I can say, with medical proof, that a more vegetarian diet is healthier for me than what I was having before. My doctor said that whatever I was doing, I should keep it up.

Beyond that, the only tip I could give those of you who want to lower your cholesterol is to try to eat more whole grains, like oatmeal. My breakfasts haven’t changed much, but I do try to incorporate fruit and whole grains. I’m not saying I do it perfectly every day, but I try. I like granola (which I make with whole grain oats), muffins and banana bread made with whole grain flour, and the occasional pancake or waffle. I’ve even tried kasha, below, on cold days (I like it with brown sugar or maple syrup). I also bake almost exclusively with white whole wheat flour instead of regular white flour, which gives me extra fiber.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Batch of product reviews

There are a few products I want to talk about, so I figured I’d do so in one post.

First, I tried the new Yoplait lactose-free yogurt. It comes in two formats: individual servings (6 oz containers) and packages of 4 (not clearly stated, but according to my calculations, almost 4 oz per container). My favorite flavor is the black cherry, which is hard to come by in lactose-free varieties! It uses beet juice concentrate to get its color, too, instead of artificial dyes. What I like best about these yogurts is the added calcium: a 6-oz container has 50% of the recommended daily value (30% for each container in the 4-pack). This is great because calcium is often a concern for the lactose-intolerant. However, the second ingredient is sugar, and the 6-oz container has 170 calories (110 for the smaller size). So yes, it tastes great, but it isn’t necessarily that healthy… If I compare it to a 6-oz container of my other favorite brand of lactose-free yogurt, Green Valley Organics, in blueberry flavor, that one has 140 calories, but only 25% of the recommended daily value of calcium. When I read the fine print of the ingredients, though, I realize that sugar technically is the second ingredient, though in this case it’s organic evaporated cane juice, plus the product is kosher, gluten-free, and certified humane. So I guess I’ll alternate between buying both, depending on how I feel in the refrigerated section of the grocery store that day (ethical or calcium-deprived).

I also tried chive and garlic Veggie Cream Cheese, by Galaxy Nutritional Foods. It’s a cream cheese alternative that I found in the produce section, where it was obviously meant to be used as a dip. The consistency is perhaps a little too solid for a dip, though I found it quite tasty, more so than Tofutti cream cheese (that being said, I’ve only tried plain Tofutti, because that’s all I’ve seen in stores here). I definitely see myself buying this again, either as a cream cheese substitute or if I need to bring a dip to a party so I don’t feel left out.

You’ll be happy to know that I tried a kind of vegetarian bacon that I actually liked! It was Morning Star Veggie Bacon Strips, which are vegetarian (but not vegan or gluten-free). They do contain milk ingredients, but not enough that I’d react to them. I pan-fried several strips until they were crisp, which also improved their appearance a bit (though the smell is remarkably smoky), and once I bit into one, I was happy to realize that it satisfies a lot of the cravings created by regular bacon! It doesn’t quite taste the same, of course, but it’s smoky and crispy and could totally hit the spot if I’ve decided not to have meat (or real bacon) that day.

As a drink, I bought Reed’s raspberry ginger brew a while back and really liked it. It contains almost 20% real raspberry juice and is sweetened with fruit juice and fructose, on top of the natural ginger root it’s made from. It was neither too sweet nor too dry, and I liked the packaging. I’ll be buying this again, though it’s a special treat because my regular grocery store doesn’t carry it.

I forgot to talk about it before, but I tried Udi’s gluten-free cinnamon rolls. The most noticeable thing, actually, is that there are no instructions to prepare them, so you have to either wing it or look it up online (if you google “udi cinnamon rolls”, you’ll see that the first suggestions and links pertain to that issue!). Udi says it’s because the rolls are stored differently from one store to the next (the rolls last 7 days at room temperature, 21 days in the fridge and 6 months in the freezer). I found that they were best taken out from the fridge, sprinkled with water and popped in the microwave for 20 seconds; I warmed up the icing for 5 seconds before pouring it on. The crumb seemd a little dry to me, but it was very good, and this product should satisfy those who follow a gluten=free diet and don’t have time to make their own rolls.

And finally, I found my favorite coconut syrup at World Market! I had tasted it in Hawaii and had brought some back from a trip there in 2007, but I hadn’t seen any since then – I figured it was an island thing. But World Market is surprisingly well-stocked! I bought a package of it had have been enjoying it, sparingly, on pancakes every once in a while.

Batch of links

- Why do recipe writers lie and lie and lie about how long it takes to caramelize onions? I’ve often wondered that myself, so I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article by Tom Socca.

- A few months ago, the New York Times launched a contest to find the most rational, ethical defense FOR eating meat. The winning entry is an interesting read! Basically, the author makes a good point by summing it up as follows: “What are these ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways of producing both meat and plant foods? For me, they are most succinctly summed up in Aldo Leopold’s land ethic: ‘A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.’” This applies to a vegetarian diet, too.

- Recently, Obama officially supported gay marriage. It was about damn time! This was in response to North Carolina amending their constitution to expressly forbid marriage between two people of the same sex. When I heard about that, I said that was stupid (I said other things too, but I did use that exact word). And the Engineer pointed out that I may have put my finger on the issue: look at this map comparing the number of people in each county who have a bachelor’s degree or higher to the way the county voted to amend the law. So yes, education really does expand minds!

- The cover of this week’s Time magazine is already causing quite a stir all over the internet (see here, for example). Frankly, I’m surprised it’s making this many waves. I mean, if you haven’t heard about attachment parenting, get out from under your rock and read up on it (like in Time); and if you have heard about it and don’t agree with it, then get over your darn self and let mothers whose family benefits from it do things their way.

- An interesting read on why it’s so hard to make a good vegan cheese. Daiya is mentioned, and I’m looking forward to trying the new one from Galaxy Foods.

- Nancy Silverton’s secret to making whipped cream hours ahead: use a scoop of crème fraîche (or sour cream) along with the cream, and the extra fat content will help the whipped cream hold in the fridge. This probably won’t come in handy for me now (I’m either in Canada with lactose-free cream or in the States with lactose-free sour cream), but it’s a really good thing to know in theory! I might make my own crème fraîche this summer, though, you never know.

- 15 money-saving tips for frugal cooking and shopping. And if you like those, try these 25 tips, too.

- Why you shouldn’t put something in the oven as soon as it’s done preheating.

- Five great tips for baking gluten-free, by Shauna James Ahern.

- I love infographics, so I just had to share this one, the satiety index. It turns out that when you measure the satiety index and the glycemic index (how full you feel and how bad the sugar crash is), as opposed to the nutritional value, a banana really is as bad as a cookie. Sadly, though, this did not make me crave oranges (a good choice), but croissants (not so good).

- On my old website, I talked about California Pizza Kitchen, which I really enjoy (especially for their Thai chicken and roasted garlic chicken pizzas). Well, they have a new pizza on the menu, and I’ve fallen completely in love with it! It’s the habanero carnitas, which has slow-roasted pulled pork, red onions and cilantro pesto; it’s served with spicy habanero sauce on the side, but I don’t use it. I just love that pizza!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Trilogie de courgettes - Gâteau

Pour clore ma trilogie de courgettes, quoi de mieux qu’un dessert? J’ai bien des recettes de pain aux courgettes, dont une avec tout plein de bonnes choses comme des canneberges et des noix, mais je trouve que ça se rapproche trop d’un pain aux bananes pour dessert. Je préfère un gâteau au chocolat! Je rappelle quand même que l’idée de mettre des légumes dans un dessert n’est pas innovatrice en soi; après tout, nous avons bien des gâteaux aux carottes ou aux betteraves, sur ce site ou ailleurs! Ce gâteau au chocolat et aux courgettes, donc, est servi avec une crème anglaise; elle est facultative, mais fortement recommandée! Si on compte 8 grosses tranches de gâteau, on a environ la moitié d’une portion de légumes dans chacune, mais je crois que les courgettes seraient trop apparentes si on en augmentait la quantité. En tout cas, j’aime ce gâteau comme il est! Je ne sais plus où j’ai pris la recette à l’origine, mais elle se trouve sur Group Recipes.

Pour le gâteau
1 ¾ tasse de sucre
½ tasse d’huile végétale
¼ tasse de beurre (à température ambiante) ou de margarine
2 œufs
½ tasse de lait sans lactose ou de babeurre (lait sans lactose additionné de jus de citron)
1 c. à thé de vanille
2 ½ tasses de farine tout usage
¼ tasse cacao
1 c. à thé de bicarbonate de sodium
½ c. à thé de poudre à pâte
½ c. à thé de cannelle
1 pincée de clous de girofle en poudre
2 tasses de courgettes finement râpées
½ tasse de pépites de chocolat mi-sucré

Pour la crème anglaise
½ tasse de sucre
2 c. à soupe de farine
2 c. à soupe de fécule de maïs
3 tasses de lait sans lactose
3 jaunes d’œuf
3 c. à soupe de beurre ou de margarine
1 soupçon d’extrait d’amande (artificiel si vous évitez les noix, ou omettez-le simplement)

Préchauffer le four à 325 °F. Huiler un moule à cheminée de 10 pouces et le saupoudrer de cacao.

Dans un grand bol, battre le sucre, l’huile et la margarine. Ajouter les œufs, le lait et la vanille; bien mélanger.

Dans un bol de taille moyenne, mélanger la farine, le cacao, le bicarbonate de sodium, la poudre à pâte, la cannelle et les clous de girofle. Ajouter les ingrédients secs aux ingrédients humides et mélanger jusqu’à homogénéité. Ajouter les courgettes et les pépites de chocolat. Verser la pâte dans le moule préparé et faire cuire pendant environ 55 à 60 minutes ou jusqu’à ce qu’un cure-dents en ressorte propre. Laisser refroidir 10 minutes; démouler et laisser refroidir complètement sur une grille.

Pour la crème anglaise, mélanger le sucre, la farine et la fécule de maïs dans une casserole à fond épais. Ajouter le lait. Amener à ébullition; faire cuire en mélangeant jusqu’à ce que la sauce ait épaissi, environ 2 minutes. Retirer du feu. Mélanger une petite quantité de la sauce aux jaunes d’œufs, puis verser les jaunes d’œufs au mélange tout en remuant. Ramener à ébullition à feu doux; réduire le feu et faire cuire pendant 2 minutes. Retirer du feu; ajouter la margarine et l’extrait d’amande et bien mélanger. Servir tiède.

Trilogie de courgettes - Galettes

Pour la deuxième recette de ma trilogie, je vous présente une recette qui, je crois, est tirée de Coup de Pouce (mais introuvable sur leur site). Il s’agit de galettes de courgettes, un peu comme des latkes pâteux et étonnement savoureux! Je les aime comme plat principal, avec une salade en accompagnement (une salade de courgettes ou une salade verte). La recette d’origine recommande les galettes comme accompagnement pour de la viande ou de la volaille. On peut aussi en faire beaucoup et les mettre au congélateur pour une autre fois, elles se conservent bien.

1 ½ lb de courgettes râpées grossièrement (4 ou 5 moyennes)
¾ c. à thé de sel
4 œufs
1 gousse d’ail, hachée finement
¾ tasse de farine
½ tasse de parmesan râpé
1 c. à soupe d’oignon, haché finement
½ c. à thé de poivre noir du moulin

Mélanger les courgettes et le sel et les mettre dans une passoire. Placer une assiette sur les courgettes, puis y déposer quelques boîtes de conserve en guise de poids. Laisser égoutter les courgettes pendant 15 minutes (jeter le liquide).

Dans un bol, à l’aide d’un fouet, battre les œufs et l’ail. Ajouter la farine, le parmesan, l’oignon et le poivre et mélanger à l’aide d’une cuillère de bois jusqu’à ce que la préparation soit humide, sans plus. Ajouter les courgettes égouttées et mélanger.

Badigeonner un poêlon d’un peu d’huile et chauffer à feu moyen. Pour chaque galette, mettre environ 1 ½ c. à soupe de la préparation dans le poêlon (cuire 4 ou 5 galettes à la fois) et l’étendre en une cercle d’environ 3 pouces de diamètre. Cuire de 2 à 3 minutes de chaque côté ou jusqu’à ce que les galettes soient bien dorées. Réserver au chaud. Répéter l’opération avec le reste de la préparation.

Trilogie de courgettes - Salade

En règle générale, je n’aime pas les courgettes. Ou plutôt, il se trouve que je n’aime pas les courgettes cuites, mais en fait, j’ai quelques recettes pour les apprêter que j’aimerais partager. C’est qu’elles peuvent être bonnes, les courgettes! Et puisque la saison est commencée ici, j’en ai profité un peu. Tout d’abord, voici la recette de salade de courgettes de ma mère, où les courgettes sont crues et, par le fait même, tout à fait acceptables. Je la fais sans les câpres, que je n’aime pas, et j’ai oublié la roquette (que j’avais pourtant achetée!); les goûts dominants sont surtout le citron, l’ail et le parmesan. C’est délicieux! La recette donne environ 4 portions. J’ai servi cette salade en accompagnement de galettes de courgettes et je l’ai également mangée pour dîner, sans rien d’autre.

3 grosses courgettes, jaunes ou vertes (j’aime mieux les deux)
4 c. à soupe d’huile d’olive
1 gousse d’ail, écrasée (j’ai râpé la mienne)
le zeste et le jus d’un citron
2 c. à soupe de câpres, égouttées et rincées (facultatif)
50 g de parmesan, râpé
1 poignée de roquette

Trancher les courgettes en tranches très minces, avec une mandoline ou un couteau économe. Mélanger les courgettes avec l’huile, l’ail, le zeste et le jus de citron. Laisser reposer 30 minutes (ou pendant la nuit, au réfrigérateur). Pour servir, ajouter les câpres, le parmesan et la roquette.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Salted Chocolate Cookies

I think it’s been a little while since I posted a recipe from Orangette, so here we go. I made these cookies recently, and they were so good! The chocolate taste is rich and deep; the cookies are slightly crispy on the outside, but still chewy on the inside. I made cookies that were about 2 inches in diameter, and I’d say you’ll get between 24 and 30 if you make them that way; you can also freeze them and bake them as needed. I used turbinado sugar to finish the edges and vanilla fleur de sel as a topping – I totally recommend that, but Maldon salt is also very good. Be sure to use a chocolate you really like (I used Ghiradelli 60%, though Valrhona “Guanaja” 70% is recommended in the original recipe). Note that I weighed ingredients most of the time for this recipe, but volume measurements are also provided.

225 grams (8 oz) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
155 grams (1 ¼ cups) all-purpose flour
50 grams (½ cup plus 2 Tbsp) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
115 grams (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used cold margarine)
225 grams (1 cup plus 2 Tbsp) sugar, plus more for rolling the logs
2 large eggs
¼ tsp table salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
75 ml (1/3 cup) lactose-free whole milk
Maldon salt (or vanilla fleur de sel or your favorite salt), for finishing

Pour water into a saucepan to a depth of about 2 inches. Bring to a simmer. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl that will rest securely on the rim of the saucepan, and place it over – not touching – the simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, just until the chocolate melts and is smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, and baking powder. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy. Slowly add the sugar, and continue to beat until the mixture is completely smooth and soft, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the salt and the vanilla, and then add the melted chocolate, beating to incorporate. Add the milk, and beat until combined. Finally, add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just incorporated. The dough will be quite thick and stiff.

Depending on what size cookie you’d like to wind up with (I made 2-inch cookies, but you can make them smaller if you wish), divide the dough into 2 or 4 portions (I chose 2). Put each portion on a large piece of plastic wrap, and shape into a log, using the wrap to help you smoosh, roll, and smooth it. Twist the ends to seal. Chill overnight. (If you’re into advance planning, the dough can probably be kept in the fridge for at least a week, or frozen for longer keeping, though I’d finish preparing and slicing the cookies first so that I can just pop them into the oven later.)

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 °F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

Put another sheet of parchment paper on your work surface. Take a spoonful or two of sugar, and pour it onto the parchment, making a ridge of sugar of approximately the same length as your dough logs. Remove a log from the fridge, unwrap it, and roll in the sugar to evenly coat. Using a thin, sharp knife, slice the dough into ¼- to 1/3-inch slices. (If you’re making small cookies, the 1/3-inch thickness is best.) Lay the slices on the baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Sprinkle each cookie with a few flakes of Maldon salt.

Bake for 10 minutes, or until the top of the cookies looks set but still feels a little soft to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack, and leave the cookies on the pan to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

These cookies will keep at room temperature for several days.

Sweet Potato Sformatos

A sformato is originally a rice-based dish. I’m not sure how authentic these are, since they use rice flour instead of whole rice. (I put some sweet rice in the spice grinder and made the flour myself.) They’re somewhat like a soufflé, though you don’t have to whip eggs whites and worry about them rising or falling. On the plus side, they are gluten-free (unlike my soufflé recipes so far), and they’re very easy to make. I’d say they work best as a light lunch (with a salad), or maybe an appetizer for dinner. I made a half recipe, but I still had enough to fill six small ramekins (though since the sformatos are so light, it came out to 2 full meals). The original recipe says that you can use an 8x8 baking dish instead of ramekins and just increase the cooking time by about 10 minutes. You can also add a spoonful of cooked sausage or mushrooms to each ramekin, to make it a more substantial meal. I used parmesan instead of asiago, which is what I’ll write below, and when I halved the recipe, I used 2 egg yolks I had leftover from another recipe instead of a whole egg and half a yolk. I really enjoyed these!

1 ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, loosely packed, divided
1.5 lbs (2 average-sized) sweet potatoes
3 cups lactose-free whole or 2% milk
4 Tbsp unsalted butter or margarine, plus extra for greasing the ramekins
¼ cup sweet rice flour (or regular all-purpose flour if you want)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp minced thyme (or rosemary)
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp black pepper
2 large eggs
1 large yolk

Heat the oven to 400 °F. Rub the insides of six 8-oz ramekins with butter and sprinkle with ¼ cup of the parmesan cheese. Cheese should stick to the bottom and sides of the ramekin in a single layer.

Prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork and place them on a microwave-safe plate lined with a paper towel. Microwave on high in 3-minute intervals, turning the potatoes between each interval and testing them for doneness. It should take 9-12 minutes total for the sweet potatoes to completely soften. Allow the potatoes to cool enough to handle. (Alternatively, you can wrap the potatoes in foil and roast them in a 400 °F oven until soft. As for me, I used sweet potato purée I had in the freezer.)

Meanwhile begin making the béchamel. Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it just barely starts to steam (or microwave to warm). Remove from heat. In another pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until a thick paste is formed, 3-5 minutes. Add the milk a little at a time while whisking the butter-flour mixture. Wait to add more milk until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy again. Once all the milk is added, simmer and stir the béchamel until it starts to thicken. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Peel the sweet potatoes and mash the insides in a large mixing bowl. Add one cup of the cheese (reserving the last ¼ cup for topping), the thyme, the nutmeg, and the black pepper. Stir in the cooled béchamel sauce a little at a time to achieve a smooth pudding-like consistency. Before adding the eggs, taste the mixture and add more salt or pepper if desired. Whisk the eggs and yolks together and stir them into the sweet potato mixture.

Place all the ramekins on a baking sheet (a silpat can help keep them from slipping around). Fill the ramekins to within ½ inch of the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the tops are puffed and beginning to brown in spots. Five minutes before the end of cooking, sprinkle each sformato with a little of the reserved cheese.

Allow the sformatos to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Leftovers can be kept refrigerated for up to a week and do well reheated for a few minutes in the microwave or a toaster oven.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Pear Muffins

I found this muffin recipe on Tea and Cookies, where it was adapted from Sophie Dahl’s pear muffins. I decided to make them the easy way, without any decorative pear slices on top (though I admit they would look better with the pear slices). I didn’t use any nuts or raisins, because I feel like they don’t have a place here, but I did keep the crystalized ginger. For a sweetener, I used a few tablespoons of agave syrup and topped it up with coconut nectar; note that the agave syrup is much more fluid than coconut nectar or honey, but the former and latter are both suggested in this recipe, so you do have some leeway. I also used applesauce instead of pear purée, since that’s what I had on hand. I liked all the whole grains in this and the fact that the resulting muffins are dense, but not too heavy – and they certainly don’t “taste like fiber”. The recipe makes 12 muffins, and since they freeze well, I froze half of them for future breakfasts.

2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ cup spelt four
1 ½ cup rolled oats
4 egg whites
1 cup pear purée (you can mash up a pear, use baby food or commercial purée, or use applesauce)
½ cup plain lactose-free yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
¾ cup agave or honey
1 firm pear, peeled, cored, and cut into a small dice
¼ cup crystalized ginger or more, to taste, chopped (optional)
extra pear for decoration on the top of the muffins (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 °F.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, add all the dry ingredients (baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, spelt flour and oats). Stir to blend and make a well in the middle.

Lightly beat the egg whites until they are foamy and hold a bit of their shape.

In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, pear purée, and honey/agave; add to the bowl with the flour mixture and stir to combine. Add the egg whites and gently fold into the batter. Add the diced pear and crystalized ginger, if using. Mix briefly to incorporate.

Spoon the batter into muffin tins lined with cupcake liners, or use parchment paper cut into squares. If you prefer to bake strait into the muffin tins, grease them with a bit of oil before. Fill each muffin tin ¾ of the way up. Bake for 25-30 minutes. The tops of the muffins will brown slightly, but the insides will remain moist.