Cooking and eating are among my greatest pleasures, and I want to share my adventures in (and outside of) the kitchen with my readers. I especially want to share my cooking process, which is improvisational and experimental, and full of exciting flavors, textures, colors and scents.
Like many women and some men, I have a love-hate relationship with food and sometimes I come to the table (or snack at my desk) for the wrong reasons — I want the feeling of home, love, comfort, and self-worth, and those aren’t gifts that food (even great food) can bestow. When I cook and eat for the right reasons, I feel fantastic. But when I do it for the wrong reasons, I have negative emotions: pain, sadness, guilt, hopelessness. There are days I wish I could give up food, just like an addict who goes cold turkey to kick an alcohol or drug habit. But I can’t, because food is life itself, and so I keep cooking and I keep eating, and I have far more good days than bad ones.
I know that many other women also have this relationship with food, and so I decided to write a very honest cooking and eating blog. There’s plenty of cheerful recipe sharing here, but also some thoughtful moments, a little political commentary, and some food and health news. I hope that you will join me on my kitchen and restaurant journeys, and share your thoughts and experiences and recipes with me
I love muffins! And I was afraid that after giving up wheat and other high-glycemic flours, I’d never again enjoy the tender goodness of a feather-light muffin, fresh out of the oven. However, I discovered coconut flour and have been regularly baking with it, and now great gluten-free muffins are a snap. I started with Bruce Fife’s book, Cooking with Coconut Flour, and learned a lot about the necessary ratio of coconut flour to egg, fat, sugar and baking powder. Although Fife explains that his recipes must be followed exactly, I’ve used the book as a tool to understand basic principles, and have been coming up with recipes of my own for the last couple of months. This one is definitely good enough to share.
Fife’s recipe for blueberry muffins is nice, but after a while a lot of his baked goods taste too much the same. Reworking his muffin recipe to add a cheesecake zing was a lot of fun, and the flavors blended well together. Unlike most muffins, these are meant to be served chilled, like cheesecake, and keep extremely well in the refrigerator for a couple of days. If you’re watching calories, you can use low-fat cream cheese (not nonfat!) for the filling, and trade the sugar and honey for a much smaller amount of agave.
Quick and easy, gluten-free blueberry cheesecake muffins. They mix up in a snap, look and taste glorious, and keep for days in the refrigerator.
Source: Kali Tal
Recipe type: Dessert, Snack
4 T coconut oil
2 T butter
? c honey (or agave syrup to taste)
½ t salt
1 t vanilla
¼ t almond extract
½ c coconut flour
½ t baking powder
2 c blueberries (frozen, fresh or 1 cup dried)
200g cream cheese
¼ c sugar (or agave syrup to taste)
½ t vanilla
Set the oven for 375F/180C. Grease and flour a 12-muffin tin.
Melt the coconut oil and butter together over low heat, or the lowest microwave setting.
Mix the eggs, oil, honey, salt, vanilla extract and almond extract together in a large bowl.
Sift the baking powder into the coconut flour. Then mix the flour into the wet ingredients with a hand mixer or in a food processor until smooth. Set aside for a moment.
In another bowl, mix the cream cheese, egg, sugar and vanilla.
Now return to the batter bowl and add the blueberries. Frozen berries should be very cold. Fresh berries should not be wet. The smaller (1 cup) amount should be used if your berries are dried. Mix in gently but thoroughly. You’ll get some blue streaking with frozen berries.
Put about a tablespoon of the muffin batter in the bottom of each greased muffin tin. If it looks like more than half the muffin batter remains in the bowl, add a bit more to each cup until only half the batter is left. Swirl with a finger or rubber spatula to spread out the batter.
Drop a dollop of the cream cheese mixture on top of the batter in each cup. Divide it evenly between the 12 cups. Don’t spread it; just leave it in a lump.
Now top the tins with the rest of the muffin batter. Smoothing is not necessary, and it’s not important that all the cream cheese be covered.
Put the pan in the hot oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the muffins puff up in their pans and their tops are lightly browned.
Remove from the oven and cool for an hour. Cool further in the refrigerator. They are best served cold.
The calorie and nutrition count is based on using butter, honey, and white sugar. It’ll change if you use agave and coconut oil.
So many flavors, so little time! Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved trying new foods. It’s a trait I share with my mother, whose food adventurousness is legend. I can thank Mom for my appreciation of sushi, because back in the mid-1970s she brought me to one of the first sushi bars in Los Angeles; she’d become a regular patron. I don’t think my mother ever met a food she wouldn’t try, and from a young age I felt just the same. As a result, my spice and ingredient palette is very diverse, and I think that’s a good thing. In my opinion, eating a wide variety of foods increases the odds that you’ll get all the trace elements you need, reap the health benefits of different foods, and reduce the problems caused by consistent exposure to any of them.
When you live like that for 50 years, though, new flavors become rarer treats, and so one of the great pleasures of my recent trip to Peru was being introduced to a lot of new tastes in a short period of time. One of those flavors was maca, a dried tuber grown in the Andes. There’s a lot of health food press about maca, and claims are made for its ability to increase physical stamina, to decrease prostate size, and to enhance libido and make sperm more motile. As always, study results are less conclusive than promoters make out. The raw/primal community uses the stuff, but in Peru they eat it cooked because raw maca can upset the stomach.
I wasn’t interested in the effects of maca, though. What I liked was the flavor. It’s toasty, malty and full when cooked, though raw it has a faint bitter undertone. A little maca powder goes a long way—our hosts in the Lake Titicaca region used it to flavor the vegetable stew that they served us, and I retained a memory of the aroma and flavor for days afterward. The women of the house showed me their ingredients, and the only one I didn’t recognize was the twisty, dried version of the root pictured above. So when I got home, I searched it out, and ordered raw maca powder from Raw Living.
Every week I get a box of semi-random vegetables from the market, and this week was heavy on the leeks, fennel, tomatoes, and potatoes. I like leek and potato soup, but I think it can be a bit bland, so I think of ways to spice it up. I’d been waiting for a good opportunity to use maca in a stew with potatoes, and the moment was perfect. The flavor of the maca mixes perfectly with anise and fennel, and enriches the potato, leek and fennel mixture. The tomatoes add a little bit of bite. Every week I get a box of semi-random vegetables from the market, and this week was heavy on the leeks, fennel, tomatoes, and potatoes. I like leek and potato soup, but I think it can be a bit bland, so I think of ways to spice it up. I’d been waiting for a good opportunity to use maca in a stew with potatoes, and the moment was perfect. The flavor of the maca mixes perfectly with anise and fennel, and enriches the potato, leek and fennel mixture. The tomatoes add a little bit of bite. Though I love garlic, I kept it out of the stew so it wouldn’t interfere with the sweet, deep and mellow flavors of the mix. This is a stew, not a soup, so the vegetables are chunky. You could put it in a blender if you wanted a soup, and think it with more broth, but I think you’d lose some of the beauty of the separate flavors.
A variation on Fennel, Leek and Potato Stew using the popular health food ingredient, maca powder. The maca gives the stew a full, toasty, and slightly malty flavor.
Source: Kali Tal
Recipe type: Stew, Main Course
Cuisine: Peru, California
2 fennel bulbs
1 quart broth
4 diced sauce tomatoes
1 T fennel seeds
2 t anise seeds
¼ c Vermouth (or no anise and use Pernod)
2 T maca powder
2 cups yogurt
Crush the fennel and anise seeds in a mortar.
Dice the fennel and potatoes into ½” pieces and slice the white and light green parts of the leeks into ¼” circles.
Melt the butter and coconut oil in a saute pan. Saute the crushed seeds for a minute or two in the oil, and then add the cut vegetables. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables start to carmelize. Don’t let them burn. This could take 15-20 minutes.
After they start to carmelize, pour the Vermouth over the vegetables and cook until the alcohol boils off. Add the cooked vegetables to a soup pot large enough to hold all the ingredients. Add the broth to the pot.
Dice the potatoes and tomatoes into half-inch cubes. Add to the pot along with the maca powder.
Bring to a boil, stirring, and then immediately turn the heat down. Simmer, covered, for 90 minutes, or until potatoes are soft.
Serve in deep bowls, with ⅛ to ¼ cup yogurt as garnish.
This can easily become a vegan recipe, if you leave out the yogurt and swap the butter for more coconut oil. (I think it would be a tasty main course with the addition of baked tofu, as well.) The recipe is wonderful with either vegetable or meat broth. And of course, it’s gluten-free.
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