Saturday, April 23, 2011

Yesterday With My Children We Made - Wild Berries Cupcakes - Gluten Free

In my quest to bake easy (and somewhat healthy) petits gâteaux for my family (especially for my children 4pm goûter), I have been baking a lot lately. Nobody complained about it ... EVEN when the petits gâteaux are gluten-free! Un miracle! We are fortunate enough not to have food allergies in our family. Baking gluten-free is therefore more of a way to bake something different for me than a necessity. It keeps things different, ie interesting, for me. And that's important because since I am not keen on sweets, I could well live without baking any petits gâteaux. The reason why I do it in the evening is to avoid having my children eat the same store-bought petits gâteaux over and over again. Now, I bake one or twice a week and rely on store-bought petits gâteaux the rest of the time. It's healthier. It's also cheaper... and it gives me an opportunity to bake with up-until-now unknown ingredients (sorghum flour anyone?)
My children can't tell the difference between with gluten and gluten-free petits gâteaux yet, even when I have them bake with me and therefore exposed to different flours,... they are more interested in what's in the petits gâteaux (wild berries and chocolate chips are big hits), than what it tastes like. My husband, on the other hand, is the one who always complained about the texture of gluten-free petits gâteaux, especially if they are not sweet enough to his tastebuds. But since I tend to feel that his tastebuds have been polluted by too much sugar, I am not paying attention anymore. I just keep baking. If he is hungry for dessert or petits gâteaux, he'll eat them. I know. Same with my children who open the sac du goûter after school and can be disappointed with what they are offered. 99% of the time, they eat what's given to them because they are hungry after school. That said, I do try to make good cookies so as to have a few recipes I could just make over-and-over again, with limited adjustments in the filling for instance. This would save me time and make everybody happy. With no complaints, even if the cookies are gluten-free. That's good! Bon appetit!

- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup (250ml)  buttermilk (or plain yogurt)
- 1/2 cup (125ml) neutral oil
- 1 lemon (juice + zest)
- 1/2 cup millet flour
- 1 cup coconut flour
- 1/2 cup brown rice flour
- 2 ts baking powder
- pinch of salt
- frozen berries (a few per cupcakes)
  • Preheat oven to 350F (175C)
  • In a bowl, cream the egg and sugar together until light and fluffy
  • Add the buttermilk, oil, lemon zest and juice
  • In another bowl, mix dry ingredients together
  • Mix in the dry ingredients into the wet and mix a few strokes.
  • Pour into molds, add a few berries per cupcakes, and bake in the oven for 25-30 mn or until a knife comes clean.
My Personal Comments:
  • You could make them with AP flour if you did not have the gluten free flours available. 
  • I used frozen wild berries but fresh would be ideal 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

White Beans and Sausage Stew

Patrimoine génétique... I am not talking (again) about GMOs (but yes, try to avoid them as much as possible!!)... but about the inherited diseases that we might face one day for just being the children of our parents'. I never realized how important it is until we started talking about cholesterol in my family (they speak arthritis in my husband's!!). I won't go into much details but having had a blood work done recently, I had the unpleasant surprise to discover that I, too, have a cholesterol problem, albeit minor at this stage.
But I am not even 40! And I eat quite a healthy diet, exercise, don't smoke, drink a glass of red wine  (or Pisco) here and there, and I am definitively not overweight!! Quite unfair, I want to say! Fair or not fair, that's what genetics is about...and we have to accept it...
So what do I do to avoid having to take medication? The only adjustments I could make are eating less cheese (but considering the price of good cheese here, it's not like we eat triple-cream cheese every day!!), banning red meat while increasing fish such as maquerel, salmon and other omega-3-loaded fish, and reducing the amount of butter and eggs I use when I bake. Quite a challenge, especially when it comes to baking! That said, I feel that, as for anything else, I'll just make compromises: eating a very low-cholesterol diet to be able to have a nice piece of cheese once-in-a-long-while. Voila!

The other thing that I worry is how much will my children inherit: between le cholesterol de maman (dad's needs to be checked btw because he claims that he does not have any but I yet have to see the results!!) and l'arthrose de papa, I just hope that genes dilution won't make our children suffer from any of it. Time will tell...
In the short term, this is one of the few recipes I'll stop eating for a while (or at all), well at least with the sausage option.  This is nothing like a French cassoulet but since we don't have the right beans nor the right meat to make a real cassoulet in Philadelphia, this is a nice proxy. Which makes me think that I won't be eating the canned cassoulet we brought back from France last Summer. Anybody wants to come for dinner? Bon Appétit!

- Great Northern White Beans (preferably dry&soaked but canned will do to)
- 1 small onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- a few carrots, cut into small pieces.
- Fresh thyme
- Cumin seeds (1/4 ts, more if you like it a lot)
- Kielbasa sausage (enough to feed your family; more if you want leftovers)

  • In a thick-bottom pot (like a cast-iron), saute the onion and the garlic in olive oil.
  • Add the cumin seeds , the carrots and coat with olive oil
  • Add thyme.
  • If you are using canned beans, pour the beans into the pot, add the sausage and cook at low temperature for 15-20 minutes (you only want the carrots to be cooked)
  • If you are using pre-soaked beans, you will want to cover the beans with water, add the sausage and cook at low temperature for about 1h30 (or until the beans are tendered). 
My Personal Comments
  • You could add a few pieces of bacon or ham or even pork butt into the dish for extra cholesterol flavor!
  • Don't hesitate to make more because it makes great leftover!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Food Inc. ... What do we do now?


I recently watched Food Inc (merci Netflix!!) , the documentary made by Robert Kenner...and while I had watched other documentaties along the same lines (Supersize Me or Fast Food Nation), and while I am aware of the power of large agro-business and distributors companies in this country, I have to say that it made me think even more on how to best feed my family.
My conclusion is that it's a "quadrature du cercle" unless you are either wealthy enough (but we are talking REALLY wealthy) to be able to eat LOCAL ORGANIC food ALL YEAR ROUND... ! Since I can't, what do we do?

As I like to tell my daughter when she has a hard time making a decision as to whether she wants honey or jam on her tartine (and boy, that drives me crazy!!) , we process by elimination...
First, we eliminate processed food as much as possible, especially GMO products. In our family, the only processed food we eat these days are frozen dumplings, fresh cut ham, yogurts, apple sauce pouches, a few cookies, jam, and a few sauces (chutney, BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, etc.). I have started to use dry beans more (I buy them in bulk) instead of the canned ones. I find that once you have cooked dry beans, you can freeze them. This saves me time and enables me to have some "on hand". Besides, it's cheaper by the pound and has less sodium...
Then we try to go for organic when "affordable"; it is my experience that sometimes organic produces and products are not THAT much more expensive that conventional ones. Forget organic raspberries in the middle of winter... but for instance organic pears (on sale) this morning at Wholefoods were not more expensive than conventional ones at the Reading Terminal Market where we also shop.  And when there is a bargain on some organic products, especially the ones we eat a lot, I stock. This comparaison-shopping requires time though...
The hard question to answer is:  is it better to purchase organic pears that come from Argentina or conventional ones that come from California?  If prices are equivalent, no matter the carbon foot-print, I purchase the organic ones. Why? Because the lack of pesticides in organic products is not only better for me and the environment, it's also better for the people who work in the fields... and that's worth it!
When it comes to meat and fish, I purchase less so that we can afford the better quality products (organic or grass-fed or free-range.)  It has worked fine with us for the last few months...Even my meat-eater husband feels OK with our semi-vegetarian diet (he just does not want to say that he feels better!!)
When organic products are just not within the reach of my wallet, I try to buy "local".
And if none of the above options are available, I either go for frozen products or I make exceptions. And  I do make a lot of exceptions. I figure that if 50% of the time, I am able to purchase either organic or local foods, then it's OK for me to purchase conventional products, even if they come from the other side of the world. And I think that even if it were 10% of the time, it would still matter. No need (who can afford it in the first place) to be radical... just a few changes will do everybody good! Especially in the longer term.. and that's what matters to me... being able to raise healthy kids and leaving them with a better place...
What's for dinner tonight? A salade composée made with (conventional, from California) wild rice, organic fennel, (conventional, from Florida) cherry tomatoes, fresh organic dill, and toasted (conventional, from California) almonds.  Bon Appétit!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tarte Tatin

Voila one of the most famous French desserts : more famous than the Mousse au Chocolat but maybe tied with the Crème Brûlée, at least in the US. La Tarte Tatin happens to be one of my husband's favorite desserts... but unfortunately, as he would claim, we I don't make it often. I don't really know why because it's not that difficult. Sure, it's a little bit time-consuming and can't really baked in advance (or at least, I don't dare to do it)... but the rest is just dough + caramelized apples... so nothing fancy there. Trust me! AND please, no-store-bought crust for this dessert. You might have saved time but you would have spoilt the dessert....(don't tell me I did not warn you!).
I made this Tarte Tatin for a dinner we hosted a few weeks ago. Since there were only 3 of us eating that evening, there was Tarte Tatin left on the kitchen counter. On Sunday morning, our son came to our bedroom and one of the first things he asked was " c'est quoi ce qui est sur la table de la cuisine?"I had forgotten about the Tarte Tatin. I thought he meant his "pâte à sel" objects  (sort of playdough made of salt and flour) that needed to be baked to solidify before being painted. So I told him that he had to wait because it was not cooked. He insisted, talking about the other plate... but since it was too early and I had no idea of what he was talking about, I asked him to wait until I got ready for breakfast...  I should have known my son better (he is his dad's mignature in a way): he is very fast when it comes to spotting something sweet that can be eaten!!! 
So, Tarte Tatin for breakfast? Mais oui...I could not say no, n'est-ce-pas? And you can be sure that the Tarte Tatin did not survive past breakfast! I guess that la Tarte Tatin might now be my son's favorite desserts as well... (my daughter liked it as well to tell you the truth but she did not spend 5 minutes at 7.30am (that's early for a Sunday morning, no?) trying to make me explain "what was on the table.") Bon Appétit!

For the crust:
- 1 stick plus two tablespoons cold salted butter (5 ounces), cut into small cubes and chilled in freezer
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- A pinch of salt- 3 to 6 tablespoons iced water

For the filling:
- 7 medium apples (firm apples and flavorful). Purchase more than you would need because they tend to "shrink while cooking.
- 1 stick (4 ounces or 110gr ) salted butter
 - 1 cup sugar
  • Prepare the dough:
    • Put the flour in a bowl and make a well ; add the butter and mix in so that you reach pea-size pieces.
    • Add the water, one teaspoon at a time. 
    • Don't overwork the dough, especially with your warm hands. Wrap in plastic film and cool it in the freezer for one hour or more.
  • Prepare the filling:
    • In a pan/dish that can go in the oven, put the sugar and butter (in pieces).
    • Once melted, add the apple pieces. Make sure to add more because they will shrink. It does not matter at this stage if some pieces are on top of each other.
    • Cook over medium-heat for 20mn until the sugar turns to caramel. 
  • Pre-heat oven to 375F
  • Take the dough from the fridge and roll it (over flour-covered surface) into a disc that will be bigger than your pan/dish.
  • When you are ready to bake the tarte, lay the dough over the apples and place in the oven.
  • Cook for about 25-30ms.
  • Flip over a serving dish with caution.
  • Serve while still warm.
My Personal Comments:
  • Make sure to purchase firm apples.
  • Some people add one tablespoon of sugar in the dough; I don't because the caramel is so sweet that you don't need extra sugar.
  • You could make the dough in a food processor but you want to make sure that the blade/bowl are cold when you make it.