Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Cake with a Crust

Lets talk coconut flour for a moment. Many people opt for coconut flour because they are on a certain restrictive diet that prevents them from ingesting gluten. Fortunately, there is such a wide range of substitutions available, and easily attainable, it is getting easier and much more enjoyable for those of you seeking just such a change. But there is a downside of using any wheat substitution in desserts, and baking in particular. Dryness, reduced structural integrity and other substantive faults. That is why when using any gluten-free flours, you shouldn't use a complete replacement in many recipes, especially baked goods......until now!

I wanted to create a recipe, again, that used gluten-free flour in a cake but not diminish any negative aspects of a complete substitution, yet added SOMETHING to the overall taste. And I succeeded. Not only succeeded, but excelled. This cake would not be the same if I had used any other type of gluten-free flour because you can actually taste the coconut flavor in this flour. What is coconut flour?


nuts.com

Simply put, it is the last remnants of the coconut meat after the milk has been extracted from it. This is dried and ground to a fine powder that has almost supernatural absorption powers. Honestly, this stuff will soak in almost twice the amount of liquid than any other flour. There are pros and cons to this. The pro portion is that coconut flour makes a superb coating for fish or chicken when grilled or fried. The downside of using this flour is that many professional chefs and bakers double the amount of liquid in any given recipe it is used in, especially eggs. And the addition of extra eggs doesn't sit very well with many people, including yours truly.

I have found although, for example, if a cake recipe uses 2 eggs and any wheat flour, by substituting a 1/2-cup coconut flour, you don't need to add that extra egg. Use 1/4 cup buttermilk instead. This works out perfectly without adding even more cholesterol to your diet.

I have only given you the tip of the iceberg with regards to coconut flour. I highly suggest you take a peak here and find out more about this super versatile and ultra tasty flour. By the way, while you are there, take a looksy at their dried fruits and nuts. I placed my order this morning for some candied and dried goodies and I think once you spy the chocolate, you will be ordering to from nuts.com, New England's best and most informative website that indulges, yet cares. A perfect combination that defines us Yankees. Am I being compensated for this post? No! Am I touting yet another great New England company? Oh yeah! And by the way, all the links I have added are completely safe. Just a great way to say hi to a neighbor.


It's Just That Simple!™

 

 

Italian-Yankee Corn Cake
(And it's gluten-free!*)

This perfectly sweetened cake creates its own type of crust around the edges that crisp up as it cools, transforming it into a toss between a cake and a pie actually. It is recommended to slice it into segments before refrigerating, otherwise the caramelized crust will be next to impossible to cut. Classical Italian Corn Cake uses almond extract, but vanilla works equally as well if desired.



 
Nonstick cooking spray
Crisp Topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons coconut flour 1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups small dice apple
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
Juice from 1 lemon
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries

 

Grease a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Mix topping ingredients together until thoroughly combined; set aside. In a bowl, combine diced apple, orange juice and cinnamon; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a medium-sized bowl, blend cornmeal, coconut flour, sugar and baking powder until well blended. Stir in the milk, eggs, lemon juice and melted butter. It should be mixed just enough to wet all ingredients, leaving it somewhat lumpy. Fold in the raisins and transfer to prepared pan, leveling out the top. Evenly divide apple mixture, juice and all, on top of batter. Sprinkle topping mixture evenly over the apples and bake 36-38 minutes, or until the center of the cake is firm. Immediately remove from oven to cool slightly before serving hot, or cover and refrigerate to serve cold.

* But as I say with all gluten-free recipes and products, always ALAYS check the label.

 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

STOP ALREADY!!!

 
 
I have had it right up to about here(do you see where I am holding my hand?)with adding salt at every single turn in the kitchen. I guess it hit a peak when I saw Chef Ramsay get extremely upset with someone for NOT adding salt and pepper to a lobster roll. Not only is there absolutely no need to season Maine or East Coast lobster when making a lobster roll, but it simply doesn't belong!
Maybe Rock lobster needs seasoning so you can taste it, but certainly not ours in the Northeast.


Another pet peeve I have is almost all cake, pie and a myriad other sweet treats have you adding salt. Not only does it accomplish zero in the way of taste, in cakes for example, but it is not needed! Chefs worldwide will tell you that adding salt helps to bring out the taste of whatever flavor cake you are making, even plain vanilla. If you want a more pronounced vanilla taste, ADD MORE VANILLA PEOPLE!.

We consume far too much salt without even knowing it today and by overlooking added salt where it simply is not needed, helps us control our health. You may not think a half teaspoon salt added to a recipe would make all that much difference, but consider this. Our daily allowance of salt is bout a teaspoon a day. By NOT adding extra salt when we don't need it, we will STILL absorb our daily allowance in other foods, even in soft drinks, candy, chocolate................not to mention processed foods.

Now I can hear a lot of you hollering at me "Now Jim, you add salt to some fruited pies!" My answer is rather simple. There are some instances where salt is needed, but I dare say that over 90% of all my fruited desserts are salt free. If you can't enjoy what nature has to offer, without raising your blood pressure.......well, I don't know what else to say.

This whole salt issue actually started when I noticed another well known television chef salting all heck out of fish before he dunked it into a batter to fry for an English Fish and Chip. Chef Irvine then set the batter-fried fish on a plate and can you guess what he did next?

Yup, he salted it AGAIN!!! And this doesn't even include the salt that is in the fish batter. My goodness everyone............STOP ALREADY!

All you need to do and stop and think. Do you REALLY need that salt in the recipe? You will be surprised at how many times the answer will be NO.

 
It's Just That Simple!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Summer Sprouts

Yup. It's that time of year where we start thinking that we really shouldn't have had that extra slice of cake, that additional helping of lasagna or stuffed ourselves during the Holidays. But then again, it may have well been worth it. But for those of you who DO have that guilty conscience, this post is right up your alley.
For those of you who are lucky enough to have a high metabolism, try these recipes just because they are delicious, great for you and simply a great side to anything you have grilling this summer.

Summer Picnic 'Salad' 

A light meal that fits that "feel-good" category of recipes. And as for the Apple Vinaigrette? Let's just say this will be the last vinaigrette recipe you will make. Beautifully tart and reminiscent of that ol' Yankee charm, it is a keeper.



Apple Vinaigrette Dressing:

1/2 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
"Salad":
1(7-ounce)bag bean sprouts(4 cups)
1 teaspoon minced garlic in oil
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup whole kernel corn
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
1/4 cup diced water chestnuts

Begin by adding apple juice, water, vinegar, honey and lemon juice to the bowl of a food processor or blender. Pulse on high for 10 seconds and keep it running. Slowly add the olive oil to the dressing until all ingredients are emulsified well; set aside.
Get 1 quart of water boiling over high heat. Gently add the bean sprouts and boil, stirring once, for 2 minutes. Strain well and transfer to a bowl; let cool to room temperature. When ready to serve, toss with garlic, chili powder, corn, apple, water chestnuts and Apple Vinaigrette Dressing.

Enough for 4 servings



Sautéed, Saucy Sprouts
 

This is one recipe you will eat all by itself. Loaded with protein, without added fat, it is one of those feel good meals. For an even higher boost of protein, without fat, add some cubed tofu. For those of you who want a little "meat with your potatoes", so to speak. add some chicken or beef cut up small while sautéing onions and garlic.

3/4 cup vegetable broth
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic in oil
2 cups(8-ounces) sliced mushrooms
1 cup frozen lima beans, thawed
1(7-ounce)bag bean sprouts(about 4 cups)

 

Whisk together vegetable broth, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and sesame oil in a bowl; set aside. In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, add canola oil until it is shimmering hot. Add the onions and garlic and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes, or just until the garlic is becoming fragrant. Add mushrooms and lima beans. Stir fry for 4-5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender. Add broth mixture and bring to a boil. Stir in the bean sprouts and continue cooking and stirring for 2 additional minutes. Remove from heat to serve immediately.

Asian Shrimp Omelets
 

Every once in a while, I make breakfast for lunch or supper, never giving any thought to an alternative that is considered both in the 'other East'. Asian-style omelets are eaten throughout the day and after a few bites, you will see why.


 
3-5 tablespoons oil, divided
3 green onions, sliced thin
1 rib celery, minced
2 ounces(about a cup) mushrooms, minced
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
8 eggs, beaten well
1/2 teaspoon each salt, black pepper and chili powder
8 ounces beans sprouts, chopped
8 ounces Maine or salad shrimp, chopped

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet. Add celery and onions, cooking until the celery is softened, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft, about another minute. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

In a small saucepan, whisk together broth, cornstarch, sugar and soy sauce and cook over medium heat until it boils and thickens, about 4-6 minutes. Set aside, covered, to keep warm.

In a large bowl, stir together eggs, spices, bean sprouts, shrimp, celery and mushrooms. Add a half tablespoon oil to a skillet over medium heat until hot. Pour in 1/4-1/2-cup measures of omelet batter to skillet and cook until browned on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to plate and continue until all omelets have been made. Pour soy mixture over the top and serve immediately.

Enough for 4 people


 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Too Simple, But the BEST, Barbecue Chicken

Well, maybe not completely unique but delicious none-the-less. I think you will find that each of these summertime salads will find a spot on any picnic table you sit at this year. These recipes are enough for 4 side dishes but if your family is anywhere near as large as mine, a 5-pound bag of potatoes may just be enough. So multiply everything accordingly.
For the BBQ chicken recipe, it is following these salads below.



Hot House Garden Potato Salad



Hot House usually refers to an enclosed space for growing vegetables, mainly cucumbers to name one, quicker here in New England. The use of the term here denotes the addition of cucumbers but also with the slightly fiery taste introduced into this "good for you" summertime fare. The texture is there, the taste is there and above all, you will get up feeling better about going for seconds or thirds.

2 pounds potatoes, peeled
1 carrot, peeled and diced small
1/2 small cucumber, peeled and diced small
1 cup salad dressing or mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup whole kernel corn
1/2 small onion, minced
1 small hot pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon mustard of your choice
2 egg whites, beaten
Nonstick cooking spray


Boil whole potatoes and diced carrot in enough water to cover by 3 inches until potatoes are tender. The carrots may be still firm, but that is what we are looking for. Strain and cool. Dice potatoes into a bowl with the carrots and cool completely. Add the next 7 ingredients, tossing well. In a small skillet, coat the bottom with nonstick cooking spray and place over medium heat. When hot, add the egg white and cook for about 30 seconds, or until just done but not browned. Flip and cook an additional 15 seconds. Remove to cool. Roll up cooked whites and slice to form ribbons. Top your potato salad with whites and chill at least 1 hour before serving.

 

 

 

Roast and Toast Potato Salad
 

Bet you never thought of adding croutons to potato salad before, have you? I can also make another assumption that you may not make it again without them. A great crunch and an even greater potato salad awaits you.

2 pounds potatoes, unpeeled
1/2 pound roasted turkey, cubed
4 ounces smoked Cheddar cheese, cubed
3 ounces cooked green beans
1 green onion, sliced thin
1 cup flavored or unflavored croutons
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon each black pepper and cayenne pepper
Cucumber wedges, optional
Bake potatoes with the skin on until done but firm, about 35-40 minutes on 375-degrees F. Remove and cool completely before peeling and dicing. Cut green beans into 3/4-inch slices and add to a large bowl with all ingredients. Toss well, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve with cucumber wedges .

 

Cookout Sweet Shrimp Salad
 

This is the perfect summertime salad to have at any lobster bake, crab fest or simply a get together. Make sure you keep it well chilled although, but I don't think you are going to have to worry about any leftovers.

Nonstick cooking spray
4 ounces shrimp, drained well*
2 pounds potatoes, cooked, cooled and diced
1/2 small green bell pepper, seeded and minced
4 ounces frozen lima beans, thawed
1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/2 cup prepared Hollandaise sauce, cold
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning or crab boil seasoning, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Lettuce leaves to serve

 

Coat a skillet with nonstick cooking spray and place over medium heat. Pat the shrimp dry and place in skillet to cook completely, about 3-4 minutes. Remove, drain and set aside to cool. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients except lettuce leaves, add the cooked shrimp and toss well. Chill at least one hour before serving on lettuce leaves.

*I used salad shrimp(baby shrimp) but you can use larger shrimp that you have peeled, cooked, and chopped if desired.


Oh what to heck. Here is a great barbecue recipe to enjoy with the salads above.

Seasoned Drumsticks With Orange Molasses Glaze
 

This is what I call picnic chicken! You know the kind...dripping with glaze and so sticky the only way to clean up after yourself is with a wet washcloth. Heck, it would take a dozen wet naps to clean your hands alone. So get out the potato salad or simple,  plain baked potatoes and lemonade and dig in to this ultimate glazed chicken.

10 chicken legs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons each salt, garlic powder, black pepper and chili powder
1 cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons each molasses, soy sauce and Dijon mustard

In a bowl, blend brown sugar, salt, garlic powder, black pepper and chili powder well. Season each chicken leg well, rubbing it all over. Cover and let sit for at least 2 hours. When ready, fire up only one side of your barbecue grill to about 300-degrees F or preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Put the chicken drums on the side of the grill that has no heat. Close lid and cook about 35-45 minutes, or until juices run clear or the chicken has reached about 175-degrees F.

If using an oven, layer some tin foil over a baking sheet and bake chicken for 30-35 minutes. While chicken is cooking, make glaze by whisking marmalade, molasses, soy and mustard together well in a bowl. When chicken is cooked through, remove from grill, dip each in the glaze and place back on the grates to cook an additional 6-8 minutes, or until the sauce has caramelized. If baking, brush glaze over chicken and continue cooking the same allotted time.
 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Meatball Picnic

No idea why I named this post a Meatball Picnic but it just seemed a natural. I have never had meatballs at a picnic but it doesn't take much imagination to picture myself(or anyone else actually)sitting down at a picnic table and chowing on these. Add some coleslaw, potato salad(which will be my next post by the way)and I am a happy camper. Just thinking about a friend of mine whose name is Jim as well. He is tossing back a few cold ones right now at a local campground and looks as though he may be there for a while yet. 
Hey JIM!!! Make some meatballs, will ya?

New England Style Glazed Meatballs
What a way to start the summer! The sweet taste of New England in every luscious bite of these glazed meatballs would be a perfect accompaniment strung on bamboo skewers and served alongside you favorite potato salads and of course, a cold bottle of hard apple cider.



1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 cup grated, tart apple(such as Jonagold, Granny Smith and Stayman)
1 cup dried bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon each garlic powder, salt, chili powder and black pepper
Sauce:
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1 cup hard apple cider
2 tablespoons each soy sauce, cider vinegar, honey mustard and brown sugar
1 teaspoon each garlic and chili powder
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a  large bowl, combine all meatballs ingredients well and form into balls about an inch and a hla in diameter(or larger if you prefer). Place in a large skillet with oil and start browning over medium heat. Toss them around so that all sides are browned. Reduce heat to low, cover and gently cook until well done throughout, tossing occasionally. Meanwhile, make sauce.
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, whisk well and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until reduced slightly and thickened. Add the meatballs to the sauce, stir to evenly coat and serve immediately.
You may also drain grease from meatballs and pour the glaze into skillet with meatballs. Gently simmer over low heat for 10 minutes before serving, gently stirring to lift the fonds from the bottom of the pan. .




Teriyaki Smoked Meatballs
Of course you can cook these meatballs in a skillet or in the oven, but why not try something out of the ordinary and delightfully 'outdoorsy"? These tropical inspired meatballs are perfectly complimented with smoking and when served with plain or fried rice of your choice, they will be a winner at any get-together.


1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 small mango, peeled and diced small
3 tablespoons minced onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
Tropical Teriyaki Sauce:
1 1/2 cups orange juice, divided
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried ginger
4 cups warm plain or fried rice, if desired

Add first 9 ingredients together in a large bowl and mix well. Form into desired sizes, with 1 1/2-inch diameter shown in image. Get your smoker ready or toss a cupful of hydrated wood chips in your grill, on top of your grey coals or use a foil pack, tightly sealed, to produce smoke. Place the meatballs in a foil pan and on grate in cooker or barbecue grill. make sure you have the lowest setting of heat if using propane and level out charcoal if using briquettes to plate wood chips. When smoking, close all vents and smoke meatballs for about 30 minutes, according to the size, or until well done throughout. Remove, douse with your teriyaki sauce and serve immediately.
To make the Tropical Teriyaki Sauce, in a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup orange juice with cornstarch until smooth, making slurry; set aside. Place remainder orange juice, soy, brown sugar, garlic and ginger powder in a saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat and whisk in cornstarch slurry until smooth. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, for 2 minus. Remove from heat and keep warm.

'Southern Fried Chicken' Meatballs



1 pound ground chicken or turkey
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon each black pepper, oregano, celery salt, garlic and onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 strips cooked bacon, crumbled
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 pound potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 cup chicken stock
White Sauce;
3 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the first 10 ingredients together and mix well. Form into 1 1/2-inch sized meatballs. Place meatballs in a baking sheet with at least an inch-high sides. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until cooked throughout. Meanwhile, make White Gravy.
In a large saucepan, add milk, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper and salt. Whisk well and bring to scalding over medium heat. Do not let it boil. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch with water to make slurry. When milk is scalding, reduce heat to low and whisk in cornstarch slurry until smooth. Remove meatballs from the oven and transfer to saucepan with a slotted spoon, gently coating each meatball with gravy. Keep warm while preparing potatoes.
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium high heat. Add potato slices in a single layer. set aside any potatoes that don't fit right now. Cook potatoes until lightly browned on one side. If you have more potatoes to add, simply lift out cooked potatoes onto a plate while browning remainder. When potatoes are browned, after about 2-3 minutes, add chicken stock and reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook until tender but still firm. Remove cover and continue cooking potatoes, without mixing, another 3 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the potatoes are done.
To assemble, evenly divide potatoes, decoratively, in the center of each plate. Top with equal amounts of meatballs and sauce and serve hot.


Tart Sweet and Sour Pork Meatballs

A little bit of everything to pique all areas of your taste buds. Pork meatballs are overlooked so often and without just cause, There is a reason why many Italian chefs add ground pork to meatballs, and this is a perfect example of a great tasting, saucy meatball. 


Meatballs:
2 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic in oil
1/4 small onion, minced
3 ounces minced ham, pancetta or prosciutto is best here
1 pound ground pork
1/4 pound ground beef
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
Sweet and Sour Sauce:
1(15-ounce)can jellied cranberry sauce
1(12-ounce)bottle chili sauce
6 ounces apple juice*
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar

In a large skillet over medium heat, add oil until hot. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add onion and ham, stirring and continuing to cook until onions are softened. remove skillet from heat and transfer mixture to a large bowl with slotted spoon. Leave oil in skillet and set aside. Add remaining meatloaf ingredients and the bowl and mix thoroughly. Form into meatballs about an inch and a half in diameter(or larger if you prefer). Place them into the used skillet and start browning over medium heat. Toss them around so that all sides are browned. Reduce heat to low, cover and gently cook until well done throughout, tossing occasionally. Meanwhile, make sauce.
Add chili sauce, chicken broth, cranberry sauce and vinegar to the bowl of a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a small saucepan with sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from heat. When meatballs are done, lift out with a slotted spoon into the sauce, toss to coat and serve hot.

*Pour apple juice in the empty chili bottle, give it a good shake and pour into mixture. 


Friday, April 10, 2015

Shhhhhhhh.................

If you don't tell anyone that these are gluten free, they will never know.

I am not going to ramble on and on about these decadent gluten free recipes, other than to say that these are just a very few of the recipes that can withstand the addition of gluten free flour without the texture being altered. Classically called Florentines, these cookies have been around for a few centuries, but not from Italy. Go ahead and see if you can buy one in any Italian pastry shop. Now if you take a jaunt over to France, you will find them quite easily.

They are also classically styled as dainty and sticky. Enjoy these simple Lace(Florentines) cookies without any added filling. Drizzle each peanut butter cookie with chocolate as traditionally sold and marketed.


Gluten-free Chocolate Peanut Butter Lace Cookies

 
Although rolled oats are naturally gluten free, they are sometimes transported in tankers that have carried a wheat product previously, so it is best advised to actively seek out gluten-free oats. These cookies are absolutely no different than if you had made them with all-purpose flour. So for those of you who have had issues with texture and gluten-free recipes, you will be extremely happy with these treats, as well as the following two.

I must add, however, it is vitally important that you read every label with regards to gluten content. Even though these ingredients are gluten free, read the label first to ensure a satisfying, and relaxed, dining experience.

1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon canola oil
2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup rice flour *
3/4 cup milk, divided
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1(11.5-ounce)bag chocolate chips

Line 2 large baking pans with tin foil; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a small bowl, add peanut butter and oil. Cover with film wrap and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove and stir until smooth; set aside, covered. In a large mixing bowl. add rolled oats, sugar and rice flour, blending well. Stir in peanut butter mixture, milk, melted butter and vanilla until completely smooth. It should be just barely pourable and very thick. If not, add a tablespoon more milk. Drop by the rounded teaspoon on prepared pan, forming it into a circle as best as you can. Leave 3-inches between mounds. With the back of a spoon, flatten each mound as thin as possible, retaining the circular shape. Dip the spoon in water after flattening each cookie. Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until the edges are turning dark brown. The top will not be browned much, but that is fine since it will be the inside of each sandwich cookie. Remove from oven to completely cool on pan. Meanwhile, melt chocolate by adding chips and oil to a small bowl and microwaving on high for about 2 minutes. Remove and stir until smooth.




Carefully tear off each cookie with the foil still attached to the bottom and peel off the foil. This will be easier than it looks. Dollop about a teaspoon or so melted chocolate onto one cookie and top with another, the crispy bottom on the outside. Enjoy!

* There are many other gluten-free flours that work equally as well, such as chickpea, amaranth, barley, arrowroot, corn, millet, oat, potato, soya and tapioca flours to name a few.

Makes about 22 filled cookies.

 

Gluten-free Tropical Lace Cookies

 
Filled with simple, mashed mango, these coconut-flavored cookies will leave you wanting more and more. There is just no need to add anything else to the pure sweetness of mangoes and all this in a gluten-free sandwich of crispness.

I must add, however, it is vitally important that you read every label with regards to gluten content. Even though these ingredients are gluten free, read the label first to ensure a satisfying, and relaxed, dining experience.

 

1(12-ounce)bag frozen mango slices, thawed
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup rice flour
2/3 cup milk
1 stick(1/2-cup) butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract

 

Mash mangoes with a fork or in a blender or food processor; set aside. Line 2 large baking pans with tin foil; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. In a large mixing bowl. add rolled oats, coconut, sugar and rice flour, blending well. Stir in milk, melted butter and extract until completely smooth. It should be just barely pourable and very thick. If not, add a tablespoon more milk. Drop by the rounded teaspoon on prepared pan, forming it into a circle as best as you can. Leave 3-inches between mounds. With the back of a spoon, flatten each mound as thin as possible, retaining the circular shape. Dip the spoon in water after flattening each cookie. Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until the edges are turning dark brown. The top will not be browned much, but that is fine since it will be the inside of each sandwich cookie. Remove from oven to completely cool on pan.

Carefully tear off each cookie with the foil still attached to the bottom and peel off the foil. This will be easier than it looks. Dollop about a teaspoon or so mashed mango onto one cookie and top with another, the crispy bottom on the outside. Enjoy!

Makes about 22 filled cookies.

 

Gluten-free Peach Melba Lace Cookies

 
Boy oh boy!!!! When you make a crunchy sandwich out of peaches and raspberries, you will be ready to make them again the next day. You will adore not only the healthy aspect of these simply made "Florentines", but the perfect blend of flavors. As mentioned in the first recipe, you can substitute all-purpose flour with zero distinction between the two. Chalk this one up for a remake!

1(12-ounce)bag frozen peach slices, thawed
2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup rice flour
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup(1 1/2 sticks)butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raspberry all-fruit

 

In a bowl, mash peaches or use a blender or processor; set aside. Line 2 large baking pans with tin foil; set aside. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F In a large mixing bowl. add rolled oats, sugar and rice flour, blending well. Stir in milk, melted butter and vanilla until completely smooth. It should be just barely pourable and very thick. If not, add a tablespoon more milk. Drop by the rounded teaspoon on prepared pan, forming it into a circle as best as you can. Leave 3-inches between mounds. With the back of a spoon, flatten each mound as thin as possible, retaining the circular shape. Dip the spoon in water after flattening each cookie. Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until the edges are turning dark brown. The top will not be browned much, but that is fine since it will be the inside of each sandwich cookie. Remove from oven to completely cool on pan. Meanwhile, melt chocolate by adding chips and oil to a small bowl and microwaving on high for about 2 minutes. Remove and stir until smooth.

Carefully tear off each cookie with the foil still attached to the bottom and peel off the foil. This will be easier than it looks. Dollop about a teaspoon or so mashed peaches onto one cookie and top with another, the crispy bottom on the outside. Enjoy!

In a small bowl, add the raspberry all-fruit. Cover with film wrap and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove and stir until smooth. Drizzle over each cookie.

Makes about 22 filled cookies.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Wait For It...Wait For It...Wait For It!!!


http://mainemapleproducers.com/index.asp
Our friends at http://mainemapleproducers.com/index.asp

This anticipatory mantra can be heard, and verbalized, throughout Yankee-land only once a year, and that is during "sugarin' time".


With maple syrup making now in full swing here in New England, and the fact that I have never touched on this syrup making even though I am The Yankee Chef, I feel obliged to explain the history, process and the ultimate result in this long, drawn-out endeavor. I am sure many of you know why maple syrup is more expensive than the cheap, fake sugar-based liquid called maple syrup in supermarkets, but one taste and you will be a convert for life.

The sugar(aka rock) maple tree produces that slightly sweet sap that is pain-stakingly transformed into maple syrup for only about 5-6 weeks of the year. Usually by late February, early March, sugarmakers are out in the sugarbush(a group of sugar maples)setting up their buckets or tubing. How do sugarmakers know when the proper time is? This is a knack that us New Englander's have ingrained in our soul, believe it or not. Because there really is no set time, the sugarmaker needs to be rely on instinct, the ice flow in the rivers and streams, the cries of the crows and the time of year when the nights are still below freezing but the days are much warmer. When "sugar weather" is upon them, then they are upon the trees with their spiles.



Going from tree to tree, drilling holes in trees that are at least 40 years old and have a diameter of at least 10 inches and driving the metal spouts(spiles) into the trees if they are using buckets for gathering. These buckets that hang from the spiles slowly start filling up, and I mean slowly. If a sugarmaker is using tubing, hard plastic spouts are used that are all connected to the main hose for the sap to flow in one central location.

One good-sized, healthy tree can be tapped for over 100 years, but never in the same hole. They can even have 3 or 4 taps in the same tree, in the same year, in order to increase output. Unhealthy trees, or ones that have been plagued by insects are rarely, if ever, tapped. Why? Because of the honor and respect a New Englander has for these gorgeous trees that give so much to us Yankees.

Getting only about 10 gallons of sap per hole, the end result will only be about a quart, depending on the length of the season, weather conditions and overall tree health. And speaking of the length of the season, this too, is hard to explain. Many times, the weather thwarts any attempt of even workloads and constant boiling. One week, a sugarmaker may have sap running for 3 days straight and then all of the sudden 3 days of nothing. It is during this time of sap running that the sugarmaker is up almost nonstop boiling and bottling. When sap ceases its flow because of the uncontrollable weather conditions, this is the time when the sugarmaker will catch up on some sleep and clean his equipment for another run.

Much like the Southern moonshiner of old(and 'new' according to television shows now airing), the first run of this clear sap is ready for the "distilling".  The image to the right is from a 1623 maple harvest.

When the maple sap is initially obtained from the tree, the hydrometer gives the sugar content ranges as 1-4 percent, which is very low. The rest of the sap is simply water, which must be evaporated as soon as possible because, as in most fresh products, sap is also best when fresh.

Like in the olden days, many sugarmakers use the bucket method, going out from tree to tree, again, and emptying these sap buckets in one large gathering tank that is atop a sled or wagon of some type. Horses and oxen are still used widely to drag this sled, but tractors are used just as much now. When the tank if full or all the trees have been attended to, it is brought back to the sugarhouse and dumped into a storage tank before boiling down.

When using the tubing method, the sap runs directly into the mainline and into the storage tank.

Here in New England, you can still find the same sugarhouses that were used a century or more ago. Rustic in appearance and crude in amenities, it has been passed down from father to son for many generations. Still other sugarhouses are state of the art, with stainless steel equipment, tanks and bottling facilities. There is, however, one item of each sugarhouse that hasn't changed over the years, and that is the cupola. This is the vent at the peak of the ceiling, or roof, that allows the steam from boiling to escape. This author can truthfully, and with a sense of Yankee pride, say that there is no better picture in the landscape of our forested land than the sight of billowing plumes of steam rising from the sugarhouse. Much akin to the smoke rising from the Vatican, it signals a new beginning, if only for the year.

Directly under the cupola is the evaporator, which are flat pans that sit on a firebox. Whether it be wood, gas or oil fired, the flames dance all along the underside of pans. As with other uncertainties, it can take anywhere from 3 hours to a couple of days to boil 40 gallons down to 1 gallon.

The sugarmaker keeps a keen eye of the syrup as it closes in on the right consistency and color. When he sees it turning a golden color and the temperature is 219 1/2 degrees, it has reached optimum density. Some sugarmakers do as they did in the olden days, putting a scoop into this syrup. If the maple syrup holds together when lifting it out, he knows it is time and has attained 67 % sugar with only 33 % water.

It is then filtered, bottled and ready for sale. The end of the season is also determined by methods that are centuries old. Some sugarmakers will notice that the buds on the trees are getting larger and leaves begin to form. It is at this point that the sap is no longer worth boiling down and the sugarhouse is closed down and cleaned up.

As for the different grades and flavors of syrup,. one thing remains true, regardless of the grade. The sugar content is the same, while the maple flavor starts with mild and leads to super strong, which is the way this Yankee likes it.
This old sugarhouse is long gone, but not forgotten

As I mentioned earlier in this article, the fresh sap(or the very beginning of the sap run) results(when boiled down) is the 'sweetest' tasting and lightest in color. With a mild maple flavor, many sugarmakers confirm this light amber to be the most popular. As the season wears on, the more pronounced the flavor becomes and the darker the color gets. Medium amber is next, followed by dark amber. In years gone by, Grade B was after dark amber and was not popularly considered good tasting syrup. As the first Yankee Chef, the second Yankee Chef and me, the third Yankee Chef will unequivocally state, this is by far the best of the best. The darker the better. It is only recently that these snobbish "aficionados" have declared the darkest to be the best. Sorry guys, you are a century late.

Many of you may be asking by now "The darker the syrup, the less sweet it is?". You would be wrong. As mentioned, they all have the exact same sweetness. They only taste less sweet because they have more maple flavor.

http://mainemapleproducers.com/index.asp
 
According to my friends at the Maine Maple Producers Association, pure Maine maple syrup doesn't have, nor has it ever had, artificial....anything. The best way to keep real maple syrup is tightly resealing and placing it in the freezer because real maple syrup will not freeze. All the members of this association are top notch craftsman equal to no other. I cannot state enough, that if you have a chance to take your little ones to a sugaring house this year, or any year, please do so. This is one of the last remaining vestiges of the old way of life that still clings and will be around for some time yet. Once you taste real maple syrup, YOU will be the snob and turn your nose up at that sickening liquid sugar on the store shelves. Trust me on this folks. Here is some more info from my friends.

"Maple syrup also delivers more nutrition than all other common sweeteners and has one of the lowest calorie levels.

Pure Maine maple syrup is made by boiling the sap of hard rock maple trees. It provides three times the sweetening power of cane sugar, and contains only 40 calories per tablespoon! All Maine maple syrup commercially sold is U.S. Grade A quality, as defined by Maine law."

Thank you to Maine Maple Producers Association for the following, simple clarifications as well.

Grade A: Golden Color with Delicate Flavor
Grade A: Golden Color with Delicate Flavor Pure Maple Syrup is generally early season syrup. As tradition goes, this is the rst few runs of syrup at the beginning of the season, however with modern technology, we can produce this grade of syrup throughout most of the season. It has a ne pronounced sweetness with a delicate maple avor. This syrup is desirable for pancakes, wafes, French toast, and as an ice cream topping if a delicate maple flavor is desired.

Grade A: Amber Color with Rich Flavor
Grade A: Amber Color with Rich Flavor Pure Maple Syrup has a slightly stronger avor with a noticeable darker color. This syrup is by far the most popular choice for all purpose syrup. This grade has a rich full bodied taste that makes it the perfect compliment to most foods. It is the gift of choice by many.

Grade A: Dark Color with Robust Flavor
Grade A: Dark Color with Robust Flavor Pure Maple Syrup is much darker in color and has a stronger more robust maple avor. It is less desirable as a table syrup but often preferred in baking and cooking because of its strong avor. This syrup is great to pour over baked apples or squash or use as a glaze on meats and vegetables.

Grade A: Very Dark Color with Strong Flavor
Grade A: Very Dark Color with Strong Flavor Pure Maple Syrup is generally very late season syrup. It is great is foods and recipes where a strong maple presence is desire. Wonderful in cookies, breads, and baked beans. Due to the nature of this syrup, it is often only packaged in larger plastic containers.

Grade Changes Adoption
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on January 28, 2015, that grading standards for maple syrup have been revised to match international standards giving consumers a better understanding of what they are buying. In 2010, the International Maple Syrup Institute, which represents maple producers in the U.S. and Canada, started the implementation procedures for these new grade standards in hopes of making it easier for consumers to understand what grade of syrup they are buying as grades used to vary amongst regions. The revisions completely do away with the Grade B syrup label as the USDA notes there is more demand for dark syrup for cooking and table use. All syrup producing regions will now follow the same grading standards with Grade A to include four color and flavor classes for maple syrup: golden color and delicate taste, amber color and rich taste, dark color and robust taste, and very dark and strong taste.

Now that we have learned just a little more about this purely natural sweetener that slaps that imitations stuff right "side the head", go out and enjoy some of New Englands finest sweetener and see what our forefathers and mothers served to your ancestors.

Here are two sweet treats that has been around longer than even your great great grandparents.

Maple Taffy is also called "Sugar on Snow", by which our ancestors referred to. You can taste this treat at any sugarhouse throughout New England when the sap is running. It is simply the sap that is boiled past the syrup stage and has long been a tradition to enjoy with donuts and pickles, believe it or not. We Yankees have been combining sugar and salt way before these celebrity chefs have been touting its culinary intrigue. When you roll it around a stick while it is still pliable, it will harden just like todays suckers. Also popular is the Maple Sundae. Which, in essence, is the same thing but drizzled over newly fallen snow and eaten the same way you would enjoy a sundae.

And there we have a quick(at least in Yankee terms)rundown of our maple syrup life here in New England.