April 28, 2011

GF Crustless Quiche

OK, for a while over here, it's going to be fast, delish and simple. No styling of food, just a photo (or three) to show you that I really did test out the recipe and did not die eating it, and that my family allowed me to post it.

Fair deal? I hope so.

Up today is a gluten-free Crustless Quiche recipe from Incredible Edible Gluten-Free Food for Kids: 150 Family-Tested Recipes. I love that it is fast and easy, and the possibilities are pretty endless. I used crumbled bacon in mine but you can use anything you fancy, including leftovers: roasted peppers, blanched broccoli, roasted asparagus, leeks and caramelized onions. Indeed if you vary the "filling" your family will not suspect that it is the same ol' recipe!

The last piece, up for grabs.
Gluten-free Crustless Quiche
 Serves 4-6, depending on appetite
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk or substitute
  • 3/4 cup sliced green onions (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/8 tsp grd nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup cooked, chopped meat (chicken, ham, crabmeat) OR 1/2 cup crumbled bacon OR anything you fancy!
  • 2 cups (about 6 oz) shredded cheese (Swiss, cheddar, Monterey Jack, Harvati)
  • 2 Tbsp sweet rice flour (I used almond meal)
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Thoroughly grease a deep pie dish; set aside.
  3. In a bowl, combine the eggs, milk, green onions (if using), salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the meat (or other filling of choice).
  4. Pull out the center rack of the preheated oven and place the prepared pie pan on it. Pour the mixture carefully into the pan. Carefully push the rack back into the oven and close.
  5. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
  6. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

April 27, 2011

about asparagus, l-asparagine and cancer

I wanted to post this as a note on Facebook but it seems there is no such option for a non-personal page, so I am posting it here. I read this in a newsletter that I subscribe to, written by a pair of naturopaths based in Denver, CO. I find their newsletters very informative and well-researched. However, it seems this current newsletter is not updated on their website yet, but since I have been talking about asparagus and posted a couple of related recipes, I thought I would reproduce the information below, also useful for future reference. Original article written by Jacob Schor ND, FABNO.

Excerpted from April 2011's newsletter:

If you have cancer, you have probably already read that asparagus will cure your cancer.  A letter making this claim has gone viral on the internet.  I doubt that there are more than a handful of people with cancer who have not received a copy forwarded to them by some well meaning friend or relative.

Let me start by saying there is little reason to believe the claim that asparagus will cure cancer.  Instead it may actually make a few specific cancers worse.

Let me summarize what we do know about these claims in the hope that information may antidote this long, standing urban myth.

The “Asparagus Cure for Cancer” first appeared in print in the February 1974 issue of Prevention magazine.      This article was followed by a similar article in the December 1979 issue of Cancer News Journal, a magazine once distributed in health food stores. Both articles claim that a dentist named Richard R. Vensal discovered that eating asparagus could cure cancer.

According to the letter, a cure can be achieved by consuming 4 tablespoons of pureed cooked asparagus twice a day.  Improvement is supposedly seen in two to four weeks.

Unfortunately there is little reason why we should believe this information.  The dentist Richard Vensal never published anything in either a scientific journal or book that can be found.

It is certainly possible that some chemical found in asparagus might be beneficial against cancer.

There is a single study suggesting this that was published in 2009.   Chinese researchers report that a chemical, which they named asparanen A, showed an anticancer effect when tested on liver cancer cells.    [1]

There are no studies that describe the results of feeding asparagus to animals with cancer.  Nor are there any published clinical trials on giving asparagus to human cancer patients.  Nor are is there any epidemiological data that hints that asparagus farmers have less cancer.

While there is a wealth of research that diets high in vegetables are anti-cancer, there is no evidence that singles out asparagus in particular suggesting it has an anti-cancer effect.  So while there may be some health benefits from eating asparagus because it is a vegetable, at this point, there is little reason to think that asparagus are exceptional.

In contrast there is substantial published data on the anticancer effect of other specific vegetables.  For example, a current search of the National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine, lists 597 published articles in the medical and scientific literature related to the anticancer effect of broccoli.   [2]  A search for published papers on garlic and cancer yields 648 references.   [3]

There are only two clinical trials involving asparagus in humans. One paper published in 2009, describes a study in which patients with high blood pressure were given a combination of parsley and asparagus extracts in the hope that their blood pressure would improve. Unfortunately, no benefit was seen.     [4]  An earlier study published in 2008, reported that a combination of asparagus and elderberry extracts helped patients lose weight.    [5]

Losing weight is not the same as curing cancer.

Thus at this point there is little reason to think that asparagus will cure cancer.

Ironically though there is a long established link between asparagus and a particular form of cancer.  Unfortunately, asparagus may, instead of curing this cancer, make it worse. Let me explain:

In 1953 a pathologist named John G. Kidd discovered that blood serum taken from healthy guinea pigs, when injected into mice, killed leukemia cancer cells.  [6] Ten years later John D. Broome MD explained why this happened.  Guinea pig blood contains an enzyme called l-asparaginase that breaks down an amino acid called l-asparagine.  Healthy cells make l-asparagine, but certain types of leukemia cells are not able to.  These leukemia cells rely on nearby healthy cells to supply them with l-asparagine.  The enzyme in the guinea pig blood breaks down the needed l-asparagine and so deprives the nearby cancer cells of this amino acid they require for their growth.  [7]

L-asparaginase enzyme is now available as a drug (Elspar) and is part of the standard treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).  The drug, by decreasing l-asparagine, starves the cancer cells.  Most types of cancer do make l-asparagine, so Elspar is useful in treating only a few specific types of cancer.

As the names hints, asparagus contain large quantities of l-asparagine.  Eating asparagus would seem ill-advised for people who have cancers treated with Elspar or l-asparaginase.  Eating asparagus may stimulate growth in these cancers, most especially in ALL.  Eating a lot of asparagus may have an undesirable impact on other types of leukemia and possibly lymphomas as well.

People diagnosed with cancer are often desperate to do everything in their power to fight the disease.  They grasp onto every story and rumor about anything that might possibly help them.  The myth that asparagus cures cancer is a good example of this.


Broiling asparagus is so simple that one hardly needs a recipe.  This is how I do it.

Line a cookie sheet with foil.  Wash the asparagus, break off the bottoms.  Oil them lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle them lightly with Kosher or sea salt.  Broil them until they taste done.  Serve either warm of cold.


1. Liu W, Huang XF, Qi Q, Dai QS, Yang L, Nie FF, Lu N, Gong DD, Kong LY, Guo QL. Asparanin A induces G(2)/M cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in human hepatocellular carcinoma HepG2 cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2009 Apr 17;381(4):700-5. Epub 2009 Feb 28.

2. To search yourself, go to: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=broccoli%20and%20cancer

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=garlic%20and%20cancer

4. Chrubasik S, Droste C, Black A. Asparagus P(R) cannot compete with first-line diuretics in lowering the blood pressure in treatment-requiring antihypertensives. Phytother Res. 2009 Sep;23(9):1345-6.

5. Chrubasik C, Maier T, Dawid C, Torda T, Schieber A, Hofmann T, Chrubasik S. An observational study and quantification of the actives in a supplement with Sambucus nigra and Asparagus officinalis used for weight reduction. Phytother Res. 2008 Jul;22(7):913-8.

6. H. D. Moon Presentation of the Gold Headed Cane to John G. Kidd. February 24, 1973. Am J Pathol. 1973 October; 73(1): 1–6. PMCID: PMC1904051

7.  BROOME JD. Evidence that the L-asparaginase of guinea pig serum is responsible for its antilymphoma effects. I. Properties of the L-asparaginase of guinea pig serum in relation to those of the antilymphoma substance.
J Exp Med. 1963 Jul;118:99-120.

Gluten-free Almond Flower Cookies

I had planned to post a (very very good) brownie recipe but I am posting this recipe instead because I made these, brought it to park day and had other people tasted this (one boy, two other moms) and they wanted the recipe. I guess this means they are good! And yes, they are. They are very light, with a satisfying almond flavor to it, and if there is such a thing as a soft, comfy almond pillow, you are biting into one when you eat these. This recipe is low in sugar but big in flavor.

This recipe comes from a new gluten-free cookbook I recently found at the library: The Ultimate Gluten-Free Cookie Book, and I am very excited about it. I love that she has a section just for egg-free cookies, and for you people out there who drool for Girl Scout cookies and the like, she has a section dedicated to "the fakes." Also, I love that you need not round up a variety of gluten-free flours to make her cookies-- basically, she uses either brown rice flour or sorghum flour.  And she has a nifty section right at the front explaining the science of how she arrived at this simplified way of gluten-free baking. And I love that. Simple is good. Actually, it is rather awesome. Ryberg has done all the research, studies and experiments, we just need to bake and enjoy, what's not to love?

I do want to mention that this is the second recipe I have tried from her book, and because it turned out so wonderful and well-received I suspect there just may be a typo in the first recipe I tried, which is for the egg-free sugar cookies. I made those with the intention of gifting them to my friend K for her birthday, but they turned out rather salty, with a hint of bitterness to them. In fact, R asked if I had mistakenly used salt instead of sugar for those cookies (and I did not). I was rather disappointed, as the cookies looked so darn adorable and smelled mighty good while baking. If you attempt that particular recipe, you may want to reduce the baking powder to just 1 tsp instead of 1 Tbsp. I am really glad I decided to try another recipe in her book despite the first disappointment, can't wait to discover more yummy goods in this book!

Gluten-free almond flower cookie

Almond Flower Cookies (GF)
Recipe from The Ultimate Gluten-Free Cookie Book 
Makes about 25-28 cookies
  • 1/3 cup oil (I used expeller-pressed coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond meal 
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional, for decoration. I used slivered almonds instead)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-size bowl, combine the oil and sugar. Beat well. (I was able to do this in my stand-mixer. The trick is to not twist the paddle attachment to lock it in place. This way, when you raise the bowl up, the paddle drops down and reaches the bottom of the bowl.) Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl at least once during mixing. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  3. Drop rounded spoonfuls of cookie dough onto the prepared pan. With moistened fingertips, press them to 1/4-inch thickness (I did this with a fork instead, moistening it with water each time). Arrange the almond slices (or slivers, if like me, you just want to use what you have on hand) on top into a flower or other nice pattern (or random pattern, like I did).
  4. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, until there is the slightest hint of color; the tops will be dry. Let cool on wire racks before serving. 
Er, I never said I am good at decorating!

April 25, 2011

garlicky shrimps with asparagus & lemon

For some reason, I am coming across a lot of recipes with lemons in it, and I have been trying quite a few! I wouldn't call myself a big lemon fan but I must say some of these recipes are definitely keepers. This one I wanted to post while we can still enjoy asparagus. I found this recipe on Fine Cooking, where it was titled "Hot Garlicky Shrimp with Asparagus & Lemon" but it really is not that "hot" despite the use of crushed red pepper flakes, and I would say my pepper flakes are still pretty fresh. Well, I am not complaining as I can always sprinkle over some cayenne pepper if I wish to up the heat in my meal; I am only happy that I do not need to prepare a separate dish for the girls, so we can all enjoy this delicious dish! We find this one goes really well with rice, because the sauce is so drinkable-good, we pour them over the rice, dig in, and lick our plates squeaky clean.

(And honestly, I did not weigh the asparagus, I just used a bunch of what they sold me as a "bundle" at the stores, and then a few more because I felt like it. Some days it just drives me a bit bananas if I have to always measure and weigh... ...)

Green,orange and mellow yellow: so pleasing to the eyes!
Garlicky Shrimps with  Asparagus & Lemon
Recipe from Fine Cooking
  • 1 lb shrimp (21 to 25 per lb.), peeled, deveined, rinsed, and patted dry  
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt; more as needed  
  • Freshly ground black pepper  
  • 1 lemon  
  • 6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (I used expeller-pressed coconut oil) 
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced (I minced them instead) 
  • 3/4 lb asparagus, bottoms snapped off, halved lengthwise if thick, and cut into 2-inch lengths (2 cups) 
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (add more if you like it hot) 
  • 2/3 cup low-salt chicken broth  
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch  
  1. Sprinkle the shrimp with a scant 1/4 tsp. salt and a few generous grinds of black pepper. Using a peeler, gently shave the zest in strips from the lemon, taking care not to get any of the bitter white pith. Squeeze the lemon to get 1 Tbs. juice.
  2. Put a 12-inch skillet (not nonstick) over medium-high heat for 1-1/2 minutes. Add 2 Tbsp of the oil and once it’s shimmering hot, add the shrimp in a single layer. Cook undisturbed until the shrimp browns nicely, about 2 minutes. Flip the shrimp and brown the second side, about 1-1/2 minutes. (I find tongs work really well when doing this.) Transfer to a large plate. The shrimp should be a little undercooked.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium, add the remaining 4 Tbsp oil and the garlic and cook, tossing, until the garlic starts to sizzle steadily, about 30 seconds. Add the asparagus, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and cook, tossing often, until the garlic is golden brown and the asparagus looks blistery in places, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth, cover, with the lid ajar, and cook until the asparagus is just tender, 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. In a small dish, whisk together the cornstarch with 1 Tbsp water, stir into the asparagus mixture, and bring to a boil. Stir in the shrimp, reduce the heat to low, and cook, tossing, until the shrimp is opaque throughout (cut one in half to check), 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the 1 Tbsp lemon juice and then add salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice to taste. Serve immediately.

April 19, 2011

simple, fast, yum

I am all for the "fast to cook, good to eat" category of recipes. Sure, sometimes it is fun to make something more elaborate and complicated that makes you want to call a press conference about. But other times, you just want to be in and out of the kitchen, and have more time to do other things (like find more recipes).

I love this Chocolate Chip Pecan Loaf Cake recipe from Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite. It is simple and fast to make (ok, you need to endure the 50 minutes it takes to bake, plus cooling time, but in the meantime you can take a relaxing bath, read the dictionary or  scrub the grout) and the result is pleasingly delicious. So you may not be too impressed that the loaf did not rise extremely high in its pan, but when you slice into this divine little loaf (which Clark described as "almost like a big, soft chocolate chip cookie in sliceable form"), you will regret that you did not double the recipe and made two loaves instead. The crust is incredibly crispy and addictive-- I had a good mind to remove the crusts and serve the rest of the cake- still very delicious- to my family, telling them I burned the crust, so sorry. And then, I would have to find a safe little corner and enjoy every crispy bit of the crust. It is that good. The rest of the cake contains chocolate chips and chopped pecans- what's not to love? And then you also use yogurt, healthy and good for you. I think this recipe deserves 100 points.

Heaven looks like this
 When I was slicing this cake, preparing for our afternoon tea, L saw it and exclaimed "Birthday cake!! and ran to get a candle...

and tried out different placements for the "birthday candle"...

I only made small changes in quantities to this recipe to suit my taste (less sugar, MORE chocolate chips, MORE pecans), this truly is a perfect recipe, I encourage you to try it. I think you will be hooked. I will warn you: it is hard to stop eating after one slice. You will keep looking for crumbs and when the crumbs have been wiped clean from your plate (and your child's) and the table cloth, you will start to grab the knife and keep cutting off slivers of a slice until you have eaten yet another. Do not think to bring this to a potluck because when you arrive you will regret that decision and want to keep the cake for yourself, and then you will have to arrive at the potluck empty-handed, but with tell-tale crumbs on your face. By all means, enjoy this wonderful cake.

Chocolate Chip Pecan Loaf Cake
Recipe from In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite

  • 1 cup sugar (I reduced to 3/4 cup, and used Rapadura)
  • 2/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used 3/4 cup, maybe a few chips more)
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans (I used 3/4 cup)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and yogurt. Add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk until completely combined.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry mixture into the wet and mix until just combined.
4. Using a spatula, fold in the melted butter a little at a time. Fold in the chocolate chips and pecans.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature, right side up.


April 14, 2011

Supreme Pineapple-ginger Fried Rice

Fried rice is a great way to use up leftovers: rice, vegetables, meats, everything. Have some roasted asparagus in the fridge? Chop them up and toss them in. Got a few shrimps left over from Monday? Into the skillet they go. Usually I round it out with some scrambled eggs, or throw in some shredded cabbage, or carrots. Or chopped celery.

But recently I did not want any use-up-the-leftovers fried rice. I wanted in particular something with pineapples and ginger in it. And I wanted to add the half-bag of shrimps I still have in the freezer. And luckily, I saw this fried rice video put out by Whole Foods and found the idea of adding a miso "slurry" in the end simply brilliant. And that chopped seaweed topping? Yummy. Reminded me of a seaweed fried rice I used to make often, I'll have to dig that recipe out and make it again! But back to this recipe, using miso in place of soy sauce adds a more nuanced flavor, depth and sweetness (that is not cloying) to the fried rice. It balanced out whatever bite or sourness from the pineapples perfectly. There is also just something in the flavor of miso that is hard to lay one's finger on- the mysterious umami. Try making this for friends and family without disclosing the secret ingredient and have fun watching them trying to figure out that special taste!

Pineapple-ginger fried rice, topped with seaweed (sliced nori sheets
 This recipe is based on one I found in Gourmet several years ago, and further inspired by the video-with-the-miso. I am not including instructions for cooking the long-grain white rice as I have learned that it is better to follow the instructions on your rice package (the rice-to-water ratio can vary quite a bit!). It is best to use rice that have sat in the fridge at least overnight, as this makes them dry out a little and absorb the flavors better, but I've also used rice cooked earlier in the afternoon with good results. You can also use brown rice if you want but I prefer white rice for this recipe.

Supreme Pineapple-ginger Fried Rice
serves about 6
  • 5 cups cooked long-grain white rice
  • 4 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 Tbsp finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 5 scallions (white and pale green parts separated from the greens), finely chopped
  • 1/2 pound shrimps
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup diced (1/4-inch) cored peeled fresh pineapple
  • miso slurry: 2 Tbsp white miso paste "dissolved" in 1/4 cup hot (NOT boiling) water 
  • sliced seaweed (optional but recommended)
  1. Have your cooked rice ready. Prepare the shrimps if necessary: shell and de-vein. Place in a small bowl and sprinkle some ground white pepper and toss with a tablespoon of soy sauce.
  2. Heat a wok or 12-inch skillet over moderate heat until a drop of water vaporizes instantly. Pour oil around side of wok, then tilt wok to swirl oil, coating side. When oil just begins to smoke, stir-fry ginger, white and pale green parts of scallions, and salt until fragrant, about 1 minute. 
  3. Remove shrimps with a slotted spoon and add to the wok, and stir-fry till cooked through and pink.
  4. Crumble rice into wok and stir-fry, mixing all ingredients thoroughly. Have the miso slurry ready.
  5.  Turn off heat, then add scallion greens, diced pineapples, and toss quickly a few times. Then drizzle miso slurry over the entire mixture, and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
  6. If desired, top with sliced seaweed (toasted nori sheets).

April 13, 2011

Wacky Cupcakes (GF, egg-free)

Gluten-free, egg-free chocolate cupcakes with ivory frosting
When my friend K's birthday was upcoming, I knew I wanted to bake her a cake she could enjoy without having to worry about allergens. I wanted to make it good, as I know the first birthday celebration without her dear mother will be tough. As I thumbed through the cookbooks my anxiety only raised as I did not really have time to test-drive the recipes and I did not want to serve her a mass of disaster in a bowl and hand her a spoon (even though she said that would be mighty fine by her).

So, imagine my joy and relief when I saw Jeanne (over at Art of Gluten-free Baking) had not only made a wacky cake recipe (one of the recipes I pondered, wondering if it would work with a GF baking mix), she had one that she had made frequently. FABULOUS! I knew I need looked no further! That was the recipe I settled on, though I used Bob's Red Mill's all-purpose gluten-free flour-mix and added xanthan gum. I also decided to use the Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting from Rose's Heavenly Cakes to decorate the cupcakes, thinking a contrasting ivory topping will make them look fun. The other reason why I settled on this frosting was because it did not require additional sugar.

I am happy to report that the birthday tea for K turned out really well this past Sunday, blessed with gluten-free, egg-free cupcakes that turned out delicious, with a dreamy frosting that was a cinch to make. I made the cupcakes and frosting together with V, making our "personal time" together all the more sweeter. And ever since I posted on Facebook this rose cake tutorial from i am baker, I had been dying to try it. I don't think my roses looked too shabby for a first try, don't you think? Of course, hers are far more superior, sniff~

Gluten-free, egg-free Wacky Cupcakes
original recipe from Art of Gluten-free Baking
Makes 12 cupcakes or one 8-inch square cake
  • 1 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free baking mix*
  • 3/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 cup  granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 6 Tbsp rice bran oil (or other neutral-flavored vegetable oil)
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cold milk (or you can use cold water, or coffee)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350F.
  2. Stir together dry ingredients in large mixing bowl (or you can do as Jeanne did, and do it directly in an 8" square cake pan. I used a mixing bowl since I was making cupcakes). 
  3. Make three depressions (or wells) in the flour mixture, 2 small and 1 large.
  4. Pour your oil into the biggest well, and the vanilla and vinegar into the 2 smaller wells.
  5. Pour the cold milk (or liquid of choice) over it all, and mix well gently.
  6. Portion batter (it's rather watery) out into the muffin tins. (I poured the batter into a large measuring cup and poured from there, much easier.) If you are using square pan just smooth out the top.
  7. Bake cupcakes for 30 minutes, until tester comes out clean. The square cake may need 5-10 minutes more, check with tester, which should come out clean. Let cool completely on wire rack. Frost if desired, and enjoy!
* Scroll to the bottom of this page for alternative GF flour mixtures. There is a rice-free one, and another using bean flours.

Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting
Recipe from  Rose's Heavenly Cakes
Makes 2 3/4 cups frosting, enough to frost 12 cupcakes
  • 9 oz white chocolate that contains cocoa butter
  • 12 oz cream cheese, softened but still cool (about 65F)
  • 6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened but still cool (about 65F)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sour cream
  1. In a double-boiler, heat the white chocolate over hot, but not simmering water, stirring often (I used a bowl over a pot since I do not own a double boiler. You can also use the microwave but I do not recommend using one for health reasons.) The white chocolate should be almost completely melted when you remove it from the heat. Stir to completely melt the chocolate.
  2. Let white chocolate cool until no longer warm to the touch but is still fluid.
  3. In a food processor, process the cream cheese, unsalted butter and sour cream until smooth and creamy. Scrap down the sides then add the cooled melted white chocolate. Pulse until completely incorporated.
  4. Frosting will become more firm in the refrigerator.

April 11, 2011

Gloriously garlicky chicken drumsticks

This past weekend was a crazy one, lots of baking, washing and cooking. I made two different types of brownies, mango cakes, gluten-free egg-free wacky cupcakes for my friend K's birthday tea, a gluten-free shortbread that did not turn out, another gluten-free egg-free cookie that was meh, and I also made the most gloriously garlicky oven-roasted chicken drumsticks.

Now I only have one photo for this recipe, but not because it looked ugly or anything. I just was pressed for time. I have also always wanted to take some adorable pictures of garlic to go with this post, but the mango cakes got in the way. However, please do not let the fact that only a single photo accompanies this post to deter you from trying this recipe. I highly recommend it, as it is make-ahead, and the garlicky gooey sauce you get after roasting the drumsticks is literally gold. You will scrap it up and use it for another recipe, your only regret being there weren't more of it.

So, to cut to the chase, this is a recipe that I adapted off of Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite. It is from a recipe called "Not-my-grandma's Chicken with Lemon, Garlic, and Oregano." Now, Clark is a consummate chef and food writer, and she has a really great story that comes with this recipe. She makes you laugh and she makes you want to cook and eat. In fact, she makes you want to invite yourself over to her kitchen and stuff yourself silly. I doubled her recipe (her original serves two), ramped up the garlic, and executed a make-over on the preparation so it can be more hands-off for crazy busy days.

Now, before we get to the recipe, a few things about garlic. As we all know, it gives you stinky breath but is so good for you. You can find a ton of recipes online where garlic is used to cure almost everything. I like this page best, especially with the long list of those bad, bad things that garlic can kill or inhibit. And don't miss the author's recipe for a connoisseur’s garlic cocktail, it sounds absolutely alluring. Now, I feel I also need to point out two very important things about garlic. First, always remove the green shoots. I have come across discussion threads wherein this was heavily debated: to remove or not to remove? Some claims it makes no difference at all and a waste of time, while others beg to differ. I am in the "remove" camp.I have not really made any bad experiences with it, but my instinct tells me they ought to be removed. In fact, when I have time (who am I kidding here?) I always remove the shoots, even if they are not green. Something just tells me they are not to be included. And apparently, folks over at Cook's Illustrated had made a test cooking with the green shoots included and reported a bitter metallic taste aftertaste. 

On to some other things about garlic. Garlic contains many valuable phytochemicals with therapeutic effects. However it has been found that the anticancer phytochemicals do not stand up to heat: one minute in the microwave or 45 minutes in the oven (temperature not specified) resulted in complete loss of anti-cancer activities (summary to this research is here). But what is interesting is, when crushed garlic is allowed to stand for 10 minutes prior to heat treatment, some of the anti-cancer activity was retained. I remember being told some years ago by a foodie friend that is is best to mince the garlic and let them stand for about 10 minutes before using to allow crucial compounds to develop, and I guess this was what she meant. And there is a whole body of (mind-boggling) literature out there about how best to attain all the valuable components of garlic, since some of these compounds are oil-soluble, and some water-soluble. In other words, bake it, steam it, use in stir-fry, use it in soup, use it raw, let it air out some, variety is the key.

And now, without further ado, the stinkin' good recipe. I have adapted it such that the garlic paste can be made in a small (5-cup) food processor. You can of course use your good ol' mortar and pestle. It may seem to be a lot of paste but like I mentioned before, you will feel you did not have enough of the cooked garlicky mess after the oven roasting. And if you sometimes buy the ready-peeled garlic cloves (as I do!), the approximately 20 cloves of garlic in this recipe weighs in at about 3 ounces (once I felt I just had to weigh them!).

Oven-roasted garlicky drumsticks
Gloriously garlicky chicken drumsticks
 with thanks to Melissa Clark for recipe inspiration
  • 10 chicken drumsticks 
  •  3 tsp sea-salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • rice bran oil
  • 20 large cloves of garlic, about 3 oz
  • freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • a handful of fresh thyme
  1. Rinse chicken drumsticks and pat dry. Place drumsticks in large ziploc bag or a large bowl.
  2. Transfer garlic paste to a small bowl, and stir in the dried oregano.
  3. Scrap garlic mixture into ziploc bag (or bowl), throw in the sticks of fresh thyme (I do not bother to remove the leaves from the stems) and squeeze the juice of the two lemons right into ziploc bag (or bowl). Close the bag well and then massage the heavenly paste into the drumsticks, distributing the paste and wiping your drool. (If you prefer the bowl, just get in there with your clean hands and smear the paste all over the drumsticks, then cover bowl well and refrigerate.) Refrigerate the bag until ready to use. (If you do this in the morning, like I do, try to massage the drumsticks, or turn them around every time you open the fridge.)
  4. Pre-heat oven to 450F. Remove drumsticks and place on a baking pan. Remember to scrap out all the garlic paste into the pan. Sprinkle with more black pepper if desired. Drizzle with a little rice bran oil (or if you have to use olive oil, I suggest mixing it with rice bran oil to raise the smoking point).
  5. Roast for 15 minutes. Remove pan and with tongs flip the drumsticks over. I like to tilt up one end of the pan so the garlicky juice flows to one corner so I can dip the drumsticks in that golden goodness. Lower oven heat to 400F and continue to roast about another 15 minutes more, until browned and golden.
  6. Enjoy, and after dinner scoop up that garlicky goodness at the bottom of the pan and keep it in a sealed glass container. You can use it for many things. You can toss it with rice noodles and serve with a crunchy salad. Once I stir-fried pea shoots with it and it was totally scrumptious. I am thinking you can steam spinach and then toss it with this garlicky oil. Oh, and once we even dipped our toasted sourdough bread in this garlicky mess, and boy, that was good too!
I am thinking this could work with a baked tofu recipe as well, but probably not with as much garlic! It may even work with potatoes, but I have a skillet-roasted potato recipes that is also pretty hands-off and involves garlic, but that would be another post for another day!

April 5, 2011

have it all: lemons, strawberries and chocolate

Having well pulled away from our days of ails, I plotted for a lovely breakfast for us on Sunday, especially since it is the morning after R came back to town after being away from us for a few days. Our lemon tree is still spewing lemons and my palette craved for something citrusy, perhaps yearning for the sparkly bright and cheer that it represents. And not far from my mind were the lemon ricotta pancakes I saw on Patent and the Pantry (I love her food photography, and the way she writes).

The recipe seems easy and straight-forward, which is great, as I do not relish starting my day with something complicated and challenging. I love too her idea of serving the pancakes with macerated strawberries, something I often do (except I always add a splash of rose extract), but then I also really wanted to make again some chocolate butter, which I have adapted off a cookbook called "Comfort: real simple food" by Michele Cranston.

Well, sometimes you don't have to choose. Why not have it all?? So I made the chocolate butter on Saturday, and got to work with the pancakes and strawberries not-so-early Sunday morning.

Frilly lemon zest atop a mountain of ricotta, the sea of orange yolks peeking from below
I cut up the strawberries first, then let them macerate with some sugar, a splash of rose extract and about a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar (it gives the strawberries a glossy look and adds depth to the flavor). The pancakes were easy. I put the egg yolks, ricotta cheese and sugar in a large mixing bowl, then zested the lemons right into the bowl. S helped to mix everything together, then we added the flour and mixed again.

Thankfully, the electric stand mixer took care of the next step of whipping the egg whites till they were stiff enough to form peaks. S always has fun watching the egg whites transform: from a pool of translucent liquid to an ocean of frothy bubbles, then changing into a white swirly mass before it begins to rise into graceful peaks. And once the whites were incorporated into the rich, yellow batter, the pancakes were ready to be cooked. I used rice bran oil with some butter added (rice bran oil has a high smoking point and helps stabilize the butter so it does not brown or burn too easily), and soon enough we were enjoying our pancakes!

I wish I had taken the time to take some glorious pictures of the pancakes, that cooked fast and easy, with a nice brown edge (courtesy of good old butter). They rose pretty high and were so light and fluffy. You can eat a dozen and then eat another dozen. (If you want to see pretty, delicious and mouth-watering pictures of these yummy pancakes, head over here.) The first pancakes were immediately served onto plates for everyone, who immediately dug in. First, we tried just the pancakes with strawberries to savor the marriage of flavors that arise from the nicely tart lemons and the sweet strawberries. Then for the following round, chocolate butter was slathered over the pancakes, and eaten with the juicy strawberries. And that was perfection. If you ever have any doubt that lemons and chocolates do not go well together, this combination of lemon ricotta pancakes with chocolate butter will change your mind within seconds! Of course, you wouldn't want to forgo the strawberries either... ...

Excuse the dirty fork, but it was happy to be smeared with chocolate!
And so, if you don't have the courage to plunge right into lemon-chocolate cookies, this pancakes with chocolate butter may just ease you into it. Below is the lemon-ricotta pancake recipe (which I had doubled, and served our family of five perfectly) followed by that of the chocolate butter. Enjoy!!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Gwendolyn's recipe, which was adapted from the Alberta Egg Producers

  • 8 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese (I used full milk)
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • zest of two large lemons 
  1. Place egg yolks, ricotta cheese and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Zest the lemons right into the mixing bowl.
  2. Add the flour and mix well together until blended. 
  3. Whip egg whites with a mixer until glossy peaks form. Stir about one-quarter of the whites into the ricotta mixture to lighten, then fold in the remaining whites gently.
  4. Add about a tablespoon rice bran oil in a skillet or pan. Melt a tablespoon butter over medium heat. Gently pour about 1/4 cup batter into the pan, spreading (and flattening) slightly. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, until lightly browned.
  5. Serve immediately with macerated strawberries and chocolate butter.

 Chocolate Butter
Adapted from "Comfort: real simple food"
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (6 Tbsp), softened
  • 2 oz dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 Tbsp maple syrup 
  1. Place chopped chocolate into food processor, and process until as fine as possible (but it is ok to have bits of chunks, it won't hurt anything!)
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until smooth. There will be bits and flecks of chocolate, it is supposed to be that way. The chocolate bits will melt on the hot pancakes, creating bits of bliss.
  3. Scrap butter into a glass container and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

April 3, 2011

the taste of green

There are some rare people who can feel, taste and smell color -- a condition known as "synesthesia." To such people, yellow may feel squishy or bouncy, blue may taste bitter and chartreuse may well be pungent.

For some time I was sure that 4-year-old S had a somewhat similar condition. I called it "tasting with her eyeballs" and for months I went around lamenting to friends and family (and anyone who had an ear for me) that she would not eat anything green, especially if it is asian leafy greens. She would come to the dinner table, take a spilt-second look at the vegetables and pronounce her decision to not eat it, as "they do not taste good." If she did not have the capability to taste with her eyeballs, I don't know what that is about.

Since I read that children needs to be offered the same food about 30 times before they may even begin to not like it (but agree to taste it), I kept offering. And every time I offered some sort of asian leafy green as a menu option, S would remind me that she did not like it. She even asked if I had forgotten that she had informed me thus?

So, the frequency of asian greens appearing on the dinner table began to get lower and lower and lower... until one day I saw pea shoots being sold at my local oriental supermarket. I grabbed them. I was already drooling before I paid for them. I drove home, my heart making happy pirouettes, memories of the delicious taste of the shoots tingling my tongue. I could not wait for dinnertime to arrive. I washed the pea shoots, minced up a small mountain of garlic, sauted the pea shoots in the garlic, added a splash of soysauce and drizzled in a tiny bit of hoisin sauce.


Moans and mumblings at the dinner table: Mmmmmmmmmm, hmmmmmmmpppphhhh, mmmmmmm.

Finally when they found their tongues the girls asked what that vegetable was and I told them: dou miao, otherwise known as "pea shoots." Yum, they said.

They shrink a lot, like spinach. This small bowl will barely satisfy.
The reason for my excitement was the limited and seasonal availability of peas shoots.  I remember when living in Hong Kong and when eating out, a special point will be made of the pea shoots when they were available, and no one would hesitate to order them. They are almost always stir-fried with minced garlic and soy sauce, or oyster sauce. There is a smoothness to its taste and texture... you can almost say they taste green. From what I read here, farm-raised pea shoots are available for a month or two only, but they are also hot-house grown and the latter variety can be found year-round. I have also come across discussion threads that mention them being sold at farmers' markets!

When I asked the girls what they liked about pea shoots, their reply was: "yummy."  ((Note that now when L see that I am preparing pea shoots for dinner, she will say, "I know dinner is going to be good!")  Then I asked how they would describe the taste of pea shoots and I was told: "tasty", "sweet", "delicious" and "crunchy." Well, they are not supposed to be crunchy, but a conscientious cook will remove the lower, larger stems of the pea shoots before cooking, for they can be fibrous, or more "crunchy." Some purists will even sit and pick through the pea shoots, striping the leaves from the stems! I do not find it necessary, but then I am not that conscientious or fastidious cook. (But I do make sure to look for the pa shoots with more delicate-looking stems when making my selection.) 

2-year-old L insisted that I take the picture with her fingers caressing the pea shoots.
Pea shoots are not snobbish to deal with either, despite their being highly sought after in spring, when they show up in the markets. All they need is to be washed, drained and a quick stir-fry in a wok (or large pot) with lots of minced garlic. You can add sliced mushrooms if you feel so inclined. I feel silly writing a recipe here, because it is so simple. After you have the pea shoots washed, mince up as much garlic as you favor (I use 6 to 8 cloves, and tend to mince them medium-fine, but you can decide if you like your minced garlic coarse or super-fine). Heat some vegetable oil (I use rice bran oil, or a refined coconut oil that will not impart flavor) in a large pot, stir-fry the garlic till fragrant and then throw in the pea shoots. They will wilt and decrease drastically in volume. Stir-fry until they are nicely wilted and tender, but still bright green. Season as desired: soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chili sauce. Plate, serve and enjoy!  That said, you can experiment. I have been wondering how they would taste steamed, and then tossed with garlic-infused olive oil and a squeeze of lime juice!

As you see, I prefer my garlic not-too-fine.
So if you come across pea-shoots, why not try them? An 8-ounce package will only set you back about two dollars (and will serve two adults, approximately). You may decide that you know how a delicate green taste like.