Eating things off trees

The ladies at Nerdette Podcast agreed to let me participate in one of their episodes! Check out this week’s episode, where I discuss the do’s and don’ts of urban foraging and reveal my secret past as a high school Speech Team wunderkind.

I haven’t listened yet… still working up the courage to listen to my own voice, but you can check it out here. Listen to their other episodes too! They talk about movies and TV and other nerdly things you might enjoy.

Unexpectedly delicious smoothie ingredients, an evolving list

Note: Do not put all of these in a single smoothie.

  • Butternut squash
  • Garam masala
  • Cayenne pepper
  • A blueberries and oranges combo
  • Oatmeal
  • Turmeric
  • Tea
  • Mushrooms (don’t try this at home — I’ve only had it added by a professional)
  • Quinoa

Something that is decidedly NOT on this list: Kale. Whose terrible idea was that?

Pie.

I made a pie. It looked like this:

2013-04-12 22.21.21

Maybe not quite so yellow.

In any case, being a person who is allergic to many important and delicious food items, it takes a bit of finagling to find a good pie recipe. To make this one, I mutated about seven different ones. The result? Gluten-free, dairy-free bourbon apple pie with a candied bacon lattice top.

And yes, ye few readers salivating at such a prospect… I will provide a recipe.

This pie was enjoyed by glutentards and non-glutentards alike. Personally, I’m still on the hunt for a good, flaky, non-crumbly pie crust. This one totally disintegrated as I put it in the pan, so I had to manually smash it down, rather than elegantly roll it out. Nevertheless.  If you enjoy complicated, allergen-free desserts, with bacon, I give you this:

Slapdash, Seat-of-the-Pants Gluten-and-dairy-free Bourbon Apple Pie with Candied Bacon Lattice Top

First things first: The crust.

Take with a grain of salt here — I’m not impressed with my crust. But it worked, and it tasted decent, and every damn person out there says their GF crust is the best, but they’re LYING.

1 1/4 c. Bob’s Red Mill Multipurpose GF flour
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
4ish T. frozen Earth Balance butter-ish thing
3ish T. vegetable shortening (probably I should have frozen it first. Learn from my mistakes)
3 T. ice water
2 T. vodka (chill this too. I forgot.)

Probably best to use a food processor if you’ve got it. Mix up the dry stuff, then add the butter and shortening and mix that up til you’ve got a coarse mix of pea-sized butter balls. Slowly add the ice water and vodka til you have a dough that adheres fairly well. Not too smushy. Alcohol burns off in the cooking and (at least theoretically) doesn’t make the dough quite so crumbly. Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least two hours, preferably longer.

Next, apples.

3-4 Granny Smith apples
3-4 non-Granny Smith apples (I like Fuji, but you know, ladies’ choice)
3/4 c. sugar
2 T. Bob’s Red Mill GF Multipurpose Flour (or whatever you got)
2+ T. Bourbon
1 t. cinnamon
Coupla healthy shakes of Garam Masala
Pinch of salt

Peel the apples and slice them up into thin slices (say 1/4 inch thick). Mix all this shit together, let it sit. I used 2 T of bourbon, but I bet you could get away with a little more.

Next next, bacon lattice.

8 strips of bacon should do it
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
Coupla pinches of cayenne pepper

Set oven to 350. Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cayenne. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Dredge bacon strips through sugar mixture, and set them on the cookie sheet in a lattice formation (4×4, probably). Check on this diagram from Smitten Kitchen for help on that. Sprinkle any remaining sugar mixture on the bacon. Put another sheet of foil on top of lattice, and another (ideally matching) cookie sheet on top of that, to keep the glorious structure flat. Cook for about 15 minutes. Not til it’s 100% done, but just so you can get some of the greasy greasiness out of the bacon. If you can manage it without disturbing your lattice, after the 15 minutes is up, transpose the lattice onto another, non-hot surface (I found that two spatulas, a set of tongs, and another pair of hands was mighty helpful).

Put it all together.

Set the oven for 425 and put a cookie sheet in it. Take your pie crust out of the oven. Line the counter with plastic wrap topped with some kind of starch (I used corn because I’m cheap). Put crust ball on top. Put more starch on top of crust. Put more plastic wrap on top of starch. Attempt to roll out crust without catastrophic cracks. You may need to use your hands, or maybe you’re a better man than I.  When it’s rolled out to pie pan size, attempt to transplant the crust into the pan, removing plastic wrap of course. I have no bits of wisdom to help with this. As I said, mine fell apart, and I ended up just smashing it manually into the pan. It tasted fine. So whatever works for you. Or maybe you have a better crust recipe altogether! In which case, good for you.

Pour apple mix into that bitch.

Top, as delicately as possible, with semi-baked bacon lattice. Probably the bacon is undercooked enough that you can straighten it out with your fingers, if you don’t mind the sticky greasiness. It should lay across the whole pie, more or less.

Put pie on pre-heated cookie sheet. Bake at 425 for about 10-15 minutes.  The bacon shouldn’t burn at this point, but keep an eye on it just in case. After 15 minutes, lower the oven to 350. Cook for about 40-45 minutes. Bacon might be  dark in points, but that’s okay. It’s still delicious.

Cool for about 15, and eat. If you’re really smart, you’ll buy yourself some vanilla coconut milk ice cream ahead of time, thaw it out, add cinnamon, and then refreeze it. A la mode to the max!

Adventures in gluten-free breadmaking

When it came to light that I am allergic to approximately all delicious foods, I figured I might as well cut my losses and just be done with bread for good. I mean, you can get gluten-free bread at the supermarket, but I hesitate to even call it bread. The “loaves” are about the size of my fist, about as heavy as my head, and cost about ten dollars. It’s okay, I thought. I can handle it. I like eating meat and vegetables… FOREVER.

I perked up a little at the discovery of frozen gluten-free waffles, which can, in a pinch, substitute for bread… quite deliciously in fact.

But then, glory of glories, I learned of a magical breadmaker that has a dedicated gluten-free setting. What does this mean, you ask? Well, to be honest I’m not 100% sure. But I think it has to do with a) the fact that you have to mix and knead the shit out of gluten-free breads to make them even moderately elastic and bread-like, which is something that regular breadmakers don’t do. b) the paddle has to be really sturdy to support those super-dense gluten-free flours without cracking. c) there’s maybe one less rising cycle? Gluten-free baking is a finicky art. Some things work out really well (ie my now-famous gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free bacon chocolate chip cookies) and other things are total failures.

Then for my birthday this year, some of my friends, no doubt tired of listening to me complain, chipped in to buy it for me! So far, I’ve made 4 loaves of bread with my magic breadmaker. The first one was mediocre because I got too impatient and didn’t wait for all the ingredients to become room temperature. The second one was transcendent. It had the taste and consistency of real bread. I used it for a SANDWICH. I don’t know if you realize how amazing that is. The third loaf was a total flop because again, I got impatient and didn’t use the right ingredients. However! I did use the bread-like product to make croutons. The fourth loaf was good. Not great, but good.

But the point is, even GOOD bread is a revelation to me. I can dip it in things! I can put things on it! Toast! This breadmaker is amazing. I’ve only used the GF setting, but it has several regular bread settings, as well as a “dough” setting for if you want to mix and rise dough but then cook it in the oven (for, say, rolls or bagels), it has a “pasta” setting for, I can only assume, making pasta. AND it has a “jam/jelly” setting for making jelly. I find this last setting a little inscrutable, but I trust my Breadman implicitly. I know he wouldn’t let me down, not even for jelly.

I may not be able to blithely toss bags of bread into my shopping cart like the rest of you, but now I can make delicious alchemy out of sorghum, teff, and a whole bunch of other weird grains you’ve never even heard of!

Happy Valentine’s Day

In honor of this most milquetoast of imaginary holidays, I give you my celebratory feast:

Gluten-free vegan red velvet cookies with vegan cream cheese icing. Roughly pilfered from this recipe.

Pan-fried chicken hearts with a side of golf sauce.

Feels good to eat the heart of another animal and wash it down with a crapload of sugar. Mmm. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Foods I have missed

Having multiple food allergies isn’t as awful as most people assume — actually, it’s only really difficult when other people respond by expressing horror at all the life and living I’m missing out on. Then I start to feel sorry for myself. But in general, I still get to eat lots of delicious foods, with a few small exceptions. Here are the foods I have missed the most:

1. Cheese.  I miss cheese. And though it’s a selfish and petty thing to say, I really think more scientists need to be working on an acceptable non-dairy cheese alternative. Because really, the stuff that is available is just wretched.

2. Beer. Again, there are gluten-free beers. They taste like a wrung-out dishrag.

3. Pizza. The tragic combination of gluten and dairy. If you can find a cheeseless pizza, it has a gluten-ful crust. If you can find a gluten-free crust, chances are it has cheese. Everywhere I turn, heartbreak.

Which is what makes the rest of this story so gloriously triumphant. Yesterday, I made gluten-free pizza crust from scratch… and it was delicious! And though one of the pizzas had goat cheese (which I can eat, sometimes) they were otherwise free of all the things I can’t eat. Plus, one had tomatoes and basil from my garden. Look how pretty!