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Gluten-Free Baking Tips from Karina

Gluten-Free Goddess Tips
Cooking and Baking Wheat-Free + Gluten-Free
Tips from a Gluten-Free Goddess®
by Karina Allrich

New to this whole gluten-free thing? Not sure how to substitute the wheat flour in a favorite recipe? Need to cook without additional problematic ingredients– such as milk, eggs or soy? This article is for you, Babycakes. And check out my post The Morning After [diagnosis, that is] for some smart and supportive start-up tips, from shopping strategies to easy dinner ideas (not to mention, how to recognize and solve those pesky contamination issues).

Cooking and Baking Without Wheat and Gluten

After thirteen years of living wheat-free gluten-free, cooking safely is second nature. It is (honestly, I swear!) NBD. No big deal. Here’s a quick overview, followed by more detailed tips on combining gluten-free flours and substituting safe ingredients in your favorite recipes.

Safe flours for wheat-free, gluten-free baking include sorghum flour, brown rice flour, white and sweet rice flour, millet flour, buckwheat flour, quinoa flour, certified gluten-free oat flour, and teff flour. Note* Make sure sources of corn, millet, sorghum, etc flours are 100% gluten-free.

Starches used for gluten-free baking include potato starch, cornstarch, arrowroot starch and tapioca starch/flour. (Starches add lightness, tenderness, or browning to GF flours.)

Almond flour, hazelnut flour, chestnut and peanut flours are high protein non-grain options.

Legume flours include chick pea flour and soy flour.

Coconut flour is a high fiber addition to GF blends that attracts moisture and adds a lot of texture and flavor.

Note: Oats have been a sticky issue for those with celiac disease because widely available commercial oats are often milled/cross contaminated with wheat crops. The good news is that a few small, independent farmers are now growing and milling certified gluten-free oats. Because whole grain oats are high in fiber, protein and iron, this is great news for those living gluten-free. Just be 100% sure the oats or oatmeal you are purchasing are “Certified Gluten-Free”. Bob’s Red Mill has recently added certified gluten-free oats to its line of gluten-free products milled in a dedicated facility.

On a side note- the high fiber in oats may take some getting used to for those with touchy tummies. Start slow. Try 1/3 to 1/2 cup of oatmeal- or better yet- my Homemade Gluten-Free Granola recipe– once or twice and see how you handle them. Gradually, you can add more into your weekly menu as your body acclimates to increased fiber. (Drink plenty of water!)

One easy option for beginners? If simplicity is your top priority, use Pamela’s Ultimate Wheat-Free Gluten-Free Baking and Pancake Mix in your recipes. Keep it on hand and you have a pre-mixed flour blend for basics that usually works quite well in muffins, tea breads and simple cakes (see my easy pumpkin cake recipe here). It’s also fab in flourless quiches, omelets, and yes, pancakes. Note: it does contain buttermilk, so dairy-free folks will need to find an alternative pancake mix.

Karina’s Wheat-Free Gluten-Free Baking Tips

Numero Uno: Keep your sense of humor handy. It helps in gluten-free baking, Darling. Hockey pucks and doorstops are inevitable. We’ve all been there. We’ve all tossed failures into the compost.

Remember the crumb trick- you can always zap your so-called failures in the food processor and use the crumbs in other recipes. (I freeze the crumbs.)

All Purpose Wheat-Free Gluten-Free Flour Blend – Does One Size Fit All?

I am not a believer in using a single all-purpose gluten-free flour mix for gluten-free baking. Most GF flour mixes are based on white rice flour and starch (it’s cheap to make). The end result tends to be rather bland, and works best if your expectations for texture and flavor run on the low side.

Julia Child once remarked that cornstarch worked as a gluten-free sub in recipes. But. I would ask- why use high glycemic cornstarch when there are so many other superior choices these days?

Because here’s the truth.

In almost every single case where I subbed a “cup for cup” white starch based gluten-free all purpose flour mix in a recipe, the texture was gummy or gritty– or oddly, both. I could tell it was “gluten-free”. And if the blend had bean flour in it- no one would eat it (heavy legume flours have a metallic aftertaste, and can produce a rather gassy experience for the FODMAP sensitive among us).

Some newer blends boast a better result- probably because they add milk powder or buttermilk to the flour blend. This leaves out the roughly 50% of us who are also reactive to dairy.

My position? Try my recipes as written. I’ve experimented over the years and found certain GF flours work beautifully together- no grit or gumminess. They also happen to include whole grains, and are higher in protein than typical starchy blends.

For those of you interested in mixing your own gluten-free flour mix from scratch, here is a basic guideline- tweak it to your preference.

This is a basic template useful for muffins and easy cakes.

Karina’s Basic Wheat-Free Gluten-Free Flour Mix Template

Combine:

1 cup sorghum flour, certified gluten-free oat flour, or millet flour
1 cup potato starch (not potato flour) or other starch blend
1/3 to 1/2 cup almond meal or hazelnut meal
1 teaspoon xanthan gum

*Notes:

You’ll notice I don’t white rice flour- the old school stand-by. I just think it’s rather blah- not to mention, gritty, and gummy.

Sorghum flour is soft, slightly sweet – and lovely in baking. As is certified gluten-free oat flour.

Starches are used to lighten the blend- I prefer potato starch for its soft, light rise. Tapioca starch can often bake up tough- especially around the edges (if you use tapioca starch blend it with another softer starch, like cornstarch).

Brown rice flour has become a bit controversial. I’m now using less brown rice and brown rice flour. Here’s why- there is elevated arsenic in rice.

Almond flour and hazelnut flour are a dream in gluten-free recipes. Nut flours add protein, fiber, and essential minerals- not to mention a delicious nutty taste- to recipes. If you cannot use nut flours, use another high protein choice that is not too strong in flavor.

Buckwheat flour- a favorite whole grain addition along with millet flour- is high in protein and fiber and has a lovely nut-like taste. (And no, buckwheat is not related to wheat- it’s actually a fruit in the rhubarb family).

Quinoa flour is packed with vegan protein but it needs to be used sparingly, as it has an assertive taste, and will make a baked goodie crumbly if used as a main flour. Blend it with other flours for best results.

Coconut flour is sweet and fabulous. It’s high in fiber. It soaks up moisture like crazy, though, so be careful using too much of it in a recipe. Start with a half cup in a gluten-free flour blend for best results. Eggs help coconut flour work best.

Subbing denser flours such as almond, buckwheat, coconut, or quinoa flour will result in a heavier, denser product if you add too much. Start with a third to a half cup in your flour blend. Experiment and find the formula and texture you like best.

Sweet rice flour is very starchy and moist and you should add it sparingly as a moisture boost to your baking- start with 2 tablespoons. Too much can make for a gummy product. It’s also a fab gravy thickener.

To Create a Self-Rising Wheat-Free Gluten-Free Flour Mix

Combine:

1 cup unleavened gluten-free flour mix (see above)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Gluten-Free Goddess Tips

Adding Moistness and Flavor to Gluten-Free Baked Goods

When experimenting, choose a recipe wisely. Recipes containing pureed fruit, shredded veggies, yogurt, or sour cream translate beautifully to gluten-free. Think: banana muffins, carrot or pumpkin cake, sour cream apple cake or blueberry muffins made with sour cream or yogurt.Adding applesauce, pureed fruit or yogurt to recipes helps wheat-free gluten-free cakes, muffins and quick breads stay moist.

Adding shredded or desiccated coconut, chopped nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate chips also goes a long way to improving texture and flavor. Start with adding one half cup to your favorite recipe. Experiment and have fun.

Use light brown sugar instead of refined white sugar. It boosts moistness and flavor.

Honey is a humectant and adds moistness (use less liquid in the recipe if you use honey). You may need to cut back a bit on the amount of liquid called for, when using honey.

Agave adds moisture, too. But if it’s humid on the day you are baking, use less agave (or honey).

Use extra vanilla. Many gluten-Free flours can taste strong and unfamiliar, and a little boost of vanilla extract helps soften their flavor. Don’t be afraid to use a whole tablespoon in a recipe- I do. And buy the good stuff. Bourbon vanilla is killer. Cheaper brands with fillers (like corn syrup) are a pale imitation of true vanilla flavor.

Add warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to deepen flavor complexity (cinnamon and chocolate is a favorite secret combo of mine).

Baking Times and More Tips

Baking and rising times vary depending upon many factors:Where do you live ‐ high altitude or sea level? High altitude gluten-free baking usually requires a little less liquid [start with 2 tablespoons less] and a higher oven temperature [increase oven temp by 25 degrees F] or a longer baking time. Often the only change I made for high altitude baking was to add 25 degrees F to my oven temperature (but I’ve never baked above 7,000 feet). The higher you get, the more problematic GF baking can be. Check your local library for high altitude baking tips.

Humid or dry? Flours grab moisture and become damp – this can affect the outcome. Start with 1 to 2 tablespoons less liquid (and less agave/honey) if you suspect your flours are dampish from humidity.Ice cold ingredients or room temperature?

I find baking with room temperature ingredients works best when baking gluten-free. When making gluten-free bread, warm eggs at warmish water briefly until they reach room temperature.

Yeast needs a warm environment to rise properly – a temperature of 100º to 110º F is ideal.

Frozen fruit will chill down batters. Thaw to room temp, drain well and pat dry, or add extra baking time- start with ten minutes.Thick glass pan or thin dark metal? Baking pans may require more or less baking times – see your pan manufacturer’s advice. Note that gluten-free batters are stickier than traditional batters, so they often need longer baking times or temperature adjustments.

Oven temperatures vary slightly from oven to oven. Tune in to yours and notice if recipes tend to take longer – or shorter – to bake. Adjust baking times accordingly. Better yet- get an oven thermometer. You might be surprised how *off* your oven is!If baked goods consistently turn out under-cooked in your oven, try baking them at 25º degrees higher.Place pans in the center of a pre-heated oven ‐ not too close to the top or bottom ‐ for even baking.

Gluten-free batters are a little weird. Cake batter is thicker than you remember. Bread batter is looser than standard bread dough. Cookie dough is almost the same, but sometimes spreads faster during baking [try chilling cookie dough and baking on parchment].Egg sizes vary. This affects the liquid to dry ratio in a recipe. My recipes are based on large organic free-range eggs or Ener-G Egg Replacer.

Until you get the hang of baking gluten-free, I suggest keeping a sharp eye on what’s in the oven. When it looks done, make sure the batter is firm and set in the center [jiggle the pan a tiny bit or lightly touch the top]. A wooden pick inserted in the center can tell you if the batter is still wet [but chocolate chips can melt and make this method sometimes unreliable; if the tester comes out chocolatty, try another spot].

I find‐ with brownies and cookie bars, especially‐ that it is easy to over-bake gluten-free treats. The center may appear too soft while the outside edges are browned just right; turn down the oven heat by 25 degrees; and if necessary, take it out if you prefer a softer center; the dessert will continue to “bake” for a minute or two before it begins to cool.

Freezing gluten-free baked goods often improves texture. Think your cookies or brownies are a dud? Try cutting, wrapping and freezing them. Eat slightly chilled or at room temperature, as you prefer.

Gluten-free baked goods and breads get soggy if they stay too long in their cozy pans. Remove loaves and cakes and muffins from the pan as SOON AS possible. The longer a gluten-free baked good remains in a hot pan, the soggier it gets.

If your end product is gummy in the center- or it falls in the middle- the problem is most likely too much liquid. Use 2-4 tablespoons less when you mix the batter or dough next time. Add only a little liquid at a time to achieve the consistency you need. If it happens often, your flours may be damp or your oven too cool. Or you may be taking the baked good out of the oven too soon; if so, bake it longer.

Remember – it’s an intuitive thing, this gluten-free baking deal. There is really no substitute for experience. The trial and error method is your best teacher in Gluten-Freeland. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Substitutions…

Sugar

Living gluten-free is tough. It really is. And in this Gluten-Free Goddess’ humble opinion, a truly tasty gluten-free treat is worth a thousand words- or a thousand smiles. Eliminating wheat from recipes is huge and problematic; you know, you lose that whole stretchy elasticity and tender crumb mouth feel thing. To create a gluten-free treat that really is a treat is a challenge. Taking sugar out of the equation diminishes the texture and mouth feel of traditional recipes even more.

Sugar adds not only sweetness to baked goods, but structure. I’ve tried baking without it. I’ve used date sugar, processed raisins, agave syrup, stevia. The end results too often screamed Health Food. They were a tad, shall we say, cardboard-esque. And they usually ended up getting tossed in the garbage after a six month stint in the depths of the freezer.

My compromise? I usually bake with organic brown sugar and cane sugar. I have one treat a day. It satisfies my sweet tooth, and I don’t feel deprived.

But if you really must avoid sugar, Darling, here’s one possible sub if you’re not a vegan: 3/4 cup honey (reduce liquid in recipe by 1/4 cup) can be substituted for 1 cup granulated or brown sugar. Not recommended for cookies. Flavor and density will be affected.

If you are a vegan, try using maple syrup or gluten-free brown rice syrup, or agave syrup. I’m experimenting with maple syrup lately, and find it delicious.

If it is humid out, you may have to adjust your recipe, as both agave and honey are humectant, and attract moisture to baked goods.

Brown sugar adds a little extra moistness to gluten-free baked goods; cane sugar makes cookies crisp.Read more about sugar substitutes in baking here.

Fruit, Flavor and Dairy Subs

I am often asked, Can I sub pumpkin for the sweet potato in a recipe? Or, dried cranberries for raisins? Yes. And yes. I find that most fruit purees are interchangeable, according to taste. If you don’t care for banana, try subbing pureed pumpkin. Hate walnuts? Use pecans. Love dried cherries and dislike raisins? Go with cherries. Experiment and have fun. Be creative with recipes. Some of my favorite combos were accidental pairings. Think: fruity with spice, sweet with sour, creamy with crunchy, chocolate with anything!

The Dairy Question

Yes, Babycakes, I know. I feel your pain. Many gluten-intolerant folks develop a lactose intolerance or casein allergy as a result of celiac damage. I sympathize. I’m one of the fifty per cent of celiacs who are saddled with gluten and casein intolerance. You’re not alone.

Cooking Dairy-Free Tips

My favorite dairy free substitute in gluten-free cooking is organic light coconut milk. I use it in sauces, soups, curries and stir-fries. It’s fabulous in whipped sweet potatoes, pumpkin and winter squashes. Check and compare labels as too much guar gum, a common additive in coconut milk, can act as a laxative for sensitive individuals. I also love unsweetened soy or nut milk (non-GMO and no carageenan), if soy or nuts are not an issue for your family.

Butter

There are some great tasting vegan butter substitutes out there now. Some feature olive oil or flax oil. One is even soy-free (with pea protein). Check labels. ‘Stick’ style works better in baking than the softer tub style (too much water). Spectrum Organic Shortening, made from palm oil, basically acts like Crisco, without the trans fats.

My new fave in gluten-free dairy-free baking is raw organic coconut oil. Lovely aroma, taste and texture.

I also love using olive oil in muffins, quick breads, and bread. When one half to one cup butter is called for in a recipe, oil will work (but in general, use a tad less oil than the butter called for).

In the case of a flourless chocolate cake recipe calling for two sticks of butter, though, nothing truly substitutes. When butter is the star, oil will only be oily (though I might be tempted to try Earth Balance sticks).

Another vegan alternative to baking with butter is silken tofu- it works in many recipes.

Milk

Some experts suspect that half of all celiacs (yup, 50% of us) are allergic to casein- the protein in dairy- did you know that? This is not a lactose (milk sugar) issue. It’s a protein allergy issue. So if you still have symptoms, cut out milk and dairy products- it’s often the final piece of the puzzle.

For milk substitutes in baking, gluten-free soy, rice and nut milks work very well. Use plain for a neutral flavor, or vanilla/chocolate for a flavor boost. Coconut milk also works.

For milk substitutes in creamy sauces, try using plain gluten-free soy milk, hemp milk, or unsweetened rice or almond milk. Rice milks usually need a little help in thickening, but they work.

Cheese

Cheeses can be harder to sub. Gluten-free cheese subs are often soy based, nut based, pea and cashew derived, or rice based. Some are just plain awful. Others, only mostly awful. Most don’t melt well (what’s up with that?).

If you’re going to use a non-dairy cheese try one with diced jalapeños; the peppers help cover up the bland flavor. Add extra spices and seasonings to the dish and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil as well. For those sensitive to milk proteins- read labels carefully. Casein or whey (two dairy proteins) is often added to “Dairy-Free” products. Go figure.

Looking for a tasty creamy sauce for comfort foods like mac and cheese? Try my vegan Cheesy Uncheese Sauce– it’s scary good. Seriously. It’s all I use now.

More Dairy Free Meal Ideas

Use dairy-free pesto and tapenades for flavorful sauces and spreads. Make homemade basil or cilantro pesto without cheese [add a dash of sea salt instead] and use it as a sauce on pizza and sandwiches, quesadillas and foccacia.

Make black olive, sun-dried tomato or roasted pepper spreads in your food processor for a quick and flavorful schmear on rice or nut crackers, pizza and grilled sandwiches. You won’t miss the cheese.

Try fresh guacamole and salsa as a healthy condiment. Both are dairy-free and huge on flavor.

Enjoy hummus tahini as a protein packed dip or condiment; any flavor of hummus is a tasty sub for cheese. Serve a dollop with your favorite brown rice dish, baked casserole, salad, grilled and roasted vegetables.

Serve a good fruity extra virgin olive oil instead of butter or cheese. Drizzle it on toasted or grilled gluten-free bread, baked potatoes, and gluten-free pizza shells; try drizzling a hot gluten-free pizza shell with extra virgin olive oil and some sea salt, then top it with a crisp baby greens salad with your favorite fixin’s.

The classic combo of good olive oil and balsamic vinegar makes a fabulous naturally dairy-free condiment for brown rice, veggies, sandwiches and wraps, and even cooked polenta.

Egg Free

Baking gluten-free and egg-free is certainly a challenge. I’ll share some tips based on my growing experience (I baked strictly egg-free for four years).

For the average recipe, Ener-G Egg Replacer is the popular choice.You can also make your own egg replacer using milled flax seeds, silken tofu, mashed banana or figs. Or simply add a liquid such as a rich non-dairy milk [two tablespoons equal one egg] and boost the leavening with more baking powder.

I find I do best baking egg-free when I choose recipes that are traditionally egg-free such as fruit crisps and Asian crepes. Waffles work fine without eggs (try a mashed banana).

If a recipe calls for one egg, I might simply leave it out and add two tablespoons rice milk and an extra teaspoon of baking powder.

For two average eggs, combine:

1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer
4 tablespoons warm water

Whisk together until frothy and foamy. Fold into the recipe and mix well. This mixture won’t bind, but it seems to work in baking.

Note that recipes using tapioca starch often turn out gummy with an egg replacer; and mixes containing tapioca and lots of starches are less likely to turn out using egg replacers. (One popular allergen free brand of mixes called Namaste has not worked without eggs- I’ve tried the brownie and chocolate cake mix using Ener-G Egg Replacer and both were a disaster at high altitude. I suspect the starch ratio in the mixes is too high. But I’m no chemist.)

Soy Free

Many celiacs find they also have a sensitivity to soy; and many have autoimmune thyroid disease. Whether by necessity or choice, a great many celiacs are also soy-free.

For a soy sauce sub I use a dab of molasses whisked into a quarter cup of soy-free vegan broth. I add a splash of balsamic or rice vinegar, to taste, and a dash of sea salt, sesame oil, ginger, cumin, curry or red pepper spice, to taste.

Another choice is to make an Asian sauce based around peanut butter, sesame tahini or cashew butter stirred into a cup of vegan broth. Add chopped garlic, spices and a squeeze of lime juice as an accent.

New on the market is a soy-style sauce called Coconut Aminos- look for it in the condiment and sauces section.

For thickening sauces, soups and gravies, and dredging (coating in flour)For thickening stir-fry sauces, basic white sauces and soups, I use tapioca starch or arrowroot starch (mix it with a little cool water or rice milk first before adding it to sauces). Arrowroot starch works well for gravies served right away. Cornstarch can also be used but I find it get gluey (as can potato starch).

For a making roux, or paste, for basic white sauce or cheese sauce, my favorite is sweet rice flour; but any basic rice flour or gluten-free flour mix will work -but don’t use bean or soy flour – they have too strong a taste.

For dredging veggies, potato cakes or veggie burgers before frying, try your favorite gluten-free flour mix, or simply use rice flour, or tapioca starch, or cornmeal. A lower carb option is almond flour.

For Wheat-Free Gluten-Free Bread Crumbs

My favorite crumbs- for all kinds of recipes- is a tad unconventional, but really delicious! I haul out my food processor and process several toasted gluten-free waffles into crumbs. Plain gluten-free waffles usually have no sugar. Add some dried Italian herbs or your favorite seasoning, if you wish. Drizzle with olive oil or melted butter and pulse. Very yummy, crunchy and golden when baked. And no, they’re not too sweet.

Processing pieces of your favorite toasted gluten-free bread also works. Especially gluten-free cornbread. Cornbread makes lovely crumb topping.

For crunchy toppings try crumbled corn tortilla chips, rice chips, or potato chips. Failed gluten-free breads can be processed into crumbs and frozen for later use.

Note that adding dried herbs and seasonings give gluten-free bread crumbs a big flavor boost. Some folks advocate processing cornflakes or gluten-free cereal into crumbs but I find it gives the recipe a mealy, breakfast cereal taste.

Finally-

My last tidbit of advice- let go of old expectations, forget the tried and true of the past and have a little fun playing in the kitchen. Risk new flavor combos. Get inspired by world cuisine and browse cookbooks for ideas. Living gluten-free is a challenge, yes.

But you know what? It can also be delicious!

Cast Iron Cooking: Tips, Recipe Ideas, a Giant Cookie and a Cookbook Review

The right tool for the right job makes cooking a rewarding experience. I’ve gone back and forth so many times on the ideal cookware to stock my kitchen with. These days I find myself reaching for one skillet on a daily basis, sometimes washing out the skillet and using it twice for the same meal. I’m talking about my cast iron skillet.

There’s much to love about cast iron cookware. For me, the number one thing is the fact that cast iron can withstand very high heat, making it possible to cook restaurant-tasting meals at home. You know what I am talking about- food with a flavorful brown sear on the outside and juicy on the inside. We seem to live in times where products last a year or so before they are made obsolete by the next version. Cast iron cookware lasts a lifetime and more. Long after my nonstick pan surface is chipping, and after the steel skillet handles are coming loose, the cast iron pan will be working as hard as ever. You only have to be a little patient and learn to care for it properly.

With my growing love for cast iron cookware, when I was offered a review copy of The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook: A Treasury of Timeless, Delicious Recipes, I was happy to accept. I had a feeling that this cookbook would give me a few new ideas to use my cast iron cookware (it just so happens that both of my cast iron pans are from Lodge and I’m officially a fan), and it definitely did not disappoint.

Here are 5 things I loved about this cookbook:

1. I like reading cookbooks the way other people read novels, and this one is full of mini essays by different cooks about their cast iron memories. And I enjoyed reading this little nugget- many pieces of Lodge cookware made in 1896 are still in use today. Now that’s the kind of antique I would not mind collecting.

2. The book is rich in vegetarian recipes and they sound oh-so-good, just to name a few- seasonal breakfast frittata, pimiento cheese panini sandwich, summer squash casserole, roasted corn pudding; there’s even a recipe for rajma.

3. I always thought it was a bad idea to cook tomato-based dishes in cast iron, because acidic foods leach the iron and make the food taste too metallic. Many of the recipes were tomato based so it is indeed fine to cook acidic foods in cast iron, only perhaps I wouldn’t leave the food in the pan too long after cooking. This opens up even more possibilities of using my cast iron cookware.

4. There is a whole section on cornbread recipes, all grand prize winners of the National Cornbread Cook-Off held annually in Tennessee. I really enjoying looking through the innovative variations on cornbread, like upside-down salsa cornbread and festive good luck cornbread skillet (yes, it calls for black-eyed peas).

5. I never thought to use my cast iron skillet for pizza and desserts. The cookbook has wonderful recipes for both. I then looked at food blogs and found many more, like this nice pictorial recipe for cast iron pizza and another one from King Arthur. Pineapple upside down cake is the classic recipe for dessert in a cast iron skillet, but I also can’t wait to make these brownies, and Siri has a wonderful recipe for banana bread.

All in all, paired with a piece or two of cast iron cookware, The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook cookbook would be a wonderful wedding or housewarming gift.

One of the recipes from this cookbook that jumped out at me was for a giant chocolate chip cookie. A simple chocolate chip cookie dough patted into a cast iron skillet and baked into a giant cookie that can be cut and served like a pie- what fun!

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie-in-a-Pan
(Heavily adapted from a recipe in The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook)

 

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, melt and cool 1.5 sticks butter (3/4 cup).
3. Stir in 1 cup sugar and a dollop of molasses and beat well.
4. Add 1 large egg, 1 egg yolk and 2 tsp. vanilla extract and beat well.
5. Gently stir in 1 and 3/4 cup flour, 1 tsp. baking soda and 1 tsp. salt.
6. Fold in 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips and 1 cup toasted chopped walnuts.
7. Scrape batter into a 10-inch cast iron skillet sprayed well with baking spray. Pat down into an even layer.
8. Sprinkle batter with coarse sea salt.
9. Bake until the edges are lightly browned, 30-35 minutes.

Cut into wedges and serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. With the bittersweet chocolate and the hit of sea salt, this was a grown up version of a childhood classic. For a special occasion, it would be fun to use an icing tube and decorate this “cookie cake” the way they do it at the mall cookie stalls.

Here is a list of top 10 ways that I use my two cast iron pans. There are many brands out there but like I said, both of mine are Lodge, from their seasoned line, and I love them. I cook a lot of Indian food so it is not surprising that I have adapted my cast iron pans for some of my favorite Indian dishes.

My first cast iron pan was this seasoned 10 inch griddle.

1. Dosa. This is the reason I bought this griddle in the first place. When we moved to St. Louis from NYC, I tearfully bid farewell to the wonderful dosa restaurants near 28th street and Lexington Avenue and thought my days of eating authentic dosas were over. Not so- we acquired a wet grinder and I bought this wonderful cast iron tava, and we’re making our own almost-as-good-as-the-local-Udipi-joint dosas, baby.

Here are some of my kitchen notes for making dosas in a cast iron pan:

  • I always smear the cast iron pan with a tsp. of oil before starting to use it, and drizzle a few drops of oil or ghee around every dosa edge. For a new cast iron pan, you may need a little extra oil to begin with.
  • Get the pan nice and hot before pouring the first dosa. Cast iron takes longer to heat up compared to metal or non stick pans (however, once it heats up it retains heat remarkably well). Hover the palm of your hand a couple inches above the pan’s surface- you should feel the high heat.
  • Make sure the dosa batter is at room temperature. Batter straight from the fridge tends to stick to the pan.
  • Let the bottom get completely cooked and crispy before attempting to flip the dosa or pry it up (many dosas are cooked only on one side). Once the dosa cooks, it will come off the surface. Half cooked batter sticks to the griddle surface so be patient.
  • By the way, my dosa formula is adapted from Vaishali’s recipe. I use 1 cup brown rice, 1 cup dosa/idli rice (parboiled rice), 1/2 cup urad dal, 1/3 cup poha, 2 tbsp chana dal, and 1 tsp. methi seeds.

2. Rotis etc. All of our tava-cooked Indian breads, including chapatis and rotis and stuffed parathas turn out beautifully on the cast iron tava, with nice brown spots on the outside and soft insides- and this works for both cooking them and reheating them.

3. Patties: Vegetable patties are my favorite crisper-cleaning snacks and a tasty way of eating assorted vegetables. I use the griddle for shallow frying patties, such as these, and patties for ragda patties.

4. Kaap: These are pan-fried slices of vegetables that make for irresistible side dishes to a simple Indian meal. In general, I make a mixture of rice flour, rava, chili powder, turmeric and salt, then dredge thick slices of vegetables (potato, sweet potato, plantain, eggplant, pumpkin, butternut squash) in it and pan fry on this griddle. Much more than any other pan I have used, the result is a crispy spicy coating enclosing soft, melt-in-the-mouth vegetables.

4. Grilled cheese: Cast iron griddles make the most fabulous grilled cheese. Some of our favorite cheese sandwiches are here. These days, we often make “gourmet” grilled cheese with fancy bread, assorted cheeses and interesting combinations of fillings, like brie and apricot jam.

5. Quesadillas: This dish is a weekly favorite in my home. Just stuff a whole wheat tortilla with plenty of shredded cheese and a filling of beans and sauteed vegetables. Again, the high heat of cast iron contributes intense flavor to this simple dish.

In Spring of last year, I wanted to add to my collection and bought a 10 inch cast iron skillet. If you are new to using cast iron, then this is the pan I would recommend. It is incredibly versatile and the size is just right for a family of 2 to 4. Buying a seasoned pan makes it simple for a beginner to start using it right away. Here are my top 5 uses for this skillet:

1. Sauteed vegetables: I am convinced that most of the reason why some people hate vegetables is because they have not been cooked in a flavorful way. Roasting is one way to get vegetables browned and tasty and a quicker easier way is to cook the vegetables on fairly high heat in a cast iron skillet. I saute vegetables to serve as a quick side dish, to add to grilled cheese and quasadillas (see above) and to add to curries.

2. Bhaaji/Subzi: All of my favorite subzis (Indian stir-fried vegetables), like cabbage, cauliflower-peas and eggplant-lima beans, give me fabulous results with this skillet. I do find that potatoes tend to stick to the pan.

3. Caramelized onions: The easiest way to make a posh meal out of a humble vegetable. Caramelize a bunch of onions and make a dip, put them on pizza or grilled cheese or turn them into soup.

4. Skillet lasagna: After reading this cookbook and discovering that you can indeed cook tomato-based dishes in cast iron cookware, I made skillet lasagna with great results- simple saute vegetables like onion, peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, add pasta sauce, broken lasagna noodles and cheese- ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan- and cover and cook for a tasty one dish meal.

5. Rice dishes turn out beautifully- I’ve already posted a mushroom pulao, had great results with this recipe for cheesy rice, and my all-time favorite breakfast dish, poha, is wonderful when made in the cast iron skillet.

If you have any more ideas for using these versatile pans, please chime in by leaving a comment.

This post is a tribute to Miri who wrote the popular food blog Peppermill. Miri passed away last week, leaving me (and so many of her blogger friends) reeling with shock and sorrow. I was a regular reader of Miri’s blog and enjoyed her warm and and optimistic voice. She shared hundreds of recipes that had me in a bookmarking frenzy, from a recent favorite winter vegetable pickle made by her neighbor’s mom to all the Tamil specialties. Diwali of last year, I was home with a newborn with no time to make traditional treats, but reading her 4-part Diwalibhakshanam series (she wrote with characteristic enthusiasm, “I decided to involve my 6 year old so that she gets a feel of all the traditional Tamil sweets and savories which she wouldn’t get to see otherwise in Delhi”) made the festive season come alive for me.

Re-reading Miri’s post about baking muffins with her daughter was extremely painful this past week, knowing that this little 6 year old girl is left to face the biggest loss of all. I hope Miri’s husband and daughter know that they have friends and well-wishers all over the world and that their darling wife/mother touched many lives. Read loving tributes to Miri by Arch, Bong Mom, Manishaand Nina.

During a brief e-mail correspondence, Miri told me her real-life name- Raji- but I will always think of her as Miri (the word means “pepper” in several Indian languages), peppering our blogs generously with her witty and warm comments. What makes it most poignant is that Miri who so loved cooking and baking succumbed to a rare digestive disorder. I laid aside my grief and tried to write this post with joy and enthusiasm because I think Miri would have liked that.

RAS EL HANOUT ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUT & SWEET POTATO BOWL WITH MAPLE-ORANGE VINAIGRETTE

hey dear folks! sprouts here, sprouts there, sprouts everywhere. when i was a child i have hated brussels sprout so badly but now, brussels sprout is favourite type of cabbage.
today’s recipe is well-suited for cooking with sprouts as it gets the most intense flavour and the best taste out of them. no matter, if you have hated sprouts up to now or you already are a sprouts lover, this recipe will change your mind as for brussels sprout and you’re going to love this hearty vegetable. i bet you will!

for this recipe, you roast sprouts and sweet potatoes (a stunner, you already know) with ras el hanout, a moroccan spice blend, just THE spice blend! i commonly purchase mine from an organic grocery store. added to these spicy roasted vegetables are creamy good-quality goat’s cheese, fresh lamb’s lettuce and a killer sauce made, among others, with olive oil, maple syrup and orange juice.

are you in on it? great! here we go:

RAS EL HANOUT ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUT & SWEET POTATO BOWL WITH MAPLE-ORANGE VINAIGRETTE
|serves 2|

ingredients
400 g brussels sprouts, stalk and outer leaves removed, washed + cut into halves
600 g sweet potatoes, peeled + cut into cubes
1 small red onion, cut into small wedges
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp ras el hanout
sea salt & black pepper
2 handful of lamb’s lettuce, washed + drained
80 g good-quality goat’s cheese, crumbled

maple-orange vinaigrette
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
sea salt & black pepper

instructions
preheat oven to 225°. toss brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, red onions, coconut oil, and ras el hanout in a large baking dish; season with sea salt and pepper. roast, tossing once, until everything is tender, soft and browning, 25-35 minutes.

while the vegetables are roasting, prepare the maple-orange vinaigrette. in a jar with a lid, combine olive oil, orange juice, maple syrup, garlic (optional), sea salt and pepper. shake well until vinaigrette is combined.

to serve, divide roasted vegetables onto large bowls; add lamb’s lettuce and mix together gently. drizzle each bowl with the prepared maple-orange vinaigrette and sprinkle with crumbled goat’s feta.

toss until everything is well-coated, season with sea salt – if needed – and simply enjoy!

INTRODUCING: STOOKER ROASTING CO. + CHEMEX BREWING GUIDE | LIFE IS WAY TOO SHORT FOR BAD COFFEE.

LIFE IS WAY TOO SHORT FOR BAD COFFEE!

Hey folks, today is all about good coffee. I’m such a coffee lover and always hunting for high quality, fresh coffee beans. This is where Stooker Roasting Co. comes in. Stooker is a specialty coffee roaster in Amsterdam. They hunt for the most tasteful beans from all over the world. Their goal is to roast delicious coffee while making sure that the entire supply chain from the grower to exporter are fairly and properly paid. Thumbs up! This is exactly why I wanna introduce them to you, folks.

I am absolutely impressed by the packaging itself. Stooker coffee appeals to both design and coffee lovers like you and me. Freshly roasted beans lose their flavour over time. Therefor Stooker supplies us with the freshest beans possible. They manage this by roasting on demand. This time I have chosen #6 Costa Rica filter coffee and placed my order online at Hello Frankie Store. After that Stooker roasted the Costa Rica beans on the following Thursday. Hello Frankie Store send the beans before the weekend, so I could start my week with fresh Stooker coffee. The smell when I opened my package of freshly roasted coffee beans on Monday was awesome. Ground coffee or even stored roasted coffee beans cannot match up to freshly roasted beans.

What kind of brewing method do you prefer? While doing my A-levels, I was used to brewing with the french press. When I was sharing a flat with other students, we’re using a conventional filter machine. As I discovered an old Melitta filter on the flea market, I started grounding fresh coffee beans with a hand mill and brewing coffee with that cute little porcelain hand filter. Last Christmas I got a little Chemex and now I drink next level shit coffee each morning. I can fully recommend you investing money in this filter-drip coffee maker as your resulting cup coffee will be light, bright and delicately nuanced – simply beyond delicious.
What’s more, I admit I’m drawn to the Chemex as it is one of the most beautiful design objects with its charming wood handle and leather cord.
Here’s a little Chemex brew-it-yourself guide for you. All measurements are referring to the small Chemex brewer (1-3 cups).
CHEMEX BREWING
WHAT YOU NEED
Chemex brewer
Chemex filter
freshly roasted coffee beans
grinder
coffee mug
INGREDIENTS
19g freshly roasted coffee beans
300ml water + more for rinsing your paper filter
HOW TO BREW
1.
 Weigh and grind 19g coffee, medium-coarse grind setting.
2.
Boil water.
3.
Fold and place the filter into the Chemex with the three layer side facing the spout. Rinse with hot water to remove any paper flavor and preheat the Chemex. Pour away the water.
4.
Add your ground coffee. Wet the grounds with a small amount of your pre-measured hot water (75ml), pouring it in a circular motion to wet all the grounds. The coffee will begin to “bloom”. Wait 30 seconds.
5.
Add the rest of your water in a steady circular motion starting from the center and working your way out.
6.
Once the coffee finishes dripping through (3-4 minutes), remove the filter, serve and enjoy your cup of coffee!

I like coffee beans that are slightly roasted, as it gives the flavours in the coffee more of a chance to shine. As to Stooker Roasting’s Costa Rica coffee, this whole thing has a juicy mouthfeel and citrus flavours, then comes the sweet milk chocolate finish which rounds of the taste profile perfectly! #6 Costa Rica convinces me with its milk chocolate finish for the simple reason that I prefer coffee beans with a subtle chocolate flavour.

Some of you guys asked me where the grey porcelain cups are from. The answer is Amsterdam design studio De Intuïtiefabriek. These espresso cups, I’m serving our coffee in, are from their project ‘SUM’ – a colourful collection of porcelain cups, bowl and plates. Their tableware is modern, urban and timelessly beautiful. I got two of their grey porcelain cups online, just as Stooker coffee, at Hello Frankie Store:

| #6 Costa Rica filter coffee by Stooker Roasting Co.
| SUM espresso cup G5 by De Intuïtiefabriek

I hope you enjoyed my little coffee series about Chemex brewing, high quality coffee and the introduction of Stooker, the Amsterdam coffee roaster.

Cheers, Lisa! 

KOHLRABI COCONUT SOUP W/ CRISPY ROASTED RADISHES, NIGELLA SEEDS + CILANTRO GREMOLATA

 

Hello friends, it’s actually spring! That’s why I’m sharing this spring-like kohlrabi coconut soup with you today. Cooking with the seasons makes lots of fun. Today is all about kohlrabi and radishes. As a child I was used to snack them raw, together with our common “Brotzeit”. Um, well, we cut them into sticks/pieces and served them to our bread and butter breakfasts, lunches or dinners. I was wondering how I can turn these both spring vegetables into something zeitgeisty, more grown-up at once, and how they work together best.

Have you ever turned kohlrabi into soup or even roasted radishes? Not yet? You’re missing much! I bet you’ll never wanna eat kohlrabi and radishes another way.
As to the soup, it’s texture is creamy no end thanks to rich coconut milk. The soup is aromatic and mild at once, what makes it very pleasant and soothing – it has presence without demanding attention.
On to the radishes, that are roasted with nigella seeds – my newest king of spices – they are crispy, and will make you shout: “Oh wow!”.
The refreshing cilantro gremolata, that is freshly pestled in mortar with garlic and other good stuff, makes the recipe complete, and it all works out.

This soup is easy and quick to make, looks like spring in a bowl and even tastes like spring. Serve it with slices of toasted sourdough and this soup is worth making for either lunch or dinner once a week all spring, as it is such a vibrant trio – soup, topping + gremolata.

Here it is, a recipe for tasty and hearty kohlrabi coconut soup with roasted radishes, nigella seeds and cilantro gremolata – make sure you have fresh bread at hand to soak up all leftover soup in the bowl.

KOHLRABI COCONUT SOUP W/ CRISPY ROASTED RADISHES, NIGELLA SEEDS + CILANTRO GREMOLATA
|serves 2 as a hearty main entree or 4 as a side dish|

INGREDIENTS
350 g kohlrabi, peeled + diced
1 medium potato, peeled + diced
1 tbsp. coconut oil
½ yellow onion, diced
½ leek, white part cut into thin rings
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
400 ml low-sodium vegetable stock
100 ml canned coconut milk
1-2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
freshly ground sea salt + black pepper to taste

8 red radishes, halved
1 tsp. nigella seeds
2 tsp. olive oil
freshly ground sea salt + black pepper to taste

handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
a squeeze of lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 clove garlic, finely diced
a pinch of sea salt

fresh bread for serving

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat the oven to 190°C.

In a large saucepan, heat coconut oil on medium heat. Add onions, leeks, cumin and coriander. Sauté until onions and leeks are soft, not browned, about two minutes. Next put kohlrabi and potatoes into the saucepan, season with sea salt and pepper, toss properly, sauté for further two minutes while stirring continuously.
Add the vegetable broth and coconut milk, bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender.
Take the saucepan from heat. Add apple cider vinegar, and blend the soup using an immersion blender until smooth. Add extra coconut milk if desired and adjust seasoning.

Toss together the radishes, nigella seeds, olive oil salt, and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast for 12-15 minutes, until both crispy and tender.

To make the gremolata, put cilantro, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and a pinch of  sea salt in your mortar, and pestle until the cilantro leaves’ liquid exits and everything is mixed up.

Serve soup hot, in two bowls, with fresh cilantro gremolata, and roasted radishes right out of the oven. Enjoy the soup with either cripsy toasted or fluffy fresh bread.
Notes:

If you don’t own a mortar and pestle, you also could mix up the cilantro gremolata in a small bowl.

RUSTIC STRAWBERRY SPELT ROLLS

Hey peeps, just in time for Mother’s Day I’m sharing my recipe for these handsome and rustic strawberry + spelt bread rollsmade with yeast dough. My family has a mean addiction to sweet yeast dough pastries, and so have I. Last weekend I baked them for my Mother’s birthday brunch, and not only she but all the family was thrilled by these sweet pastries.

Pastries made with yeast dough have this very special taste. I love it! The first bite immediately takes me back to my childhood, where my grandma was used to baking yeast dough pastries with me, or rather for me, and the entire family. There didn’t need to be any special occasion, my grandma was always baking and provided us with delicious homemade food. As little child I loved these big family gatherings at my grandma’s place with up to 20 peeps – just eating, laughing, playing. Especially in summer, when everything took place outside in the garden. And now, this love has reawakened and I do cherish family time afresh.
This strawberry + spelt bread rolls works pretty well for your Mother’s Day gatherings, your moms and the entire family (including you) will drool over them, I swear. But they actually do not only work for Mother’s Day, also they are great for any other breakfast, brunch, or coffee + tea afternoons.

 

RUSTIC STRAWBERRY SPELT ROLLS
|makes 6 bread rolls|

As to the recipe, make sure to use juicy and ripe strawberries (from autumn to spring go for thawed frozen ones) and the finest spelt flour you can find. Spelt flour has less gluten than wheat, that’s why the dough needs to be kneaded way longer than wheat dough. So, knead, knead, knead to a fare-thee-well. By following these three tips your rolls will turn out pretty handsome, full of taste and extremely addictive.

Enjoy them while still warm, or slightly re-heated in case you’ve to transport them. You can serve them pure as they are (so scrumptious) or cut in half and spread with your favorite spread (so scrumptious, too) – salted butter & homemade jam, chocolate-hazelnut spread and almond butter are my first choice here.

INGREDIENTS
325 g fine spelt flour (type 630)
7 g active dry yeast
a pinch of sea salt
15 g brown rice syrup
165 ml almond milk
35 ml olive oil

40 g coconut oil, melted
30 g brown rice syrup
250g fresh strawberries, washed, drained + cut into small pieces
½ tsp. vanilla extract or ¼ tsp. vanilla powder

INSTRUCTIONS
Place flour, yeast and salt in a medium bowl and stir. Next, add rice syrup, milk and olive oil to the dry ingredients and start to knead it for at least 10 minutes or more. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour, if it is too dry, add some more almond milk. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a clean towel, and allow the dough to both rest and rise in a warm place for about an hour or until it almost has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 190°C.
For the filling, melt coconut oil in a small saucepan, stir in rice syrup and vanilla. Place strawberries in a bowl and pour over half of the liquid mix.
On a lightly floured counter, divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Properly knead in half of the marinated strawberries, and then scatter the remaining ones on top. Place the rolls on a lined baking tray. Drizzle each roll with the remaining coconut oil mix (in case it’s solid again, quickly reheat it) and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. For best taste enjoy the strawberry rolls while still warm.

Agricultural Land Commission

You may have heard that Richard Bullock has been dismissed by the Province as Chair and CEO of the Agricultural Land Commission. This is a concerning development. To say ‘thank you’ to Richard you may wish to sign the virtual Thank You card, thanking him for his tireless work protecting agricultural land in B.C. Thanks to Jim Wright from Richmond’s Garden City Conservation for creating the card.

To stay on top of this issue as it unfolds be sure to check out the ALR Watch Facebook page or visit the BC Food Systems Network website.

Photo of Richard Bullock
Credit: John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Classic Strawberry Shortcake – Thanks, Grandpa!

I was visiting my mom last summer, and overheard her and my aunt talking about making strawberry shortcake using “dad’s” recipe. They were obviously talking about my grandfather, which was surprising, since I had no idea he baked.

I remember he did a lot of cooking growing up, but it was things like frittata, meat sauce, or polenta. I never once saw him bake anything sweet. Nevertheless, he apparently gets credit for inventing our official family recipe for strawberry shortcake, which I’ve adapted here.

What he had done was taken the strawberry shortcake recipe off the box of a certain, very popular premade biscuit mix, and added extra “everything,” as my mother put it. So, that’s what I did here, except instead of using the stuff in the yellow box, I used self-rising flour, which I’m pretty sure is basically the same thing.

The only other major change is the original recipe calls for regular melted butter, but as you’ll see in the video, I like to toast mine just a little, to bring out those subtle, nutty flavors. I’m hoping Armand Cianfoni would approve. I really hope you give “our” strawberry shortcake a try soon. Enjoy!

Makes 6 Large or 8 Normal Strawberry Shortcakes:

2 cups self rising flour ((You can make you own by sifting together 2 cups of all-purpose flour with 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon fine salt)

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup milk

4 tbsp butter, melted, and lightly toasted to a golden-brown

4 pints fresh strawberries

1/2 cup white sugar

*add 1 tbsp water, if strawberries aren’t perfectly ripe

3/4 cup cold heavy cream, whipped with a tablespoon of sugar and a few drops of vanilla (watch demo here)

– Bake at 425F.  for 15-18 minutes or until browned.

Braised Lamb with Radishes and Mint (and Anchovies, but Don’t Tell Anyone)

I had a fantastic appetizer recently featuring lamb belly, radishes, anchovies, and mint, which inspired today’s post. It sounded amazing, but I’d only glanced at the description, so when it came, I was more than a little surprised to see the radishes were fully cooked.

This was a new one for me, and I absolutely loved it. Like most root vegetables, radishes don’t have a ton of flavor, but I found them slightly sweet, earthy (duh), and aromatic. Plus, they seemed to have effectively absorbed all the other flavors in the dish.

One thing led to another, and I adapted the approach to create one of the more interesting and delicious things I’ve had in a while. I called it a “flavor bomb” in the video, but “umami bomb” would be more accurate. This was as savory, as savory gets.

Because of all the sweet flavors going on, I decided not to add any sauteed onions or garlic, which is contrary to most braised meat recipes. It probably wouldn’t have hurt anything, and I might try it next time, but to be honest, this came out so perfectly balanced, that I’m a little scared change anything.

And no, you can’t taste the anchovies. That doesn’t mean you should tell anyone they’re in there, but I did want to mention, in case you’re scared. I would like to thankAatxe for the inspiration, and I really hope you give this strange, but exciting braised lamb dish and try soon. Enjoy!

Makes 4 Portions:

4  lamb shoulder chops (10-12 ounces each)

1 tablespoon kosher salt (or about 2 tsp of table salt)

1 teaspoon black  pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne

1 tbsp olive oil

1/3 cup sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

4 oil-packed anchovy fillets

1 1/2 cups low-sodium or no sodium chicken broth (the anchovies and spice rub on the lamb usually provide enough salt, plus you can add at the end after sauce is reduced)

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 bunches breakfast radishes, trimmed

2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
5 or 6 fresh mint leaves finely sliced

1 tbsp cold butter

– Braise at 275 F. for about 3 hour , or until meat is just barely tender, then finish at 425 F. to brown. Serve with de-fatted and reduced sauce.

Cooking tips

How to make Cashewnut paste
Soak a 8-10 whole cashewnuts in 1/4 cup of warm water for 15-20 mins. Grind it to smooth paste along with the water used for soaking. Adding cashewnut paste makes gravies thicker and creamy.
How to make homemade Garam Masala
Fennel Seeds –  1 tbsp

Cloves – 10
Cinnamon stick  – 2
Cardamom  –  4
Star anise –  1
Whole black pepper corns -15 – 20
Dry roast all the ingredients lightly in a pan at medium heat for about 2-3 mts. When it cools down, grind to a fine powder and store in an airtight container.

How to soften store bought Paneer
Store bought paneer is often hard than homemade ones. This could be due to being in the cooler racks for many days. To make the paneer soft, cut them into cubes and soak in hot water for 10 minutes. Drain to a kitchen towel and pat dry.


How to Puree tomatoes
1. Boil tomatoes in hot water for 5-10 mins.
2. Peel off the skin and remove and discard the seeds.
3. Grind the tomato into a smooth paste in a mixer.

How to extract tamarind pulp
1. Soak tamarind in hot water for 5-10 mins.
2. Mash it with your fingers to form a pulp.
3. Filter it using a sieve.

Cooking Tips and Tricks

  1. Add 1 tbls of fruit jam in a glass of cold milk,blend well and a quick delicious fruit shake  is ready for kids
  2.  Add 2 tbls pickle masala, 2 tbls pickle oil  and a pinch of salt in a cup of wheat flour to make delicious achari poori’s for breakfast and as a travel food.
  3. Add 1 tbls left over pickle masala in regular subzi to make achari aloo,achari bhindi and achari brinjal or any dry curry of your choice..
  4.  Add kiwi fruit,green apple,oranges,berries or any sour  or over ripe fruit to make  coriander chutney more nutritious.
  5. While making coriander chutney add few nuts of your choice to make it more nutritious and to increase its shelf life.
  6. If you have added too much chilli powder in a gravy then add some curd ,lemon juice or 2 .t.s ghee in it to balance it.
  7. If your  gulab jamuns turn out hard ,don’t worry,just put them  in the pressure cooker with sugar -syrup  and cook for 5 minute on medium heat  and then serve warm with a smile.
  8.  While making home made potato chips,mix some alum powder in the water and soak the chips in it,before boiling.
  9. While grinding red chili powder add little mustard oil in it to get a bright red colour.
  10. Its much easier to grind small cardamom if you add some sugar to it while grinding.
  11. Add 1 tbls gram flour in semolina for making delicious sooji halwa .
  12. While making gravy for a kofta or paneer dish ,use milk instead of water  for smoother gravy
  13. If asafoetida  become too hard then keep a green chilli with it.
  14. If you are short of tomatoes to make gravy, then add some  tomato ketchup.
  15. Add little bounvita in coffee for a  delicious twist in the taste.
  16. Grease the leftover dough with slight oil or ghee  before covering and  storing it in the refrigerator.
  17. Add little glycerine in the cake batter to make it more soft and moist.
  18. Add some routine spices and a bread in leftover rice ,mash the mixture well and make crispy fritters.
  19. After  making cottage cheese/paneer don’t throw the whey, use it the to make roti dough or use in any curry.
  20. Add a pinch of dried mint powder in tomato soup to make it more flavourful.
  21. Add a apple with potatoes ,they will stay fresh and will not sprout easily.
  22. If facing difficulty in rolling aloo parantha,,then add add some dry roasted gram flour or little bread crumbs in the filling,it will not come out while rolling.
  23. Try to  add whole curry leaf spring  in the dish,it will be easy to remove after cooking.
  24. Use scissor to chop green chillies and coriander.
  25. While boiling potatoes add some salt or vinegar in the water, to avoid cracking while boiling.
  26. Use white tooth powder to clean your silvarware and silvar jewellary.
  27. If you have added extra salt in the dish,don’t worry just add a peeled raw potato or a ball of wheta flour dough and boil for a minute,then discard the potato or flour ball.
  28. If your rice are burned,don’t worry just put a slice of bread in the pan for 10 minute,bread will absorb the burned flavour.
  29. Freeze left over coffee in ice try and next time when you make cold coffee ,use these cubes instead of plain ice cubes
  30. To remove worms from cauliflower ,add some white vinegar or turmeric in the water and soak the florets in it for 10 minutes.
  31. Add 1 t.s white vinegar in idli batter to make softer idlis.
  32. Add some gram flour or semolina in wheat flour to make crisp poori’s.
  33. To enhance the flavour of coffee ,add a pinch of salt into it.

Tips for household maintenance: 

Stain Removal:

  1. Stains  from  your crockery or melamine ware-add 2 caps of bleach/clorex in 2 lit water and soak your crockery overnight.
  2. Remove stains from inside the pressure cooker-add some vinegar or lemon peels in 2 cup water and pressure cook for 2 whistle and scrub well.
  3. Remove oil paint stains- rub with white spirit.
  4. Remove carbon paper stains- with spirit.
  5. Remove fungus stains from leather -first rub with candle wax and then wipe with soft cloth.
  6. Ink stains from leather -use nail polish remover and clean
  7. Clean suede shoes and bags -rub them with sandpaper.
  8. Remove stains from your aluminium pans-just boil some apple peels in it.
  9. Remove grease from gas stove or pan -apply oven cleaner or paint thinner and wash easily afterwards .
  10. Remove mould from the walls-mix 1 cup of bleach in a gallon of water and scrub well then wash well with water.
  11. To open the cloged gas stove burners-soak overnight in soda aur drain opener solution.
  12. To remove wax from cloth and sheets -put them in the frezzer and peel off when becom hard.
  13.  To remove sticker-use a hair dryer for few minutes ,and then peel off the sticker.
  14. To remove the calcium build up from your electric kettle- just boil a mixture of half vinegar and half water and then wash off.
  15.  Pour your leftover cola drink in the toilet bowl to make it cleaner

Smell / Odour removal:

  1. To remove the smell of kitchen sponge , soak it in water with a little white vinegar or lemon juice , then heat in microwave for 1 minute.
  2. Keep a small open box of baking powder in the refrigerator to absorb all smells.
  3. To remove the smell from the tharmas flask -wash it with salted buttermilk.OR wash with water and baking soda mixture.
  4. Light a candle in the room to get rid of cigarette odour from the room.
  5. To remove the carpet odour -take a box of baking soda and spread on the floor for some time and then remove.
  6. Stinky sink-mix equal quantity of bleach and hot water and pour in the sink,pour hot water after 5 minutes,
  7. Add few drops of  your old and expired perfume in the water ,for moping your room flour.
  8. Urine and bacteria smell in carpet-mix 1 part vinegar and 3 part water and rub it on the carpet.rinse it with water after an hour and sun dry.

Keeping flowers fresh –

  1. Flowers stays fresher in copper flower vase.
  2. Add aspirin tablet or copper coin in flowerpot ,will stays fresh longer.
  3. Add little boric powder in carnation flowers,will stays fresh longer.
  4. Soak dried coconut husk in water and add in moneyplant pot.
  5. Use the water from your fish tank to water your plants,as the fish dropping will work as a great fertilizer

Controlling Pests-

  1. Ants-Add few cloves in sugar container to avoid ant attack.
  2. To discourage ants ,sprinkle some cigareete ash or petroleum jelly near their opening/colonies.
  3. Keep a spray bottle with soapy water handy  and spray the ants with it.
  4. Sprinkle some turmeric or chalk powder near ant colonies.
  5. Coackroaches-Make small balls from boric powder,sugar and flour and keep in the cupboard and kitchen corners to avoid cockroches.
  6. Spray soapy water directly on coackroaches to kill them.
  7. Dust mites-vaccum your mattresses and pillows regularly
  8. Dust bedding with tannic acid powder to remove dust mites.
  9. Mosquitos-burning camphor is a good mosquito repellent.
  10. Put some neem oil on a used mosquito repellent mat and use,neem oil is a natural  and effective repellent.
  11. Plant some merigild around your house,insects and mosquitos don’t like its fragrance and stay off.
  12. Flies-put few drops of eucalyptus oil in a cotton ball and keep in every room.
  13. Keep small sachets of dried mint powder around your house.
  14. Use the water from your fish tank to water your plants,as the fish dropping will work as a great fertilizer.

Baking Homemade Brownies

Baking homemade brownies is one of life’s sweetest delights. The smell of the brownies baking in the oven never fails to attract every family member to the kitchen to await the finished treat. When they are finally done it doesn’t take but a few seconds for them to disappear, having been devoured by everyone who could get a hold of one.

The only hard part of preparing brownies is the preparation and the cleanup afterward. It takes longer to prepare and bake brownies than it does for them to be eaten, especially if they come out delicious. For this very reason many people prefer to buy brownies from the store and miss out on the deliciousness of home-made brownies. Following these simple tips ensures that you will have delicious brownies that the whole family can enjoy with little or no hassle.

1. Don’t over mix when preparing the batter and if possible mix the batter by hand. This will ensure that the brownie does not come out bland or too dry.

2. Spay the bottom of the pan with non-stick cooking spray, making sure to cover the surface evenly. You can also dust the pan lightly with cocoa powder. Using cocoa powder ensures that you won’t have white residue on your brownies as you would if you were to use flour.

3. Follow the recipe instructions carefully especially the temperature and cooking time instructions. To test if the brownies are done stick a toothpick into the brownies. If they come out clean it means that the brownies are done.

4. If you want to keep the brownies from over-drying you can wrap them with plastic wrap and put them in a zip bag for added protection.

As a final tip: enjoy your brownies with your whole family, give them as gifts, share them with your co-workers, and don’t forget to make plenty for everyone.