Tag Archives: Gluten Free

Harvest Risotto

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The autumnal equinox has officially passed, and we are now experiencing the evening hours growing darker and the air growing more crisp. I’m more accustomed to the Indian Summers of Texas, so this more iconic autumn weather here in Virginia is a refreshing change of pace.

Along with the shift in temperatures come a shift in palate. Instead of seafood and endless summer squash, I’m craving heartier roasts and roots. “Storage” crops like winter squash in whimsical varieties also grace the store shelves, and they make a delicious addition to this classic, comforting dish.

 

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Rice has a contentious role within the “paleosphere.” Being that it is a grain, it is not included in paleo canon, but has found neutral favor in many circles (such as here, here, and here) for those who tolerate it. Some have even purported specific benefits.

Until we discovered Isaac’s dairy intolerance, I had been waking up with him several times a night between his 7th and 13th month of age. These perpetual sleep interruptions paired with an accidental gluten ingestion over Memorial Day led to the most significant adrenal crash I’ve had since before I went gluten free. After spending most of June and all of July sick with never-ending respiratory infections, I’ve been working to specifically bring my adrenal function back to baseline health. A vital part of adrenal recovery is moderating glucose, as too much of a glucose load stresses out the adrenals, but without sufficient cortisol, my body isn’t efficient at gluconeogenesis (manufacturing necessary glucose in the absence of dietary carbohydrates). It’s a balancing act, and including rice in my diet (in addition to starchy vegetables like squashes, parsnips, plantains, and all manner of potato) keeps my carb intake from dipping too low while keeping my sugar cravings at bay. It also makes my trips to the local Thai restaurant more frequent, but that’s beside the point.

Rice is made particularly flavor-full and nutrient-dense in this risotto with the inclusion of not only seasonal squashes and seeds, but mineral-and-collagen-rich chicken stock. I’ve used my own home brew in this recipe, but store-bought broth will work in a pinch (Pacific Natural is gluten-free), and I imagine mushroom stock would be particularly delicious!

 

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Harvest Risotto
{gluten free, dairy free-optional, vegan-optional}
Serves 6-8

4 cups (1 quart) chicken, vegetable, or mushroom stock
3 cups water
1-2 tbsp ghee, butter, or coconut oil
2 leeks, green and white parts sliced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1.5 cup arborio rice
1 cup hard cider, dry preferably (substitute fresh apple cider for non-alcoholic)
1 lb of butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2″ cubes (about 1 small squash)
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1-1.5 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
black pepper to taste
raisins for garnish (optional)

Make sure you have all your ingredients chopped/minced/sliced ahead of time.

Pour the stock and water together in a large saucepan and set over high heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. You will maintain this simmer for the duration of the recipe.

Set a separate, large saute pan over medium heat and add the butter/ghee/coconut oil. Once the fat is melted and shimmery (but not burning), add the leeks. Gently saute until soft, usually 3-5 minutes, being careful not to burn. Add the garlic and dry rice and saute together until the rice is gently toasted, about 5 more minutes. Add the hard cider and continue to stir frequently until the cider has been fully absorbed into the rice and there is none pooling in the pan.

Now, add a ladle-full of stock to the rice. In similar fashion to the cider, stir frequently while the rice absorbs the stock. Be careful not to let the pan get so hot that the stock evaporates instead of absorbing into the rice. Once each ladle-full of stock is absorbed, add another ladle-full, continuing on with the stirring-absorbing-and-adding-more-stock. This is a great time to turn on some music and sip the rest of that cider you have.

Once you have used about half of the stock, stir in the butternut squash and pepitas. Continue ladling-and-stirring the stock into the rice until both the butternut squash and the rice are soft and cooked-through. The rice will be sticky and creamy.

Stir in the sage, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Serve warm, topped with raisins, if desired.

Curried Pumpkin-Cauliflower Soup

 

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That’s right. Another pumpkin recipe. But it’s only September, and with our first real cold front coming through tomorrow, I believe it’s high time for soup to hit the household menu.

Soups are perhaps my favorite cool-weather food to prepare. They’re incredibly simple, and they’re a fantastic way to consume a variety of vegetables without having to force another forkful of cold, bitter greens into your mouth. Pumpkin, in particular, as well as plenty of other winter squashes, bring a particular savory sweetness to this soup that plays against the tingly warmth of the curry spices. The coconut milk and  cauliflower, being a common ingredients in Indian fare, tie the flavors all together with velvety richness.

 

Curried Pumpkin-Cauliflower Soup
{paleo, gluten free, vegan-optional}

2 tbsp ghee, butter, or coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated (about a thumb-sized knob)
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp salt
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
4 cups cauliflower florets
1-14 oz can pumpkin puree (about 2 cups)
1-14 oz can full-fat coconut milk (about 2 cups)

In a large saucepan, melt the ghee, butter, or coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until mostly translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, cumin, coriander and salt, and stir for a minute or two until highly fragrant.

Add the stock, cauliflower, and pumpkin puree. Bring to a boil, then lower to a steady simmer, and cook until cauliflower is soft and easily pierced with a fork.

Remove from heat, add the coconut milk. Puree the soup using an immersion blender, or by (carefully!) blending in batches in either a blender or a food processor.

 

Halfway there – 21 Day Sugar Detox

Ed and I are already halfway through our 21 Day Sugar Detox! This round has brought a few different challenges than the first did, as well as some new opportunities. You know how necessity is the mother of invention? Well, it’s something like that. Here’s how things are going so far:

Weight loss: I’ve lost what was left of my pregnancy pounds and then some. However, I met that on day 2 of the detox, so it probably had more to do with my pre-existing eating patterns.

Detox symptoms: Ed didn’t appear to have any negative reactions, but I suffered some cold/flu symptoms last week. I didn’t experience this during my first round. My best guess for this is that the first round was with the ebook guidelines, which suggested an additional starchy carb for EACH MEAL for the nursing modification, while the current guidelines only suggests a starchy carb at least once a day. I don’t have an intellectual problem with eating more starches (I normally have a moderate carb diet already), but since Ed isn’t on an energy modification, it’s usually easier just to steam up some cauliflower for both of us instead of preparing a starch source for myself in addition to everything. Thus, I’ve been eating lower carb than I normally do.

Positive reactions: Ed’s moods have improved and we’ve both been better at eating more vegetables.

Cheats?: Of course. Last week Ed ate a jelly donut at work without thinking, and when he forgot his lunch today he ate at Taco Bell, later noting that everything tasted very processed and super-sweet. My cheats have really been “bending” of the rules. For example, 2 pieces of approved fruit instead of 1, a full 16 oz of kombucha instead of 8, or level 1 approved rice at the Thai restaurant even though I’m following level 2. Today I ran out of green-tipped bananas and supplemented with my frozen overripe bananas. THAT tasted REALLY sweet! Other than that, I think the biggest cheat was the Thai restaurant. We both ordered red curry and stuck with rice, but I’m positive the sauce had sugar in it. Ah well.

Food I’m missing: Chocolate. Wooo boy.

Best detox meal: PIZZA. I made this cauliflower crust and loaded it with peppers, spinach, mushrooms, olives, Italian sausage, tomato sauce, and a FULL POUND of whole milk mozzarella. It was so beautiful I instagrammed it, and Ed said it was better than Dominos or Pizza Hut!

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Worst recipe: I’m working on a tortilla recipe. It’s still in the fail box in my mind, but I’m not giving up!

Best recipe adaptation: Alton Brown’s Shepherd’s Pie. I’ve used this recipe for my Shepherd’s Pie for years since the flavors are so spot-on, so when I was inspired to make a 21DSD-friendly meat pie, I went back to this recipe for guidance. In the end I made quite a few changes. Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb, so technically this would be closer to a Cottage Pie since I used beef. I also wanted to make my meat stretch, so I added diced mushrooms and … chicken livers! I’ve been meaning to get more organ meats into my diet, and grinding livers and adding it to ground beef is both nutritious and economical, and it makes no difference in taste. I changes a few other ingredients to be more detox-friendly, and I did make two different toppings for Ed and myself–a cauli-mash topping for him and a Japanese sweet potato topping for me!

 

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 Shepherd’s (Cottage) Pie  – (Gluten Free, Grain Free, Paleo, Primal, 21DSD, WAPF)
Adapted from Alton Brown
Serves 6

*For sweet potato topping:

2 lbs Japanese sweet potato
2 tbsp butter, ghee, tallow, or lard
1/4 cup milk type drink of your choice
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg yolk

For cauliflower topping:

1 head cauliflower
1/4 cup chicken or beef stock
2 tbsp butter, ghee, tallow, or lard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 egg yolk

For the filling:

1 tbsp butter, ghee, tallow, or lard
1 small chopped onion
4 medium carrots, peeled and diced small
1/2 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb liver, finely diced either by hand or food processor, or ground (I used chicken, but I have it on good authority that lamb liver is great as well)
2 tbsp arrowroot flour**
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup beef or chicken stock
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp fish sauce (Red Boat brand is sugar free and therefore 21DSD-friendly)
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp thyme leaves
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

If using sweet potato, peel and chop your sweet potatoes into medium chunks. In a large pot, add the chopped potatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to boil and allow to cook until potatoes pierce easily with a fork. Using either a potato masher, a food processor, or hand mixer, mash or puree the potatoes roughly. Allow to cool a bit. Add the butter, milk, salt, and egg yolk and continue to mash or puree until smooth. Some small chunks are fine.

If using cauliflower, roughly chop the cauliflower, discarding the steams and leaves. In a large or saucepan, add the stock and cauliflower and cover with a lid. Bring to boil, then lower temperature to a strong simmer. Cook until cauliflower easily pierces with a fork. Drain liquid and allow to cool a bit. Add butter, salt, pepper, and egg yolk, and puree or mash with a food processor, potato masher, or hand mixer.

Set a large saute pan over medium/medium-high heat and add butter. When melted, add onions, carrots, and mushrooms and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, for several minutes until the onions soften and become fragrant. Add ground beef and liver and allow to cook, again stirring occasionally until meat is fully cooked and incorporated. Sprinkle the arrowroot flour, salt, and pepper over top of the meat. Stir to mix into the meat, and allow to cook for several more minutes. Add the stock, tomato paste, fish sauce, rosemary, and thyme and allow to cook until the sauce has thickened somewhat, which should take about 5 more minutes. Mix in the peas and remove the pan from the heat.

In a casserole dish, pour the meat filling and then pour the topping atop the filling, using a spatula or back of a spoon to spread the topping evenly, smoothing out the edges to create something of a seal for the juices.

Place casserole dish in the oven and allow to bake for about 25-35 minutes, until topping is lightly browned. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

*Sweet potatoes are only appropriate for the energy modifications during the 21 Day Sugar Detox.

**Arrowroot flour is OK during the 21 Day Sugar Detox when used in sauce-thickening applications such as this one.

 

 

Soft Molasses Spice Cookies

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One of the great things about cooking and baking is that there is a limitless combination of ingredients I can use to create something delicious. I particular enjoy trying out new ingredients and using them in simple applications. My most recently ventures haven’t been yet posted on this blog. I’m not sure yet if I’m ready to share chili made with beef heart and enchiladas made with chicken liver!

In time, perhaps, but for now, I will share with you these cookies, made with a lovely grain from Ethiopia that does not oft get attention, except in certain gluten free circles. The grain is called teff, and its most authentic use is in the Ethiopian fermented flatbread called injera. It’s a very small grain, and it seems to melt into the items it is baked in. The silky flour has a mysterious, dark flavor that pairs perfectly with molasses and spice, which inspired this lightly-sweetened, warm holiday cookie.

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Soft Molasses Spice Cookies, Gluten Free
Adapted from Primal Palate
Makes about 15 cookies

1 cup (105 g) blanched almond meal/flour
3/4 cup  (95g) teff flour
1/4 cup (25 g) arrowroot flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
2 tbsp maple syrup 
1 tsp vanilla
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, except for powdered sugar.

In a mixing bowl, combine all the wet ingredients and mix until smooth. Then add in the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. The dough will seems a bit like a soft taffy.

Pour some powdered sugar into a small bowl. Roll some dough into a 1/2 oz ball and toss in powdered sugar, covering the entire ball. Dust off excess powdered sugar and place on a greased or lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, leaving at least an inch of space between each cookie.

Bake 15 minutes.

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This post is in contribution to the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, hosted by Meal Planning Magic. Check out all these other great blogs!

Winter Squash & Chestnut Soup

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Today, on the very first day of October, I turned off my air conditioner and opened my windows. There’s a slight chill in the air and I’m breathing it all in deep.

It’s really starting to feel like fall here. I spotted several yellow spots on varying trees. I can probably wear long sleeves without (too much) problem. At night, I wear sweatshirts when I go outside, and we even had a fire in our fireplace a few nights ago. My Netflix movie came in today. Sleepy Hollow.

I’m so ready for this.

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I’ve been eating a lot of soup lately. It makes for a really fun fall lunch, and it makes sure that I consume more homemade bone broth. Some people can drink the stuff like water. I can’t. But in soup (or pot roast), flavorful stock is the secret to umami-filled meal.

The (other) secret to this soup is the presence of chestnuts. Chestnuts aren’t (quite) in season here yet. Plainview won’t see them until December, but my hometown of Fort Worth will probably have them by Thanksgiving. I just happened to stock up on some last Christmas, peel them, and freeze them for recipes this year. Today I decided to fish them out and use them is this delicious autumnal soup. You can use jarred chestnuts. I’ve seen those year-round in several higher-end grocery stores (Market Street, Sprouts, Central Market, etc.).

I also used acorn squash for this, but other winter squash varieties like pumpkin, butternut, or kabocha would work perfectly as well!

 

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Winter Squash & Chestnut Soup
Serves 2-4

1 tbsp butter or coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
1-2 tsp salt (if using storebought broth, stick with one teaspoon and go up from there)
1 cup peeled chestnuts
3/4-1 lb winter squash flesh, cubed
3 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup filtered water
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp fresh thyme
Yogurt, sour cream, or heavy cream for topping (optional)
Salted, toasted squash seeds for topping (optional)

Over medium-low heat, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Once melted, add onion and salt and allow onion to soften, stirring occasionally.

Add chestnuts, winter squash, and garlic to the saucepan. Continue to cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add broth, water, black pepper, coriander, and allspice together in the pot. Stir and cover with a lid. Bring to boil and then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes.

Turn off heat and add in fresh thyme. Carefully transfer contents of the saucepan to a blender or food processor. On low-speed, blend until smooth, approximately 3 minutes.

Pour or ladle into bowls and serve as is or topped with yogurt/sour cream/heavy cream and squash seeds.

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12 Weeks of Christmas Treats 2012

 

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Here begins the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats for 2012! Remember when I participated last year? Well it’s time again! Hard to believe it’s really twelve weeks until Christmas!

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I decided to try something new this year. Last year most of my entries for the blog hop were gluten free (the red velvet cheesecake brownies being the lone exception). This year, I will continue to make all my entries gluten free, but I will also be experimenting with some grain-free options. They are certainly not low-carb in most cases, and keep in mind, treats are treats and I will treat them as such. I make no presumption that these are “healthy,” though I do choose to use real food ingredients and keep dietary limitations in mind. When it all comes down to it, these are for pure enjoyment and seasonal celebration. As they should be!

Now let’s get on to it!

To start things off this year, we’ve got to head right into the pumpkin. And for the record, making these cupcakes required the last of my first stash of canned pumpkin for the season. One of the things I love about pumpkin is that it’s essentially pumpkin season four months out of the year. These translate well from fall right into Christmas time! The fact that I eat pumpkin year-round is entirely beside the point…

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Grain-Free Pumpkin Cupcakes

Adapted from Elana’s Pantry
Makes 1 dozen

1.5 cups raw almonds
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
3 tbsp applesauce
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp molasses
1 cup pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or combination of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor or high speed blender, combine the almonds, arrowroot, salt, and baking soda together until you get as fine of a meal as possible without turning it into weirdly seasoned almond butter. Then add all the rest of the ingredients and process for an additional 2-5 minutes. This will help smooth the mixture.

Fill a cupcake pan lined with papers with the batter, filling each cup about 2/3 full.

Bake for 20-22 minutes. I bake these for a bit longer than I do flour-based cupcakes. This helps the protein structure set a bit better, I think.

Allow to cool completely before frosting. I’ve learned that almond flour-based baked goods tend to taste better the longer they are out of the oven.

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Classic Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick butter
1/2 package of cream cheese
1 lb powdered sugar (normal powdered sugar contained cornstarch, making this not grain-free. However, organic varieties sometimes use arrowroot in lieu of cornstarch. Or you can blend your own granulated/turbinado/coconut sugar for makeshift powdered sugar)
1 tsp vanilla

In a mixer, whip butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until soft and smooth. Then slowly add the powdered sugar until all is incorporated. Smear or pipe onto cooled cupcakes!

 

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Here are my submissions to last year’s blog hop!

Oatmeal-Apple Cookies
Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies
Nutella Cookies
Gingerbread truffles
Aztec Brownie
Orange-Cranberry Scones
Chai Cupcakes

 

 And check out all these other lovely blogs!



Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Hard Cider

 

Growing up, I didn’t eat a variety of vegetables. Most of my green vegetable consumption consisted of iceberg lettuce smothered in ranch dressing or green beans out of a can sprinkled with salt. Oh, and steamed broccoli was my side dish of choice going out. I just wasn’t exposed to much.

 

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But then I went away for college and all that changed. I ate asparagus, zucchini, artichokes, spinach. So many new foods and so many new preparations! I’m pretty sure I grew up thinking that I disliked vegetables, but now I firmly believe that one much taste a food in a variety of different preparations before concluding you actually dislike the food itself. One vegetable I think many dislike is the Brussels sprout. I don’t blame people for disliking it. It’s bitter and smells a little like gym sock, especially when steamed. But I don’t steam my Brussels sprouts. No, the tiny cabbage has become one of my favorite cruciferous vegetables (steamed broccoli with melted butter and salt still wins), but I either roast or braise mine! And when you pair Brussels sprouts with the salty savoriness of bacon and sweet tang of hard cider, you’ve got a great fall side dish! And just in time for the weather to turn cold. Smile

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Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Hard Cider

Serves 2-4

1 lb Brussels sprouts
3 large shallots, sliced
3 large rashers of bacon, chopped
1/2 bottle of hard cider
salt & pepper to taste

Heat a pan on the stove over medium heat. Add the chopped bacon and sliced shallots and allow the bacon fat to render out and the shallots to become soft and fragrant.

In the meantime, using a knife or a slicing blade on a food processor, slice the Brussels sprouts into shreds.

When the shallots are soft and bacon fat fairly well rendered out, turn the heat up to medium-high and add the shredded sprouts. Saute for several minutes at this higher heat. When the sprouts are bright green (after about 3-5 minutes), pour in the hard cider, stir, and allow to cook down until there isn’t any cider pooling in the pan (a few more minutes). Salt and pepper to taste.

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Is there any food you disliked growing up but learned to love?

Fall Bucket List

Have you ever made a fall bucket list? I feel like I make one every year, whether I write it down or not. Fall is, of course, my favorite season. I am so obsessed with fall that I have an organized section on my video shelf that I understand to be “fall mood movies.” I eat pumpkin year-round, and I daydream about what to do the coming fall once January hits every year.

Last year, my bucket list consisted of things like, visit a corn maze (check), drink pumpkin ale (check—but still don’t like beer), and read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the Legend of Rip Van Winkle (started but didn’t finish. Is it just me or is Washington Irving painfully wordy?!). Some things, though, did not get finished and were moved to this year’s list. In this case, apple picking!

This past weekend, John and I visited our local apple orchard (Apple Country Orchards) for their annual Apple Butter Festival (sadly, Edgar had to work and could not join us). It was really just a small arts and crafts festival, but the real fun was walking through the orchards, bag or bucket in hand, picking your own apples (which can be done any day, really).

 

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The weather was perfect! We had a small cool front move through the panhandle that day, which provided a lovely, breezy snap in the air that truly invites feelings of early fall.

 

One of the things I learned on this trip was to not be so hard on myself that we have apple tree in our back yard, and even though many apples grew from them, bugs and/or birds got to them the MOMENT they were ripe, so a good percentage of them aren’t any good. Walking through the orchard made me realize that this is completely normal!

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We tried to make sure we got a good variety of apples. Apple Country Orchards raises a variety of trees so that at any given time of the year, SOMETHING is in season.

 

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In the end, we came home with ten pounds of apples between us, plus some raw apple cider (which I may or may not attempt to ferment into hard cider. It’s on my fall bucket list for this year!), and apple butter. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of apples we obtained, John and I spend yesterday evening baking up apple chips, baked stuffed apples, and Martha Stewart’s Apple-Butternut Squash soup.

This soup is pretty fantastic. It has a little spiciness that warms the back of your throat in the most comforting way possible. I won’t type out the recipe here since I followed the original pretty much to the letter, so I’ll just refer you to this link. I highly recommend you try it this fall.

 

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All these recipes and we still have 45 apples left! Do you have any suggestions for apple recipes? Also, what is on your fall bucket list?

Food Photography at Home

It’s a shame I don’t do more photography. My bachelor’s degree is in art, and photography was one of my main forms of expression. I’d have to same time has passed and made it too easy for me to forget my camera. As a result, I’m underpracticed. So I’ve decided that’s going to change!

I spent some of my birthday money on this book I’ve been lusting for a while now. Plate to Pixel. It’s a book on very basic food photography—a concept that was barely even mentioned in my advanced photography class.

I’ve also decided to transform our guest room into my personal photography studio. I fell in love with the window in there the moment we toured the house, and Ed mentioned that he was disappointed that we hardly used the room at all. I still have all the guest room furniture in there, but I’ve moved stuff around so I have room for my photography equipment by the window. Before now, any time I wanted to take food photos, I had to drag furniture around my dining room, pull out a mess of stuff, and have to clean up afterwards (or leave unsightly clutter in my most minimalist-designed room in the house). Now that I have a separate space, I can just leave my stuff and close the door!

(Forgive blurry iPhone photos. As you can see, my SLR was otherwise occupied in what is now my new favorite thing—shooting tethered!)

 

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Finally my AWANA trophies come out of the closet and serve some purpose!

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I normally think that any bed larger than a twin looks tacky when shoved into a corner, but considering function was priority over fashion in this case, I made the move. I’m glad I did though! Maybe it’s just the fact that it’s a full-sized bed, so not huge, but I think it looks better this way! When the bed is made, of course…

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One of the first things I experimented my new skills on was a flourless mocha cake I took to a church function the other day. Check out the results of that shoot!

 

And my favorite…!

 

I think it would be cruel to leave you without the recipe to this beauty, so enjoy!

 

Flourless Mocha Layer Cake
Adapted from the Southern Living Christmas Cookbook

Cake:
1 cup chocolate chips (I used dark)
1/4 cup strong coffee
5 large eggs, divided
3/4 cup sugar (I used sucanat, but coconut sugar, turbinado, or regular granulated will work just fine)

Cream filling:
1 cup whipping cream
~1/2 tsp espresso powder or instant coffee granules (1/2 packet of Starbucks Via brew works too)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar (plus more for dusting)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Lightly oil the bottoms of two or three (I only have two) round cake pans. Then, cut parchment paper to fit into the bottom of the pans. You do NOT want to skip this step. This is a fragile cake and trying to pull the cake out of the pan without the parchment paper on the bottom will make the cake fall apart. I know from personal experience. Don’t skip.

Microwave the chocolate chips and the coffee together in 30 second intervals, stirring EACH TIME, until the mixture is smooth and chocolate is melted. Set aside and allow to cool.

Whip the egg whites together until strong peaks form. In a separate bowl, whip the egg yolks and the 3/4 cup of sugar together until smooth and the yolks have lightened in color. Stir the melted chocolate in with the egg yolk mixture. Then, gently fold in 1/3 of the stiff egg whites into the chocolate batter. ONCE INCORPORATED (don’t obsess over getting it all mixed in, lest you break down all the air bubbles and the cake will be nasty and flat), add in half of what’s left of the stiff egg whites, gently folding. Then, add the last. The batter should be light and airy. Don’t worry about visible eggy air bubbles. It’s better to err on the side of not-combined-enough.

Pour the batter evenly among the three cake pans. Or you can do two layers. Or you can do what I do and put 1/3 of the batter into each of my TWO round pans, bake them, empty them, and then bake the last layer separately. Remember that parchment lining? Don’t skip it!

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove pans and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before de-panning. The sides of the cake will separate from the pan.

While the cake is baking, in a mixing bowl, combine the cream, espresso powder, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Whip at a high speed with your mixer until stiff peaks form. You may want to taste it to see if the strength of the coffee flavor is to your liking.

Once the cakes are cool, de-pan them one-by-one, peeling off the parchment paper, and layer them with the cream filling in between them. Sprinkle the top of the cake with powdered sugar or cocoa powder, if desired.

Real Food Perspective

Over the last few years I’ve heard it all. Eat less fat! Eat fewer carbs! Eat organic! Don’t eat meat! Don’t eat grains! Don’t eat dairy! Eat more kale! You must combine this micronutrient with this other nutrient or else the world will end and all your fat will go to your thighs! Eat real food!

Eat real food…?

This is a concept I’ve had to weigh on my heart lately. Is the choice to eat “real food” such a luxury? Is it really just for those who have the means to spend well on their food? If I find myself in a place where food is a real struggle to keep on the table, must I resign to eat manufactured franken-foodstuffs or else fall under the scrutiny of those who believe I am naïve and don’t know what poverty truly feels like?

To me, real food is that which sustains us. That which has always sustained us. What has been given to use to eat. To me, eating real food has a certain sense of responsibility with it. Of accountability. Sustainability. Stewardship. Eating real food goes beyond the label we choose at the grocery store, brand name or dietary dogma. A certain sense of respect for what we have been given. A gratitude.

I pondered this the other day while I was making chips and salsa. Edgar wanted chips and salsa from Chili’s and I told him we had all the stuff to make it at home. I already had some fermented salsa in the fridge. The only matter was to cook up some corn tortillas and fry them into chips.

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As I stood there, patiently, transferring five or six triangles of corn tortilla at a time in the smoking pan of pig fat (I always feel like I’m going to burn the house down when I fry), I thought about one of Michael Pollan’s rules: “eat all the junk food you want, as long as you make it yourself.” Yes, I was sitting here in a sweaty kitchen, making everything smell like lard, and I realized that eating real, local food doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.

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The tomatoes, jalepenos, and onions that made up 98% of that salsa came from the local farmers market. They aren’t organic, but nothing here really is. I figure that what a home gardener sprays on his plants pales in comparison to what mass-produced vegetation receives. Plus, they’re cheaper and they’re fresh, and I personally know the man who grew them for me. You can’t put a price on that.

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Now, I could arguably order some sprouted flour online and pay an extra $10 to have it shipped half-way across the country to my house, or I could respect the fact that I live in the Southwest, and little grows better in this region of the world than corn. The native peoples of this area figured out a long time ago how to make corn digestible and more nutritious. Nixtamalization is the term used to treat maize with lime (calcium hydroxide. not the fruit), and it is a practice still used today. I can go to the store down the street, pick up a two-dollar bag of masa harina (nixtamalized maize that has been dehydrated then ground into a flour) and make countless traditional (and not so traditional–tortilla chips are not at all traditional!), naturally gluten free foods without ever visiting a health food store.

Next, the lard. Ever wonder what people used to fry food in before the invention of industrial peanut oil and Crisco? Animal fat. I’m totally over the concept of fat from responsibly-raised or wild animals being bad for you. Plus, at $1.50/lb from my local rancher, lard is far, far cheaper than coconut oil, olive oil, and pastured butter. Who said eating locally, traditionally, and, in my opinion, healthfully, needed be expensive?

Perspective, I think. Is a dish best served with jalapenos and salt.

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