Category Archives: Pasta

Daring Cooks: Handmade Gluten-Free Fettucine with Basil-Walnut Pesto

Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks’ July hostess.  Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine.  She provided us with recipes for Spätzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with.

Of course, those recipes were merely inspiration for my dish. I went off to find my own gluten-free pasta recipe. I’ve made gluten-free pasta only once before (an egg-yolk ravioli that was tasty, but my pasta was too thick and heavy), so this was still a relatively new experience for me. I wanted to make sure I made it thin and light this time around. I wanted it to be delicious. Lucky for me, Shauna over at Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef made pasta just a few days before I did. Her pasta was beautiful, and I loved the way she opted to incorporate psyllium husk to increase the flexibility/stretchiness of the dough. I’ve been using psyllium husk a lot more lately in my baking, and am enjoying the results. I was sold.

I wanted the flavor and texture of the pasta to shine through, so I wanted a sauce that wouldn’t overwhelm or cause the dish to be too heavy. After all, we’ve had temperatures at 100 degrees or more for nearly two weeks now, so a lighter dish was definitely a plus. My garden is overflowing with basil, so I opted for a fresh, bright, dairy-free pesto. Basil is one of those herbs that just screams summer to me. It was the perfect compliment to my pasta.

The pasta was somewhat finicky to make – rolling it thin wasn’t much of an issue, however, I had a bit of trouble with it breaking while rolling. After a bit of practice and patience, though, I fell into a rhythm. It started to work. I now understand why so many people love making pasta. It’s as soothing as making bread – a slow, repetitive, and strangely comforting process. I started to fall in love myself.

Once the pasta was all rolled and cut, the rest of the process was easy. Glazing the walnuts in the maple syrup, and then a quick blitz in the food processor, and the pesto was finished. The pasta took only 2 minutes to cook. A quick toss, and we were more than ready to eat.

So eat we did.

 

Gluten-Free Fettucine, adapted from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef

3 oz white bean flour

3 oz millet flour

3 oz potato starch

1 t psyllium husk powder

1 t kosher salt

1 large egg

4 egg yolks from large eggs

1 to 2 T extra-virgin olive oil

1 to 2 T water

Combine the flours, psyllium powder, nutmeg, and salt in the bowl of the food processor to combine the flours. Mix the egg, egg yolks, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the water. Pour the liquid into the flours. Run the food processor on pulse 8 to 10 times, then look at the dough. If the dough has formed crumbs that stay together when pressed, you’re done. If they are a little too dry, add the remaining olive oil, then pulse, look, then add more water, if necessary. If the dough looks a bit too wet, add another tablespoon of flour.

Turn out onto a dry, clean surface. Gather into a ball with your hands and press together. Once a ball is formed, cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 30 minutes.

Cut ball of dough into 4 pieces. Lightly flour your working surface with any of the flours you used for the pasta. Roll out one of the pieces of dough in a rectangle until very thin, as thin as you can get it without breaking. Cut with a pizza cutter into strips, carefully placing each strip onto a plate. Cover the cut pasta with a damp cloth as you go.

To cook the pasta, bring a large, well-salted pot of water to a boil. Carefully lower your pasta into the water and cook for 2 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through but still retains some bite. Drain and toss with a bit of olive oil, then your sauce/pesto.

Serves 4.

Vegan Basil-Walnut Pesto

1 1/2 c walnuts

1 T maple syrup

1 T olive oil

1 1/2 c fresh basil leaves, packed

1 1/2 c fresh parsley leaves, packed

2 1/2 T nutritional yeast flakes

juice of 1 large orange

7 cloves garlic, peeled

1 t salt

1/2 t black pepper

1 t brown rice vinegar

In a small skillet at medium heat, add the walnuts, maple syrup, and olive oil. Cook, stiring slowly for 2-3 minutes or until syrup clings to the walnuts and starts to caramelize. Remove and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add basil, parsley, nutritional yeast, orange juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and brown rice vinegar and pulse, scraping the bowl as you go, until everything is finely chopped, but not a uniform paste. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

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Filed under Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Eggs, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Pasta, Vegetarian

Swedish Meatballs (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

This recipe helps to dispel that myth that certain comfort foods are gone forever when one gives up gluten and dairy. Remember swedish meatballs? That creamy, silky sauce, coating delicious meatballs and a way-too-large plate of wide noodles? I do, although before I made this recipe, I hadn’t tasted swedish meatballs in several years – well before I went gluten-free. Even at their worst, (a.k.a. the “before I knew how to cook” swedish meatballs – processed powder in an envelope that you mixed together with the meat and some milk to make sauce) swedish meatballs still hold some nostalgia for me. My husband also loves the dish. So when I saw that Kelly over at The Spunky Coconut used cashews and lemon in place of sour cream in a dish (chicken paprika), immediately light bulbs went off. I knew I could make swedish meatballs. And so I made it happen the following night.

I soaked cashews before I left for work, and came home to start the sauce. I did add a non-traditional ingredient in the sauce – mushrooms – because I thought it would enhance the flavor. I had a leftover grilled portobello in the fridge, so why not? Since I pureed the mushrooms in the sauce, no one was any the wiser. It’s an optional addition, but personally, I loved the boost of flavor.

Once I had the sauce pureed and tweaked so that it tasted right, I worked on the meatballs. In the spirit of simplicity, I opted to bake them rather than cook them on the stovetop in batches. (The recipe already requires several steps – no need to complicate it further!) This allowed me time to make the pasta and warm the sauce, and then everything was ready to go. What I wasn’t prepared for was how good the result would be.

The sauce was excellent. Creamy, satisfying, and full of flavor. I had to double-check with my husband for authenticity. (Since it’s been so long since I’ve eaten certain gluten and/or dairy-filled dishes, my brain tends to somewhat forget what the original tasted like.) He said the sauce was lighter than the usual sour cream version, but that this wasn’t a bad thing. (I promise you, it’s still plenty creamy.) We both fell in love with it a little bit more with each bite.

This was one of those dishes where you wouldn’t find someone saying “This is pretty good for gluten/dairy-free” or “It’s different. Good, but different.” (I know we’ve all heard those statements once or twice before!) All our tastebuds knew was this was good eating.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Swedish Meatballs

For the cashew “sour cream”:

½ c cashews

Juice from 1 lemon

1 portobello mushroom, cooked and roughly chopped

2 t nutritional yeast flakes

For the meatballs:

1 lb ground beef

1 lb ground lamb

1/3 c almond flour

1 egg

1 T flaxseed meal

1 t allspice

1/8 t cardamom

1 T onion powder

1 t salt

1 t ground black pepper

For the rest:

2 T ghee (or grapeseed oil – ghee is casein-free, but if you strictly avoid dairy, another oil will be a fine substitute)

2 T arrowroot powder

2 c beef stock

1 c vegetable stock

1 T onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste

1/8 t ground nutmeg

¼ c chopped fresh parsley

Soak cashews in enough water to cover overnight or around 8 hours. Drain and place in a blender. Add lemon juice and start blender to puree cashews. Gradually add about ¼ cup additional water and continue to blend until consistency is about that of thick sour cream. (Stop to scrape down sides of blender as necessary.) Add mushroom and nutritional yeast flakes and blend again until smooth. Set aside.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine ground beef, lamb, almond flour, egg, flaxseed, allspice, cardamom, onion powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix with your hands until well-combined. If desired, check seasoning by making a tiny meatball and cooking on a skillet – taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Use a tablespoon to scoop out meat and form into meatballs with your hands. Place on baking sheet. You should get around 50 meatballs.

Bake meatballs for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat ghee or oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add arrowroot powder and whisk until combined. Add beef stock and vegetable stock and continue to whisk until boiling. Scrape the cashew cream from the blender into your skillet and whisk in. Turn heat to medium-low and heat until warmed through. Add onion powder and salt and pepper to taste. When meatballs are finished, add to sauce and stir to coat. If sauce is too thick, add additional stock and stir in as needed.

Once everything is thoroughly heated, sprinkle nutmeg over. Serve on top of gluten-free noodles and garnish with parsley.

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Filed under Beef, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Pasta

Kids in the Kitchen: Chicken Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Matt is our pasta lover. If he could have spaghetti every day of the week, he’d be a happy camper. (This is evidenced by his previous spaghetti carbonara, spaghetti and meatballs, and lasagna dishes in the kitchen.) So when Matt was browsing through a recipe application on our iPad, it didn’t surprise me to see that he’d chosen another pasta dish. This one was fairly straightforward. However, it did surprise me that my picky eater wanted sundried tomatoes and olives. I even asked him to double-check and make sure he understood what was in the pasta. He said it sounded good, so we went ahead with it.

Of course, we used gluten-free pasta (Tinkyada). It’s a good product – while it’s technically processed, the ingredients are essentially brown rice, rice bran, and water. Simple. I did like that this was really easy to throw together. Definitely a good weeknight dish. However, we weren’t 100% happy with the flavor. It was missing something – a sauce, perhaps? Matt did admit that he wished there was tomato sauce on it. Matt admitted that he thought somehow that the ingredients would make a sauce based on what he read. This means the teacher learned a lesson in the kitchen that day – to explain the dish better in the future, so there’s no confusion! Regardless, it was a dish that could be improved upon, should we try again.

(On a side note, I did realize just how much my body isn’t fond of a flood of carbohydrates like this. I’ve been eating mostly grain-free and paleo for a while, and a pasta dish caused me to feel lethargic and sleepy for a good 2 hours! Good thing for me, pasta is not on the regular rotation at our house anymore. For those of you that handle gluten-free pasta well, then have at it. For me, it’s a treat!)

Chicken Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

 8 oz gluten-free pasta

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 t paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T grapeseed oil

8 oz sundried tomatoes

5 cloves of garlic, minced

1 small can sliced olives, drained

1/2 c pine nuts

Basil, for garnish

Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside. Toss chicken cubes with paprika and salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat grapeseed oil to medium-high heat. Add chicken and spread out into a single layer. Allow to brown for a minute, and then stir occasionally to brown on all sides. After chicken is nearly cooked through, add sundried tomatoes and garlic. Saute for another minute and add olives and pine nuts. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Remove from heat and toss pasta and chicken mixture together. Serve garnished with basil.

Serves 4.

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Filed under Chicken, Turkey, and other Poultry, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Pasta, Quick and Easy

Kids in the Kitchen: Chicken Parmesan (Fresh Tomato-Carrot Sauce)

By the time it was Matt’s turn in the kitchen, he already had an idea of what to make. (He had the benefit of watching this new routine – visiting the farmers’ market for inspiration – with his siblings.) You see, a few weeks ago, I prepared chicken parmesan for dinner when Matt was over, following a recipe from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam (also the famous Elana of Elana’s Pantry). I followed the recipe pretty closely, only substituting my own sauce for the sauce in the recipe. Matt must have liked it (we all did), since he requested to make it tonight, using fresh tomatoes from the market.

Of course, not only were the tomatoes from the market, so were the onions, garlic, and carrots. In fact, the sauce we made was nearly all local – the thyme, basil and parsley came from my garden. But the best part? Because each of those components were super-fresh and at their peak, the flavors were bright and bold. It’s amazing how nature just knows what tastes best – and if we take advantage, it’s almost like the hard part of cooking is done for us.

Of course, making a tomato sauce from scratch was a bit of work, although a good deal of the time spent simmering allowed for Matt and I to wander off to do other things for a while. It was definitely worth it – several of us might have been tempted to lick our plates clean. While my dish was more of a chicken “un-parmesan” (I sprinkled Daiya mozzarella-style shreds on my dish, which was mighty tasty and dairy-free), it was still definitely a dish worth repeating again!

Recipe for Chicken Parmesan can be found at The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam

Fresh Tomato-Carrot Sauce

4-5 large ripe tomatoes

2 T olive oil

1 medium sweet yellow onion, roughly chopped

1 c carrots, roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1/2 t thyme leaves, picked

1 T basil leaves

1 T flat-leaf parsley

1 t dried oregano

1 6 0z can tomato paste

4 anchovies

2 c chicken stock (I used homemade)

Salt to taste

Cut an “X” into the skin on the bottom of each tomato. Heat a medium saucepan full of water to boiling. Using a slotted spoon, lower each tomato into the water and allow to “boil” for 1 minute. Remove and allow to cool enough to touch. Peel the tomatoes and remove seeds. Tear into chunks and place in a bowl. Set aside.

Drain and wipe clean the medium saucepan. Add olive oil and heat to medium heat. Add onion and carrot and saute until carrot starts to soften, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Add thyme, basil, parsley, oregano, tomato paste, anchovies and chicken stock and stir. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have broken down and the sauce has thickened.

Puree sauce either by using a stick/handheld blender, or by pureeing in batches in a blender. Taste and season with salt as needed. Serve with chicken parmesan alongside gluten-free pasta or rice.

Serves 4.

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Filed under Budget-Friendly, Chicken, Turkey, and other Poultry, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Pasta

Gluten-Free Parmesan Macaroni and Cheese

If you ask people what their favorite comfort food is, chances are, macaroni and cheese will be one of the most popular. And why not? Macaroni and cheese is creamy, cheesy, and at its best, baked with a bit of crunch on the top. It soothes our souls and makes for happy bellies. The popularity of macaroni and cheese is proven by the countless variations offered at restaurants all across the country. The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board recognizes this, and so when they approached me to contribute to their new blog, 30 Days 30 Ways with Macaroni and Cheese, how could I say no?

But when you’re following a gluten-free diet, macaroni and cheese is not something so easily acquired. Since going on a gluten-free diet, I have not had the joy and comfort that comes from this humble dish. At times, memories of Luby’s creamy macaroni haunted me. (If you lived in Texas for any length of time, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Luby’s may not be the finest of dining establishments, but they have some of the creamiest macaroni and cheese. I’ve loved it since I was a kid.) Well, the pining stops here.

Meet gluten-free macaroni and cheese, made simple by my best pasta friend, Tinkyada. Of course, you can use any gluten-free pasta that you choose – I just love Tinkyada’s brown rice pasta because it doesn’t turn mushy. And since it’s made from brown rice, I’m getting a bit of fiber into the dish. (Not to say that this is health food – it’s still macaroni and cheese, after all!) And no, Tinkyada isn’t paying me to tell you about all of this – I just love their products.

This Parmesan macaroni and cheese is relatively straightforward. Of course, if you choose, you can add ingredients to your liking – bacon, chopped tomatoes, or other cheeses would all be welcomed here. We have a tendency to be purists in our home when it comes to macaroni and cheese, so we opted to keep it simple. And let me tell you – simple was delicious!

Gluten-Free Parmesan Macaroni and Cheese

4 cups dry gluten-free pasta (I used Tinkyada brown-rice fusilli)

1/4 c (1/2 stick, or 4 T) butter

3 T tapioca starch/flour

2 1/2 c milk

3 t dry mustard

1 t paprika

1 egg, beaten

12 oz mild white cheddar, grated

2 oz Parmesan, finely grated

1 t salt

1 t ground black pepper

Cook the pasta as directed on package, removing from water 2-3 minutes early, so that the pasta is very firm. Drain.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large baking dish. In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat, and pour in the tapioca starch.Whisk constantly, for 2-3 minutes, or until light brown. (Do not let it burn.) Pour in the milk, and add the mustard and paprika.  Whisk until smooth, and cook, whisking constantly, until very thick. Reduce heat to low. Pour about 1/4 cup of the thickened sauce into the egg and whisk constantly to avoid the cooking the egg. Pour egg mixture into sauce, and whisk in all but about 1/2 cup of the cheddar and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan. Stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper, tasting to adjust as needed.

Pour in the pasta and stir to combine. Place into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes or until sufficiently browned.

Serves 6-8.

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Filed under Gluten-Free, Pasta, Side Dishes, Vegetarian

Jap Chae

A healthy, vegetarian/vegan, mouth-watering meal that’s easy to make? Not only easy to make, but speedy – so speedy, in fact, that it takes less time to make (from start to sitting down, slurping noodles) than it takes to heat up the oven and bake a frozen pizza? Do I have your attention yet? Because yes, it’s possible. Meet my favorite throw-together dish – Jap Chae.

What is Jap Chae? Well, I didn’t know for the longest time. Jaden over at Steamy Kitchen introduced me to Jap Chae. (say it with me: chop-chay.) Also spelled Jab Chae or Chap Chae, this is a Korean dish comprised traditionally of sweet potato (cellophane) noodles, mushrooms, spinach, carrots, and onions. I don’t have an extensive knowledge of Korean food, honestly. I do know, however, that my limited exposure has taught me to love Korean food! What makes this dish unique, in my opinion, are the noodles. If you happen to have an Asian grocery nearby, I encourage you to visit. Check out the noodles. Yes, it might be overwhelming – there are a LOT of noodles. For this particular dish, seek out some slightly gray-brown noodles called “glass noodles” or “cellophane noodles.” (They’re gluten-free, of course.) If you read the ingredients on the package, it’ll likely just read: sweet potato starch, water (and maybe salt). That’s it. Sounds simple enough, right? These noodles don’t taste anything like sweet potatoes – but their texture is addictive. They’re super-springy, light, and I love they way they absorb the sweet soy-sesame sauce in the jap chae. They never get soggy, either, making this dish perfect for leftovers!

I did take some liberties with the recipe (if you read this blog regularly, you’ll know this is nothing new). I added snow peas and red bell pepper (they were in the fridge), and I subbed agave nectar for the sugar. And as always, I used gluten-free soy sauce instead of regular soy. Other than that, I pretty much stuck to the recipe. (Oh – I did add a squirt of Sriracha to my bowl. Not authentic, I know, but I can’t resist a little heat with my salty-sweet-umami dishes!) This little throw-together dish is heaven in my book. The shitake mushrooms provide a huge burst of umami flavor, and I cannot resist sesame – sesame can cause me to swoon! And as I mentioned before, the noodles, with their springy texture, are such a joy to eat. It doesn’t hurt to know that this is a healthy, veggie-packed meal, either!

By the way, I’m not kidding about the speediness thing. The other day, my husband wanted a frozen pizza (Totino’s, so it doesn’t even take that long in the oven!), and I decided to make this dish (John’s not much for mushrooms, spinach, or Asian cuisine). He turned the oven on to preheat at the same time I was gathering ingredients. My jap chae was finished, in a bowl, and I had just started to dig in when the timer went off, telling him that his pizza was ready. Speedy dish indeed!

Jap Chae, adapted from Steamy Kitchen

1/2 lb dried Korean sweet potato noodles or mung bean thread

2 1/2 t sesame oil, divided

1 T canola oil

3/4 c thinly sliced onions

2 carrots, cut into matchsticks (I use my handy-dandy julienne peeler for this task)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 t grated fresh ginger

2 stalks green onions, cut into 1 inch lengths

1/2 c dried shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced and rehydrated in warm water

1/2 c snow peas

1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1/2 lb spinach leaves, washed well and drained

2 T gluten-free soy sauce

1 T agave nectar

1 T sesame seeds

Fill a large pot with water and boil. When water is boiling, add the noodles and cook for 5 minutes. Immediately drain and rinse with cool water. Drain again and toss with 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil. Cut noodles into shorter pieces (I took Jaden’s advice and used kitchen shears for this task), about 8 inches in length. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix soy sauce and agave nectar together. Add canola oil in a wok or large saute pan on high heat. Swirl to coat pan. When oil is hot but not smoking, fry onions and carrots until softened, about 1 minute. Add garlic, green onions, and mushrooms, and cook for 30 seconds. Then add snow peas, bell pepper, spinach, soy sauce mixture, and the noodles. Fry for 2-3 minutes or until spinach is wilted and snow peas are a bit tender. Turn off heat, toss with sesame seeds and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil.

Serves 3-4. Or 2-3, if feeding hungry people. Wonderful eaten hot or cold.

 

Don’t Forget!!! You still have time to enter for a chance to win some free Xagave agave nectar and a cookbook, Where Delicious Meets Nutritious! Visit my post here to learn more about it!

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Filed under Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Pasta, Quick and Easy, Vegetarian

Kids in the Kitchen: Spaghetti Carbonara (Gluten-Free, of course!)

Matt loves pasta. Spaghetti, lasagna, and macaroni and cheese? These three dishes alone could make this boy happy for a long, long time. Italy was his country of choice this time around, which, naturally, pleased Matt. We discussed various Italian dishes, both pasta and non-pasta, but the mention of bacon and spaghetti – two of his favorite things in the world – made spaghetti carbonara the choice for dinner tonight.

Truth be told, spaghetti carbonara is not among my favorite Italian dishes. It’s a bit on the rich and heavy side, in my opinion. As this was the case, I have not made spaghetti carbonara prior to this evening. Nevertheless, I sought out a recipe that was sure to please. Emeril saved the day! (Every Emeril Lagasse recipe I have followed has turned out beautifully!) I followed the original recipe pretty closely – it’s relatively straightforward and simple – and it was pretty darn tasty, if I do say so.

Not one piece of shell was dropped in the eggs!

Matt enjoyed it a great deal. Of course, eggs, bacon, cheese, and spaghetti – what’s not to like?

Gluten-Free Spaghetti Carbonara, adapted from Emeril Lagasse

1/2 lb bacon, diced into 1/2 inch pieces

1 T chopped garlic

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb gluten-free spaghetti, cooked until al dente (I used Tinkyada Pasta Joy Brown Rice Spaghetti)

4 large eggs, beaten

Salt to taste

1 c freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 T chopped fresh parsley leaves

In a large saute pan over medium heat, fry the bacon until crispy. Remove bacon with slotted spoon or spatula and allow to drain on paper towels. Remove all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds, and season with pepper. Add back the bacon and pasta and saute for 1 minute. Season the eggs with salt. Remove the pan from heat and add eggs, stirring quickly, until eggs thicken but do not scramble. Add the cheese and taste; adjust seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley. Serves 4 generously.

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Filed under Budget-Friendly, Eggs, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Pasta, Pork, Quick and Easy

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Farm Fresh Egg-Stravaganza

chickenEarlier this year, during a little visit to Local Harvest,  I stumbled upon a local farm. This farm happened to be relatively close to my house, and they offered farm fresh eggs. Curious, I contacted Cindy Telisak at Jacob’s Reward Farm. Little did I know that over the coming months, I would gain so much. Not only have we enjoyed a wonderful bounty of the freshest of eggs, but I gained a friend and a new level of appreciation for the hard work and devotion of our local farmers.

Cindy bottle-feeding a baby lamb

Cindy bottle-feeding a baby lamb

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Cindy and her family own Jacob’s Reward Farm, a small farm north of Dallas, where they raise sheep, alpacas, and chickens. Over the past few months, I’ve regularly visited Cindy to pick up fresh eggs from her farm, during which we have been well-acquainted. Last weekend, I was honored to cater to her “Spinning Yarns: Cowboy Stories and Song” event. So this month, when I submitted an idea to conduct an interview with Cindy as part of a Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 event, I was ecstatic to find out that my idea was selected. Cindy has been an inspiration to me, and has been a key influence in my decision to actively support local farmers whenever possible.  

Alta: How did Jacob’s Reward Farm get its start?

Cindy: “Jacob’s Reward” got its start before I even left the suburban life in Plano.  I’ve always loved sheep and longed for a homesteading lifestyle, but for many years we had to tough it out in the composite-roof-privacy-fence jungle.  In order to get as close as I could to the shepherd’s life, I learned to knit, crochet and spin, and I struck a friendship with a local couple who raise Jacob sheep.  I lived the life vicariously through them for several years.  When the opportunity arose to buy 4.5 acres here in Parker, we jumped at it.  And though there have been many significant challenges, we’ve not looked back.  The name “Jacob’s Reward” refers to the story in Genesis when God blessed Jacob with vast herds of sheep and goats as a reward for his years of faithfulness.

Alta: What made you decide that raising sheep, alpacas, and chickens was your calling?

Cindy: I love animals and have always thought a farm would be a dream come true.  Once I learned to knit and spin, it only made sense to raise my own fiber animals.  Chickens and fresh eggs are integral to a farm, and they contribute to a healthy diet.  And chickens are really fun to watch!

Alta: Tell me about a typical day at Jacob’s Reward Farm.

Cindy: I am not a morning person, so I have my animals trained not to expect their breakfast at the crack of dawn.  But my usual round of chores takes about 45 minutes, depending on the weather.  Muddy conditions make everything more complicated.  I give a little grain to the eight sheep on the north end of the property, and hay.  The front yard chickens are released from their coop to wander the property in search of bugs, seeds and various greens.  I feed Smokey the barn cat so that she’s fortified for a day of rodent patrol.  On the south side of the property, I feed my six alpacas and two Jacob sheep, and release three other sets of chickens.  I top off all the water buckets and fill the hay feeders.  I do a similar set of chores morning and evening, ending with locking up the free-range chickens in their coops every night to protect them from predators.  Between sets of chores, I take care of my house and my family, teach classes in my studio, and keep up with my farm supporters on my blog, website, podcast, newsletter and other social media.  I also try to squeeze in some knitting and spinning of my own.  There’s never a dull moment.

Breakfast time!

Breakfast time!

Alta: Tell me about your chickens.

Cindy: I have a handful of breeds of chickens that I have raised from day old chicks.  Right now, the flock numbers around 37 total, though 15 of those are just babies.

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Free-Ranging Buffs

Alta: Why are free-range, farm-raised chickens so much better than even the premium eggs you can purchase at the grocery?

Cindy:  “Free-range” is a buzz word that may or may not mean what the consumer thinks.  It may mean that your pricey grocery store eggs came from chickens who can see outside, or who have access to a tiny concrete slab outside.  My free range chickens do just that.  I let them out in the morning and they have complete freedom to roam the property, resting in the shade of the native landscape plantings or sunning themselves in the herbicide-free lawns.  They gather their own food, following the instinctive promptings God gave them.  I do supplement them with commercial grain to round out their diet.  My eggs don’t sit very long once they’re laid, either.  (Alta’s note: there have been times I’ve arrived and helped Cindy gather a few eggs to fill my dozen – eggs laid just hours earlier. Now that’s fresh!) No telling how old those grocery store eggs are!

Alta: Jacob’s Reward Farm has a new Fiber CSA. Could you tell me a little about this?

Cindy: This is our first year to offer CSA shares, so we are feeling our way a bit, and we are under the mentorship of a highly successful CSA fiber farm in the New York area. As a CSA (community supported agriculture) fiber farm, we sell shares of our fiber harvest roughly based on the amount of fiber we hope to get from this year’s shearing of alpacas and sheep, distributed to a limited number of shareholders.  But just like vegetable CSAs, we can’t guarantee an exact amount of fiber we’ll end up with; there are too many variables involved.  Vegetable farmers call it a “shared risk proposition.”  However, by limiting the number of shareholders, we believe we can safely assure each shareholder of a satisfactory amount of fiber once the distributions are made.  Also, we’ll be processing our fiber only into spinning roving, rather than yarn, because of the extra expense. I do teach spinning, and a spinning lesson and drop spindle are included in the price of the share.  Also, we offer lots of opportunities to come out to the farm and participate in the life and care of the animals, in community-building days where we knit or spin together, shear the sheep, picnic together, or other fun events. A CSA share will not result in “bargain” yarn, but the other included benefits bring the price down well under retail levels.  And many of my shareholders tell me that participation in the Jacob’s Reward Fiber Farm life and community is actually a priceless reward that they would pay for alone, with the fiber as “icing on the cake.”

jacobs reward event 052

Alta: What has been your biggest hurdle to overcome here at the farm?

Cindy: One hurdle we haven’t encountered is lack of interest in what we’re doing.  The response has been fantastic.  There are vibrant knitting and spinning communities in this area who find my fiber irresistible, and I have more egg customers than I can handle at some times of the year.  But since this is my first farming experience, I am learning a lot, and I’m learning every day.  The jobs around here are so varied that there is no excuse for being bored.  The farm also sits on the banks of Maxwell Creek, and heavy rains sometimes bring the water level a little closer to the house than we’d like.  But that hasn’t stopped us.  I’m continually working on ways to deal with lots of water on the place.  The farm is hard work, but it’s the kind of hard work that gives us a delicious, bone-weary sense of satisfaction at the end of the day.

Cindy’s undying optimism, drive, and determination have allowed her to influence a great number of people, including our family. Our kids have loved visiting the chickens, sheep, and alpacas. I’ve enjoyed learning so much about farm life from Cindy, and visiting the farm has brought me a sense of connectedness with the Earth and the changing of seasons.

Of course, making the side trip to pick up eggs at Jacob’s Reward Farm rather than just picking them up at the grocery does take extra time and planning. Depending on the weather and the season, the supply fluctuates. But for us, it’s well worth it. We trade convenience for a lot of worthwhile benefits. Not only are the eggs are fresher, tastier, and better for us, we are choosing to support our local farmers – farmers who practice ethical and sustainable treatment of their animals.

In an effort to celebrate the fresh eggs we’ve received from Jacob’s Reward Farm, I planned a Farm Fresh Egg-Stravaganza dinner for my family. Each dish was carefully planned, so that I could highlight the eggs throughout the entire meal.

The meal began with a small appetizer: Chinese Tea Eggs. These eggs, a typical dish for Chinese New Year, were steeped for 5 hours in a black tea, soy sauce (tamari, actually, so they were gluten-free), cinnamon, star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, and dried orange peel. They were gorgeous to peel, and a tasty first bite. I’ll definitely make these again. For the recipe, visit Steamy Kitchen’s beautiful blog.

chinese tea eggs

The second course? Gluten-Free Egg and Pancetta Tarts. I found a lovely tart crust recipe from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, a new cookbook from Elana Amsterdam of Elana’s Pantry. The crust was a mixture of almond flour, grapeseed oil, salt, agave nectar, and baking soda. Easy as pie tart! I pre-baked mini-tarts for 8 minutes, and then filled them with scrambled eggs, tomato sauce, sauteed pancetta, and shredded white cheddar, and baked them until the cheese was melted and bubbly. These tarts were tasty, although next time, I think I may add some herbs to the tart crust (Elana has an herbed tart crust recipe in her cookbook as well), which would work to increase the savory taste of the tart.

egg and pancetta tart

Gluten-Free Egg and Pancetta Tarts

1 recipe gluten-free tart crust (recipe from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook)

4 miniature tart pans (I used 5-inch pans)

6 oz pancetta, diced

1 T olive oil

4 eggs, beaten

1/4 c milk

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 c tomato sauce (use seasoned jarred tomato sauce, or your favorite tomato sauce recipe)

1/2 c shredded white cheddar

2 T chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Divide tart dough into 4 balls, pressing one ball into each tart pan. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until golden. Remove and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, bring a large saute pan to medium heat. Add pancetta and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is crisp. Remove and set aside.

Add the olive oil to the pan and turn the heat to medium-low. Whisk the eggs and milk together, and pour into pan. Whisk occasionally, and allow to cook until eggs are just set. (Don’t cook all the way – you don’t want the eggs to dry out.) Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

To assemble the tarts: With a spoon, spread a little of the tomato sauce into each tart crust. Top with eggs, and sprinkle cheese and pancetta over. Place in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Sprinkle parsley on top as garnish.

Serves 4.

The third course was the most “daring” for me to attempt – Soft Egg Gluten-Free Ravioli. Until yesterday, I had never made handmade pasta, much less gluten-free handmade pasta. I found a pasta recipe from Living Without that sounded promising, so I set out to make my own ravioli. But these ravioli weren’t just “normal” ravioli – inside each of these babies laid an entire, unbroken, sunny egg yolk. In my opinion, these were the ultimate way to celebrate the intense yellow yolks the Jacob’s Reward Farm chickens created.

egg ravioli

The flavor of these ravioli was tasty and rich, especially as they were topped with a white truffle butter sauce. However, I did learn that rolling out pasta by hand is hard – and I ended up leaving the pasta sheets too thick, which resulted in heavy, dense ravioli. Not a perfect dish, but I would definitely try again, using a pasta machine to ensure thin, light pasta. (note to self: put pasta machine on wish list!) These were served with sauteed swiss chard, which was delightful.

Soft Egg Gluten-Free Ravioli, adapted from Living Without and Epicurious.com

For the filling:

1 c whole-milk ricotta cheese

2 egg yolks

1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 c grated parmesan cheese

1/8 t freshly ground black pepper

For the pasta dough (these instructions are for the use of a pasta machine – if you don’t have one, instead use a rolling pin and roll out sheets as thinly as possible.):

½ c tapioca flour or sweet rice flour

½ c cornstarch

⅓ c potato starch or arrowroot

⅓ c fine brown rice flour, more for rolling out

½ t salt

2 T xanthan gum

4 eggs

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 egg yolks

1 egg white, beaten (for egg wash)

For the butter truffle sauce:

1 stick salted butter, cut into 4 pieces

1 T white truffle oil

Mix ricotta, 2 egg yolks, nutmeg, parmesan cheese, and pepper in a small bowl. Refrigerate until needed.

Put the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. Blend using the paddle. In a separate bowl, lightly beat together the 4 eggs and oil.

While the mixer is on, slowly add eggs/oil mixture to dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Dough will be soft like play dough. If it’s not, add water, one tablespoon at a time. Lightly dust your counter with cornstarch. Cut the dough into 8 pieces and cover 7 with a tea towel or plastic wrap.

Lightly dust a piece of dough with rice flour and flatten. Roll through the widest setting of the machine. Continue to roll it through, folding it in half each time and lightly dusting with rice flour if the dough is tacky. Do this until the dough begins to hold together and seems smooth. It may take 5 to 6 times. Then decrease the thickness one notch at a time and roll through until desired thickness is achieved. Cut out a 5-inch circle from parchment paper (or use another tool to measure a 5-inch circle – I used my tart pans), and cut out 16 5-inch circles from pasta dough. 

egg ravioli assembling

Place the ricotta mixture in a pastry bag (or do as I did, place it in a quart-size ziploc bag, and snip a corner off of the bag). In the center of eight of the pasta circles, make a circle with your pastry bag/ziploc bag full of the ricotta mixture, leaving about 3/4 inch from the edge of the pasta, as if you’re creating a nest. Place an egg yolk in the center of your ricotta “nest”. Brush the edges with egg wash. Top with another pasta circle, pressing together to seal the edges. (You can use a pastry wheel or the tines of a fork to seal the edges as well.) Place pasta on a cookie sheet. If layering the pasta, dust it with rice flour. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

To prepare the butter truffle sauce, place the butter and truffle oil in a small saucepan. Bring to medium heat, stirring, until bubbling. Reduce to low, and stir occasionally.

To cook the ravioli, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a dash of salt. Using a slotted spoon, carefully slide into boiling water. Cook until al dente. Fresh pasta cooks in just a few minutes. When the raviolis are done, drain and rinse it under hot water.

To serve, place two raviolis on a plate, and lightly drizzle with butter truffle sauce. Serves 4.

Of course, no “Egg-Stravaganza” would be complete without a dessert. But after the rich ravioli, a light dessert was in order. We enjoyed a pavlova – a lovely light-as-air meringue dessert that is popular in New Zealand. Pavlova has a meringue base, topped with whipped cream, and typically decorated with summer berries and kiwi. Since it’s not berry season, I opted to top it with pear slices, figs, banana, and clementines. It was very likely the best part of the meal – a lightly sweet, fresh, and airy finish to a wonderful evening.

pavlova

Pear, Fig, Banana and Clementine Pavlova, adapted from Saveur.com

4 room-temperature egg whites

pinch of salt

1 c plus 2 T superfine sugar (I placed sugar in my food processor to “pulverize” it)

2 t cornstarch

1 t white vinegar

few drops of vanilla extract

1 c heavy cream

1 banana, peeled and sliced

1 ripe pear, such as a Red Bartlett, peeled and sliced

2 clementines, peeled and sectioned

4 oz Black Mission Figs, quartered

2 T honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then trace a 10-inch circle on the paper. Put egg whites and salt in clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, and beat on medium-low until frothy. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until egg whites form stiff but not dry peaks. Gradually add 1 cup sugar while whisking, then increase speed to high and beat until stiff and glossy. Sprinkle cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla over egg whites, then gently fold in.

Fill traced circle with meringue, smoothing top and sides. Put meringue in middle of oven and reduce heat to 300 degrees. Bake for 1 hour. Turn oven off and leave meringue inside until completely cool, 3-4 hours.

 Remove paper and place meringue on a cake plate. Whip cream and remaining sugar to soft peaks, then pile on top of meringue. Arrange cut fruit over whipped cream, and drizzle with honey. Slice into wedges to serve.

Serves 8-10.

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Filed under Appetizers, Baked goods, Desserts, Eggs, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Pasta

Kids in the Kitchen: Lasagna, Two Ways

Gluten-Free Lasagna
Gluten-Free Lasagna

lasagna bakedWhen Matt decided he wanted to make lasagna for his turn in the kitchen, I happily agreed. I love lasagna. I knew that gluten-free lasagna noodles existed, so I figured this would be a wonderful dish for the family. I started to make a grocery list, and went shopping.

Only to find out that my “regular” grocery stops (SuperTarget and Sprouts) did not carry gluten-free lasagna noodles. Gluten-free shells, spaghetti, linguine? Yes. Lasagna? Nope. So I begrudgingly purchased regular lasagna noodles, and accepted that I wouldn’t be eating lasagna that night.

But as today drew closer, I didn’t accept it. (Why should I be unable to enjoy kids’ creations?) And although I knew another grocery, such as Whole Foods, would possibly carry the pasta, a busy week kept me from making that extra trip. I had to come up with a way to make a “psuedo-lasagna” that would satisfy me, sans gluten-free noodles. Suddenly I remembered that my brother (also gluten-intolerant) insisted that corn tortillas made a great substitute for lasagna noodles. Since corn tortillas are always in our house, I figured, why not?

And so it began. When Matt and I were preparing our mise en place, he was already imagining how wonderful the lasagna would taste. I have to admit, so was I. Lasagna is the ultimate comfort food, with its cheesy layers, and bursts of flavor from the tomato sauce and fillings. I’ll have to admit, as we browned the sausage and simmered the sauce, lots of “taste tests” occurred. (It’s actually amazing that there was anything left to put into the lasagna!) And the 45-minute wait while the lasagna baked seemed like an eternity.

lasagna 007

Once the lasagna emerged from the oven, though, it was well worth the wait. While not photo-friendly (the lasagnas did not cut into nice, neat squares for photographs…), the kids devoured most of the “gluten-y” lasagna (Matt had 3 helpings!), while I happily chowed down on my corn tortilla lasagna. It was nice and light, (I added a thinly sliced zucchini in my layers, just because I happened to have some that needed to be eaten) but plenty flavorful enough. So much, in fact, I felt satisfied. Who says living gluten-free has to mean deprivation? It doesn’t mean that I won’t try to look for gluten-free lasagna noodles in the future (I plan to ask Sprouts to see if they’ll start carrying it), but this version definitely hit the spot.

To make both gluten-free (2 servings) and regular lasagna (6 servings):

1 1/2 lb hot Italian sausage, crumbled

1/2 medium sweet onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

2 t dried oregano

1/2 t crushed red pepper

1/2 t anchovy paste

1 1/2 T fresh basil, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

8 oz oven-ready lasagna noodles

3 corn tortillas, cut into 1 inch strips

1/2 lb ricotta cheese

4-5 c shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 c Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brown the sausage, crumbling with spatula. Add onions and garlic, and cook for 4-5 minutes or until soft.

Meanwhile, open crushed tomatoes and pour into a medium saucepan. Add oregano, crushed red pepper, and anchovy paste and stir. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add basil and stir, simmer for 2-3 minutes more.

For the regular lasagna, use a 13X9 glass baking dish. For the gluten-free lasagna, I used a 8-inch round baking dish. Pour a bit of sauce in the bottom of each dish and spread around. Add a single layer of noodles to the regular lasagna, and a layer of corn tortillas to the gluten-free lasagna. Top the gluten-free lasagna with a layer of zucchini. Top both with a layer of sausage, followed by a thin layer of ricotta. Sprinkle a layer of mozzarella on top. Pour another spoonful or two of sauce, and repeat with the noodles/tortillas, zucchini, sausage, and cheeses. Top with a bit more sauce, and sprinkle the remainder of mozzarella on top of both lasagnas. Sprinkle parmesan evenly on top of both as well.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, tented with foil, until the noodles on the regular lasagna are tender. Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes, and serve.

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Filed under Beef, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Pasta

Kids in the Kitchen: Spaghetti and (Gluten-Free) Meatballs

spaghetti and meatballsTonight was Matt’s night in the kitchen. Matt has somewhat picky tastes, but he’ll eat just about anything if it involves pasta or wrapped in a tortilla. So it was no surprise to any of us that spaghetti and meatballs was his first choice. He could eat spaghetti every day, if allowed. So spaghetti it was.

Of course, with my recent decision to go gluten-free, I knew that I would have to make some modifications. Gluten-free spaghetti is easy – Glutino sells some brown rice pasta. (Of course, brown rice works just as well in a pinch.) However, my usual meatball recipe calls for bread crumbs. I could omit them, but I was afraid the meatballs would be soggy and dense. I had some Glutino Flax Seed Bread, (which makes really good toast!) so I figured, why not make bread crumbs from this? Blitzed 4 slices in the food processor, and ta-da, gluten-free bread crumbs! We were in business.

Matt was a fast learner in the kitchen. Good thing, because his dish called for more ingredients than the dishes his siblings prepared. His favorite part, obviously, was making the meatballs. (He kept rolling HUGE meatballs, and telling his brother that they were his “dream” meatballs.) With the laughing and joking around, the preparation went by rather quickly. We had those meatballs in the oven in what seemed like a matter of minutes.

Matt mixing the meat for meatballs

Matt mixing the meat for meatballs

Speaking of a matter of minutes, this tomato sauce recipe takes less than 10 minutes to prepare. Who needs 15-plus ingredients and a long simmer time to make a great tomato sauce? As I’ve found out recently, not I! This sauce is so tasty and bright, with a good kick from the red pepper, and only uses 7 ingredients (if you count salt as an ingredient).

All in all, this turned out to be a satisfying meal. After tonight, the first round of “Kids in the Kitchen” is complete. I couldn’t be more pleased. I think we’re beginning something that will continue to be a source of fun and education for a long while to come.

 

Gluten-Free Meatballs (adapted from Cuisine At Home)

1 1/2 c gluten-free breadcrumbs

3/4 c parmesan cheese, finely grated

1/2 c milk

1/2 c vegetable broth

1/2 c fresh parsley, chopped

3 eggs, beaten

2 T dried oregano

1 T garlic, minced

1 1/2 t salt

1 T ground black pepper

2 t dried basil

1 t crushed red pepper flakes

pinch nutmeg

2 lbs lean ground beef

1 c vegetable or chicken broth

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Stir together first 13 ingredients (through nutmeg) in a large mixing bowl. Add ground beef and mix together thoroughly. (We used our hands – clean, of course.) Take a portion of meat (about 1 1/2 oz each, or nearly 2 inches in diameter) and roll into a ball with your palms. (Alternatively, you can use a portioning scoop or two spoons.) Place the meatballs on a baking sheet or shallow roasting pan, evenly spaced.

 chicken curry 042

Cover the bottom of the pan wiht the remaining 1 cup of broth. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the meatballs are just cooked through.

While the meatballs are baking, you can prepare the pasta according to package directions, and start the sauce.

Quick and Easy Tomato Sauce

3 T olive oil

2 t crushed red pepper flakes

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 28-0z cans crushed tomatoes

salt to taste

2 T basil leaves, julienned

1 t oregano leaves, chopped

Combine olive oil, red pepper and garlic in cold saucepan. Heat to medium, stirring while heating. Cook for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and stir to heat. Add salt to taste, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in basil and oregano, and add meatballs (once baked).

Serve meatballs and sauce over pasta. Sprinkle with parmesan if desired. Serves 6.

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Filed under Beef, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Pasta