Sunday, September 9, 2012
A few days ago, I learned that I’ve lived in Texas long enough to think of myself, officially, as a Texan. How do I know this? Simple. When the weather forecast showed daytime high temperatures below 95 degrees and overnight temperatures (occasionally, at least) below 70 degrees, my immediate thought was “Finally, some cooler weather!” This is what passes for an autumn chill, in the San Antonio area, and I’ve come to embrace this very subtle change of seasons.
Another thing I’ve learned to love while living here is the combination of chocolate and warm spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg, particularly in the autumn months. Try anything called “Mexican chocolate” and that’s what you’ll taste: chocolate and spice. The only thing that keeps me from calling this recipe Mexican Chocolate Zucchini Bread is the presence of Chinese 5-Spice Powder in the recipe. It seemed a little silly to call something Mexican when it featured a spice blend from another culture altogether, even though Mexican chocolate is what inspired the recipe in the first place.
Chinese 5-Spice Powder is a blend of star anise, cinnamon, clove, fennel, and pepper. It’s just delicious. I found mine at World Market, though I’ve seen it at my local grocery store as well, so I don’t think you’ll find it difficult to locate. If you can’t find it, the cinnamon alone will give you a nice flavor in combination with the chocolate, but the 5-spice blend adds a little kick.
The best thing about this recipe is that it makes use of our prolific late-summer friend, the zucchini. After you’ve grated yours, be sure to wrap it in a double thickness of paper towels and squeeze out some of the moisture; otherwise, your bread might collapse in the center while it’s baking, due to the high moisture content of the batter. While some recipes advise you to peel the zucchini before grating it, I just don’t see the point–and, as my mom would say, the skin’s where the good stuff is. So I leave my zucchini intact, but that’s your call.
As with all baked goods, I made mine with a gluten-free flour blend. The recipe from which this one is adapted (a basic recipe for chocolate zucchini bread I found in The American Country Inn and Bed &Breakfast Cookbook–one of the very few cookbooks I still consult on a regular basis) calls for all-purpose flour, so you’ll be fine if you go that direction instead. If you’re a serious chocolate lover, you could also add some chocolate chips; I’ve done that in the past, but I didn’t have any on hand this time.
This is a large recipe that yields two loaves–one to eat right away, and one to freeze for later. I’m trying to believe it won’t be too long before there’s an actual chill in the air while I’m enjoying a breakfast of spicy chocolate goodness.
Spiced Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Yield: 2 loaves
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. Chinese 5-Spice Powder
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini, squeezed dry
1/2 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat two loaf pans with cooking spray. Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Set aside. In a separate bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar; add the eggs, one at a time, stirring to combine. Add the vanilla extract and zucchini; stir until the zucchini is incorporated into the mixture.
Add the dry ingredients about half a cup at a time, stirring just until moistened. Spread the batter into the prepared loaf pans and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until a knife inserted at the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Adapted from a recipe in The American Country Inn and Bed & Breakfast Cookbook
Sunday, September 2, 2012
If you’re a friend of The Family Foodie on Facebook, then you already know that I put out a call for help last night: I was torn between two recipes that have been calling my name for the last couple of weeks, and I wasn’t sure which of the two should make its way to the blog first. The winner was this Coconut Pineapple Coffee Cake, made with totally delicious Chobani pineapple yogurt (my favorite Choabni flavor), as well as some fresh pineapple. It’s an excellent recipe for saying a tearful goodbye to summer this Labor Day weekend.
This recipe started the way many do in the Foodie kitchen: I knew what I wanted to make, so I browsed through a bunch of recipes and took inspiration from what I saw. One recipe called for half a cup of butter, which sounded like a lot, so I cut back on that. Another recipe called for crushed pineapple–but I actually prefer for coffee cake to have some chunks of fruit, to make it more breakfasty. I’m not a big fan of super-sweet breakfast foods, so I cut back on the amount of sugar I saw in most recipes. (Keep that in mind, because if you like your coffee cake a little more on the sweet side, you’ll want to increase the amount I used here. On the other hand, you might just add a drizzle of glaze: 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, mixed with 2 T. of milk, plus whatever flavorings you prefer: vanilla, coconut extract, etc.)
What I ended up with was a very moist coffee cake, chewy from the fresh coconut and ever-so-slightly crunchy from the extra coconut I sprinkled on top. If you aren’t a big fan of coconut, the extra sprinkle on top isn’t completely necessary–but if you use it, keep an eye on the cake while it bakes. The flakes of coconut can burn pretty easily, and while I actually like that burnt-sugar taste, charred flecks of coconut aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing way to top a cake. (You might notice that I didn’t check on my cake as often as I might have.) If the coconut starts to look too brown, just tent a sheet of aluminum foil over the cake while it finishes baking.
My coffee cake is gluten-free, of course, but you can substitute all-purpose flour, if that’s your preference. All the recipes I reviewed while coming up with this one called for traditional flour, so I’m sure it will be fine. I’m still using Namaste Foods’ Perfect Flour Blend, which has given me great results every time I’ve used it.
Coconut Pineapple Coffee Cake
1 container Chobani pineapple yogurt (6 ounces)
1/4 cup light sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
4 T. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 cup pineapple tidbits
1/2 cup flaked, sweeetened coconut
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat one 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together the yogurt, sour cream, sugar, and melted butter. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring until combined. Stir in the vanilla and coconut extracts, then gently fold in the the pineapple and coconut.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the yogurt mixture in thirds, stirring just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.
Turn the batter into the prepared baking pan and sprinkle the top with more fresh coconut, if you like. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a knife inserted at the center comes out clean.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Photo Credit: Question69
Tomorrow the Foodie children head back to school–The Girl as a senior, The Boy as a sophomore. I’ve already been teaching for a week, but The Hubs starts classes tomorrow as well. This means the whole Foodie family will be on maximum overdrive for the next nine months or so. And that, in turn, means maximum efficiency in the Foodie kitchen: one chicken, three meals.
Roasting a whole chicken isn’t difficult. In fact, a very basic roasted chicken is much easier than a lot of other things you might choose to do in the kitchen. It involves just a few basic steps: removing the giblets from the body cavity and rinsing the chicken (inside and out) with cold water; patting it dry (inside and out) with paper towels; placing it in a 9 x 13 inch roasting pan; rubbing it down (outside only) with olive oil; sprinkling the chicken with salt; and sliding it into the oven. That’s it. And when the chicken is done, you have a large quantity of roasted meat to use for various purposes, or to freeze for later use.
Whole chickens generally weigh 3 to 5 pounds. I try to buy the largest chicken I can find–keeping in mind our mantra, maximum efficiency, I’m looking for the most chicken with the least amount of effort. A 5-pound chicken requires about 2 hours in a 375-degree oven, which is the perfect project for a Sunday afternoon. Use a meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Once it’s done, take it out of the oven and let it sit, tented in aluminum foil, for 10 minutes or so.
Meal #1 is super easy and perfect for Sunday supper: slice some of the roasted chicken breast from the whole bird, and serve with your favorite sides. I like to make Parmesan risotto, for which you’ll need a little olive oil, 1.5 cups of arborio rice, 4 cups of hot chicken broth, and half a cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, then add the arborio rice and stir to coat with the oil. Add the hot broth, one large ladle at a time, and stir until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Keep adding the broth, one ladle at a time, waiting until it’s been absorbed before you add more liquid. (If the rice is still a little too firm when you’ve added all the broth, just add hot water, one ladle at a time, until the rice is soft.) Stir in the Parmesan cheese, add some freshly ground black pepper, and you’re good to go.
After dinner, remove the rest of the chicken from the carcass. Don’t worry about making it pretty: cut or tear the chicken from the bones and dice it up. Measure 2 cups of chicken into freezer bags; you can either put them both in the freezer, or put one in the fridge and freeze the other (which is what I usually do.) Your decision should depend on how soon you’re planning to use the meat, because you shouldn’t keep cooked chicken in the refrigerator for more than two or three days. A 5-pound chicken will leave you approximately 4 cups of diced chicken, after you’ve had Meal #1. The exact amount of meat you end up with depends on how diligent you are in removing the chicken from the carcass.*
When you’re ready for Mexican food, then it’s time for Meal #2: Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas. The sour cream sauce is my favorite part of this recipe, but the coriander is really central to its success–if you don’t have any on hand, it’s worth a trip to the grocery store. Just toss together the enchilada filling, roll it up in tortillas, and bake it under a blanket of cheesy sauce. On a school night, this recipe is hard to beat for ease and flavor.
By the time we finish Meal #2, I’m pretty tired of chicken–and that’s why the third bag has been put in the freezer, for longer storage. But when I’m ready to think about chicken again, it’s time for Meal #3: Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup. Soup is always an easy option on school nights, because it basically involves tossing things into a pot of broth. It’s going to be awhile before it’s cool enough in south Texas to even contemplate soup, but roasted chicken freezes nicely and won’t suffer for waiting until the right moment arrives.
There’s no end of things to do with roasted chicken, including chicken salad, warmed chicken on top of cool greens (drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette), and comfort food favorites like Chicken Pot Pie–which requires only a cup of diced chicken, making your roasting efforts stretch even further. One chicken gives you many, many options for quick dinners on those crazy weekday nights.
*If you’re really ambitious, you can make your own chicken broth for yet another meal. Just place the chicken carcass in a stock pot after you’ve picked it mostly clean, cover with water, and let it boil gently for two hours or so. Skim off the foam, strain out the solids, and freeze the broth for future use. I measure it into 4-cup quantities and store it in zip-top freezer bags.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Photo: Gluten-Free Chocolate by Sugarbloom Cupcakes
It’s been a year, more or less, since my endocrinologist suggested that I try out a gluten-free diet. I’ll be heading back to her office for my annual checkup on Monday, where I’ll learn whether or not the dietary changes I’ve made had a positive impact on my health–but in some ways, I have to say that it doesn’t really matter. I know I’ve felt better since I cut gluten out of my life (or, on a bad day, minimized its presence.) The stomach pain that always followed a big plate of pasta is no more, the frequent unexplained nausea is gone, the brain fog that so often plagued me has lifted, I’ve had a lot more energy, and I’ve just felt generally more healthy. In other words, even if my lab results show no change at all, I don’t think I’ll change my diet. Eating gluten-free clearly makes my body happy.
Which is not to say it’s easy, or without challenges. I’ve learned a lot about the world of gluten-free food in the last year, so I thought I’d offer the following thoughts for anyone just starting the journey.
1. There are lots of options that are naturally gluten-free: meat, eggs, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, rice, and grains like quinoa. One thing I discovered very quickly is that focusing on the things I can eat makes it much easier to avoid the things I can’t. It also helps to prevent the (sometimes inevitable) pangs of self-pity over that dinner roll you can no longer enjoy.
2. Gluten is everywhere: in soups, sauces, and drinks (like beer), not just in the most obvious places (bread, baked sweets, crackers, and pasta.) If you have celiac disease, it’s obviously very important to avoid gluten altogether. If your gluten intolerance isn’t as serious, the small amounts of gluten in some items might not pose a major problem. My general rule of thumb is that if flour is one of the last five ingredients listed on a packaged item, I’m probably going to be okay with it. This is something you’ll have to figure out for yourself via trial and error. Gluten intolerance is that sort of thing.
3. Having said that, I’ll add that I’m much more careful at restaurants, where I have little control over what goes into my food. If a restaurant has a gluten-free menu, I generally trust that they’re knowledgeable about preparing gluten-free food. If not–if the restaurant simply offers the option of a gluten-free bun for your hamburger, for example–I make a safer choice, like a piece of grilled chicken and some steamed vegetables. You can’t blame food service workers at a chain restaurant for not understanding that storing regular and gluten-free buns in the same plastic bag will cause a problem for customers with celiac disease; you can, however, anticipate that these same employees might not think to tip you off to the presence of flour in a sauce that’s slathered on your gluten-free bun. (Here’s an example of the difference: I went to lunch with The Hubs and The Girl one day last week at a restaurant with a gluten-free menu. After we ordered, because I had ordered off the gluten-free menu, the server made sure I understood that the cornbread she’d be bringing to our table wasn’t gluten free, nor was the appetizer The Hubs and The Girl had decided to share. I appreciated the fact that she understood why this would matter.)
4. Gluten-free versions of foods normally made with wheat flour don’t taste the same. They just don’t. Cakes, cookies, and breads are more dense; rice pasta is more sticky and less chewy; corn pasta is hit or miss. Somewhere along the way, I learned to stop asking myself “Does this taste like real bread?” and ask, instead, “Do I like this bread?” Getting rid of the comparison was really liberating, and I’ve since discovered some gluten-free items I really do like–Udi’s Gluten Free bread, cookies made by Alternative Baking Company, pasta by Mrs. Leeper’s and Tinkyada, cereals made by Nature’s Path. I’ve also discovered which baking mixes and flour blends I like (or don’t). I’ve reviewed a number of those mixes on this blog. Trying out different brands is part of the gluten-free adventure, and each person will have different preferences.
5. Unfortunately, the gluten-free adventure isn’t cheap. That’s because, to be certified gluten-free, foods have to be produced in a dedicated facility where no gluten contamination is possible. And, because a fairly small segment of the population purchases gluten-free food items, it’s not possible to spread out the cost of their production–which means each individual consumer pays more. (The fairly high price of these items is another good reason to stick with foods that are naturally gluten-free. I think I’ve eaten less bread in the past year than I ever have at any other time in my life.)
6. Baking gluten-free takes some practice. Gluten-free flour blends don’t always work in recipes designed for wheat flour, as we discovered when we made a batch of very, very gluey pancakes. Loaves of bread can’t be sliced while they’re still warm, or they’ll be gummy. Gluten-free cookies tend toward being crunchy, not chewy, no matter what you do. Many gluten-free baked goods don’t brown while they’re in the oven. And gluten-free cookies don’t spread out and assume a circular shape while they’re baking; they retain whatever shape they had when they went into the oven. I’ve learned these and more lessons in the last year, which is pretty humbling for a person who thinks she knows a little something about how to operate in the kitchen.
7. Most people really don’t understand what gluten-free means–they don’t understand, for example, why a bag of wheat flour can’t sit on a grocery store shelf next to a bag of rice flour. The idea that wheat flour on the outside of the packaging would contaminate the product sitting next to it, making that product potentially dangerous, just doesn’t occur to them. This is mostly a matter of ignorance, not malice–but I’ve pointed in out to my local grocery store (via their website and in person, at the store) enough times now that I’ve determined they just don’t care enough to make the necessary changes. I buy my gluten-free baking mixes elsewhere now, in solidarity with those shoppers who need them to be more careful. I figure my higher tolerance for gluten shouldn’t make carelessness okay.
8. Many people think they understand what gluten-free means, but actually they understand celiac disease. That’s one small segment of the gluten-free population. There are also people in the world, like me, who can pick the croutons off their salad and be just fine. That doesn’t make their gluten intolerance any less real, or their reasons for avoiding gluten any less important. We’re all just trying to stay healthy.
9. Some doctors believe that patients who feel better after cutting out gluten are experiencing a psychosomatic benefit: they believe cutting out gluten will help them feel better, so it does. To this, I can only say: so what? If people feel better, and they’re generally healthy, I don’t think it matters whether they’re “actually” gluten sensitive.
10. Many people think gluten-free is just the latest food fad, like low-fat or low-carb foods were some years ago. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked “Are you still gluten-free?”, as if it’s something I’ll give up when I get tired of it. Trust me when I say that if this were the case, I’d have given it up about a week after I started. I very quickly got tired of not being able to eat many of the things I like. And I have never once enjoyed skipping dessert while my friends eat cake.
Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned, though, is what an incredible blessing it is to be able to eat pretty much what I want. All the stories I’ve read in the last year–stories of parents trying to solve their starving child’s problems with food allergies, and stories of adults who were wasting away until they were diagnosed with celiac disease–have made me count my lucky stars again and again. Giving up pasta and cookies is nothing in comparison to what others have gone through in giving up wheat, corn, milk, eggs, nuts–the list goes on, but you get the idea. I’m grateful that managing my own diet is a fairly simple (if not always pleasant) process.
Update: Good news from the doctor today! No question that maintaining a gluten-free diet is worth the effort.
Saturday, August 4, 2012
Yesterday was a bit like Christmas in July (or, um, August . . . how did that happen?) at the Foodie household. Why, you ask? Because yesterday I received a big shipment of creamy, delicious goodness from the wonderful people at Chobani.
You may recall that I attended a dinner hosted by Chobani while I was at BlogHer Food in June. The food was terrific, but what I remember most about that night was the enthusiasm of the young women representing Chobani. They obviously loved the company–and not in a “They give me a paycheck and I really appreciate that” way. One of them introduced herself as “married to Chobani.” That’s some kind of commitment.
And I can understand why that would be. Chobani is dedicated to producing great-tasting yogurt, but also to doing that in communities which will benefit from their presence–and to giving 10% of their profits to organizations that make the world a better place. You can find out more about the company, and their Shepherds Gift Foundation, here.
So yes, I’m a Chobani evangelist. And I was really, really excited when I received an email offering me the chance to try out their new 16-ounce blended yogurts. They’re designed to be ready for use in recipes (hence the blending, and the larger size), which is why they sport recipe suggestions right on the packaging. Like, for example, a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake recipe on the pineapple yogurt container.
What’s that? You’re in the mood for something a little more exotic? How about Cheesy Peach-Jalapeno Hush Puppies?
You can find more recipe suggestions here. Of course, you don’t have to cook with these yogurts–you can just enjoy them straight from the container, as you would their smaller-sized counterparts. I’m fairly certain that’s what will happen with this flavor, since I doubt I’ll be able to resist it much longer.
Whether I end up eating or cooking, I’ll keep you posted on my upcoming Adventures in Chobani.
But here’s the best part–you can receive your own supply of 16-ounce Chobani blended yogurt! That’s right, the Chobani family wants to share the yogurt love with one lucky reader. Six containers of delicious blended yogurt–in black cherry, blueberry, mango, peach, pineapple, and vanilla chocolate chunk–can arrive at your doorstep if you enter this giveaway.
1. Leave a comment on this blog post telling me your favorite flavor of Chobani yogurt. (I’m a great devotee of their pineapple yogurt. So tart, so tasty.) If you haven’t yet tried Chobani, just tell me your favorite yogurt flavor.
2. Follow the Foodie on Facebook. (There’s a link in the right sidebar that makes this very easy.) Then come back here and leave a message telling me you’ve done so. If you’re already one of the Foodie faithful on Facebook, just leave me a message saying that.
3. Follow the Foodie on Twitter. (Again, there’s a link in the ride sidebar. Just click it.) Then come back here and leave a message telling me you’ve done so. Again, if you’re already a Foodie follower, just leave me a message saying that–but be sure to mention your Twitter handle, so I know who you are.
4. Follow the Foodie on Pinterest. (And again, right sidebar. Click. Done.) Or tell me you’re already a follower.
You can do any or all of these things for a maximum of four chances to win–just be sure to leave me four different messages to maximize your chances. I’ll used the random number generator at Random.org to select a winner.
This giveaway is open until midnight August 11, 2012. Good luck!
And the winner is: #2 Christine!
Congratulations, Christine! You have 48 hours to send me your mailing address (just click the “Contact” link at the top of this page and use the form provided.) I’ll send that information to the good people at Chobani, and your yogurt will be on its way!