A Reprieve + Gluten-Free Banana Muffins

July 31, 2011 § 5 Comments


I’m not even going to get into where I’ve been. Oh how I have so much to tell you. About pizza. And fresh summer salads with feta and balsamic. And slaw. Oh the slaw. But that’s for another post and another time. Because the news I have for you today is so incredible, so mind blowing that you will be running to your kitchens as soon as you finish reading. I made the best muffins in existence. The most tender, the most flavorful, the perfect crumb, crunchy lidded, ideal banana whole grain muffins. And they are gluten-free. Yes, I have gone over to the dark side and become a buckwheat-eating freak. I’ll explain the situation at length later, but just know this: I have not felt this good in months. Maybe a year. Maybe since before my RA diagnosis. And thank you G-d, there will be muffins.

You might recognize this recipe from my Vegan Banana Bread. Instead of messing around with other gluten-free muffin recipes with ingredients I didn’t have, I decided to experiment with a recipe that works- with wheat flour at least. With the guidance of Gluten-free Goddess and her baking tips and substitutions, I made a gluten-free flour mix, and subbed out the wheat flour in my regular recipe. I also added an egg and some baking powder for extra leavening and binding. And a little ground flax seed for good measure. Mine did not rise as high as traditional muffins, but you can experiment with how much you fill your baking cups. I can’t express how delicious these are. And not just by gluten-free standards. You can easily make this into banana bread, just grease or line a standard size loaf pan with parchment and voila. You could even add chocolate chips. My Husband would approve.

Gluten-free Whole Grain Banana Muffins
Makes 12 muffins or 1 large loaf
Gluten, Soy, and Dairy-free
*Note: the GF flour mix makes more than needed for this recipe. Store the rest in an airtight container in your fridge or freezer and use for another delectable gluten free recipe. It works well for just about any baked good.

Ingredients
1/2 cup margarine or canola oil
1/2-3/4 cup Demerara or white sugar (depending on how sweet you like your muffins)
1 egg
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour mix*
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3 ripe, mashed bananas

Gluten-free flour mix:
1 cup brown or whole rice flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup tapioca starch
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp ground flax seeds

Whisk together and store in the refrigerator or freezer in a tightly lidded container.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F (176 C). Line a muffin tin with liners, or grease wells with oil. In a large bowl, combine margarine or canola oil and sugar, stirring well to combine. Add the egg and beat well. Add salt and pumpkin pie spice. Sift in 1 1/2 cups of the gluten-free flour mix, baking soda, and baking powder. Add mashed bananas. Mix well, beating for a minute or two. With normal muffins, over beating would make for a tough muffin. With gluten-free flours, beating adds aeration and makes for a lighter crumb. Using a 1/4 cup measure, fill the muffin cups with batter almost to the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes. The muffins are done when they are brown on the top, the tops spring back when you touch them, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the pan cool on a wire rack for a minute or two. Remove the muffins to the wire rack to cool, or else the bottoms will steam. Eat them all.

Vegetable Minestrone Soup

February 7, 2011 § 3 Comments


Yesterday was not a good day for me. I looked around my filthy house, and made an executive decision to do nothing. I didn’t get out of my pajamas until 6 pm when I realized my husband would be home from work and see me, in my pajamas. The same pajamas from the day before. Instead of making food, I microwaved some leftover potato kugel and ate it with ketchup. I finished off the bag of cookies and brownies from Shabbat.

I was, lets just say it, feeling sorry for myself. I felt like a big fat pig who eats nothing but junk, who never gets dressed, but pads around the apartment in slippers. I sat at my computer, letting my baby amuse himself on his bouncy chair. What a terrible mother. Here I have this opportunity to grow his little brain and I’m watching Ben Affleck movies (Hey, it was good!). I was lonely, feeling alone in this country and very, very far away from home. For whatever reason my self-esteem was plummeting, and something needed to be done about it.

This morning I woke up and immediately changed my baby into a real outfit. I got myself dressed, put on my nice wig (gotta love that), and even put on some makeup. Will I leave the house today? I’m not sure. But at least I’ll look nice for myself and the Baby. I had a strong cup of coffee, a bowl of healthy granola, and called my Mother-in-law for a chat. Sometimes a bad day is all in your head.

When I’m feeling down and out, it’s usually linked to eating poorly. Which one comes before the other, I’m not sure. I like to remedy this negativity with lots of fresh water and vegetables. I made this Vegetable Minestrone and it was the perfect cure to a no good, very bad day.

Vegetable Minestrone
Makes about 3 quarts of soup

Ingredients

2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 large stalks of celery, sliced
8 cups water or vegetable broth
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can navy, kidney or cannelini beans, rinsed
2 cups cut green beans (if frozen, just dump em in, if fresh, wash and cut into 2 inch pieces)
2 cups uncooked pasta (I used whole wheat rotini but shells or penne would also be good here)
1 can crushed tomatoes with juice
Salt, pepper, oregano, basil and paprika to taste

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add carrots and celery and stir to combine. Add water or vegetable broth, green beans, canned beans, salt, pepper and spices to taste, and the can of crushed tomatoes with juice. Cover the pot and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes or more, or until the carrots are tender. Check the seasoning and add more according to your taste. Add the pasta and cook for 5-10 minutes until pasta is cooked. Serve hot with crusty bread. If freezing, I would withhold the pasta, then reheat on the stove, adding the pasta in the last 5-10 minutes of cooktime.

Chicken & Peppers: Three ways!

January 16, 2011 § 4 Comments


I like to save. Some might call me a pack rat, obsessive compulsive washer-outer. I save glass jars, plastic bags, Tupperware, vegetable cuttings for stock, leftovers, notes, envelopes, clothes, books, and when I can, money. You just never know when you might be able to re-use that empty marmalade jar for a homemade vinaigrette or when I might want to re-read that note my Mom tucked into a package for me when I was away at summer camp in 1997. I also love to multi-task, and when I can save time it’s a greater high than any drug could ever muster. I’m serious. I have a four-month old baby. Time to myself has a whole different meaning.

The wonderful Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller once gave over a great piece of advice. She said: it takes the same amount of time to cook ten chickens as it does to cook one. To the busy Moms and Dads and workaholics out there, double your recipes. Triple them. And for the love of G-d, buy some Tupperware and Ziplock bags and use your freezer. It has quite literally saved my life. With RA you never know when you are going to have a really, really bad day, and it’s pretty nice to pull out a ready-made meal.

I recently discovered that a little protein and some veggies go a long way. At the beginning of the week I prepare a big batch of four boneless skin less chicken breasts, and a few large colorful peppers and onions (Cut up chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Saute with a little oil. Dice up peppers and onions. Saute with a little oil until tender. Done!) I split the finished product into three plastic containers, freeze two and keep one out for dinner. The majority of my prep work is now done for three nights. Throw the rest of the ingredients together and you have dinner. What’s on the menu for tonight?

Asian Noodle Stir Fry
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 10-15 minutes tops
Feeds 2 very hungry adults or 4 normal humans

Ingredients

1/3 of your cooked chicken, peppers and onions (If making this dish alone, this is about 1 boneless skinless chicken breast, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1 large pepper, chopped. Saute in a little oil until cooked)
1/2 cup frozen or fresh green beans, or whatever vegetables you have on hand
1 package Asian egg noodles, or even spaghetti works here
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp sweet chili sauce or honey
1 tsp sesame oil
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1-2 tablespoons canola oil
1-2 sliced green onions (optional)
1 tsp sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

Cook noodles according to package. I immerse them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and toss with a little bit of canola oil to avoid sticking. Set aside. If using frozen vegetables, allow them to thaw slightly in a strainer. Combine soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, orange juice, sesame oil, sweet chili sauce, minced garlic, ground ginger, and red pepper flakes. Whisk together and set aside. Heat a large wok or pan over high heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons of canola oil and add your thawed vegetables, stirring and cooking for 2 minutes. Add cooked chicken, peppers and onions and cook for another 2 minutes or so until everything is heated through. Add cooked egg noodles and sauce, combining everything together. Optional: serve garnished with sliced green onions and sesame seeds.

Check back soon for Chicken & Peppers version 2.0!

Potato and Onion Bourekas

November 24, 2010 § 1 Comment


Welcome to Thanksgiving 2010 recipe #2! Never heard of a Boureka? What about a dumpling? Pierogi. Empanada. They’re all in the same family. Bourekas are puff pastry pockets filled with any number of things- fluffy white cheese, mushrooms, and in this case, potato and onion. And they happen to be the perfect appetizer.

When I lived in Jerusalem next to the Shuk (half open-half covered market place) and was sick and pregnant, I would make Gil jump down to a vendor at least once a day to get me cheese and potato Bourekas. They were one of the only foods I could stomach, including Petite Burre biscuits and green apples. For the record, I detest green apples and can’t imagine why my gestating body felt it was necessary to crave them. The things we do for our children.

You can be quite creative with these little suckers and fill them with almost anything- goat cheese and red onion for a dairy option, or even skip the savory route altogether and fill them with chopped dark chocolate and cinnamon for a simple, single serving dessert. I lined a cookie sheet with foil and flash froze mine- I’ll bake them up the day I plan to serve them so they stay fresh. If you are serving as an appetizer to your Thanksgiving feast, just warm and crisp in the oven for a few minutes (or reheat uncovered on a blech or plata if you are planning a Thanksgiving Shabbat).

Potato and Onion Bourekas
Adapted from OU
Makes 12 pockets

1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large potatoes boiled or microwaved, then mashed
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes, optional
1 pound puff pastry sheets
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Boil potatoes in a pot of salted water, or wrap in plastic and heat in your microwave for 5-7 minutes. Mash in a large bowl. In a skillet cook the onions in the oil until translucent and starting to brown, about 10-15 minutes. Add the onions to the mashed potatoes. Add the paprika, pepper, salt and curry powder. Mix it together and taste- if it needs a little kick, add the red pepper flakes, or more seasoning as needed. Flatten the puff pastry dough slightly with a rolling pin onto a floured surface, and cut into 12 equal rectangles. Fill each rectangle with about 1 tablespoon of the mushroom filling, and fold over, pinching or using the tines of a fork to seal. Place the bourekas on foil covered pans. At this point you can flash freeze until hard, then move to freezer bags or airtight containers until you need them. When ready to bake, brush the tops with beaten egg, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. If they were frozen prior to baking you may need to add a few extra minutes of bake time. To serve, warm in an open pan at 350 degrees F, or an uncovered pan on a plata or blech until crispy. These can be also be frozen and then reheated.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Pear Soup

November 23, 2010 § 4 Comments


This is my first installment in the Thanksgiving 2010 lose-your-mind-over-pie-and-lack-of-ingredients recipe fest. As you can tell from the lighting in my oh so perfectly posed picture, I’ve taken to night cooking again. Gil wondered why I was freaking out about all the food I have to prepare, and it’s only Tuesday. Men just don’t understand. Seeing that our feast is on Friday instead of Thursday, I’ve given myself a little time to breathe and plan, but major cooking starts tomorrow. Now if I can only convince my 2 month old to feed himself and change his own diaper… The baby loves his new play mat and you know what they say: the baby can’t fall off the floor.

This is a thick and rich soup based completely on vegetables, and doesn’t need any extra cream to make it smooth and, well, creamy. Roasting the vegetables creates a deep, caramelized flavor, and curry powder pairs perfectly with the squash. I used three small pears, but next time I would add more as I thoroughly enjoyed their sweet nuttiness.

1 large butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1 large onion
1 large carrot
2-4 pears, peeled and cored
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups water (or vegetable stock or chicken stock)
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Roughly chop squash, onions, carrot and pears into large cubes. Peel garlic. Toss all veggies with 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a roasting pan. Roast in the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until tender and browned, tossing the vegetables half way through. In a large stock pot heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add chopped celery and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Add roasted vegetables and water (or veggie or chicken stock- the latter will make for a more flavorful soup!). Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. After the flavors have melded, puree the soup in small batches in a blender until very smooth. Return the puree to the stock pot and add the curry powder and cinnamon, and more salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Cook for 5-10 minutes over medium heat. Serve warm with additional cream if you want to be fancy. You can make this soup in advance and refrigerate it for 2-3 days, or freeze it. Just make sure it is in an airtight container with room left at the top for expanding soup. Enjoy!

Fresh Applesauce

November 17, 2010 § 4 Comments


It has been so hot here that the cows have stopped producing milk. They have had to cut short production of butter and cheese in order to save the milk so that there isn’t a National shortage. This doesn’t really affect me at all, seeing that I’ve had to stop eating any dairy since the baby becomes a shrieking banshee if I have even a drop in my coffee. I have become one with Almond milk, Soy Mochachinos, and margarine. It is not, however, great news for the Bagel store. Gil has had to run all over town recently to scrounge up cream cheese and butter before the natives start a mob. Oh and speaking of Mob- I mentioned last week that Israeli mobsters had been frequenting my building. There have been new developments….But if I told you, I’d have to kill you…

Just kidding. I just don’t want my Dad reading this and flying to Israel. He’s got a business to run after all.

I always get homesick for America around the Holidays, often ending up in tears on Thanksgiving. Not this year! I am having my very own Thanksgiving feast (On Friday, not Thursday, so I guess it kind of defeats the purpose, but whatever) with some Anglo friends. I’m hoping to document my quest for the perfect Thanksgiving fare and maybe even share a recipe or two.

For now, I’ll share what I have been eating for a snack for the past few weeks. I always have a stash of Applesauce in my fridge, and like a jar of peanut butter, I stick a spoon in and eat to my hearts desire. It helps that I’m the only one in the house who eats it, so I can do that. If you have multiple Applesauce eaters in your household, I would advise against the Spoon-in-Jar, because people tend to get crazy over this Sauce. All sauced up, if you will.

I went once again to the faithful Deb who started posting recipes for baby food when her little scrumptious monkey Jacob started eating food. So far I’ve only tried the Applesauce, but it is GOOD. I hope to expand and build my baby food collection once AJ starts eating bits and pieces in a few months. Basically I had a bunch of apples sitting in the bottom of my fridge and I didn’t want them to go to waste. Israeli apples are small but perfect sized for a snack, a bit sweet, a bit tart, and make for a flavorful sauce.

Fresh Applesauce

Only a little bit adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2-4 pounds apples, cored and cut into 8 pieces. You can also peel them if you like, but I leave the peel on for extra fiber.
4 strips of orange peel (Don’t leave it out, it makes a big difference)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water

Core your apples, and cut into 8 pieces each. Add the apples, orange peel, ground cinnamon and water to a large pot. On high heat, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 35-60 minutes. The apples should be soft enough to squish. Retrieve the orange peels and let the apples cool on the stove top. Once cool, blend in batches in a blender or food processor until smooth. Store in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer. Per Deb’s suggestion, I also filled up an ice cube tray, froze it, and then put the cute little applesauce-cubes in a freezer bag for future baby food use. It helped that they were heart shaped cubes.

Chicken Noodle Soup

November 10, 2010 § 4 Comments

Today was just one of those days. It all started with a 4 am screaming wake up call and a nasty rheumatoid arthritis flare up, and proceeded to get worse by falling down the stairs (Mama and Baby are O.K.- thank goodness for 5 point stroller harnesses…) and narrowly avoiding a run-in with the Israeli Mob (I still haven’t quite figured this one out yet, but after some detective work I’ll get back to you). Gil suggests that on a day like today, you just have to go home and go back to bed and start the whole thing over. A re-do if you will. Reset the system. And that is exactly what I did. After a 2 hour nap for me and an even longer one for the Baby (He got his first set of immunizations today and was seriously grumpy), I started making my Shabbat soup.

As soon as it gets cold enough outside to wear a sweater I start the soup frenzy. First it was Potato Vegetable. Then it was Sweet Potato and Mushroom with red wine and caramelized onions. And now the classic Chicken Noodle. We love to have this for Friday night dinner. Part of Gil’s family are coming to spend the weekend with us, and I figured I’d go all out with the traditional Shabbos meal- soup and all.

Ah yes! Don’t think I forgot about our little Cookbook giveaway. Thank you for everyone who submitted their names for the drawing. Winners will be announced later this week.

And on to the soup!


Chicken Noodle Soup
adapted from Allrecipes
This is an excellent way to use up those weird chicken pieces, or to recycle the leftovers from a roasted chicken.

Ingredients

Broth:
1 (3 pound) chicken, cut up into pieces (You can also use the bones from a leftover chicken dinner, leftover wings, necks, etc. It still makes for a flavorful broth, but will leave you less chicken for the soup)
2 quarts water
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup, or one big handful of chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp Parve Chicken soup powder
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
You can also throw some other fresh herbs and vegetables in here if you have them on hand- Broth is the all-time best way to recycle (ex. Basil, Thyme, Rosemary. I added some Zucchini from my fridge.)

Soup:
2 peeled and sliced carrots
2 stalks sliced celery
1 onion, minced
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup uncooked noodles (I use the skinny ones for old fashioned C.N.Soup, my Mom would use egg noodles)

Directions

In a large pot heat oil over medium high heat. Add the smashed garlic cloves and chopped onions, and allow to cook for about 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the carrots and celery with leaves, and any other veggies you have lying around that you might want to include. Stir around and cook for about 3 minutes, until they have some color. Add chicken, water, parsley, soup powder or bouillon, salt, pepper and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 2-4 hours.
Strain the broth, and retrieve the chicken from the pot and set it on a plate to cool. Refrigerate the broth for at least 30 minutes, or over night. You want the fat to accumulate on the top. Skim fat from the top of the broth. Remove the skin and bones from the chicken and cut meat into bite-size pieces. Return the broth and chicken to the pot and stir in the sliced carrots, sliced celery, minced onion, dried parsley, dill, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Stir occasionally, and check the seasoning. Add more salt, pepper or dill if necessary. Near the end of the cook time, add the noodles and cook until al dente- they will continue to cook if you plan on reheating the soup. This soup freezes beautifully at each stage- you can freeze the broth alone for use in future recipes, or freeze all together for an easy dinner on a cold night.

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