Home Cured Lox

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So a few weeks ago I posted my gluten-free bagel recipe.  So naturally I needed to make some lox to accompany the bagels because a bagel without lox is simply blasphemy.  Seriously lox and bagels bring back so many fond memories for me.  I guess for Jews its just part of so many celebrations; breaking the fast, births/bris, brunch the day after a wedding and so on.  Subconsciously I associate lox and bagels with a reason to celebrate.  So if I’m going to go through the effort of making bagels, I have to make some lox to go with them.  Now that you understand why lox are a necessary addition to any bagel, why not just buy some lox?

Well, yeah you could buy them, but wheres the fun in that?  Buying is certainly easier, but making taste better as you can customize it to your taste, its about 25% the costs and you’ll have the pride in curing your own lox.  Furthermore its actually quite easy.  Yes, its time consuming in the sense that its not ready in an hour or so, but most of the time is simply waiting a few days for the fish to cure.  It’s not like you’re actively working to create this masterpiece.  I assure you that with a bit of planning and some patience these lox are well worth the wait.

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Gluten Free Bagels (Everything and Cinnamon Raisin)

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Gluten Free Everything Bagel with homemade lox

 

It’s been a while since I’ve written here.  I don’t have any excuses, but needless to say I’m excited to get back to posting some recipes and stories.  So let’s start with some gluten free bagels.  Ah bagels… how I’ve missed you since going gluten free.  To be honest I never really ate a ton of bagels, but as is human nature, as soon as I was told I couldn’t eat gluten/wheat I craved them more than ever.  Sure, I like the occasional Saturday morning trip the the local bagel shop every now and then.  Sure, I eat bagels at various brunch events like the morning after a wedding.  But not until I went gluten free did I ever wake up craving and yearning for bagels .  I guess the old adage is true – you always want what you can’t have.

As this was a craving that needed to be filled, I decided to visit my local supermarket and buy some frozen gluten free bagels.  BLAH!  The taste, the texture, the overall experience of a crispy outside and doughy inside was way off.  This bagel was as close to a real bagel as Olive Garden is to real Italian food.  Sure its passable, but at that point I’d just rather not eat it at all.  There was only one solution… of course it was to make my own.

My goal was to come up with a generic bagel dough that could be flavored with mix-ins and topping to create my favorite bagel varieties (everything and cinnamon raisin).  I consulted a few of my recently purchased gluten free cookbooks and decided to try the recipe from Gluten Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts.  They turned out really well but were just a little dry.  I made a few tweaks to the recipe below for my 2nd batch and was able to reduce that dryness of the first recipe.  Overall these have a great texture, brown and crusty on the outside while soft and doughy inside.  Simply put, these tasted like a “full of gluten” bagel and were 100 times better than store bought.  Check out the recipes below.

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Healthier Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie (Gluten Free)

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Healthier Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie (Gluten Free)

 

It’s January, which means it’s the traditional “I need to eat better” time of year.  Luckily, I already cook 5-6 days a week, pack my lunch and eat appropriately sized portions (which was a previous resolution).  As in any part of life, there is always room for improvement and my achilles heel has always been sweets.  Recently I’ve felt that a dinner isn’t complete unless I have some dessert to round out the meal.  Cheesecake, cookies, chocolate, ice cream, it doesn’t matter – I don’t discriminate.  So this is my challenge, find a dessert I can make, that I’d actually want to eat, that tastes good and isn’t horrible for me.  Let’s be honest, if it doesn’t taste good, I’m not going to eat it.

I decided to do some research.  To make the search even more fun, I decided to find something that is gluten free as well.  I searched Pinterest, read through my plethora of cookbooks and googled dozens of healthy recipes.  I found the usual mix of fruit based desserts, extremely small portions that wouldn’t satisfy my sweet tooth, and simply unappealing looking concoctions.  Finally I found something chocolate based, easily convertible to gluten free, protein packed (a bonus in a dessert) all for roughly 300 calories a serving.

I should have known better and saved some time by going straight to one of my most respected food guru’s Alton Brown.  The recipe I found was his Moo-Less Chocolate Pie.  I’ve always been a fan of Good Eats as the mix of science, humor, creativity and great tasting food was one of my first inspirations to get in the kitchen and start experimenting. I’ve used a bunch of recipes from AB with much success, so this gave me a good level of confidence that the results would be delicious.  Another bonus is that the recipe required a blender, so I’m able to use my brand new toy, my Vitamix.  Finally here is the breakdown of the calories per serving at 330, which I find acceptable for a good portion of dessert.

As good as the recipe looked, I had to make a few modifications, both for taste and to ensure it was gluten free.  The first addition I made was to add peanut butter – because as good as chocolate pie is, chocolate and peanut butter is just that much better.  The second change I made was to use gluten free graham crackers as the crust instead of the chocolate wafer crust.  I also used gluten free chocolate chips, again to ensure this pie is GF.  Finally, I used some leftover coffee instead of the coffee liquor.  The peanut butter does add calories, but the GF graham crackers and chocolate are both lighter in calories than their glutenous counterpart, so the changes pretty much even out.

Healthier Choclate Peanut Butter Pie (Gluten Free)

Gluten free chocolate chps

As I’d hoped the pie came out perfect!  Rich, chocolatey, silky smooth, not overly sweet and a touch of peanut butter.  I’ve found that because its so rich, I actually ate less than 1/10th serving.  I didn’t need a whole piece to satisfy my sweet tooth which meant I’ve got a delicious dessert for ~250 calories.  That’s a win win in my book.  When I make this again I may try to find GF dark chocolate chips as I think darker chocolate would kick up the overall depth a bit more.  That being said, the recipe below is absolutely delicious.

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Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins (Freezable)

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I’ve been away for a while as I haven’t posted in a few months now.  I have a fairly good reason for that, which will certainly impact the theme of this blog as I’ve recently been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity.  I’m still going through a battery of tests to determine the extent and if I have celiac as well.

As I’m new to this gluten-free stuff, I’m just starting to delve into the world of gluten-free baked goods.  At first its very intimidating.  All these odd flours, like millet and sorghum coupled with things I’ve never heard of like xanthum gum made me feel more like a scientists than a cook.  I’ve always found baking less fun than general cooking because I don’t like following recipes.  Cooking should be an art, not a science.  I like to read a few variations of a recipe, get the general idea and then start putting it together.  Taste, tweak, taste again and repeat until you find that flavor blend you have in your mind.  That is cooking.  This measuring, weighing, mixing in a specific order, is all a chore that takes the fun out of throwing things together to create a great dish.

We’ll after a few weeks of going gluten-free I’ve started to miss all of my baked treats.  I normally don’t eat a lot of baked goods, but I guess its human nature to want that forbidden fruit (or gluten in this case).  As soon as I couldn’t have muffins, and cookies and bagels, I immediately craved them more than I ever have before.

Well, I decided to take on the challenge of being a cook/scientist and immersing myself in the kitchen lab to bring those glutenous treats back into my life.  After a lot of research I decided to purchase a few gluten-free book.  My favorite of the bunch, which I instinctual pick up first when looking for a GF baked good is Gluten Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts.  I’ve found the recipes easy to follow, cover a wide range of baked goods, and most importantly taste great.  The flour blends are quite easy to prepare ahead of time and store just like AP flour or bread flour.  The only difference is that I store these blends in the fridge as some GF flours are more susceptible to spoilage.  I’ve put together 2 blends (bread blend, and general AP blend) which I keep on hands at all times.  With these 2 blends I can make pretty much any baked good I happen to be craving that week.

With these blends in hand I decided to start with one of my favorite baked goods, muffins.  In the past I wrote about my love of muffins which I can easily freeze and reheat for a quick 30 second breakfast.  I thought this would be a good foray into the world of GF baking as muffins are fairly straightforward and not as fussy as cakes or breads.  My recipe below is adapted from Annalise Roberts GF blueberry muffin recipe.  The few tweaks I made were: replace some of the oil with applesauce, add lemon zest and add a bit of flax to the batter.  I personally like the addition of lemon as a bit of a flavor boost, and the applesauce swap and the flax make these a bit lighter and healthier than the original recipe.  I also opted for a cinnamon sugar topping instead of the strudel topping.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon Brown Rice Flour Mix {See recipe below OR use your favorite gluten-free flour blend}
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon sugar for sprinkling on top
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon flax seeds
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Brown Rice Flour Mix

  • 2 cups Brown rice flour, finely ground
  • 2/3 cup Potato starch
  • 1/3 cup Tapioca flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 and lightly spray muffin pans with nonstick spray

  1. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of brown rice flour mix over the blueberry’s.  Stir to coat.  This helps the batter adhere to the blueberry’s so they are disbursed throughout and don’t simply sink to the bottom of the muffin.  
  2. Mix flour, 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthum gum, salt, nutmeg, and flax in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Combine milk, oil and applesauce, egg and vanilla in a small bowl. Stir in blueberry’s.
  4. Mix tablespoon of sugar with  ground cinnamon
  5. Fill muffin pans 2/3 full.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.
  6. Cook muffins for 18-22 minutes until lightly browned.  Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 30 minutes before removing and placing on a cooling rack.
  7. Once these are completely cooled you can wrap in plastic and freeze.  To reheat place in the microwave for 30-45 seconds.

This muffin recipe is a great base than can easily be modified with your favorite fruit such as banana, strawberry or  apple.  You can even add chocolate chips for a kid friendly version.

Flank Steak with Simple Chimichurri Sauce

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I hate throwing out food. Maybe it the foodie in me, maybe it’s my Jewish background and my mother’s voice in my head saying “don’t throw that out, we can find a way to use it” but I just have to find a way to use up those spare ingredients lying around after a recipe.

A few weeks back I found myself with a plethora of parsley left over from a tabbouleh salad. I looked online for creative ways to use parsley. It couldn’t find anything that grabbed my attention. Finally and out of the blue I remembered how much I love chimichurri sauce and knew that was the recipe. As usual I knew that I had to put my own spin on it. I love the taste of chimichurri but hate that its typically a mash of ingredients you apply to the meat after cooking. Even worse the “mash” always falls off the meat when its sliced leaving the meat with very little actual chimichurri flavor. I was looking for a strong chimichurri flavor throughout the meat, not just on the surface. I decided I was going to blend the sauce so that i could marinate the meat in the sauce. This way you get 100% chimichurri flavor penetrated throughout the meat Instead of on the surface.

As for the delivery vessel I chose a traditional flank steak. Thin, marbled with fat and quick cooking, it’s a great cut of meat for this application, especially as the weather improves and I can finally use the grill.  Served with some veggies and rice for a delicious meal.

The sauce comes together quickly with ingredients most of us already have on hand (other than the parsley). Easy to make in the morning and marinade before you leave for work. We’ll use 1/2  of the sauce as a marinade and the remainder as a finishing sauce to apply after cooking.  I usually save some of the leftover sauce as a condiment in the fridge for eggs, chicken and fish.  It really does go on pretty much everything.

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Caramel Rosemary Popcorn

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A few weeks back my wife came home from work and said “you have to make this for me”.  I was fully expecting her to hand me something delicious I could try and then decide if I shared in her excitement.  To my disappointment she didn’t have anything for me to sample, just a demand that I make more of this “addictive popcorn” someone brought into work.

I searched around the web for a few variations of this caramel rosemary popcorn and found a few that looked simple to make… simple enough that I could test it out without a ton of effort.  Eventually I settled on  this recipe from Martha Stewart and made my first batch.  No alterations, just copied the recipe directly from Martha.  I thought it was good, but it could be better (despite it only being good, I absolutely devoured it).  So I decided to tweak the recipe a bit to my personal taste.

I thought that the pop of rosemary gave it a great floral taste that brightened up the sweet caramel but there just wasn’t enough.  I increased the rosemary by 50% to ensure that each bite had that same pop of flavor to counter the sweet caramel.

The second improvement I made was to heat the caramel to a lower temperature.  I thought that heating it to 255 made the caramel too hard and a bit burnt.  Instead I heated the caramel to 245 so that the caramel was not as crunchy.  While its only 10 degrees, in candy land 10 degrees is two stages and a whole world of difference.  It also removed that slight burnt taste that can easily overpower.

With these subtle but important changes the second batch came out much better.  I took a batch to work and to my foodie friends at IndyHall to sample.  If it went over well I planned on taking it to the Philadelphia Food Swap, February 22nd.  The consensus was that the popcorn was amazing.  In fact a few people asked what drug I sprinkled in because it was that addictive.  That was all the feedback I needed and it was clear this recipe was worth swapping.  Get the full recipe after the jump.

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Healthier Banana Oat Walnut Muffins (Freezable)

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As I’ve said in previous posts I don’t have time to whip up a fancy breakfast before work everyday. To be fair, who does? With that in mind my latest edition to my grab and go breakfast series is these remade banana walnut muffins. The best part (besides taste and nutrition content) is that these muffins are freezable. Make a batch and freeze in your favorite freezer bag. In the morning microwave 1 muffin for 45 seconds and you have a warm, healthy breakfast faster than it takes to brush your teeth.

Muffins are one of those tricky foods in so many different ways. The first is the sheer fact of it being healthy or not. It’s very easy to add sugar for sweetness, oil to keep the cake moist and basic ingredients like flour that add little in terms of nutrition. To make these muffins a little more nutritionally sounds I’ve incorporated a few modifications to the original recipe:

  1. Replace the oil with applesauce - This is a common replacement that helps keep the cake moist without adding fat.
  2. Substitute some of the white flour with whole wheat flour - For me this is another easy one. Since whole wheat has a bit of a nutty taste it goes well with these banana nut muffins while providing a whole grain instead of processed grains.
  3. Add nutrition boosters - I’ve been partial to ground flax and chia seeds which add fiber and omega 3′s to your diet.    A sneaky way to add nutrition with very little impact on taste. You could just as easily add your favorite supplement or grain.

These 3 modifications are pretty standard and can easily be implemented into a lot of home baked goods. The result is a similar tasting product which is significantly healthier overall, a win-win all around.  While there are a lot of ingredients most are basic pantry staples we should all have lying around.  My kind of recipe.

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Simple Chocolate Souffle

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Chocolate souffle… fancy!  I’ve always loved souffle’s regardless of the type.  A savory breakfast souffle with chees and herbs or as I takle here a rich, chocolatey souffle for dessert.  There is something magical about a souffle that rises to create a light and airy concoction that amazingly retains an abundance of flavor.

Like most home cooks I’ve always been a bit intimidated by souffle’s and the horror stories of it not rising properly or even worse it rising and then immediately deflating as soon as its removed from the oven (just as my confidence would deflate as I watched in disappointment).  Coincidentally, or perhaps because she wanted souffle’s my wife bought me 2 Le Creuset mini cocotte’s for Hanukkah.  As soon as I opened the gifts I knew I had to take my chances and tackle souffle making.

After consulting my trusty Joy of Cooking book and a few recipes online I decided to go with this recipe from the Food Network.  I decided to make a few modifications by removing the lemon and adding leftover coffee to the mix.  Coffee adds a complex depth of flavor to any chocolate recipe and I felt the addition would be a perfect fit in the recipe.  As always I took pictures documenting the recipe and process, fully expecting to have this first batch be an “experiment” that I could fine tune until I found a recipe worthy of posting.

To my surprise this batch turned out very well.  More surprising the process was actually fairly simple.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t something you just whip up on a whim, but its no harder than any other chocolate cake dessert.  Even better its made with ingredients that all of us typically have on hand; a bag of chocolate chips, eggs, vanilla, some leftover coffee, vanilla extract, butter and sugar.  With a bit of time and a mixer you can make a chocolate souffle worthy of any restaurant menu.  With this simple recipe, no one should fear that temperamental souffle.

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Asian Roasted Chicken Thighs

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Delicious!  There is something about the mix of spices and flavorful liquids in Asian cuisine that just work so well together.  Pungent garlic and ginger balanced out with sweet honey and salty soy sauce. The flavors in this recipe marry so well to provide a deep level of flavor without one overpowering note.  They are simply sublime.  All of these wonderful flavors on my new favorite protein, chicken thighs (I’ll explain why below).   Add a bit of rice and bok choy for an easy well balanced, healthy meal centered around your crispy succulent chicken thigh.  You’ll want to make a few extra as they are ideal leftovers heated up for lunch the next day, or shredded off the bone and put into a salad or wrap.

Why I keep chicken thighs in my freezer at all times.  With thighs being dark meat they are well suited for longer cooking without drying out.  This opens up additional cooking methods so that even the same type of protein can take on hundreds of variations.   I also love that they are perfectly portioned with an average of 5-7 ounces each.  Much better than a chicken breast of 12-14 ounces, as I can’t help myself from eating all of the food that’s on the plate in front of me.  I just have to remember not to go back for another piece.  They contain a bone, which just makes meat taste better (although this is mostly about beef, I’ll argue that its true for chicken as well)

This recipe specifically is quite easy.  Combine a few ingredients, pour over the chicken and place it in the oven.  While the chicken bakes it gives you enough time to put together the sides.  It’s a perfect weeknight meal for anyone on a tight schedule.

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Philly Food and Drink Writers Meetup

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Amazing!  That’s how I described my Saturday afternoon to my wife and friends who asked how the “Philly food blogger thing” went.  The food, the restaurant and the people were all highlights to an eventful afternoon.  Being new to blogging  I had no idea there was such a community (and I stress community as opposed to a group of random people with some common interests) out there.

After attending my first food event, the Philly food swap in September I was eager for another.  At the food swap I met some great bloggers I’d been following for a while now and got a glimpse at the great food community that Philly has.  Fast forward a month and Wendy of La Phemme Phoodie posted about a Philly food and drink writers meetup she was organizing in conjunction with Philly Homegrown.  I knew immediately that I had to attend.

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