Tuesday, April 5

Gluten-Free Flatbread to the rescue!

My relationship with bread?...Let's just say it's complicated.

I like bread.
I want bread.
On occasion, I need bread.

The relationship is not reciprocal.

Bread could care less about me.
Bread might even hate me.
Bread lures me into its snares with its promises of toasty, chewy, whole-grain goodness.
It entices me with options: "Toast and butter me!" it cries. "Put your favorite foods between 2 pieces of me and take me somewhere!"  On occasion, it even whispers:"Hey, baby. Don't you want to dip me in some eggy batter and fry me?" 98.9% of the time I just ignore bread's unwanted advances and put on a pot of rice instead.

But man, is that other 1.1% a doozy. Then, bread gets in my belly and transforms itself into a gaseous, headache-making mass of evil.

So the other day, as the weak but warmish April sun slanted across a bowl of ripening avocados in my dining room, and bread demanded "Slather me with mashed avocado!" and I felt myself about to buckle, I decided to try making some gluten-free flatbread. That way, I could have the toasty, chewy, whole-grainy experience I longed for without all that pesky waiting around for yeast to rise. I really liked the garlic/dill/onion powder combo, but feel free to add or substitute any herbs you like.

GF Flatbread or Crackers
1.5 C cooked brown rice
1 C cooked quinoa
2-4 T ground flax
1 tsp tahini
½ T water
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp dill
½ tsp onion
2 T whole flax
1 T sesame seeds
salt, to taste

To Make Flatbread:
Blend rice, quinoa, ground flax, tahini, water, garlic and herbs in a food processor. Stir in sesame and flax seeds, and add salt to taste. Turn mixture out onto a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten the mixture to about 1/8 inch using wet hands (or a rolling pin…or both). Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 3x3 squares and bake in a preheated 300F oven for 35 mins. Let cool 15 mins then use a spatula to carefully remove your ‘bread’ slices from the pan. Wrap tightly and store in the fridge.

To Make Crackers:
Same instructions as above, except you can cut the dough into whatever shapes/sizes you want. Bake 45-50 minutes, until the crackers are golden-brown, being careful not to burn. Let cool 15 mins before carefully breaking them apart. Store in an airtight container (in the fridge if it’ll take you more than 2-3 days to eat them…which I highly doubt. 

...Sadly, the sun went in just before the bread was done. Happily, that didn't affect its deliciousness -- or my ability to slather it with smashed avocado mixed with diced tomato, salt, and pepper -- one bit.

You may have noticed there are no pictures of the crackers here. That's because they all went straight from the baking sheet to my mouth (ok, a couple of them may have stopped briefly in a container of hummus--but that's beside the point).

Tuesday, March 29


The other day a Naturopath told me to eat less vegetables. "They're not a good use of your limited funds," he said. "You need to gain weight, and kale doesn't have any calories. I want you to start eating fats instead -- nuts, oils, avocados...you could probably stand 3 or so eggs a day..."
I stared at him in disbelief. "Did you really just tell me to stop eating vegetables?"

As I rode my bike ride home I tried to imagine my post-produce life: meals de-greened and carrot-less; non-apple snacks; breakfast sans citrus. I suppressed a shudder and tried to psych myself up instead: Peanut-sauce-slathered everything, here I come! Yeah, almond butter banana hemp milk smoothies! And yes I will fry my extra dosa in extra coconut oil and eat it with some coconut curry!

But, as always, there is a vast gulf separating theory from practice. And the next day, barely 8 hours of fully fatted and de-fruited existence later, I strongly empathized with the force-fed ducks that become foie gras. By 7pm I had eaten approximately 4 handfuls of almonds, a protein bar, a protein shake, extra dosa fried in extra coconut oil with coconut curry and chickpea curry, and a stir fry with fried eggs over fried rice. I wanted to explode. But it was only 7:30. Surely I was supposed to eat some more (at least according to my housemates, who sadistically egged me on with shouts of "Do it!" and "Beefcake!!") Despite the fact that I had no desire to eat anything ever again, let alone right then, I marched intrepidly back into the kitchen determined to concoct a tasty treat that might invigorate my exhausted appetite. And what better snack for an overstuffed little health-nut like myself than the deceptively named "Brownie Bite." I tried not to cry while I made them. And I tried not to cry while they baked. And when  they were finally cool enough to eat I sat down with my cup of tea, told myself I was ready for more, and dig in. I was still full. Really full. But they were good. And I think that bodes well for someday when I'm not about to explode (i.e. when I'm allowed to start eating veg again).

Brownie "Bites" (Adapted from Two Bite Double Down Dark Chocolate Brownies)

1 C rolled oats
1 C flour (GF to make them GF)
1/3 C cocoa powder
1/4 tsp each baking soda and baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 C non-dairy milk
1/2 C agave or rice syrup
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 egg or egg sub
1/3 C melted coconut oil (can sub walnut or mild olive oil)
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1/4 C each shredded coconut and dark choco chips

Mix dry ingredients (oats through salt) together in a large bowl.
Whisk wet ingredients together in a medium bowl.
Add wet bowl to dry bowl and mix well.
Fold in coconut and choco chips.
Drop by Tbsp onto lightly greased or non-stick or parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake 12 min. in a preheated 350F oven and cool on wire racks.

Makes 20-ish.

Thursday, March 3

Biscuits: The #1 reason not to bake gluten-free foods if you are not a gluten-free person.

So a few weeks ago a friend of mine rode out to the Bob's Red Mill Store. While he was shopping, he came across a big ol' super cheap bag of GF All-Purpose Baking Mix.

"Hey!" friend thought, "I bet Ashley wants some of that. Cuz, y'know, she doesn't eat gluten. And she's real broke. I'll pick some up for her." Now, I'm not a gluten-free person. Wheat-free, yes. But other non-wheat glutenous grains? Bring 'em on. So later that night, when dear friend appeared on my doorstep smiling from ear to ear and exclaimed triumphantly, "I got you some GF baking mix out at Bob's Red Mill today! Now you can have baked things!" I feigned excitement lest I crush his spirits. "Sweet!" I replied, "I can't wait to bake stuff!" After a little while he left, and the GF baking mix got tossed in the kitchen cupboard full of ingredients no one ever uses. Out of sight, out of mind...right?

Wrong. Friend kept on asking me if I had made anything yet, hoping to get some sweet GF treat in return for his thoughtfulness. And every time I made up and excuse or brushed him off, I felt like a jerk. A guilty dishonest jerk. And every time I opened up the kitchen cabinet, there was this enormous bag of GF flour looming up out of the darkness, with its little wholesome, happy, Farmer Bob logo silently mocking me.  Clearly I was going to have to bake something.

Luckily, Housemates and I had a dinner/meeting scheduled. And since it was one of those gross, grey, late-February days with nothing to recommend it except (possibly) comfort food, I decided to make biscuits and gravy.  To eliminate the chances of substitution errors I even followed a recipe that specifically called for Bob's GF Baking Mix, assuming it would be engineered specifically to yield tender, tasty, reasonable facsimiles of "normal" biscuits. Apparently I assumed wrong, because while the biscuits tasted fine, they were flat, on the dry side, and kind of tough.

At first I was bummed out. Was it me? Did I do something wrong? Was it the recipe? Should I try a different one? But then I came to a realization: I'm not a gluten-free person, and I don't need to eat gluten-free biscuits.  Don't get me wrong -- maybe, just maybe, there is such a thing as really good gluten-free biscuits. But I think I'm going to just stick with gluten-y biscuits instead.

Wednesday, February 23

Vegan Luau! (Take that, Winter.)

Ah, yes. There's nothing quite like teriyaki tofu and cocktails in colors insulting to nature to beat back the late-February blues -- that seemed to be the reasoning behind the vegan Hawaiian potluck I attended this past weekend, anyway. 

As far as party premises go, a luau-style escape from dreary NW weather seems like a no-brainer. As far as vegan potluck parties go however, the theme presents some challenges. And by "challenges" I mean that there is no such thing as vegan Hawaiian food...besides pineapples and coconuts, of course. 

Never having visited the island, the bulk of my knowledge about Hawaiian cuisine was largely based on rumors about some kind of SPAM obsession. But until this weekend, I didn't realize how central that spongy, pink, pork-flavored bastard cousin of actual pig meat really is to the Hawaiian diet.  I naively assumed that somewhere behind a mountain of blue-tinned meats and pigs on spits there were beans, grains, or greens to be had. A quick Google search on "vegan Hawaiian food" revealed otherwise, however; apparently, all Hawaiian salads (noodle or otherwise) come covered in mayo or fish sauce, nearly everything comes with pork, and there is nary a green in sight.  I did manage to find a relatively easy recipe for Teriyaki tofu with pineapple without too much difficulty though, which was especially nice since my first reaction to the invitation had gone something like this: "Woohoo! Blue cocktails, grilled pineapple, and teriyaki tofu!" 

(Just for the record, this picture does not adequately convey the deliciousness of this dish.)

14 oz. extra firm tofu, cut into 16 thin slices 
1/4 C. plus 2 T tamari
2 green onions, chopped
1 large garlic clove, peeled
1 tsp cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon agar agar, powder (this makes it sticky)
1/2 C plus 2 T hot water 
1/4 cup maple syrup or agave
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetarian "chicken" boullion
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard powder
1 (14 -19oz) can unsweetened pineapple chunks, drained
1 large green pepper or 1 large red bell pepper (or 1/2 of each), seeded and cut into squares 

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. 
Quickly brown the tofu slices in a nonstick pan until browned on both sides.
Place in one layer in a nonstick or lightly-oiled 9 x 13" baking pan.
Place the soy sauce, green onion, garlic, cornstarch, and agar in blender and blend well. Add the remaining ingredients except the pineapple and green pepper. Mix well, then pour into a saucepan and stir over high heat until it boils. Stir and let it boil for about 1 minute.
Add the pineapple and green pepper, then pour over the tofu in the pan. 
Bake for 15 minutes.  Garnish with scallions and serve with white rice.

**I followed this recipe exactly and thought the results were okay. It seemed to lack complexity...maybe fresh ginger, a squirt of lime, or some juice from the canned pineapple would have helped. On the other hand, my friends really liked it, and people went back for more. It was also way better the next day. I'm sure I'd make it again, but I suppose I'd recommend it to someone who was, oh I don't know, attending a vegan Hawaiian potluck...**

Sunday, February 20

Oops! I did it again.

I stopped blogging.
As always, it got away from me for a couple of weeks, and by the time I was ready to come back I had so much I wanted to write about and so many photos that I wanted to post that I just couldn't decide where to start. Christmas candy? Chinese food? Lessons learned after my 3-month-long RGB spree? I waffled. I vacillated. And finally, I just walked away.

At the time it seemed reasonable. There were holidays, and new job, and then another after that! How coul I be expected to cook and photograph and write?! But those excuses are long gone. All that's left is me, my kitchen, and my camera.  Oh yeah -- there are a couple of volunteering gigs too, but I'll try not to let those get in the way.

So here we go again.
Maybe third time's the charm.

Monday, December 27

Latke Love

I'm one of these people who is utterly defenseless in the face of fried potato products.  Put a plate of tots in front of me and my culinary standards go right out the window. Same goes for fries -- crispy, fluffy, or shoe-stringy; curly or crinkle cut; with ketchup, malt vinegar, or the delicious and enigmatically named "Frites Sauce" the Dutch use. I love them all equally.

And then there are latkes: giant tater-tots made out of a gazillion tiny french fries. They are the perfect fried-potato food. Plus, since I can put veggies in them my health-foodie-facade remains intact.

Latkes (Warning: There is probably nothing either authentic or Jewish about this recipe.)
1. In a bowl combine 2 grated potatoes (You can totes sub yams, winter squash, carrots, or zucchini...I've even thrown half an apple or pear in there before!), about 2T finely chopped onions, a clove or 2 of minced garlic, and an (optional) inch of grated ginger.
2. Stir in 1 egg (or equivalent egg replacer) and about 2T flour (or as much as you need to make a kind of cohesive mixture).
3. Add salt & pepper to taste. (You can totes add some spices too! Mace, sage, and thyme is a nice combo. So is cumin & chipotle. Curry powder and garam masala too. Anyway...)
4. Heat oil in a skillet over med-hi heat and fry mixture in patties 2-3 inches across.
5. Drain on paper towels and serve with sour cream and applesauce (and a mess o' greens, of course).

And there you have it! Latkes!

Today's delicious latkes: potato, sweet potato, garlic, ginger, scallion, Chinese 5-spice powder, cayenne, and salt. Ate 'em with homemade apple-pear sauce, sour "cream", and a mess o' greens, of course.

Yep...I love me some latkes.

Friday, December 3

Rainy Days are Gravy Days.

I woke up the other morning with an inexplicable craving for gravy. I rolled over and lifted the curtain by my bed to take a peek outside. The sky hung heavy, cold and dull grey, wet but not raining. The air seemed oddly still.
Ugh, I thought to myself, Good day to roll back over and hit the snooze button.
My belly rumbled in disagreement.
Alright then, I thought. If not bed then gravy. A big ol' bowl of hot, starchy, salty goodness to warm my belly and my brain, letting me pretend that I'm rugged and rustic and resourceful, and not just some skinny little wimp freezing my ass off in 3 layers of clothing when it's 40F outside.  I'll spend an hour conjuring my inner upper-midwesterner, some stout, resourceful, sensibly-dressed, no-nonsense, middle-aged woman named Peggy. And I will conjure her with gravy. But I will be the health-foodie-gastro-hippie that I am in real life and make it vegan and gluten-free. And I will eat it with rice. And a big ol' mess-o-greens. And that is how I will fill the rainy-days-are-for-comfort-foods hole in my belly with only rice, beans, and greens.
And so I rolled back over, out of bed, into slippers a scarf and a second sweatshirt, then shuffled into the kitchen and made...

Easy Vegan (and GF!) Gravy 

For the record, I have never actually measured any of the following ingredients. These are totally unscientific guesstimates, based purely on...well...nothing, I guess.  Think of it as improv theater, only in your mouth. (Ew. Actually, don't think of it as that. Think of it as anything but that.)
Anyway. What you wanna do is...
  1. Marinate about 3 oz. tempeh in a 1/2 C of water and 2 tsp Bragg's for a little bit (see helpful hint below!) then put it all in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, sautee some chopped onion in a little Earth Balance.
  3. Add about 1T rice flour to the Braggs-n-tempeh water, stirring well to combine.
  4. When the onions are nice and soft and translucent, toss 'em in the gravy pot with a bit of thyme and some fresh ground black pepper.
  5. Keep on stirring the mixture over med-low heat, adjusting water/flour until it is the thickness and tastiness you desire. (Be patient whenever you add flour--it takes a minute to thicken).
  6. Pour your tasty vegan (GF!) gravy all over some warm brown rice and cooked greens (or a baked potato and broccoli) and dig in...yum! 
  7. Helpful hint below: Marinate the tempeh in the Braggs-y water while you prep your rice and greens and give yourself a pat on the back for having such great time-management skills.
Makes 1 bowl worth of gravy-liciousness:

Go ahead and give it a try.
Do it! (You know you want to.)

Saturday, November 27

Post-Thanksgiving Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

I officially have a full-body hangover.

Three days of food, booze, late night dance parties, and long runs in the rain have taken their toll.
But hey, why not overindulge? After all, Thanksgiving only happens once a year (for 3 days in a row, apparently).

There is one thing I did not overindulge in, however: cooking. After 6 straight weeks of house dinners, potlucks, and parties, I figured I deserved a break. But since I'm the type of person who shudders at the thought of arriving at a potluck empty-handed, I made one of my favorite, never-fail, always-a-hit dishes -- which also happens to be ridiculously easy:

Garlicky Green Beans 

2 lbs. green beans. Rinsed and trimmed 
2 heads of garlic. Peeled 
2 Tbsp. good olive oil, 
and some coarse sea salt 
and freshly ground black pepper.

Toss the beans and garlic with oil in a big bowl. Then spread them out on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Cook at 425F for 35-ish minutes, stirring halfway through. Serve 'em up hot, cold, or anywhere in between. Sit back, relax, and wait for the compliments to start pouring in. 

Mmmmm...green beans. Delicious green beans...

Easy, right?
Plus, think about how much time it'll free up for overindulgence!
Then you can have a full-body hangover too!

Thursday, November 25

Today I am thankful for pumpkins.

And holes in the space-time continuum.
See, I wrote this almost 2 weeks ago, after a 2-week-long pumpkin-cooking frenzy. But then I accidentally closed Blogspot without saving it.  Assuming I'd never see it again, I raised my skinny fist to the sky and cursed the heavens.

But lo, and behold! For here it is!
For once, Blogspot (or the heavens...you never can tell) actually did something right, and you (yes you!) get to reap the benefits!

13 November 2010
Toward the end of October, the pumpkins began appearing. They seemed harmless enough at first -- a couple butternut squashes in a bowl here, a pumpkin in the window there.  I liked how they made the house feel cozy in spite of the chill autumn air creeping in around the edges of our inefficient windows.  I also appreciated the opportunity they afforded me to break out of my little RBG rut.

And then November came and suddenly there were squashes everywhere. Bowls full of butternuts spilled over onto acorn-covered counters. Piles of asian pumpkins appeared in every corner. I began to resent them for blocking my access to the coffee pot. I cursed them for tripping me up when the lights were out.

Just as the abundance began to feel oppressive, however, potlucks and rainy days swooped in to save us from being completely overrun. Within 2 weeks, I got to make 2 big, tasty, pumpkin-y dishes to share with friends, and 2 big pots of squashy soup to share with my housemates.

The first potluck was Asian-themed, and was sort of a "coming-out" party for an enormous batch of kimchi a couple of friends and I had made the previous week. Since we had about 26 "asian" pumpkins, I decided to make Thai pumpkin curry.  I made several changes to the recipe, subbing zucchini for tomatoes, a regular potato for the sweet potato, and omitting the chickpeas altogether (mostly because they seemed a little out of place in a Thai dish).  The result was creamy, spicy, sweet, tangy -- all the things you want a Thai curry to be. Alas, I forgot to take pictures of it...I guess if you want to see what it looks like you'll have to make it yourself! (Which I highly recommend. But I suppose you can just cheat and look at the pictures on the link.)

And there you have it.
Now you can add holes in the space-time continuum to the list of things you're thankful for too!

Wednesday, November 17

Korean food is a great way to kill time at the unemployment office. Who knew?

Today I waited almost 30 minutes for my name to be called at the Unemployment Office. I spent part of that time thinking about all the other, more useful things I could be doing.  The rest of it was spent writing an ode to kimchi.

O Kimchi, how you thrill me!
Chili-spiked kohlrabi,
Minced-garlic-ginger-macerated mustard greens
Buried in a brown paper bag
In the darkest corner of the dining room.

(I sit, silently beside you,
Tempted but not tasting, salivating and unsatisfied.)

Two weeks we waited while you fermented,
My roommate and I,
Soothing ourselves in the meantime
With kraut and kombucha;
Slowly, systematically we prepared a place in our fridge,
A suitable footprint for a glass gallon jarful of spicy sour (sweet!) greens.

(We sat, longingly beside you,
Sullenly gazing, impatient with waiting.)

Visions of daikon-encrusted chopsticks
Invaded our bowls of bibimbap,
Diminished the pleasures of pachanga,
While we waited for thee,
for room to be free
for you to be stored
for two weeks (or three?)
O, tasty kimchi!

So yeah. That’s what I did at unemployment today…waaaaay more productive than, oh I don’t know, looking for a job!!  (The wait for the kimchi was totally worth it, by the way. Jury’s still out on the wait for a job.)

A few hours later, I sat in my friend's living room watching Howl and was confirmed in my suspicions that a) I write shitty poetry and b) that doesn't necessarily mean people won't like it.

Not bad for a day's work, eh?