Monday, October 31, 2011

Spiced Cider

Cider is awesome. Spiced cider, doubly so.

 As you are doubtless already aware, today is Halloween. I don't typically do a lot to celebrate Halloween, though I do enjoy the excuse to dress up and eat too much candy. We already attended our party that involved costumes for this Halloween season, though, and we don't get many trick-or-treaters at our place. Like, I think there were two last year.

But because I didn't have to go to work today, I was inspired to celebrate the holiday just a little. I had a pumpkin in the house, so on a whim I carved it! I haven't carved a pumpkin since I was eight.

And in a little while, I am going to make and consume spiced cider. You should too, as a little celebration. Or just because it is good.

I am planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year, and my book is set in Space. It inspired this Space-themed pumpkin.

This isn't a recipe so much as a method to make yourself some spiced cider. It is so good!

First, get some good apple cider. I am lucky that I have some farm-fresh apple cider, but there are some organic store brands that are good, too. Normally I am not a stickler for organic anything, but the less processed (in this case), the better.

Add 2 and a half cups of cider, a cinnamon stick, a teaspoon of lemon juice, a few cloves, and some freshly grated nutmeg to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, watching carefully! The cider will boil over in a matter of seconds, and make a mess. Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes.

Serves two.
 Add the spices
 Briefly bring to a boil. After simmering for ten minutes, it is done!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Curried Pumpkin Soup

A wonderful, seasonal soup.

I love pumpkin-flavored everything. Normally this time of year, I would be getting pumpkin-spice lattes, pumpkin bread and muffins, and anything else pumpkin-flavored at the store or coffee-shop.

But this is my first fall with food allergies. And neither the bread nor the lattes are necessarily safe for me to have. Last month, I drank a soy pumpkin-spiced chai tea that made me sick for a couple days. I was told later that chai sometimes has gluten in it. Today I went up to the counter at Starbucks and asked if there was gluten in their pumpkin spice flavor. Thankfully, the barista knew that there was, so I did not order that. My fall is not ruined by the lack of pumpkin spice, however!

I made a big batch of pumpkin puree (following this tutorial) and with it I have been making my own pumpkin baked goods. The best thing I've made so far, though, is curried pumpkin soup. It is delicious, filling, and just happens to be gluten free and vegan (unless you use chicken broth). It has just the right touch of coconut and curry flavors. My squash-ambivalent spouse liked it a lot, too. I consider that a success!

Curried Pumpkin Soup

2 Tbs olive oil
3-4 peeled garlic cloves
1 medium carrot
1 medium yellow onion
2 cups broth or water (chicken is good, use vegetable to make it vegan)
1 pound pumpkin puree (a 15-ounce can of puree is fine)
½ can of coconut milk
1 ½ tsp curry powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
a sprinkle each of nutmeg and cinnamon

Heat the olive oil at medium in a saucepan. Roughly chop the garlic, and saute in the oil for about three minutes. 
Briefly saute the garlic

Give the onion and carrot a rough chop, and add them to the saucepan. 

Carrots and onions

Stir the vegetables for about a minute, then add the broth (or water) to the pan. Bring it to a boil on high heat, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer the broth for 20-30 minutes, until the onion and carrot are soft.

Turn off the heat, and let the pan cool at least five minutes. Add the vegetables and broth to a blender, but avoid filling the blender more than half full. You may need to do this in batches. If you are using homemade pumpkin puree and you have not previously run it through a food processor, add it to the blender too. Blend the contents until the soup is as smooth as you prefer.

This was probably a little too full, as I have heard that blending hot food can cause explosions if the blender if full. That is one reason to let the soup cool a bit.

Pour the blender contents back into the saucepan. If you have a compulsion not to waste the food on the sides of cans, blenders, etc. like I do, swish a little bit of water around the blender to help remove the pureed vegetables and pour it into the saucepan.

Add the coconut milk and spices to the saucepan. Heat over medium for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle. You may want to add a little bit of water to the soup if it is too thick at this point.

Mixing in the coconut milk. You can use lite coconut milk if you are worried about calories.

 I had to add probably a half cup of water to make it my desired consistency.

It is a delicious soup. Make it now!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Winter Squash Muffins (gluten-free)

Even though I'm sad that the nice weather seems to have gone, I am pretty excited for fall. Autumn in the Pacific Northwest is generally a cold and rainy season, and soon enough, we will be dealing with 34 degree rain. So I am not particularly looking forward to rainy fall weather. No, I am mostly looking forward to the food. As much as I am going to miss summer produce, I love squash and root vegetables! The Man and I walked past a big display of squash a couple of days ago, and I had to buy one, even though I had no idea how I was going to cook it.

I supposed the easiest answer for most squash is to turn it into soup, or cut it in half and bake it for dinner. But I didn't really feel like doing that. We aren't quite far enough into autumn for squash dinners at our house yet. Probably the most famous of the winter squash is pumpkin, and any baked good with pumpkin is one of my favorite things. Therefore, I decided to make squash muffins! It certainly isn't the weirdest baked good I have made (Guinness cupcakes and yam bread for instance. Warning: those are not gluten-free).

These muffins tasted pretty dang good, and had a nice flavor that reminds me of Thanksgiving, or Halloween. Use any squash you like the flavor of, pumpkin and butternut would be great. As always, make sure all ingredients are gluten-free, and free of any potential allergens (dairy, soy, etc.) for you or those you are cooking for!

Adapted from this recipe.

Winter Squash Muffins

Dry ingredients
1 ¼ cup GF flour mix*
½ cup almond meal
½ tsp xanthan gum
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking soda **

Other ingredients:

1 ½ cups of squash puree (12 oz or 340 grams. Canned pumpkin puree would be fine)
1 stick (½ cup) of softened butter or vegan margarine (½ cup of vegetable oil would also work)
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup molasses (spray the measuring cup with oil first if you don't want a big mess)
1/3 cup nondairy milk (almond or coconut are awesome)
2 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla

*I used a 2:1:1 mix of sorghum, millet, and quinoa, respectively. Use the flours you like!

** I actually used just one teaspoon of baking soda, but these muffins were flatter then I would have liked. I think increasing the soda to 1 ½ tsp would fix this.

There is a nice guide to making pumpkin puree here that would work for any winter squash. I don't have a food processor, so here is how I made mine!

I used a Red Kuri Squash/Hokkaido Pumpkin.
Cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds.

 Cut the halves into smaller pieces, and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 F for about 45 minutes, until the squash is fork-tender. Remove the squash from the oven, and allow it to sit until cool enough to safely handle, about 30 minutes.

 Before baking.
After baking. The squash will now be squishy.

--> Scrape the flesh off of the squash rind, and place in a bowl. Squish the flesh with a fork. Alternately, use a food processor.
 Preheat the oven to 350 (again).


In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk together to incorporate ingredients.
 Add the other ingredients, and mix together until the batter is smooth. There will be some lumpiness if the squash was squished with a fork.
 Fill the cups of a muffin tin until about ¾ full. These don't rise very much, so they could be filled a little bit higher.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

Makes 15 muffins.
 These were very good. The muffins were a little dense, but that made them slightly custard-like in texture. As with many gluten-free baked goods, they improved after they cooled down.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Celebratory Gluten-Free Pancakes

Pancakes that won't make me sick. They also tasted good.

Sunday used to be the day where I slept in late, and would hopefully stumble out of bed in time to get to the second service for church. Given that I was at school Monday through Friday, and usually spent my entire Saturday doing homework, Sundays were reserved for catching up on sleep and finishing up any assignments due the next day. Now, though, Sundays mean work. Usually six or eight hours of it.

I'm working at a hotel now, and the weekends are always busy. I can usually get to church, provided we go to the early service, but even that is pretty iffy, as there is a lot to do at my job that day.

Today, however, was my day off! Because the Man and I no longer see each other much on the weekends, this was a cause for celebration. And on any celebratory day, there should be a good breakfast. With bacon and pancakes. Even if you have food allergies.

Here is what I came up with this morning. These do crumble quite easily, but they generally stay intact while flipping them. They were very light and fluffy, despite being whole-grain.

They tasted fairly plain, thus you can top them with anything you like, such as maple syrup, or jam, heck, use them in a sandwich! If you think a plain pancake is boring, add some cinnamon and vanilla. I used sorghum, millet, and quinoa flours, and they were very good. Also, I fried bacon on the griddle first, and did not clean off the bacon grease. While camping this summer, we figured out that pancakes are really good fried in bacon grease. Just a friendly hint, if you like and can eat bacon.

Celebratory gluten-free pancakes

1 cup of GF flour (5 oz/140 grams)
1 TBS baking powder
½ tsp salt

2 TBS oil
2 TBS Agave nectar (or honey or maple syrup)
1 egg
½ cup non-dairy milk (I used almond)
1-3 TBS water, if needed

Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add in the oil, agave, egg, and non-dairy milk. Stir together. If the batter is very thick, thin it with water, adding one tablespoon at a time.

Heat your griddle to about 350 degrees F. Or, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Pour a small amount of batter onto the heated surface, as small pancakes are less likely to crumble when turning.

The pancakes are ready to be flipped when a few bubbles appear on the surface.

Makes 15 small pancakes, serves 3.

 Fry some bacon first, unless, you know, you don't eat pork.
These pancakes are ready to be flipped.
 This was breakfast. It was awesome.