Eggah

Good evening!  Today, I want to share my second fennel recipe!   This recipe utilizes the fennel bulb, which is the most commonly eaten portion of the plant.  The entire fennel plant is edible, however, as the stalks are often used to prepare soup or stock and the leaves are sometimes used in spreads or dips.  Supposedly, the bitter, celery-like stalks can grow up to 5 feet tall!  The one I bought wasn’t nearly as tall but was still bigger than I expected!  The raw fennel bulb,at the base of the plant, has an aroma similar to licorice but cooking seemed to subdue the flavor quite a bit and left it tasting very mild (not nearly as pungent as onion).

I used the fennel bulb to provide flavor and texture to eggah, a Middle Eastern dish that is similar to quiche but without a crust.  I don’t like eggs and really don’t know why I decided to make this particular dish when the fennel bulb is so versatile and can be used for so many different things.

The entire fennel plant. This one was NOT 5 feet tall!

Ingredients for an 8-inch diameter eggah:

4 whole eggs

1 fennel bulb

1/2 a large zucchini

1 cup spinach (I used frozen)

olive oil (to saute vegetables)

1 Tbs butter

spices to taste (I used salt, garlic powder, chili powder, and freshly ground pepper)

Directions:

1.  Cut the fennel stalk away from the bulb and peel off the outermost layer of the bulb.  Cut the remainder of the bulb into pieces as you would an onion.

2.  Saute the fennel bulb in olive oil (add spices while the fennel is cooking) until it becomes more translucent and soft.

3.  Add diced zucchini and spinach and saute until cooked.  Add more olive oil as needed.

4.  Beat 4 eggs in a large bowl.  Add more spices to the beaten eggs.

5.  Melt butter and pour into a 8″ round baking pan to coat the bottom and edges.

6.  Add the sauteed veggies to the beaten eggs.  Stir gently and pour into the baking pan.

7.  Cover with foil and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.

8.  Remove foil and bake for another 15-30 minutes (until eggs are as cooked as you want them to be).

Cooked eggah

The taste of this dish was pretty great and I liked having the crunchy texture of the sauteed fennel bulb, but I’m still not too keen on eggs! I was going to layer sliced sweet potatoes in the eggah for something different (I think having a different color in there would have made it appear nicer too!) but decided at the last minute to make sweet potato fries as a side dish instead!   This dish was really simple to make and you can incorporate as few or as many ingredients as you like!  Will I make this dish again?  Probably not.  Will I use fennel bulb again in other dishes?  Definitely.  This was a fun week of trying a new ingredient and I can’t wait to share with you next week’s special ingredient!

Delicious dinner (I still don't like eggs)!

Happy eating!

-c

(Non) Wheat Thins

Hello!

The fennel challenge has begun!  I have already decided on two dishes to prepare and have completed and tasted the first one already!  The fennel-containing dish that I made today seemed to be the safer choice of the two.  I decided to use fennel seed for this dish.  The seed can be found in the spice section of pretty much any grocery store.  I tasted a few raw seeds and the flavor seemed very familiar to me.  The flavors reminded me in some ways of Italian food and, in other ways, Indian food.  A quick internet search confirmed this, as fennel seed is commonly used in both styles of food.  The seed can be eaten raw or sauteed in olive oil so that the flavors of the seed infuse the oil.

I chose to use the whole, raw seed to flavor some homemade gluten-free crackers.  I have never made crackers before and needed a general idea of how to make this work.  I based my cracker recipe off of one that I found through the Serious Eats community (http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/12/gluten-free-tuesday-easy-homemade-crackers.html).  I used almond flour (that I made myself) instead of sorghum flour because I didn’t feel like buying ANOTHER gluten-free flour and I have tons of almonds laying around.  To make the almond flour, I used raw almonds and processed them until they became almost powdery.  You don’t want to process them too long or they will start releasing their oils and then you will have almond butter (delicious, but not what you want here).

Ingredients:

3/4 cup almond flour (made with raw, unflavored almonds)

3/4 cup brown rice flour (Bob’s Red Mill)

1 Tbs granulated sugar

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder (Clabber Girl)

1 tsp whole fennel seeds

1/2 tsp basil

1/2 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp thyme

freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 Tbs butter (Land O’ Lakes, salted)

6 Tbs cold water

1.  Put all solid ingredients into a food processor (or you could probably just use a large bowl and mix everything with a hand mixer) and pulse for several seconds to mix.

Dry ingredients

2.  Cut up butter into small pieces (I did roughly 1/2″ cubes).

3.  Add butter to solid ingredients and pulse until the butter seems to have broken up and dispersed.

4.  Add water and process until mixture becomes dough-like (this shouldn’t take long).

5.  Pour dough onto a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper and spread as best you can (mine was very sticky).

6.  Sprinkle with one of your flours (I used the brown rice flour because it was much finer than the almond flour).

7.  Place another piece of parchment paper over the dough and roll until thin and smooth. If you’re like me and don’t own a rolling pin, just use any canned good you happen to have.

8.  Remove top sheet of parchment paper and cut dough into whatever shape you like with a knife or pizza cutter.

9.  Poke holes in dough with a fork (I’m guessing this helps to get heat inside of your crackers for more even cooking).

10.  Place in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven and remove once crackers are golden brown and crispy.

Starting to brown!

11.  Let cool on pan.

These crackers were incredibly flavorful and I could definitely taste the fennel seed!  They were buttery and dissolved in my mouth!  I ate this topped with some sharp cheddar cheese.  A perfect afternoon snack!  My only complaint was that they did not hold together very well, so these probably wouldn’t be the best crackers for throwing in a ziploc bag and carrying around with you.  I will definitely be making these again and also plan to use some of my leftover fennel seed in my next batch of homemade marinara sauce!

Delicious!

My next fennel-containing dish will use the fennel bulb!

Happy eating!

-c

Cornbread Muffins=NOM!

Hello everyone!  First off, let me warn you that this post is not about my fennel challenge.  I’m working on that, I promise.  In the meantime, I wanted to share an amazingly easy yet delicious recipe for gluten-free cornbread that I have made several times over the past few months.

First off, I want to clarify some common misconceptions about gluten-free eating/living.

1.  Gluten is everywhere.  It is naturally found in wheat, barley, and rye but is used in many other foods, household products, makeup, etc.  Shopping feels like a scavenger hunt.  Often times I get sick and can’t even figure out what it is that got me.  Some products labeled “gluten-free” give me severe symptoms and this is quite common among people with celiac disease.  Don’t assume that as long as we don’t eat bread or pasta, we will be fine.  Please don’t be offended when we won’t eat your cooking (even if you swear it is gluten-free) and please don’t act like we are being overly-dramatic (because we’re not).  Being sick is just not worth it.

2.  Gluten-free menus at restaurants are not safe.   Gluten proteins can stick to any porous surface and be a source of contamination, regardless of how many times that utensil has been washed.  After diagnosis, celiacs are encouraged to replace many cooking utensils, specifically cutting boards, serated knives, strainers, and any pots and pans that could contain scratches.  It’s nice that people are becoming more aware but, unfortunately, these people are also grossly misinformed.

All of my recipes on this blog and others’ recipes that I share will be gluten-free or adapted to be made gluten-free.  I will let you know what brands of products I use, but remember that not all celiacs are the same and just because I don’t react to something, doesn’t mean that you won’t either.  Also, there may be brands of products that give me symptoms that you may tolerate just fine.

A few months ago, after about 6 months of gluten-free eating, I was really craving some sort of bread.  Bread baking, especially gluten-free bread baking, terrifies me though and there are so many types of gluten-free flours on the market now.  I found a cornbread recipe that only uses one type of gluten-free flour (most baking requires combinations of all sorts of expensive and unfamiliar flours).  I thought that this could be my first attempt at gluten-free baking.  Luckily, this recipe worked out perfectly the first time and I have gone back to it many times since!  I found this recipes from Gluten Free Mommy (http://glutenfreemommy.com/gluten-free-cornbread/) and slightly adapted it to what I had on hand.

Ingredients for one 9-inch diameter pan or 10-12 normal-sized muffins:

1 cup rice flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Organic Whole Grain Brown Rice Flour)

3/4 cup cornmeal (I used Hodgson Mill Old Fashioned Yellow Cornmeal)

2-3 Tbs sugar (I used 2 Tbs because I like to eat my cornbread with some honey!)

2.5 tsp baking powder (I used Clabber Girl brand)

3/4 tsp salt

2 beaten eggs

1 cup milk

1/4 cup melted butter (Land O’ Lakes, salted)

1.  Mix dry ingredients (rice flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt) in a large bowl.

2.  Beat eggs in a separate bowl and add milk.  Mix.  Melt butter and add to egg/milk mixture.  Mix again.

3.  Pour egg/milk/butter mixture into bowl with dry ingredients.

4.  Stir until all dry ingredients are completely moistened.

5.  Transfer to a pan either coated with butter or sprayed with cooking spray or oil (I used my Misto to coat with extra virgin olive oil).  Don’t fill the pan too full or you will have a mess when the cornbread rises slightly.

6.  Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Depending on oven and pan size, these could take anywhere from 15-30 minutes.  Once tops are slightly browned and a fork comes out clean, they are done.

These are best eaten warm out of the oven with some honey!  For a little kick, add a diced, raw jalapeno to the batter before cooking.  I enjoyed these tonight with some leftover vegetarian chili!

Happy eating!

-c

Welcome!

Welcome to my first post of my first blog!  I decided to start this blog as a way to be more creative in the kitchen!  I love cooking but I admit that I am prone to cooking the same meals over and over again.   Several things have led to my decision to start this blog:

1.  I love watching Chopped on the Food Network!  I think the idea of having to create a dish using several random ingredients that don’t initially seem to complement each other is inspiring!  At least one ingredient during every episode leaves me saying “Huh?!?…what on earth is that?”  or “How the heck do you cook that?  I don’t even know what portion is edible!”.

2.  I was talking to some coworkers this week and we were talking about vegetables that we like to eat.  I realized that there are so many common vegetables that I have never even tried (collard greens, chard, parsnips, etc….)!

3.  I love to eat!  Because I have celiac disease, I cook all of my own food to avoid getting sick.  I have lost weight and feel healthier overall since I cook so much, but sometimes I miss trying exotic dishes out at restaurants!  If I can be more creative in my kitchen at home, I won’t feel so bored with my eats!

My plan is to pick an ingredient every week.  It could be a vegetable, a spice, anything!  It may be something that most people eat regularly but that I have never tried, or it could be something that most people haven’t even heard of.  I will be sticking to my own dietary guidelines (gluten-free) and preferences (vegetarian), but will try to incorporate flavors and styles of cooking that I am unfamiliar with.  For each ingredient, I will do some research to determine a common dish utilizing the ingredient.  I will also come up with my own recipe that uses the ingredient.  I’ll post both recipes with pictures and my opinions of each.  I promise to be honest.  If it looks like vomit, you will see pictures of it in all of its glory.  If it tastes like crap and I pour it in the trash, I’ll let you know.  I am hoping that at least some of these dishes will be amazing though!  My first challenge ingredient is fennel.  I have heard of fennel but honestly have no clue what it is.  I did a quick Google image search to make sure that I will be able to find it at the grocery store.  I’m going grocery shopping tomorrow so come back to hear all about some wonderful(?) dishes featuring fennel!

Happy eating!

-c