January 31, 2012

DB Scones/Biscuits (3 gluten and dairy free versions)

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

Whoops, somehow I kept forgetting to make time to post this months Daring Baker challenge!  This month we were given a biscuit recipe.  Even though I didn't personally eat any of these (due to my Whole 30 pledge) and I couldn't make the provided recipe (because the rest of the house is dairy free and currently wheat free) I still felt like trying out some recipes on the kids and John to see if any would be a hit.  Here are the results...

First, I made these Coconut Flour Bacon Biscuits from Primal Den Mother.  John and the kids weren't impressed though that may be because they were slightly over baked or because of the coconut flour.  I personally like coconut flour baked goods more than they do and from the smell I think I might like these.  
Next I tried GF Buttermilk Biscuits from Food.com.  I used Spectrum butter flavored shortening and So Delicious cultured coconut milk in place of the butter and buttermilk.  They had a good smell but the texture was too gummy and no one was interested in them.
Finally I made the Almond Flour Biscuits from Elana's Pantry.  These were the clear winner.  John and Alex both liked them a lot and they had a good looking texture after baking.  I can see myself having these occasionally after the Whole 30 is over, though I do find that her almond flour baked goods start all tasting too similar if I have them often.  
*For the official Daring Baker scone/biscuit recipe for this month visit our host, Audax, at Audax Artifex or take a look at the DB Scone recipe pdf.

Penny has been crazy about Play Dough lately.
She is our little princess. A tiara picture for you mom!
Alex isn't such a monster, he just seems to want to look like one. 

January 23, 2012

Dark Days Pork Belly with Chestnuts

If you are a fan of food media you couldn't have missed the adoration that has been heaped upon pork belly in the last few years.  So when I made bacon this fall, with the half hog I purchased from Bare Knuckle Farms, I saved the trim pieces from my whole pork belly to cook on their own.  I had planned on trying David Chang's Pork Belly but it and most of the other recipes for pork belly rely on sugar and often soy sauce for flavor and I am avoiding both for January.  A little more searching brought me to this recipe for Braised Pork Belly.  I loved the sound of the fennel and allspice rub and the fact that it didn't call for any sugar.  I replaced the white wine with Black Star Farms verjus since I'm also avoiding all alcohol and adjusted the spices for the braising liquid somewhat.  After the braising was done I knew some sweetness was needed so I dug out some locally grown boiled chestnuts.  I sliced up the braised meat and broiled it just a little with the chestnuts.  They were wonderful together- sweet, rich, and spicy!   For something green to go with this meal I stir fried pac choi  from my winter 9 Bean Rows' CSA share with local garlic, organic fresh ginger, Eden Foods toasted sesame oil and a few black sesame seeds.  A great meal but I still feel like pork belly is best served as bacon.  Nothing beats bacon!
Visit Not Dabbling In Normal on Sundays for the round up of Dark Days meals. You can also visit our coordinator at Unearthing this Life to see some of our Midwest group entres.  

January 22, 2012

Fortune Cookies (gluten and dairy free)

We were invited to a Chinese New Year celebration yesterday and I was determined to bring fortune cookies that Alex could safely have.  Friday night I fought with three different recipes: two that were gluten free by design and one wheat flour recipe with gluten free flour blend as replacement.  All of them were flops and I was fairly discouraged and a bit angry about wasting some of the last of our eggs.  Our chickens and ducks have mostly stopped laying now.  :(   But the next morning I screwed by courage to the sticking place and gave it one more try.  This time I altered a recipe I already knew worked and success was mine!  I was even happier with how my stir fried pork with mushrooms served with sesame cabbage came out.  I will have to make that again since it was Whole 30 compliant and I'd like to post it.  The pork and cabbage helped me survive the challenge of not eating even the smallest taste of fortune cookie.  Thank goodness the kids make great taste testers!

Fortune Cookies (gluten and dairy free)
Adapted from this recipe which came from this recipe
Makes ~18 cookies

57g coconut oil
57g powdered sugar
2 egg whites, room temperature
48g tapioca flour
17g corn starch
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

-Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  
-Line a couple of baking pans with parchment paper. If your pans are rimmed I suggest flipping them over and working on the back side so that spreading the batter is easier.  Set out a muffin tin to use while forming cookies and print and cut out your fortunes.  I used a lot from  this list of fortune cookie messages but my favorite is "Your fortune lies in another cookie".
-In a stand mixer, cream the coconut oil and sugar until light in color and smooth.  Add the egg whites and extracts and beat until incorporated.   This will be extra tricky if you don't have your egg whites at room temperature.  
-Add the tapioca starch, corn starch and salt and beat until a smooth batter forms, you will probably need to scrape down the bowl a few times.
-Oil your parchment with spray oil or a little melted coconut oil.  On one half of the parchment take a little less than a tablespoon of batter and spread it evenly with an offset spatula into an ~4 inch diameter circle.  Repeat on the other side of the baking sheet.  If you don't feel confident about this step you can trace a circle in pencil on the reverse side of your parchment paper to use as a guide or you can make a circle stencil out of thin cardboard (think cereal box) and then spread the batter just inside the template.
-Bake for 4-5 minutes until  light golden brown on edges, bake only 2 cookies at a time.
-Immediately after removing from the oven take a fortune and place it on the center line.  Then fold the cookie in half keeping the folded edge flat and not squashed.  Then bend in the two corners and place the cookie inside a muffin tin cup to keep it from unfolding as it cools.  This does some practice and hands that can take some heat.  This image was helpful for me to learn the fold though if you Google other recipes you'll see a lot of people using coffee cups to help fold.  The coffee cup technique wasn't helpful to me but you may be different.
-Repeat with the remaining batter. Be sure to cool off your cookie sheet and reoil your parchment after each batch.  Do not add fresh batter to a warm cookie sheet.  
-After the cookies have cooled store them in an airtight container.  
Gong Xi Fa Cai!

My January Whole 30 Prpgress

I've passed the halfway mark for my January Whole 30 .  Here are some notes on the experience so far:
-After the first couple of days I decided to give up dried fruit.  The figs and dates were just too tempting and I felt like I was sure to overload on them.   Fresh fruit has been easier to eat in moderation, though I did have a few days last week where I ate more apples than I'd like.
-I feel really great when I eat my greens.  That extra rule is the one I've been most consistently following.   Also I've discovered a few chopped, toasted hazelnuts will do wonders for a salad.  Previously I neglected this nut, maybe it's time for hazelnut oil vinaigrettes?
-Week two was by far the easiest.  I ate much more low carb that week and I even had a vegetarian day, with only eggs for protein.  I felt really full of energy.
-Week three has been the hardest.  I ate more apples than I would like and had more sugar cravings.  Every time I walked by the above pictured snow-covered light I thought about whipped cream and ice cream.  I'm also missing alcohol more than I thought I would, just a single glass of wine or even just wine for braising.   I find that strange because I'm really not someone who drinks regularly.
-I miss good hard salami.  Every brand I can find has at least some sugar.  It's going to be the first thing I add back in to my diet.
-I've become more curious about how much the cravings and high energy feelings are related to my hormonal cycles.  I guess I need to chart more to figure that out.

Just 9 days to go!

January 15, 2012

Dark Days Sausage and Greens Soup

We were given an extra challenge for this week and it was to make a soup or one-pot meal.  This was timed well to coincide with the snow and drop in temperature.  I made a batch of my Sausage and Greens Soup.  This batch is made with leeks from The Saturday Farmers Market at the Village, kale and turnip greens from 9 Bean Rows homemade Hubbell Farm chicken broth and my homemade apple/anise pork sausage, made with pork raised on Bare Knuckle Farm.
Visit Not Dabbling In Normal on Sundays for the round up of Dark Days meals. You can also visit our coordinator at Unearthing this Life to see some of our Midwest group entres.  

Dark Days Roast Duck and Root Slaw

It's hard to put into words what raising your own animals for meat is like.  There is a sense of pride but also a weighty feeling of duty.  The excitement of fuzzy little ducklings and the annoying stink and mess as they take over your garage...the fun of seeing your kids chasing a big flock of ducks in your front yard and realizing this many animals eat a lot more food than the four birds you had before...the repeated discussions with your son and husband about how, "Yes, some of the birds are going to be for meat."  And then finally  butchering day comes.  Could I really do it?  Is it going to to be hard?  Is it going to be scary?

With four ducks and a rooster under my belt I personally have those questions answered and found it to be a rewarding experience.  I plan on getting more meat ducks again this year.  Maybe a little later this year so I can butcher in the fall instead of late summer and definitely a designated meat breed (Pekin or Muscovy) instead of the multi-purpose Buff ducks we got last year.  With our ducks I have made duck stock, duck confit, pan-seared duck breasts and just this weekend I roasted the one bird from the freezer that I left whole.  All of it was more delicious than anything store bought and I hope I did them justice.  Thank you to those ducks and all the animals that we use for food.  Also a huge THANK YOU to Joan and her son from Olds Farm.  They let me practice at their duck butchering and the experience was invaluable.

I used Roast Duck with Citrus Pan Sauce as a base recipe for my roast duck.  I stuffed the cavity with a Rennie Orchards apple and spiced the steaming water with just 1 tablespoon toasted coriander seeds along with 1 inch piece of sliced fresh ginger and 1/2 teaspoon cassia buds.  For the sauce I used the reserved steaming liquid and 1/2 cup verjus to deglaze the roasting pan then strained it to remove the spices.  To the strained reduction I added a diced apple, 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger and a pinch of dry mustard.  I cooked this until the apple was tender and served it on the side.  It was subtly spicy and tart to go with the rich duck. *A note of caution, be very careful when you prick the skin the second time, after steaming.  I was a little too enthusiastic and should have gone shallower with my pricks.

On the side, I made a root slaw similar in to this Super Red Slaw.  In it were julienned beet, carrot and turnip with a half of a red onion, thinly sliced.  To dress it I used Black Star Farms verjus, Eden Foods ume plum vinegar, salt, pepper, fresh grated organic ginger, and dried spearmint from my garden.  It was good but I prefer the version with cabbage.  The vegetables came from 9 Bean Rows and vendors of The Saturday Farmers Market at the Village.

Visit Not Dabbling In Normal on Sundays for the round up of Dark Days meals. You can also visit our coordinator at Unearthing this Life to see some of our Midwest group entres.  

The pot of gold at the end, duck fat!

January 12, 2012

Sunrise Moonset

Our recent sunny weather has led to colorful mornings with the moon setting in the west as the sun rises in the east.  I took some photos of the moon going down yesterday.
The words Sunrise Moonset make it so that I can't get this song out of my head. Even if wedding scenes don't make you want to cry, this one is a tear-jerker.

January 10, 2012

Dark Days Lunches (with a little cheating)

It wasn't easy to pick a meal this week to dedicate to the Dark Days Challenge.  For some reason I kept changing my plans at the last minute and adding in an ingredient that made the meal not quite qualify.  So in place of one fully local plate I give you my past two lunches, each with one glaringly not locally sourced ingredient but lots of local flavor.

First we have yesterday's Sunshine Chicken with roasted roots.  I used a whole chicken from Hubbell Farm, which I broke down, the wings are pictured.  I shared this recipe back when I first started blogging and my family and I still love it.  Of course it calls for lemons and my lemon tree croaked right after I got one batch of fruit from it but they are in season and organic.  The root vegetables I roasted this time were turnips, beets, parsnips and onion-- a very good combination.  They came from 9 Bean Rows and vendors of The Saturday Farmers Market at the Village.  I cooked the roots in Hubbell Farm's turkey shmaltz.

And today's lunch was lamb arm chops from Starlight Hill Farms served with a variation on this cherry tomato salad.  I used kale, turnip greens and red onion from my 9 Bean Rows winter CSA share but couldn't resist the totally out of season cherry tomatoes John brought home.  I dressed the salad with verjus from Black Star Farms, lots of dried spearmint from my garden (re-hydrated in the verjus), salt, pepper and Higher Grounds olive oil.  You can see the distinctive oil label glowing in today's fantastic sunshine in the background of the photograph.
*Both of these meals fit the requirements of my January Whole 30
Visit Not Dabbling In Normal on Sundays for the round up of Dark Days meals. You can also visit our coordinator at Unearthing this Life to see some of our Midwest group entres.  

January 9, 2012

Two nearly forgotten food books of 2011

Adding to My Food Books of 2011 List are these two.
"What I Eat" is such a cool book and I almost forgot it!  I had it from the library and everyone who came over and saw it couldn't put it down.  Even Alex, who is over my shoulder and just saw the cover picture, says he loved it and can we get it again from the library.  It has photographs of the daily diets of people from around the world organized by their calorie count along with short biographies.  It's just fascinating!  

January 8, 2012

Chicken Livers and Onions

In addition to following the Whole 30 rules for January I also pledged to eat at least one meal a week with organ meats.  Why should you consider eating organ meats?  A big reason for me is wanting to respect the animal that gave its life for you by wasting as little as possible but there are also plenty of health benefits.  While I will eat beef liver occasionally and I liked the beef heart we got with our quarter steer, my favorite and one of the easiest organ meats to find and prepare are chicken livers.

When I was a kid my parents served chicken livers in their spaghetti sauce and I still love them that way, although now on top of sauteed zucchini.  While in college and while dating John I was coming out of my vegetarian years and learned a new way to eat chicken livers. The Metro Detroit area is teaming with good Middle Eastern restaurants and a favorite of ours back in "the dating years" was the Pita Cafe in Oak Park, MI.  At the corner of Greenfield and 696, we passed this restaurant on the way to and from our two homes too many times to count.   Great hummus, good lentil soup (smooth or chunky), juices, and fantastic chicken livers made up our meals there.

They served their chicken livers fried with onions, jalapenos, and lots of olive oil with a side of rice pilaf topped with parsley and toasted almonds.  Lemons were served on the side to squeeze on. You had to be careful to ask for the dish "mild" or they would blow your head off with the jalapenos!   I've updated this to use my Sorta Gremolata from my freezer and keep the dish Whole 30 compatible.  I'm also an even bigger wuss about spicy food now but feel free to overload yours with jalapenos!

Chicken Livers and Onions
Rinse and dry your chicken livers well.  Lately I soak them in a brine for a few hours but I haven't decided if it makes a big enough difference in the taste.  Slice a couple of sweet onions.  Heat up a skillet and add fat of your choice.  I used chicken fat but have used olive oil in the past.  Fry the onions with salt and pepper until caramelized.  Remove the fried onions from the pan and set aside.  Add more fat if needed and fry the chicken livers until done.  Don't forget to season them and don't overcook them!   Toss the onions and livers together and top with defrosted "gremolata" balls.  *If you don't have the "gremolata" you could substitute some chopped parsley with garlic, lemon zest and juice. Finish with some toasted chopped almonds and a squeeze of lemon juice. Wonderful served with a green salad dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.

January 4, 2012


This year I moved a bird feeding crook and zip tied it to the patio railing off the kitchen so I could watch the birds while I cook and wash dishes.  Now that this guy is coming to the suet there I guess I need to move my tripod into the kitchen.  It's so cool to see such a big bird up close!

January 3, 2012

Dark Days Roasted Pumpkin Hash with Chorizo and more

More snow today.  From the signs in the coop, I think the weather was bad enough that even the ducks slept inside and it has to be pretty bad out for them to bother going in.  Weirdly one of our barred rocks is molting.  Talk about bad timing, we're in the middle of a cold snap!  She looks awful with all the new feathers sprouting out of her neck, blech.

Unintentionally, I managed to have all of my three meals today SOLE and completely Whole 30 compliant as well.  For breakfast I had a kale and baby lettuce salad.  For the dressing I made a creamy salad dressing with egg yolks from my chickens, organic flax seed and olive oils, a little organic lemon, mustard and Black Star Farms verjus.  I need to get some anchovies for my creamy dressings, they would have put it all over the top!  The kale and lettuce came from my 9 Bean Rows winter share that started last week.  I'm SO looking forward to their vegetables!

For lunch, I had a hash made with roasted cubed pumpkin (leftover from this soup), onions, sage (dried from my garden) and  some of my homemade chorizo sausage.  I took a picture of the hash before I chopped up the sausage and added it to the pumpkin but I attest that it was delicious though less attractive served that way.  Finally, dinner was beef and root vegetable soup.  I used some thin cut short ribs from Gallagher's Centennial Farm with a slew of root vegetables from 9 Bean Rows and vendors of The Village's Saturday Market.  The soup was very similar to the goat borscht I made before but with beef and without cabbage.  I flavored it with dried rosemary and winter savory from my garden, a  picture of the ingredients i used this time follows.

Dark Days Pumpkin Hash with Chorizo
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.  Cube pumpkin or winter squash into ~3/4" cubes and toss with a diced half an onion, olive oil, crumbled dried sage, salt and pepper.  Roast for ~20 minutes stirring occasionally, until golden brown.  While the pumpkin is roasting pan fry some chorizo sausage.  *Now that I'm thinking about it, I could have just added the sausage into the oven and saved myself a pan to wash.  When the pumpkin and sausage are fully cooked, slice the sausage and toss the two together.  Enjoy!
Visit Not Dabbling In Normal on Sundays for the round up of Dark Days meals. You can also visit our coordinator at Unearthing this Life to see some of our Midwest group entres.  

The ingredients for my Dark Days Beef and Root Soup, the process was similar to this goat borscht

January 2, 2012

Food Books of 2011

 Here's a list of food books I read in 2011, some I discussed earlier in the year here.

Updating to add two I forgot

This list is for the Foodie's Reading Challenge built by Margot better known as Joyfully Retired
Special thanks to the Traverse Area District Library!

And two books I have picked to start off 2012, the first I started yesterday on Kindle for my iPhone and the other I ordered a used copy off Amazon today.  Gotta love $.01 books!