25 April 2011

Gluten-Free Easter Dinner

This Easter marked the last of my gluten-free firsts in a calendar year. As my one year anniversary of going gluten-free approaches (next week!), I have navigated changes surrounding holidays, birthdays, vacations, and so on. This Easter was also my parents' first Easter as Empty Nesters, so I couldn't leave them alone with none of their four children present (my sister live too far away and my brother had final exams). I worked very long days leading up to Easter and literally could not wait to hop in my Jeep and drive the 70 miles to rural New Hampshire to the house I grew up in. But me being me, rest and relaxation includes cooking and baking. My parents are trying to eat healthier so I created an easy and healthy but elegant menu.

My father loves to grill on cedar planks so he grilled the salmon while I prepared an incredible Blueberry Zinfandel Sauce, as well as a refreshing Parmesan Chickpea Salad with Lemon and Herbs (by one of my favorite bloggers and authors, Molly of Orangette). We all heartily enjoyed both dishes a long with a bit of wine.

And I know you're wondering where the dessert and/or chocolate comes into this holiday meal. I admit I was eating handfuls of Peanut M&Ms from about 10am on and also slowly butchering the world's most adorable chocolate bunny. My father and I also drove over to Kimball Farms in Jaffrey later that evening, where we sat on a picnic table in sprinkling rain sharing a delicious Cashew Caramel Chip cup. I am still in New Hampshire as I write the post and look forward to preparing both these dishes for friends back in Boston this spring and summer.

Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon with Blueberry Zinfandel Sauce
modified from Chef's Catalog

1 large cedar plank
1 large salmon filet
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup Zinfandel wine  (I used Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel 2007)
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
1 cup fresh blueberries

Soak cedar plank in water for at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove and pat dry. Brush the cedar plank with olive oil and lay the fish on. Brush lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place cedar plank with salmon on grill and cook covered for 10-20 minutes.

While salmon is cooking, prepare sauce. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium/high heat. Add carrots and onions. Saute until golden brown, 11 to 12 minutes. Add celery and saute for 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low.

Add tomato paste and cook 4 minutes. Deglaze the pan with red wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add beef broth, bay leaf, and Herbes de Provence. Simmer until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon. Add blueberries and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the salmon with Blueberry Zinfandel Sauce and serve immediately.

Parmesan Chickpea Salad with Lemon and Herbs
modified from Bon Appetit and Orangette

1 15-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 large garlic clove, finely minced (I used my Microplane)
1/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, freshly grated

Combine rinsed and drained chickpeas, basil, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic in medium bowl. Add cheese and toss gently to blend all ingredients thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature or cold.

08 April 2011

Gluten-Free Recipe: Chicken with Bacon, White Beans & Tomatoes

Although the calendar in New England says it's officially Spring, Mother Nature has other ideas. Instead of going on a dinner date, a gentleman suitor and I decided to stay in and cook dinner together. For the menu, one of my favorite recipes came to mind -- Chicken with Bacon, White Beans and Tomatoes. It's incredibly flavorful with minimal ingredients and financial investment, plus I love that the entree and side dish are prepared simultaneously.

My date was a true wine aficionado and expertly paired our dinner with fantastic wine -- Mischief and Mayhem Red Burgundy 2006. We also later enjoyed Cline Cashmere Red 2009. It was a truly lovely evening with terrific food, wine and company. Try this recipe before warm weather arrives for good! Guaranteed not to disappoint.

Chicken with Bacon, White Beans and Tomatoes

6 bacon slices, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 large chicken thighs with skin and bone
2 medium onions, chopped
1 (15 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
2 (15 ounce) cans white (cannellini) beans, rinsed and drained
2 garlic gloves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook bacon in a 10-inch heavy ovenproof skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, reserving fat in skillet.

Season chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Brown chicken in fat in skillet over moderately high heat, about 8 minutes total, then transfer chicken with tongs to paper towels to drain.
Reduce heat to low-medium and cook onions in skillet with 1/4 teaspoon salt until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stir tomatoes and juice into onions and boil, uncovered, 3 minutes, to concentrate juices slightly. Stir in bacon and beans and bring to a simmer. Nestle chicken, skin side up, in beans and bake, uncovered, until chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool 10-15 minutes before serving. Bon appetit!

31 March 2011

Gluten-Free Recipe: Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes

One of my favorite things about my social life is the book club I started with some girlfriends in Fall 2009. After spending an evening with my friends Michelle and Emily eating frozen yogurt, drinking wine and discussing books and boys, I suggested we make it a more regular, formal activity. Over a year and a half later, we're still going strong! It's been so much fun to meet friends of friends from other areas of their life. Not everyone makes every meeting, not everyone finishes every book, but there is always plenty of food, wine and conversation at the Beantown Book Club.

For our March BBC meeting, Emily had her heart set on baking fellow Boston bloggers We Are Not Martha recipe for Red Wine Cupcakes. Being the thoughtful dear she is, she contacted me to ask how difficult it would be to make them gluten-free. At this point, I have basically mastered the art of modifying traditional recipes to be gluten-free, but I've had nearly a year of practice and invested in expensive ingredients. Emily was also very busy so I offered to make the cupcakes, frosting them with my leftover birthday cake frosting (which Michelle was obsessed with). The results were a huge hit! I loved the dark chocolate combined with the very sweet, fruity Shiraz and tangy raspberry frosting. As Michelle and I learned the hard way the next day, these cupcakes do not keep well. I am not a chemist or food scientist, but something about the wine must cause the cake to spoil. So these delicious cupcakes unfortunately cannot be made ahead of time.

Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes
(yields 12 cupcakes)

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)
1/3 cup chocolate chips (I used 60% bittersweet)
1/3 cup boiling water
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 red wine  (I used Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz 2009)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a heatproof bowl, combine the cocoa powder and chocolate chips. Slowly add the boiling water, whisking until chocolate is melted completely.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt.

In a electric stand mixer or large bowl, cream butter and sugar until combined. Beat in each egg one at a time. Slowly add flour mixture, stirring constantly. Alternate adding the chocolate and red wine to the batter, until entirely combined. Scoop batter into papered muffin tins, filling nearly to the top. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely then frost with your frosting of choice.

24 March 2011

Gluten-Free Recipe: Ethiopian Chickpea Stew

The art and act of cooking of one of my favorite pastimes. I have a list of recipes I want to test out which is growing every day. I will never tackle them all! But sometimes I get into ruts and patterns eating foods I'm craving, so over the weekend I was seeking a recipe to end my food funk. This Ethiopian Chickpea Stew certainly did the trick! Healthy, hearty, earthy and spicy (not to mention inherently gluten-free and vegan) it was a delicious, easy and inexpensive addition to my culinary canon. I hope you'll add it to yours as well!

Ethiopian Chickpea Stew

1 teaspoon paprika 

1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper 
1/2 teaspoon allspice  
1/2 teaspoon cardamom 

1/2 teaspoon cloves 

1/2 teaspoon coriander 
1/4 teaspoon cayenne 

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained 

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium red onion, chopped 
1 inch piece fresh ginger, minced
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce 

3 cups low-sodium broth or stock (I used chicken stock because it's what I had on hand but you can easily use vegetable broth to make it vegetarian and vegan)

1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks 

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks 

Preheat oven to 450°F. Stir together paprika, salt, pepper, allspice, cardamom, cloves, coriander, cayenne and ground ginger in a small bowl; set aside.

Toss chickpeas with a tablespoon of olive oil on a large rimmed foiled baking sheet and spread out in a single layer. Roast chickpeas, stirring occasionally, until somewhat dried out and just golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes; set aside. 

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and fresh ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in spice mixture and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until spices are very fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce and cook additional 2 minutes. 

Stir in stock, potatoes, carrots and roasted chickpeas and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until potatoes and carrots are just tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover pot and simmer until stew is thickened and potatoes and carrots are very tender, about 25 minutes more. Ladle into bowls and enjoy hot. Store in refrigerator for up to a week. 

21 March 2011

Gluten-Free Recipe: Lemon Raspberry Birthday Cake

Hello, friends! It's been over three months since I last blogged. Oops! Life has continued to a constantly changing rollercoaster ride filled with surprises, disappointments and chaos. I am so happy to share that despite all the changes, I sit here typing this post a very happy, very blessed woman.

A packed social calendar, near daily snowstorms and an interesting (to say the least) dating life contributed to the mayhem. A very brief stint working as a hostess at one of the best restaurants in America taught me so much about myself and my true aspirations. I left for various reasons, but I subsequently ended up in a fantastic role at a chocolate shop, doing both retail sales but also implementing sales, marketing and social media strategies. I love it and was already even offered a promotion. I also just recently accepted a second part-time position working on a CSA at an organic farm for the season -- I wish it were June already so I can begin this endeavor.

In addition to working at the chocolate shop, I am taking two courses this semester, both not science intensive like last semester, which leaves me with time to wholeheartedly focus on ME. Just me. Not to say I am not still my usual caring, thoughtful self and purposely hurt others with my actions, but I am much more conscious of my needs as I journey through each day. 
I'm still training for my "11 in '11" (eleven half marathons in 2011), and also practicing a lot of yoga, which infinitely aids in my IT band issues. I've been doing lots of cooking and baking, devouring books and magazines, continuing to explore Boston with my friends and occasional family visitors.

My days are filled with so much goodness, my heart is truly overflowing with joy.

Last week, I turned 26. Although I am one to make a big deal of birthdays (although I love other people's), my dear friends Elizabeth (check out our Towne date) and Michelle insisted I must do something. So I said I wanted to eat cake and drink wine. So that is precisely what we did! Earlier that day I went to a terrific yoga class at Baptiste then got a pedicure at MiniLuxe, then came home to put the finishing touches on my birthday cake. 

Obviously, cake is the main reason that I was willing to celebrate the twenty-sixth anniversary of my birth. I've been eating ungodly amounts of chocolate lately, and mid-March always leads to thoughts of warm weather, so I found myself craving a lemon raspberry cake. I never made gluten-free cake from scratch  before, but I think I've found a system that works for me to adapt my favorite recipes. Below please find a terrific recipe which received rave reviews from even skeptics.

Gina's Lemon Raspberry Birthday Cake

Lemon Cake
2 cups Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
5 eggs
1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3 teaspoons lemon zest
1 vanilla bean, scraped 
2 teaspoon Cointreau  (note: 1 "nip" is enough for both the frosting and cake)
1/2 cup sour cream

Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1  1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup raspberry jam
1/4 cup fresh raspberries
1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon Cointreau

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, guar gum, salt, and baking powder.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes on medium-high speed. Lower the speed to medium, and add the eggs one by one, mixing until combined after each addition. Add the lemon juice, zest, vanilla, and Cointreau. Beat in the dry ingredients, and then beat in the sour cream until the batter is combined. 

Grease and line two 9″ cake pans and divide the batter between them evenly. Bake the cakes for 30-35 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned. While cakes are cooling, beat together all frosting ingredients in electric mixer until smooth. Once cakes are completely cooled, apply frosting liberally over the entire cake, including a layer between the two cakes. Top with candles, make a wish, blow out candles and eat with ice cream -- Happy birthday!

12 December 2010

Gluten-Free Recipe: French Onion Soup

Yes, friends, it's been a few weeks since I've blogged. I am very happy to report I have completed my first  DPD semester (Didactic Program in Dietetics) at Simmons College -- I'm quite proud of myself for this achievement which has me on the path to a terrific career. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving (running the SRR & Marathon Sports Gobble Gobble Gobble with the lovely ladies of Guiltless then my grandparents' in rural Connecticut) and the last few weeks are a blur of studying, cramming, cooking, eating, running and socializing. Since classes ended, I've surprisingly done a fantastic job relaxing and doing things I love, as well as being productive.

Despite it being mid-December here in Boston, I've only seen a few flurries on one occasion. It's been pouring all day and I can't help but wish it were snow; I am a country girl from New Hampshire, after all. Listening to the icy rain pelt my bedroom windows this morning as I lay in my warm, cozy bed, I decided today was the day to tackle one of my culinary to-do list items: make my own French Onion Soup.

I spent nearly an hour consulting nearly a dozen of my cookbooks as well as the internet for the perfect recipe. Maybe it was the recipe calling for brandy or its incredibly classic approach, but I finally chose to use the recipe in the Culinary Institute of America Cookbook, which I often consult but rarely use. The results were even better than I had anticipated and well-worth the over four hours in the kitchen. This soup is truly a labor of love, but also is perfection in a hot bowl.

French Onion Soup
modified from the Culinary Institute of America Cookbook 

1/4 cup olive oil
4 medium onions, thinly sliced (should yield approximately five cups)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup brandy (note: two "nips" are about the equivalent if you do not want to buy a larger bottle)
1 1/2 quarts beef stock (I wish I made it from scratch but used More Than Gourmet Beef Stock which is incredibly flavorful yet gluten-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free and lactose-free)
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
2 whole bay leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
French bread (I used Against the Grain Gluten-Free Rosemary Baguette)
Gruyere cheese, grated (I used Whole Foods Le Gruyere)

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook until the onions begin to brown. Raise the heat to medium, stir, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are deeply caramelized (dark golden brown), approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. If the onions begin to scorch, add a bit of water, stir, and continue cooking. While the onions are caramelizing, prepare a cheesecloth sachet of Herbes de Provence and bay leaves.

Add the garlic and continue to cook an additional few minutes, until fragrant. Add the brandy and simmer until the liquid has nearly evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broth and sachet. Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, skimming the surface for fat as necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place oven-proof soup crocks or bowls in baking pan and fill pan until water reaches 2/3 up the sides of the crocks. Remove crocks then pour water into saucepan to boil. Ladle soup into crocks, topping each with enough bread to cover the surface. Sprinkle bread with grated cheese, covering completely and allowing cheese to touch edge of the crock.

Pour boiling water into the baking dish with prepared soup crocks, then carefully place in oven. Bake until cheese is lightly browned and soup is bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately. Caution: soup and crocks will be incredibly hot. Bon appetit!

28 November 2010

Race Recap: Chilly Half Marathon

"We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves." -Sir Roger Bannister

In October I ran my first half marathon, finally accomplishing something I had wanted to do for years. I literally came home from the BAA Half Marathon and began researching another half I could this fall. I was devastated when all races conflicted with the American Dietetic Association Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo or were sold out. But me being me, I got resourceful. I contacted the race director of the Chilly Half Marathon in Newton asking if there were any way I could get a number if I volunteered at other races. I ended up volunteering at the Bill's 5K in Newton Centre on Halloween and also at the number pick-up for Chilly at City Sports in Chestnut Hill the day before the race (where I was thrilled to meet very successful and inspirational fellow Boston blogger Carrots 'N' Cake by recognizing her husband). 

I knew Chilly was going to be a great race for me when I was told by a volunteer parking lot attendant I had the absolute last parking space at Newton South High School, the start and finish location of the race. I got in line for the women's restroom and waited over 25 minutes -- it was outrageous! By the time I went to the bathroom and checked my bag, I found myself jogging to the race start so as to not miss the starting gun. Because so many other people were inside the high school with me, they delayed the start by two minutes, allowing me to stretch a bit more and adjust to the cold temperature. I started iPod Shuffle and off we were, about 1200 runners ready to tackle 13.1 miles.

Anyone familiar with the Boston area and the Boston Marathon understands the phrase "the hills of Newton." Newton is a rather large community of smaller Newtons (Newton Corner, Newton Centre, Newtonville, Waban, and so on) and to say it's a hilly area is a huge understatement. Although much of the course was flat, Miles 4 through 8 were basically all hills. The first six miles were fantastic. It was a beautiful, sunny day without too much of a breeze and I was so happy just to be racing again. Around Mile 6 I started to feel a bit beat up by the hills and around Mile 7 I was  starting to experience some serious dietary distress. All the lines for the port-a-johns along the course were at least 3 deep and I decided to keep going; it wasn't THAT bad. At the top of Woodchester Road and Algonquin Road there was the most beautiful view of Boston -- I had no idea the altitude back there was so high! It really gave me motivation heading into running down Heartbreak Hill, a route I run quite frequently in training runs.

I had one incident on Commonwealth Avenue where a police officer tried to stop me from crossing the street to let a car go through. I said "Really?!" to the cop and kept running the course. Reckless? Yes. Dangerous? Possibly. But I was frustrated. Keep in mind I say "thank you" to all police officers and volunteers along the race course for their support and safety of participants. Except this one Newton police officer, to whom I am very sorry. 

By Mile 10 I found my second wind and knew I was on pace to PR by a significant amount of time. Then my nemesis, my right IT band, decided it was time to act up again. I decided my pace and overall time was so great the best thing for me to do would be to stop and stretch. The stretch which seems to help me best involves laying down and crossing my right left over my straight, outstretched left leg (see example picture). So right at the Mile 11 sign I lay down half on the sidewalk, half in someone's driveway and stretched for about a minute. Several other runners asked if I was okay. I replied I was stretching my IT band and one guy replied with "ouch, I hope you finish" in a concerned, understanding tone like he knew the pain I was experiencing. Having another half marathon under my belt, I knew the running the last two miles in pain was completely possible. Before I knew it I was approaching the finish line and heard my name being read over the loudspeaker as I crossed the finish line. I was emotional and teared up a bit as I was handed a medal and the timing device was kindly removed from my ankle by a volunteer. Despite my burning right IT band, my legs didn't seize up as they had in my last race. Instead my lower back hurt a bit (later I discovered it was swollen but ice and a massage helped significantly). Although like my first half marathon, it was not exactly pretty, it was still a 6 minute PR (i.e. Personal Record) for me! Very exciting!

The kind folks at mix1 found my blog and sent me some samples of their all-natural protein shake, which I enjoyed during my final training runs as well as after the race. I was a bit apprehensive since the only other recovery drinks I had tried I did not like. But I really enjoyed mix1 -- no chalky flavor or weird aftertastes. The Blueberry-Vanilla flavor was my favorite and I will definitely be purchasing more in the future.

I've realized I absolutely live for racing. Not because I think I am going to win by any means; for me, just finishing is winning. But rather because I thrive off the energy in the air, being surrounded by other serious runners, simply pinning a bib on my shirt gives me such a thrill.  I'm so excited to start running my "11 in '11" in February, which I am sure will be here before I know it! I'll be blogging again soon about my first gluten-free Thanksgiving and other updates.