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jesse’s prairie hipster flapjacks

Jesse’s the king of weekend breakfasts. He makes the world’s best oatmeal, full of raisins and fruit and cinnamon and marinated to a thick congealed perfection that sounds gross because of my word choice but is in fact sublime. He makes omelets with an array of ingredients and fillings that should constitute overkill but is instead harmonious and exciting. And he makes pancakes.

A few years ago, they were banana pancakes, made with the Jack Johnson song of the same name obligatorily playing in the background. I ate them with peanut butter and swooned.

But then I went gluten free.

Since then, we’ve tried other pancake recipes… but here’s the deal. I eat a carby breakfast and not 90 minutes later, I’m a ravenous fucking mountain lion. My body cries for protein and the hunger nuke that detonates in the kitchen sometimes takes out innocent civilians. Jesse, having been a casualty of this post-carb terror, had written off the pancake as a viable breakfast strategy… until a few weeks ago, when we tried an almond meal pancake recipe from some paleo diet blog and didn’t get hungry again for 6 whole hours. Because we had just eaten the equivalent of like 90 almonds or something.

Then last weekend Jesse made buckwheat pancakes using this Mayo Clinic recipe and we really dug the funky, slightly bitter flavor that the buckwheat contributed to the mix. But I still wanted to take hostages 2 hours after I ate mine. So this weekend, Jesse riffed on the recipe and I have a feeling he’s gonna be safe. At least until lunch.

prairie hipster flapjack with peanut butter

Jesse’s Prairie Hipster Flapjacks

I asked Jesse to name his creation, and this is what he came up with. Says Jesse, “’Prairie’ because they’re rugged and hardy and ‘hipster’ because they’ve got a lot of nuance going on that you probably wouldn’t understand. Also they’re gluten free.” They’re not really cake-y and pillowy, so if that’s what you’re into you may need to look elsewhere. But I took a bite of the crunchy golden lacy edges and proclaimed them the best pancakes I’d ever tasted. We top ours with butter and real maple syrup (though sometimes I miss that shit in the bottle with the little magic color-changing microwave sensor on it).

Ingredients

  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 1 cup almond milk (plain or vanilla—you could use any kind of milk here, probably, but this is just what we keep on hand)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup cornmeal, medium grind
  • ½ cup almond meal/flour (we used the Bob’s Red Mill stuff)
  • ¾ cup gluten free baking flour blend of choice (ours had equal parts white rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch)
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup plain sparkling water
  • 1.5 cups mostly-thawed frozen blueberries

Method

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, canola oil, vanilla extract, and almond milk together.

In a larger bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the egg mixture and combine thoroughly. Then add the sparkling water and stir until just combined.

Place a nonstick frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Add a generous amount of canola oil—this’ll help to create lacy crispy edges.

When the pan is just ready, swirl the blueberries into the pancake batter.

Scoop about half a cup of pancake batter into the pan. Cook until the top surface of the pancake is bubbly and the edges are beginning to brown (2-3 minutes). Flip and cook until the bottom is browned and the pancake is cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. For consecutive pancakes, you’ll have to stir the batter before scooping as the coarser grains and the blueberries will sink.

Recipe makes 5 giant pancakes that just about cover the entire surface of a 9” pan. The batter holds well in the fridge for a day or three.

prairie hipster flapjack 2

Other ideas: Swap out the blueberries for a couple sliced bananas. Skip the fruit entirely and add cinnamon and ginger or pumpkin pie spice to the batter. Make ‘em plain as a jaybird is naked and slap a runny fried egg on top.

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WILT #20, in which the animals of the house do silly things

In our household, we celebrate silliness and whimsy. Apparently, our appreciation for the ridiculous has rubbed off on our animals.

Atticus, do you really think you can fit in that box? And get this:

He stuck his head in an empty Kleenex box that was patiently waiting to be recycled. Here he is trying to get the damn thing off.

And he DID get the thing off… and then he put his head right back in.

Not to be outdone, Zoe got her head stuck in a FAGE yogurt container that she was cleaning out for us. I’m actually surprised that this was the first time.

That we know of, at least.

As for Scout? She fell in love with the rainbow catnip stick and licked it for 5 whole minutes.

And these are only the silly antics that we catch. I can only imagine what they do to entertain themselves when we’re not looking!

I actually *do* care

Staff meeting on Wednesday. New employee handbook published by corporate. One of our facility’s co-administrators reads all the new parts to us. It takes an hour.

The last handbook was published in 2002, apparently. In that “old” version (2002 is old?), there was nothing about face tattoos, about PDAs (personal digital assistants, in this context), about engaging in romantic relationships with patients. The 2010 version? Full of this stuff. Full of hints at some of the crazy things that have happened in the company in the last 8 years. And let me tell you, the HIPAA section is now, like, a mile long.

When she got to the part about social networking sites, Twitter, and blogs, our co-administrator sighed and looked up. “I don’t know why anybody does any of this stuff anyway,” she said. “Like, I don’t CARE what you had for breakfast. Keep it to yourself!”

I’ve heard this argument before: that this constant sharing of the supposedly mundane and banal is just unnecessary background noise leading to the overstimulation of our modern minds. But you know what?

I ACTUALLY DO CARE.

I WANT to know what you thought about the waffles at the new cafe down the street! I WANT to know about how much you love your new banana-yellow Schwinn cruiser! And almost more than anything else, I CARE ABOUT WHAT YOU HAD FOR BREAKFAST!

Give me ideas about what I can make tomorrow. Give me some insight into the little day-to-day things in your life that matter to you. Maybe this is further indication that, against all odds, I’m truly a people-person. What matters to you genuinely does matter to me. And yeah, if I’m busy or overwhelmed, I’ll log off.

So.

What did you have for breakfast?

I had some Greek yogurt–FAGE 0%–with sliced supermarket strawberries (didn’t make it to the farmers’ market this weekend) and chopped walnuts. And coffee.

It’s often the little meals, the meals and snacks taken alone at the computer or when halfway out the door, that don’t get any recognition. We often think of them as fuel, as boring necessity. I think they can be the most interesting. It’s when your stomach is growling and demanding food NOW that you inadvertently get creative with your culinary concoctions.

Maybe you’re like me and have a basic template for little meals like that–a fried egg, some form of whole grain, maybe a veggie, and a condiment. When you’re rushing to pull something together to satisfy your tummy, you reach into the fridge for the cheese and inexplicably end up grabbing the jar of pickles. And your fried egg sammich takes a new and crazy turn.

I love this.

Tell me. Keep it coming.

Victory Pie

When I lived in the old house on Lincoln Avenue, I used to bake cakes or scones after a really good date. I don’t know exactly what possessed me the first time, or what ultimately turned it into a tradition of sorts. But certainly, a good date is a legitimate reason to bring sweet baked goodness into the house.

Have you ever heard the song, “If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake?” My mom and I used to sing it all the time.

Baking is a newer adventure for me. Like, I only recently came to understand the importance of mixing dry ingredients and wet ones separately. And going gluten-free about three years ago meant that any minor baking competence I had developed up until that point was rendered almost entirely moot. But all of a sudden, I wanted to make things myself that I had never bothered to attempt when gluten was an option: pizza crust (I’d buy frozen), pie crust (pre-made graham cracker shells), bread (artisan bakery down the street). I wanted to prove (to myself?) that it was possible to continue to enjoy foods that were so conveniently available in my former life, and that they could be even better and cheaper if I made them myself.

And then I realized that you have to use a bunch of different flours I never even knew existed in order to approximate the behavior of wheat flour. Sweet rice flour? Which is different than white rice flour? Potato starch? Tapioca flour? WTF? I turned to Bob’s Red Mill’s Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour. That worked for a while–and I think it’s essential to those just embarking on the gluten-free adventure–until I got tired of the garbanzo beany aftertaste and gathered up enough courage to throw $40 worth of flours in my shopping cart (!!).  Those all sat in my freezer until I actually decided to turn my brain on before preheating the oven: with a little knowledge of the properties of wheat flour, and a meager understanding of the composition of these other gluten-free flours, I might actually understand why I’m using brown rice and potato starch and tapioca flours rather than, say, cornstarch and soy flour. Geez. The driving force behind flour selection for a particular baked good? Protein, protein bonding, conformational changes.

Biochemists know it. Students in cell biology classes know it. My carnivorous fiance knows it. It’s all about the protein.

See, that’s what gluten is–two nefarious insoluble proteins, gliadin and glutenin. And the way you treat gluten in dough form provides different results–flaky but cohesive pie crust, airy crumb of a french loaf, chewy substance of a cookie. For gluten-free baking, we’ve gotta improvise in the protein department. Have you ever made a regular pie crust with anything more than all-purpose flour, ice water, and butter? No. You don’t need to. Because when the flour and water are mixed, the gluten proteins in the flour change conformation to trap water molecules and result in a dense but elastic lattice structure and, hence, a cohesive crust. Overkneading this crust will result in a harder, less elastic texture because the more you knead, the more bonding you have between the gluten proteins. Try, then, a combination of rice flour, ice water, and butter. And watch the crust completely fall apart when you do little more than blow on it. Why? Practically no proteins to create that elastic lattice.

I made a pie last night for the first time. The crust recipe called for, along with dry ingredients and butter, an egg and a tablespoon of vinegar. What’s that about? I had to understand before I embarked on the recipe. I’m not a visual/kinetic/auditory learner–I need to understand why the hell I’m doing something or I’ll never learn how (or obey). I turned to my new favorite book, On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. I snapped up a copy of the 1984 edition at Powell’s for $26 and now I think I might understand.

The egg provides the protein missing from our gluten-free flours (in this case, white rice flour, tapioca starch, and corn starch). Egg white proteins coagulate into filaments when heated and provide that lattice structure that normal flours inherently contain. The proteins in the egg whites also are notorious for foaming–or as Harold explains, forming a “relatively stable mass of bubbles”–when exposed to air by whipping. The fatty yolk, on the other hand, interferes with this process. So we’re using a whole egg to prevent rampant foaming (we’re going for pie crust, not souffle). When heated, the egg proteins coagulate (hello rubbery scrambled eggs); adding vinegar reduces the pH of the egg and therefore lowers the reactivity (or bond-happiness) of the egg proteins, allowing them to disperse evenly enough throughout the dry ingredients and shortening and provide the protein structure of the crust.

Holy crap. I am so sorry I just did that to you.

Here. Look at some pie.

aaaand it's time for photography classes

I really wished organic chemistry and biochemistry could have been taught in the context of the kitchen.

Anyway, I made this crust. I’ve tried a few gluten-free pie crusts and have been disappointed each time–the crusts were too crumbly, too dense and chewy, funny-flavored. Not this puppy!! It became a strawberry rhubarb pie, made with fruit from last weekend’s farmers market run. Just in time to celebrate the job offer I received yesterday. Now, I live, bake, and WORK in Portland! Hooray!

Victory Pie Crust, adapted from The Gluten-Free Gourmet by Bette Hagman

Ingredients

1 cup white rice flour

3/4 cup tapioca flour

3/4 cup cornstarch

1-1/2 tsp xanthan gum

3/4 tsp salt

1 Tbsp sugar

3/4 cup butter* (I’m in LOVE with Tillamook Creamery’s sweet cream unsalted butter, if you’re in the Pacific Northwest or lucky enough to find it)

1 egg, beaten

1 Tbsp white vinegar

2-3 Tbsp ice water

Method

Whisk together the dry ingredients. Grate the butter into the dry ingredients and incorporate it with a spatula or whisk. Mix the beaten egg, vinegar, and 2 Tbsp ice water together in a bowl or mug. Mix these wet ingredients into the flour-butter mixture little by little–a third at a time or so. If the pastry is not yet holding together as a dough, add more ice water incrementally (I think I ended up using about 3-1/2 Tbsp total).

Form the dough into two balls and place in a bowl, covered, in the fridge. Let the dough cool for about 30 minutes (15 min in my case, because I can’t follow the rules). Roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper and use as indicated by your pie recipe of choice. You could also stick the dough disks in the fridge or freezer for later, but make sure to let them temper on the counter for a while (30 min if coming out of the fridge, longer if coming out of the freezer) before handling them as they will be a bit fragile when cold. You should get 2 9″ crusts. Note that they won’t brown the same way that our old wheat crusts would.

*Note: Put sticks of butter in the freezer. Many recipes tell you to “cut in the shortening,” asking you to use a ridiculous pastry cutter or fork and knife to chunk up the butter into pea-sized bits, a task that has made many a 50’s housewife turn to amphetamines. Well, since you’re really smart, all you have to do is take the butter out of the freezer and grate it on the biggest holes of a box grater. And cry tears of sweet sweet joy.

A Call to Arms

This blog is a product of the belief that our food, our homes, our creative exploits are important. What we put in our bodies, the things with which we surround ourselves, and the things that inspire us MATTER. And our stories about these things are important, too.

A month ago, my man and I moved to Oregon (outside Portland) from Minnesota (Minneapolis). I’d been in the Twin Cities for seven years and in the Midwest all my life. Compounding the magic of my new region is the magic of our home with my future in-laws. In this big pretty house in the boonies, you’ll find three big dogs, our two kitties, a backyard with a hill and pasture and creek and giant slugs. And two loving parents, for whom I can do little but cook and bake to show my gratitude for their hospitality and openness. We won’t be here forever; we will get jobs, we will move out, we will buy a home. Et cetera. But until then, I have domestic projects here and all the support I could possibly want for attacking them.

I’ll primarily be writing about foooood. I went gluten-free three years ago by necessity and am loving the process of discovery that has followed. I learned to cook in college while living in a vegetarian co-op, so cooking meat has been a relatively recent adventure. And I have memories of my mother’s delicious and healthy cooking–the first “fusion” cuisine I ever experienced, being both Midwestern and Latin. There may have been casseroles at our dinner table in small-town central Wisconsin, but they had sabor! Our food and its history is our common denominator. Lull in the conversation? Talk tortillas–flour or corn? (Corn!) Talk regional cooking. Want to get to know someone? Ask them what they had for breakfast.

But you know that already, because you’ve found your way here.

Expect posts about Projects, too. When I was little, my mom always had Projects for us to do–whether we were decoupaging vases, making mosaics on coffee tables with broken dishes, re-grouting the bathtub, or rewiring lamps. She did a lot of Projects by herself, or with my adolescent assistance, but I was inspired every time she picked up the paintbrush and headlamp. Now, I have a partner in these sorts of domestic experiments. My fiance wants nothing more than to cut holes in walls, buy more drywall anchors, and build a fire pit in the back yard.

But I do all the knitting around here.

I promise not to post too many pictures of our cats (and yes, I know that “too many” is quite subjective). I promise not to overuse the word “toothsome.” I promise not to be That Girl in the restaurant who won’t let anyone take a bite before she snaps a picture of everybody’s dish.

I’m embarking on a fabulous Pacific Northwest domestic adventure, so grab your spoon and join me!