Monday, June 22, 2009

Gluten free strawberry-rhubarb crisp

It was a tad quieter around here this weekend, relative to the past couple of weeks…

Parents came to visit (both sets), I was hooded and called “doctor,” we ate good food and drank good wine, and houses were looked at and discussed…and discussed again.

The time flew by so fast, though we certainly enjoyed every minute of it. And, in the end, we were sad to see our parents go.

I turned around and suddenly the farmer’s market is filled with ripe hood river strawberries and Chelan cherries. If you have never had a hood river strawberry, you have never eaten a strawberry – believe me.

No white centers here, just deep red and dripping with juice.

We woke up excited Saturday morning – it was the day we got to pick up our first harvest box from our CSA. Despite the threat of rain, we happily walked down to the farmer’s market. Our share box was filled with strawberries, kohlrabi, butter lettuce, pinto beans, rhubarb, a calendula plant, and an onion.

We picked up another half-flat of strawberries and made jam. And a strawberry rhubarb crisp. And a strawberry salad with red onion, feta cheese, and balsamic vinegar.


As Ben and I ate the dinner he made us last night, we agreed: we eat pretty darn well.

I wonder now what my life had been like before I became used to telling the time of year by what fruit or vegetable was in season; before I knowingly grew excited in the weeks before berry season; or before I had a place in my kitchen where I hung my cloth market bags, stained red with hood river berries. Without realizing, it has all become so very much me.

It can be some of you, too!

Strawberry-rhubarb crisp (crumble)

Crisp or crumble? I really don't know the difference!

For the topping:

1 ½ cups Gluten free oats

1/2 cup tapioca flour

¼ cup millet flour

¼ cup coconut flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground cardamom

½ tsp salt

1 stick of butter

¼ cup agave nectar or honey

1 tsp vanilla

For the filling:

2 pints strawberries, hulled and larger ones sliced in half

1 ½ cups chopped rhubarb (about ¾ to 1-inch pieces)

4 tablespoons raw sugar

3 tablespoons tapioca flour

sprinkle of lemon juice

Heat oven to 375F.

Start with your filling. Mix filling ingredients in a glass 8-inch baking dish.

Then make your topping. In a medium-sized bowl, mix your dry ingredients until well-blended. In a small saucepan, melt your butter over low heat and stir in agave nectar and vanilla. Pour the butter mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Spoon the topping over the filling and pop it in the oven. I recommend placing a foil-lined baking sheet under your baking dish to catch over-flow once the berries begin to bubble.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown on top and edges of filling are bubbling up to the top.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Star sightings, a thunderstorm, and a greek salad, oh my!

It was certainly an exciting week in Portland. It started with talking to Kerri Russel and Brendan Fraser Monday morning and ended with a pretty powerful thunderstorm that resembled only those seen in the Midwest.

My co-worker and I were walking through one of the main hospital buildings Monday morning, on our way to drop off some paperwork to our supervisor and then head to the health food store to pick up some food. Outside the elevator, we saw signs indicating a motion picture was being filmed in the area, instructing us to not walk through unless we agreed to be unpaid extras.

This isn’t the first time I have seen signs like this around Portland; the day I defended my masters thesis, “The music within” was being filmed in the park blocks near school and I had to wait while they shot a scene (I was clearly not dressed to match the time period they were attempting to create!). Portland has become a pretty popular spot for filming the past few years, but every time I see filming happening, I don’t see anyone particularly famous. Until Monday.

As we made our way down the hall, we were pretty impressed with the numerous props, equipment, and people lining the narrow hallway. Then, we turned the corner and everything seemed to move in slow motion. Brendan Fraser was walking towards us, followed by Kerri Russel. My co-worker turned to look at me and we stopped on the side of the hallway, almost arms-length away from Brendan Fraser, and she said she couldn’t let this opportunity pass her by. I followed her down the hallway to where Kerri Russel had taken a seat on a folding chair and my co-worker asked for her autograph, telling her she was watching “The Waitress” all weekend. I looked at my co-worker and thought, “ALL weekend?”

She was relaxed, easy-going, and didn’t seem phased at all that we had interrupted whatever she had been doing on her iphone. She wore denim pants, rolled up at the bottom and a light-weight grey sweater. She was beautiful and not as overly done-up with makeup as I would imagine actresses to be. Neither one of us had a pen, nor did Kerri Russel, but one of the guys directing people and props handed my co-worker a pen and Keri signed the back of some of the paperwork meant to go to our supervisor. Needless to say, he never got that paper back! As she signed, addressing her message to my co-worker by name, I asked her what they were filming. “The new untitled Crowley project with Harrison Ford,” she replied, as if she and Brendan Fraser were not also stars in the film, “It’s a medical drama,” she explained. The guy who had lent us the pen began talking to my co-worker more about it, as another guy came up behind us, ushering us along, saying, “Thank you folks, thank you.”

We thanked Kerri and moved along and my co-worker stopped at Brendan, who was using a portable air-conditioning unit to cool himself off, directing the output tube right at his face, his hair blowing up and back. He was dressed in dark charcoal dress slacks and a light, almost white, button-down dress shirt with thin, widely-spaced, grey vertical stripes. My co-worker asked for his autograph and he asked for a pen. She didn’t hear him right and asked again for his autograph. It was pretty comical. As he signed next to Kerri’s signature, the woman standing next to him (we actually interrupted their conversation) asked what we do at the hospital. She explained our research and they were pretty impressed. She said it was really exciting work, but not as exciting as this!

Me? I couldn’t really talk. I clammed up and shut down, wondering what he would do if I reached out and touched his arm.

The “Thank you folks” guy came by again, ushering us to leave, and we obeyed this time. It wasn’t until we were back at our office that my co-worker realized she still had the pen! We told our supervisor what happened and even he was super excited. My co-worker scanned in the page with the signatures and emailed it to him.

We, of course, had to make another trip through the hospital about an hour later because we didn’t actually get food the first time – we were too distracted. During our second trip through, they had actually begun filming and we had to wait until they finished the scene. We saw our friends Kerri and Brendan again and a little girl being wheeled down the hall on a gurney. No sign of Harrison Ford, though.

On Thursday the winds picked up and a big thunderstorm blew in as I was walking home from work. Now that I’m thinking about it, it doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as our brush with the stars… But, for this Midwestern girl, it was pretty neat to see big winds, rain, and lightening in a city that so rarely gets wicked weather. I came home to our fig tree laying flat against its dirt and I had to use twist ties from the kitchen to re-attach it to its support post and I had to re-cover its roots with dirt.

The rain was also a welcome relief from the hot sunny weather we’ve been having. I seriously thought I would never say anything like that, but I guess I just did.

It’s been so warm, I haven’t wanted to cook or bake much. It’s becoming the season of quinoa salads, egg salads, pasta salads, and whatever-else-you-can-think-of salads.

I came up with this Greek quinoa salad on the fly one day to bring over to a barbecue with friends and it has become a favorite around here. It’s easy to put together and feeds a crowd if needed.

Greek quinoa salad:

I like to use English cucumbers because their seeds are smaller and they are not as watery, but if you can’t find an English cucumber, use a regular one. Just cut it in half length-wise and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds before slicing. Dairy free? Just leave out the feta cheese. Sometimes I throw in some coarsely chopped spinach and/or cooked chicken.

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

1 English cucumber

1 pint cherry tomatoes

½ small red onion, diced finely

20 or so kalamata olives, sliced

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 tsp oregano

2 cloves garlic, minced

Freshly ground black pepper

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Rinse your quinoa in a fine mesh sieve. Combine rinsed quinoa and water in a large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat to bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover, simmering for about 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Set aside and allow to cool (placing it in the fridge helps this along).

Meanwhile, slice your cucumber in half length-wise, then slice each half length-wise again. Slice each piece along the bias, making thin triangular pieces, about and 1/8 of an inch thick. Toss into a large bowl.

Cut each cherry tomato in half and add to the cucumbers. Add the diced onion, olives, oregano, garlic, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice and mix well.

Once the quinoa is cool, add it to the other ingredients, along with the feta cheese (if using), and mix well. Taste and adjust olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, etc to taste.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Gluten free lemon-scented white chocolate cookies

I think I died and went to heaven. Lemony, white-chocolate heaven.

I started experimenting a couple of months ago with quinoa flour. Timid at first, worried about its bitter scent, I would think of adding it to a batch of muffins and then back out. Surely sorghum flour would work better here, I would think to myself. After all, sorghum flour has become my staple. My go-to flour as a base in almost everything.

I finally used my quinoa flour in a bread recipe and was pretty darn impressed.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, a co-worker of mine came back to the office with an enormous lemon white chocolate chip cookie. It was a flavor combination I had never really thought of before – but it sounded delicious. I imagined it lightly sweet with a hint of lemon scent and creamy sweet bits of chocolate. Perfect as a summer cookie.

And suddenly, I was thinking of all kinds of lemony sweets. Lemon bars, lemon scones, and lemon sorbet – just to name a few. I picked up a bag of sweet lemons and set to work this past week.

Feeling particularly saucy as I began creating the cookie recipe to replicate the lemon white chocolate cookie my co-worker had purchased, I decided to throw out my old ideals of using sorghum or brown rice flour and went straight for the quinoa. I was thinking texture and thinking the bitter flavor might work particularly well with the lemon in these puppies. And my instincts were right.

By far, the texture of these cookies is better than my previous cookie concoctions. They are sugar-cookie-like, delicate and slightly sweet, melt-in-your mouth, without any graininess. And, in case you were wondering, no quinoa-induced bitterness detected.

Go ahead, give ‘em a try. But don’t blame me when you can’t stop eating them!

Lemon scented white chocolate cookies:

The secret to great cookies, imparted to me by a good friend back when we lived together in college, is to have your butter just slightly soft. I microwave it for 5 seconds at a time, rotating it each time, until I can just put a dent in the side with my finger. Also, after your dough is all mixed and you are in the baking process, stick the dough in the fridge in between batches. If it’s warm in your home, the butter might melt!

1 cup quinoa flour

1 cup tapioca flour

½ cup coconut flour

1 tsp xanthan gum

1 cup butter

1 cup raw sugar

½ tsp baking soda

2 eggs

6-12 oz white chocolate chips or chunks, depending on your preference for chocolate (I used the Whole Foods 365 brand of white chocolate chunks)

Zest of one small lemon

Juice of one small lemon

Begin by mixing your flours and xanthan gum in a bowl. Blend well and set aside.

Zest and juice your lemon into a small bowl.

In a large bowl, cream together your butter and sugar, then add the baking soda and mix well. Add in your eggs and stir until well-incorporated.

Add the lemon zest and juice. Then add your flour mixture about a third at a time until your dough forms. Add the white chocolate and stir to evenly distribute.

Scoop rounded spoonfuls and place one inch apart on your cookie sheet – flatten slightly. I was able to roll these into balls with my hands and flatten slightly after placing on the cookie sheet.

Bake in a 350F oven for 18-20 minutes.

Let cool a couple of minutes and remove to cool completely on a wire rack. (Be sure your cookie sheet cools before re-loading with new dough.)


Monday, June 1, 2009

Coconut rice pudding

Growing up, I ate more granola than pudding snacks.

I have vague memories of hearing about such things from friends at school and on the television from Bill Cosby, well before I had ever seen one in real life. They were like whisperings in the wind, things of which urban legends were made.

I didn’t realize this was abnormal until high school when I realized many of my classmates didn’t eat granola for breakfast EVER.

Well, these aren’t your childhood pudding cups. Thank goodness.

Have I mentioned before my obsession with coconut? The flavor is what gets me, but it is also good for you - check out Gluten free for good’s post on the health benefits!

Coconut rice pudding:

1 can coconut milk (lite or regular)

1/3 cup Aborio or Carnaroli rice (Italian rice you would use for a risotto)

1-2 tablespooons agave nectar (or more for sweeter pudding)

Toasted sliced almonds for garnish

Optional add-in ideas:

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

¼ cup dried fruit

1 tsp vanilla extract

Top with fresh fruit, such as strawberries, a cooked fruit-compote, or jam

Bring coconut milk to boil in a large saucepan. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for about 30-40 minutes, until most of the milk is absorbed. Stir a few times during cooking.

Remove from heat and stir in the agave nectar. Add any of the add-ins suggested above or simply serve in small bowls with toasted sliced almonds sprinkled on top. I usually dish this up into 4 small jam jars and take one with my lunch. The one I have pictured here is with cocoa powder stirred in and cherry jam on top.