Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We're Moving

Find me now at: Prairie Bitches.

It's a shorter, sweeter, Midwest-themed, eating-for-one, photo-focused, gluten-free food blog.

See you there!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

strawberry rhubarb everything

start with fresh ingredients

The only way to learn canning is to do it yourself. It is terrifying and complicated the first time you try it. There is boiling water and detailed instructions (I am bad at instructions) and rubber gloves and special tongs and, of course, the risk of death.

jam is not good for you

On the other hand, there is EXTREME REWARD. You wouldn't believe the high-fiving we were up to in this kitchen when we heard the can pop, meaning it sealed, meaning we'd conquered canning. 

we baked our fruit for two hours to release the juices, bitches

Anyway, I 'm posting this blog to document my experience with canning, but I'm not going to even think about trying to explain how to do it. 

You'll have to figure that out yourself.
Here is a fabulous book to get you started: Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods, by Eugenia Bone.  

checking in on the progress

The main recommendation I have: find one recipe and stick to it. We had our fingers in so many pots (literally and figuratively). We were reading out of a book, a magazine from the grocery store, two online recipes, watching a video and checking the box the jars came in—too much. 

the nice thing about jam is that if you chicken out, you can still use your hot fruit for a pie or a compote that doesn't get preserved (just eaten right away!)

By the time we'd moved onto our second canning venture, it was pie. Well, it was pickled cauliflower, but you see my point.
you don't need much to get started: new cans and lids...

rubber gloves, and a good pair of tongs,
we cut costs by not investing in a "rack." jars can boil easily by placing upside-down lids at the bottom of the pot, as pictured.

It's important to follow the instructions, but, for example, this jam has a huge bubble in it. Bubbles are a no-no, but we ate it all and are still very much alive.

Rudi's Gluten-Free bread, toasted with butter and our homemade jam. So. So. So. Good.

I saved all the juices from the cooked fruit. It is very sweet.

And later, we made strawberry-rhubarb margaritas. See how the little lime juicer perfectly fits the glass? I dipped the rims in lime juice to get the salt to stick. Tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and the frozen strawberry rhubarb syrup. And salt.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Have your cake,

Third time's the charm.

New Pioneer Food Co-op makes a "wheat-free white cake slice." For $4.25, it's about three servings of cake, which isn't to say one wouldn't eat all three at once.

The first time I tried this cake, it wasn't so great. Not bad enough that I didn't give it a desperate second try. Third time? Delicious. Either they are perfecting their gluten-free baking or my standards are getting lower.

It was definitely more moist this time, I'd recommend checking the "Packed On" date before buying.

It's made with Neuchfatel cheese in the frosting, which might explain why I like it so much. Usually frosting is too cloyingly sweet and crunchy with sugar. This is creamy and rich and just so slightly savory.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

cold brewed coffee

It was one-hundred-and-thirteen degrees here last week. Iowa is a steamy, tropical, prehistoric nightmare of a place. Anyway, I had to make iced coffee.

Cousin Gabe, culinary extraordinaire, sent me this Bon Appétit recipe for cold-brew iced coffee concentrate. Click on it here if you want to make it, and you can follow my photos below.
I don't have much better to do this summer than make a complicated overnight recipe so I said, "yes!" to life.

"Is it especially delicious," you are asking me. "Is it even better than regular iced coffee?"

Answer: Yes. It is smooth and completely free of any of that coffee-y bitterness.

"Is it worth it," you are asking me. "Is it worth it to make this iced coffee that takes lots of time and also lots of coffee?"

Answer: Not really.

The recipe calls for a full 12 oz of (coarsely) ground coffee-- that's practically a whole bag. By the time I'd soaked it and steeped it and drained it all out, I had about half a container of the concentrate. I expect it to last for about 7 cups of iced coffee.

Let's call this a luxury item, and bookmark it under special occasions only. For example, if you have a houseguest for the weekend. Plan ahead though, because the coffee needs to sit for at least 15 hours. That is not the equivalent of one night's sleep, much to my chagrin on the morning I woke up ready to drink it.

First, grind 12 ounces of coffee. Keep it fairly coarse, which Bon Appétit recommends to keep the liquid clear. That's about 60 tablespoons of ground coffee, at 5 tablespoons to an ounce.

Pour seven cups of cold water over the coffee, making sure all the grounds get soaked. It will look disgusting.

Cover with cheesecloth and let sit for 15 hours.

This is the delicious, locally roasted coffee that I've been getting from the farmer's market. (Watercolor effect my own.)

The next morning, the coffee looked like a cross-section of earth.

Line a strainer (I have a nice fine one) with the cheese cloth and pour through. Expect to wait about 45 minutes for all the liquid to drain out. I hooked it over the edge of a large pot.

Last but not least, strain AGAIN through a filter. If you don't have one of these babies, line the same strainer with a coffee filter and do it like that. 

Remember: this makes concentrate, so you can dilute it with a little water (or milk) to make it the strength you like. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Backwards 'Rumspringa'

In the Amish community, youth are allowed to leave and live as the "English" do for one year. Rather than going out and sampling crystal meth, having unprotected sex or wearing a lot of zippers, Amy and I are learning to can. Can we do it? We did! Projects so far:

Strawberry Rhubarb Test-Run Jam

Refrigerator Pickles

Spicy Cauliflower Pickles

Once I'm feeling more confident about the actual water-bath canning process, I'll share my tips. Refrigerator pickles are SUPER easy and so delicious. (I've already eaten two jars.)  I'll post those in a few...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Farmer's Market Dinner

We found a (non-edible) succulent, lettuce, spicy radishes, ugly tomatoes, parsley, kohlrabi (which also functions as a scalp massager) asparagus and garlic scapes. Scapes? I was looking for ramps!

 At the co-op we bought arborio rice and some diced prosciutto. I followed the Joy of Cooking's risotto instructions incorrectly, but it turned out GREAT. Oh, and I had the expert guidance of close personal friend Julia, with whom I shared the formative years of my culinary independence—college. This recipe says 8-10 servings, which is probably correct but four of us ate 8 servings, leaving me with dinner and lunch leftovers.

Joy of Cooking says:
"This dish needs fairly constant watching for about 20 minutes and must be served at once to prevent gumminess." (Agree with watching, disagree about texture—or maybe I just enjoy a gummy dish.)

From here on I will adapt the recipe with all my errors; each error could also be interpreted as laziness, so follow my directions for a simpler risotto.

Melt 1/4 cup butter in your risotto pot.
Brown 1 small minced onion in the butter.
Add 2 cups arborio rice and stir.
Add 8 cups of heated chicken stock and 1/2 a cup of warm white wine (heat this up first). If you only have one carton of chicken stock (or beef or veggie) then you can add water to make up the last.
(The recipe calls for adding the liquid gradually. I did not do that by accident. It was fine.)
Now you may add a pinch of saffron, fennel seed, or a sprig of thyme. We did none of those things because obviously I consulted this recipe after grocery shopping.)

Let the rice absorb the liquid until it looks like risotto (see above)—probably about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, flash-saute your asparagus, scapes, ramps, anything! I will give the credit to Julia for pre-heating our prosciutto. Stir these in. Just before serving, add 1 cup of parmesan cheese and also a heavy handful of chopped parsley.

Our apertif was sliced tomato with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and caper drizzle.

We also made an interesting chopped kohlrabi and raisin salad with our greens, in a basic dijon balsamic vinaigrette. I served those radishes on the side because they were too spicy for some guest's palates.

For dessert, Julia made a gluten-free poundcake using Bob's Red Mill Flour and this Land O Lakes recipe that I googled rapidly on my phone in the gluten-free section of the grocery store. I definitely do not recommend Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flour blend because it tastes of garbanzo beans, but it will do in a pinch. We also made whipped cream—without sugar because somebody may or many not have accidentally lost track and put extra sugar in the cake. Not pictured: whipped cream, because I had to eat the dessert immediately and this is a photo of my tea-time snack the following day.

To summer!

Monday, May 7, 2012


The New Pioneer Food Coop here in Iowa City serves a breakfast sandwich on a gluten-free English muffin. Did I want the cheese on it? Yes. Local egg. Bacon.

This is some early morning realness right here. Chewy, dense, hangover-curing realness.

It sustained me all day long at the What Cheer Flea Market, where the options were slim.

Fortunately the pickles and onions were free. I'm not proud of that photo but it is what it is.

The Great Mysteries of Life

Gluten-free gnocchi!

Here's the thing. I just realized I've never had gnocchi. So I can't tell if it was good or not. Did I undercook it? Overcook it? Was it the gluten-freeness of it all? Squishy little balls. Squishy, squishy little balls. I mean...

How do you make gnocchi? How should it taste? How should it feel?

(My sauce was good, I know THAT much. Italian sausage, capers, spinach and red pepper flakes in plain tomato sauce.)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

An Early Summer Dinner

My first free-time instinct is to make a salad and then my second instinct is to document it! Maybe gluten-free blogging can make a summer comeback.

I know Campari is making a summer comeback...

...and you can tell summer is on its way because all the produce is just sweeter. The fennel smelled amazing as I tried to figure out how to cut it into slivers. Irregular is beautiful, too!

No, that's not raw beef—it's anchovies! I had a sudden craving for this particular salad at the amazing Brooklyn restaurant Bocca Lupo—anchovy, carrot, fennel and golden raisin. My variation omitted raisin and added capers and oranges. And endive. Recipe below!

For our main course we had French lentils (well, green lentils in a French style) with buttered mushrooms and a soft-boiled egg (served in a small glass for crack-your-own efficiency)

I took mine into the light for a better shot—and to grab the salt & pepper from the kitchen.

I remembered to take one shot of the last remaining bite of carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting. Served with an iced glass of plum wine.


It's nice to have a small group so if I drag the table into the living room we can all sit. We even had a little coffee with dessert. Overall, it was a very sophisticated evening.


Campari - Orange
Mix Campari with fresh-squeezed orange juice and soda water (or champagne!) and serve over ice.

Fennel Orange Salad with Anchovy Dressing

For the salad:
1 head of sliced fennel
2- 3 large carrots, shaved (use the carrot peeler to create long, linguini-like strands)
3-4 large oranges, sectioned
2 small endives (I just put the whole leaves on the plate so you could use them as a scoop, if you wanted)
Handful of chopped parsley
1-2 tablespoons of capers

For the dressing:
This was wildly experimental so the amounts are very flexible. 
2 small jars of anchovies in oil (or one tin)
Olive oil - 1/4 cup or less, to cover the salad
Heavy splash red wine vinegar
The juice of 1 lemon
Splash of orange juice
Splash of champagne
Splash of Campari
(I mean -- they were right there!)
Splash fish sauce (use sparingly and taste as you go)
Splash soy sauce
Splash of vinegar from the jar of capers
(This is quickly devolving into a witch's brew)
A few heavy shakes of garlic powder (better would be diced shallots - but whatever)
salt and pepper to taste.

This could easily benefit from white wine instead of champagne; grapefruit instead of oranges; sautéed shallots in place of garlic powder, rice wine vinegar instead of red wine vinegar--GO WILD. The most important ingredient, to emphasize the anchovy, is the fish sauce. The end result was something quite light and summery, rather than pungent.

French Lentils with Buttered Mushrooms & Soft-Boiled Egg

Rinse 2 cups green lentils in cold water. Simmer them in a large pot for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, sauté half a chopped onion in olive oil in a large pan.
As the onion browns, add about 20 or so chopped white mushrooms.
Add 1/4 stick of butter to the mushrooms and stir.
When the lentils are done, strain and add them to the pan.
To this mixture, add:
heavy pour of balsamic vinegar
fistful of oregano
minimal sprinkle of brown sugar
simmer for 20 more minutes, adding oil if needed.
While they are simmering, fill a pot with water—I used the lentil pot again - no need to clean it.
Add eggs, 1 per person.

Bring pot to a boil and let boil for 2-3 minutes, depending on how runny you like your eggs (a true hard-boiled egg is more like 7 minutes, but 2-3 will get you a cooked egg with a little yolk drip. This is the recommended course of action.) If you're truly savvy, you should poach the eggs. I wanted all the eggs done at the same time so I just soft-boiled.

When the eggs are done, and before your lentils dry up, peel and serve the egg atop the lentils - with salt and pepper. I made my guests crack their own eggs. Warning: rinse eggs in cold water before serving to guests or guests will squeal with pain.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I used a mix for the carrot cake. Cream cheese frosting is approximately
equal parts:
Powdered Sugar and
Cream Cheese
with a splash of vanilla extract & lemon juice.

If you're like me and thought you had powdered sugar in your cupboard but did not, you can make powdered sugar in your coffee grinder by putting regular sugar in it with a little corn starch.

Warning: clean your coffee grinder first (unless you want coffee-flavored frosting) by grinding a handful of rice first. That soaks up any coffee bean remnant. Blow the rice dust out of the grinder, carefully, over the sink.

Just the thing...

It seems my food choices are color-coded with my reading. I'm nearly done with the semester—no more memoirs to read, so I've thrown myself whole-heartedly into some fiction, some bite-sized chocolate chip cookies, and some beer. It's a great combination.