Monday, March 25, 2013

Cauliflower Pizza Crust


I've been gluten free for about 18 months now, and there are very few gluten-filled foods that I miss.  Pasta?  Never liked it.  Bagels?  Feels like lead in my stomach now.  Bread?  Well, ok I miss some kinds of bread.  But pizza?  I have never tried to deny my love for pizza.  The truth is, gluten free versions can never come close to that crisp on the bottom but doughy as you bite in and pull the slice away from your mouth sensation that good brick oven pizza brings into your life.  

I love choosing my toppings and enjoying a taste of each in every bite.  

Pizza can be casual or cozy. 

It is one of the most comforting one-dish meals.  

And it can also be one of the most unhealthy indulgences.

Never having mastered a good gluten free flour-based crust, I decided to try a cauliflower version, and I have to say I am in love with the results!  This is all fresh, made from scratch, and took me less than an hour from the moment I stepped into the kitchen to the moment I took my first bite.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

yield 4 servings

Ingredients:

about 1/2 head of cauliflower
1 egg, beaten
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp basil or Italian seasoning

Procedure:
1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare your baking sheet.  I used a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, but you may also use a pizza stone or a well-greased cookie sheet.
2.  Rice the cauliflower and then steam in the microwave for 8 minutes.  To rice, pulse the cauliflower in a food processor or a blender until it resembles the size and texture of grains of rice.  Option for microwave free cooking: Steam cauliflower florets in a steamer basket first, then rice them.  If you choose to steam first be mindful that you don't overprocess the cauliflower as it will rice more quickly.
3.  Mix the cooked riced cauliflower with the other ingredients in a large bowl.  The mixture should stick together a bit but will not come together like a traditional dough.
4.  Place the crust mixture onto the baking sheet and form into a pizza shape, about 1/4-1/2 inch thick.
5.  Bake for 25-30 min until golden brown.
6.  Remove crust from oven and add your toppings.  Return pizza to the oven and heat until cheese is melted and toppings are heated through or browned, about 5 minutes.
A note on toppings:  Remember that this crust is not as gluey and sticky as a traditional pizza crust, so choose lighter toppings.  You will not need much cheese due to the Parmesan in the crust.  You may wish to choose toppings that are already cooked or require less cooking time because they will only be in the oven for a few minutes.  I chose a homemade tomato sauce, mixed greens, black olives, and a little fresh mozzarella. 

Enjoy your gluten and grain free pizza!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gluten Free Banana Peanut Butter Cupcake Win!


When you look at this photo, you may think, "Hmm, it looks like that frosting was just slapped onto those poor cupcakes."


If you thought that you would be correct.  I don't believe in skimping on frosting, and these batches were especially thick and delicious.

Yesterday I posted about improv cooking, which is a show that frequently plays in my kitchen.  More often than not, it gets rave reviews.  Improv baking, on the other hand, is a much more dangerous game.  However, it is a game from which I will never back down.  You see, like most creative individuals, I often have a very specific picture in my head of what I want to achieve, but quite a nebulous plan to achieve my desired result. I'm rarely satisfied with any one recipe I can find, so I simply improvise.  I have been improvising more and more since going gluten free, and my successes are so very sweet.  Like this one:  Banana Peanut Butter Cupcakes!  There's chocolate cupcake in the picture too, but we won't mention those.  I actually followed a recipe for them and was not thrilled with the result.  Banana Peanut Butter though, OMG.  I could die right now.

I should mention that I did not make these cupcakes purely for my own pleasure.  My little sister turned 22 this weekend, and she decided to celebrate her birthday by running the Atlantic City Marathon.  She finished in just over four hours (4:02) and placed 19th in her age class.  A performance like that surely deserves some protein and potassium in the form of a delicious miniature cake.  Don't you agree?

Here's what I made for her (more or less)

Banana Peanut Butter Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes

2 cups all purpose gluten free flour (I like Bob's Red Mill)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp guar gum
2/3 cup sugar
2 mashed bananas
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 - 1 cup peanut butter (sorry, I did not measure.  It was probably closer to a cup)
1/2 cup hot water

Wisk together dry ingredients.  Mix in wet ingredients and beat until smooth.  Fill a lined cupcake tin and bake at 325 degrees for 22 minutes.  Perfection.

Oh, what's that?  You noticed that these cupcakes are vegan?  Yes, yes they are.

Hmm?  What did you say?  That's right.  The only fat comes from the peanut butter.

And yes, they have a fabulous moist crumb.  Honestly, if I did not know they were gluten free I would never have guessed.  My sweets-spurning boyfriend even ate two.

Now vegan frosting?  No,  no, that will not happen in my kitchen.  I have tried to make vegan buttercream with coconut oil, and it was a total bust.  I love coconut oil in other things, but not on top of my cupcakes.  I frosted half of these with a cinnamon honey buttercream and the other half with a dark chocolate buttercream.  Sorry, no real recipe for those.  Buttercream is stupidly simple:  beat a bit of confectioner's sugar and  your flavoring into a softened stick of butter.  Continue to beat and slowly add sugar until your mixture tastes like frosting instead of butter.  Done.  No excuses to ruin these babies with canned frosting.  Happy Birthday and Congratulations on your awesome marathon time, Sarah!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Improv Soup: Loaded Baked Potato

I am somewhat of an improvisational cook.  Sometimes this results in amazing, one-of-a-kind meals, and sometimes it results in somewhat of a failure.  Some soothsayers may say that nothing I cook is a fail, but case in point of a less than successful dish was last week's Sunday dinner.    I was pretty tired after my long day in the kitchen, and I may have made some shortcuts that didn't pay off when making cornmeal-breaded chicken tenders and buffalo dipping sauce.  My sweet boyfriend ate it anyway, but his confused tone when he asked, "So what is in this breading?" was a clear tip off that it was not tasty.
Anyway, this Sunday's foray in the kitchen was much more successful, and for once I remember what I did to construct such a lovely meal!


After two entire weeks of more acid reflux than anyone should ever experience (no more coffee for me!) I was craving simple yet tasty foods, so a potato soup came to mind.  However, my usual potato soup is pretty acidic with vinegar and mustard to spice it up.  Not feeling an acidic dish, I decided to try a loaded baked potato soup without making another trip to the store.  I threw all of this into my crock pot:

Loaded Baked Potato Soup
serves 6-8

5 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups almond milk (any milk or milk substitute would work)
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup butter (had I used actual dairy or a milk with a higher fat content I would have reduced the amount of butter)
onion powder (an actual diced onion would be fab, but I didn't have one)
1 clove garlic, crushed
dried chives
black pepper
salt to taste

I set the slow cooker on low and left it for about 6 hours.  Then I used an immersion blender to blend most of the soup, leaving some chunks of potato.  Next I cooked about a half pound of bacon in the oven (425 degrees for 15 min--thank you pinterest!)  and diced it after it cooled.  Once I stirred in the diced bacon and a little bit of bacon fat, dinner was ready!  Instead of unconvincingly reassuring comments and quizzical looks, this time my boyfriend said something along the lines of "This soup is bangin'!  You nailed it!" (This was not a direct apology for threatening to put me back into the binder of women when dinner was not ready promptly at five, but I chose to take it as an indirect apology ;-)) With a nice texture and bacon in every bite of the soup, I had to agree--I nailed it.  Even my mostly vegetarian sister had some...although she had just run a marathon.

Albeit delicious, this is NOT shaping up to be a low fat week.  Tomorrow I'll tell you about the gluten free peanut butter banana cupcakes I engineered!  Perfect for marathon recovery, don't you think?



Monday, May 21, 2012

Revival Book Review: Fifty Shades Series

It has been a while since I posted here, and I've missed my little sounding board.  Most who know me are aware that little intrigues me as much as literature, pop culture, and human sexuality, so the popularity of the Fifty Shades of Grey series by E. L. James seems like the perfect opportunity for a blog revival.  Spoiler alert:  This post contains spoilers from Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed.


Back in January of February when I heard about how library patrons were clamoring to get this unavailable novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, I bought it for my Kobo reader without even reading reviews or a summary.  Needless to say, I was surprised that fanfiction erotica was what mainstream America was buzzing about.  I'll be honest--knowing that probably wouldn't have stopped me from buying the book, but I worked my way through my to be read pile before I finally read Fifty Shades.


Fifty Shades of Grey reads like fan fiction--simple, cliche, saturated with sweeping yet not engaging descriptive language, and predictable.  The sexy scenes are just that--sexy.  Not mindblowing and a little too full of spontaneous orgasms for my taste (seriously, I would like to meet a woman who orgasms that quickly that soon after losing her virginity.  If she exists she should submit to some sort of scientific study!), but just enough to pique one's interest.  Sure, this whole novel could have benefited from (a lot) more editing, but so would have its inspiration, the Twilight series.  What really bothered me was how the story line and characters were so exactly cast in the image of Twilight and its ilk.  I found Bella and Edward to be annoying at best and unhealthy role models at worst, and Ana Steele and Christian Grey aren't very different.  I would have thought that building upon Meyer's childish love story would have left James no where to go but up.  I was wrong.  Nevertheless, I slogged through the whole series.  It wasn't the writing, characters, or plot line that kept me going.  It was the sex.  I don't mean that in a salacious way.  As someone trying to promote a healthy sex-positive attitude in a culture that sometimes does exactly the opposite, I wanted to see what got so many normal American women reading a novel with more than a few elements of BDSM. 


After reading all three books, I realized that it was not the sex or  "forbidden" ideas of bondage and domination that kept these other women reading.  It was the fact that this innocent, "smart" girl manages to change a "damaged" man.  She takes him from only being capable of having relationships with women as his submissives to being a gentle, loving, vulnerable, albeit controlling boyfriend and eventually husband.  I have heard women who loved the Fifty Shades series say that it's about compromise, choosing your battles, and finding a middle ground.  This is partially true, but the changed habits and personalities in the book come about so quickly it's just not a healthy or realistic model.  Whether it was on the playground or just last week, every woman as at one point thought that she could change or heal a desirable yet flawed partner with her love.  In the vast majority, if not all cases, this simply does not happen, yet many delusional women continue to live the dream and end up hurt, under appreciated, and without her needs being met.  I have been one of those delusional women, so I'm not passing judgement, but I don't think we need any more sources of pop culture encouraging us to try and change our lovers.  It's not fair to either party.


Now onto the kink element of the series.  James presents male lead Christian Grey's propensities towards beating little brown-haired girls as a way to work out his anger over the neglect he suffered from his drug-addicted mother.  While I'm sure some people come into the BDSM lifestyle for reasons like those, that is just not a true or healthy representation of the BDSM or kink community.  I believe that any sexual act between two consenting adults not closely related by blood is good and healthy.  There are some (many) things I could never ever imagine myself doing, but that doesn't mean that it's wrong for others to have those experiences.  If you and your partner truly want to experience something, and you both feel better after that experience, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.  I am pretty sure that those are the philosophies held by those in the kink community.  Presenting a BDSM lifestyle as a symptom of or result of childhood abuse or trama is a gross and unfair misrepresentation.  Still, the love-everyone, sex-positive, education-promoting part of me wants to believe that any work that gets people reading and revitalizing their sex lives is a good thing.  Perhaps the kink lifestyle will never gain widestream acceptance or understanding, at least not in our culture.  And even if it did, it would be a pretty tall order to expect that kind of revelation from a fan fic inspired tome of weak erotica for the masses.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Confession: I'd rather burn a book than our flag.

This may very well be the most controversial blog post I have ever written.

Contrary to what most people assume, I do not hold books sacred.  Working in a library for years has cured me of that ailment.  In fact, I believe some of them should be thown out or recycled periodically.

Now that you've closed your dropped jaw and picked yourself up off of the floor and before you start citing Farenheit 451, let me explain.  I love knowledge, exploration, and stories.  But I do not hold every printed and bound piece of these ideals dear simply because it exists as a book.  Many outdated, dusty, moldy books exist on our bookshelves, and I am not merely referring to their physical condition.  It is not our responsibility to be the custodian of all books, but to maintain and share the best most relevant books, just as only the most accurate scientific theories stand the test of time.  That is why I loved the following blog entry from a school librarian.  She provides a much more comprehensive and eloquent perspective than mine as she reponds to the perennial exclamation: "I Can't Believe You're Throwing Out Books!"

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pattern Release: Waffling Hat

Finally, a new pattern!  The Waffling Hat was released into the wild today.  It is always gratifying to finish a project as involved and detail oriented as releasing a self-published knitting pattern, but even more so when the design holds sentimental value.  Sentimental value may be taking it a bit far, but this hat embodies my first design inspiration from almost exactly two years ago.  Since the idea's inception, I have tweaked, enhanced, and improved the design a lot, and I am very proud to present the finished product.

100_0710

Sizes: S/M (to fit 19-20.5” head), (M/L (to fit a 20.5-22” head), L/XL (to fit a 22.5-24” head))

Gauge: 16 stitches and 28 rows over 4 inches (10 cm) in thermal pattern
Skills needed to knit this pattern: knit, purl, work in the round, Kf&b, k2tog, p2tog, pick up stitches (optional based on brim style choice), yo (optional based on brim style choice)
Materials:
1 (1, 2) skeins of Malabrigo Yarn Worsted Merino (210yd/192m to 100g/3.53 oz.) or 150 (180, 230) yards of worsted weight yarn.
US 6 16” (4 mm 40 cm ) circular needle or needle about two sizes smaller than size needed to obtain gauge
US 8 16 “ (5 mm 40 cm) circular needle or size needed to obtain gauge
US 8 (5 mm) dpns or size needed to obtain gauge

1 stitch marker to indicate the beginning of the round

1 safety pin or removable stitch marker (optional)
1 button approx. 1” in diameter (optional based on brim choice)
tapestry needle
Waste yarn (optional based on brim choice)


100_0731

It's hard for me to choose a favorite element of this design.  Is it the button? 

100_0749

Is it the squooshy* yet organic texture of the waffle stitch? 

100_0737

Is it the customizable brim? 

It would be delightful to hear what you love about the design.  Comment here or on ravelry to let me know!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Math4Knitters Podcast and a Sneak Peak

It has been way too long since I last blogged.  I've been very busy with work, friends and family, and moving.  I guess it's just life in general, but I've let it consume me and I've spent decidedly less time knitting and zero time blogging.  However, now I have some fun and exciting news to report.  This past week I was interviewed by Lara of the podcast Math4Knitters.  We chatted about my burgeoning designing, specifically Hestia and its unique sizing and construction.  The show will air on Sunday February 27, so you can catch it then or anytime after that on Lara's website.  Lara was lovely to chat with, and it was so very flattering for my designs to be noticed.

Knitting-wise, I've been in a gift knitting and finishing fog lately, and I couldn't find the brainpower to write up or properly photograph my newest design. Luckily something clicked last weekend and I am in the groove again.  Here's a sneak peak at what I'm working on now:


It's hard to tell from this sneaky shot, but this is a beret in a cozy thermal or waffle stitch.  Yes, eagle-eyed knitters, that is a buttonhole in the brim!  This design will be the perfect opportunity to showcase a special button, so break out the stash and get ready!

I'm also working up a beanie and a slouch version of this hat, as well as coordinating mitts and an infinty scarf.  If all goes well these patterns will be available both individually and as an e-book in the next 4 weeks.