Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have had some bad gluten free baking in my life.  Particularly "bread".  There are, however, more and more recipes using real ingredients that result in delicious desserts that even those without gluten intolerance would choose over grain based desserts.

The following recipe is a keeper. There is no strange after taste or that something isn't right feeling in your mouth.  My kids, who are not gluten intolerant, happily ate these cookies without complaint.  They also held up well to being dunked in hot chocolate (the cookies, not my kids). Most importantly they taste good. A mix of coconut flour and tapioca flour seems to have provided the satisfying texture you want in a cookie. 

Christmas version: I would add peppermint extract in place of the vanilla and crushed candy canes instead of chocolate chips if I wanted to turn this recipe into a Christmas recipe.

 Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
 #40 scoop 24 ml (1 5/8 oz.)  or approximately a scant 2 tablespoons
yields 10 large cookies
  • 160 ml (2/3 cup) coconut flour
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) tapioca flour/starch
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) sugar
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) chocolate chocolate chips
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) butter, softened
  • 15 to 45 ml (1 to 3 tablespoons)
  • Pre-heat oven to 175C (350F). 
  • Add all the dry ingredients to a medium bowl, including the chocolate chips, and whisk to blend. Place the vanilla extract, eggs, vegetable oil, and butter in a blender.  Puree for 1 minute.  Add to the dry ingredients. Use a fork to blend. Add the water 15 ml (1 tablespoon) at a time until the dough starts to hold together.  Scoop cookie dough onto a cookie sheet and press each scoop down with a fork. Bake in the center of the oven for 15 minutes or until cookies are golden around edges. Cool on a baking rack.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Montreal Steak Seasoning Recipe

Steak seasoning was a staple in the kitchen of my childhood.  However I became wary of preservatives and mystery ingredients as a young adult, and have never used steak spice in my own kitchen.  Recently I was given a mortar and pestle (pretty much the only kitchen tool I was missing), and have been twitching to grind my own spices and prepare various rubs and seasonings. 

I make  my own curry powder when I have time (preferably Jamaican curry powder). I use cumin seeds frequently and have been grinding seeds from a high quality pricey batch I bought at a health food store, a la minute, when I need it.  Yesterday I ground and mixed up a batch of Montreal Steak Seasoning for a recipe that called for it.  Here is a link to the Montreal Steak Seasoning recipe. Why Montreal steak spice and not just steak spice?  Well I consider myself a Montrealer, and quite frankly Montrealers do it better! Just ask Fairmout bagel.

I especially, and with irony, recommend this seasoning to vegans and vegetarians.  Montreal steak spice works well with grilled tofu, tempeh and vegetables (particularly portobella mushrooms).  It also livens up veggie burgers.  Many of us did not start out as vegetarians and this spice's flavor is reminiscent of a certain meatiness without the actual meat.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Banana Split Oatmeal Cookies

Frozen desserts are the staple of summer, but satiating portable snacks are still needed.  Once they have completely cooled I wrap them in plastic wrap, and throw them in a self sealing plastic bag and store them in the freezer.  I pop one in a lunch box in the morning, and within an hour they have come to room temperature and are perfect for snack time. 

Banana Split Oatmeal Cookies
14 large cookies
  • 560 ml (2 1/4 cups) old fashioned oats
  • 160 ml (2/3 cup) all purpose flour
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) ground flax seeds
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) ground cinnamon
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) salt
  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 250 ml (1 cup) brown sugar
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) dark chocolate chips
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) banana chips, crushed
  • Sufficient quantity strawberry jam
  • Pre-heat oven to 180 C (350 F).
  • Add oats, flour, ground flax, ground cinnamon and salt to a food processor. Process for 30 seconds to blend and to break down oats slightly. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar until well blended (3 to 5 minutes).  Scrap down the sides of bowl. Add egg and beat for 1 minute.  Add vanilla extract and beat for 30 seconds.  Add dry ingredients, and beat on low speed until just blended.  Add the chocolate chips and crushed banana chips and beat for just a few seconds to distribute the chips and pieces. 
  • Use a 60 ml (1/4 cup) scoop to measure out cookie dough.  Place cookies at least 5 cm (2 inches) apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a flat bottomed glass to flatten cookies slightly.  Press down lightly on center of each cookie to create a small well for jam.  Add a heaping teaspoon of strawberry jam to each cookie.  Bake in the center of oven for 12 to 15 minutes.  12 minutes for softer cookies, and up to 15 minutes for firmer cookies (or until golden around edges).  
Note: Firmer cookies hold up better in a lunch box.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Week Day Dessert

 Chocolate peanut butter spelt brownies

(Inspired by Ricardo's Nutella brownies)

  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) spelt flour
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) Nutella or other chocolate spread
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) crunchy natural peanut butter (or smooth + 2 tablespoons crushed peanuts)
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) brown sugar
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) butter, melted
  • Pre-heat the oven to 170C (325F). Line a 20 cm (8x8 inch) square cake pan with parchment paper.  Butter the 2 other sides.
  • Whisk together spelt flour and salt.
  • Beat eggs, chocolate spread, peanut butter, brown sugar and vanilla extract until smooth.
  • Add the butter and mix for 30 seconds.  Fold in the flour mixture.
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake in the center of oven for 35-40 minutes until center is set, but not firm.  Let cool.  Remove from pan and cut into 9 squares.
Take it one step further: Microwave a brownie for 15 seconds (or until warm).  Place a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the brownie.  Drizzle with chocolate sauce, and finish with roughly chopped peanuts.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Quinoa Greek Salad

I have recently updated my cooking technique for Quinoa (as seen in Mainstreet February 2014):

Quinoa arguably the reigning super food of the last few years is becoming a mainstay in the kitchen pantry. Quinoa, which is a seed, is prepared in the same way as a grain, and is often served as such. Unlike brown rice, quinoa takes no longer to cook than Basmati or Jasmine rice. Quinoa’s high protein content makes it a great addition to a vegan or vegetarian diet.  The following recipe is a meal in itself, but would do well as a side dish.  I would serve it with a marinated pork loin or chicken breast.  Just set aside a little vinaigrette in another container, and baste the meat just before cooking.

Recently I was looking for an interesting quinoa recipe on line when I stumbled upon Bon Appetite’s guide to common mistakes made when cooking quinoa. For simplicities’ sake I will just summarize what to do in order to cook it perfectly:  Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, as quinoa will slip through a regular colander. The quinoa to water ratio is 1:2, in other words 1 cup of quinoa for 2 cups of water.  Add both to a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low immediately, cover and cook for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Drain the quinoa, once again, using a fine mesh sieve.  Return the quinoa to the pot, and let stand covered on the burner, which is now off, for another 15 minutes.  This allows the quinoa to dry out slightly. Then fluff the quinoa with a fork, and serve or let cool, and use in a salad.

Quinoa Greek Salad

·      250 ml (1 cup) quinoa
·      500ml (2 cups) water*
·      1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) salt
·      1 medium tomato, diced
·      1/2 English cucumber, diced
·      125 ml (1/2 cup) kalamata olives, pitted, roughly chopped
·      1/2 yellow or red onion, diced
·      (3 oz) 100 g feta, diced
·      60 ml (1/4 cup) lemon juice
·      125 ml (1/2 cup) extra virgin olive oil
·      2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
·      2.5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) dried oregano**
·      1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) dried mint
·      1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) dried dill
·      To taste salt and freshly ground pepper

Cook the quinoa as directed above, and let cool. Add the cooled quinoa, tomato, cucumber, olives, onion and feta to a bowl and toss. Add the ingredients of the vinaigrette to a small jar with a tight fitting lid, and shake vigorously until homogenized.  Set aside. Give it a few shakes just before serving, and pour it liberally over salad. Toss and serve.

*You can infuse the water used to cook the quinoa with herbs and spices, or replace the water with the same amount of broth.  Try adding lemon, lime or orange zest to the water or whole spices that you remove once cooked.

**Dried herbs are convenient, but try using fresh herbs for the vinaigrette when able.  Greek salad often calls for green pepper, but my kids do not like it’s bitter taste.  I save the green for cooking, and use red, yellow and orange peppers for salads and crudités. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Moroccan Dafina

This dish is one of the favorites of my childhood.  Dafina is a Sephardic Beef "stew", and the cooking technique is adapted to the Sabbath (the day of rest).  My Step Father's Mother, who was an exceptional cook, taught my Mom how to make it. This delicious one pot meal, with fork tender beef, rice and chickpeas infused with stock and spices is visually a very brown dish, but a little coriander or parsley added as garnish give the final product a boost.

serves 4 to 6

  • 310 ml (1 1/4 cups) dried chickpeas
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 1.36 kg (3 lbs) beef chuck roast 
  • 3-4 beef ribs or beef bones
  • 45 ml (3 tablespoons) canola oil
  • 4 large russet potatoes*, peeled
  • 2 l (8 cups) beef or vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) paprika
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) ground cumin
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) cinnamon
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) salt 
  • 2.5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) ground pepper
  • 250 ml (1 cup) uncooked long grain rice
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) cinnamon
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) ground nutmeg
  •  2.5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 1 ml (1/4 teaspoon) ground pepper
  • 4 to 6 eggs in shell, rinsed
  • Soak the chickpeas overnight in a large quantity of water.  Drain and reserve. In a large pot with a tight fitting lid saute the onions in oil until lightly golden.  Add the chickpeas, meat, ribs or bones, and potatoes.  Add the stock, bay leaf, paprika, cumin, first quantity of cinnamon, first quantity of salt and ground pepper.   Pre-heat oven to 95 C (200 F).
  • To a bowl add the rice, 1 egg, remaining cinnamon, nutmeg, second quantity of salt and pepper, and mix to blend.  Wrap the mixture well in a cheese cloth, and nestle it, and the remaining eggs in shell gently into the pot. Add enough water (if necessary), to mostly cover stew. Let the pot come to a gently boil. Remove from heat immediately, cover, and place in the center of the preheated oven.  Cook for 12 to 18 hours, adding a little stock or water to the Dafina if it becomes too dry.
*1 large russet will feed 2 people easily considering the other ingredients in the meal. However for the sake of left overs I usually add at least 4 potatoes if I am serving 4 people or just in case people are really hungry.
Serve the potatoes sliced.  Slice the meat thinly.  Remove the rice from the cheese cloth, and separate grains with a fork. Add all the ingredients to a large serving dish in a decorative manner or serve the ingredients in separate serving dishes. Provide a dish for the egg shells.

Just a note:  When my mom made this dish the rice mixture sometimes contained either ground beef or lamb.  If you feel like trying it, add half a pound of raw ground meat to the mixture.  Sprinkle the rice with coriander just before serving.  If anyone reading this has a different way of making this dish please share in the comments section. What additions or variations have you made or experienced?