Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sweet and Tangy Kale Quinoa Slaw


1/2 cup cooked quinoa*
3 cups finely shredded baby kale
1/4 of a medium head of cabbage, finely shredded (about 2-3 cups)
1/3 cup finely diced seedless cucumber
1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
4 medium-sized scallions (both white and green parts), minced
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Fresh ground pepper to taste

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
Juice of 2 clementines (about 4 Tablespoons)
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Make a batch of quinoa in advance following instructions on its package. Allow plenty of time for it to cool.

Chop, shred, grate & mince all the remaining salad ingredients, then toss lightly in a large bowl, along with the cooled quinoa.

Been chopping? Nooo, been chopping…

In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients together.

Drizzle dressing on salad immediately before serving, or put dressing in a cruet and allow each person to drizzle over his or her individual portion of salad.

Salad and dressing may be prepared up to 2 days in advance and will stay fresh as long as they are separate in the refrigerator. Once they are combined, the mixture is best eaten immediately.

Makes approximately 8 half-cup servings.

*I often prepare far more quinoa than I will need for a meal, and freeze the leftovers so that I will have some left over for these times. If your freezer is overstocked, or you don't have leftover grain & you don't have a lot of time to allow your quinoa to cool, the above link will show you how to cool it to room temperature quickly, too.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Roly-Poly Fish Cakes

Eat them up, YUMMM!
I sometimes crave crab cakes. This can become a hardship, now, for two reasons: I'm land-locked, and I'm allergic.

The first part is not much of a problem, really, since even in flyover country, they can still deliver relatively fresh or frozen seafoods. The allergies, though, are another matter. Really. I can't have shellfish. Regular fish are not so bad, but the last time I had those allergy tests done, I got a severe warning from my allergist about dosing myself up with antihistamines and gorging on Captain Bill's mostly-crab-and-pepper delights. Apparently, that sort of thing is not good for a body. Who would 'a' thunk?

Add to that, recently I learned I have a little trouble with wheat in all its permutations. No more bread crumbs. No more panko-crusted, peppered flounder.  No more beer-battered catfish. Not even a crummy Filet-O-Fish sammich from Mickey D's. 

Not that I'm destroyed by the fact that my fish must now be served naked as the day it was caught (well, nakeder, actually, since it loses its scales and bones, et cetera), but sometimes seafood likes the company of a tender ground grain as it goes across the tongue…tenderer than cornmeal, that is. Naturally, this led me to see if I could make a wheat-free fish cake which could make me not pine so greatly for the fjords…no, wait, that was a Norwegian Blue parrot, wasn't it? I only pined for a patty.

And, so, I set about trying to make something which could pass muster as actually good for me…and, in the process, I managed to get my folks to eat something besides the usual steak-and-potatoes they've grown accustomed to feasting upon each night.

And the best part is, it's pretty darned simple and light. No frying, no gigantic mess…it takes about 15 minutes to prepare, and bakes in 20 to 25 minutes. While it bakes, you might even sit back and enjoy this classic song. And, maybe a fish dance.

A fishy requisittttttttttttte…

Roly-Poly Fish Cakes


3/4 lb fresh or frozen (thawed) whitefish, cut into chunks (I, being an art fan, used Pollock)
1 3/4 cups crumbs of rice squares cereal
1/2 large red bell pepper, minced (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup)
4 scallions, chopped
2 Tablespoons sweet bread-and-butter jalapeño relish, optional*
2 large eggs plus the white of one more
1/3 cup lowfat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (I use white peppercorns)

Lemon wedges
Fresh baby arugula or other tender savory greens


Preheat oven to 450º F.

Grease a nonstick 12-pocket muffin tin.

For the crumbs: in a food processor or blender, pulse 2 cups at a time of gluten-free rice squares cereal (Rice Chex will be fine. I buy a regional store brand, because I'm cheap), until you have at least 1 1/2 cups of coarse crumbs.

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients thoroughly. Spoon into muffin tin pockets (I used an old-fashioned mechanical ice cream scoop. It's fast, efficient, and gives equal portions without your having to think too hard).

Bake 20-25 minutes, until the top is crispy and the centers are tender. 

Best served hot on a bed of lemon-spritzed arugula salad. Garnish with more lemon wedges , if you like.  These cakes also may be prepared in advance, refrigerated, and served as much as 2 days later (either reheated or served cold) with seafood sauce or tartar sauce.

Serves 6 (2 cakes per person).

*If you don't have sweet-and-hot pickled pepper relish handy, and still want that kick, you may wish to substitute 2 Tbs minced bread and butter pickles and about 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (or comparable hot sauce. I know the trendy thing right now is Sriracha. If you use this, use it judiciously, so as to not overwhelm the other flavors).

Friday, March 14, 2014

Whippy ganache

Cake is now offensive to nanny-staters.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Coconut Surprise Cake

It has a secret...

It's the birthday of the friend who built my bed frame. Well, it was really his birthday a couple of days ago, but we're having a Friday night supper party, and I got the honor of baking his cakes. 

That's right, I said "cakes." Plural. 

This is partly because he and his family deserve it, partly because there will likely be a fairly large gathering, and mostly because one or two of us who will be there are a little sensitive to wheat, so there will be two: one cake is the standard white all-purpose flour treat, and the other is a variation on it, using a blend of non-wheat flours. 

I usually stick to the safe and affordable Bob's Red Mill GF All-Purpose flour for most baked items (biscuits, crackers, bread rolls, etc.), but when it comes to cake, I like a little more…something something cakey. Bob's GF AP flour can be a little beany and a little grainy, and some people (okay, that would be just me) kind of want a slightly more traditional tongue finish to our cakes, even when they're those dense pound cakes or brownie cakes, such as this one. This is supposed to be almost gooey in the middle and a little crispy in the crust, like a brownie wrapped around a macaroon. It called for a slightly different blend.

So, having just received a fresh batch of fine (pastry quality) sweet rice flour, I decided to add it to the mix. I'll be trying to make a batch of these, in a week or so, filled with lemon curd in anticipation of Pop's natal anniversary, but there's nothing in the rules of our kitchen to say I can't play with the stuff in other ways, ahead of that occasion.

At any rate, the cakes are baked and chilling. I'm also planning to make a dangerous ganache to send it over the top…we'll see how that goes. Not that this cake needs anything to cover it up. It's just that a tub or two of that rich chocolate goodness usually gets itself into the hands our resident designer/builder as a standard for this occasion, and I'd hate to give him an unpleasant surprise.

Meanwhile…chocolatey, coconutty, cakey cakeness:


Gluten-free Chocolate Coconut Surprise Cake


Coconut filling:
2 cups unsweetened coconut, finely shredded
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

Chocolate cake:
3 1/2 ounces fine extra-dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped, melted and allowed to cool
1 1/2 cups of your favorite gluten-free all-purpose flour 
1/2 cup fine-ground sweet rice flour (also called sticky rice flour)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/4 teaspoons  vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt


Coconut filling:
In a small bowl, thoroughly combine the coconut, condensed milk, and egg white.

On a sheet of plastic wrap, lay out mixture, roll tightly to form a rope approximately 18 inches long, place in refrigerator to chill at least a half hour.

Chocolate cake: 
Preheat oven to 325º F.*
Heavily grease bundt or tube pan and dust with corn starch or cocoa powder (I like cocoa powder, because it leaves no white residue on the cake when baked).

Chop the chocolate into 1/4 inch bits and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Place in microwave oven and cook on high 30 seconds. Stir. Place back in microwave oven and cook on high another 30 seconds. Stir. If still not melted, cook some more, in increments of 15 seconds, stirring and allowing to 30 seconds. When almost fully melted, stir until smooth, then let stand to cool back down to room temperature.

In a small mixing bowl, sift together the flours, xanthan gum, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter with the standard beater paddle, until it is fluffy. Add sugar, beat on high until creamy and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on high after each one until it is fully mixed before adding the next egg. When this is light and fluffy, add the vanilla, and, while the mixer still runs, pour in the melted chocolate, in a thin stream. Mix until batter is smooth and even.

Add in 1/3 of the dry ingredient combination, mixing well, then adding in 1/3 of the yogurt, again mixing well. Repeat with the next 1/3 dry mix, then yogurt, and then again to complete the process.

When everything is combined, it will make a very thick batter – almost a soft dough, resembling the batter of most good brownies. With a rubber spatula, scoop it out into the pan and with moistened spatula or fingers, create a central channel.

coco channel

Take the coconut rope out of the refrigerator, unwrap it and press it as deeply as you can into the top of the chocolate cake batter.


This is easier said than done, as the rope is fragile. Gently roll it out of the plastic wrap into the indentation. Smooth the chocolate batter around the coconut to make it level. You don't need to cover up the coconut. The chocolate will rise around it a tiny bit, but also, when it bakes up, the toasted coconut is less likely to stick to the parchment or cake plate than the chocolate is, and its flavor is awesome!)

Bake approximately 70 minutes, or until cake tester (or toothpick) inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Allow to cool in pan on rack at least 1/2 hour. If necessary, loosen cake from pan with very thin, flexible blade. Place disc of parchment over top of cake, then cover that with cake platter. Carefully invert and remove pan from cake. Cover cake in ganache or chocolate glaze.

They won't see the coconut until you slice the cake (yes, that's the surprise. I know, it's not that big a surprise, but, hey, we get our little thrills where we can) and serve with ice cream or stout ale – or both.

*If you use regular, non-gluten-free all-purpose flour, you'll want to omit the xanthan gum,  set the oven to 350º F., and bake for only 60 minutes, or until the toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

It's a cake!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Simple Cocoa Glaze (fat free! vegan! gluten-free! hard-core sugar-and-cocoa rush!)

I like a good frosting usually, but there are times when a glaze is called for. This one has no fat, is gluten-free, lactose free, vegan, soy-free…basically, the only sin is in the sugar, and, well, who cares about that on a sunny spring morn? Just go ahead and throw this together for a simple way to finish a denser cake, or to top a bowl of ice cream…or even to pour into a glass of seltzer water.

Simple Cocoa Glaze


1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


In a 1-quart saucepan (or larger), combine sugar and water. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Remove from heat, whisk in cocoa and vanilla. Allow to cool a few minutes, until it begins to film over. (It should have the color and consistency of something you drain from the oil pan of a recently-run – but not hot – 1972 Ford Maverick owned by a teen-aged girl, but will absolutely not smell or taste like it. Please wait to lick the pan, until you've finished glazing your cake.)
This will pan out

Brush a thin layer over cake, allow to dry slightly. Repeat at least 2 more times, each time allowing the glaze to dry a little before applying the next coat. When all the glaze is applied, refrigerate the cake until chilled and glaze begins to crackle.

This is delightful on denser chocolate cakes, such as pound cakes and brownie cakes. Covers one bundt cake with four to five layers and a few drips; the standard tube cake will only receive three coats, unless you want to be naughty and make a double batch. Which describes me to a tee.

Just waiting to crackle

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mini-Margarita Cheesecakey Bites

Yesterday was haircut day. In this neighborhood, the genius who does the work on The Bat's and my challenging mops gets not only cash and hugs, but something a little decadent from the kitchen. Sometimes it's chocolate, sometimes it's liquor...this time, it's tequila (cue the Peewee Herman dance, and tell 'em Large Marge sent you).

Not only is it tequila, it's cheesecakes. Bite-sized. No-bake. So none of the liquor bakes out. And you can easily lose track of how much you've had.

That's not a bug, it's a feature.

Another feature is, it's really a quick-and-easy process. Once I assembled the ingredients, and the cream cheese was allowed to soften to room temperature, the whole thing took only 20 minutes for me to prepare. It makes at least 7 dozen (if you have that many good, bowl-shaped tortilla scoops. Otherwise, it makes as many as you can get, plus a small bowl full of tasty, tangy dip).

There's another plus to this: the alcohol is totally optional (unless it's going to the salon)!

It's great for parties, either way, so if you have a Spring Break event, or you're thinking all the way ahead to Cinco de Mayo or graduation day, or somebody's wedding, you can make a gazillion of these in short order, either teetotalling or liquored up, and people will go bonkers.

How to drink your Margaritas without looking like you're drinking…

Mini-Margarita Cheesecakey Bites


1 (10 ounce) bag tortilla "scoops" bowl-shaped chips
1 (8 ounce) packet cream cheese
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup tequila (optional)
1/8 cup orange liqueur (optional)
1 (6 ounce) can* frozen limeade concentrate - DO NOT THAW!


Make sure you have room in your refrigerator.  

Set up trays of tortilla chip bowls: (I used three 12-inch pizza pans with low rims to hold them in place as I worked). Select at least 80 chips from bag, based on their shape - good, unbroken, with high sides and slightly flattened bottoms so they will hold the filling and still stand alone on a plate.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream cheese until it is fluffy. Add in condensed milk, beat until smooth, then mix in tequila, orange liqueur, and frozen limeade concentrate. Mix well.

Using a 2-teaspoon-sized cookie scoop like this one, or a piping bag with no special tip, fill each tortilla scoop with the batter. When each tray is completed, cover lightly with plastic and put it in the refrigerator. Allow to chill at least two hours, until mostly firm (they do not freeze very well, I'm sorry to say).

Serve topped with whipped cream. You may choose to go the lazy way & get pre-fab stuff, like the canned whipped cream, or the frozen non-dairy whipped topping, or you can, a few minutes before you're ready to serve, make some lime-whipped cream:

Special whipped cream topping:
1 pint whipping cream
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 Tablespoon ultrafine granulated sugar*

In a chilled bowl, beat whipping cream and lime juice on high until soft peaks begin to form. Sprinkle sugar into cream, continuing to beat until light and fluffy and stiff peaks begin to form - but be careful! You want to stop before it turns to butter! 

Allow your guests to apply their whipped cream on their own – from the can or with a teaspoon – then just sit back and enjoy the accolades.

*I ended up buying a 12-ounce can of limeade concentrate (that's all they had at Aldi), used half the can in the cheesecake filling, then allowed the remaining concentrate to thaw, substituted 2 Tablespoons of that for the lime juice and sugar, and made a quart of limeade, as well, to carry with me as a drink mixer for the afternoon/evening crowd.