Tuesday, November 29, 2011

strawberry sh(oat)cakes

A few weeks ago I hosted a brunch for an old friend and a new friend. It was so exciting to have our first house guests over for a meal. Until now, Todd and I have never had a table with four chairs in any place we have lived together. I have always loved the idea of having friends over for a meal, and we finally have the opportunity to do so! Brunch is one of my favorites, too. The setting is casual and light and there are so many delicious brunch recipes I have wanted to try. Todd and I used to love to go out to brunch, but now it's so difficult because everyone around me orders waffles and I just want to reach over and grab a bite. I know I feel so much better without gluten but, gosh, it's torture to be around those buttery waffles! Of course, I can make similar delicious treats without the gluten, from my own kitchen, where not even a trace of gluten has ever been, so I know it's safe for me to eat.

For my Saturday morning brunch, the main event was this lovely leek bread pudding that I made with gluten free bread. While shopping for leeks at the farmer's market, I found a festive bag of mixed greens and edible flowers. Lightly dressed with a little fig and walnut vinaigrette, the salad made a tasty side, along with some chicken apple breakfast sausages that I could just heat and serve. Easy peasy!

The dessert, however, was a bit of a challenge. I found some gorgeous strawberries, so I thought I would use the strawberries to dress up my usual breakfast of Greek yogurt, honey, and granola and serve it as dessert. The only problem was that I didn't have any cute bowls. I do have some adorable teacups but we needed those for tea or coffee. (My friend, Joy, brought this tea--it was divine!)

With no time (or money) to shop for cute bowls, I turned to my cookbook of the year again, Super Natural Every Day, and that's when I had the idea for . . . strawberry sh(oat)cakes! OK, I know it sounds stilly but it's very me. With a few adaptations to make them gluten free I had the most perfect desert. It was a brunch filled with great food and great friends, who I hope to see again very soon.

(adapted from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson)

85 grams chopped walnuts
300 grams rolled oats
125 grams teff flour
100 grams gluten-free, all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt
45 grams flax seeds
70 grams sugar
70 grams (or 1/3 cup) extra-virgin coconut oil
85 grams (or 1/3 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F with a rack in the top third of the oven. Measure out your walnuts and pop them into the oven until they are lightly toasted (about 10 minutes). Meanwhile, butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan and then use your kitchen scale to measure out the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, combine the oats, flours (teff and all-purpose), baking powder, salt, flax seeds, and the lightly toasted walnuts. (This is all of the dry ingredients except for the sugar.)

In a small bowl, beat the eggs and set them aside.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the sugar, coconut oil, butter, and maple syrup. Stir the mixture and heat until the butter and coconut oil have just melted and the sugar is dissolved. Pour the mixture into your bowl with the oats and stir to combine. Make sure that the mixture isn't too hot and add the eggs. (You don't want to cook the eggs.) Stir the mixture together into a wet dough and spoon the dough into the muffin cups, nearly filling them.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Take the pan out of the oven to cool for a bit and then remove the oatcakes and set them on a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

To turn your oatcakes into strawberry sh(oat)cakes, put a dollop of Greek yogurt that has been lightly sweetened with honey on your oatcake and top with sliced strawberries. Enjoy!

Yields 12 Oatcakes or Sh(oat)cakes  : )

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

happy thanksgiving!

This will be my first gluten-free Thanksgiving and only the second Thanksgiving meal I have ever made. I feel pretty lucky that there are grocery stores that make gluten-free pie crust and bread crumbs. I can't imagine trying to make all the traditional favorites without those shortcuts. And I don't know if I could handle a Thanksgiving without stuffing. Though it is just Todd and me for Turkey Day, I had him request his favorites. We must have turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, some sort of greens, and pumpkin pie. I'm not an experienced chef and still need recipes for the foods that I don't make everyday, which would pretty much mean anything on our Thanksgiving menu. The first holiday meal I made, I turned to the Barefoot Contessa for all my recipes. It turned out well, but I want to try something new, with less butter. This year, I thought I would sample recipes from the great Giada de Laurentiis. We are in California, after all. So here's the menu:

Ciabatta Stuffing with Chestnuts and Pancetta (I'm using gluten-free bread crumbs and Irish bacon.)
Pumpkin Pie (in a gluten-free, pre-made pie crust from Whole Foods)


I have been prepping all week for the big celebration, starting with the chestnuts for the stuffing. I could not find chestnuts in the jar, as Giada's recipe recommends, so I purchased whole chestnuts. Yikes. I had no idea what to do with these things. Roasting chestnuts sounds so festive but after researching on the web and finding way too many stories about chestnuts exploding in the oven, I just didn't think it was a good idea for me. So I steamed them to remove the skins, which worked surprisingly well (only a minor injury to my thumb after fighting one shell).

Another make-ahead recipe is the sweet potato gnocchi. I have wanted to make gnocchi for quite some time. I decided to make the full batch and freeze everything so we have some on had for a quick mid-week meal. I followed Giada's recipe but substituted gluten-free, all-purpose flour. I found that I needed a lot more flour than the recipe calls for, but maybe it was just too humid for me to be attempting gnocchi. I heard that's bad for these little buggers.

Though gnocchi are traditionally boiled (as Giada suggests), I once read about someone pan frying them. I believe it was on Heidi Swanson's blog, actually. Ever since I tried the frying method, I can't go back! I hope this will work. I tossed the gnocchi in the freezer and haven't tried them yet. If they taste good, I'll post the updated recipe. Thankfully, Todd eats anything I make. He's such a great sport.

I love all the satisfying food on Thanksgiving, but most of all, it's just a great reminder of all the things I'm grateful for . . . Too many to list here, but no doubt that all of these people are on my list.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

taking time to smell the roses

I love to go for walks. Not only is it great for my physical well being, it is necessary for my mind and spirit. I have not been as diligent about my daily walks after moving in, though I have no excuse for staying inside all day. I just still do not know the neighborhood that well and there are no straight roads. We're pretty close to the Berkeley hills but near the bottom. If I want to stay on flat land, I am walking through a business district, which isn't terribly relaxing and I always get distracted. I end up running errands instead of taking time away from the mental running. If I want to stay on the quiet, residential streets, then I have to climb The Hills. Armed with my cellphone (including GPS, just in case) and my Pumas, I decided that today was the day I needed to climb. Google maps was showing a fairly straight route to a park about a mile away. This seemed like a good goal for a first attempt. After a warm up around the block, I approached the hill. It seemed to go on forever but only 25 minutes had passed. Through my huffing and puffing I finally reached the park that had the most beautiful surprise, The Berkeley Rose Garden.

I had no idea that such a place existed. But I think it's better that I literally stumbled upon it. Apparently there are 3,000 rose bushes with more than 220 varieties. The garden is nestled into the hillside in the shape of an amphitheater with roses in every seat. The best part about a hillside of rose bushes is that you can see beyond the tops from a lookout space above the garden. Without the obstruction of trees you can see clear across the bay and it is breathtaking. Thankfully there was a bench to catch me.

After a stressful week, this was just what I needed. And now I have the perfect walking trail where I can take some time to stop and smell the roses.