Friday, January 20, 2012

HypFoods Fresh and Fabulous Winter Squash Soup


On a recent shopping trip to my local Whole Foods, I bought a pair of petite and beautiful butternut squash. Between the two of us, we harbor a plethora of food allergies in our home; thus, meal planning and preparation requires healthy portions of both equanimity and creativity. 

I *love* butternut squash. Hubbers, predictably, does not. I had expected him to be traveling on business this week, so I planned my meals accordingly. But then, of course, things changed. Fortunately, there was plenty of Chicken Soup with Gluten Free Dumplings in the fridge and he loves those Beth Hillson Un-Matzo Dumplings. 
Still, it's a creative challenge to take a food that he normally rejects on principle, without an underlying allergic factor, and try to find a unique preparation that even he can appreciate. I took a few minutes to search the GooglePlex looking for inspiration and, in this case, I found plenty in just one place! I selected a subset of recipes from Cooking Light's "Top-Rated Butternut Squash" feature and I fully intend to try each of them. But in the twilight of our first major winter snowstorm of the season, I wanted soup; hearty, healthy, steaming fullness. It was an exercise in the practice of simple magic and I really couldn't wait to document it.

Using Mark Scarborough's "Roasted Butternut Squash and Shallot Soup" recipe as a starting point, I reviewed the contents of my pantry and fridge, then got to work. Here are the modifications which gave me supper of:


Fresh and Fabulous Winter Squash Soup
Ingredients
  • 2 whole petite butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1 tsp Celtic Sea Salt
  • 1TBS jarred organic chopped shallot (Christopher Ranch)
  • 1 tsp jarred organic chopped ginger (Christopher Ranch)
  • 2 cups prepared gluten free chicken broth (Imagine brand is gluten free)
  •     OR use home made stock
  •     VEGAN SUBS 2 cups of herbal tea, such as Bija 'Cold Stop'
        OR Two Leaves and a Bud 'Better Belly Blend'
  • 1 cup coconut milk beverage (So Delicious, Unsweetened)
  • 1 cup blended organic tangerine/orange juice (no sugar added)
  • 1 tsp Chinese Five Spice
  • 1 tsp organic cinnamon
  • 2 TBS fresh organic chopped sage
  • 1 TBS chopped pecans per serving, as garnish

    Preparation
    1. 1. Preheat oven to 325°.
    2. 2. Remove tops and bottoms from squashes, then halve and drizzle freshly cut side with olive oil. Sprinkle each w/ a little sea salt and place cut side down on a foil lined pan.
    3. 3. Slowly roast squashes in oven for about 90 minutes. They will be fork tender when done.
    4. 4. Pour gluten free chicken stock into saucepan and begin to heat gently. 
    5. 5. Remove squashes from oven, then scrape out seeds and discard to compost bin. Scrape pulp from squash rind and add to warming stock. Discard rinds to compost bin and blend pulp into stock with a whisk.
    6. 6. Add coconut beverage, juice and spices to soup, then blend with stick blender. Continue to heat gently. Do NOT boil.
    7. 7. Finely chop the fresh sage, then add to soup. Simmer VERY GENTLY for another 15 minutes, then serve piping hot, paired with a lush Pinot Noir. Garnish with chopped pecans, if desired.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

6 kitchen myths that could give you food poisoning | MNN - Mother Nature Network

Don't believe everything you hear! We all know the concept, but when it comes to "Kitchen Myths", you want Ninja skills and NOT blind faith. Mother Nature Network outlines 6 Myths that could make you sick via the article link highlighted below.

You know the standard "5 Second Rule" about food on the floor? If you are tempted to believe that one, you can also read http://www.worldnewsco.com/3313/avoid-wearing-shoes-house/ and http://aglutenfreeveganmomwhoknows.blogspot.com/2011/05/no-shoes-rule.html .

Floors are rife with e.coli and other deadly microbes! But you KNEW that, didn't you?

Full Kitchen Myth story right here (click MNN to read more):

6 kitchen myths that could give you food poisoning | MNN - Mother Nature Network

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gluten-Bombed! or "What's a HypFoodie Like You Doing in a State Like This?"


Allergens are sneaky. They can fly under the defensive radar of any watchful, label-reading, home-cooking, allergy-freedom-loving Food Fixer like you or me. A change of formula or a new vocabulary term for an old antagonist and POOF! You're a sick princess battling cerebellar confusion in an effort to mentally retrace your steps and figure out where you went wrong in your carefully guarded food plan.

Resistance is futile. To the best of my diligent research, this confusion cannot currently be treated. We, the afflicted, must simply wait until the contaminant has cleared our system and we regain the ability to think normally. I stand in the middle of my room at this point, looking to heaven and praying to God, "What happened? I have been so careful! Why am I so confused?" It makes me wonder how much of Alzheimer's and other dementias are actually long-term Gluten problems that were never diagnosed or handled.

Rote activities like laundry, filing, gardening can fill the hours, or days, or weeks until then, but expect to be slower than usual. It's generally fine to drive, as long as you are willing to proceed within the lowered limits of your visual processor. In other words, SLOW DOWN.

Anything that requires forward planning or instant recall will probably be beyond you for the duration. I know it is beyond me when I'm in that condition. And I know I will not get better unless the offending food or condition is eliminated.

RULES TO LIVE BY: 
Read those labels, 
especially for any product that is new to you 
or any familiar product that displays the word "NEW" on the packaging. 
AND
When in doubt, leave it out. 

That's right! If there's any question in your mind about the fitness of a product for your personal regimen, don't even put it in your shopping cart. This is easier to maintain when you have been sick or reactive recently. Nobody wants an encore of the hour long naps three times per day or the lightning elimination rounds every quarter hour on the porcelain throne.

The truth is, after you've been well for a few short months, you might begin to think you're over it or imagine it was all in your head. So you try the offending ingredient again.

BIG MISTAKE!

It was NOT a bad dream and you are NOT a hypochondriac. More likely, you're the canary in the coal mine of your neighborhood. Our food and water supplies have been heavily altered by industrialization (and worse influences), becoming progressively more polluted and UN-natural. One must be highly vigilant and proactive to move beyond all that soundly and sanely.

In fact, it's a full-time job for a while to establish reliable data on what is bad for YOU (and/or your loved ones, those who depend on you to keep them safe) and how to replace it with something good. It's easier to find alternatives today than it ever was in previous decades, but many of the actual skills and sources have to be cultivated, curated and relearned in our rising generations. Often, this is why we blog/publish/teach.

A few twisted souls insist on proving the maxim of the fictional curmudgeon, Dr. Gregory House: "Everybody lies." Okay, call it misinformation. Maybe they don't know how to manage cross-contamination. Maybe they don't understand how many products contain some form of the allergen you have asked to be protected from. Or maybe they are skeptical or greedy for profit or just plain mean. However it happens, it's the customer who gets hurt.

Occasionally, it happens that you just don't remember an offender. They say time heals all wounds. Well, maybe, but it certainly blurs the memory of certain food/environmental offenses. You get better, busier, joy returns to your frame of focus and you forget that a certain food or condition will hurt you. I know I do. That's part of why I write about these things: to help me track and remember what I must avoid.

In my most recent incident, it happened because I broke the cardinal rule of the teaching nuns, as all my Catholic-schooled girlfriends have told it to me:

DON'T ASSUME.
DON'T (make an) ASS (out of) U (and) ME.

Or, as it is expressed in our post-modern, virtual maelstrom:

TRUST, BUT VERIFY. 

I confess: I'd been lusting after the latest gluten free loaf bread from my dearest blogging icon, GlutenFreeGoddess. I was longing to partake of its warm earthiness, but spurned the compilation process -- 1,2,3, how many flours? and gums? plus flakes? I exaggerate for effect, but Oh my! I don't actually love to spend more than 3-4 hours in the kitchen each day, including clean up. Unless we are shooting. But that's a different tale.

I procrastinated, imagining it would take hours to prep and complete this bread. But the inviting photos and the sweetly persuasive prose of Karina's blog pursued me. Everywhere. I gave in to the siren song, standing in the grocer's aisle, studying the bag of Buckwheat Flour in my hands.

"It's not labeled gluten-free," my censor cautioned my inner Samurai.

"I know, but it's Buckwheat from Bob's," the Warrior Princess wailed silently. She knows that Buckwheat itself is actually Gluten Free. Gluten contamination is common, but additive.

The Executive Center of my brain was fully aware of how long I'd been standing there, growing increasingly self-conscious. "Okay, we'll try it," it snapped, deciding it was time to move along before the staff sent for the coat with the extra-long sleeves. 

I made my first loaf in the bread machine. It was not pretty, but it tasted G-O-O-D and it was very satisfying. I'm all about convenience as long as it's fresh and healthy, but I decided I might like this bread better as an oven-baked loaf, just as the author had herself prepared. And after all, our Seattle summer was showing a very distinct trend toward total "in absentia," so why not heat up the smaller oven?

Oh my sweet Lord! It was true! The oven-baked bread was glory in a loaf pan! And it was neither difficult or time consuming to prepare! Surprisingly, it was utterly therapeutic -- feeding the yeast with local honey, proofing the loaf in a gentle oven, anticipating the treat as the house filled with this amazing aroma! I was devoted. Instantly.

Two more loaves followed this one, each as the previous went down the hatch. Meanwhile, my joint pain, extreme fatigue with ensuing naps and rashes had flared up again. I thought it resulted from my time in the garden with full, unexpected sun and waited patiently to get better. This bread was so delicious that I ate more of it than I normally do. One slice with lunch became 2 and sometimes a wee bit of toast with butter or honey before bed.

Fresh, organic blueberries flooded our local markets. Gigantic ones, full of flavor; not those tasteless hydroponic fruits that Big Food likes to foist on us. Everyone was blogging about the best ways to prepare these luscious fruits. Blueberry pie, Hubbers' fave, was executed and consumed with gusto! Hand pie experiments were highly rewarding, as well. And then I discovered the GlutenFreeGoddess' Blueberry Muffin Cake recipe. Down to the Buckwheat Flour, I was fully prepared to test drive this one!

In the most completely objective terms, it was hands-down the lightest and most flavorful Gluten Free cake that I have ever tasted anywhere! And I shared it with other Gluten Free friends!

But then, lo and behold! GlutenFreeGirl tweeted a notice that @Bob's_Red_Mill Buckwheat Flour is NOT gluten free.

WHAT?

Did I KNOW that?

Who could verify?

I sought help from Gluten Free friends online for a day and a half, but they were strangely silent on this subject. Finally, I called Bob's_Red_Mill directly and received the sad news: "We grind the hulls back into the buckwheat to give it extra (something) and for this reason, it doesn't test Gluten Free," the cheery but sympathetic CSR reported. "So sorry!"

I felt the Iron Maiden of exclusion clanging shut around me as my lovely new treats became unreachable. I mourned the 3/4 loaf of bread and 1/4 cake that would now go into the bird feeder. I decided it wasn't entirely safe to compost them, because I would still inhale the contaminant gluten when next I mulched the garden.

I spent another 2 days searching out what I hope is a more reliable source of Buckwheat Flour, stone-milled with water power on a family farm in Tennessee. They promised they tear down everything between product runs and thoroughly clean all surfaces. In the spirit of Trust but Verify, I ordered the flour (it sounds so romantic) and bought myself an EZgluten test kit so that I can have empirical proof of the gluten status on all of my flours. 

You see, the Goddess' buckwheat recipes are just TOO GOOD to do without. I was frantic for a source of this artisanal flour that could provide me the means to continue this new and delightful feast of baked fancies.

I resigned myself to the toilet trudgery and stocked up on chlorine-free baby wipes.

I celebrated the realization that dairy-free bread really was much better for me than Gluten Free bread mixes that contain powdered milk products.

And I wait. The new flour has arrived and has been suitably inaugurated by my "kittens" (4 year old supposedly hypoallergenic Siberians that Hubbers jokingly calls "the Russian thugs"). They adore anything Gluten Free, so maybe that's a good sign. I am waiting for the EZgluten test kit to arrive, as confirmation of their feline endorsement.

And, in the interim, I made Blackbird Bakery's Gluten Free Popovers. I replaced the whole cow's milk with unsweetened coconut milk. I took about 2 tablespoons of the Sweet Rice Flour out of the measure and added back the same amount of coconut flour because it makes baked goods so tender. Delicious! Brand new, eggy goodness. Sunday bread. Special occasion, dressy bread.

I'm still longing for the return of the Whole Grain Loaf with Buckwheat Flour. I followed the Goddess' recipe almost exactly. (Aquarians have this incurable need to introduce small, personal, tweaky changes.) Since I don't love the taste of Millet Flour, I used Teff Flour instead. And my local, organic, raw honey is Blueberry, not Buckwheat. Otherwise, E.X.A.C.T.L.Y. what she said. And, like I said, Glory!

So that is how it happens, friend and neighbors.

One way or another, 
We fall down. 
We get up
(usually sometime later  
and sometimes with a big bill to pay along the way). 
We soldier on toward a semblance of wellness, 
replicating Rebecca Boone in our 21st century, 
blazing a culinary trail through the processed food wilderness 
for all of those to whom Mother Nature and Big Food 
have failed to show unconditional love...

Join us! You won't be sorry.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

HypFoods Very Special Blueberry Pie

video


Clearly, we are not the only ones who love this delectable dessert. The Divine Ms. M, Bette Midler, devoted an entire number to the treat and you can download the Blueberry Pie audio file from Amazon any time. Or better yet, send it to your Amazon Cloud server & you'll be able to access/enjoy it anywhere you go!

It's the hands-down, all-time FAVORITE pie for Hubbers. He likes it MORE than Lemon Meringue and he REALLY likes Lemon Meringue. For this reason alone, it must be a special pie. For ever so long, I used the Peach Blueberry pie recipe (minus the peaches) from Fields of Greens by Annie Somerville.  This is a collection of recipes for vegetarian dishes and it is all about the flavors of the featured fruits and veggies. I baked it in her Tart Shell crust. We LOVED that pie. It was perfect bliss at any time of year.

Then came the gluten dilemma. I tried a few crusts sans wheat and gluten, but we were underwhelmed with the results. For us, the whole point of pie is that meltingly tender, flaky and delicious pastry wrapping, the crust. Lacking the knowledge to reproduce this delicacy in the absence of gluten, I became discouraged. I stopped making pie. Hubbers bought a few pies in various shops, but invariably decided that they contained too much sugar to be really delicious OR really, truly healthy.

One day, I met Jeanne Sauvage (@FourChickens) after she had collaborated with Seattle's own superstar of home-baked pies, Kate McDermott. She told me she had nailed the flaky pie crust without gluten. I invited her to show me. We videotaped the project. She was RIGHT! She makes an excellent, very flaky crust using various flours, mostly various rice flours.

There is nothing lacking in her recipe or technique, but when you are livin' la vida loca GLUTEN-FREE, you eat a LOT of rice flour. I get bored with the flavor. I also think it is much better for our postmodern human gut to mix it up a little in the region of the tummy. Same old, same old, day after day is just not good for the innards. No one ever ate like that before the 1950s, a.k.a. back when you had to eat what you could get based on seasonality.

My search continued, with a recently added special twist. One of my most beloved tango belles is allergic to all things CORN. So out goes the cornstarch we gluten-free bakers like to use for fluff and binder. Oh well, I never liked cornstarch that much anyway. But, now what?

A little research and Voila! Hat-tip to the geniuses at Google Search and I had convincingly assessed that arrowroot is the logical replacement for cornstarch and oftentimes better than this particular corny villain. It doesn't play nicely in sauces made with dairy, but arrowroot is superior to cornstarch in most other recipes. So I learned. And my CORN-FREE friend confirmed.

Scanning through my various gluten-free cookbooks and recipes, I was seeing a lot of rice flour. Not what I wanted. Eventually, I returned to my current favorite, Blackbird Bakery by Karen Morgan, where I found the flavor profile I was looking for in a pie crust. With just a few modifications to her overall approach, I traded my blogging time that Monday for a romp in the kitchen with a rolling pin. Here's what ensued:

I rinsed 3 pints of fresh, organic blueberries in a large (2 gal) Ziploc bag with a solution of filtered tap water, freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon and about a tablespoon of Sovereign Silver.

You may be wondering about the Sovereign Silver. It is a very effective antimicrobial that kills numerous unpleasant antagonists like Salmonella and E.Coli. It comes in solution with distilled water, about 10ppm. It has been developed for oral administration. I keep a little spray bottle on the kitchen shelf, along with a dropper bottle of the same product. This way I can add a little to my rinse water for produce or spritz my fresh salad greens right in the bowl. Tasteless and odorless, it's "all good" and by using a little Sovereign Silver, I don't need to worry about organisms that I cannot see on my fruits and veggies. (Not recommended for folks with chronic kidney disease.)

By the way, did you know that there is a way to recycle Ziplocs and other plastic bags? Please watch the following 2+ minute video to learn more about this new initiative:

These blueberries were shipped from California since our local berries are not yet ripe, but I HAPPILY collected them for $1.99/pint at our local Whole Foods Market in a special one day sale. I let them stand in solution for about 10 or 20 minutes while I gathered the items that I needed to make my crust, then rinsed the fruit through a colander.

I lined my large jelly roll pan with Bounty paper towels and turned the berries into the pan, then placed them in a slightly warm oven with the convection fan running. There they remained until it was time to fill our pie.

With only the very slightest adaptation to Karen Morgan's Short Crust Dough (p.98), we were well on the road to fresh dessert happiness. I fitted my SideSwipe blade onto the grand dam of our kitchen, an old and highly functional KitchenAid stand mixer, plain white in color. I filled the stainless steel mixing bowl with the dry ingredients:
3/4 Cup Tapioca Flour
3/4 Cup Arrowroot
1/4 Cup + 2 TBS Sweet Rice Flour
1/4 Cup Sorghum Flour
2 TBS Coconut Flour
1 TBS Granulated Baker's Sugar
1 TBS Zero Low Glycemic Sweetener
1/4 tsp finely ground kosher salt
1.5 tsp guar gum

All of these dry ingredients were combined thoroughly using a stainless steel whisk. Next, I ADDED:

1 Cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted *cultured* organic butter, diced into small cubes

and beat with the mixer until the ingredients looked more like coarse bread crumbs, but not long enough to warm up the butter and smooth out the dough. Again, an ADDITION:

3 large organic eggs, which I had previously cracked one by one into a small bowl, ensuring that each was unspoiled.

I mixed everything on high speed until the dough began to fold down from the sides of the bowl. My dough was a lovely and alluring soft schmear when I stopped mixing. It seemed to literally invite me to try a small sample. Heavenly!

As instructed in Blackbird Bakery's recipe, I turned the dough out for kneading. I had prepared a GLUTEN-FREE bamboo cutting board that was generously dusted with Sweet Rice Flour. I kneaded the dough gently until it held together in a way that approximated a traditional pie crust, then divided it in half and kneaded a bit more, adding more dusting flour as necessary. When I had two balls that seemed relatively crease free, I formed the two traditional disks and wrapped each in a bit of parchment paper. These were set into a less cold area of the fridge to rest and develop flavor as well as firmness for the next steps. I timed the resting at 2 hours and forced myself to meet that goal, although Hubbers lobbied heavily for a finished pie sooner!

I learned two SUPERB secrets to successful gluten-free pie crust from Jeanne Sauvage (@FourChickens) when we shot her pie crust video (coming soon). She used a French Rolling Pin in a very Zen style on her gluten-free dough. You want a cold dough and a light hand. You don't MAKE gluten-free pie crust flatten so much as you ENCOURAGE it to shape-shift so that it will cover your pie plate. Take your time. Be gentle. Imagine butterflies in fields of wildflowers and flutter gently over your dough with the lightest touch that you can manage. Almost magically, the dough begins to cooperate and you have a 12 - 14" round that is as beautiful and whole as anything you ever made using wheat flour.

I placed a large sheet of parchment over the circle of dough and inverted the cutting board so that the dough was on the paper. Then I aligned the cutting board with the edge of the counter and slid the paper back onto the flat board. At this point, I positioned the inverted glass pie plate over the round of dough and flipped the whole affair. Tah-Dah! My pie plate was lined with a lovely GLUTEN-FREE crust and I had only to trim and patch the edges.

I covered the pie plate and set it in the fridge to chill while I prepped the berries. Since I am not a fan of heavy, syrupy doses of sugar in my desserts, this was a fairly simple project. I transferred the berries from the jelly pan in the oven to a medium sized mixing bowl. Following our favorite filling recipe from Fields of Greens (1993 edition), I began mixing:

3 Pints blueberries
2 TBS organic cane sugar
1.5 TBS Zero low glycemic sweetener

Since blueberries do not release much juice, I thought about how to increase the fruity goodness of the pie filling. I set the bowl of berries aside and retrieved a jar of Bionaturae Organic Wild Berry Fruit Spread from the fridge. This delicious fruit spread has no added sugar or chemicals and adds a healthy pop of flavor to everything from oatmeal to gelatin without pumping up the calories or glycemic levels.

I scooped a few tablespoons into a small bowl and warmed it gently in the microwave until I was able to spread it with a pastry brush. Then I brushed the bottom crust with the spread and added the berries. I rolled out the top crust and flipped it onto parchment as before. I brushed the inside face of the crust with more of the Wild Berry Spread and inverted it onto the filled pie. (Next time, I will probably just mix it right in with the berries before they go into the crust.)

I crimped the crusts together and brushed the top with a mixture of egg yolk and almond milk. I placed the pie onto a small cookie sheet lined with foil and baked it in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes. After the first 20 minutes, I folded the edges of foil up around the outer rim of the pie to protect the crust from carbonizing. And with that, a STAR was born!

I am trying to wait for the next sale of fresh organic blueberries, but I don't think that we will make it. Still, if I can hold the cost of the homemade pie at under $20 each, I think we are well ahead of commercial products in all categories: cost, health benefits AND flavor!

What is YOUR favorite summertime fruit pie?

*******
This post spans the topics for 
2011 Q2/Week 11 Local/Organic and Week 12 Gluten-Free.

Up next: 2011 Q2/Week 13 Holiday Spotlight.
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