Monday, August 20, 2012

Carrot Cake Pancakes (Featuring My New Favorite Method of Gluten-Free Baking)


First of all - for those of you who have ended up here because you are seeking allergy-friendly food, this post is especially for YOU! Because it's hard, isn't it? I never intended this blog to be a space for complaining about food preparation - making food for those I love (and even for those I've never met before) is one of life's truest pleasures for me. I love eating. I love helping others do things they love. The best means I've come up with so far are to feed people and, recently, to teach them how to feed themselves. A culinary student I once knew, when asked what she liked to make most, responded, "anything that's well-received." She, like me, needed a great deal of affirmation in her life and was self-aware enough to know that one of the best parts of feeding people is to have them enjoy it so much that they tell you - or show you, by going back for thirds. The gratification I feel from pleasing someone with a meal or treat is huge. Whether it's my husband, class participants, old friends, new friends, or my children - pleasure on their part means a job well done on my own, so it's a win-win. 

The complaining started when the win-wins at home were harder to come by as the following foods were eliminated from our meals:

shell fish / other fish
sesame seeds
some lunch meats

Eggs and wheat are essential to mainstream baking. Chickpeas and lentils were staples in our home before Beckett's allergies were diagnosed. Strawberries are like the world's healthiest treat (when they don't cause hives). And the other foods aren't really big losses for us, but any additional restrictions on top of the aforementioned ones were just more to work around, you know?

So. Anyway. It's taken me a while to find foods that truly make Beckett happy. I mean, he likes cheese and meat and avocado and tomatoes, which is great, but I rarely have much of an impact on their preparation - although I am a champion avocado slicer. And, while it's not all about me, and mostly I'm just grateful that we know what he can safely eat and have learned how to feed him several times a day without seeing a reaction, sometimes a mama just wants her baby to chow down on a homemade baked good! So sue me.

At a first-birthday-party we were at the other day, the carrot cake my friend made for her daughter was delicious. Super moist, just enough spice, pretty darn healthy as far as cakes go, and really pretty! The birthday girl was in HEAVEN devouring her first taste of treat, and it was really fun to watch. Beckett couldn't have any because it had flour and eggs in it, but I knew the flavors would appeal to him and promptly decided to make a pancake version for him when I got home from the party.

Guess what? They are perfect!

Pancake Interior Close-Up

The method I used for the pancake batter requires a VitaMix or other high-powered blender, and was introduced to me by Kim Wilson, who has self-published several books and blogs about wholesome eating on her website, WHOLEmade. Her basic pancake recipe is here and it's great - my mom told me that my 6-year-old nephew who does not have food allergies actually preferred some frozen, reheated  ones over the mainstream delicious fluffy buttermilk pancakes she made for him! (I have used her soaked-blended grain batter approach to make her "slicing bread" (for which I cannot find the link at the moment) and this flat bread, the former seeing moderate success and the latter being absolutely amazing. (She also has a banana muffin recipe using the same approach; it sounds good but I haven't tried it.))

If you are into soaking grains and incorporating vegetables into your baked goods and using a VitaMix several times a day, you will have fun with these. If you like carrot cake or pancakes, you will like these. If you are navigating food allergies and are eager to find a good egg-free, gluten-free, dairy-free pancake recipe, you will LOVE these almost as much as your allergic child! (Although, since we're not dairy free in our house, I can't wait to make a cream cheese glaze to accompany these next time around.) 

Here are photos of the pancakes-in-progress. The recipe will elucidate any pictures that are weird and/or at odds with your current pancake-making experience.

Soaked Grains1 cup cooked carrotsVita Mix Pancake Batter2 T batter = 4" pancakesBubbles forming...Flipped (and quite perfect)Carrot Pancake TowerHalf-devoured
Carrot Cake Pancakes (Gluten-Free and Vegan)
Hybrid of inspiration from this and this
Yield: about 40-50 four-inch pancakes

1 1/4 cup brown rice
3/4 cup raw buckwheat groats or millet*
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, whey, or lemon juice
1 cup chopped, cooked carrots
1 1/4 cups water (to start)
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
Coconut oil or butter for frying

In a large bowl or measuring cup, cover brown rice and buckwheat groats with water by about 2 inches. Add 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, whey, or lemon juice and soak for 8-24 hours. Drain the grains, rinse them in a fine sieve, and pour them into your blender. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the baking powder, and blend until smooth. Add a little more water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time if you'd like a thinner batter. Add the baking powder and blend briefly.

Heat coconut oil or butter in a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Add pancake batter in 2-tablespoon increments (my batter was thin and spread considerably to make perfect 4" pancakes). Cook for a couple minutes over medium heat and once bubbles begin to form (see picture above), carefully flip and cook another minute or two.

* I think the buckwheat has a nicer, milder flavor than the millet.
Freezer Ready!
These freeze BEAUTIFULLY - both taste and texture are maintained for several weeks, which I've found isn't always the case when working with gluten-free grains. I let them cool on racks and then place them in a freezer bag with aluminum foil or waxed paper in between layers. I bring them in tupperware containers to thaw at room temp when we're going to be out, or I reheat them in the microwave for 20-30 seconds if we're home. Beckett likes them either way.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Finally, For My Summer Squash Class Participants: Farmer's Market Empanada Filling (here featured in some delicious quesadillas!)

You've waited so long. Here it is! This filling shows up in the empanadas I historically make to impress people at parties. (I've only ever used this recipe from Epicurious for my empanada dough and see no need to mess with it - what with 51 reviews and 100% of reviewers saying they'd make it again, why would I?) It ended up inside some quesadillas we made at a Summer Squash class a few weeks ago sort of randomly. I'd decided to make the menu entirely vegetarian, had all the ingredients on hand for some variation or other of this, and on a whim cooked and mashed it up before people arrived. Because it was thrown together on the spot, a recipe for this comfort-food-esque Mexican-spiced mish-mash of vegetables was not provided to those in attendance that night. I promised I'd post it on the blog within two weeks. It's been more like four, but it took me that long (and a visit (read: help) from my sister-in-law) to get it made in my own kitchen again and documented in a blogworthy manner. The flavors and aromas of this remind me of the Colombian stew called sancocho. There are many suggestions and substitutions in the recipe below, included not to complicate things but merely to prove that this recipe is endlessly adaptable. I mean, really, it's just glorified mashed potatoes. But really really really yummy mashed potatoes that are great in a quesadilla. (Also vegan and gluten-free.)

Now here are NINE pictures to entice you.

1.5 lbs PotatoesOur farmer's market bountyMise en placeVegetarian FunfettiMashing!Mashed!Platter-o-Quesadillas!Filling Close-upThis makes me hungry.

Farmer's Market Vegetarian Empanada/Quesadilla Filling
Yield: about 3-4 cups; enough for at least a dozen empanadas or quesadillas; easily doubled

1.5 lbs potatoes (or sweet potatoes - keep reading!), scrubbed and cut into a 1/2" dice (all or a portion of this could be sweet potatoes or yuca; up to half the mixture could be plantains or winter squash, but I've never gone beyond that and am not sure how it would hold up texturally if it were 100% either of those - all of them add a nice sweetness and creaminess)
1 purple onion (or any onion, but purple is pretty), chopped*
1 red bell pepper or spicy pepper of choice, chopped**
1 zucchini, summer squash, or carrot, chopped 
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (optional)
2 tablespoons Mexican or taco seasoning***
1 teaspoon salt (use less if Mexican or taco seasoning has salt in it)
Juice and zest of 1 lime

Cover potatoes with water in a saucepan, add a pinch of salt, and bring to boil on stove. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until v. tender. Drain and put in a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, heat 1-2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally so garlic doesn't burn, until onion is softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add zucchini and cook for 3-4 minutes more. Add ginger if using, lime zest, and spices and cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant. Turn off heat and pour in half the lime juice. This will deglaze the pan and make it easy to scrape up any bits of toasted spices that might have stuck to the pan.

Pour vegetable mixture into bowl with potatoes and mash everything together as best you can. Taste and add salt, more Mexican spices, and/or the remaining lime juice to your liking. Enjoy!

* I think I mean "finely chopped" here. So don't be lazy.

** You could use a hot pepper too. The three pictured above look hot but aren't, and they are small so that's why there are three versus the one mentioned in recipe. The salsa we served alongside the quesadillas was fairly spicy, so I wanted the mixture to be mild.

*** Instead of Mexican or taco seasoning, you could use (and I did in version pictured): 2 teaspoons cumin (whole or ground) + 2 teaspoons ground coriander (if you have it) + 2 teaspoons chili powder + dash or more of cayenne and/or black pepper.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A few things, and Berry Jam (before it's too late!)

1. Dear Local D'Lish Class Participants: I love you. Truly. My Thursday nights for the last several months have been so wonderful. And not only because they're the only nights I've been eating well. No indeed. It's primarily because you're all so lovely and fun and inquisitive and interested and interesting and I learn so much from you. Talk about the community-building power of food! Specifically to last week's Summer Squash folks - I promised you the quesadilla/empanada filling recipe and I intend to deliver by tomorrow. I have all the produce but am low on my spices. I intend to prep the veggies tonight, stop by my neighborhood spice store (yep! I have a neighborhood spice store!) tomorrow, and cook up, document, and post about it during nap time.

2. I'm working on letting time do the work lately and you should too. It's helping me feel a little more balanced as I juggle parenting two busy children, writing, cooking, teaching, getting settled into our new home, watching Downtown Abbey, being present to those I love, and prioritizing (for the first time in a long time) self-care. This afternoon, while my children napped, I soaked beans and some overnight wheat- and egg-free pancake batter (the base recipe is here, and everyone here likes it, but I'm still in test-kitchen mode as I work at perfecting a version for my own family (and ultimately you)); I got my cold-press brewing in the refrigerator; I roasted five bulbs of garlic. All together it was probably 15 minutes of "active time" in the kitchen, all spent talking to my sister on the phone, but it felt super productive. And tomorrow we'll have pancakes for breakfast and white bean and roasted garlic soup for dinner, and I can start my morning with an iced latte that costs just a fraction of what I'd pay for it at a coffee shop. When I taught my "Cook for the Week" class in the winter (for some reason it seems like a more enticing class in the winter, when having three burners and your oven running at once is actually a good thing), I had been really good about prepping and soaking and slow-cooking and it made life so much simpler and our meals so much better. The allergy thing and my son's becoming mobile (danger!) and a lot of traveling and all the transitions we've gone through recently got me super disorganized and I don't think I've ever in my adult life been as bad at planning our family's meals as I've been in the last few months. Our meals, accordingly, have suffered. (Said the food blogger/cooking class instructor.) Now that I'm getting used to my new kitchen and after being reminded this afternoon of how good and rewarding it feels to be a little more on top of things, I'm motivated to be better. I think the blog will benefit too.

3. Jam! I made this at home and then also at a Summer Fruits class a couple months ago. It's fabulous, easy, delicious, versatile (note the variations at the bottom of the recipe) and especially good for novice jam-makers who are intimidated by words like pectin and preserving. It also requires an Ove-Glove or something comparable to protect your hand as you stir and stir and stir hot hot hot beautiful beautiful beautiful berries on your stovetop. The transformation of these hot beautiful berries from regular berry color to the most vibrant, royal berry color you've ever seen is just plain magical. I figured I'd better get the recipe to you before the berries are all gone. (They've certainly gone up in price already. Boo.)

California + Food 177California + Food 179California + Food 187California + Food 191

Simple Berry Jam
Adapted from Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain (excellent, beautiful cookbook)
Yield: about 4 cups (easily halved)

3 pounds berries (e.g. strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries)*
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1-2 ounces crystallized ginger (optional)

Optional flavorings:
Zest of 1 orange, lemon, or 2 limes
1 tablespoon high-quality balsamic vinegar
Bunch of fresh herbs, e.g. lavender, oregano, mint, basil, lemon balm, rosemary
2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup

Before you get started: (1) Make an ice bath for cooling the preserves in a large bowl; have a medium-sized bowl nearby. (2) Have your longest wooden spoon and a good pair of heat-proof gloves/oven mitts on hand. (3) Hull your strawberries, if using, and halve any large fruit (you want 1/2-1” pieces of fruit).

Place water and sugar into a 5-quart or larger pot. Let mixture sit for a minute. Place pot on stove over high heat and cook, without stirring, until the syrup is gently bubbling all across the surface (5-7 minutes). (The bubbles will start out small, around the circumference of the pot, but then will get big and extend into the middle, slowly but surely.) If sugar darkens at all, add fruit immediately. (But ideally it won't caramelize.)

Add berries and ginger, if using, and stir with a wooden spoon. With heat on medium-high, cook the berries for 15-20 minutes, until syrup thickens to a jammy consistency and fruit has broken down a bit. Much like making candy, there is a chemical reaction that happens at some point that makes the evolution from syrupy berry mix to JAM not gradual, but sort of sudden. You'll feel the resistance and see the gelling as you stir. Once you do, just keep stirring for another minute or two.

When jam is done, i.e. thick and jammy and all kinds of crazy aromatic and your arm is super hot, move pot to a cool burner. Pour the jam, carefully, into the medium-sized bowl you set aside. Place the bowl of jam into the ice bath. Stir gently to allow some heat to escape. Leave as is (super fruity, shiny, fruit-forward preserves, you will have!) or try adding one of the optional flavorings like so:

If using zest, balsamic vinegar, or an additional sweetener, just stir it in carefully while still hot.

If using the following herbs - lavender, oregano, rosemary, thyme - carefully dip the bunch of herbs into the hot preserves until half immersed. Still holding the stems in your hand, stir the bouquet around in the jam about 10 circles. More than a minute of infusion will result in a very strong herby flavor. If using these herbs instead - mint, basil, lemon balm, fresh stevia leaves - mince a handful of herbs as finely as possible so that you end up with about 1-2 tablespoons. Stir them into the jam while still hot.

STORING: Keeps in refrigerator for a good week. Can be frozen as well, just allow to cool completely before storing it.


The jam pictured above was about 2 lbs strawberries + 1 lb blackberries, with orange zest and crystallized ginger. It was DELIGHTFUL.

Other good combo ideas off the top of my head:

Raspberries + mint + lemon zest
Strawberries + basil + balsamic vinegar
Blueberries + lime zest + crystallized ginger + maple syrup
Mixed berries + lavender + honey


* Maybe I was a little dramatic with the "before it's too late" title. Because, truly, frozen berries would work fine here too. No need to thaw.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sweet Beet Salad with Peaches, Carrots, and Honey Vinaigrette

Man I've been a bad blogger lately. Like, remember when July happened? And ZERO posts?! I'm so sorry. Really. Sorry to you, sorry to me, sorry to my students and employer who count on me to live and write about the locavore life.

In the last three months, I've spent five weeks out of town.

In the last three weeks, my husband and I sold a condo and bought and moved into a new single-family dwelling.

Amidst all this, my children suddenly developed v. clear agendas re: what they expect their days to look like, and evidently napping simultaneously and/or self-entertaining safely and calmly nearby while I cook and/or write are not on their to-do lists. I know. So selfish of them!

I've been teaching more often and - as is often the case in life - as I've devoted more time and energy to teaching, and gotten better and more methodical and increasingly enjoyed myself and my students, other projects have been less tended to, e.g. feeding my own family, working harder on the allergy navigating, and regularly posting on (Unpacking has also been on hold for like a week now. It's humbling how little stuff we really need, isn't it?)

What I've got for you today, however, is truly lovely in a simple, seasonal, nourishing way, and while the pictures don't do it quite the justice it deserves, they'll do the job for now. ("For now" being an indefinite period of time during which my camera remains hidden in an unopened box somewhere and I continue my thus-far-unsatisfactory search for a good, affordable photo-editing service in the wake of Picnik's (sad, sad) closure.)

Sweet Beet Salad with Peaches, Carrots and Fresh Herbs
Yield: 1 mega salad (I ate the whole thing) or 2 decent-sized salads

1 small head of lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces, or 3-4 large handfuls of baby spinach or other mixed greens
2 yellow beets, trimmed, peeled and shredded*
2 carrots, trimmed, washed and shredded*
Small handful each: cilantro, mint, basil (optional)
1 peach, pitted and diced
1/4 cup sunflower seeds or other seed or nut (I used raw sunflower seeds, as I just wanted some crunch, not saltiness or toastiness)
Honey Vinaigrette (recipe below)

*You can use a box grater to shred your veggies, but a little food processor is made for this sort of thing!

Place greens on plate(s). Top with shredded beets and carrots, fresh herbs, peach, and sunflower seeds. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons dressing to start with; add more if you like a more generously dressed salad.

Honey Vinaigrette - I used some fancy oil and vinegar but that's totally unnecessary
Yield: ~ 1 cup

1/3 cup olive oil (a citrus-infused olive oil here is great)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (a fruity or maple vinegar here is also great)
2 tablespoons honey (microwaved for 10 seconds)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Shake everything in a jar; adjust acid, sweetness, salt, pepper as you wish. Lasts at room temp for up to a week.