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Friday, March 21, 2014

Random Food Fridays - Mo' Betta Cheesecake

My dear friend, Miss Paula is just one of many friends with a gluten sensitivity. I'm not sure why this happens to so many people these days, but it seems to be a cold, hard fact. I want my treats to be yummy and to make my friends feel happy without feeling yucky. Because of this, I'm always on the look out for  good and real food gluten free recipes. I found the inspiration for this one on Pinterest. It is from a blog called Honey and Figs. Consuelo calls them Clean Eating Strawberry Cheesecake Bars. She even suggest them for a yummy and healthy breakfast. I followed her methods, for the most part, but used what I had on hand and also had to fill in some of the blanks. For example, she doesn't tell us what size pan to use and many of the measurements and ingredients are European, as she lives in Spain. One of the great things about being comfortable in the kitchen is taking an inspiration and going forward with your own knowledge and ingredients. Please check out Consuelo's lovely blog and try either version of this luscious treat.

Mo' Betta Cheesecake
13 medjool dates and water to cover
1 1/2 cups Nature's Path Pumpkin Flax Plus Granola
1/4 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1 carton of low-fat cottage cheese, 16 oz.
8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
1/4 cup raw honey, warmed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 envelope of unflavored gelatin and 5 tbsp. water, divided

Start by preparing the crust. Place the dates in a bowl of warm water and let them soak for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, you can get everything into place. Line the bottom of an 8 X 8 inch pan with parchment paper, leaving the parchment out on two sides to form a handle to lift the cheesecake out when it is set.

Pit the dates and place them in a food processor with a bit of the soaking water. Pulse until they start to break down. Add the granola and cashews and pulse until well combined and the pieces are pretty small. With the food processor running, drizzle in the melted coconut oil. When the dough begins to form a ball, it is done. Oil your hands with a bit of the coconut oil and move the dough into the bottom of the paper-lined dish. Press the dough out to a uniform thickness. Set aside.

Place 3 tbsp. of cold water in a small bowl. Sprinkle with the gelatin and allow to soften. Start the kettle.

For the filling, place the cottage cheese and cream cheese in the (washed out) food processor bowl and pulse until smooth. add the vanilla and warmed honey by drizzling it in while the motor is running. (I found that when I added room temp honey, the processor blades launched the mass at the inner edge of the bowl, where it stuck like glue.) Add 2 tbsp. boiling water to the softened gelatin and stir until very smooth. Blend the gelatin mixture into the cheese mixture until all is uniformly smooth. Scoop the filling out onto the prepared crust. Smooth, cover and refrigerate 4 hours or over night.

To serve, use the paper to lift the cheesecake out of the pan and place it on a flat serving dish. Cut into squares. Conseulo said her's made 12 servings. That is a bit unrealistic in my world. I got 9 squares out of mine. Serve topped with fresh or preserved fruit.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Dry Brined Herb and Lemon Chicken

When I dry brined our Thanksgiving turkey, dry brining shot into my top ten with a bullet. For chicken, it is now my #1. This is the kind of good where people take a bite, their eyes get a little wider, and they say, "What did you do?!" I'm about to tell you. Oh yes. I will tell you.

You will need:
1 Whole chicken, cut up
2 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic peeled
1 bunch Italian parsley
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
lemon zest and lemon juice from 1 large or 2 small (I used one large Meyer lemon this time)
1/4 good olive oil

Whenever I want to make chicken for a weeknight dinner, I prep it the night before. You can buy a chicken that has already been cut up, or even just your favorite pieces. My biggest suggestion here is that you keep it on the bone and leave the skin on. You will get a much juicier and more flavorful bird.

Wash and dry the chicken. Zest the lemon and whirl everything but the olive oil and lemon in a food processor and rub the mixture into all sides of the chicken. Juice the lemon and save in the fridge. Cut the remaining rind into chunks and place them pulp-side down on the chicken pieces.

The next day, while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees, rinse the brine off and pat the chicken dry again. Place on a greased or paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and reserved lemon juice and sprinkle on a few grinds of black pepper.

Roast for 40 to 50 minutes or until juices run clear. I use a digital thermometer to make sure the thickest pieces come up to a safe temperature - 165 degrees. I like to roast potatoes at the same time. Steam up some green veg and you have a fantastic meal. This flavorful chicken is also very good cold, cut up on a salad or sliced for a sandwich. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Random Food Fridays - Super Food Oatmeal


Once again, I have been cooking more than I have been blogging. Getting good light for pictures in Winter can be tricky. Some of my favorite meals are warming, Winter treats and I'm glad I remembered to take a picture of my oatmeal before it was all gone! This oatmeal is full of nutrition due to my inclusion of many so-called "Super Foods." While weight loss is not an immediate goal for me, eating well is. I'm trying to make every bite count. This oatmeal is yummy and sees me through the whole morning, with low sugar, plenty of fiber and healthy fats. Please adjust to your tastes by using your own favorite dried fruits and spices. 

Super Food Oatmeal
2 cups water
2 tbsp. organic black strap molasses (a great source of minerals)
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup dried tart cherries
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup extra thick rolled oats (I like these)
Walnut pieces and coconut oil for serving

Place the water, salt, molasses, cherries, raisins and cinnamon in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil and stir in the oats. Adjust the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered for 10 minutes. Stir and serve topped with walnut pieces and a dollop of coconut oil. For me, this is three servings. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cornbread Dressing - Gluten Free and Great!

Gluten Free Cornbread

Here, finally, is the dressing I made for our Thanksgiving turkey. My holidays were good, but I had to roll with it and the old blog got demoted in importance. It looked like this: Thanksgiving, sick, Disneyland, one week to get Christmas together, Christmas. Not much wiggle room. But, here I am, hoping to bring you new recipes in the new year. Here's to 2014 being a little more calm.

Assembled dressing, waiting for the oven.

This was our first Thanksgiving without my Grandma Betty and mother-in-law, Pat. My mom and dad shared Thanksgiving with my Aunt Kim and her kids, so they didn't have to travel. Mr. Dwayne's dad was in Arizona with his brother, Don. So, I found myself the matriarch of my own holiday table. I was careful to meet everyone's special dietary needs, so this gluten free dressing was created in honor of Miss Paula.  It was the best cornbread dressing I've ever had. No kidding. This was not a compromise of any sort. Delicious! While I'm not posting this in time for the 2013 holidays, I hope you will consider this side dish any time you serve poultry.

Our Thanksgiving Table

Gluten Free Cornbread Dressing
For the cornbread:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup Pamela's Gluten Free Pancake and Baking Mix
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients until blended. Pour into a greased 8 X 8 or 9 X 9 inch baking pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature. Cut the bread into about 1 inch squares and remove from the baking pan onto a cookie sheet. Allow the cornbread to air dry overnight. 

To assemble the dressing:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh parley
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
Salt and Pepper
The dried cornbread cubes
1 cup of simmered and chopped giblets* or cooked sausage**
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 cup chicken or turkey broth

Soften the vegetables and herbs in the olive oil over a medium-low heat. Season with a little salt and pepper. Place the cornbread cubes into a large mixing bowl. Add the cooked veggies and meat and toss to combine. Beat the egg and egg yolk and toss into the cornbread mixture. Add the broth, a little at a time, until the dressing reaches a texture where it is moist, but the cubes still hold their shape. Place the mixture in a greased 9 X 13 inch baking pan. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate. Bake in a 325 to 350 degree oven for a bout 30 minutes before serving. I placed mine in the oven at the same time I removed the turkey to rest. The temperature range is to allow for whatever else might be occupying your oven at the same time. When done, the dressing should firm up and be lightly toasted across the top.

*All whole turkeys come with a neck, liver, heart and gizzard. I simmered mine with onion, celery, carrot, garlic, herbs and salt and pepper until tender. I did not use the liver in the dressing, as I don't like it. You sure could! After they have simmered for a couple of hours, strain and reserve the broth. Remove the meat from the neck and chop the other pieces, cutting away any tough parts. 
**If you don't want to go through all this, you can cook up some chicken or turkey sausage and use prepared broth.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holiday Turkey - Dry Brined and Butter Roasted

Is it just me, or did Christmas sneak up on us this year? Thanks giving was late, then I was sick, then I was at Disneyland for a week. It's all good, but I am playing catch-up now.

We had several new dishes for our Thanksgiving celebration and I've been meaning to get them posted in case any of you need inspiration for your Holiday Table.  I have never brined a turkey before and I wanted to try it this year. In the past, we've always used those oven roasting bags because they can really make for a lot of gravy. This is a HIGH priority for my father-in-law. But, because he went to visit his brother in Arizona, we were free to experiment.

After reading several articles on the different methods and flavor combinations available, I decided to do a dry brine. The consensus seems to be that dry brining offers better texture for the finished product. Also, it seems a whole lot easier. No purchasing a 5 gallon food-safe bucket. No monitoring ice and water temperature. Just mash up some stuff. Mash it in to your turkey. Wrap it. Store it. Rinse it. Roast it. Easy Peasy.

I used a method offered by Honestly Yum, however, I altered the flavor components for my preferences.
 The supporting cast, in order of appearance:
Rainbow Pepper corns
Dried Garden Sage
Satsuma Mandarins
Meyer Lemons
Bay Leaves
Kosher Salt
Dried Onions
Garlic Powder
Fresh Garden Parsley
Fresh Garden Thyme
Fresh Garden Rosemary

 The citrus zest features in the brine rub while the juicy fruit was used to stuff the cavity.

 Everything goes in the food processor and is combined. This smells like savory, herby heaven!

Holiday Turkey - Dry Brined and Butter Roasted
1 Turkey, 15-18 pounds
3 tbsp. Rainbow Pepper corns
Zest of 2 Satsuma Mandarins or oranges (reserve fruit)
Zest of 2 Meyer Lemons or other type of lemon (reserve fruit)
5 Bay Leaves
1/2 cup Kosher Salt
2 tbsp. Dried Onions
1 tsp. Garlic Powder or granulated garlic
6 Sprigs Fresh Parsley
6 Twigs Fresh Thyme
2 Twigs Fresh Rosemary
1/2 cup softened butter

Place every thing but the turkey and butter in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until everything in about like sand.

Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey's cavities. Wash thoroughly, inside and out. Remove any pin feathers. Dry as completely as possible with paper towels. Rub the spice mix all over the inside and the outside of the bird. Pile any extras right on top. Carefully place the turkey in either an oven roasting or a large zip lock bag designed to hold a turkey. Place on a pan or platter and place in the fridge. Brine one day breast up and the next day, breast down. (Reserve the giblets for the stuffing recipe TBA.)

When ready to cook, remove the turkey from the bag and rinse all the salt and herbs off, inside and out. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Dry the turkey and rub the softened butter all over. Stuff the cavity with additional herbs, garlic, onion and the remaining citrus fruit, quartered. Place, breast up, on a roasting pan or a broiler pan. This allows the juices and fat to melt off and be saved for gravy. Place the turkey, leg end first, into your oven. Cook at 400 degrees for 1 hour. This will make the skin very crisp and will seal the juices into the turkey. Reduce heat to 325 and continue to roast until the internal temperature measures 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh. If you have a thermometer that will alert you when this temp is reached, that is ideal. I had a 17 pound bird and it took an additional 2 1/2 hours for me. 

Remove from the oven, tent with foil and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes and then carve. 

For gravy, pour any pan drippings into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and add a slurry of 1 tbsp. cornstarch mixed into 1/4 cup cold water. There was not much fat in my drippings and most of that appeared to be butter, so I didn't skim. Whisk and cook to desired thickness. This more akin to a velvety butter sauce than traditional flour based gravy. Super yum!

Save the bones for soup! Enjoy!

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Using Meyer Lemon and Pineapple Marmalade - Cookie Bars and Pie!

 Miss Madelyn and Meyer Lemon Pie

My neighborhood is beautiful right now. Most of the leaves have fallen and the Sun is shining through to warm the ground, even on chilly days. The winter garden is humming along and contributed a butternut squash and collards for our Thanksgiving table. One of the splendid things about California winters is citrus. Delicious, wonderful, spectacular citrus. I learned to make marmalade a couple of winters ago and I've finally used up all those experiments. Now it's time to make some more! 

One of my favorites is Meyer Lemon and Pineapple Marmalade. I have a little dwarf Meyer Lemon in a pot on my back patio and I'll get about two dozen. I was lucky enough to receive a big bag of them from a work friend a couple of weeks ago. I'm so happy to share the results when people share their fruit. With this great bounty, I've made one batch of marmalade, a batch of yummy cookie bars and a cream pie. 

When I'm not cooking, I'm teaching county employees about administering social services programs. My lemon-benefactor is a student in my most recent class. (Thanks, Graciela!) Because we had so many chats about the marmalade, I wanted to be able to give everyone in class a taste. These cookie bars came to mind. They are based on this recipe for Orange Marmalade Bars. This cookie base is just great. I've used several kinds of jams and toppings. Just use the crust recipe and top with a half-pint jar of your favorite marmalade or jam and top with a suitable topping. I used shredded coconut with the Meyer Lemon and Pineapple Marmalade. Perfecto!

This Meyer Lemon and Pineapple pie was inspired by Sarah over at Undercover Caterer. Her Nana used to make this Lime Pie. It looked so good and I had so many lemons, I decided to try it out with them instead of limes. I used a pre-baked pie shell from this recipe. (Somehow, my crust developed to make three crusts. Two bottoms and a top.) I made the filling as instructed by Sarah, but the filling was a little soft. I was concerned that there wasn't enough acidity in the Meyer Lemon juice to cause the sweetened condensed milk to get firm. I ended up adding half a small carton on mascarpone cheese in the filling and whipped the rest into the whipped cream later. Because I had some lemon and pineapple marmalade on hand, I used it to decorate the top. It is very rich, but delicious! I will be making this one again!

Meyer Lemon and Pineapple Pie (Thanks to Sarah's Nana!)
1 prepared pie crust
1 can sweetened condensed milk
grated zest of two Meyer Lemons
1/2 cup Meyer Lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1 cup crushed pineapple, squeezed dry
1 8 oz. carton of mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Add the milk, zest, juice, 1/2 of the mascarpone and salt. Whisk until well blended. Add in the pineapple. Continue to whisk until the filling thickens. Scrape into the prepared crust and chill. The pie will continue to set as it chills. For serving, whip the heavy cream until it begins to thicken. Add the remaining mascarpone in several spoonfuls, allowing the mascarpone to incorporate. Whip in the powdered sugar and vanilla. Spread on top of the filling and decorate with additional lemon zest and lemon marmalade, if you have it.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Random Food Fridays - Greens, Cherry Tomatoes and Brats

Last weekend, I had a great time visiting with my beautiful daughter, Madelyn. When we are running around the Bay Area, we don't waste any meals on food that is not exciting. When we are running around Sacramento, we always head for Little Saigon for Vietnamese food. (One of those non-Dwayne foods.) Well, after a weekend of dining out, no matter how lovely, my body was hungry for something simple, fresh and homemade. I really didn't have a plan for making this, I just kept using things I found in my fridge. When I sat down to eat, I was surprised at how absolutely delicious this simple dish turned out to be. I think part of the credit must go to the Magical Miss Pauline, gardener extraordinaire. She brought me a bunch of veggie gifts when she visited the weekend before and I'm still trying to use them all. The kale and collards are from her garden and the cherry tomatoes are from my garden. The addition of sun dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil, added another depth of flavor. Mr. Dwayne also loved this dish and I will be making again, as long as the cherry tomatoes keep coming!

Greens, Cherry Tomatoes and Brats
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup diced shallots
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 fully cooked bratwurst, cut into 1/2 inch dice (mine was leftover)
1 pint mixed cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup julienne sun dried tomatoes in their oil
4 cups cleaned and chopped mixed hardy greens  (I used kale and collards)
2 tbsp. water
Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-low flame. Add the shallot, garlic, diced brat, cherry tomatoes and sun dried tomatoes. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, until the cherry tomatoes pop and release their juices. (You can help them to pop.) Add the greens and the water. Stir to combine and cover. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are tender to your liking. This served two at my house. We had it along side a beautiful baked potato, also from Miss Pauline's garden. Enjoy!