Great Balls of Goodness

Glutinous rice or sticky rice is completely safe to include in a gluten free diet. Don’t let phonetics confuse you! Glutinous rice flour, a derivative of glutinous rice, does not contain proteins (gluten/gliadin) that are harmful to gluten intolerant individuals. Instead, it can serve as a wonderful thickening agent in lieu of wheat flour. Its high starch content helps thicken sauces, and when used in baking, it produces a texture similar to mochi.

There are wonderful things that are made from glutinous rice–such as sweet soup dumplings or “tongyuan,” a popular Chinese dessert. Tongyuans are typically served during the Lunar New Year or Lantern Festival season, and are often made from scratch. But when I crave for a quick way to satiate my sweet tooth, I like to reach for these frozen tongyuans by Laurel’s. They come in a variety of flavors in the frozen foods section of well-stocked Chinese grocery stores, but my favorites are black sesame or peanut filled.20130103-114956.jpg
They are easy to prepare too! Just plop them in boiling water for 5-8 minutes and the sticky balls of goodness are ready to be fished out and served.

20130103-115757.jpgI like to eat mine plain, but it is also popular to add a delicious syrupy soup. 20130103-115126.jpg20130103-115302.jpg
I’ve cut a couple open to showcase the fillings– here we have black sesame on the left, peanut on the right.

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A Quick Gluten Free Lunch: Pepperoni and Cheese Mac

Macaroni and Cheese was and still is one of my favorite dishes, but it is nearly impossible to find a gluten free version on any menu. To satisfy this craving, I made my own and even added a little pepperoni for flare. This is how I did it!
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Ingredients for single serving

1 cup of DeBoles corn* elbow style pasta
1 or 2 slices of Muenster cheese
2 slices of thin pepperoni, squared
¼ tomato, cubed
1 scallion, chopped
1 tablespoon of Greek yogurt
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Add the cup of pasta to boiling water, and allow 7 minutes of cooking time.

2. In your serving bowl, add the pieces of pepperoni, slice of Muenster cheese and teaspoon of Greek yogurt.

3. Once the pasta is finished, drain the excess water and immediately transfer the hot pasta into your bowl. (A little residual liquid actually helps the cheese to become saucier.)

4. Allow the hot pasta to melt the slice of cheese before mixing in the tomato and scallions.

5. Salt and Pepper to taste

6. Bon appetite!

*Rice pasta may be used as a substitute, but I have found that the consistency and texture of corn pasta is closer to that of regular pasta.

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A Sweet Summer Pick: Juice and Freeze!

Watermelon is a summertime favorite and is always welcome at any gathering, but finding the perfect one can be tricky. When shopping for a ripe and ready melon, some key features to consider are: color, weight, and shape. Typically, you want to reach for one that has a deep green color because the riper the melon, the darker the green will be. Examine it for a yellow or white spot–this is also known as the “ground spot,” which is the area that the melon used as its bum during growth. A yellow ground spot indicates that the melon is ready to be enjoyed, whereas a white spot indicates that it was picked prematurely, and no spot=no good. If you lift the melon, it should be heavy for its size, which is predictive of how juicy it will be; maybe the best way to tell is to compare it to another of similar size. Also try to avoid deformed watermelons because an odd shape could mean that it had inconsistent growth conditions, ultimately compromising its quality. As for drumming on the melon…if someone could describe this sound test in a comment below, I would be so very appreciative! I’ve never been able to draw a meaningful correlation between the potential of a watermelon and its musical thuds!

Once you’ve picked your perfect watermelon, you can serve it in three different forms at your next summer party!

Cubed
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Here I’ve cubed and served it in its pure form. So simple, and so good!

Juiced
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Then I took some chunks for juicing. Because watermelon is over 90% water, it is a wonderful fruit to juice. If you want to spike it for adult-only festivities, rum, vodka and gin are great options for concocting a gluten free cocktail.

Frozen: (Watermelon Granita pictured with a scoop of homemade Pinkberry)

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Take the remains from the juicing process and freeze it into a granita!

Boil a 1:1 mixture of water and sugar to make a ½ cup of simple syrup.
Combine your simple syrup with about 3 cups of watermelon remains.
Squeeze a ½ lemon or lime into the mixture.
Place your mixture in the freezer.
Fluff your mixture every hour to get the right granita consistency.

Optional: Add a small amount of Triple Sec or Grand Marnier to prevent overfreezing your granita!

Morning Buzz: Summer’s Perfect Cup

Many of us share the common morning ritual of sipping on a cup of coffee to help start our day…and what a great ritual it is! The benefits of coffee are ample—from increasing your rate of metabolism…to enhancing performance and focus, it is no wonder that coffee has become a staple in our society. I mean…there’s more than um…10,000 Starbucks, 6,000 Dunkin Donuts, just over 200 locations of Peet’s, and a countless number of wonderful independent mom and pop cafés!

Because this drink is so deeply ingrained in our culture, the process of brewing coffee is often considered a form of art. There are a variety of techniques and many methods to yield a great cup—traditional dripping, French pressing, stovetop pressurizing are only a few at the tip of the iceberg! With the rising temperatures this season, colder versions of coffee are becoming more popular; if you are trying to save a buck (or four) this summer, I recommend cold-brewing your coffee at home.

Cold brewing coffee is a slower process, where you mix cold water with ground coffee and let it steep in your fridge overnight. Here, I used Adagio’s ingenuiTEA for the process, but you can easily achieve the same results by making the mix in any glass jar and filtering with a regular coffee filter.

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The taste is milder and smoother than a hot cup, and this is because less alkaloids are extracted. This also means that your end product will be less acidic and much easier on the stomach. Cold brewing is an especially good option for people who avoid coffee because of stomach cramps or excessive jitteriness…and if you like this method because of its milder effects, you can still have it hot when the weather cools down! Just use more grounds and less water in the steeping process; end product will be a thicker and stronger coffee syrup, which you can later dilute with hot water.

Wishing you all a fabulous and productive Thursday! Cheers!!!

Pressing Juice: A Cucumber Number

Cucumber is an excellent ingredient for a green juice because it is a great way to take potassium, vitamin C and vitamin K in liquid form. It also has high water content, which makes it one of the more satisfying veggies to juice. Compared to other items of similar hue, such as spinach or cilantro, the cucumber is just as green but adds a lot more bulk.

These melon-like-veggies come in many varieties, and can be categorized by their intended use–slicing or pickling. Today I propose that juicing should be a new category. The two cucumbers that should be included are the English and Persian varietals because they are both seedless and more sweet than the run-of-the-mill slicing kind.

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English cucumbers are usually sold unwaxed, but whether a fruit or veggie is waxed or unwaxed shouldn’t negatively influence your decision on its juicing potential. A little wax now and again is harmless. Budget permitting, it is more important to maintain loyalty to organically grown items. The smaller Persian cucumber is one of my favorite cucumbers to eat. It is sweet and has a really nice snap, and who doesn’t like their juice snappy?

At the end of the process, I had a gorgeous glass of green. But I’m sad to report that cucumber juice isn’t great solo. I added a pear to sweeten this drink, making it much more palatable…and if snappy were a taste…this cucumber number with the pear is it: a little sweet, a little bitter, and a lot refreshing.

Voilà, Cucumber Number à la carte:

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Voilà, Cucumber Number avec un poire:

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I siphoned a bit of the pure cucumber juice to incorporate into a salad dressing later, but stay tuned to see what I can do with the remains of the cucumber fiber!

Juice and Bake: Carrots!

Today I juiced a lot of carrots with Jack, and I must say: carrot juice is soooo refreshing and sweet! What makes it even sweeter is that the fiber can be recycled for baking. I was so happy with myself because I didn’t waste anything! I incorporated the carrot fiber into a gorgeous gluten free cake batter and made some top notch muffins. Here’s how I did it:

Recipe:
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 ¼ cup of melted butter
2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts
3 cups freshly grated carrots
½ cup of vanilla-almond milk

1) Cream sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl with an electric beater or stand mixer. Add melted butter and beat until smooth.
2) In a separate bowl combine gluten-free flour mix, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.
This is a gluten free flour I picked up from Target:

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3) Stir in left over carrot fiber from juicer, and your choice of chopped nuts.

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4) Add vanilla almond milk and mix well.

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5) Spoon the batter into a lined muffin tin, filling 2/3 of the well. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes at 350ºF. Double check with toothpick test.
6) Cool.

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7) Enjoy!

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Newest obsession: Juicing!

Meet the newest addition to my kitchen armamentarium: Jack!

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Cleansing and juicing has been on the upswing lately, and the trend is based on various theories. Some say that it gives your digestive tract a break while still supplying your body with important nutrients. Some tout it to be a super effective weight-loss method. Some just find fresh juice to be simply delicious…whatever your motive, a juicer might deserve a spot on your kitchen counter.

I decided that investing in this middle-of-the-line power juicer is just right for me: affordable, efficient, and trusted. Ever since Jack’s arrival, I have been having so much fun! I have big plans for Jack, and I can’t wait to share our adventures!

The following are a few of my early concoctions. Jack is pretty much amaZING because it will juice anything!!! It might even be able to juice a blendtec….(YouTube “blendtec” if you wanna get the reference…)

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We named this one “The Incredible Hulk” loaded with: spinach, cucumber, celery, carrots, and pear.

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Ingredients: 1 pear, 2 oranges….we named this one: “A Pear of Oranges”

Recipes worth Sharing: Mochi!

Shared my coconut mochi in class today and it was a hit! Mochi is a popular Japanese dessert that I love making because it is so so so simple! One box of mochiko, 1 can of coconut milk, 1.5 cups of water, 2.5 cups of regular granulated sugar, and a tablespoon of baking powder. Mix it up and bake at 350° for one hour. Waiting for it to cool is the hardest part.

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