February 28, 2009

black forrest gingerbread hearts

I love gingerbread. I've always liked dark, spiced cookies. The ones that heat you up from the inside after cold winter outings. Even before I had any dietary restrictions I was seeking the perfect gingerbread.

I made these first as a loaf to share with the Trainer, but he thought it was a little to spiced to suite him so I tweaked it again and made a batch just for me. Instead of making a loaf, I spread the batter out in a backing pan. After it was baked I descided to try out my new heart cookie cutter.

Of course, after seeing me enjoy my gingerbread heart and cup of tea every evening the Trainer finally decided he wanted to try one. After one, two, three little hearts popped into his mouth, he decided that they weren't too bad. In fact, "they're pretty good" he declared before finishing off my stash. Luckily, before this happened both S and C had a chance to try them and I got their votes of approval too. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.Black Forrest Gingerbread
1/2 c. (15pc) prunes
1/2 c. water
1 small tangerine or 4oz applesauce and zest of 1 orange
3 eggs
2 Tbsp honey
6oz (2 c.) blanched almond flour
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1/2 Tbsp ground allspice
1/2 Tbsp ground nutmeg
1/2 Tbsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. dried cherries
Preheat oven to 325°F and line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Soak prunes in 1/2 c. water in a covered container in a warm location. Blanch tangerine: in a small, heavy sauce pan cover the tangerine in cold water, bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute, drain and repeat two more times. Cover tangerine with water once more and boil for 1 hour. In a blander or food processor puree the prunes, water, tangerine, honey and eggs. In another bowl mix almond flour, spices, baking soda and salt. Blend dry ingredients with prunes and mix well, then stir in cherries. Pour into prepared pan and spread to edges with back of a spatula and Bake for 25-35 minutes, until firm to the touch. Cool for at least 30 minutes and cut into squares, or any other shape with a cookie cutter.

February 22, 2009


I find it hard to believe that I've lived in New York for almost four years, and I have very few friends here. Of course there's A, who I knew in college and lived with when I first got here, but making actual friends in a big city is difficult if your focused on your job and don't hit the party scene.

So it was a special treat for me to have lunch with C the other day. Ironically, she's the receptionist for my wonderful chiropractor and we started chatting every morning I was there and we hit it off. We're both from the Michigan/Ohio are and we have a similar outlook on some things. I was thrilled when she suggested that we "do lunch" on one of our mutual days off.

She was the perfect person to take with me to a new, all organic restaurant that opened recently near Union Square, GUSTOrganics. I first heard about GUSTOrganics through Allergic Girl's Worry Free Dinners, the latest of which was hosted there. With plans set with C I checked out the menu and then called the restaurant to make sure they could handle all my 'other' specifications.

I was directed to email a very nice young man named Eyal, who is working to make the restaurant as safe as possible for those of us with a gluten intolerance or food allergy. Eyal and I exchanged emails and then spoke on the phone. He understood the need to keep everything separate and gluten free and was able to suggest a menu item that would be safest for me.

When we arrived I was able to meet Eyal and quickly review what I was going to have. C ordered from the standard menu and I had a spinach salad with apples and strawberries with a grilled steak. The salad came plain with olive oil and pine nuts on the side. Just to be safe I also asked for a dish of salt, since the table salt had grains of rice mixed in to help keep it dry.

The meal was delicious, organic foods really do taste better. C and I agreed that they whole meal tasted more alive. The dining room is quaint with big, sturdy, bare wood tables and chairs. Since we had a late lunch it wasn't crowded and I was very confident that the kitchen wouldn't be rushed.

I highly recommend GUSTOrganics for anyone who wants a delicious, natural, organic meal and I know that they will accommodate any of your requests if given enough advanced warning. Although it was a little expensive, as you would expect for organic foods, I plan on patronizing a restaurant that treats me so well.

February 14, 2009

valentine pomegranate heart tarts

This month Kelly at The Spunky Coconut is hosting Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten Free and in honor of Valentine's day this month's theme is Sweets For Your Sweetheart. I really wanted to make something very special for the Trainer and myself so I asked him to think about what he might want. His answer was "that thing you made when we were first dating."

Very helpful, sweetheart. I can barely remember what I made last month, let alone two and a half years ago. So I decided that I wanted to make something pink and shaped like a heart. The Trainer agreed to pomegranate and I was off. I borrowed a silicon mold with 8 little hearts from S and decided to make tarts.

I wanted to make something like a pomegranate cheesecake so I did some research and brainstorming. Last night I tried my grand experiment and came up with these pomegranate heart tarts for my valentine. This is by no means a finished recipe, but I present it now, and I will continue to work on it for a future, more polished, offering.

Today, the Trainer and I slept in, all the way until 7:30 and headed to separate gyms. I worked out, he worked and we met up to see Coraline at one of our local theaters, followed by lunch at one of our old haunts, a Colombian restaurant on Roosevelt Avenue. When we got home we shared two of these and decided that they were very satisfying. The Trainer didn't even realize that they were made from yogurt (although he was in the kitchen the whole time I was making them last night).

Pomegranate Yogurt Tart makes 8 small heart shaped tarts
3oz (1 cup) blanched almond meal
1 egg white
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil, other vegetable oil or butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
1 cup thick yogurt
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons honey
Preheat oven to 300°F. In a small bowl mix the almond meal, egg white, honey, oil and salt. Mix until a thick, pasty dough forms and there are no clumps left. Using a small spoon or your finger, press the dough into tart forms, filling in any holes, the layer of dough does not have to be to thick, since it will puff up a little as it bakes. Bake for 12-18 minutes, until edges are golden and no raw areas are apparent.

In a small dish bloom gelatin in the water. In small sauce pan gently heat the yogurt. Slowly whisk in the pomegranate molasses and honey until everything is blended. Keeping the heat low, whisk in the bloomed gelatin until it is all dissolved. Pour yogurt into cooled tart shells and place in the refrigerator over night to set.

February 12, 2009

roasted salmon with lemon oil

This morning as I was cooking my spicy-crispy kale I thought about how our bodies tell us they need, if we're only able to listen. In going gluten free, and even following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) I've longed for replications of baked goods and comfort foods that I used to have.

But when I think bake to me early childhood I wasn't a big fan of bread, or cake (even is I have always had a sweet tooth), or even pasta. I shied away from them when I was young, but somehow, when I learned that those thing made me ill, I wanted to find replacements. But those replacements don't agree with me either.

When I stop and listen to my body, it tells me that it wants protein. Meat, fish, poultry, any kind will do as long as it's protein. Fresh vegetables are great too, but right now my body wants meat. Whatever nutritionists may say, I know that I feel my all around best when I have more protein than anything else.

This then presents the challenge of how to eat my meat and enjoy it too, without getting bored and eating the same thing all the time. I try to mix things up, having fish a few days a week and I found this great roasted salmon recipe. It's great fresh from the oven, the left overs freeze well, and it's especially good cold over salad, the lemon oil negating the need for any type of salad dressing.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I am.

Roasted Salmon with Lemon Oil
1 large lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
4 6-8oz salmon fillets
kosher salt
fresh pepper

Set rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 450° F. Zest the lemon and mix zest and olive oil in a small bowl and set aside. Arrange the fillets on a heavy baking sheet, skin side down, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the salmon for 10-13 minutes and remove from oven, immediately squeeze the lemon over the salmon. Arrange over fresh salad or cooked vegetable and drizzle with lemon infused olive oil.

February 6, 2009

mini mincemeat tarts

I made this mincemeat before Christmas. In his younger days Dad spent time in Europe, living in England and the Netherlands, where he picked up some habits that never quite left him. Growing up I used to listen to Sherlock Holmes books on tape and I later read any number of "the classics", including but not limited to, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Chaucer and of course, Harry Potter. All this literature left with me with a fascination with Victorian English culture, food included.

I've always wondered about mincemeat, figgy pudding and bubble and squeak. This year I decided to do some research and try my hand at mincemeat. Inspired, of course, by David and others. The first hurdle was the mincemeat, and the second was the method of delivery from plate to mouth. Mom gave me these great little silicon mini-muffin baking cups from Williams Sonoma that are sturdy enough to stand without any other pan so I settles on teeny little tarts, three bites each. Unless you're the Trainer, who popped the whole thing in his mouth at once.

Mini Mincemeat Tarts
Makes 16 mini mincemeat tarts
SCD Mincemeat
2/3 c. chopped raisins, black and golden mixed
1/2 c. chopped apricots, about 8pc
1 tbsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
1/4c. water or SCD legal alcohol
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Chop all the fruits and mix well with the vanilla, zest, spices and liquid. Store in an airtight container for several days to allow flavors to meld. If you use alcohol, container can be left out, otherwise refrigeration is a good idea. Mincemeat can be added to fruit pies or as a condiment or filling for breads or biscuits as well as in tarts and pies.

Pecan Tart Shells
1/2 c. pecan meal (or any other nut meal)
2 tbsp butter
1 egg white
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 300° F. With a spoon or fork mix the pecan meal, butter, egg and salt until everything is incorporated. Fill small tart molds (this will make fewer, larger tarts) or mini muffins cups (I got a set of silicon mini-muffin cups from Mom for Christmas) with the dough. Using your fingers, press the dough into an even layer inside the molds. Prick a few holes in the bottom of each shell with a fork to allow air to escape. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and allow to cool on a rack for a few minutes before filling.

To make tarts, fill each mini muffin sized shell with tablespoon sized amounts of mincemeat and tamp down. Bake in a 350° F oven for 10-15 minutes to dry out the mincemeat slightly. When the tarts are cool, flip the silicon muffin molds over and tap from the bottom until they fall out.

February 4, 2009

roasted onion soup

When I was in college I belonged to the caving club. I was a WUSS*. Yes, I suited up in old clothes, put a helmet and light on my head and headed underground, towards the center of the earth. I'm not crazy, I come by this naturally, both my parents were active cave explorers when I was younger and I was underground long before I could walk. There's something so peaceful when it's just you, in the dark, with the living rock. In the Earth's womb.

But I digress, in the cold winter months there wasn't much caving going on in Ohio, even Southern Ohio. The highlight of those frigid weeks, when the ground was iced over and the sun was down long before classes were finished was Wednesday night caving club meetings. The faculty advisor was an old friend of Dad's and I had known he and his wife my whole life. The same was true for some of the other non-student members. Every week after the meeting some of us, the adults and officers, would go out for dinner at one of the local chain restaurants. Each week we went to a different place, but the need for warm comforting food was always the same. So many Wednesday nights I ordered French onion soup; warm, flavorful and decadent with molten cheese.

We had a frigid day and fairly significant snow, and walking home through the clear, crisp, chilly night I was overcome with a need to recreate that pungent soupy comfort. I've never made an onion soup before, but I do have lots of onions in the house and using the oven is a great way to add a little extra warmth to our little apartment. If roasting works for garlic I figured it would work just as well for onions. And I was right! I can think of so many flavor variations for this warm, comforting base

*WUSS stands for Wittenberg University Speleological Society. We used to say that "you have to be brave to be a WUSS"
Roasted Onion Soup
1 large yellow onion
5 shallots
1 bunch scallions
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cups broth or water
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350° F. Have the onion and then slice it, same with the shallots, cut scallions into 1/2" sections and chop garlic. Toss chopped onion and garlic with olive oil and spread in a heavy baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring halfway through, until most onions are dark brown. When the onions come out of the oven immediately pour 1 cup of broth into the pan and scrape all the drippings from the bottom. Pour broth and onions into a sauce pan and add remaining 2 cups broth. Heat soup and add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve like french onion soup ladle into 3 or 4 oven safe bowls, top with toasted bread, croutons or roasted garlic biscuits and grated Gruyere cheese. place bowls on a baking sheet and place under the broiler or back into the oven until the cheese is melted, 7-10 minutes.

February 3, 2009

roasted garlic biscuits & croutons

After making my roasted garlic I started to think of other ways that I could use the flavor. I've been experimenting with savory breads, trying to make a roll, biscuit or scone that isn't so sweet. So many of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet recipes call for lots of butter of vegetable oil. I still seem to have problems with large amounts of dairy, probably the casein, and I'm trying to limit the amount of fat I add to recipes. The almond flour I use in baking adds plenty in the baking. I've discovered that it's a matter of adding just enough liquid to create a batter, rather than trying to recreate a standard recipe.

After making a reasonably successful scone with banana I decided to try using the roasted garlic to help mind the biscuits. You could probably oil the muffin tin, or use papers, but I found that by adding just a touch of olive oil in the bottom of each muffin cup helped the muffins slide out. These came out of the oven really crisp and dry, after sitting in the fridge overnight they attracted moisture and were much softer the next day. After toasting them as croutons they stayed nice and crisp for more than a week. To make this recipe specifically for croutons or bread sticks I would spread the batter in a 9x13 baking pan and then slice it into the desired shape for additional toasting

Roasted Garlic Biscuits
2 c. (6oz) almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c. (2 heads) roasted garlic, smashed
2 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
6 tsp olive oil for pan

Preheat oven to 350° F and place a standard size muffin pan inside the oven to heat. Mix dry ingredients to get out all the clumps. Mix in roasted garlic, eggs and 1 tbps olive until batter is smooth. Quickly, while the muffin pan is still warm, pour 1/2 tsp of olive oil in the bottom of each muffin spot, and then evenly fill with biscuit batter. Bake for 15 minutes, or until biscuits are very dry. Flip pan over to knock biscuits out, and then cool on rack. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container. The biscuits will be nice and dry right after baking, but will take on moisture as they cool and sit. To dry them back out, place in a warm (120°-150°F) oven for several minutes or toast in a toaster oven. To make croutons, cut the biscuits into cubes, spread on a baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes in a warm (120°-150°F) oven. After the biscuits have been dried to croutons, they store well at room temperature in an airtight container

February 1, 2009

vanishing cranberry orange cake

Work was exceptionally busy this past week. It was my week to shine, or work really hard, to send my bosses off to a trade show. I barely had a moment of rest from 9:30 Monday morning until the armored truck guys came at 4:30 Thursday afternoon. Then I gusted a huge sigh of relief and decided to focus on fending off the last of this never ending cold that's been pestering me since the beginning of the year.

I've been having Mom's turkey soup with greens and lots of roasted garlic, the final thing I needed was a good dose of good 'ole vitamin C. In addition to my grapefruit a day habit I had a big bag of little tangerines, or mandarin oranges (I'm still not sure which), hanging around from my last grocery delivery.

There's a great company called FreshDirect that delivers groceries to the New York metro area, and after doing the math I decided to try them. Their product is great and their prices are good, and I'm much more comfortable with the quality of the meat than I am with what I can get in my neighborhood. And having the food delivered means I don't have to take an entire afternoon to pack ten or more pounds of food home from Whole Foods in the city.

Several of my past deliveries included a sample of 'peak produce' and these tangerines were sent as part of that program. As one who doesn't eat oranges very often I was at a loss what to do with so many tiny oranges. With this cake I found a great way to use them up, and to get everyone to eat a little more vitamin C. The Trainer and I took the fresh cake into our room and did a number on it last Saturday evening. I put what was left in the kitchen and several hours later I found a lonely sliver left on the plate. Of course, I wasn't completely satisfied with the first version and I whipped up the second one, which the Trainer agreed was better, and we managed to make that one last a week.

Cranberry Orange Cake
4 mandarin oranges (or 3 tangerines, 2 oranges)
3 eggs
1/2 c. honey
9oz (3c.) blanched almond meal
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 c. chopped cranberries

Wash the oranges well, place in a sauce pan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and drain water. Cover with cold water and repeat two more times. After draining the water the third time, fill the pot with water and boil the oranges for about an hour, until they are very soft. (boiling, or blanching, the oranges reduces some of the bitterness, allowing you to use less honey in the cake) After the oranges are boiled, drain them and preheat the oven to 325° F and prepare a 8 inch round cake pan, either grease is or line it with parchment paper. In a blender or food processor puree the oranges. Add the eggs and honey and puree again. In a a separate bowl make sure all the clumps are out of the almond meal, baking soda and salt. Stir in the cranberries. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, until center is firm and edges are just browning.