Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rice and Beans, Inspired by Gallo Pinto

About a year ago, my beautiful and talented friend J. convinced me that going to Costa Rica would be a great way to celebrate my graduation.  Boy was she right! I loved every minute of the trip in spite of the 6.8 magnitude earthquake, tropical storm and spending 3 days without electricity or running water. 
I loved everything about my trip to Costa Rica. The people are amazing.  They are friendly and outgoing and love to share the CR culture.  The climate is my favorite (hot and humid) and the food.  Oh, the food!  It was out of this world.  Fresh fruit, veggies, and fish right out of the ocean were served at every meal.  There was a great variety of food, however at nearly every meal Gallo Pinto, the Costa Rica version of rice and beans, was served.  Thinking of Costa Rica and dreaming of going back inspired me to make my own rice and beans dish.  Although it is no where near authentic (next time I go to CR I'll get someone to teach me), I do use the popular Costa Rican sauce "Salsa Lizano".  If you are in the area and would like to try some I have a huge bottle and would be happy to provide you with an aliquot!  [aliquot is an awesome science word that I am trying to get to go "mainstream"] 

K's Rice and Beans
inspired by Costa Rican gallo pinto

For more GF-recipe ideas visit: especially on Wednesdays for lots of good ideas!  

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Gallo Pinto
A recipe for my take on rice and beans, inspired by Gallo Pinto from Costa Rica
  • 1C Rice (Brown or White), cooked
  • 1C Black Beans, cooked
  • 1/2C Cooking liquid from beans (or can)
  • 1 medium Onion, diced
  • 1 Hot pepper, minced
  • 1 Bell Pepper, diced
  • 1 Zucchini, diced
  • 3T Salsa Lizano (or Worchestershire)
  • 1T Hot Sauce
  • Salt and Pepper
1.) Saute veggies in a small amount of oil or butter (I used vegan butter) over medium heat until veggies begin to soften and caramelize, about 10 minutes.

2.) Add rice, beans with liquid, Salsa Lizano, and hot sauce. Continue to saute until heated through and thoroughly mixed, about 5 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
Serve with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime. This dish was often paired with fried eggs, plantains, or grilled veggies in CR.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 Servings

Friday, April 22, 2011

Amazing Chocolate Cake--Gluten Free

Often when younger and still occasionally to this day, people would suggest careers that I should consider "when I grow up".  In order of most suggested to least suggested these careers have included:
Medical Doctor
Professional Dominatrix(!?!)
English Professor (!?!?!?!!)
(I really have no clue why those last two were suggested).

Anyways, the point being that when people have suggested I become a professional baker it has always been in response to this recipe.  I guess that means maybe I shouldn't give away the recipe!?  Oh well. :-)

I originally came up with this recipe so that I could make something for my mother (who is gluten intolerant), however, it was so well received I have made it on numerous occasions for many different types of crowds.

This particular time I made it for my Labmate Jodie's birthday.  Jodie likes spicy food and had just gotten back from a trip Ireland, so I changed the recipe a bit to reflect that. Sadly, I don't have pictures of this particular was eaten too fast! (I found one picture on a labmates phone from before it was taken out of the pan!)

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake
adapted from epicurious

1C Water
3/4C Sugar
9tbs Unsalted Butter
12oz Semisweet Chocolate (or Chips), not the cheapest variety
6oz Bittersweet Chocolate (or Chips)
6 Eggs
1tsp Vanilla
2tbs Irish Whiskey
1/4tsp Cayenne Pepper

1C Heavy Cream
8oz Semisweet (or Bittersweet) Chocolate
1tbs Irish Whiskey
1/2tsp Cayenne (or less for spice averse)

1. Preheat Oven to 350F and butter a 9-10" springform pan.
2. Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Once thoroughly dissolved remove from heat and let sit while preparing the rest of the cake. 
3.  Melt butter and 12oz semisweet + 6 oz bittersweet chocolate in a large saucepan over medium heat.
4.  Using a whisk mix chocolate until smooth, the add sugar syrup, again whisking till smooth.  Add eggs one at a time, whisking in between. Finally, add vanilla, 2tbs Irish Whiskey and 1/4 tsp cayenne. 
5. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes.  Cool fully before topping with ganache.
6. For ganache, bring heavy cream to a boil and add remaining chocolate to melt. Once smooth, add 1tbs Irish Whiskey and 1/4 tsp cayenne.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5-10 minutes, then pour over chilled cake.  Chill assembled cake until set.  (It is better the next day!)


PS.  for those looking for a healthier cake I recently made this vegan apple pancake. It was awesome! Light, fluffy and rich tasting and SUPER good for you. I even preferred it over the chocolate cake. :-)

PPS.  I want to be a college professor when I grow up. ;-)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Method: Roasting Vegetables

I wanted to start this blog for a variety of reasons. First, I love to share inspiration and recipes with friends and family.  I am notoriously bad at actually sending recipes when asked for them, so this seemed like a logical step... a bit of accountability, if you will. :-)  Second, I hope to find inspiration from others who love and write about food.  Finally, I hope that some of my healthier eating tricks discovered over the years are helpful to my friends who would also like to eat healthier. Hence the inspiration for this post!

I have the best intentions with food. I would love to make healthy, sustainable, delicious food EVERY night.  Unfortunately I can also be very lazy!  I often don't want to spend lots of hours after work making a gourmet meal.  BUT, I also don't like eating out every night. So, I've tried to come up with some methods for healthy and easy meals I can use on "lazy" nights.  One of the tricks I have started to use really often is roasting vegetables.  It seems very simple and obvious, but it was a revelation to me when I realized I could spend 5 minutes chopping veggies, a couple minutes boiling pasta and still have a delicious healthy meal in the end.

Roasting vegetables has quickly turned into one of my favorite ways to cook them--even when I have time! They make a quick and easy vegan meal by tossing the roasted veggies with pasta or quickly stir frying with cooked quinoa or rice. For instance, I recently made a really quick dinner by first chopping broccoli, bell peppers and fennel bulbs, then tossing them with olive oil, salt and cayenne pepper.
Then, I roasted them at 425F for 30 minutes on a cookie sheet.  The roasting gives vegetables a nice caramelized flavor with a bit of crispiness on the edges, while at the same time mellowing out some of the bitter notes that many veggie haters dislike.

 To finish the meal, I simply tossed the veggies with cooked whole wheat pasta, a bit of the pasta water and some olive oil. Easy to fit into my after work schedule and eaten happily, even by the meat eaters!

Some helpful links!
1 green generation : basic veggie roasting tutorial.
The Amateur Gourmet : My absolute favorite broccoli recipe ever.  I have eaten a giant plate of these babies for an entire meal.
carnivorous/cruciferous: Spicy garlic kale chips : Think you hate kale?  Or Spinach? Try.  Try try try.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Beer Bread!

This bread is so good that I no longer buy bread, ever.  It is also well-liked by all and one of my most requested recipes. If you love bread but have been afraid to try baking it at home, I urge you to give this recipe a try.

Commercial bread making ovens rely on steam injectors to develop a nice chewy crust.  This recipe manages to achieve the same result by trapping the steam from a somewhat wet dough by using a lidded dutch oven for baking.  The vinegar gives the bread a nice sour touch and the flavor of the bread is greatly influenced by the flavor of the beer used.  I find that a wheat beer or stout give the best flavor.  In this case I used a very hoppy beer that was given to me by a super awesome lab-mate.  The bread tasted really, really hoppy.  I personally loved this flavor, but it might surprise someone expecting a "normal" bread flavor.  If you are not a big fan of beer, a Guinness or a Heff will give awesome flavor without seeming "beer-y".   

Beer Bread. 
Adapted from Nine Bean-rows.

3 Cups Bread Flour (the highest rated on cooks illustrated is King Arthur)
1 Packet Dry Yeast (I used active dry)
1 tbs Salt
2/3 Cup Warm Water
2/3 Cup Beer
1Tbs vinegar (white, white wine, apple cider, or rice)

1. Mix together dry ingredients, either in a stand mixer or with a whisk.  Add the warm water to the beer and sprinkle over the dry ingredients.  Add the vinegar and mix (with the bread hook or a wooden spoon) until combined. 
2. Place combined dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise 12-24 hrs.  It should rise in a place that is average to warm room temp (65+).  Because it is so cold in my condo that includes turning on the space heater, hopefully this isn't true for you!  It should look airy and slightly wet after rising and should be at least double in size.
3. Lightly flour a piece of parchment paper (not waxed paper, tried that once, no go) and knead the bread around on it until it is easy to shape into a ball.  You may need to add additional flour.  All together this should not take more than a minute or two.  Once shaped into a ball let the bread rise (in a bowl, on the parchment paper) for an additional 2 hours until doubled in size.  This time it should resemble an uncooked loaf.
4. Pre-heat oven to 500F with your cooking pan inside.  This should either be a dutch oven or a large heavy pot that has a lid.  After 30 minutes reduce oven temperature to 425F and add bread (on parchment paper) directly to the pot.  Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes.

5.  Remove the lid and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes until the crust is nice and brown.

If you enjoy the bread there is an entire movement based on this strategy of bread making.  I urge you to try other recipes and let me know how they are!!  There is even a cookbook.  A cookbook that I would love, by the way ;-) ;-)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Barley Vegetable Stew

I am not a vegan. I am not even a vegetarian. (Although I am working hard towards becoming vegan!). Recipes like this healthy vegan stew are certainly helping. It is hearty, savory, and full of flavor while remaining vegan, low in fat, and chock full of veggies.  I really enjoy the challenge of cooking healthy food that people love without resorting to my go-to delicious-making ingredients of bacon, cheese....Italian sausage....(the list goes on).

Oh, did I mention the stew is also incredibly easy to prepare? If you can chop vegetables you have all the skills you need.  No good at chopping veggies?  That's probably OK too, just call the stew "rustic". ;-) ;-)

Pros: Fast, Easy, REALLY GOOD, Healthy
Cons: meat?  (Says Mr. C)
Active Time: 10-15 minutes (how fast can you chop?)
Ready in: 45 minutes
Served: 2x people 2x meals. (4 big servings)

Vegan Barley Vegetable Stew

Olive oil (to coat pan)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 baby carrots (or 2 small carrots), diced
1 leek, white and light green parts only, chopped
6-8 fingerling potatoes (or 1-2 Yukon golds, or red skinned potatoes), diced
.5lbs firm white mushrooms, diced
1tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup pearl barley
1 (15oz) can of tomato sauce (low sodium preferred)
6-8 cups of broth or water depending on how thick you prefer your stew.  8c would be more "soup" like. (I used 6c of water + 1 TBS of "no-chicken" better than bouillon)
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste.

Add-ins: For vegans: fresh basil, parsley or thyme.  For vegetarians: a Parmesan rind added with the broth, or grated on top. For carnivores: slices of precooked chicken or pork sausage, added with water.  I didn't use any extras for this particular recipe.

1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Once shimmering add all of the chopped veggies and red pepper flakes. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are slightly caramelized and beginning to soften--about 5-10 minutes depending on the size of the pot and heat of the stove.

2. Add the barley and stir to coat until all of the barley are coated with the oil and shiny.

3. Add tomato sauce, stock, bay leaves and increase heat to high. Once boiling, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes (or until the barley is nice and tender).  Remove bay leaves and add salt and pepper to taste.


When making this recipe I simply used whatever veggies I had in my fridge at the time.  You can certainly adjust the vegetables to your taste, just keep the general quantity the same. The garlic, onions, and potatoes really add a lot to the dish, so I would keep those constant ;-).

Barley on FoodistaBarley
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