Friday, May 29, 2009

Gluten-free Quinoa Pancakes Recipe Revealed: Variations Coming Soon!

I have been struggling to fine-tune these pancakes for several weeks now. I had never used quinoa flour before, and wanted to feature it in a new recipe creation. I also wanted to give people who read my blog a taste of how I mix flours together for general-purpose mixes.

These pancakes come out pretty thick and fluffy with a moist and tender yet resilient texture. The quinoa flour lived up to its reputation of having a slightly bitter flavor. I used Ancient Harvest brand. Does anyone have any tips for another brand to try? I thought the best way to work with this flavor was to use buttermilk instead of or in addition to milk. The sourness of buttermilk counteracts the bitterness of the quinoa.

Update: I've made these pancakes several times since I posted this recipe and they have never failed.  I serve them to people who normally eat wheat with good results.  I have my flour arranged in my cupboard now so it's easy to mix everything together.  I really need recipes to be easy in the morning!

Pre-heat griddle or cast-iron skillet. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients:

1/2 Cup Quinoa Flour
2/3 Cup Brown Rice Flour
1/4 Cup White Rice Flour
2 Tbsp Sorghum Flour
1 Tbsp Tapioca Flour
1 Tbsp Potato flour
3 Tbsp Sugar
1/4 tsp Xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder

In a smaller bowl, combine:

2 Cups milk or buttermilk (or a combination of the two)
1 egg, whisked
3 Tbsp melted butter

Put the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until well-combined. Don't fret about over-stirring: this worry is reserved for gluten-bearing flours! Let the mix stand for a minute to thicken. Re-stir and pour the batter onto the griddle to make the size of pancake that you desire. Cook as you would normal pancakes: after a few minutes, the pancakes will form bubbles. Flip them and cook the other side. If the batter is too thick you will not see any bubbles come up and your pancakes will be raw inside even after browning both sides. Add one tablespoon of milk or water to the mix, stir, and try again. If the batter is too thin the pancakes will be too flat and the dough will be too moist inside when cooked. Add one tablespoon of rice flour, combine thoroughly, and try again.

Serve the pancakes with your favorite toppings.

I love my Lodge cast iron skillet, but what I wish I had was this reversible griddle.  It has a grill on one side and the other side is a flat griddle which would be perfect for making several pancakes at once.

The variations: The Best Gluten-free Pancakes You Will Ever Eat, and Buckwheat Pancakes.  If you like this recipe, you might also like my Easy Waffles Recipe - it's gluten-free and dairy-free.  If you have any suggestions or want to link to your own recipe, please leave it in the comments or links!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Quick and Easy Gluten-free Dairy-free Soy-free Dinner Idea: Roasted Vegetables

I heard about this technique called "The 450-degree oven" on the Splendid Table on NPR a few weeks ago. I tried it for the first time last week while I was bar-b-queing some steaks for a friend, and thought it was one of the easiest and most flavorful side dishes I had ever made. For this post, I decided to prepare it as a one-dish full meal. The whole thing only takes about 25 minutes to prep and cook, and it can be done with a wide variety of ingredients. If you're not into the meat aspect of the dish, omit that and make it vegan.

The dish pictured was made with just potato, yam, onion, and bacon for main ingredients.

It didn't occur to me until I looked at the pictures, but this dish could also be served with eggs at breakfast. The potatoes look a lot like home fries.

First, turn on the oven to 450 degrees. Put a cookie sheet or a large cast-iron skillet into the oven as it's warming up. Cut into large pieces your soft vegetables:

Onion Garlic Bell peppers, etc. Squash, etc.

Cut into 1/4 inch slices your hard vegetables:

Potato Yam

Throw all the vegetables in a bowl and toss in:

Olive oil to coat Salt Pepper Dried herbs (basil and dill or your favorite combination)

When your oven is heated up to temperature, throw all the vegetables into the hot pan. Spread them around evenly and let cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until you smell their lovely scent wafting out of the oven. Open the oven, stir the vegetables, and make room on the sheet or skillet to place:

several slices of bacon

Put everything back in the oven for 5-8 minutes, or until done. Enjoy with a side salad or a fresh green garnish.
This has been a recipe for the What's for Dinner? Wednesday blog carnival hosted by Linda at the Gluten-free Homemaker. Visit her site for more gluten-free dinner ideas!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Gluten-free Vegan Scone Recipe

I have been spending the last several weeks working on a few new recipes: gluten-free vegan scones and gluten-free pancakes. I have now produced a scone recipe that I can't wait to share.

This recipe is incredibly simple. I was resistant to the idea of vegan scones until I found a few recipes for cream scones, which don't take butter or egg. Therefore there is only one dairy product to substitute: the cream.

In a cream scone recipe, the fat in the cream is the substitute for the fat in the butter that has been omitted. Therefore I couldn't use a low-fat substitute like rice milk.

I have found that coconut cream is the best vegan substitute for regular cream, especially in cooking. I love coconut soup, coconut curry, coconut everything. It's the only non-dairy cream I've found that has somewhere close to the right fat content to substitute for cream. To make sure the coconut cream was really rich, I first scooped the dense part out from the top of the can into my liquid measure to make sure I got most of the good stuff in. Then I filled the measure to the appropriate line with the thinner liquid in the bottom of the can. There may be a bit of thin liquid at the bottom of the can that you can set aside in case you need it. Once separated, stir the cream until smooth. A 14-oz can of unsweetened coconut cream will yield enough thick, rich cream for one recipe.

For a dairy version, simply use real cream or see my famous scone recipe. If you are a wheat eater, you may certainly enjoy my scone recipes too. Just substitute your wheat flour 1:1 for the gluten-free flour listed here.

The trick with this recipe is to handle the dough as little as possible. In regular scones, the cold butter that has been cut into the flour melts as it cooks and leaves pockets of air. These air pockets are expanded by the baking powder and leave the dough light and flaky. Since this recipe doesn't call for butter, the lightness of the dough depends on you not compressing it by over-handling.

My best gluten-free tip is to use a flour mix that doesn't have xanthan gum, guar gum, or any gluten substitute. Besides being somewhat unnecessary in a quickbread recipe in general, they could render this delicate dough tough. Coconut seems to be a pretty good binder, so the use of xanthan gum can easily be overdone. If you try this recipe and find the scones too delicate, try using 1/8 tsp xanthan gun in your next batch.

Use a flour mix that you like the flavor of, and which substitutes well for wheat flour in other recipes. Coconut cream does not brown well, so make sure you use a flour mix that contains tapioca starch for color.

NEW! Don't want to mix everything yourself?  I now have a Scone Mix available.

Lemon Coconut Cream Scones Recipe

Heat oven to 425 degrees farenheit.

2 C All-Purpose Gluten-free Flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c sugar
1 1/4 C (unsweetened) coconut cream or coconut milk
zest of one lemon or orange

Combine all the dry ingredients. Add the citrus zest to the liquid. Mix the coconut cream into the dry ingredients until it barely holds together. (If the dough seems at all dry, or it isn't coming together quickly, add more coconut cream and quickly mix it in.) Flour your hands with white rice flour. Pour out the dough onto a floured surface, then press it together as gently as possible until it just comes together in a thick disk. Cut into eight equal pieces, carefully transfer them to a baking sheet, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 8 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into them comes out clean.

Enjoy your gluten-free dairy-free scones! Feel free to top the scones with a citrus glaze, but I think these stand well on their own.

Need a new zester? I recommend this microplane.  It gives you a really fine zest, and it's easy to hold.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Deschutes Brewery Has New Gluten-free Golden ESB on Tap

The Deschutes Brewery is now going to have gluten-free beer on tap year-round!

I heard about the brewery developing some new gluten-free beers a few days ago and went to the brewery to verify. My server, Jen, was extraordinarily helpful. Not only did she verify that they would be serving gluten-free beer year-round, but they also are working on various recipes. I had been in several months ago to try the Gluten-free Golden Ale, which I had really enjoyed. It was bitter and hoppy. The recipe included sorghum, brown rice and roasted chestnuts. At right is a picture of my friend Ben from Gluten-free PDX with that very ale.

I asked Jen about gluten-free options on the menu, because at first glance there didn't seem to be a lot of clear choices. She clued me in to the fact that they have things that can be made gluten-free indicated with a little symbol of a head of wheat crossed out. Vegetarian options are noted with a green leaf.

When she came back with our beers, Jen set mine down in front of me and said, "This is the gluten-free beer." She set my friend's beer in front of him and walked off to give us a few more minutes to look at the menu.

I took one sip of the beer and thought, "Oh, no! She gave me the wrong beer!" This beer did not taste gluten-free. It only took a few seconds for me to realize that the mistake was mine. I had the right beer, but this new gluten-free beer was even better than the previous one, and by a long shot. It's a new brew called the Gluten-free Golden ESB, and it may be my new favorite gluten-free beer. It is a bit darker gold in color than their previous GF Golden Ale. It was somewhat less bitter, and also managed to avoid the harsh chemical overtones that sorghum usually lends to a beer. They don't have it posted on their website yet, but the recipe involved sorghum, molasses and brewer's gold hops, among other ingredients.

Jen came back to take our order. I asked her several questions about the menu, and she had immediate and knowledgeable answers. She really knew a lot about the food and the beer she was serving. I was really impressed. She mentioned that the fries are only sometimes cooked in a dedicated fryer, but they do not have a flour coating. She offered to double-check with the kitchen to see if they were using a separate fryer that night. I ordered the Elk burger with no bun, which ended up being good but not mind-blowing. They served it with plenty of butter-leaf lettuce for wrapping if desired. Jen told me they are working on making their own gluten-free bread for the sandwiches and burgers, and may be offering that soon.

I know I'll be going to Deschutes more often, and I'll be checking back about their other menu options and upcoming beers. The Pearl District location is not too far from where I work, so I may be responsible for consuming a fair portion of this batch of beautiful gluten-free beer. Get there soon or I may drink it all!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pancake and Scone Recipes in the Works this Weekend!

This weekend I'll be working on a few projects for the good of the gluten-free. I'll be making another attempt at my new gluten-free pancakes recipe. I have so far made several attempts, only some of which have been successful. (As you can see from the photo, I probably won't be recommending that you use this as a waffle recipe.) I am also working on a gluten-free vegan scone recipe which I have high hopes for. Does it sound impossible? Reserve judgment until you hear my idea! I'm relying very heavily on coconut cream for this one. What do you use?

What other kinds of baked goods would you like to see a new recipe for? Do you have a favorite recipe of your own for gluten-free scones or pancakes? Do you cook with coconut cream, or have another favorite dairy-free substitute? I want to hear about it!

Update: See my successful new gluten-free vegan scone recipe here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Energ-G White Rice Spaghetti Product Review

For last week in my What's for Dinner? Wednesday post I made Pasta Carbonara on some Ener-G White Rice Spaghetti that I'd just found. I promised to write a review of that pasta, and here it is! For more ideas and recipes visit Linda at the Gluten-free Homemaker.

The pasta size is more like spaghettini or thin spaghetti, which I have always liked. It's a difficult size to find gluten-free, so you can understand my excitement in finally coming across it. In addition, I've been trying to seek out more white rice pastas here in the U.S. - they have some really good ones in Italy. The only other white rice pasta I've found was the Tinkyada brand that I reviewed a while back. My very first blog post was a review of several different kinds of gluten-free pasta, but none of them was a white rice pasta.

Overall, I liked the Tinkyada white rice pasta a little better, in spite of the fact that Tinkyada's pasta doesn't come in a thin spaghetti style. I found the Ener-G pasta to be a little bit rough in texture for a white rice pasta, especially when cooked al dente. I could even see little scales on the surface of the pasta, like the scales on wool. When cooked more thoroughly, however, this pasta was very good and lost most of its roughness. It had a pleasant, neutral flavor and handled well - it didn't break or gum up like some gluten-free pastas do.

I would try this pasta again. It's a little hard to find in the store - the only place I've come across it was in the Bob's Red Mill store out in Milwaulkee Oregon. What really excites me about this pasta is that it also comes in a vermicelli style, which should be even thinner. I will probably have to order this online as I don't think any stores in this area carry it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Starbuck's Little Orange Cakes

Today was the Starbucks debut of the Valencia Orange Cake. I was surprised they hadn't sold out by 4 o'clock when I went there to pick up three to try. I thought my co-workers might help me taste-test them. Nate and Becca like to cook and eat - they are gourmands by my standards. I thought they might have some added input for my review since they are both gluten-eaters.

I returned to work and distributed the surprise treats. Mine was unwrapped and consumed within minutes. Nate unwrapped his and took a bite.

"Pretty good," he said. "Is that corn flour?"

I checked the ingredients. No corn flour.

"That texture might be almond flour," I theorized.

Becca unwrapped her cake.

"Yeah, pretty good!" she said.

So there you have it. It's pretty good and we ate ours before I thought to take a picture, which means something around here because I work in a photo lab. I'm always thinking about pictures.

Upon further prodding, Nate added that the cakes are awesome, and that he wouldn't have known they were gluten-free.

Some surprises:
- It was only $1.95!
- It wasn't too sweet.
- The feel of it was soft and moist.
- It wasn't overwhelmingly orangey, but rather balanced.

If you want to know more about how the cakes are made, click here.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Bit More About Pancetta, and a Recipe for Pancetta Rolls Stuffed with Goat Cheese

This week in preparation for doing my post on Pasta Carbonara I had a pancetta breakthrough: it's much cheaper to buy at the butcher shop! I'd been buying the packaged stuff that was shipped from Italy or who-knows-where. I saw some at Chop Butchery in the City Market on NW 23rd Avenue in Portland, ordered some, and was shocked at how inexpensive it was. Plus, they will slice it for you however you want. I always get it "very thin," which is how Italians do it.

What is pancetta? It's Italian-style bacon. Pancetta is a cured pork belly that has not been smoked. It is sometimes rubbed with juniper and herbs and it's often rolled and cased.

How does pancetta taste? Cooked, pancetta adds a savory flavor that infuses whatever you're cooking it with. Since it's not smoked, it's milder than American bacon. It's usually sliced very thin, and can give you a very crispy, almost flaky texture. Raw, it can be kind of chewy and greasy, but still salty and delicious.

How do I know if my pancetta has gone bad? The same way that you know that bacon - or anything else - has gone bad. The color no longer looks fresh, and it no longer smells like something you want to eat.

If pancetta and bacon are cured, why is it that they go bad after only a few days in the coolness of the refrigerator? I always wondered about this one, so I asked my cooking partner Alex, who went to culinary school and cures his own meets on occasion.

"Is it because it's sliced?" asked.

"Yes, there's that. Plus, your refrigerator is gross."


"It's not just your refrigerator. It's everybody's. Those guys at a butcher shop clean out their case every day. They have to, with all the stuff that they keep in there."

Okay, I'm going to clean out my refrigerator and see if my bacon lasts longer.

Can you eat pancetta raw? Yes - Italians do it all the time. The salting and curing of the meat renders it safe to eat. During a recent conversation with my cousin who is a doctor, I asked him about the safety of pancetta.

"The curing process creates an extremely hostile environment. Any bacteria or other living organisms are going to be completely killed by the salinity of the curing process. If you put a piece of pancetta on the sidewalk it wouldn't go bad for days. It would probably never grow bacteria on it - fungus, yes, but bacteria won't grow on something so salty."

I'm not sure I'll test that out, but the point is that any cured meats are sanitized in the process. Anything that's harmful to you would have to be introduced and grow after the curing is done. Trychinosis, Listeriosis, and salmonella all sound very unpleasant, and there are greater risks to pregnant women, small children, and the elderly. However, keep in mind that you are more likely to get food poisoning from fresh vegetables - or anything raw - than something that contains cured meats, no matter what the preparation. Think of the last several salmonella outbreaks we've had in the US: tomatoes, pistachios, peanuts, alfalfa sprouts, and spinach were the culprits.

So, to avoid anything that might be harmful to you, I hereby give you a recipe that is tomato-free, peanut-free, pistachio-free, sprout-free and spinach-free. Oh, yes, and it's also wheat-free and gluten-free.

Pancetta Rolls Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Heat a cast-iron skillet to medium high. Get out some rolled pancetta.

Place some goat cheese in a line on the pancetta circles.

Roll up the pancetta around the goat cheese.

Cook the rolls in the sizzling-hot pan for 30 seconds or until it's well-browned. Turn over and cook the other side. Don't over-cook or they will disintegrate! Put on a plate and serve hot.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Strawberries Dipped in Chili Chocolate

Making your own chocolate sauce for dipping or for putting on your ice cream is very simple. It only requires a few ingredients: chocolate, cocoa powder, butter, and cream. Because I don't always like doing things the easy way, however, I'm going to give you a recipe that includes one more ingredient: chiles.

As my readers may know by now, I love Mexican food. Chilies with chocolate is one of my favorite combinations from Mexican cuisine. I have made chocolate sauce many times before, but when my cooking partner Alex suggested one time that we make it with chilies I was really excited. The first time we tried it with some roasted ancho chilies. It gave a good flavor, but what we were looking for was a distict bite. To up the ante, the second time we tried it Alex procured some ghost chilies, supposedly the spiciest chile in the world. They looked like dried habaneros. Pick your chile by how you want the end result to come out, and keep in mind that the chile flavor will be somewhat overwhelmed by the other flavors, so a mildly spicy chile will not be spicy at all when the recipe is done.

First, we infused the cream with the chiles. In a small saucepan, put:

1/4 cup cream 2 Tbsp crushed dried chile of your choice

Heat the mixture until it's almost boiling, or between 140 and 160 degrees, for four minutes. Pour the cream through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and set aside.

In a double boiler, warm up and mix together:

1/3 lb high-quality dark chocolate
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp cocoa powder

When the chocolate mixture is smooth and melted, add in about half of the chile-infused cream. Stir until well-combined and smooth. Give the chocolate a taste, and adjust the ingredients to your preference. Notice that I did not include sugar in this recipe - I rarely sweeten chocolate, but you can add some sugar at this time if you desire. Add more cocoa if you want a stronger chocolate flavor, or more cream if the chocolate is too thick.

Pull the bowl off the stove and let it cool for about 20 minutes. The chocolate will be easier to handle if it's halfway cooled - it won't drip so much. Dip your strawberries in the chocolate and place them on a sheet of wax paper to cool completely, or eat right away if you don't mind getting chocolate everywhere. Garnish with whatever strikes your fancy: salt, cinnamon, chile powder....

For more ideas on how to treat your strawberries, see the Friday Foodie Fix blog carnival at The W.H.O.L.E. Gang.