Archive for November, 2009

Cream of Celery Soup

    When you clean out your email messages you need to be careful that you do not delete something you meant to save! Rita and I often communicate by email because of our varying time zones and activity schedules. I found notes that we exchanged months ago about this quick, hot soup when she was in the middle of one of her very limited diets.
   This soup is tasty, fast, nourishing, and warm for those days when you are looking for comfort food without a heavy load of carbohydrates to drag you down. OK, Mom note here: it is fast if you have a ready supply of diced, boiled celery in the fridge (Mom has that Celery Obsession). Otherwise there is some preparation of the celery.

Boiled Celery
The coarse outer ribs and dark green leaves from a stalk of celery, chopped as fine as you prefer
1/2 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

Simmer the ingredients together in a saucepan over medium-low heat until the celery is tender. Tough celery may take a while. Store in the fridge until you need it for Lentil Patties, Rice and Beans Casserole or this soup.

Cream of Celery Soup
1 heaping cup chopped boiled celery including some liquid
garlic powder, chili powder, and sea salt – a sprinkle of each
1/4 cup coconut milk

Mix the ingredients in a glass or ceramic bowl and heat in the microwave if you want it hot. It could also be served cold for a summer pick-me-up or with a salad for lunch. Adjust the seasonings to your taste.

Mom

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My Favorite Can Opener

   For the first time ever (that I can remember) this Thanksgiving will not be held with members of my own family. I don’t feel bad about this only because I have already had two fun-filled weekends this month with my wonderful family.
   The first weekend of November featured my children and their family members that could be here. The second weekend was a gathering with my siblings and their spouses and three nieces in Norman, Oklahoma. It was everything that you can imagine from such a diverse group 🙂 .
   So the only baking this week is a fresh batch of Don’s ‘golf food’ which is definitely not on the gluten-free list. When he first started playing golf he bought crackers and snacks out of the vending machines at the pro shop. In search of better options I began playing around with recipes that he liked and eventually a favorite spice cake morphed into even spicier raisin-filled muffins. His golfing buddies profess golf-food envy but he never shares.
   So with no cooking to be done I decided to write about my love of simple kitchen tools – those go-to, every-day, run-of-the-mill implements, simple in design but yet you-get-a-little-crazy if you can’t find it when you need it. Even though I am contemplating the purchase of a very modest food processor I have a special feeling for hand tools – no electricity or batteries required. They work when all else fails.
   Perhaps this preference came about from working in the kitchen with my paternal grandmother who raised her own chickens and vegetables, canned her own produce, and baked her own bread. Or maybe it was that five-days-iced-in-without-power, trees exploding in the yard with only the telephone, fireplace, and propane-camp-stove-on-the-dining-table experience when we lived in the country.
   My favorite can opener is called a ‘lid lifter’ because the lid does not fall into your food. The cutter part is quirky only because you might be accustomed to the type that produces sharp edges. Once you get the hang of how to set the tool on the can you simply turn the handle and the lid-lifter separates the seam on the side where the lid and can come together. No sharp edges and no lid in the can! If the lid is stuck (some kind of can glue) there is a tiny grabber that will lift the lid right off!!

My Favorite Can Opener – Kuhn Rikon Slim Safety LidLifter

 

View of Lid Edge and LidLifter

   No more worries over washing the can tops or keeping bandages in the drawer for can opener mishaps. And still Don prefers and uses only the electric can opener – men and their power tool fetish extends even to the kitchen.  Just wait until we have a power failure!

Mom

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Pumpkin Pudding

   My nutrition professor often emphasized that very small children should eat simple nourishing foods and that they do not have the capacity for concentrated sweets and high calorie fatty foods simply because their total daily calorie needs are so small. The concentrated foods displace the necessary foods that children need for optimal growth and health. When Rita was small and as her siblings joined us those were the tenants of meal planning that I followed for our family.
   We moved quite often when they were young due to the nature of employment and shelf stable foods became important. During this time I created a simple nourishing pudding recipe from canned pumpkin, evaporated milk, plain gelatin, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. It became quite popular with many family members and it was included in the family recipe book that was published in 1993.
   Every year during this holiday season it has been a tradition to make a batch of pumpkin pudding for my younger brother. He has a family of his own now so I make a double batch that is enough for them to share. So in preparation for my sibling reunion this past weekend I made pudding for Jon. Here is the recipe in all its gluten-free glory.        

Pumpkin Pudding

2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon (1 packet) plain gelatin *

1 15-16 ounce can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup brown sugar *
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup evaporated milk *

Fair warning: Gelatin is tricky so go slowly and follow these steps in the order written.

1. Put the water in the bottom of a 1-quart saucepan. Sprinkle the dry gelatin granules over the water and try to distribute so that there are no dry patches remaining. Give it 2-3 minutes to ‘soften’.
2. Turn the heat on low to medium-low and gently melt the mixture until it looks like clear glue. Stay with it here – gelatin plus too much heat rapidly deteriorates.
3. Stir the pumpkin puree into the gelatin mixing it thoroughly and keeping the heat low. Stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon and keep stirring. (Don’t forget the cinnamon – if you add it with the milk it will lump and not mix properly 😉 ).
4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the vanilla. Gradually add the evaporated milk stirring to mix well.
5. Pour into a serving bowl. Chill until firm and cover after it sets up (it sweats and drips onto the pudding if you cover it first).

* Knox is the brand of gelatin and I much prefer Carnation evaporated milk (my personal taste). It tastes wonderful made with coconut milk as well (the full fat version, not lite) For the sugar you need to consider your audience. Small taste buds may not care yet for brown sugar whereas adults like the dark brown. The middle-of-the- road light brown sugar is a good choice when you are not sure. We have also made sugar-free on occasions with various substitutes.

Mom

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Sugar Is Sweet

   This morning while preparing multiple batches of baked goods (some to freeze for myself, some to share, and some for a fund raiser) I was musing over the nature of gluten-free ingredients and how often I end up substituting ingredients. For the most part these substitutions are successful as it can be a financial as well as a culinary disaster to ruin a batch because of the expense of some gluten-free ingredients.
   Sugar used to be the least expensive baking ingredient until I started paying attention to the quality of ingredients including the sweetener(s). Sweeteners is plural now because of recipes calling for evaporated cane juice, agave syrup, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses and several others. These all have a different intensity of sweet as well as background flavor (and price).
   The flavor of brown sugar really speaks to my taste buds. So much so that many years ago I started using Myer’s Dark Rum as a flavoring agent to increase the intensity of that brown sugar flavor. My current bottle has been in the pantry for probably 15-20 years because it lasts that long using a teaspoon or tablespoon at a time. I think of it as a brown sugar extract in the same way that vanilla extract is a flavoring agent.
   Another way to intensify that deep brown sugar flavor is to substitute some Steen’s 100% Pure Cane Syrup for some of the other syrup in the recipe. Molasses is an even darker option but somehow it has a different quality that doesn’t quite make the same impression as the somewhat lighter Steen’s.
    And what is a discussion about sweets without talking about glycemic index? This is a topic of interest because of recipes that I sometimes prepare while keeping in mind people who are diabetic or sugar sensitive. For information on glycemic index as well as other nutrition data I often reference NutritionData.com. This reference possibly provides more information than you care about but one of the more recent, and interesting to me, is a value that is labeled Inflammation Factor or IF. When I have the time to build a recipe profile IF is one of my spreadsheet columns.

Mom

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November Weekend in Texas

   Rita arrived late Thursday and returns home to Virginia tomorrow (Monday). Other family members arrived and the fun really began. I played badminton with Ryan, the 14-year-old granddaughter. The last time I played badminton I was pregnant with her Mother. One of our birds ended up in the roof gutter and another in a tree – Don retrieved them both with the gadget normally reserved for fishing golf balls out of water hazards . . . . can you imagine how sore my legs are today?
   We ate very well and often. There was a birthday cake made from a gluten-free Betty Crocker cake mix. In between we had Glutino Sesame Ring Pretzels and Mary’s Gone Crackers Sticks & Twigs. It has been an overwhelming pear season and fresh picked fruit is such a wonderful luxury. Rita tried and approved the Montchevre Goat Milk Cheddar that I had discovered a few months ago. We had some of our own Lentil Patties. There were some of Ricki’s amazing Oatbran Banana Muffins from her Sweet Freedom cookbook that we warmed up for breakfast and slathered with almond butter.
   Rita met the Sit N’ Stitch group that is so wonderful about taste-testing and providing feedback on our new recipes. We tried out our Pear-Plum-Date Catsup as a base for barbeque sauce in the Crockpot with some Italian sausage. It needs more work – not really bad but could be a lot better.
   Next weekend I plan to bring my siblings into the taste-test fold. Sister Amanda has already sampled the Oatbran-Banana Muffin and is anticipating more goodies. There may even be a Harry Potter theme introduced – this could get really interesting!

Mom & Rita

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Sprouts Farmers Market

   Here in Central Texas there is a new gluten-free grocery source nearby in Round Rock. Not that I have complaints about the grocery stores that are closer and that I depend on for basic supplies – they have significant healthy new offerings quite often and I am very appreciative.
   What has me excited about Sprouts is such a simple thing – prominent large-print shelf labels. You can stand at the end of an aisle and see the ‘GLUTEN FREE’ up and down the shelves. Then you can double check the ingredients for other ingredients. The great benefit is that you don’t waste time reading labels of products that are not gluten free – you can focus on exactly what you need!

Mom

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Thai Kitchen Soups

   Cooler weather sends me looking for soothing ways to warm up quickly. Ramen noodles and other instant soups have always offered a way to quiet that little hunger pang when you don’t have time for anything else. What do you do when you go gluten-free? Much to my delight I discovered that the saifun noodles* that I always loved were made from mung bean starch and already gluten-free. And one day while I was shopping in the Asian food isle for saifun noodles another package labeled ‘gluten-free’ caught my eye. It was Thai Kitchen Instant Rice Noodle Soups and all of the flavors are gluten-free!

   Warning: the oil seasoning packet includes red chili pepper. If you have an asbestos tongue then forge ahead, all others proceed with caution. Also, be sure to check the allergy information if you have soybean issues.

    Thai Kitchen Allergy Information is conveniently online so that you can make your selections before writing up your shopping list. It certainly can aggravate your shopping companion if you constantly stop to squint at the fine print on every label!

   This company also makes Thai Kitchen Heat and Serve Soups and it was the Coconut Ginger soup that caught my eye. If you are not familiar with this soup it is best you proceed with extra caution. Rich and creamy in appearance it looks delicious. This is another one of those products for people who really love the hot stuff – my eyes were watering and tongue was on fire. Hidden in that creamy broth was one of those peppers that look like the horn from a devil’s costume.

Thai Kitchen Coconut Ginger Soup!

Thai Kitchen Coconut Ginger Soup!

Even with all of the heat I could still taste a bit of sweet and the kefir lime. It was complex and intriguing, so go for it if this is your gluten-free taste runs in this direction!

Mom

*Saifun; also known as bean threads, glass noodles, mung bean noodles, cellophane noodles

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