Saturday, July 28, 2018

Flour Tortillas

I've been working on a flour tortilla recipe ever since I had to give up gluten - a long time!  This has undergone a few tweaks over the years and was pretty good, but the addition that turned the recipe into a real keeper was an idea my oldest son had .... use a tortilla press.  Genius!  This gets the tortilla thin enough that it has flexibility and isn't gummy tasting.  I got mine on Amazon for about $25.

Some are pre-seasoned, which you may want to avoid if you're working with various allergies.  With this recipe, you will be using parchment paper to avoid horrible sticking, so the tortilla won't actually be touching the press.

Flour Tortillas

3 cups rice flour - finely ground works best.  If you're buying pre-ground and the tortilla isn't turning out thin and flexible, try using sweet rice flour from an Asian market.
1 1/2 cups tapioca flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup palm shortening or lard
1 T vinegar

Mix the first four ingredients together.  Cut in the shortening until it's the size of small peas and well distributed.  Add the vinegar and enough warm water to give you a dough the consistency of play dough.  This varies from time to time for me but is usually a little less than a cup.  Knead a few times and divide into balls the size of a small egg.  Put back in the mixing bowl and cover with a towel.

I fry mine on a dry electric frying pan heated to the top temperature, but any hot pan will work.  Put a piece of parchment on the bottom of the press and liberally sprinkle with tapioca flour.  Put one of the dough balls on top of it and sprinkle with more tapioca flour.  Put a second piece of parchment paper on top and press firmly down.  

Take the top piece of parchment paper off, lift up the bottom piece with the pressed dough, turn upside down and put it on the hot pan.  Press another!  I work with three at a time.  When there are two on the pan, I turn over the one I put on first (it will have small brownish spots) and put on the third tortilla.  After I press a fourth tortilla, I put the first one on a towel and cover it with another towel, turn the second tortilla over, and put the new tortilla on the pan.  Pretty soon you'll get in a rhythm!

These keep well in the refridgerator for a few days, but need to be warmed (I warm mine in the microwave) to become soft and pliable again.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Strawberry Lemonade Sorbet

During our heat wave here in the Northwest, we were all thinking of anything at all to feel cooler - and for me that means ice cream and sorbet!  It's strawberry season all summer long here.  It starts off with the absolutely best strawberries in the world - Hoods.  If you haven't been in the NW or grown them yourself, you've most likely never tasted them because they don't ship or keep well at all.  They start in June for a short few weeks.

But there are plenty of other delicious varieties!  Right now my favorite fruit stand (about 1 mile west of where Hwy. 26 goes down to two lanes on the way to the coast) has Albions - delicious and available usually all summer.  I bought a flat to freeze, eat, and cook with .... and they were gone in a flash!  Not before I saved enough for Strawberry Lemonade Sorbet, though - it combines two of my favorite summer treats, lemonade and strawberries!  Edit:  this is not a recipe for those strictly limiting their histamines.  See the comments below for more explanation.

Strawberry Lemonade Sorbet

1 cup strawberries (about - a little more never hurts!)
1 cup organic cane sugar
1 cup water
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1T homemade vanilla

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves.  When cooled, add in the lemon juice.  Put the strawberries in a blender and puree, add the lemon-sugar-water mixture and vanilla and blend until smooth.  Process in an ice cream/sorbet maker and then let sit in the freezer for a few hours to finish firming up - if you can wait that long to eat it!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Mayonnaise 101

If you've never tried homemade mayonnaise, you're in for a treat!  The flavor is so much better than anything you can buy at the store and you avoid all that processing and the long list of non-food ingredients.  In fact, you really only need three things to make mayonnaise - egg yolks, oil, and an acid.

Understanding a little bit about the science behind mayonnaise can help you see what's happening in each of the steps.  Mayonnaise is an example of an emulsion.  Basically, emulsions are just stable mixtures of two ingredients that don't normally mix, in this case oil and water.  Even if you whisk oil and water until your arm falls off, they will separate after you stop.  So what you need to do is find a way to get them to stay together - that's where emulsifiers come in.

In this mayonnaise recipe, the egg yolk and the mustard powder act as emulsifiers.  Think of an emulsifier as a stabilizer.  Egg yolks contain lecithin, which coats the surface of the oil droplets and prevents them from coming together again.  This keeps them suspended in the water ingredients.  The mustard powder with its very fine particles acts in a similar way.

Besides having emulsifiers, the other big key to making mayonnaise is to add the oil very, very slowly so it has time to disperse.  That's why you'll see instructions to add it a drop at a time or in a very thin, threadlike stream.  I bet the most common reason for not having an emulsion form when making mayonnaise is the oil being added too quickly!  If this happens, all is not lost.  Mix another egg yolk with about a teaspoon each of water and the acid you're using and slowly whisk the unsuccessful mayo (it's usually referred to as being "broken") into this.

One more thing before we get to the recipe - the egg yolk.  Because mayonnaise is not cooked, use a fresh egg that you are reasonably sure is from a chicken that does not carry salmonella.  If you don't raise your own eggs, talk to a farmer who does.  Eat Wild and Local Harvest are two websites that can help you find people near you who raise food.  The other reason you want a fresh egg is that lecithin breaks down as the egg ages and you want lots of lecithin to help your emulsion form!

Homemade Olive Oil Mayonnaise

1 cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 T room temperature water
1 T lemon juice
1 room temperature egg yolk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. mustard powder

I use a food processor - regular blenders work and I know people who use immersion blenders with great success.  I just have trouble holding the immersion blender in one hand while slowly streaming the oil with the other - it's a coordination problem!  If you use a food processor, look at the lid and see if there is a tiny hole.  Cuisinart is one brand that has a small cup insert in the lid that has a tiny hole in the bottom.  This is so you can pour the oil into the cup and it will automatically stream into the mixture in a thin stream - very handy!

Add all ingredients except for the olive oil and give it a short whirl to mix.  With the motor continuously running, begin adding the oil in a very, very thin stream.  Like a thin thread.  Keep doing this and you'll notice the mixture begins to thicken up.  As it becomes thicker, you can begin to add the oil in a little bit thicker of a stream.  But still keep it slow!  You want to give the oil a chance to form tiny droplets that disperse and don't gather together.

Continue until you have used all of the oil.  Occasionally I'll have a great emulsion and still have about a quarter cup of oil left.  I usually stop there and don't add the extra oil.  It's already mayonnaise!

You can get creative with your own, homemade mayonnaise!  Try adding chopped up herbs at the end or a spoonful of pesto.  You can also play around with using different vinegars or wine instead of the lemon juice.  We enjoy adding grated lemon peel and garlic to make a dipping sauce for artichokes.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Raspberry Cheese Pie

Hmmm .... how time flies!  The last year has been filled with a lot of changes - all good and all adding to my full days.  We bought some land in Northwest Oregon a couple of years ago that we are working at turning into a farm and this last year I've been spending more and more of my time living there and working.  Our first grandson was born in October!  He's a darling, calm baby - who happens to live on the East Coast, so I've been traveling, which I love to do.

Some of you found this blog while searching for help when newly diagnosed with large numbers of food allergies, histamine intolerance, or IBS.  The good news for me is that my gut seems to be completely healed and I am having very few problems with histamines.  I'm almost five years into my massive allergy diagnosis and cooking/eating is a lot, lot easier!  Also, I had my DNA run through 23 and Me and with the help of Genetic Genie found I have several methylation defects that predispose me to histamine problems, gut problems, and more but are easily treatable with non-synthetic vitamins.  I highly recommend Dr. Ben Lynch's website here if you're wondering if this might also help you.

What does all this mean for this blog?  I'm ready to post more regularly - spending so much time in the Northwest with all the wonderful, healthy choices for food, I find I have more to share and say.  As has been happening for awhile, not all recipes will be low histamine - they'll be marked if they're not.  However, we do still tend to eat fairly low histamine.  One of the benefits of my cooking low histamine was discovering histamines were causing my husband several problems.  The recipes will continue to be as free of my allergens as I know how to be.  Some allergies, such as corn, seem to be tricky - derivatives or levels of contamination that work for some, won't for others.  I tend to cook completely from scratch without derivatives, but occasionally they do sneak in, so use your best judgment on what will work for you!

This week in my corner of Oregon, the raspberries are ripening!  We have a small area of the canes - we're planning on adding more, but I wonder if there will ever be enough?  They're one of my favorite fruits and one that is so hard to find corn free in stores, between the soaker pads, packaging, and possible sprays for fresh and packaging, cross contamination, and citric acid with frozen.  So I gorge on them in July and ration out my jam and syrup the rest of the year!  I picked our first larger amount yesterday and made this delicious, easy pie - the only hard part is not eating the whole thing!

Raspberry Cheese Pie

2 1/4 cups coarsely ground toasted almonds
2/3 cup palm shortening, melted
6T organic cane sugar

Mix all together and spread into a pie pan.  You can use as is or bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes for a harder crust.

6 oz. goat chevre
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup organic cane sugar
1T lemon juice
1T homemade vanilla
2t gelatin
About 1 pint of raspberries

Add sugar and gelatin to food processor and give a couple of whirls to mix.  Heat coconut milk to warm and add, along with the cheese, lemon juice, and vanilla.  Process until well mixed and pour into the crust.  Refrigerate for a few hours.  Before serving, spread the berries over the top.