Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bubbles, are you okay?

The answer is, unfortunately, and quite possibly: no. Today Bubbles resides in a Center for Great Apes in Florida. I doubt he enjoys being caged up after being Michael Jackson's #1 pet (only 1 left). 

Monkeys have been my favorite animals since childhood (since when does Paul Frank TOUR? And the Planned Pines Rec Center on that site is incredibly fun). Thus I envied Michael's pet situation, and I pined away for a furry friend like Bubbles but got a dog (like this. Not bad! But no monkey. And certainly no Bubbles). 

If only I could have Bubbles & Michael Jackson, the king of pop, go shop for ingredients with me like non-celebrities . . . he had so much fun! R.I.P. Michael; you were simply the best.

Bubbles (the Monkey) Mousse (Gluten-free & Vegan if without crust or using a gf/v cookie-cracker sub.)

For mousse filling:
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted (another option is unsweetened cocoa powder, adding 2 Tablespoons at a time until you taste the mousse and it's not too bitter, but not too sweet. You can also keep adding in a Tablespoon of agave then stirring and tasting.)
2 small avocados, mashed
3 small bananas, mashed
1/4 cup vanilla coconut milk (or other milk substitute, or real milk!)
2 Tablespoons agave or maple syrup (or honey. Or jam.)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

For topping:
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used both unsweetened pieces snapped to bits & chocolate chips)
Walnuts & a banana slice per serving (makes about 4)
A few pieces of graham to garnish
For 2 bowls with crust:
2 sheet of graham cracker (1 sheet per bowl. If I had had gluten-free cookies on hand I would've used those for my servings! So vegans & the gluten-liberated, definitely find your favorite crunchy substitute for crust.)
2 teaspoons of agave (or honey, or jam if you don't have honey on hand!)
dash of salt

With a fork, mash bananas & avocados in a large mixing bowl. Continue stirring until the largest bits are decimated. Add in milk to make it easier to stir, then add in all the other ingredients (except chocolate) once the mousse is a smooth consistency. 

Another option is to use a blender or food processor instead of hand-mashing (the hand-mashing takes some violence channeled down your forearm and a couple minutes). Electronic equipment will require using a spatula to keep scraping the whirled-away pieces down to get ground up by the blades, and perhaps a touch more liquid (adding a Tablespoon or so at a time) to get the thing to blend. However, you risk losing the consistency & the mousse may turn watery. Yet, if it's too watery, you can add powdered cocoa (or even hot chocolate mix) to thicken the mousse back up to some extent. Feel free to experiment!

Melt unsweetened chocolate on the stove over low heat. Watch & stir often. Once it's liquid-like, add it to the rest of the mousse ingredients.

(The mousse can sit in the fridge while you do the next step.) 

Crush graham crackers into bowls by hand, one cracker per serving. Add a teaspoon of agave & a dash of salt to each petite bowl. With a fork, press the crust into the bowls. Now allot the mousse into the various bowls (or, you could do one big bowl, take a big spoon and serve it that way!), and add your chosen toppings. Tastes best if chilled in the fridge for about an hour. (It even tastes fab after sleeping in the fridge overnight whilst covered in a blanket of plastic wrap or in a big plastic bag!)

As you serve up this delish dish, take a moment to think of how I was denied a pet chimp as a child.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Boating is overrated.

Will you indulge me in a brief tirade against the tidal toes-guards of the northeast? Thanks, you're too kind.

Is it mildly antagonistic to complain about boating & its requisite shoes whilst the east coast of our country is threatened by the feisty fits & liquid fists of Irene? Well, I don't see it that way. (And I do, in fact, have family and friends out there so this is all in good fun, my friends.)

Anyway, boating shoes, though touted as "comfy" and "preppy stylin'", remind me of an unkindly 'gator staring me in the face, flanked by plaid and framed by an awkward bow atop his furrowed face. (My sister continually insists I need some. I politely refuse the refuse with a kindly nod to my Keens. Sperries are SO OVER!)

Additionally, "stupid" boating & yachting are trumped over and over again by real swimming and aqua fitness. Speeding over choppy waves is cool, yeah, you have me on that one (as is explaining model boats. And dubbing over cartoons). I like billowing gusts abusing my face and spending a lot of money on gasoline to do it (actually, I'm pretty content if it's someone else's lettuce spinning in the petrol coffers). But what about the simple pleasures of running headfirst into oncoming waves of the Pacific, or skipping sideways through the currents of Lake Superior, or padding along over the polished pebbles of the Atlantic? 

Right. Boats are overrated indeed. Hence we must run (push, sink, whatever it takes to get 'em) them out of town. Exterminate them. Cook them. Devour them. So enjoy these zucchini boats with confidence that you're doing everybody a big favor! No more boats! 

Zucchini Dinghies (Gluten-free, Vegan if you use tofu instead of beef)
Makes about 4-6 servings
3 large zucchini with the insides scooped out & put aside
1 teaspoon oil (olive, grapeseed, canola all work) 
1 onion, chopped 
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 rice cakes, toasted (watch to avoid burnage) (or 1 cup breadcrumbs if you're not gluten-free)
3 egg yolks
3 shakes of salt
3 grinds of black pepper
3 shakes of dried oregano 
1 shake of cayenne pepper
2 shakes of allspice (or cinnamon if you don't have allspice on hand)
marinara sauce, fresh or dried basil, mozzarella and fresh tomato for optional garnish!

First get the chopped onion sautéing in a frying pan over medium heat with a teaspoon of oil. While that's beginning to cook, separate the egg yolks (either by using an egg-separator, or breaking the egg shell in half, then coaxing the yolk back and forth between the two halves, letting the egg white drip into a bowl underneath until you just have the yolk left. Another easier option would be to just use two whole eggs instead of 3 yolks!). Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

When the onions are just starting to brown, add in uncooked ground beef and continue to cook on medium heat (or your pound of tofu to cook to your liking instead). 

While the meat's beginning to sear, cut the zucchini in halves, length-wise. Scoop the seedy middle part out, leaving about a half-inch of zucchini flesh in the boat in each direction (aiming to make each scooped piece about the size of a big garlic clove). Put the insides aside in a medium-sized bowl. Arrange the zucchini halves face-up in baking tins, pyrex glasses dishes, or aluminum foil (careful with aluminum foil to wrap well and hopefully put inside another oven-safe dish to avoid spillage while cooking). 

The meat has now cooked for a few minutes, so add the zucchini insides that you'd set aside. Also now you can chop the garlic and add it to the cooking beef. Sprinkle in salt, black & cayenne pepper, oregano, and allspice.  

Next, turn your attention to toasting your rice cakes in your toaster oven (or skip the toasting step if they are crispy and not stale . . . mine were stale). Once those are ready, crumble the rice cakes into the cooking meat. Soon the ground beef mixture should not have any pink left in the meat. At this point, add in your egg yolks & turn off the stove top heat. 

Fill the empty zucchini(s? I can't decide which plural form sounds better.) with the beefy filling, topping them with optional mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce, or fresh tomatoes before shuttling them into the roaring oven for a 30-minute sauna stint.

The boats are ready to be destroyed by your avid appetite once the zucchini are soft. Then you can slice them with your ever-ready dinner knife. Capsize those boats!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A (R(o)tund) Recipe of the Spheres

Who likes turning on a hot oven during the hot summer? Nobody. Who likes dessert? Everybody. This makes my chefly on-the-fly flavor lead me to a treat to savor: no-bake cookies! (And who likes Facial Flex, which makes you look like a demented insect eating q-tips? Somebody. If you're that somebody, you can own the appalling instrument for $29.86 plus $3.97 S&H!)

And who can deny the succulence of spheres? Who can resist celestial beauties, sports equipment, marbles, or fruit? Nobody. As an added bonus, you can store your Oven-free Oat Spheres like Hugh Laurie would; he keeps his cake in the chiller (chiller may be my contribution to mockney. Stamford ridge may be the real brit fridge), and Stephen Fry explains Eskimo linguistic origins, which are ofttimes mere conjecture. These days, unlike during his days as Bertie Wooster, we can stalk Laurie when he frequents the Whole Paycheck parking lot. Much has changed since the early 90s. Much. (Mmmm . . . much munch munch munch. Need no-bake cookies!)

I was recently in Sandy Eggo (who knew other people think that is clever?), and though it was far from humid and hazy, I decided not using the oven would make my dessert divining a simple task of mere ingredient mixing. I could use up ingredients already on hand and enjoy the chilled bites of chocolatey goodness (also delicious when stored in the freezer). While cube-shaped ice cream was a weakness of mine as a small Julia, WHO can resist spheres? Not me.

Liberate yourself from the shackles of your oven, and join the revolutionary realm of the universally-beloved stove top with due expediency! But please, do be careful when seating your guests, particularly future in-laws (see minute 1:00, and even watch the whole Jeeves & Wooster episode on YouTube).

Oven-free Oat Spheres (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

This was made without a set recipe. My mom used to make a version of this with peanut butter, chocolate, and lots of added sugar during my childhood, so I've improvised a new combination that's delicious and healthier.
And a-one,
and a-two,

and an a-gave!

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate (I used TJ's disks to melt)
1 cup nut/seed butter (I used TJ's sunflower seed butter, which had salt. Peanut butter, cashew, or almond butter would also be great! If unsalted, I'd suggest adding 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt, if not more, to taste)
6-8 Tablespoons agave nectar (or honey)
2 Tablespoons apple sauce (or could use more applesauce and less agave)
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups uncooked oats (I used TJ's gluten-free oats. I've also made no-bakes with barley flakes. Cold cereals, like puffed millet, my favorite Envirokids Gorilla Munch ("cornmeal spheres"!!!), Cherrios, Rice Krispies, or Corn Flakes, can also work with the chocolate-butter binder instead of oats)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (I enjoyed using the end of the bag with walnut powder to use up!)
several shakes of cinnamon (to dust the finished product)

Melt unsweetened chocolate on medium heat. As soon as it's beginning to liquify, stir the chocolate and remove from heat. Then stir in your seed/nut butter of choice, agave & applesauce. Hopefully your mixture is not very warm now. Stir in your oats, vanilla & walnuts. If your mixture is not hot now, it shouldn't melt your chocolate chips, so add those. If the mixture is hot for some reason, then wait a few minutes for the oats + chocolate batter to cool.
Let the sun shine in & not melt the chippies.

Next form the batter into balls by washed hands. Coat with some cinnamon (or a lot of cinnamon!) and let chill in the fridge (if you can wait for them to chill! They're also great frozen).

I hope your are chuffed to bits with these chocolaty bits!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wild Wild Rices

What to do with leftover grains (wild rice, white rice, buckwheat, cous cous, quinoa, etc.) + leftover (or right below the grains, chillin in your deli drawer) meat or tofu?!? 

Ooo! I have an idea! GO WILD. Snatch that crunchy cucumber, celery, or jicama patiently waiting in your fridge, beckoning to be chopped. What is that yogurt doing loitering about behind the towering milk carton? It's just shy. It wants to be a part of your lunch. It just hasn't been socialized or tamed (try whispering to it, but please don't be careless).

Such is my average midday munching. So why don't you join me, and be 100% wild & mystical, rather than part-wild? (I like watching that video on mute with this or this playing, as if he's dancing to it. Or the song is the story of his life. Or he's really a zen politician. You decide.)

Wild Wild Turkey Salad (Gluten-free. Vegan if you use tofu.)

1.5 cups chopped turkey (or other protein)
1.5 cups wild rice (or other grain)
1 cup chopped cucumber (or other crunchy item, like carrots or raw zucchini. Or another vegetable, like leftover cooked peas or green beans)
1/2 an apple, chopped (or more, if you want)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (or raisins, currants, chopped dried apricots, etc.)
1/4 cup walnuts (or other nuts or seeds)

2 Tablespoons yogurt (I used plain unsweetened soy. Any sort should do)
2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar (I used raw, unfiltered Braggs brand)
1/8 teaspoon salt (I use this since neither the meat nor the grain was salty)
Dash cinnamon
Dash cayenne pepper
Avocado slices (optional garnish)

Mix all ingredients, except cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and avocado, in a big bowl. Garnish with avocado, and sprinkle top with cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Voilà!

Just an 1/8 t of salt helps the tasty salad go down.
Give it a stir, mmmm?
An avocado garland of garnish. Delish!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

(Smooth(ie)) Jazz (We've Got)

First it was The Wedding Singer ("Julia Gulia!") and now it's Julie & Julia ("Are you Jul-EE or Juli-UH?"). So, yeah, I go by either Julie or Julia, and yeah, I liked both movies, though getting me to cave and watch Julie & Julia took until this June. I held out as long as I could. Luckily my friend bought it for me because I actually enjoyed watching it.  

(However, I am still proudly holding out on Wicked, which I'm convinced I won't like despite my weakness for The Sound of Music, Grease and The Phantom of the Opera. Musicals are one glittery and colorful corner of pop culture that I occasionally flirt with and gain a smidgen of appreciation for, yet only one false, razzly-dazzly showtune ditty shifts my fricative from a labiodental to a dental: from love to loathe.)

Razzly-dazzly? Sounds like razzly raspberries to me. And that reminds me of another beautiful berry frappéd in the Blendtec today: the blueberry.
To create your own Kind of Blue smoothie, any blender or food processor will do, but I got to use my brother's Blendtec, which is pretty snazzy.

(I'm using the word snazzy? No! Broadway never will pierce the icy recesses of my heart if I keep up this smoothie regimen . . . perhaps I'll need to drink my Kind of Blue smoothie year-round. I notice I get more sentimental and able to watch musicals in the winter, and this smoothie will chase away the razzle-dazzles!)

Even if you are into musicals (as many people are), I think you can safely sip on a Kind of Blue smoothie and not risk your Playbill proclivity. Just turn on some crooning brass tunes while you blend up your green and blue (though I wouldn't consider Miles "smooth" jazz, the name works with the recipe), and get that feeling of pizzazz!

Kind of Blue Smoothie 

(Gluten-free, Vegan)
Makes about 12 oz. 

1 cup unsweetened vanilla soymilk
(West Soy is my absolute favorite!)
1/4 avacado
3/4 cup of frozen blueberries
(mine had a decent amount of ice between the blueberries)
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon agave nectar
(or honey. If your milk is already sweetened you may or may not want the extra sweetener.)
a few shakes of ground cinnamon

Put all the ingredients in your blender
, and ta-da! With a few spoons nearby, continue to add some sweetener to taste, until you stop buggin' out and aren't feeling so blue.

These frozen berries were pretty icy.
Avocado adds some creaminess.


You could add some soy protein or rice protein (this type I take is specifically for digestive system healing), but it does change the taste.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Coleslaw -> Koleslaw -> Kaleslaw

Alternate title: "A Nod to Natural (Sundry (& Sun-dried Cranberry)) Sound (& Orthographic) Change"

The natural evolution of "c" into "k" is just a matter of poor English phonological transcription of the "k" sound (a bemoaned historic accident), but the "o" to "a" vowel shift is purely my pragmatic lexical move to change "cole" (which morphed into "cold" for a spell until "cole" was rediscovered as the proper morpheme for "cabbage." Though I hesitate to say that "kool" spawned "Koolaid" (from Dutch "koolsla"), I have my suspicions. And, as the final kicker, "slaw" equals "salad").

Let's face it: I only made this recipe in order to satisfy my curiosity about who this slawvenly Cole was, and why he wanted to shred up veggies and sadistically drown them in sauce.

What's more, I did not want to stir-fry the fresh Red Russian kale from the garden. And I wanted to eat the stalks. They're celery-like (and I am notorious for using vegetables in their entirety). I happened to have tender, young kale, but I also like the bigger leaves' stalks. Just chop them up thinly, and they'll add a nice crunch to your 'slaw.

My recipe is a riff off my shredded kale salad I'd eat multiple times a week last summer with almond butter & goat yogurt dressing (I also learned that when you shred kale, always make sure to rinse the leaves and check for rogue beetles).
Almond + goat + pink salt + a touch of sunflower seed oil (last summer)
And why not add some tarragon? (last summer)
My philosophy for balancing any digestive discord is first trying probiotics & digestive enzymes. Although these tactics are not mainstream medical treatment, I have had luck with them, along with treatment from my doctor for food allergy testing and following a (roughly) rotational diet. I include links to my favored brands of probiotic & digestive enzyme products.

Besides a probiotic supplement, I work to add in probiotics through natural food sources: raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar; yogurt; kefir; probiotic-labeled saurkraut & kimchi; kombucha tea. This recipe incorporates a source of probiotics in the yogurt dressing. The digestive system and its malfunctions, according to an experienced gastrointestinologist, is understudied. For me, treatment has largely been a guess-and-check process.

Enough informal health-speak for now! Onto the kitchen, which, as usual, needs to be put in its place.

Kaleslaw (Gluten-free. Vegan if you choose your own adventure!)
I'll note here that I cook "to taste," so I recommend ratios for kale to dressing, etc., but I encourage a supply of small measuring spoons to test out the sweet/salty/creamy/spicy quality of the mix and add a touch more according to what tastes good to you (after all, you're the one eating what you cook, not me!). I also cook with what's on hand, so I strongly discourage recipes that require a special trip to buy all the ingredients. Plus learning to cook with permutations of what's laying about the pantry and fridge shelves is the best way to unleash my kreativity in the kitchen.

4 cups fresh chopped kale
1/4 cup dried cranberries (raisins/currants work too)
1/4 cup sliced carrots
1/4 cup chopped nuts
(I used brazil nuts. Any type of crunch would be pleasant, whether or not it matches the nut/seed butter you use!)

3 Tablespoons yogurt (I use goat. Any type would work: milk, sheep, soy, coconut)
1.5 Tablespoons nut/seed butter (I use Trader Joe's sunflower seed, which had a touch of evaporated cane juice. If you use another sort of butter (peanut, almond, cashew, tahini) I would suggest adding 1 teaspoon of honey, agave, or maple syrup)
1 teaspoon jam (I use Trader Joe's superfruit blend with cherry, blueberry, pomegranate & grape. I would try whatever you have on hand, including marmalade! I don't foresee any jam flavors clashing terribly with any other permutation of the ingredients)
1 squirt mustard (another option is to add 1 pinch cayenne or black pepper plus 1 pinch turmeric, cumin, or curry)
1 pinch salt (2 pinches if there's no salt in your nut/seed butter. And, of course, give the dressing a twirl and a taste as you add the salt. Plus salt can always be sprinkled on top of the slaw after the dressing's mixed in.)

After chopping the kale into bitty, bite-sized pieces, add your cranberries and carrots, then set it aside in a big bowl that you can put in the fridge soon and has enough space to stir up the kale with the dressing you're about to dream up into delicion (=delicious+oblivion).

In a small bowl, mix your yogurt, nut/seed butter, jam, mustard/spice, and salt (plus any optional ingredients, such as sweetener and more salt). Taste your creation and see how you like it (not creamy enough? Try more yogurt. Too bland? Half a teaspoon of jam, a teaspoon or two of nut butter, some salt and some spice may cure any malaise, though I don't suggest mayonnaise!).

Once you think your dressing tastes pretty boss, use a rubber spatula/scraper to pour over the kale, then mix well. Top with 1/4 cup of nuts or seeds. Let sit in fridge for about an hour. Enjoy your salad, cold!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A Gastrique Genesis

I like to cook. As a human being, I happen to like–and need–to eat.

Eating is transient. The written word is for evermore. Thus eating must be documented to prevent rapid fading (Hockett's 13 design features of language). With camera in hand and food allergies in me, I negotiate with nutrition, parrying its stabs and jabs. And usually I win. After all, somebody's got to improvise and substitute in the name of health.

My calling is clear. The cutlery chimes to me: "Julia, go forth and craft a crafty blog of cuisine from A to Z (from Allergy-free to Zoo-free)."

My goals are as follows:
1. Be creative (which implies entertainment).
2. Be food-ive (-ly/-ie/-ful).
3. Be myself (which hopefully implies entertainment).

Let's also remember that I study linguistics. I like words and how they ricochet off one other like rowdy rickshaws rampaging through the roads of Rome (or NYC, à la Seinfeld). Thus I debated whether "The Digest Digest" (capitalization optional) even made any syntactic sense, which it doesn't. Neither does the title of this first post (since "gastrique" is a noun, not an adjective, in English. We'll just let this be a Franglish blog).

Google searches of my web log (as is tradition, "blog" 'tis spelt, though spelt is too glutenous for me) name only gave me some random instances of reduplication (RED), so "The Digest Digest" can sally forth (did you know "sally," as a noun, means "a witty or lively remark; a retort"? Thanks Merriam!) into the free world without a hitch, whereas "Digestion Digest" can have its syntactically orthodox title.

Without further ado (about nothing much), shall we dive into the deep waters of allergy-conscious food? A resounding "Yes!" fills my ears. Or maybe that's just the drone of the steel fan scanning the room. Or maybe it's the cutlery talking to me again. Or maybe I don't care; I'd write this even if the fan and knives said "No."

I made a whole lot of food today, but I'll start with one item. I don't want to blow you away with my epicurean gusto, y'know (y'know is a discourse particle I studied in Penny Eckert's class last month; I feel torn between a jock and a burnout style at the moment since both used y'know in interviews (more RED (almost) right there. Definite parenthetical recursion though!)).

Socca Focaccia (Gluten-free & Carn-free, a.k.a. Vegan)
The inspiration for my recipe comes from this one. I had made stove-top socca griddle cakes before, and I remembered how much I loved them. This pleasant memory spurred me on to see about oven varieties of socca. Usually I consult multiple recipes (& my expert matriarch) for ratios, then I follow my nose and taste buds through the kitchen, adding ingredients to taste, coaxing the food to its finale of palatable perfection.

Ingredients (which, once cooked, will make you greedy for more):
1 cup water
1 cup chickpea (a.k.a. garbanzo bean) flour
2 Tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin, cold-pressed is preferable, but I'd be hard-pressed to demand such a thing)
1 Tablespoon dried oregano (though nothing beats fresh herbs, all my measurements here are for dried)
1 Tablespoon rosemary
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon fennel
1 teaspoon salt (preferably sea salt or pink salt, which are tasty, and might be good for you)
Dash of thyme
Dash of cayenne pepper

+ 2 or 3 Tablespoons of olive oil to grease the skillet or pan, which needs to have sides to hold in that oil.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stir up all the ingredients listed above in a mixing bowl until it's a nice dough with the olive oil well-incorporated (whether I drink out of a well in an unincorporated area is irrelevant). Put that extra olive oil in your cast iron skillet, pyrex pan, or aluminum tin (something with an edge, but not U2).

When the oven's piping hot, insert the pan with the dough contently resting in a circular shape. It'll turn even more golden (since it's already a gilded marigold when raw) in about 25 minutes.
(So I check around 20 minutes, and if it's not ready 5 minutes later, then wait for 30 minutes.
Time isn't my forte. I like checking on food. Kinda like checking email. A nice endorphin rush:
"I'm addicted to email. My endorphins spike when I get a message. When there are no messages, loneliness and despair overcome me."
"Have you tried sending email to yourself?"
"We don't talk about that."
- Dilbert and Dogbert

Pry that tasty flatbread out with a metal spatula (or a turner? 8th grade Home Ec threw me into the throes of kitchen lingo limbo indefinitely) after it has cooled for 5-10 minutes. Your soon-to-be-devoured cooked-dough should be crispy and browned on the edges. I quartered mine, spread some basil marinara sauce on top, and strategically positioned chopped garlic scapes & fresh basil for optimal nommage.

Now go forth and nom that nommy, toasty bread, converting your tummy's woes into "Hey nonny, nonny!"

(This final photo features lentils with garlic scapes & fresh basil, plain ol' asparagus that sat in the oven for a spell, & baked, sliced sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt, parsley, cinnamon, all-spice, cloves.)