Saturday, February 21, 2015

Pistachio Crusted Chicken


I find it hard to describe the flavor of this pistachio crust, sweet, salty, crunchy, and just over all high in YUM factor. The original recipe called for ¼ cup of parsley, and I have replaced half of that with basil. I love the flavor of basil, but I also really like parsley for its health benefits including improved digestion and lowering inflammation. This recipe would be great either way, all parsley, or all basil. Combining a little of both creates a well rounded crust.

This crust also really helps keep the chicken moist during baking. I like to trim each chicken breast into a couple pieces so as to increase the surface area covered with the pistachio mix.  This could work really well with chicken tenders also.

Makes 4 servings   (Makes enough to bread 1½ to 2 pounds chicken)

Ingredients
1 cup roasted, unsalted pistachios
1½ tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 tbsp packed fresh basil leaves
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt, plus extra
4 chicken breasts, about 1½ to 2 pounds total

Procedure

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place pistachios, garlic powder, parsley, basil, pepper and salt in the food processor. 
Process until a smooth meal is formed, about 30 to 40 seconds. 

Transfer to a sided, flat bottomed baking dish, suitable for breading the chicken.


Trim breasts to remove any fatty edges and separate the tender if needed.  Lay the breast on a cutting board and, similar to “butterflying”, place your hand flat on the breast to hold it still, and with the edge of a knife parallel to the cutting board, carefully slice the thickest part the breast in half width wise, cutting all the way through. This will leave you with one large piece and a smaller piece that are about the same thickness. Cut the large piece in half to create three similarly sized pieces.

Coat chicken by pressing pieces into pistachio meal, one at a time, coating all sides and pressing down on the breasts with your hands to make sure the coating stays on the chicken. Gently shake chicken to remove any loose coating. Place in large baking dish. Repeat until all pieces are done.
**TIP: if the pistachio crust doesn’t seem to stick to the chicken, or if the crust is super clumpy, it might be too moist. Add 1 tsp brown rice flour and 1 tsp tapioca flour, give the pistachio meal a good stir to incorporate the flour and try again. Add one more teaspoon of each flour if needed.

Heat large saute pan over medium high heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, and once hot (oil should move quickly across pan when tipped), add 3 to 4 pieces of chicken to pan without overcrowding, cook for 1 to 2 minutes until crust is browned, then flip and cook the other side. 

TIP: Use a flat spatula to flip the chicken when browning in the pan. If you use tongs, you may lose some of the crust as it tends to stick to the tongs.

Place cooked pieces back into baking dish and repeat until all chicken is browned. Place baking dish in oven for 25 minutes, (depending on thickness of pieces, could take up to 30 to 35 minutes) internal temp should be 160 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.



Because this chicken tends to have a rich and slightly sweet taste, I would serve it with less fatty foods like an arugula salad, some steamed broccoli or sauteed kale, mashed or roasted cauliflower or a little buttered pasta. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Basil Pesto



Until recently, I thought pesto was out of my life forever.  Since going dairy free, I had sadly said goodbye to pesto and mourned the loss of its deliciousness.  Every pesto in the store and in most restaurants are full of Parmesan cheese. This is a challenge when you are trying to avoid dairy. But what took me so long to just make it myself?

While cooking for a First Descents retreat last summer, in Hood River, OR, we had pasta night and while I made the marinara, my sous chef threw together the pesto. I asked her to first make a non-dairy batch for me and for a few other non-dairy folks. It was so good that she didn't bother adding any cheese to it. After tasting it I realized I had forgotten just how much I love pesto and was impressed by how much flavor it had. In traditional pesto, the Parmesan cheese adds texture, fat and saltiness. I think if you have a good quality olive oil and freshly toasted pine nuts, they make up for the missing cheese flavor.  As soon as I got home, I immediately bought a bunch of basil and created this recipe.  


Basil Pesto

Makes 2 cups
Ingredients
3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 bunches basil, about 8 oz total
1 tbsp lemon juice, about 1/2 a lemon
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, plus 2 tbsp


Place everything in the food processor, starting with just 1/2 cup of the oil and 2 tsp of the lemon juice. You might like a thicker pesto, so it is better to start with a little less liquid, you can always add more. And the flavor of citrus can vary with the age of the fruit, so start with a little less, taste and then see if you want to add more. 

Process until smooth. Taste, add more oil, lemon and/or salt to taste.  


Place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. Basil will stay green longer if you cover the surface with plastic wrap, which limits the amount of air contact, (let the plastic wrap rest on the surface of the pesto). 


Same principle goes for avocados, it is the contact with oxygen that starts them to brown, so wrap them up good once cut.


This will keep in the fridge about a week. It still might be ok after a week, after all, there isn't any meat or dairy in it to go "bad", but the color will look less appetizing the more time that goes by. 

This recipe makes 2 cups which is a lot if you are eating alone, or just want a small amount. Go ahead of cut the recipe in half if you want to make less. You may have to stop the food processor more often to scrape down the sides as there wont be as much in the bowl of the processor and it will take a little longer to get chopped down. 



I use this pesto on everything. It shouldnt be saved just as a topping for pasta. I use it on chicken, drizzle it over vegetables, and even a dipping sauce when I make some gluten free rolls. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Decadent Dairy Free Chocolate Pudding


This recipe is inspired by the first non-dairy pudding I ever tried back in culinary school at the Natural Gourmet Culinary Institute. Until then I didn’t know it was possible to make a pudding that could fool you into believing it was full of milk. 

One of the ingredients that helps to make this pudding creamy is Kuzu (or kudzu), a wild growing vine. The starch is made from its roots and is used as a thickener like cornstarch or arrowroot.   Another unusual ingredient in this recipe is Agar, a seaweed used in Macrobiotic cooking and acts as a gelling agent just like gelatin. When used together, they create a wonderfully creamy pudding-like texture.   I like to make this for people and not tell them that this isn’t any ordinary pudding, until after they have tried it. It always wins over the crowd.  This recipe is more work than a regular dairy pudding but so worth the time.

Yield 4 ½ cups
about 11 servings

Ingredients
2 cups unsweetened soy or almond milk, room temperature, plus a little extra (about 7 tbsp extra)
4 tbsp agar flakes
4 tbsp kuzu powder
½ cup water
1 13.5oz can coconut milk, full fat, not light
½ cup plus 1 tbsp cocoa powder
¼ tsp salt
1 ¼ cup maple syrup, grade b
2 tbsp vanilla

Procedure

Place 2 cups milk in a medium pot and add the agar flakes. Stir to submerge the agar and set aside. Do this first while you start to assemble the other ingredients. Letting this sit helps the agar to “bloom” (soften) in the liquid. Can let this sit up to 4 hours, especially if the milk is cold.

Place kuzu and water in a small bowl and stir until dissolved. Set aside.

Place coconut milk in a measuring cup and top off to the 2-cup level with additional soy or nut milk. Pour into the pot with the agar.

Place pot over medium heat. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring frequently with a whisk. It is ok to walk away from the pot a little, coming back to give it a stir every couple minutes.  Once the milk comes to a boil, the agar should be dissolved. **Once milk is close to the boiling point the pot can easily boil over, lower heat a little so that the milk is at a rolling boil, until agar is completely dissolved.

To check, scoop some into a spoon and look for any small pieces of undissolved gelatin.  

The picture below still shows undisolved agar. Keep going.

This looks much better below. But see those couple darks spots in the spoon?  Those are the agar pieces, almost disolved, but not quite. Keep simmering another minute when it looks like that. 

Once those are gone, it is ready. (About 15 minutes until agar is completely dissolved.)

Whisk in cocoa, salt, maple syrup and vanilla. Continue stirring and bring almost to a boil. Bring heat up a little if you lowered it in the last step. This will take about 5 minutes.

Give the kuzu a quick stir and then add to the pot while stirring and continue to cook until pudding becomes thick, about 1 minute.

Remove from heat and pour pudding into a shallow pan or bowl and place on the counter or back of the stove to cool, about 30 minutes to an hour. 

Once some of the heat has dissipated, place in refrigerator to cool the rest of the way, until firm.  **this takes a long time to completely get cold, Best to make the day before and leave in the fridge overnight. You want the gelling process to complete before placing in the food processor, or the pudding will not be entirely smooth.
Once completely cold and firm, place in food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary. 

Pour into a dish and serve!
 
*A note about cocoa powders:  A really good cocoa powder is important here. This makes up the most of the flavor. My favorite is the cocoa powder at Penzey’s. Choose a high quality cocoa like Rapunzel, Dagoba, Sharffen Berger or Guittard.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Garbanzo Bean Salad



This is a quick and easy salad to throw together using a simple ingredient, garbanzo beans. The vinegar nicely marinates the beans as it sits for a few days as well as adding digestive enzymes. I like the flavor of rice vinegar, but I also use apple cider vinegar for its health benefits. Garbanzo beans are a legume, and are a healthy source of dietary fiber, carbohydrates and protein. 

The onion and parsley will lose their color as the salad sits, so if you are serving this for guests, add those the day of. If using canned, look for beans that have a very short list of ingredients. You dont need a bunch of salt and preservatives. Eden brand even uses kombu in the cooking of their beans, which is a great, natural digestive aid.  

This bean salad is great alone or as part of a larger meal.  It would also be tasty served with a little chilled, cooked quinoa over salad greens. Add a few sliced cherry tomatoes and cucumber, then drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.

To make the salad:

Ingredients:
2 15oz cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed well  and drained, or 3 cups cooked dried chickpeas
½ small red onion, diced small, about ½ cup
2 tbsp chopped parsley
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp Olive Oil
¼ tsp salt

Procedure:

Place everything in a bowl and give it a good stir. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week. If the salad lasts a few days, give it a stir at least once a day to help distribute the beans in the vinaigrette.

An alternate to just garbanzos, add one can of kidney beans and one can of garbanzo beans instead of two. This makes for a different flavor as well as more color.


Enjoy!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Turkey Meatballs, one of my favorite snacks


There is something about a great meatball that is just so satisfying. Reminds me of Sunday dinners at my Grandmother's house when I was a kid. It has taken me a long time to make gluten free meatballs that are as moist and tasty as those with regular breadcrumbs. Sure, it is easy to make them with no breadcrumbs at all, but sometimes they come out a little too, well dense and springy instead of moist and tender. 

I found a great tip in the "How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook" by America's Test Kitchen where they found potato flakes to give better results than using gluten free breadcrumbs. I gave it a try and bingo!  Fantastic gluten and dairy free meatballs. 

These are a healthier version made with ground turkey as well as shredded carrot and zucchini. You will never know the veggies are in there. 

I make mine on the smaller side because I love using them as a snack during the week, when I don't have time to throw together a full meal. Sometimes I grab one out of the fridge and eat it cold. Usually I heat a couple up and dip them in marinara sauce. 

Enjoy!

Makes 24 one-inch meatballs

Ingredients:
2 teaspoons oil
¼ medium onion chopped fine, about ½ cup
2 medium garlic cloves, minced, about 2 tsp
1 large egg
3 tablespoons milk (regular dairy or unsweetened almond milk)
2 tbsp plain potato flakes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup grated zucchini, smallest grate
¼ cup grated carrot, smallest grate
1 pound ground turkey thigh
2 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground pepper

Procedure:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper if needed and spray with a little oil. 
  1. Place a medium saute pan over medium high heat, add the oil and when hot (oil should move quickly when tilted), add the onions and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir, another 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let cool.
  1. In a large bowl, wisk together the egg and milk. Stir in the potato flakes, tomato paste, parsley, thyme, oregano, garlic powder and cooled onion mixture.
  1. Place the grated zucchini in a paper towel and squeeze over a bowl or the sink to remove as much moisture as possible. 
  1. Add the squeezed zucchini to the egg mixture bowl along with the carrots, ground turkey, salt and pepper. Mix well until all ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the turkey.
  1. Shape into 1 to 2 inch balls and place on prepare baking sheet, place in oven for 30 minutes.

  1. Remove from oven and I usually cut into one of the meatballs to peek inside just to make sure it is fully cooked, no longer pink. Also, I just want to hurry up and eat one. 

Tip: You can also pan fry the meatballs, which gives them a really nice color, better texture and I think, a better flavor. Do this by heating the same saute pan you used for the onions, add a little olive oil, place over medium high heat and cook the meatballs in batches, turning every minute or so to brown all the sides. Place on baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.  


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Alternative Flours Explained

*Editor's Note: I originally published this list in 2008 when I was learning how to use all these flours myself. I have made some updates since then.

There are a lot of flours on the grocery store shelves now besides the standard AP and whole wheat but most people do not know what to do with them. Over the last few years with the explosion of gluten free baking and new gf cook books, these alternative flours are much more common in the average store, and not just available in health food stores.

Reading the label of a gluten free bread or cookie can also be a little confusing when you see ingredients like sorghum and xathan gum. Just what are they? Below is a list of flours and baking ingredients with descriptions of what they are made from and how they can be used.

** Special Note: gluten free flours have gotten WAY better in the last few years. Rice flour used to be grainy, now the brown rice flour from Bob's Red Mill is silky soft resulting in better baked products. And common brands like King Arthur and Betty Crocker now offer a gluten free all purpose flour blend, with the goal of making your baking easier. Be careful with these, they might contain more ingredients than you need like baking powder or xanthan gum.
      
Alternative Flours:

Almond Flour - made by grinding blanched almonds into a fine powder (skins removed). The consistency is more like corn meal than wheat flour. You can find extra fine Italian Almond Flour which has more flavor, but can be very pricey. Baking with almond flour requires using more eggs to provide more structure. Use it in cakes, cookies, and other sweet baked goods. You can make it yourself by placing blanched almonds in a Vitamix or high power blender.















Brown Rice Flour - made from stone ground brown rice. Used in gluten free baked goods as a replacement for wheat. Can also be used to thicken soups and stews. I prefer to use this instead of white rice as it contains more fiber and therefore has a higher nutritional value. The higher fiber content will contribute to a heavier product than recipes made with white rice flour. Can also produce a gritty product when used alone and is best when combined with other flours like sorghum, potato flour and tapioca starch.














Tapioca Starch/Flour - made from the cassava root. Once ground it takes the form of a light, soft, fine white flour. It is starchy, slightly sweet and adds chewiness to baking and is a good thickener. Use about 1/4 to 1/2 cup per recipe to lighten and sweeten breads made with heavier flours like brown rice and millet.















Potato Starch - made from dehydrated potatoes. Used in bread, pancake and waffle recipes and as a thickener for sauces, gravies and soups. It adds smoothness and moisture in gluten free baking. It is high in carbohydrates and lacks fiber which makes it necessary to use it along with other flours as a mixture.













Sorghum Flour - is an annual grass originating in Africa and a popular cereal crop worldwide. It has a higher protein content than corn and about equal to wheat. It is neutral in flavor which allows it to absorb other flavors well.

Coconut Flour - delicious alternative to wheat and other grain flours. It is very high in fiber, low in digestible carbohydrates and a good source of protein. It gives baked goods a rich, springy texture but needs a lot more liquid than other flours. Replace up to 20% of the flour called for in a recipe with Coconut Flour, adding an equivalent amount of additional liquid to the recipe. You will not need as much sugar when using this flour as the coconut has a natural sweetness.

Millet Flour - adds a subtle flavor, creamy color, and more vitamins and minerals than other grains. Substitute 1/4 cup millet flour for an equal amount of unbleached white flour in any baked good. Can be a little gritty and contains no gluten, so is best to substitute around a 1/4 millet flour for other flours when baking.

Quinoa Flour - made by grinding quinoa (keen-wah) to a powder. Highly nutritious, containing more protein, calcium and iron than other grains. It has a light nutty flavor. Not recommended to use alone as it does not contain any gluten and has a strong flavor. Best when substituting 1/4 cup for another flour.


Stabilizers/Gums

Xanthan Gum - is a natural, complex carbohydrate made from a tiny microorganism called Xanthomonas campestris. Using about 1/4 tsp in bread and other gluten-free baked goods adds volume and viscosity which usually comes from the gluten in wheat. It is also used as a thickener and emulsifier in dairy products, salad dressings, and other foods.


What blends I use


**My favorite blend for gluten free baking is 1 cup rice flour, 1/2 cup tapioca flour, 1/2 cup potato flour, 3/4 cup sorghum flour. Mix flours and keep in an airtight container and replace for an equal amount of flour in your recipe of choice. Sometimes I add a little quinoa or millet flour as well. These flours work best when there are eggs in the recipe and do not work as well with egg replacers.
Overall, there is no good one flour replacement for regular wheat flour. In general, the best result comes from using a blend of flours. A great source for how to use these flours if you are new to the gf cooking world is "How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook" by America's Test Kitchen

For ideas of what to do with Coconut and Almond Flours, check out
Elana's Pantry. She uses them exclusively because of their higher protein content. The recipes that I have tried from her blog so far have been delicious!


Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods produces all of the flours above in a plant dedicated gluten free and is by far my favorite source.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My First Green Smoothie

I love juicing, especially during the warmer months. It gives me a boost of energy and helps me to get all my servings of vegetables in. 

But today, today I made my first green smoothie and I am HOOKED!  It was so much better than I thought it would be, creamy, refreshing, and did NOT taste a bit like the two whole cups of spinach I threw in.


Smoothies vs Juicing

There are so many great benefits to juicing, the pure vitamin power of the vegetables get delivered to your stomach and bloodstream immediately. You can drink way more vegetables than you would ever eat in one day. But the criticism of juicing is the lack of fiber for your stomach to work on. Too many fruits in a juice can spike your blood sugar which is not what you want, especially when juicing as part of a cleanse.

With a smoothie, the entire fruit and vegetable goes in the blender. Now you are taking in all the fiber from the peeled orange, and not just the juice. I felt full for a long time after drinking my smoothie and enjoyed every sip. It makes two servings, but I just drank half at home, put the rest in a mason jar with a lid and took it with me to work.




Here is what I made:

Orange Goodness
2 cups spinach*, packed
1 cup coconut water
1 cup almond milk, unsweetened
1 whole orange, peeled
1 frozen banana

Put everything in the blender and blend until smooth. Pour into your favorite glass or jar and enjoy!

*For the spinach, I recommend using the bundle of large leaf spinach found near the lettuce. The small, baby spinach in the bags has much less moisture in the leaves and wont blend up as well. Using the bagged spinach is good too if that is what you have, any spinach is better than using none at all!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Aioli ... aka Homemade Mayo


Aioli (eye-o-li) could be described as the fancy name for mayo. That is the word most often see on menus, never "mayo" or "mayonnaise". And actually traditional aioli is made with a mortar and pestle, to grind the garlic cloves into a paste first, and uses olive oil, never canola.  With a food processor though, making aioli or mayo yourself is so easy and so much better than anything you would get a the store that you wont want to go back. You will be much happier with the far smaller list of ingredients as well.  When made from scratch, the flavor is so much more alive and interesting than store bought mayo. Your sandwiches and everything else will end up tasting better.

With this base aioli, you can create any flavor you want by adding fresh herbs and spices, or some roasted red bell pepper or sundried tomatoes. A recipe for chipotle aioli is below which goes great with burgers and fish tacos.


Homemade Mayo or "Aioli"
Makes 2 cups


Ingredients:

3 large egg yolks
1 small garlic clove
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
1 cup grapeseed or canola oil
1/2 cup light olive oil

Procedure:

Place egg yolk, garlic, lemon juice, mustard and salt in the food processor. Turn on and let run until garlic is broken up, about 15 seconds.

The key to a good emulsion is to start very slow. Most food processors have a hole in the round insert for the processor lid. This is to help create a slow, small stream of oil, when you pour the oil through this part of the lid. 


Turn on the processor and begin pouring in 1 to 3 tablespoons at a time of oil through the hole in the lid, until you can see the mixture begin to gel, or bind together. Take your time here. If the emulsification doesnt happen at the beginning, the mixture will just be runny no matter how much you run the processor.  Once you see the "mayo" forming, go ahead and pour the oil in a little faster. The hole will keep the oil flowing in a steady stream. 



My aioli tends to emulsify so well that the mixture is super thick half way through adding the oil. I then stop the oil and add a little warm water, about 2 to 3 tablespoons, and turn on the processor again. The aioli then thins a bit and looks like the consistency of regular mayo. Once all the oil is in, taste the aioli and see if you want to add any more lemon or salt. 



Store in a glass jar or airtight container in the refrigerator.


How to Make Chipotle Aioli


Ingredients:

1 cup aioli
1/2 Chipotle in Adobo Sauce - look for a brand without wheat flour, found in the mexican food section of the grocery store
1/2 tsp smoked paprika powder
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp lime juice (about 1 lime)

Procedure:

Place all ingredients in the food processor and process until smooth. Taste and add more chipotle pepper in you like it hotter. I start with a half pepper and then add more depending on how hot they are. 



This goes great with sweet potato fries, tilapia tacos, burgers and pulled pork sandwiches. I am sure there is a lot more it could be served with too, let me know what you think.