Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Quinoa-Almond Butter Cookies (Kosher for Passover)

Passover's almost over, and I'm surrounded by people who are sighing over their matzo and guiltily buying non-kosher-for-Passover food because they're starving and can't find any other food. I could feel bitter. After all, when Passover ends, I don't get to return to wheat, barley, oats, rye, and spelt. Instead, I listen with bemused detachment and a smidge of pity.

Every year those eschewing chametz spend a week in gluten-free boot camp. They're never there long enough to become accustomed to always carrying food they can eat and to not feel somewhat deprived without gluten (given, there are other foods restricted by Passover, such as legumes, but giving up black beans for a week isn't the same for most people as not eating bread).

Having been gluten-free for a year and a half, I also know that life without wheat isn't that bad. It's not bad at all, in fact. When the Science Teacher told me that he and his friends used to eat matzo pizza in desperation, I thought Who needs matzo pizza when you've got a quinoa crust? I made quinoa porridge this morning for breakfast, which very few non-gluten-free people would think of eating, and it was delicious. Nutty and a bit sweet with cinnamon and nutmeg. I have a huge advantage because I have all of this culinary know-how at my disposal. I think of trying quinoa for breakfast as a part of my endless search for new great breakfast cereals whereas it probably wouldn't occur to a gluten-eating person. Of course, part of the point of Passover might be feeling some deprivation. If so, I guess the gluten-free folks get an easy out for once!

In any case, it's great to be able to share some goodies, savory or sweet, with those who are feeling deprived without chametz and kitniyot. I whipped these up in moment of anti-macaroon sentiment...

Passover-Friendly Quinoa-Almond Butter Cookies
These cookies are a version of my peanut butter-oatmeal cookies. The banana flavor is pronounced so if you don't like banana just leave it out and add a little more liquid (for the coconut milk to soak up). The almond butter flavor, however, is much less pronounced than the peanut butter flavor is in the original version so you might add either some almond extract (1/2-1 tsp.) or more almond butter.

1 c. quinoa flakes
1/4 c. quinoa flour
1/4 c. coconut flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 c. almond butter
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 c. mushed banana
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. (or more!) chocolate chips

Preheat the over to 350. Mix the flakes, flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Mix the almond butter, honey, brown sugar, egg, banana, and vanilla in a large bowl. In several parts, pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix. Stir in the chocolate chips. Spoon tablespoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 12-13 minutes--until the tops just start to brown--for soft cookies. Cool for a minute or two on the baking sheet and transfer to wire racks to cool.

Similar Recipes (not necessarily kosher-for-passover as written)

Gluten-Free Quinoa Almond-Butter Cookies

Monster Qunioa Peanut Butter Cookies
Almond Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies
Peanut Butter Banana Cake

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Homemade Yogurt

I've been eating yogurt for years, but until I lived in Russia, my yogurt consumption was limited to Dannon and Yoplait. I hated dumping Dannon Fruit on the Bottom yogurt into a bowl and watching it hold its cup-like, gelatinous shape. Reminded me of cranberry sauce from the can (which, I admit, I love, but the can ridges are a bit scary).

In Russia and later in Ukraine, I discovered yogurt made from 1%, 2%, and even whole milk. Suddenly I could get any kind of yogurt I wanted and in all sorts of surprising flavors, like prune and pineapple. After growing up on the ubiquitous berry concoctions, I was hooked. Later I lived in Bulgaria, the home of yogurt, and discovered tarator (see below for recipe) as well as the joys of a good-quality plain yogurt.

Yogurt flavors and companies have multiplied since I was a kid eating from a conical Yoplait container. Dannon sells their Activa brand, which claims to help your digestion (though I'm not clear how it differs from any other yogurt with active cultures), in fun flavors, like fig. A recent perusal of my dairy aisle turned up whole, 1%, and several kinds of Greek-style yogurt. I'm not, however, terribly excited about the amount of sugar or, worse, artificial sweeteners used in them. And now that the Little Pottamus is eating yogurt, I need to be able to find organic whole milk yogurt for him. Shame on Dannon, Yoplait, and even Stonyfield's for putting so much sugar in their yogurts marketed at kids!

So why not make my own? Turns out it's super easy and far cheaper than buying yogurt from the store (even with the most expensive organic milk our coop has on offer homemade yogurt is half the cost of the commerical yogurt I would normally buy). And homemade yogurt tastes better than anything you can buy in a store--it's creamy and you can make it as rich as you like. Making yogurt doesn't take much time. I usually put the yogurt on as I'm cleaning up the kitchen or prepping dinner. Give it a try!

Homemade Yogurt
Some recipes call for added powdered milk to make it thicker. I've never had a problem with homemade yogurt not being thick enough, but you might experiment. I like my yogurt plain or with a little maple syrup or tahini and, of course, with plenty of add-ins!

1/2 gallon milk (2% is my favorite, but you could use any kind of cow/goat milk--see below for non-dairy tips)

1/2 cup plain yogurt with active cultures (a carton of Dannon or Stonyfield's will do)

candy thermometer
2 quart-sized glass jars with lids

1 8-oz. glass jar with lid

large pot with lid (for sterilizing the jars)
pot with heavy bottom (for heating the milk)
small cooler or pot (for keeping the milk warm as it becomes )

Step 1--Sterilize the jars: Put two glass quart jars, their lids, and a small (8-10 oz.) jar and lid into a large pot (I use my pasta pot) with a few inches of water. Put a lid on the pot, bring the water to a boil, and boil for about 10 min.

Step 2--Scald the milk: While the jars are sterilizing, heat a 1/2 gallon of milk in a large pot with a heavy bottom. Hook a candy thermometer on the side. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk reaches 85-90 deg. Celsius.
Step 3--Cool the milk: Remove the scalded milk from the heat and cool until the milk reaches 50 deg. Celsius. I partially fill the sink with cold water, plunk the pot in the sink, and stir to speed up the cooling process.

Step 4--Inoculate the milk: Put 1/2 cup of plain yogurt with active cultures (I've used Dannon, Stonyfield's, and homemade yogurt from a previous batch successfully) in a 1-cup measuring cup. Add 1/2 cup of the cooled milk and stir to remove all of the lumps. Pour the yogurt-milk into the rest of the cooled milk and stir to combine.

Step 5--Pour the milk into the jars and cap them. Place the jars in a small cooler or deep pot. Add enough hot water until the jars are 3/4 submerged (you may need to place the smallest jar on top of an upside-down cup to make it tall enough). The idea is to keep the milk at around 50 deg. Celsius. At this temperature, you should have yogurt in about 3 hrs. (don't test the jars until 3 hrs have passed, or you risk losing heat each time you check on them). If the milk has gelled, congratulations--you've made yogurt! If not, just leave it a little longer, until it gels. Stick it in the fridge and enjoy. You can also freeze yogurt, just don't fill the glass jars too full or they will break (yep, one of my nice Mason jars broke yesterday).

Yogurt Recipes and Resources

Homemade Yogurt at 101 Cookbooks
A Comprehensive Yogurt-Making Tutorial (a more in-depth version of my instructions)
Homemade Soy Yogurt
Homemade Soy Yogurt at Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
Homemade Coconut Milk Yogurt at Stephen's Recipes
Buy a GF, Soy-Free, Dairy-Free Yogurt Starter!

Tarator (Balkan Cucumber-Yogurt Soup)
Labneh (Yogurt Cheese)
Greek-Style Soy Yogurt or Soy Yogurt Cheese

Monday, April 14, 2008

Gluten-Free Menus: April 14

The Gluten-Free Menu Swap is being hosted this week by Gluten-Free Sox, so head on over for some great menu-planning ideas...

Passover starts next Sunday. In our household, we celebrate Shabbat on Fridays and major holidays, but, not being Jewish, I don't fast on Yom Kippur and don't purge my house of chametz (which does actually include some things that the gluten-free do eat) before Passover. We don't, however, serve ham at our seders--all the food there is above board and kosher for Passover. Gluten-Free Bay's Passover Roundup 2007 has great resources and recipes whether or not you'll be heading to a seder soon!

This year, we're going to a record number of seders: three! To all three, I'll take gluten-free mock matzo, and I'll take the tzimmes dish below to the first one. I'm on the list for a dessert for seder #2, and I'm looking for a yummy, not-t00-bad-for-you dessert that TRAVELS. We'll be driving 10 hours the day of the seder. Any ideas?

Sunday: turkey chili, apples and kale, cornbread
Monday: Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese, salad
Tuesday: Black Bean Burgers, mashed butternut squash, kasha and onions
Wednesday: mac n' cheese redux
Thursday: more bean burgers!
Friday: pizza, salad
Saturday: We're taking Winter Squash-Chicken Tzimmes to a pre-seder seder

Monday, April 7, 2008

Gluten-Free Menus: April 6

In How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Mark Bittman suggests that one strategy to preparing vegetarian meals--that might involve many "side" dishes rather than one main dish with a few sides--is to prepare a big pot of beans and/or grains early in the week and find ways to incorporate them differently into several meals. This week I'm trying this menu-planning tip out with kidney beans. I bought two pounds at the co-op. I'll use some in the kidney bean-apple dish, some in the chili, some in a quinoa salad for lunches. I might even make some lobio, a classic Georgian (the country, not the state) dish. If so, I'll definitely blog about it--such a tasty salad is not to be missed!

This week we're eating...

Sunday: broiled rainbow trout, steamed broccoli, baked sweet potatoes

Monday: broiled crab cakes (Virginia-style, not Maryland, for you crab cake aficionados), steamed broccoli, creamy buckwheat cereal with pesto

Tuesday: sauteed kidney beans with apples, braised cabbage, cheese

Wednesday: turkey chili, corn tortillas

Thursday: pizza with a quinoa crust

Friday: kidney bean night redux, challah

Saturday: turkey chili for friends, cornbread