Thursday, December 28, 2006

Strawberry-Grapefruit Smoothie

This drink turned out quite tasty, not unlike a non-alcoholic frozen strawberry margarita. I didn't measure anything, so I'm guessing at quantities after the fact. Next time I'll measure the ingredients and come back to revise the post with more specific amounts.

Pour into blender approximately:

1/2 cup tapioca drink base

1/4 cup of any other fluid (I used rice milk--you could just use more tapioca base if necessary, or leave this out altogether)

About 4-6 ounces frozen strawberries (maybe 8 or 10 berries?)

A few tablespoons or 1/4 cup grapefruit juice, or a quarter of a fresh peeled grapefruit.

The equivalent of 1 to 2 tablespoons sweetener (I used 1 packet of stevia powder plus 6 drops of liquid stevia). The amount will depend on your tastes and the tartness of the fruit used. I recommend starting with no sweetener at all and adding sweetener to taste only if needed.

Process the drink until smooth, serve and enjoy!

Tapioca Drink Base

Since we discovered that my daughter was aspirating thin fluids, we make up several cups at a time of this tapioca thickening base and add it to all kinds of things. We mix it about half and half for the child with aspiration issues, and it helps to keep whatever she drinks from ending up in her lungs.

You can expect to see more recipes featuring this base soon--it makes a nice substitute for milk and other thickening/smoothing agents in smoothies and other beverages.

Mix 1 tablespoon tapioca starch per 1 cup of cold water.

Heat, stirring frequently, until almost or just barely boiling. If cooking on the stovetop it may be a bit smoother as you can stir it more constantly, but I usually do it in the microwave. In the microwave I start off with 1 minute, then continue cooking in 30-second increments, stirring well at each pause.

The mixture will thicken and become more transparent-looking (less like white powder mixed into water, and more like a cohesive whole). Stop cooking it at that point, or it will begin to separate again.

You can store this in the refrigerator and mix it with other fluids to thicken them without needing to reheat it. If it gets lumpy, put it in the blender and it will become smoother but slightly less thick.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Here's a simple soup recipe that was a hit with everyone in the family.

Soup is a very flexible and forgiving dish to cook. You can freely substitute types of vegetables and meat, and adjust quantities for your tastes. Add cooked beans instead of the meat for a vegan version.

Fill a 4-quart or larger pot about half-full with water or soup stock.

Put in:
1 to 1 1/2 lbs chicken (I used 7 chicken thighs)
1/2 teaspoon salt (1 teaspoon if water is used instead of chicken stock. You may need more salt if the chicken is not pre-salted--I use Foster Farms frozen chicken, which has salt added)
1/4 tsp pepper or to taste

As you add ingredients, keep adding enough water or soup stock (chicken or vegetable broth) to cover generously. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, cut up and add any vegetables of your choice. This time I used:

2 carrots
1 peeled kholrabi bulb and 2 or more kholrabi leaves (A kholrabi bulb is about the size of a child's fist. You can substitute any other bulb vegetable, such as a small turnip, rutabaga or part of a jicama, along with a few leaves of any dark green leafy vegetable.)
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
2 stalks celery
1 or more bok choy leaves (you can substitute cabbage)

As you may have noticed, I listed the firmest vegetables first. They take longer to cook, so go ahead and add them as you chop them up. You'll want to bring the water to a boil after adding the carrots and kholrabi, and cook over medium-high (6 or 7 on a scale of 1-10) heat for 5-10 minutes or more while you cut up the other vegetables. Add the bok choy last, because it cooks faster than the other items.

After the chicken has been cooking for a while, if you didn't cut it up before adding it initially, take the pieces out and cut into bite-sized chunks, then add them back in to the soup.

Simmer over medium-low heat (3-4) until chicken is thoroughly cooked and vegetables are tender, 30-45 minutes. If you want to cook it longer you can turn the heat down to simmer and cook for 1 to 3 hours.

Serves 4 to 6

This is good served with noodles or a cooked grain. You can add these directly to the soup shortly before serving, or serve them separately and let each person add the desired amount. I served buckwheat noodles with this soup. Alternatively, you could serve bread or muffins on the side.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ginger-Orange Pinwheel Rolls

Here's a recipe I developed tonight on the cinnamon-free theme.

These pinwheel rolls are made with a biscuit dough, so they are yeast-free as well as egg, dairy and corn free. For those allergic to cinnamon they make a nice substitute for cinnamon rolls, with ginger and orange to give them flavor.

Don't expect a yeast-bread texture; these rolls are soft and somewhat crumbly, as you would expect from a biscuit. They are not oversweet.

The recipe should work with 2 1/2 cups of a gluten-free flour blend instead of the whole wheat and tapioca flour--I recommend 1/2 to 1/3 the amount of tapioca or sweet rice flour when using a grainy gluten-free flour such as rice or millet flour.

These rolls are good served warm.

Mix together in large bowl:
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2 cups whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (or 1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice)
3 tablespoons turbinado or demerara sugar

In separate (microwave or stovetop safe) container, beat together until smooth:
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup orange juice (I used Italian Volcano Organic Blood Orange juice, which has an especially strong flavor that makes it nice for cooking)
1 Tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons tapioca starch
2 Tablespoons oil

Heat the honey mixture for 30 seconds at a time in the microwave or over low heat on the stovetop until slightly thickened, stirring frequently. Stir again and pour the honey mixture into a 7x11x2 inch baking dish (6x10 will work also). Set aside.

To flour mixture, add
1/3 cup oil (I used grapeseed oil)
3/4 cup water or milk substitute (I use unenriched Rice Dream Original)

Stir together dough just until mixed. If necessary add enough flour to roll out.

Roll dough out in a rectangle approximately 9x15 inches. Sprinkle over the dough a mixture of:
1/2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
3 Tablespoons brown sugar (C & H is corn-free)

Roll up like a jelly roll, starting with the long side. Cut the roll into 1 inch slices.

Lay rolls cut side down in the syrup, flipping to coat both sides, and space evenly in the dish.

Bake until browned, approximately 20-25 minutes, at 425 degrees.

Makes about 15 rolls.

Ask the Gourmet: Cinnamon Substitutes

Found your Restricted Gourmet this morning; holidays always rev up my "what to do about the cinnamon thing" motor!

My husband is allergic to "trees, grass & dirt", with the tree thing being a really big one (when skin testing, the allergist had to cut the test dose, what? I think it was one ten-thousandth of the regular test dose, before they got a reaction that didn't scare THEM). Anaphylactic reaction; I don't even keep cinnamon/cassia in the house.

Anyway, I have been hunting for a work-around for cinnamon for years, and thought maybe one of your blog-visitors might have an idea. I sometimes substitute ginger, for the heat, but sometimes there just doesn't seem to be any possibility than completely leaving the cinnamon out. We've never tried cassia, but it's tree bark too.

Thanks for any ideas or info,

Hi, Patsy! Thanks for writing. I'm sorry to hear about your husband's allergies. Is he allergic to any product that comes from any tree (tea, paper, maple syrup, apples, nuts, etc.) or just pollen and cinnamon?

Usually the "tree mix" allergists use for skin testing is a mixture of pollens from trees local to your regional area. Most people who are allergic to tree pollen can handle other tree-derived products, or products from other types of trees.

"Tree" is such a large category and includes a great variety of different botanical families. Did the allergist give any guidance in exactly which trees or types of trees to avoid? The allergist also should have been able to tell what part(s) of dirt your husband was allergic to. For example, dust mites and mold are common allergens that are often found in dirt and dust.

As I'm sure you know, much of the "cinnamon" on the American market is not actually cinnamon, but is from a different tree (closely related, though) called cassia or chinese cinnamon. According to this page, anything labeled "cinnamon oil" made in the United States is actually oil of cassia. Much of the powdered cinnamon on the market is also cassia. This kind of mislabeling is common.

So in some cases it could be theoretically possible that someone could think they are allergic to cinnamon when in reality they are allergic to cassia, or vice versa. Of course, with an anaphylactic reaction you probably don't want to try anything that closely related anyway. Both cinnamon and cassia are fairly common allergens.

Cinnamon can be difficult to avoid, especially since in many products it can be simply labeled "spices" or "natural flavors" on the ingredient list. Cinnamon can hide in unexpected places such as curry powder, garam masala, chocolate, liquor, coffee, fruit and vegetable dishes, and just about anything sweet or spicy. Even cinnamon in candles or in air fresheners can cause allergic reactions for people breathing in the fumes.

Contrary to popular belief, cinnamaldehyde or artificial cinnamon flavoring is often derived from the cinnamon plant, although it can be made from benzaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

Can he have allspice and other aromatic spices? Most of them are from trees as well. Clove, nutmeg & mace (they come from the same plant), allspice, bay leaf (sweet laurel), and star anise are all from evergreen trees, as are cinnamon and cassia. Cumin, black pepper, cardamom and ginger are some spices that would add some heat without being from trees. Anise seed (the annual herb anise, not the star anise from a tree), molasses or honey will give a sweet flavor without being tree-derived.

Some of the suggested spices to substitute for cinnamon include nutmeg, allspice, cardamom or cloves. Some sources recommend a combination of 2 parts coriander and 1 part cardamom as a cinnamon substitute. Since many other aromatic spices are more strongly-flavored than cinnamon, you might want to start with half the amount of cinnamon called for in the recipe and adjust from there to taste.

You might also consider trying an herb with a cinnamon-like flavor, such as the cinnamon basil used in these recipes.

According to a quick internet search, other substitutes for cinnamon have historically included sweet flag or Acorus calamus (illegal as a food additive in the USA), sweet shade (calycanthus floridus), black sassafrass (a.k.a. Oliveri Cortex or Oliver's Bark--closely related to cinnamon), Cinnamon Myrtle (Backhousia myrtifolia--also an evergreen), Coluria geoides, and Perilla.

It seems that the appropriate substitute would really depend on the dish you were making. For example, in pancakes or waffles nutmeg is good, while in another dish like a pie I might substitute allspice and/or ginger. Ginger, butter and sugar makes a nice substitute for cinnamon sugar on toast.

In many recipes you might want to consider changing the flavor completely by using lemon peel, chocolate, almond extract, black pepper, anise, coconut, vanilla or maple syrup instead of cinnamon. In some recipes you can just use brown sugar or molasses for flavor instead of adding spices.

Do you have a particular dish or dishes you want to make, that you'd like me to experiment with developing a recipe for?


Note: I am not an expert of any kind. This is not intended to be medical advice; please check with your doctor or allergist before trying any food you're not sure of.