A Gluten-Free Recipe, Okay?

GF BananasJust because I like you, here’s a gluten-free snack recipe that’s (a) easy to make, (b) cheap, (c) made with ingredients that are usually hanging around, and (d) kid-friendly. Oh, and they’ve got that “Ooo-I-saw-these-on-Pinterest” vibe because of the popsicle sticks. (We always have popsicle sticks around, courtesy of the Job Lot which sells them in packs of, oh, 5,000.)

Naturally, these would be even better prepared with real chocolate but then we’re defeating the purpose of this “healthy snack” (a term I loathe, only because people are always asking me for healthy snack ideas. When I snarkily suggest an apple, they recoil in horror. Healthy eating is pretty easy, you know.)

So, we’re going to forgo the melted chocolate (boo-hoo!), and use non-fat yogurt instead. We use vanilla, but you could use chocolate yogurt, or any other flavor. The cereal here is Chocolate Rice Chex, a nice GF cereal that’s low in sugar. But bananas are sugary enough, so if you want to really bring it down, choose a crispy brown rice cereal, like Erehwon.

GF Banana Pops
(4 servings)

1 Cup rice cereal
4 large bananas, peeled and halved crosswise
4 popsicle sticks
5-ounce container vanilla or plain non-fat yogurt

Place the cereal in a ziploc bag and crush it to fine crumbs. Pour onto a large plate.

Insert a stick into the cut end of each banana half. Use a knife to spread yogurt on the bananas. Immediately roll in the cereal crumbs, pressing gently to make the cereal adhere to the bananas.

Arrange on a plate and refrigerate them for 15 minutes. Or eat them right away. Or put them in the freezer – they’re great frozen. In fact, why don’t you double or triple the recipes and freeze them solid before transferring to a ziploc bag and storing for quick snacks?

Long Live Whipped Cream!

Well, I swan - real whipped cream!

We love summer fruit and ice cream desserts – but they must have a little whipped cream to be complete. Stuff in the can? It’s fun and tastes just-okay, but whipped cream is best when made fresh– and we always have heavy cream on hand around here.

Use heavy cream, not the stuff marked “whipping cream”. Heavy cream has more fat and is easier to whip. Good luck finding a brand that’s not ultra-pasteurized. Ultra-pastuerized cream is very difficult to whip because the high heat denatures the proteins in the cream. That’s why most recipes call for chilling the bowls and beaters and stuff, which we always forget to do.

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Fire Safety Month Mac ‘n Cheese Experience

Move over, Kraft.

Today I participated in fire safety event hosted by a local bank. October is fire safety month, and, since the topic was all about begin fire-safe in the kitchen, I was ask to come buy.

This issue is almost as important as knife safety – there’s nothing worse than a student with no eyebrows (usually the result of too-enthusiastic flambéing). And with so many kids coming through our kitchen, we can’t be having their hair going up in flames and such. This is one of the reasons I installed induction cooktops in the CU kitchen – so much safer. But less fun and dramatic which is why we also have a gas cooktop; see “flambéing”, above). Read more

Chasing the Dragon Grilled Corn

Dragon corn, monster steak!

Okay, the title is a tad dramatic. After all, grilled corn on the cob is nowhere near as addictive as opium, right? Wrong!

There are people who would happily eat COTC everyday during its season. And grilled corn takes things to a whole ‘nother level. Just ask the people of Mumbai or Mexico City – it’s a popular street food in both countries. Indian vendors swab the charcoaled-ears with lime and dredge in spices; Mexican cooks slather the cobs with mayo, lime, chili powder, and top with cojita cheese. Read more

Games of Scones

One great memory of scones is not of eating them, but of watching other people eat them. Attending Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival one summer, we dropped anchor at a funky old hotel on Princes Street. Our fifth floor window looked right into the café at Jenners Department store next door. Every afternoon, ladies in twinsets and pearls would descend on the café to consume brown pots of tea and plates of currant scones. You could almost hear the clinking of the tea cups.  Almost – at the same time every day, a kilted young man played the bagpipes at the store’s street entrance. The noise was penetrating. (I swear at one point he was piping a little Led Zeppelin. Or maybe it was the theme from Star Wars. Hard to tell with bagpipes.) Read more

Cleaning Out the Fridge: Fromage Fort

Call me a cheapskate, skinflint, tightwad, whatever: when it comes to throwing away food – guilty as charged. Nothing grinds my gears more than cleaning the fridge and tossing eatables. To keep the ol’ blood pressure down, I look at fridge purging not as a negative, but as an opportunity to be creative. I cop to rewarming chili (again!), scattering it with fresh cilantro, and rebranding it as Santa Fe Rechauffe, but my true goal is to find new and interesting ways to repurpose leftovers.

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Lobstah Rangoon!

This year, lobster prices are lower than they’ve been in 20 years – cheaper than cold cuts. So start heatin’ the watta in tha lobstah pot! There’s no reason not to take advantage of these bad boys this summer. You don’t even have to go through the hassle of cooking them yourself: most fishmongers can steam them for you.

But if you’re going to cook up lobster for a clambake yourself, throw an extra one into the pot for use in this variation on a favorite appetizer. (You could use leftover lobster meat, but we’ve never experienced the “leftover” thing at our clambakes.) Skip the deep-frying step and bake them instead. It’s easier and, if you line up your wontons assembly-line fashion as we do, the whole process is a breeze.

Back in the day, lobsters were served not with melted butter but sprinkled with vinegar. They’re quite good that way, actually, so we’ve used a spicy vinegar dipping sauce here; it’s more in keeping with Asian cuisines. (Of course, these appetizers aren’t Asian at all. They were popularized at Trader Vic’s, a Polynesian-themed restaurant, back in the 1950s.)  Feel free to use your favorite dipping sauce. Either way, these Rangoon are a far cry from the restaurant variety (which often, mysteriously, seem to be missing the seafood…)

Lobster Rangoon with Hot Vinegar Dipping Sauce
(24 appetizers)

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
¾ Cup cooked lobster meat, chopped finely
¼ Cup thinly sliced scallion
1-2 teaspoons A-1 sauce
Dash garlic powder
24 won ton wrappers

¼ Cup rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
½ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix together cream cheese, lobster meat, scallion, A-1, and garlic powder.

Lay out the wonton wrappers. Place 1 teaspoon of filling onto one half of a wonton wrapper. Lightly wet the edges with water. Fold the wrapper in half to form a triangle. Seal well and arrange on the cookie sheet. Brush lightly with canola oil or melted butter.

Bake 12-15 minutes, until edges are golden brown and filling is heated through. Serve warm.

While the wonton bake, whisk the dipping sauce ingredients in a bowl. Taste it  and add more salt or more chili peppers, to taste.

Dandy Pesto

Weeds! Huh! What are they good for? Don’t say “absolutely nuthin'” – they make an excellent pesto. As they leaves start appearing in your lawn but before they start to blossom, cut them off and whip up a batch of this pesto. It has a great bitter edge, softened a bit by the addition of basil (or parsley or mint). Use it as you would any pesto. And it freezes beautifully.

Dandelion Pesto
(1 Cup)

1 Cup tightly packed dandelion leaves
½ Cup large basil leaves
1-2 garlic cloves
1/2 Cup lightly toasted walnuts
1/4 Cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim the leaves and swish them around in a large bowl of cold water – they’re usually pretty dirty. Drain them, dry them, and tear them into pieces.

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, pulse together dandelion leaves, basil, garlic, and nuts. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the motor running, add olive oil and process until a smooth paste forms. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The pesto will keep, covered with a thin film of olive oil, for up to 1 month in the fridge or up to 6 months frozen.

The Secret of Clafoutis

Posted by Maile.
What do you call a dessert that’s quick, simple, not too sweet, and comforting? One answer might be clafoutis, a French dessert of cherries baked with a batter topping.

Clafoutis can actually be made with all sorts of other fruits, but then it’s called flaugnarde, which to a non-French speaking person sounds like a tongue twister.

I’d never had clafoutis until we made it in a Very Basics class. It just made so much sense as a dessert. I really like using fruit in a baked dessert, and sometimes making a pie or even a crisp is just not in the cards.

Now, you might think that the secret of clafoutis is the almonds, which are pulsed with the flour in the food processor. But actually, it’s the temperature. Clafoutis is served lukewarm. There is something both delicious and comforting about a warm dessert. Plus, it’s frangrant. Here’s Lori’s recipe:

Cherry Clafoutis
(4-6 servings)

3 Cups fresh cherries (pitted or not)
Sugar to taste
1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
1/3 Cup whole blanched almonds
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
Dash of salt
3 large eggs
3/4 Cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350O F. Butter an 8” square pan.

Pit the cherries, if desired, halve them, and sprinkle with sugar to taste. Let sit while preparing other ingredients.

In a food processor, pulse flour and almonds until fine. Add the sugar, cornstarch, and salt and mix again. Crack in the eggs one by one, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Pour in the melted butter and milk and pulse again until well blended. 

Arrange cherries in the prepared dish. Pour batter over cherries. Bake for 40 minutes, or until set. Transfer to a rack and cool. And serve with confectioner’s sugar.

* The pits give it a slightly different flavor.