Monday, July 29, 2013

Reflections On Cooking.

This blog has been a great outlet for me over the years, and has served to be a source of fun, mainly as an outlet to share what I've learned through my own food adventures. I have shared what has worked for me as I've gone gluten-free, soy-free, and grain-free. What keeps me going is my love of the both the gluten-free and healthy blogging community, because I know that if there were not blogs from awesome home cooks when I went gluten-free years ago, I would have felt so lost. Every so often I get a comment from a reader about how much they loved the recipe, and this is what keeps me going. Even though I am very busy, I don't think I ever want to stop having a blog. It's a place to come to share my cooking excitement. While I may not post as frequently as I used to when I was in college, keep my page bookmarked, because you'll never know when something new and tasty will show up.

Another thing that I love about food blogging is the chance to share what I've made with friends and family. I can refer them to my blog after they try a dish of mine, instead of writing them a recipe card. Then if they wish to, they are able share it with their friends, too. I am a big fan of education of all kinds, and I love that (for somethings anyways) the internet is a catalyst for sharing information about food, cooking recipes and techniques.

One thing that always gets me about having a recipe blog though, is the "need" to post something new. Years ago when I wasn't as busy as I am now, this wasn't as hard. Seems like I always had something cooked up, photos taken and ready to share. Now that I am in medical school, I have virtually no time to create a new recipe, get all the measurements right, take pictures I'm actually proud of, and share it with you all. While I am still doing a fair amount of cooking new creations in my own kitchen, I am cooking as I go, and honestly, to keep track of every single spice and ingredient is tiresome. I have never had the patience for that, and that is one reason why there aren't as many savory lunch and dinner recipes here, because after you read an ingredient list with over five spices, who is really going to benefit from reading about my dish? As the number of ingredients and complication surrounding the recipe making increases, the possibility of people making and enjoying my recipe decreases.

The way I cook in my kitchen is half planned, half spontaneous. I like to make a plan in my head of what I want to make for dinner, which is usually a protein and two vegetables, and then go from there. For instance, that week I may discover that I am out of grass-fed ground beef, so I'll defrost some chicken, fish, or steaks instead. Then, when I go to the farmers market or local grocery store, I may find that the lettuce or vegetable I was planning on buying doesn't look very good that week, isn't available, or is either not on sale or overpriced, so I have to buy another kind of veggie to enjoy. I like to call this style of cooking "rolling with it." There is still a budget and a plan, but there is room to play. Why would I choose to buy the more expensive pink lady apples to eat that week, when the fuji apples look just as good and are on sale? That's how I roll.

As I've been cooking for several years now, I do realize that there are some things that I do in the kitchen that people would benefit from hearing about. That's why I've shared some things that I do rather frequently, like making nut mix for my mom (when I'm visiting home), making ice cream in the summer, roasting off some squash fries, whipping up a batch of protein bars for easy eating on the go, and putting together a fun breakfast bowl when I have the time.

Sometimes I feel insecure about my blogging platform since I don't share many of my dinner and lunch meals. I cook as I go, layering on the flavors, and that's hard for me to capture in an adequate enough way that I feel proud to present it in a post.

I would love to do a vegetables series, where I showcase my favorite (basic) ways to cook my favorite vegetables, so you may see this in the future one day. This would be less complex and something easy for me to share with you all. But for now, I am enjoying making whatever I want in the kitchen, and bringing you all to a recipe when I both have time, and delicious results.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Triple Vanilla Ice Cream.

Vanilla ice cream is definitely one of  my favorite flavor of ice cream. I like to try sample at every ice cream shop I visit, to see if I have found the vanilla ice cream. So far my search has found some pretty good vanillas, and some pretty mediocre vanilla ice creams. By far, the standard of my comparison has been the storebought super premium ice cream, Double Rainbow. Since trying this ice cream, no other vanilla I've tried has stacked up to it's incredibly creamy, smooth, bright and comforting vanilla flavor.

So when I whipped up this ice cream last weekend, I thought that it would come out very well, but I didn't know how well. Even before pouring this ice cream into the ice cream maker to freeze, I knew this batch was special. It tastes like a dream, scoops like a dream, and melts like a dream (unlike some homemade ice creams which just seem to melt right away, or to never melt at all). I have to admit, it certainly rivals the amazing taste of Double rainbow, which is a feat in and of itself. I will definitely be making more vanilla ice cream exactly like this. Below is a photo from my brother's birthday celebration.

Since the vanilla sugar and cream are simmered together (in order to dissolve the sugar), the final product as a slight caramel taste! No doubt if you simmered the cream and sugar longer, you could easy make a dulche de leche version.

Triple Vanilla Ice Cream.
    makes two quarts

    6 oz  vanilla sugar - source or make your own
    4 cups (1 quart)  raw cow's milk cream
    1  vanilla bean
    1 Tbsp  vanilla extract
    1 Tbsp  coconut flour - source
    5  egg yolks
    1/2 tsp  unrefined sea salt

To make your ice cream:
  1. In a small sauce pan, combine sugar and 1 cup cream. Turn on high heat, bring almost to a boil, when first bubbles appear at sides reduce heat to simmer, and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 5-10 minutes. Mixture will thicken, coat the back of a spoon, and be caramel-like when ready. Remove from heat and allow to cool (this may take a while).
  2. In a separate bowl, combine coconut flour, salt, vanilla bean flecks, and egg yolks. Mix until yellow and thick. Add vanilla extract. Whisk in remaining 3 cups cream. Slowly add the cooled vanilla sugar mixture, whisking constantly.
  3. Add to your ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturers instructions. Mine churned for about 25 minutes. This ice cream comes out perfectly straight from the ice cream maker. Freeze overnight before scooping for hard ice cream. No need to remove ice cream from freezer for 10 minutes before serving. It's scoopable as is!
  4. This ice cream is so delicious, serve with your favorite brownies, chocolate sauce, nuts or whipped cream. Or you can serve along mint cake, like I did here! Enjoy :)

Want some cake with your ice cream? Try my grain-free chocolate cake! It's super easy, just make sure to follow instructions and to both grease and flour the pan.

Other ice creams I've made:
- Original vanilla ice cream - my first attempt, these basic proportions are what I use as a "template" for making all my other ice cream recipes
- French vanilla ice cream
- Chocolate ice cream
- Chocolate peanut butter ice cream

Have a lovely summer day!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Grain-free Sweet Potato French Toast.

Growing up I have a lot of fond memories of my mom's cooking.  On the weekends, she would make a special breakfast for us, and my brother and I would get to choose between either pancakes, french toast, or waffles.  French toast was my brother's particular favorite.  It always came out the same, (tasty), and it was the faster of the three options for my mother to prepare, which always meant breakfast would be sooner!

To be honest I haven't had regular french toast in a long time. Last summer I spontaneously took some left over sweet potato, combined it with some eggs and warm spices, and this recipe was born! I didn't write it down, however, and this last year of medical school has stopped virtually all my recipe development time. Since I am free this summer, I have more time, and so one morning last week I spent time in the kitchen whipping this up! It feels good to be cooking again :)

If you're paleo, primal, grain-free or just wish to avoid unecessary carbs, this recipe is for you. It doesn't actually contain any bread, just some delicious orange sweet potatoes. The eggs and warm spices combine to make the french-toast taste. The texture isn't like bread, but it's moist and melts in your mouth!! Yum!

Grain-free Sweet Potato French Toast.
    makes one 9x13 pan

    1 Tbsp  cinnamon
    1/2 tsp  fresh ground nutmeg
    3 dashes  ground cloves
    1/4 tsp  black pepper
    1/2 tsp  unrefined sea salt
    2 tsp  vanilla extract
    2 Tbsp  raw honey - source
    2 Tbsp  organic coconut oil, melted - source
    1/2 cup  organic raw milk
    6  happy pastured eggs

    3 large sweet potatoes, washed and peeled

    Toppings: (optional, choose your favorites!)
      sunflower seeds
      coconut chips
      maple-cinnamon sugar - source

To make your french toast:
  1.  Wash and peel your sweet potatoes. Cut lengthwise in half, then cut each half into half moon shapes about a half inch thick. Arrange on a cookie sheet and roast at 425 degrees until just fork tender.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all spices, honey, oil, milk and eggs. Be sure coconut oil is not hot. Whisk until well combined and there are no lumps of spices or egg.
  3. Grease a 9x13 glass casserole dish with about 1 tablespoon of butter.
  4. Arrange pre-baked sweet potatoes on the bottom of the dish. Pour egg and spice mixture on top. Sprinkle with toppings of choice! I used pecans, sunflower seeds, coconut chips and a maple sugar-cinnamon mixture. Other good choices would be whole walnuts, shredded coconut, ground pecans, and raisins.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees convection, covered in foil, for a total of 45 minutes. At 30 minutes check to see how it's doing. For the last 5 minutes, remove foil. Let cool to set before serving warm with plain yogurt, thick greek yogurt or maple syrup. This will freeze very well and is also great for the next few days straight from the fridge. Enjoy!

This recipe would be a great brunch option, since you can easily make the sweet potatoes and egg mixture the day before and store it in the fridge. Then in the morning before guests arrive, grease the baking dish, add the sweet potatoes, pour in the egg mixture, add the toppings, and in an hour you'll have some delicious paleo french toast baked, cooled, and ready to be devoured! I'd serve it topped with your favorite greek yogurt and fresh blueberries or strawberries, with sizzling bacon on the side, and warm green tea in your mug!

I'd eat this up within a week after you make it, but then again I don't think that will be a problem :)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Review: All Clad Measuring Spoons.

Photo credit

I'm a little embarrassed it's taken me so long to do this post. I've been wanting to share this with you for a while now since I started this blog!

I have been a fan of these little measuring spoons for several years now. They have been my constant companions in the kitchen ever since I started my cooking journey. I found them one afternoon while browsing at one of my favorite kitchen stores, Williams Sonoma. At first I was taken with their simplicity and durability, but then I was slightly dissappointed by the price tag. These measuring spoons are very good quality, which is reflected in the price. After thinking it through, I realized that the quality and construction of these spoons would last me a lifetime, so I ended up purchasing them. It was one of the best decisions concerning kitchen tools I've ever made! It's been over four years now and they still look as good as new! Pros: they wash up well, have no nooks or crannies to hide flour residue, they are sturdyand are made of one piece, and so they have no rivets that can come apart. I have no cons to mention whatsoever!

Photo credit

I highly recommend these to all my foodie friends! Check them out. They also make great gifts! I have both the "standard" size set and the "odd" size set. Both sets nest together, which is great for storage. They come with a little click-chain to hold them together, but I prefer to use a rubber band to hold them together (if I am traveling with them, which I do often). Amazon seems to sell round ones, but Williams Sonoma's version are square shaped. In the below picture the small measuring spoons are the "odd" size measuring spoons I previously mentioned. In the above picture are the "standard" size measuring spoons.

Photo credit

If you need to update your measuring spoons (no plastic!) then check these out. I know I will be passing these along to my children, and they will pass them along to their children. I am also happy to never have to buy measuring spoons again. I prefer to buy quality kitchen products that last, so I don't have to keep rebuying cheaper brands which ultimately costs more money in the end.

PS. I am not paid by any of the above mentioned parties, I am simply expressing my love recommendations of this kitchen tool :)