Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sassy Soup

This soup was a recipe I would have skipped right past some years ago. Loaded with vegetables, including some less common like tomatillos, and garnished with meatballs, it would have seemed too spicy, too tomato-ey, too weird. But lo! I now eat lots of things that would have evoked a shudder or a shrug in the olden days.

The veggies: onions, carrots, celery, garlic, tomatillos, eight serrano and jalapeno chiles, tomatoes in puree

The broth: dry white wine and chicken stock (hand-did, thank you very much!)

The spices: cumin, coriander, hot chile powder

The meatballs: chicken and pork

The finishing touch: lime juice, rice wine vinegar, lots of Tabasco, salt and pepper

Very spicy, very tasty. The meatballs were supposed to be all chicken but I supplemented with pork and think that probably improved the flavor. Everything is better with pork, right?

I have four pints to freeze for future meals. After all, winter isn't over yet and this is definitely a way to warm up! And Bob loves hot-flavored food, even if he lets his food temperature cool off way more than he should.

Inaugural Adventure

This wasn't a significant inauguration, like becoming president, but it was my introduction to gluten-free baking.

The January 2010 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and (

I feel a bond with Lauren, who always comments on my blog entries. I've never met her, but she appears to be an amazing young woman who is dealing successfully with celiac disease. This is my first foray into gluten-free baking and it was an adventure! While there are many more options for people avoiding gluten than there used to be, finding the alternative flours and grains can be challenging. And since some people with celiac or gluten tolerance issues can endure really crippling pain with only the littlest bit of gluten, cross-contamination is also an issue. My Nanaimo Bars were not destined to be eaten by anyone with dietary issues, so that wasn't a big concern for me, but if I were baking for someone who was seriously affected, I would be extra-scrupulous about using any bowl, utensil or product that could have been in contact with regular flour.

I made the graham crackers, which were not things of beauty. The first batch I made were seriously disfigured, due to the very soft dough. Since I was going to be turning them into crumbs, this wasn't a big issue. Subsequent batches, to which I added much more rice flour as I was rolling them out, turned out a little more presentable. They still look nothing like Nabisco honey graham crackers, but they were good with a little peanut butter!

The Nanaimo bars are very rich. The bottom crust is the graham crackers combined with butter, sugar, cocoa, an egg, and almonds and coconut. The middle layer is a sweet custardy-frosting filling made with butter, cream, custard powder, and lots of powdered sugar. And the top layer is semi-sweet chocolate with butter. There may be no wheat flour but there is lots of chocolate, butter and sugar in these little dessert bars.

The bars have interesting contrasts of textures: the crunchy base, the silky center and the smooth, less sweet chocolate topping.

I live in the Pacific Northwest and there are Nanaimo bars in many bakeries around here, just as there are in British Columbia, home to Nanaimo. These are a once-in-a-while indulgence, not for mindless nibbling. And with the Olympics coming up, what better way to celebrate Canada than with a Canadian dessert!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Satay, Satay, So Good to Me

A little play on the Mamas and the Papas there. Sorry - couldn't resist.

The January 2010 DC challenge was hosted by Cuppy (http://the of Cuppylicious ( and she chose a delicious Thai-inspired recipe for Pork Satay from the book 1000 Recipes by Martha Day.

I love Thai food, especially the tart and hot flavors. This pork satay is pretty straightforward. Cut the pork into strips, marinate for several hours, grill and chow down! I modified the marinade a bit (as the host indicated we could) by adding some fish sauce, which I always think of as essential in Thai cooking, and some chiles to heat it up a bit. I would have also used lime rather than the lemon the marinade called for because I think of lime when I think Thai, but my limes were a little tired. Darn that Costco for not having them the last time Bob stopped!

The dipping sauce I used was a mango-citrus sauce, which played off the Thai flavors nicely. We often use peanut sauce for Thai, but this was a little lighter.

Traditionally, I think satays are on skewers and the host suggested that but allowed us to skip them if we wanted. I personally think skewers are a nuisance, both to cook with and to eat from, so I just grilled the strips on a stovetop grill pan and called it good.

A little char on the pork. It took maybe 5-10 minutes tops to cook these. I think I would use pork tenderloin if I were to do it again - less fat than shoulder and much easier to cut into strips without having to trim. I would also skip the tumeric which adds little but color and I don't think the satay needs the yellow.

The final plate! Notice the healthy assortment of veggies accompanying the satay. This is part of our 2010 resolution to eat "meat-light" and increase the vegetable and salad part of our plate. Did you know some nutritionists suggest your shopping cart at the grocery store should be 50% fruit and vegetables? Something to strive for. I would have loved to have some rice with this, but another part of our resolution is "starch-light," so rice is a special treat, even if it is brown.

And so another year of Daring begins!