Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gluten Free Sugar Free Gingerbread Cookies

These little lovelies are proof that you don't have to give up amazing flavor to eat gluten free and sugar free.  I took them to two different parties this weekend and everyone loved them.  Total sugar and wheat addicts were passing over sinful store bought chocolate covered treats in favor of these simple little cookies.  Now that is saying something when sugar eaters go for your cookies instead of Peeps.  I was even able to provide a vegan party goer with a tasty treat since these cookies happen to be egg less as well.

I first made these for Christmas, using half the dough.  The rest of the dough I discovered recently and it was just as great as it was when it was first made.  So yes the recipe makes a huge number of cookies but it's worth it to save half of them for latter.  I love leaving surprising myself by hiding random things in the freezer that will make me happy when I find it later.  It's one of the small pleasures of life.

The frosting issue is still a problem however.  I've tried twice now to make sugar free frosting without some unwelcome ingredient like cream cheese or boxed pudding mix and neither worked out well at all.  I tried this recipe on Saturday and ended up with a pot of sticky brown goo, I'm still not sure what I did wrong but it didn't work out for me.  So I will keep trying.  If you have a good sugar free frosting recipe please do send it my way.

Really these cookies are so good they don't need frosting though.  They are just spicy enough from the cinnamon and amaranth flour that the agave and molasses even it out for a perfect gingerbread flavor.  They are totally addictive so beware.

Gluten Free Sugar Free Gingerbread Cookies

2 1/3 cups brown rice flour
1 1/2 cups amaranth flour
1 1/2 cups arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 unsweetened applesauce
1/3 canola oil
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the rice flour, amaranth flour, arrowroot powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. 

In a separate bowl, combine the agave nectar, molasses, applesauce, canola oil, vanilla.  Mix well and pour over the dry ingredients.  Stir until the 2 mixtures are thoroughly combined.  Cover and chill the dough 2 hours or more.

Sprinkle your work surface with arrowroot powder.  Divide the chilled dough into 4 equal parts.  Return 3 parts to the refrigerator to keep chilled.  Roll out the dough 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out gingerbread with cookie cutters and place them on the prepared baking sheets.  Bake for 6 to 7 minutes.

The cookies will be slightly soft when they are removed from the oven.  Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes then move to cooling racks to cool completely.  These freeze very well in plastic freezer bags.  Makes approximately 5 dozen cookies.

From Baking with Agave Nectar  by Ania Catalano.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Super Easy Edamame Rice

 Beets are one of those things I never thought I'd find myself craving.  Somewhere along the way  loving  raw beets seems to have became a side effect of being on this diet, much like random urges to ribbon vegetables or picking the most complicated recipe in a cookbook to prepare  just to have something really cool to write about.  Living sans most carbs and sugar does funny things to the brain.  Suddenly everything tastes better.  Yes, even beets.

The fella and I are the type of people that always have a bit of left over brown rice around in the fridge for eating with impromptu curries.  I also had a bag of pre-cooked and pre-shelled edamame that I found in the freezer section of an Asian grocery that I had once had big ideas for but then quickly forgot about.  So I thawed that neglected edamame, re-warmed the rice and tossed in a few other things and tada a really simple Asian tinged rice salad using things that were otherwise languishing in the fridge. 

I'm always the most surprised at really simple thrown together that are this delicious.  Sometimes while cooking up a storm with really complex recipes I forget that something like raw beets and some rice can be amazing.  This was exactly what I needed to eat tonight and with some good Spanish wine things got even better. 

El Hada is a blend of Verdejo and Viura grapes making a perfect blend of tart and sweet in one delicious wine.  I don't know what it is about Spanish wines that make then so great and easy to drink but this wine has it all.  Tart fruit and a bright velvety sweetness with an intriguing nose of citrus and roses.  And who knew it would go so well with Edamame. 
 Super Easy Edamame Rice

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 cups cooked brown rice
2 small beets, diced
1 cup edamame, cooked and shelled (I used frozen already cooked and shelled edamame)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a small pan toast sesame seeds until browned, set aside.

If using left over brown rice place in microwave to warm until a bit past room temperature.  If using freshly cooked brown rice place it in a medium bowl along with the beets, edamame and toasted sesame seeds.  Toss well.

In a small bowl make a vinaigrette with the oils, lemon juice and sea salt.  Whisk or shake well to combine.  Pour over the rice mixture and combine well.

Modified from a recipe on Food52 blog.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Year In Review

A year ago today I had the crazy idea to start this blog.  It seemed like a good way to motivate myself to stay on this diet by forcing myself to write about what I was cooking and share it with the world.  And it worked, I'm still sticking mostly to the Montignac Method after all this time, albeit on the maintenance phase these days.  And yes it's worked for me, I lost over 35 pounds and most of that was in the first 3 months of eating this way.  So this style of eating will help you lose weight it just takes a lot of self control and motivation to cook for yourself everyday.

Funny thing is along the way in writing about my adventures on this diet I started to enjoy doing the blog.  People started reading and enjoying the recipes which was a shock to me who expected to just be followed by my mom and a couple friends.  Then I blogged about cucumbers and things really got crazy around here.  Now I'm addicted to food blogging, entering my second year on this blog with no plans to stop posting.  Except the title of the blog might have to change slightly now to something along the lines of “A Year on the French Diet Part Duex.”

A lot happened this year.  The fella and I moved to a new place with a great kitchen.  We had a lot of parties where we “forced” our friends to eat really great food.  I found out I was allergic to gluten and had to learn how to cook gluten free.  I joined another blogI ribboned a lot of vegetables.  A lot of great wine was had. 

I had a blast and I'm glad you've all decided to take this journey with me.  Thanks to all my followers.  And an even bigger thanks to all my friends who on a daily basis talk food with me and never get sick of my culinary obsessions, especially those of you who come over to be a guinea pig for my latest creations.  A big thanks to my parents for coming over for holiday dinners at my place so I had something to blog about and especially for the amazing non stick pans.  And to the fella, I couldn't do this without you, thanks for all your support and I'm pretty sure you'll be sainted for helping with all those dishes.  And I didn't forget my fluffy dog friend, thank you for “vacuuming” the kitchen for me everyday.

There will be even more food, wine, and fun in the year to come so stick around.  In the meantime here is a round up of some of my favorite recipes.  And just so you can keep track of all my cook antics I started a Facebook group and am giving this Twitter thing a shot so follow me there too if you like.  I even included some of my biggest cooking disasters in the list for your amusement.

Now for a glass of wine to celebrate being a year old in blog years.

Favorite Main Courses
Almond Flour Pizza Crust   
Portobello “Steaks”
Sun Dried Tomato and Lentil Soup
Red Lentil Soup  
Lamb Korma
Asian Peanut Pork in the Crockpot 
Sushi Bowls
Salmon in Wine and Cream Sauce
Rigatoni With Caper Tomato Sauce 

Favorite Sides
Braised Cucumbers
Flowerless Naan  
Any of Mark Bittman's 101 Simple Salads
Beet Salad
Tapenade Salad
Cauliflower "Potatoes"
Puy Lentil Salad

Favorite Desserts and Breakfasts
Saffron Coconut Milk Ice Cream 
Hazelnut Brownies 
Chocolate Bacon Cake 
Flourless Beet Torte 
Brandied Cranberry Sauce
Quinoa Oatmeal
Cranberry and Flax Breakfast Muffins

Most Interesting Failures
Very Salty Quiche
Eggplant "Pizza"
Oxtail Rioja
The Modern French Culinary Art Cookbook

Blueberry Ice Cream

Best Wine
Cline Moudevre (or basically anything from Cline)
Snoqualme Nearly Naked Gew├╝rztraminer
Aveleda Fonte Verde 
Optimus Chardonnay 
El Coto Rioja

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Crockpot Beef Tagine


You know how you make Moroccan food even simpler?  Cook it in the crockpot.  It's basically the more technologically advanced version of a tagine anyway and you can cook while you sleep. 

I love my crockpot especially for cooking something in large portions like this before a party.  It is done the day before and all I have to do is warm it up before the guests arrive.  This planning ahead made this the least stressful party I've ever had.  All I did was warm everything up and throw it on plates for my guests.  I could get used to that.

There maybe a long list of ingredients but believe me there is no work involved and in the end you are rewarded with tender, sweet and slightly savory beef covered in a gooey decadent sauce.  On a plate with those salty stuffed tomatoes and some red quinoa with roasted vegetables that my friend Jess contributed to dinner, and this was an excellent meal.  It was almost as good as actually going to Morocco...okay maybe not but it was fun pretending.

We had some Cakebread Pinot Noir with the beef and it was stunning.  Pinot was the right choice for sweet, spicy beef because it had enough fruit to compliment the red meat but was light enough to not over power the spices.  I was really pleased with dinner and even more so that everyone invited loved dinner and had managed to somehow all bring the right wines to go with dinner even though none of us knew what wines to pair with Moroccan food. 

Then for dessert I went a step farther and knocked every one into an ecstatic food coma with warm fresh rice crepes and some almond and argan oil paste called, amlou.  With an ice wine we were all insanely happy and yes just tipsy enough to really start having a good time.  

Also included in this meal:

Red Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables

Crockpot Beef Tagine

2 tablespoon oil, divided use
4 large onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 pounds beef, trimmed of fat and cubed

1 cup stock (beef preferably)
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 inch piece ginger, grated
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 cinnamon stick

5 carrots, peeled and cut into chucks
1 9-ounce can tomatoes (or 5 large tomatoes, diced)
4 ounces dates, pitted
6 ounces prunes, pitted

1/ 4 cup toasted almonds, sliced
1/ 4 cup cilantro, chopped

In a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat and brown the onion and garlic until well caramelized.  Place into crockpot.

Heat the remaining oil in the same pan over medium heat  Pat dry the cubes of beef (you'll get a better sear on the meat if it isn't wet), then in small batches brown the beef on all sides.  Don't cook the meat all the way through!  You're just searing the outside of the meat so it will stay tender while cooking on low heat for a long time in the crockpot.  As you brown the meat place it in the crockpot.

Place beef broth in measuring cup or small mixing bowl and whisk the spices and agave nectar into it.  Put spiced broth and whole cinnamon stick into crockpot.

Toss the carrots, tomatoes, dates and prunes into the crockpot.  Mix all the ingredients in the crockpot up so it is well combined and coated in spices.

You may need to add more stock or some water to the crockpot at this point.  You want the meat mostly covered in moisture so it won't dry out.

Cook on high in crockpot for 6 to 8 hours or until beef is tender and falling apart.

Serve over quinoa(if you're gluten free) or couscous(if wheat isn't an issue).  Top with the almonds and cilantro.

Modified from a recipe by the French Tart at

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Salty Stuffed Tomatoes

These were a lovely and perfectly salty accompaniment to the sweet beef dish that was the main dish of dinner.  Everyone was as shocked as I was at how good these tomatoes were.  Even the fella dug into his, and we all know how he feels about tomatoes.  And the big meaty Chilean Cab from Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reservas that we drank while enjoying dinner was a nice contrast to the acidic and salty stuffing in the tomatoes.
 All the wonderful wines that we paired with dinner.  Full tasting notes of all the wines over at Forkful of News.

I could see making these again with more tuna and less capers to cut down the salt and make them more substantial.  For some reason I've never been a fan of stuffed peppers but these really did it for me.  It could have had something to do with the deeply satisfying and meditative scraping out of the juicy delicate tomato centers.  Not that I'm creepy and sometimes like to de-seed squishy fruits every once in a while or anything. 

I even saved all the juicy bits from the inside of my tomatoes and used them instead of diced tomatoes in a soup later on in the week, so this meal helped out in later recipes.  How can you not love a recipe that leaves you with left overs that hint at what you should cook next?

Also included in this meal:

Red Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables

Salty Stuffed Tomatoes

6 large tomatoes
4 red peppers

salt, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 7-ounce can tuna
2 tablespoons capers
4 tablespoons chopped black olives
1 lemon, zested
2 tablespoons, chopped parsley

Cut a small circle around the stalk of each tomato and cut out a cap in the top of each.  Using a grapefruit spoon, scoop out the seeds and flesh inside the tomato.  (Save the insides for later when you have a recipe that calls for a can of diced tomatoes.)

Roast the pepper yourself under the broiler or buy good quality pre-roasted red peppers in a jar.  If roasting them yourself, peel, de-seed and chop into strips.

Put the strips of red pepper in a large mixing bowl along with all the remaining ingredients.  Gently fold everything together.  Fill the cavities of the tomatoes with this filling.

Arrange the tomatoes on a shallow baking dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes.  Check on them fairly often so that the tomatoes never get to the point where that explode or fall apart in the pan.  They are done when the filling is warmed through. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Orange, Olive and Argan Oil Salad

Being a non traditionalist instead of planning a romantic Valentine's Day dinner the fella and I had six of our favorite people over for dinner this past weekend.  And to trick us all into forgetting it is still the deepest darkest days of winter I cooked all Moroccan dishes.  The colorful highly spiced dishes and all the amazing wine made it feel like summer for a few wonderful hours around my table. 

And if you've been following my posts at Forkful of News you will already know that my obsession with Moroccan cooking has been going on for a little while.  If nothing else go read my post about argan oil which besides being an amazingly cool oil also plays a huge role in the recipe for the starter course of my meal.  Plus there are hilarious pictures of tree climbing goats so it is just about a requirement that you go find out about argan oil.  It's worth a few minutes of your time I promise, the goats will make your day.

I decided to start dinner out with this simple orange and olive salad.  The thing I love most about Moroccan dishes is so often all it requires is gathering, measuring, cutting the ingredients, adding heat, waiting for amazing food to happen.  It requires very little maintenance.  This salad doesn't even need heat, it just needs tossing and then you instantly have awesome.

The citrus was made somehow more amazing with the hint of cumin and paprika and the nutty argan oil made it even better.  You could just use a high quality olive oil if you're not in the mood to track down and invest in yet another oil with pretty much the same result.  And a crisp not too grassy Bogle Sauvignon Blanc courtesy of my foodie friends Tim and Jess was an excellent compliment to the salad. 

I was super decadent and served this beautiful salad alone in tiny plates so that there was no other food on the table to steal it's glory.  It was that pretty that I was willing to do extra dishes for it.  Also I felt fancy serving dinner in semi-proper courses.  And of course I got to stun all my friends by serving them something with such an exotic ingredient and tell them the story of it.  A very excellent start to a successful dinner.

Also included in this meal:

Red Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables

Orange, Olive and Argan Oil Salad

4 oranges, peeled and cut in into bite sized pieces
16 black or kalamata olives
1/ 2 red onion, finely chopped

1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons argan oil
1 tablespoon olive oil (you can do all olive oil if investing in argan oil is not in your budget)
salt, to taste
1/ 2 teaspoon cumin
1/ teaspoon paprika
pinch chili powder

2 tablespoons parsley

Put chopped oranges in a serving bowl along with the olives and chopped onion.  Toss well.

Make the dressing by whisking together all the remaining ingredients except for the parsley. 

If making ahead of time store the dressing separately and pour over salad at the very last minute.  If serving right away pour dressing over salad and toss well then sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

Makes enough to serve a party of 8 a starter size portion.

From Claudia Roden's Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Paneer Bagh E-Bahar

This is one the strangest things I've ever made which is saying a lot considering I cooked frog legs for New Years, once spent 8 hours waiting for ox tail soup to finish cooking and made green fairy ice cream for the fella's birthday.  And that isn't to say it wasn't tasty because it truly was but in an odd am-I-really-putting-this-in-my-mouth kind of way.  First of all it's so high in fat and all that naughtiness that even as someone on a low carb diet I felt weird eating it.  Secondly fried cheese and pineapple in the same dish?  That's just crazy.  Yummy but crazy.  And like so many things, this meal is all the fault of the fella and the chef.

See the fella went through a faze a while back where he was buying a ridiculous amount of pineapples.  We always seemed to have 2 in the fruit bowl.  It was as if I would cut one up and put it in the fridge to snack on when another would appear in the house magically while my back was turned.  And I like pineapple but those suckers are labor intensive to cut up so eventually I got fed up with the pineapple and left one to languish in the bowl figuring if the fella wanted to keep buying them he could cut the freaking pineapple up himself.

You know, typically passive aggressive chick behavior towards someone you've lived with for a while and drives you crazy in the best possible ways (mostly) and occasionally drives you to perform small scale sociological experiments to find out if the other person of their volition will ever do the thing you're sick of doing when it stops magically getting done for them.  Why does this ever seem like a good idea?  It never works.

Anyway at some point the chef came over and he noticed the pathetic pineapple and in his typical fashion started dreaming up totally insane things to do with it.  I just shook my head and hoped to not encourage the behavior.  The fella then hops in with the helpful suggestion "Let's smoke it."  Which then became plans to fry it or, marinate it in fish sauce or turn into a hat rack.  Who knows by then I was in my happy place thinking about socks and puppies and ignoring them both.  When I drifted back into the conversation they were contemplating using apple wood to smoke the poor pineapple then debating whether that was kosher or not.  All this at 8AM or so.  This is my life.

It was then I  knew I would have to give up my silent pineapple cutting strike.  So being that this was during the great early winter paneer surplus I went looking for a crazy Indian recipe that would take care of the remaining paneer and the pineapple at the same time.  Imagine my surprise when such a recipe existed.  I gathered the ingredients to cook this that night before the pineapple fell into the hands of philosophical extremists.  Image how surprised I was when what started as a joke ended up as a great dinner.  The super sweet pineapple somehow works with the salty paneer to make something wonderful.

I can't make any of this up.  It's all true.  So long story short, if you're looking for a really interesting curry to impress yourself and anyone lucky enough to be eating with you, this is it.  Pineapple curry, who knew?

Paneer Bagh E-Bahar

1 cup paneer cubes (about ½ pound)
1 cup yellow or red pepper, chopped
1 cup pineapple, chopped
1 cup tomato, chopped

1/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup cream

2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped

2 tablespoon tomato sauce

Cut paneer, pepper, pineapple and tomato all into 1 inch pieces.

Make a paste of cashew nuts by placing them in food processor along with a few teaspoons of water and grinding until smooth. Add the cream and process again briefly.

Heat oil in deep frying pan over medium high heat to fry garlic and chilies until browned. Mix in the cashew paste. Increase heat and stir fry pepper in cashew and garlic mixture until softened. Add pineapple and tomatoes and stir frequently until cooked through. Mix in paneer, tomato sauce and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir fry one minute longer, combining ingredients fully. Serve sprinkled with a couple tablespoons of cream.

Original recipe from Indian Food Forever.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Naked Ravioli

Today I spent my entire day off obsessive compulsively cleaning every nook and cranny of my kitchen and soaking every pot, pan, and utensil in vinegar.   No that's not my idea of a good time nor did I have a complete break with reality.  Apparently there is still something my gluten free kitchen that is glutening me so I'm cleaning everything, throwing away the cheap stuff and starting over.  I'm cross my fingers this effort solves the problem because I'm exhausted and ready to not feel ill anymore.

That said I'm understandably a little tired of thinking about cooking or any kitchen related activities so I will keep this really simple and just tell you this recipe is kind of tedious but totally worth it.  It satisfied my ravioli craving with no carbs and no gluten so it was a great meal.  There are a lot of steps but I tried to make it easier on you by simplifying the directions and suggesting you just use a jar of sauce because I wasn't a fan of the blah one that was in the orginal recipe.

So there you have it, naked ravioli.  Later this week I'm trying to create low carb gnocchi, we'll see how that goes and I'll get back to you on that.

Naked Ravioli

1/2 pound spinach
8 ounces ricotta
6 tablespoons Parmesan
2 eggs
1 cup and 3 tablespoons brown rice flour (divided usage)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 jar store bought tomato sauce or your favorite homemade recipe

Preheat oven to 375.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the spinach, cooking for about 5-10 minutes. Use a slotted a spoon to remove the spinach from the water, leaving the water to boil for the next step.  Squeeze the excess water out of the spinach by squeezing it dry in a clean kitchen towel or with thin paper towels.  Coarsely chop the dried spinach.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, 3 tablespoons flour salt and pepper. After mixing together well you need to play with the amount of flour to get a soft mixture not too sticky, but not too thick. Keep adding flour until you get a consistency that you can roll in your hands.

Add about 1 cup of flour to a plate.  Start forming balls of spinach and ricotta mixture the size of a  walnut by rolling them between your hands.  Coat them well with the flour.

Add the ravioli a handful at a time to the boiling water, so they have enough water and space in the pot to cook. When they float to the surface, remove them, and set aside in a plate.

Line a cookie sheet with tin foil or oil well.  Place the ravioli on the pan, pour enough sauce over them to coat them, then sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown on the top.  Serve immediately.