Category Archives: Home Cooking

Redemption

My husband can attest to the fact that I have really good memory. That skill can be a mixed blessing. When you need to recall something quickly, you’ve got it. On the flip side of that, you are challenged by not being able to simply forget things you’d rather see fade off into the recesses of your gray matter.

Back in November of 2007, I made my first attempt at Thai Chicken Coconut Soup. And the results were less than stellar. In fact, I recall sharing with the internets the fact that my kitchen (and my senses) were smacked upside the head by the intensity of a certain ingredient:

“The good news is that my kitchen smells like lemongrass.

The bad news is that my kitchen smells like lemongrass. And only lemongrass. And now all I can smell is…lemongrass.”

Yeah, so that didn’t go so well. But I’m a determined little bugger, and I never quite gave up on the idea of successfully executing this dish.  I’d revisit the recipe, toy with some of the ingredients, and try again. I just wouldn’t let it go. I couldn’t forget my earlier failure, and I was obsessed with getting this darn thing right.

Well, Peoples of the World Wide Web, I have finally done it! Today, I made the soup…and it was FREAKING DELICIOUS. The creaminess of the coconut, the brightness of the LEMONGRASS, the saltiness of the fish sauce, and the spiciness of the Thai chilis: everything just came together beautifully. I’m still planning to play around with some of the seasonings, but I’m pretty darn happy about how things turned out. Once I’m done with nailing down precise measurments, I’ll be sure to update this post to include the recipe.

Eating on the Run, GFCF

Last week I took my kids camping. In the woods. With no electricity. And nary a flush toilet in sight. Those who know me were quite shocked to find out that I was VOLUNTARILY embarking on this trip: I’m just not what one would call the outdoorsy type. To add to the shock factor, I actually went out there sans hubby; Flamenco Dad wasn’t able to join us until we were well into Day 2.  I packed up all our gear, loaded up the kids and the grub, and ventured out into the wilderness.

What we encountered once we made it to the campsite was not what I expected. I didn’t realize it ahead of time, but we were in for what experienced campers would call “primitive camping.” When we arrived, we were informed that we could not drive to our campsite, instead having to hike over 1/2 mile whilst schlepping our gear. By the time we made it to our campsite it was dark out, meaning I had to assemble our tent in the dark. It was the first time I ever assembled a tent on my own, never mind the fact that it was hard to see out there.

I’ll save the rest of our camping adventure for another day, but you may be wondering why I’m sharing all this. It’s because with all that packing, hiking, and tent building, I also needed to be mindful of what we were going to eat out there.

Three days of no access to refrigeration (save for a medium sized cooler) and only a small camp stove make for some unique food challenges.

Dining on the run (or away from home) can be difficult, especially when one has to be mindful of food sensitivities. It’s not like I can just walk into a 7-Eleven and grab whatever’s on the shelf. Besides Zoe’s gluten and dairy intolerance, that stuff it usually just plain icky and otherwise unhealthy. So when it came time to prepare for our camping trip, I needed to be ready with healthy foods we ALL could eat and enjoy.

What I did was modify a recipe for banana bread that I found in Carol Fenster’s Cooking Free. The result was a not-too-sweet, tasty, and healthy pumpkin bread that was out of this world. I gave myself props for not using any refined sugar and giving my kids a breakfast/snack that was chock full of Vitamin A (courtesy of the pumpkin puree).

Pumpkin Bread (recipe modified from a recipe in Cooking Free):

Ingredients:

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

1/8 tsp. baking soda

2 large eggs

3 Tbs. canola oil

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups of your favorite gluten-free flour blend (I made my own)

1/2 tsp. xanthan gum

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 ripe mashed banana

1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 3 mini loaf pans. Combine syrup, baking soda, eggs, oil, and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add flour mixture to the egg mixture, alternating with the pumpkin and banana. Divide the batter among the three loaf pans, then bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into loaf comes out clean. Cool thoroughly before cutting.

Project Ginger Redux

Project Ginger was such a huge success last year that the family decided we would try again this year. We opted to make a smaller house this time around, using a template for a saltbox house rather than last year’s colonial model. We ended up making two houses this year, one to demolish on Christmas Eve at my house and one that we gifted to my mother on Christmas Day. When I told her of our family tradition of smashing the completed house to bits at our Christmas party, Mom looked at me like I was nuts and replied with an emphatic  “Oh, I just can’t!” Mom took many pictures of what she called “an edible masterpice,” and I’m hoping to get those photos from her soon, because my photos leave a bit to be desired.

I’m not sure if Mom tore her gingerbread house apart or not. Mom held a party for her employees the Saturday immediately after Christmas, and my gingerbread house was the centerpiece on the buffet table. The staff was really thrilled with it, and they were also a bit surprised to find out that it was homemade (Even people who haven’t seen me in years recall that I am not exactly what you’d call a crafty gal). The clients also thought it was quite lovely and festive.

That darn house may still be intact today. I have no idea and, frankly, I’m afraid to ask. Not sure I’d want to know if there’s a two-week-old gingerbread house languishing in my mom’s beauty shop, the scent of peroxide and hairspray replacing the house’s original gingerbread/Necco wafer fragrance.

The candy selection this year was better than last year’s–I guess that’s because I planned far enough in advance this time to get the candy everyone wanted. This year we bedazzled our house with DOTS, Mike ‘N Ike, Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, and the Necco wafers for the roof shingles. And we didn’t eat too much of the leftover candy. Okay, maybe we did.

My kids’ favorite part of the this whole exercise was–believe it or not–the little gingerbread boy and girl who stand guard at the front of the house. Ayden insisted on having a little Ayden and Zoe as part of the presentation, and I think it really works, don’t you?

In Which I Begin to Play Catch-Up

In looking at the photographs we took in 2009, it came to my attention that I have many, MANY things that I wanted to blog about…but didn’t. Circumstances being what they were, i.e. I was busy studying my butt off for the past year, it became increasingly difficult to set aside the time to write and post about some of the things we had been doing here at Casa Flamenco. To remedy the situation, I have made an executive decision: rather than post the absolute longest 2009 retrospective ever written–one which no sane human being would want to read–I’m going on a blogathon. I’m going to try and catch up with all the posts I meant to write to go with the good (and sometimes not-so-good) photos we took this year. Unfortunately that means that some of the things I’ll be posting here don’t exactly fit the season in which we currently find ourselves.

Case in point: these frozen chocolate bananas I made with the kids.

A summertime delight, to be sure; but it’s not something that many of you out there would want to eat right now since it’s something like zero degrees outside. I made these sometime in June, I think. They are delicious and GFCF, since I used allergen-free chocolate chips and a bit of coconut oil to make the chocolate dip; also the jimmies (sprinkles) are Zoe-safe.

Just a few bits of advice if you’ve got a hankering for this frozen dessert: first, resist the urge to use very ripe bananas…they will fall apart when you attempt to put the popsicle stick through them. Second, freeze the bananas first before dipping them in the chocolate. This may seem like a no-brainer to some of you, but it took me several (read: failed) attempts to figure out that the chocolate sticks better-and begins the hardening process faster-on an already frozen banana. Finally, do allow these to freeze completely before eating; otherwise, the chocolate will start melting everywhere, which is definitely not good eats.

I realize that this doesn’t exactly scream “Winter Dessert,” but after eating so many Christmas cookies, fruit cake, or whatever you may have been chowing down on this holiday season, a taste of summer may be just the type of thing you’re looking for. Now if I can only find those darn popsicle sticks.

Muddy Buddies, Now GFCF

Since Rice Chex went gluten-free, they’ve been a pantry staple in my house. The kids eat them for breakfast a few times each week, usually with some berries thrown on top for a bit of sweetness (and to get in an extra serving of fruit). But there are some pretty nifty recipes on the back of those Chex boxes, and I’ve given them a go here at Casa Flamenco–making a few modifications in the recipes to meet our GFCF needs.

I decided to try the recipe for Chex Muddy Buddies, and my kids went CRAZY over them. I’m sure that is due, in no small part, to the fact that they are very sweet. And what kid doesn’t like chocolate?

9  cups Rice Chex cereal

1 cup Enjoy Life dairy-free chocolate chips

1/2 cup peanut butter (I used unsweetened)

1/4 cup margarine (I used Earth Balance)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In a large bowl, measure the cereal and set aside. In a 1-quart microwaveable bowl, microwave the peanut butter, margarine, and chocolate for about 1 minute; stir. Microwave about another 30 seconds until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Pour the mixture over the cereal and stir until all the cereal is coated. Take a BIG (2-gallon) zip-top bag and place the cereal in the bag. Add the powdered sugar, seal the bag, and shake until the cereal is well-coated–this would be a great job to give your kids! Spread the cereal mix on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and allow to cool and dry. Once completely cool and dry, store in an airtight container in your refrigerator.

The Aftermath

After the Demo Team Got to It

After the Demo Team Got to It

I knew that my gingerbread house would be torn down eventually, but I was still really sad to see it in a heaping pile of rubble on my coffee table. My husband and the kids took turns poking at it with the wooden spoons in the picture until all that was left was the mess in the photo. The good news is that this experiment in edible construction has given rise to a new family tradition: the annual Build-A-Gingerbread-House-From-Scratch-Then-Tear-It-Down-athon. My niece Lisa made me swear that I would build one every year so that the family could bask in the glory of tearing it down on Christmas Eve. I guess you could say the house was a hit!

Mmm, cookies...

Mmm, cookies...

And my husband thought it was most delicious!

Project Ginger

Planning and Baking

Phase I: Planning and Baking

So over the weekend I started thinking about things I could do with the kids during the Christmas break, things that would keep them from trying to hunt around the house in search of presents. Then I had an idea: how about we make a gingerbread house? Since we had to make the house GFCF I was unable to grab one of those nifty kits available at Michael’s or Target, so I went on the hunt for a suitable recipe.

 I found one thanks to the Christmas cookie roundup I saw on Ginger Lemon Girl. Only Sometimes Clever posted a big-batch gingerbread cookie recipe that is not only GFCF, but also suitable for gingerbread houses. After looking over the recipe and heading over to Bob Vila’s for a template, we got to work.

Construction

Phase II: Construction

Karen Joy was not kidding: this recipe makes a LARGE batch of cookie dough. I used about half of it to make the pieces for the gingerbread house. I baked the pieces last night, and today the kids and I got to work on the royal icing and decorating. This was a great project; it does take quite a bit of time, so if you’re thinking about taking this on, allot yourself enough time to get it done. Zoe and Ayden were beyond excited about decorating the gingerbread house, and they can’t wait to show the finished product to our family at our dinner party tomorrow night. Now the kids are looking forward to tearing it apart on Christmas Eve!

Decoration

Phase III: Decoration

Ready to Eat..

Ready to Eat..