Archive Page 3

the taste of spring

when I was growing up in the country, my parents had a huge asparagus patch (still do, in fact). I never could get enough of it, even when it grew faster than we could eat it; I remember seeing huge, plastic Big Gulp cups sitting on the top fridge of the refrigerator, full of asparagus spears (you couldn’t see past that forest of green!). Fortunately, my brothers hated asparagus, and that was one food issue that Mom, Dad, and I wholly encouraged — there was more for us, that way!

Yesterday, I came home from the grocery store with two bundles of this, which made me go weak in the knees when I saw them:

bliss in a jar

and had this, last night:

april asparagus

I had never had asparagus this way before, but when I saw the slender green stalks at the grocery store, my mouth started watering, thinking of them cooked like this. And I can’t take credie for this, because I really had hardly anything to do; it was all because of the asparagus. It can take the credit.

Roasted Asparagus with Garlic

fresh asparagus
garlic cloves
olive oil
salt + pepper

Wash and trim as many stalks of asparagus as you will eat. the way I trim asparagus: using a sharp knife, slice a chunk off the end of the stalk; if there was much resistance at all, lay your blade into the asparagus a little further up; I usually check in about half-centimeter increments. when the knife slides through the asparagus like butter, you’ve gotten rid of the chewy, stringy, woody part.

halve a clove or two of garlic, then slice it very thinly.

Pour a little olive oil (about 2 teaspoons) in a fry-pan that is big enough to comfortably accomodate the whole length of the asparagus.
Turn your stove on to medium / medium-high heat.
Toss in the garlic, and wait a few minutes for it to turn a light golden-brown – but be careful not to burn it. Slide in your asparagus, sprinkle on a little salt and pepper, and cook for a few minutes until bright green and tender, constantly moving them around the pan.
Gather the asparagus spears together onto a plate, and be sure to get any little bits of garlic out of the pan, they’re delicious.

Serves one.

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olé to you, nonetheless.

Filmed last month, this is not an incredibly new video (no brand-new baby scent), and perhaps you’ve seen it before. If not, however (and even if you have), I strongly urge you to watch this. Elizabeth Gilbert, speaking of creativity, genius, and God. I have sat here for the last 20 minutes, absolutely rivited, toes curled under me, shoulder leaning against the wall, and, sometimes, with tears rushing down my face. I could listen to her for the entirety of the evening, but am almost thankful that it is only 20 minutes, for I need time to digest everything she said.

Many, many thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert for shedding light on what is such an emotional, intimate process for so many.

(I’ll be back with more tomorrow; I’ve been horrendously busy with life, lately. Sometimes great, sometimes not-so-great, but always alive.)

enjoying

I just got home from work, kicked off my (very cute, very uncomfortable) shoes, and flung all the windows open to welcome the warm breeze. This is such a drastic difference from even two days ago, when the high still had a windchill of below zero, that I think everyone here is a bit shell-shocked. It even smells like Spring today.

cook's + diner's dictionary

Lately, I’ve been curling up with this book, which I found at Goodwill for under a dollar a few weeks ago. It’s very theraputic for me; I’ve always loved dictionaries, and if I need to relax for a bit, I sit down and read a few entries here and there. It’s full of little line drawings of various kitchen implements and vegetables, and on the page opposite the entry about the significance of the Bordeaux region in France, it includes a full-page map of the area:

bordeaux

I’ve also been picking my way through a few vegetarian cookbooks (I’ve been uninspired about main courses recently, and need a little kick in the pants), and Bette Hagman’s The Gluten-Free Gourmet Makes Dessert. Instead of dogearing pages, as these are all books I got through Inter-Library Loan, I’ve been making a list of recipes that I want to make – and, judging by how long this list is growing, am rapidly discovering that this book, at least, is one that I should purchase, one that would definitely be worth the money.

Another book I would love to own a copy of – and I haven’t even read it yet – is A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg (of Orangette, one of my very favorite blogs — food or otherwise).

And, of course, there’s always Jamie Oliver. Sigh! If only I could afford all of his books!

What about you? Have you found any good cookbooks lately, or do you have any old favorites?

thin mint chocolate cookies

It’s that time of year again. Here in the MidWestern U.S., the weather is teasing us, taunting us, tossing us little reminders of what warmer weather feels like, then just as quickly statching it away again. Hey! Remember what it’s like to go outside without a coat? or Remember when you didn’t have to slather lotion on your hands 10x a day to (try to) keep them from getting chapped? The tulips and hyacinths that I planted last year are unfurling their leaves above the ground now, poor brave little souls. I don’t know how they can cope with the incredibly cold weather (I want to tell them to get back down underground until warmer weather is here to stay). And, with the changing of Winter to Spring also, with just as much regularity, come the tables, just inside the grocery stores and mall entrances, manned by cheerful little girls in vests. It’s the Girl Scouts. They’re baa-ack!

successful replication of girl scout thin mint cookies!

Before I found out that I am gluten-intolerant, my favorite Girl Scout cookies were Thin Mints. I never wavered; never went the way of the Do-Si-Do or Samoas; I was faithful to the Thin Mints. Once I find something lovely, it can be very difficult for me to change it up and try something new; if the new one doesn’t measure up, I pine after my real love.

Last week, I was a bit hungry at work, and one of my coworkers offered me a few Thin Mint cookies, before she remembered that I couldn’t have them. Oh, just the sight of them took me back, and I could practically taste them. The light crunch of the cookie, the breath of mint in the chocolate coating. I had no choice – I had to try to recreate them at home.

I’m incredibly delighted to say that I did it! John said that they’re delicious (he asked me to tuck a few into his lunch today), and another coworker of mine said that they taste just like the “real” thing. Success!

thin mint cookies close-up

Thin Mint Chocolate Cookies
cookie adapted from Bette Hagman’s “Mock Oreo Cookies” recipe, found in The Gluten-Free Gourmet Makes Dessert

for the cookie:
3/4 cup butter (1-1/2 sticks)
1 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

2-1/4 cups Featherlight Mix *
1 scant teaspoon xanthan gum
2/3 cup cocoa (I used Hersheys, and would even up this by a tablespoon)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

* Bette Hagman’s Featherlight Mix consists of equal parts white rice flour, tapioca flour, and cornstarch, with 1 tablespoon potato flour (not starch) per cup of mix used. I substituted the cornstarch with arrowroot starch.

In a stainless steel bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until they are light and whipped. Add in the egg, vanilla, and peppermint, and beat well. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, and add them, in 1-cup increments, into the butter mixture. Beat well after each addition; if the dough becomes too dry, or too stiff to work with, add 1-2 tablespoons milk (or non-dairy milk substitute). The dough should not be sticky or crumbly. Shape the dough into two 10″x1-1/2″ logs; wrap in tinfoil, and chill in your refrigerator for two hours.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper – do not grease the paper. Cut the dough into 1/4″ slices, and lay them on the sheet, a few centimeters apart from each other. Bake for 8-10 minutes. When they are finished baking, the surface of the cookie will have a dull finish, and look like this:

cookies, cooling

Let cool on the pan for a few minutes, then set them on a wire rack to finish cooling. When they are thoroughly cooled, they will be crunchy.

Chocolate-Mint Coating:
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1/8 teaspoon pure peppermint extract, to taste

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate in 30-second increments, stirring after each (it will take about 2 minutes, total). Stir in the peppermint extract. Prepare your workspace by laying a towel or flattened paper bag under a wire rack, to catch any drips. Using a fork, lower a cookie into the melted chocolate, making sure to coat all sides. As soon as the cookie is covered, move it to a wire rack and let the chocolate harden.

Note: The chocolate might be a little thick; if so, use another fork to assist in both removing the excess from the cookie, and leaving decorative marks on the top.

John and I both especially love these cookies when they’ve been kept in the freezer – that cold mintyness!

Edited to add: I made my slices 1/4″ thick, as it makes for a heartier cookie. Also, I would up the amount of peppermint extract in the cookie dough to 1/4 teaspoon.

in like a lion

in like a lion

happy march, everyone. I hope you all had a lovely weekend. we’re about to walk out the door to watch a movie with friends; I’ll be back tomorrow with a recipe for gluten-free thin mint cookies (quite an excellent replication of the fabulous Girl Scouts cookies, if I do say so myself).

happy weekend, everyone

Chinese Checkers

it’s felt like a very long week at our house; John’s had many stressful assignments – and presented a paper at the university’s history conference today! – and my job is always pretty crazy. there was a light at the end of the tunnel all the time, though; I have a three-day weekend! it’ll be the first time in months that I’m not working on a Saturday, that we actually get to have a full weekend together. we don’t have many big plans; just to lounge around (both), go shopping (myself and a friend), bake often (me), and write a book report (him). happy weekend, everyone.

gluten-free cinnamon rolls

This recipe looks quite lengthy and complicated, but trust me, it is so worth it. I’m planning on making another batch of them this weekend to share with friends. The process takes roughly an hour and ten minutes from the time you start until you have hot, gooey, delicious cinnamon rolls on your plate. Need a little more encouragement?

cinnamon rolls 001

Although this recipe uses yeast, it does not call for extra rising time. I realized this when the rolls were half-way through baking, but they rose and expanded during the baking time. Wonderfully soft and chewy, they were even good the next morning, heated for a few seconds in the microwave.

For variations, either caramel rolls or iced rolls, please see the end of the recipe.

Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from this book, via this post.

for the rolls:
non-stick cooking spray
2/3 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 (7 g / 1/4 oz) packet quick-rise, fast acting dry yeast
2 Tablespoons unsalted sweet cream butter, softened (not melted)
1/4 cup white sugar
1 large egg, room temperature (to hasten this process, set the egg in a bowl of warm water for 4-6 minutes)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup potato starch
1 cup arrowroot starch (you can substitute cornstarch)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

for the filling:
2 Tablespoons of butter, softened (optional – but who’s counting calories?! It’s a cinnamon roll.)
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 Teaspoon ground saigon cinnamon
1/2 cup of chopped nuts (optional – sliced almonds or pecan bits would be great, here)

Rolls:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare a 9″ pie plate by spraying it with non-stick cooking spray.

Warm the milk to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and add the yeast. Set aside and give it time to proof.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter and the sugar. Add in the egg, and beat until fluffy. Stir in the canola oil and vanilla extract.

Separately, combine the rest of the dry ingredients, the starches, baking soda, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt. With a mixer on medium speed, add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, alternating with the proofed milk/yeast, and ending with the dry ingredients, until everything is thoroughly mixed. The dough will look very soft, but it will begin to crawl up the beaters. Let it sit for a moment while you prepare to roll it out.

On your countertop or a cutting board, stretch out a piece of plastic wrap, plop the dough in the middle, and place another sheet of plastic wrap over the top of it. (You might need to sprinkle sugar or a little bit of starch on the wrap, so that the dough won’t stick, but I didn’t, and did not have any problems.) Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a rectangular shape, about 12″ high by 14″ wide.

filling:
Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts together. Spread the butter on the dough, then sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the dough, covering it completely. Using the plastic wrap to help you, begin to roll up the dough. If it’s sticky, touch your fingertips in starch before continuing to roll the dough. Once the dough is completely rolled, slice it into rolls a little more than 1″ wide. Try to make your slices uniform, or they won’t bake evenly (evidence: photo at the top of post). Lay the rolls into the pie plate.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 20-24 minutes, until tops are browned. If they begin to brown prematurely, cover them with foil.

**Variations:
If you want caramel rolls:
mix together 2 Tablespoons melted butter and 3-4 Tablespoons brown sugar in the bottom of the pie plate (optional: add more sliced almonds or chopped pecans here, too), before laying the rolls in the pie plate. To serve after baking: invert contents onto plate or platter, making sure to top with any caramel that’s left in the pie plate.

if you want iced rolls:
After the rolls are baked and cooled slightly, drizzle a simple icing over the top: 3/4 cup powdered sugar (confectioner’s), 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and just enough milk to thicken.

Note: This recipe can be made dairy-free; to make iced cinnamon rolls, use shortening rather than butter in the rolls, and soy, rice, or almond milk rather than cow’s milk. I suspect it can be made vegan, but am out of egg replacer to try.


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