April 2008

love cakes and eggs


One of the most popular brunch spots in Atlanta is the Flying Biscuit. On the weekends, the line to get in is often an hour long, and most people are willing to wait. People wait, partly because going to the Flying Biscuit is an event unto itself, but also because the little street in Candler Park where the cafe is located is both picturesque and littered with funky shops that are ripe for the browsing. Once inside the cafe, you are treated to great food, an interesting menu, and a fun artsy atmosphere. Surprisingly, given the name, there are actually a lot of good gluten-free options on the menu, although in my pre-gluten free days I had a particular fondness for their pancakes with peach compote, and I still am tempted to ask for the apple-butter that normally accompanies the biscuit and just eat it with a spoon.

I first went to the Flying Biscuit with my friend Su, who recently moved back to California. We went together very early in our friendship, and over the years kept making our way back. Su almost always ordered the love cakes, although she preferred them accompanied by a salad, rather than eggs. So this week, since I’ve been missing her, I decided that I wanted love cakes as well. Luckily, the Flying Biscuit website provided a recipe. Maybe Su will whip some of these up too and even though we are on opposite sides of the coast we can eat love cakes together again. Make these today and share in the love.

Recipes after the jump

Since today is Ben & Jerry’s free cone day, I’ve got ice cream on my mind. I couldn’t quite face the idea of braving the lines to get a free cone today. So even though it is only 3 pm, I just resorted to a bowl full of peanut butter ice cream, which I topped with leftover hot fudge. So much for laying off the sugar this week.

But, that ice cream and hot fudge is leftover from our birthday cookout awhile back, and it is hard to be good when temptation is lurking in your freezer (or fridge, as the case may be). Anyway, back when I was planning Maureen’s party, I decided to make the sundae toppings, even though, as I mentioned in another post, Maureen wanted things simple. My solution: do the toppings in secret.

When I told Marc my plan to make sundae toppings on the sly, he rolled his eyes, and exclaimed, “But you can easily buy all of those.” My response: “Yes, but they aren’t the same.” My dad had a similar reaction, when I told him I had made my own caramel sauce, he asked, “Did you buy caramels and melt them down?” and then added “Can’t you buy that in a jar?” Yes, you can buy caramel sauce in a jar, you can even melt caramel candies (a good quick way to make caramel apples, by the way), but neither of those tactics will get Keme to exclaim “I don’t normally like caramel, but this is amazing.” Also, salted butter caramel is not quite the same as regular caramel. After John tried some, he declared “this is better than sex.” So, if you are putting together a sundae bar (or feeling a little lonely), consider making your own toppings, if you never have before, you will be pleasantly surprised both by how easy most toppings are to make, and how much better they taste without preservatives.

Recipes after the jump

saag aloo
Last night my roommate and I started talking about our grocery bills. Now, I almost never go out to eat, have a habit of spontaneously feeding random people, and love to cook… so, I would expect that I spend more on groceries, or at least more on groceries per person, than the average American. Still, I couldn’t resist running the numbers to find out just how much I have spent at the grocery store this month.  The actual number, $284, doesn’t bother me too much, but if I break that out per week that is $71, to technically feed one person… and that is only if I don’t go to the grocery store again till May.  I was going to go to the farmer’s market day, but instead I decided, that I would challenge myself to make it until Thursday without buying more groceries.

This shouldn’t be too hard, as my fridge and freezer are still quite full of food. But it is random food, food I bought without a plan or is leftover from a previous meal. Which means, it is the perfect food for some creativity. On taking stock of my fridge this afternoon, I realized I had half an onion, tomatoes, a full bag of spinach, and a jalapeno pepper. Excitedly I thought, I could make palak paneer! But, I was missing the “paneer” part. If I made my favorite palak paneer recipe, I would also need cashews and cilantro-ginger-garlic paste. But, never fear, I did have peanuts, ginger, garlic, and potatoes.

If you want a fabulous Saag Paneer recipe, you can’t go wrong with Mahanandi’s takeon this classic North Indian dish. I like it better than any restaurant version I’ve had, and it is better for me (no heavy gravy to weigh down the sauce). But this rendition is also quite good, and worth repeating as tracking down inexpensive paneer can be challenging.

Recipe after the jump

lime cupcakes

Lately I have had a touch of the blues… nothing too severe, I’ve just been waking up sad, and wallowing though my days. Oh, and eating lots and lots of sugar. Last night I decided it had to end, Today is officially not allowed to be a bad day. And so far my resolution is working. I woke up and did yoga right away. I spent the morning cooking, and I got out of my apartment and went to a delightful baby shower. I’m trying my hardest to be excited about spring, and babies, and life… and to cut back on the sugar.

But first, I bring you cupcakes. Don’t worry these sweets are not hanging around my kitchen. They went to a party, and were demolished before the gluten-full cake was even cut (I actually had to hide a cupcake in the kitchen to make sure I got to eat it). There is, however, a bit of icing still hanging out in my kitchen aid, but I have high hopes my icing loving roomie will do a good job on that.

Recipe after the jump

One of the reasons that I started this blog was because, while there are many other great gluten-free blogs out there, there are not any that are Atlanta based. When you first get a diagnosis, or decide you need to eat gluten-free, the learning curve is steep. It takes awhile to learn what you can eat, what products you like, where to shop, and even longer to learn where you can eat out. So, in addition to sharing my own gluten-free cooking with you, I also want to highlight some good options for gluten-free eating in Atlanta.

Last month I schlepped out to to the suburbs for a gluten-free meetup at Lavender’s Asian Bistro in Lawrenceville, GA. Lavender’s serves Thai and Chinese food and they are able to offer almost all of their non-fried food to the gluten-free customer. The secret is, they keep wheat-free Tamari on hand. If you go with a large enough group, they might also be willing to dedicate a fryer for you, opening up even more of their menu. When the gluten-free meetup group met, we had 18 people, so we got a fryer, and we were in heaven. Most of us hadn’t been able to have real Chinese food since our diagnosis, let alone calamari, and sesame chicken (which is what I ordered…or at least what I consumed…somebody else actually ordered the calamari).

One thing you have to be careful not to do, is accidentally order something not on the gluten-free menu. Even though our whole table was gluten-free, the woman sitting next to me asked if they had a vegetarian spring roll. What she expected, was a fresh spring roll, what she got was a fried Chinese spring roll that was not gluten-free. It was an honest mistake on the waiter’s part, and he did realize and come take it away, but not before the woman had eaten a few bites. So, do make sure that as you order you reinforce the fact that you are ordering gluten-free. You might also want to chat with the owner about your dietary restriction and concerns, as he was very friendly and helpful. Some members of the group eat their weekly with great success, so the owner, at least, is very knowledgeable about what is allowed and what is not.

Overall, I had a great experience, and will probably make the trip back out to Lawrenceville again. The food was good, maybe not the most amazing Chinese food I’ve ever had, but definitely far above average. It was a little far away for the traffic on a weeknight though, and if I go back it will probably be on a Saturday or Sunday night. Even though next time I go, I probably will have to forego the calamari (which was particularly fantastic), the menu offers such a wealth of choices that I’m sure I will find a new favorite.

Lavender’s Asian Bistro
1195 Scenic Hwy. Suite C8
Lawrenceville, GA 30045


menu after the jump

Yesterday I had pizza envy. I had dinner plans and wasn’t going to be home for dinner, so Maureen decided to have Katie over for dinner and order pizza. God, I miss pizza, and I was home while they were trying to figure out where to order it from and what toppings to get. I went to my dinner, had fabulous food, and came home still somehow jealous of the pizza. So I decided to try my hand at pizza today. But you have to realize, I’m nothing but an ambitious girl. Gluten-free pizza recipes don’t excite me. I’ve tried a few recipes, but nothing has come close to what I want. I’m convinced that to find a pizza crust I love, will require major innovations on my part, so I turned today, to the Sullivan Street Pizza recipe that the Baking Babes have been struggling with. I tried this particular recipe because it is a very wet dough, and you need an extremely wet dough in gluten-free bread making. So this recipe already bore a striking resemblance to gluten-free recipes, but with a few distinct differences. First, it used very little yeast, and second it had a very long rise time.

As I planned my attack, I realized that nothing I did was likely to approximate the recipe. For awhile I played with protein percentages in gluten-free flours, trying to match their 11.5%, only to realize that it wouldn’t really matter because gluten-free flours have the wrong type of protein. But, I decided to still go pretty high percentage on high-protein flours, using primarily sorghum and teff (at 10% and 11%). When I mixed the dough, mine quickly turned into that familiar looking batter that lies somewhere between cake batter and cookie dough, and no amount of mixing caused my batter to pull away from the edges of the bowl. At this point, I almost gave up, but I figured I might as well see what happened.

I let my batter rise for four hours, spooned it into a prepared pan (yes, spooned… no stretching was involved), scrambled to make the topping and settled in for failure. I hoped that it would be thin and crispy, but looking at the dough it really didn’t seem possible.

50 minutes later, I pulled this baby out of the oven, and immediately sawed into it with my knife. The crust was definitely crunchy, and the flavor was good, not exceptional but good. I wouldn’t make this the exact same way again, but I might try it again with an even split between teff, sorghum, and tapioca starch.

As far as the topping goes, the purple potatoes were fun, but the combination didn’t really satisfy my pizza craving. I also felt slightly guilty about the ridiculous carb overkill and the severe lack of protein. Still, with salt sprinkled on top, this would be amazing with eggs, and it was rather compelling even on its own.

Does anyone have a gluten-free pizza recipe that they think will revolutionize my understanding of the genre? I would love some help!

Recipe after the jump

cake picture

This cake is probably the first recipe I ever tried off of somebody’s blog. It is also the first thing I baked after going gluten-free. With regular flour out of my life, I turned to the internet for answers and inspiration. I discovered food blogging. First, I found Shauna, a.k.a the Gluten Free Girl. I loved how honest her blog was, and I loved her attitude towards food. I didn’t have any desire to sit around and feel sorry for myself or mourn the loss of wheat; instead, I was excited about feeling better, and ready to embrace my new lifestyle. Reading her blog, I felt as though I had found a kindred spirit. I went back to the beginning, and read every single post, I talked about her blog to my friends (imagine a conversation that goes something like this: friend: “how was your day,” me: “good, I read this amazing post on that blog I’m reading…”). I spent hours, literally hours a day reading every word, until one day I caught up to the present. All of the sudden, I was limited to one post, every couple of days or so… desperate, I turned to her links, and I found Molly (a.k.a Orangette).

While reading Shauna’s blog I felt a connection over our shared attitude towards being gluten-free, but with Molly it was something else. Her blog has, of course, wonderful food. But it wasn’t the food that kept bringing me back day after day to read every single entry of her blog. Instead, it was the fact that Molly’s blog was both exhilarating and frightening to me. She had faced herself, her true loves and passions, and had left her graduate program, and it was the best decision that she could have made. Having just gone through a very busy, stressful semester of graduate school, and unsure what I wanted from my life, her blog, to put it lightly, pushed my buttons.

And when I read about this cake…the cake that led her husband to her. I had to have it. Never mind, that it had gluten, never mind that I had never baked anything gluten-free. I wanted lemon yogurt cake. I somehow felt that my ability to be satisfied with my own life depended on my ability to successfully recreate that cake. So I read Bette Hagman’s suggestions for converting recipes, and dove in.

Amazingly, it was spectacular the first time. All summer, every time I had any excuse to make a dessert, I made this cake. By the end of the summer, I had the recipe memorized, and could whip the batter together in minutes. I tried all sorts of flour mixes, and never had a problem with any of them, that is, until I tried a flour mix that involved garbanzo beans (beans and lemons in a cake = yuck). The yogurt helps give the cake a fabulous texture and moisture, regardless of flour choice. I’m not sure if my happiness ever really rested on this cake’s success, but if it did, the results were felicitous.

By the end of the summer I was moving on to exploring new recipes, ready to face a new semester of graduate school, and this cake faded to a fond memory, until the other night. Asked to bring dessert to a dinner party, with my tongue still remembering last week’s Meyer lemon bars, I couldn’t not make this cake.

Recipe after the jump

If I mapped my life in flavors, I think I would name as “savory” all of those activities that we do because they are good for us, only to find that they are among the most pleasurable activities in life. Activities like yoga, or running, or making headway on a to-do list, or reading a book for school… maybe even “work” itself. I almost never want to go for a run, or do yoga, but when I do, I always feel happier for the going. Now, it might be a bit of an exaggeration to say that is exactly the way I feel about eating or cooking savory foods… but, I do have quite a sweet tooth, and I am far more likely to get excited about dessert than I am about dinner, and I do always feel better when I eat something healthy for dinner instead of diving into the brownies and ice cream. So here I am today, to pass along to you a winning savory dish. These noodles are flavorful and different, sort of a play on the classic pad thai, but infused with fresh flavors. Just like pad thai, they would be great with a wide variety of proteins (chicken, shrimp, tofu, egg). I replaced some of the cilantro with Thai basil, because they have similar flavors, except Thai basil has what I can only describe as licorice undertones. It is very flavorful, so if you do go with the Thai basil, you might want to cut back a little on quantities.

Recipe after the jump

These brownies turned out too beautifully not to deserve their own write-up. They rose gloriously, their texture was light and airy, they just were not and never could be fudge-y brownies, and side by side against those decadent morsels they didn’t stand a chance, at least not for this chocoholic. However, as time went on and I found myself creeping into the kitchen to take “just a taste” of a brownie before breakfast, in the middle of the afternoon, or as a pre-bed snack, these increasingly became the brownies that I reached for. Maybe because they were a little less decadent and I felt a little less guilty about eating them, or maybe just because I swear every day these get a little bit better.

Using my earlier criteria for brownie judging, in my book these brownies would score a 7 on taste (they weren’t rich enough), an 8 on texture (I think I slighly overbaked them, making them a little dry), a 9 on appearance and a 9 on cut-ability. They were also definitely better on the second day. But, really, the most important thing to mention here is that you would never guess these were gluten-free, which is more of an accomplishment when you are going for cake-like brownies than when you are striving for fudge-y ones.

Also, if you are a cake-like brownie lover, I would love to hear about your favorite recipes, or even just what makes a perfect cake-like brownie – is it the airiness? Or the subtler chocolate flavors? Is it the texture? Or the fact that you don’t feel sick afterwards from the extreme richness of the fudge variety?
Recipe after the jump

“I actually cooked something I really liked!” Maureen exclaimed one evening, about a month ago, as I walked in the door around 9:30 after teaching a class for Kaplan. Now, Maureen and I do fairly even duty in the kitchen, at least when it comes to dinners. But she had made a string of meals that while perfectly edible, she considered failures, so cooking was becoming a little disheartening. This salad, however, was excellent, and has hopefully restored her confidence. We happily ate it for lunch several days in a row without getting tired of it, and we made it again for our cook-out this weekend, only this time I helped. Most of our guests had never had quinoa before, but they all seemed to enjoy their first excursion.

So assuming some of you, too, have never had Quinoa, here is a short introduction. Quinoa is a pseudo grain — it is actually a seed, but it behaves like a grain. To prepare it, you simmer the seeds in water (or broth) until they’ve absorbed all of the liquid, just like you do when you make rice. Quinoa has a subtle nutty flavor when cooked, and can easily be substituted for bulger in recipes like tabbouleh or it can be used in place of couscous. Because, quinoa is not really a grain, it is a great choice for passover, as well. Even better, quinoa contains a complete protein, is high in antioxidants, magnesium, and is a good source of fiber — making quinoa a healthier choice than wheat or rice. If you live in Atlanta you can buy it in bulk at the Dekalb Farmers Market both in seed and flour form. I haven’t actually played around much with quinoa while baking, but when I do you’ll be sure to hear about it.

But really, if you’ve never tried quinoa, this recipe is a great introduction. But don’t stop there: also try Heidi Swanson’s Lemon Scented Quinoa or her Delicious Big Bowl – Quinoa, both of which are sure to please. Or, be like me and substitute the couscous for quinoa in Smitten Kitchen’s Couscous and feta-stuffed peppers. These peppers were amazing (or maybe I just have a thing for quinoa and feta together).
Recipe after the jump

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