Weekend Cooking buttonWeekend Cooking is a weekly feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads, linking up food-related posts. Click here for links to this week’s Weekend Cooking posts on Beth Fish Reads and other blogs.

I wrote a post a while back about venturing onto Pinterest, wary of another social media site to keep up with. Actually, I can blame Weekend Cooking for my crazy bouts of pinning since then, because that post, Honey Beer Chicken, Pinterest, and Me, came about after I read bookchickdi’s Weekend Cooking post about pinning that recipe (and making it), among others.

Menu planning is the most fun part of hosting Easter dinner. Making the desserts is the second, and spring cleaning for company comes in a distant tenth or fifteenth. So, when I saw this recipe for a naturally gluten-free dessert, Lemon, Ricotta and Almond Flourless Cake, on a baking blog with a cute name, Cakelets and Doilies, that seemed perfect for an Easter dessert, I just had to start a Gluten-Free Easter Pinterest board, to go with my Gluten-Free Thanksgiving and Gluten-Free Christmas boards.

I also pulled out my new cookbook by Mollie Katzen, The Heart of the Plate, and picked out some veggie recipes to try from there, that I couldn’t pin because they aren’t online. So far I have made the Grated Carrot Salad (easy, once the carrots were grated) and made the polenta for the Crispy Polenta Triangles.

In the end, I didn’t add any recipes that I found online except the cake, so I guess I still trust my printed cookbooks more than Pinterest. The cake was also an experiment in using the Speed Bake function of our oven because the recipe called for convection cooking. I ended up baking it about 10 minutes longer than the 40-45 minutes, because the middle still seemed wobbly, so it’s possibly overcooked, but it looks good in the pan, before and after baking! Will try to remember to take a picture after sifting confectioner’s sugar on top and slicing it. (We have an assortment of gluten-free cookies from the freezer as back-up, if the cake is a failure. The recipe had to be converted from the original Australian metric weight measurements to American volume measurements, so it’s iffy!)

photo before it goes into the oven

Lemon, Ricotta and Almond Cake ready to go into the oven. How the heck do you line a round pan with parchment paper? It was worse than putting down contact paper the way it kept rolling itself back up!

photo of cake still in pan

According to the comments, the cake is “supposed” to sink like that. I think it actually means I didn’t beat the egg whites enough. If you look at the recipe, you’ll see you’re supposed to whisk them by hand into stiff peaks after using the electric mixer to the soft peak stage. I tried, but my arm wasn’t up to it!

Easter Menu Plan

Appetizers
Deviled eggs
Fresh-roasted cashews
Cranberry Salsa and tortilla chips (not Easter-y, but will use the last of our frozen cranberries up)
Fresh cantaloupe

Side Dishes
Steamed asparagus (of course!)
Crispy Polenta Triangles (The Heart of the Plate)
Grated Carrot Salad (The Heart of the Plate)
Citrus-Pine Nut Broccoli Slaw (from The Associated Press)
Roasted Vegetables (my mom is bringing)

Main Courses (Carnivore and Vegetarian)
Ham (with Maple-Mustard Glaze from The Heart of the Plate)
Kashmiri Koftas (from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking) — Hubby is making these!
Carmelized Onion Frittata with Artichoke Hearts, Zucchini, and Goat Cheese (The Heart of the Plate)

Bread
Orange Juice Bread (from Gluten-Free Baking Classics)
Gluten-Free Cheesy Biscuits (from a Tastefully Simple mix I bought at a farmer’s market because I felt sorry for the salesperson and later discovered was manufactured in a facility that also processes wheat, so I’m going to use it up while we don’t have anyone for dinner who is on a gluten-free diet.)

Happy Easter and Happy Weekend Cooking!

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Weekend Cooking buttonWeekend Cooking is a weekly feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads, linking up food-related posts. Click here for links to this week’s Weekend Cooking posts on Beth Fish Reads and other blogs.

I like to bake, but am not very ambitious. I stick with simple recipes, but I prefer to bake from scratch. I usually see recipes that start off with a mix as cheating, but that’s probably silly, especially when it comes to gluten-free baking, where half the battle is putting together your own mix of flours before you even start the actual recipe.

Yesterday I added white chocolate chips and dried cranberries to a King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Cookie Mix and brought a large plate of them for an event at the library. No one studied them before taking one or questioned whether there was something different about them, and there were only two left on the plate at the end. I ate those!

I wouldn’t call them perfect, but they were tasty! They were softer than I like, but they definitely beat slice-and-bake cookies for homemade taste and appearance, and they were very quick to make.

I saved a few aside to freeze, to see how they hold up, for future reference.

 I posted about King Arthur Flour cake mixes for Weekend Cooking before, here. If you aren’t familiar with the King Arthur Flour blog and you like to bake, check it out here.

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Weekend Cooking buttonWeekend Cooking is a weekly feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads, linking up food-related posts. Click here for links to this week’s Weekend Cooking posts on Beth Fish Reads and other blogs.

I’m not on a gluten-free diet, but we’ve been keeping our kitchen pretty much gluten-free since Thanksgiving, so if our two adult children who have been diagnosed with celiac disease come to visit, we’ll just have to do a thorough cleaning; all of the new pans, bowls, utensils, etc. that we bought have still only been used with 100% gluten-free ingredients. (All this to explain I’m not on a fad diet; we have been learning how to have a safe kitchen for our whole family.)

cover image of Artisinal Gluten-Free CookingWe’ve been making gluten-free meals for a few months and Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking by Kelli and Peter Bronski has been my guide. If you’re looking for one cookbook of gluten-free recipes that can do it all, I recommend this one! The subtitle of Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking sums it up: 275 Great-Tasting, From-Scratch Recipes from Around the World, Perfect for Every Meal and for Anyone on a Gluten-Free Diet – and Even Those Who Aren’t. (I like a subtitle that writes my review for me…)

The first thing you learn about gluten-free cooking is that everyone has a favorite blend of flours to substitute for the all-purpose or whole wheat flour usually used in recipes. Cookbook authors Kelli and Peter Bronski, who write the food blog No Gluten, No Problem, are no exception. You can find the recipe for their Artisanal Gluten-Free Flour Blend on their blog.

I expected going gluten-free would be especially difficult in baking, but I guess I never realized how many appetizer, salad, and main course recipes call for flour or some sort of gluten-containing ingredient like pasta, pastry dough, pizza dough, barley, or bread. Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking has over 100 pages of Sweet Treats and Desserts recipes, but also has substantial sections covering Breakfasts and Breads, Appetizers, Soups and Salads, Sides, Entrees, and even Drinks.

I have the 2012 edition of this book, which was originally released in 2009. In the preface, the authors explain that they’ve revised and updated recipes from the first edition, added more than fifteen new recipes, included weight measurements for baking, added fifty all-new full-page photographs, and tried “to make the recipes and information even more accessible and user-friendly.” The authors, Kelli and Peter, write about going gluten-free in a hype-free way and are sensibly matter-of-fact about the current gluten-free dieting craze (See Peter’s response to reading Wheat Belly.)

This is an excerpt from the introduction to Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking:

Gluten, a family of proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye, is pervasive in American cooking and eating. At first glance, it’s everywhere we look: bread, pasta, cake, cookies, beer, cereal, pizza…and the list goes on. If cells are the building blocks of life, then gluten might unfortunately be called the building block of the average American diet.

The recipes in Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking reflect a variety of ethnic influences, including Chinese and Indian, that don’t always call for gluten-containing ingredients, but the cookbook doesn’t rely solely on recipes that are naturally gluten-free such as Mango-Pineapple Salsa, Scrambled Omelet, Quinoa Salad with Vinaigrette, Whole Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables, and Flan. There are also delicious-sounding recipes for foods such as Belgian Waffles, Bruschetta, Shrimp Pasta Salad, Penne a la Vodka, and Almond Cake. This cookbook includes family-friendly recipes that will please a variety of palates from children’s to grandparents’, as well as more unusual dishes. It’s not vegetarian, but includes many vegetarian and seafood recipes.

I still want to try a lot more recipes from this book, especially Brussels Sprouts and Tofu Fried Rice (I’m a recent shaved Brussels Sprouts convert and a vegetarian wannabe, so this recipe sounds delicious to me!) and Sticky Caramel Popcorn (say no more). Some recipes that I’ll probably wait till we’re having company to try are Rosemary Focaccia, Garlic Naan, Honey Mustard Chicken and Green Apple Salad, Margherita Empanadas, Snickerdoodles, Carrot Cake, and Champagne Citrus Punch. I doubt I’ll ever try making my own pasta, but if you’re a homemade pasta maker who’s had to go gluten-free, this book has you covered!

Here’s what we’ve made so far:

photo of food on plate over rice

Pacific Rim Stir-Fry — Substituted tofu for chicken as suggested for a vegetarian option in this recipe flavored with fresh pineapple and ginger. (The recipe calls for cooked edamame, which I didn’t have, so I threw in a few chopped scallions instead, for color.)

photo of chicken surrounded by steamed broccoli

General Chang’s Chicken gets its sweet-sour-hot flavor from orange juice, cranberry juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, and chili paste. Delicious over rice, or just plain with steamed broccoli.

Soup in a bowl with open cookbook

Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup was easy and vegetarian. Used my immersion blender!

photo of stew in bowl

Made Lentil-Tomato Stew in the slow cooker. The recipe is on the No Gluten, No Problem blog, not in the cookbook!

photo of quiche on plate with slice of honeydew melon

Who doesn’t love Spinach and Cheese Quiche?

Made successfully, but not pictured here: Butternut Squash Soup, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Apple Pie with Streusel Topping, Frosted Sugar Cookies, and Molasses Cookies. (I also tried the recipe for fudge, unsuccessfully, but I’m going to try again. I overcooked the mixture on the stove because I didn’t have the candy thermometer far enough into the mixture. A separate Weekend Cooking post entirely on fudge will go into detail on the various fudge recipes I’ve tried!)

To sum up, it would be easy to plan family meals or a dinner party entirely gluten-free from this cookbook. I see on the No Gluten, No Problem blog that the authors are coming out with another cookbook called Gluten-Free Family Favorites, and that one looks good, too.

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking
Bronski, Kelli and Peter
The Experiment, 2012
978-1-61519-050-8
332pp.
$21.95, US

Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of this cookbook, but a close family member works for the publisher.

Library advocates swarmed the Massachusetts State House yesterday, March 31, for Library Legislative Day. It’s a day to recognize and thank legislators who do so much to support libraries across the state, and to ask for support for library-related budget line items and proposed legislation this year.

The weather didn’t cooperate, so instead of this:

photo on sunny day

We had this:

photo on a cloudy, rainy dayBut inside the State House, we were all thinking sunny thoughts as speaker after speaker talked about the importance of libraries – not for books alone, but for Internet access, meeting room space, reading material for blind or vision-impaired residents, business research, legal research, literacy programs, and more.

Highlights

at the podium

Executive Director, Massachusetts Center for the Book

Massachusetts Center for the Book Executive Director Sharon Shaloo spoke about the dire need of funding for the Center, which was formed in 2000 and charged with developing outreach and partnership between libraries and other communities, such as booksellers, publishers, and authors, to increase the outreach potential of Massachusetts libraries. She asked for support for Bill H.3292, sponsored by library caucus leader Rep. Kate Hogan, to make the Center a public-private partnership, in this legislative session. The bill is currently with the House Ways & Means Committee, so the committee members are the legislators to contact now, to ask them to vote the bill out of committee so it can be voted on and passed during this legislative session.

On the bright side, Sharon announced that the Massachusetts Book Award judges have chosen the Must-Read finalists for 2014. The list will be up on the Massachusetts Center for the Book home page this week; winners will be announced at the Massachusetts Library Conference. [Update: View the list of 2014 Massachusetts Must-Reads here.]

School Libraries

Many school libraries in Massachusetts are no longer staffed by librarians, so children in some schools are losing out on the school library experience. Speaker Kendall Boninti, winner of the Super Librarian Accolade, pleaded for support for Bill S.1906 to study school libraries, saying the bill “asks a very simple question: ‘What does a good school library look like?’” The bill is currently in the Senate Ways & Means Committee, so it needs to be voted on there and then voted on by the Senate.

Massachusetts School Library Association (MSLA) awarded prizes for the 2014 Bookmark Contest at the State House yesterday, and the talented young artists came with their families and school librarians to receive their awards, meet their representatives, and tour the State House. Author Carolyn DeChristofano gave signed copies of her book, A Black Hole Is Not a Hole, to the first-place winners in each age group.

The winning bookmarks were on display:

Library Advocates

Senate Majority Leader Stanley Rosenberg was given a standing ovation when he received the 2014 Advocacy Award. When he spoke, he reminded the audience that Massachusetts was home to the first public library in America.

Sponsor of Bill S.1906 to study Massachusetts public school libraries, Sen. Ken Donnelly joked that he’s still trying to make up for being banned from the Robbins Library in Arlington for rowdy behavior as a youth.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad, a library supporter, advised advocates to “share stories” with legislators. “Make them feel it.” She shared her own story about the library being the only place she was allowed to go to on her own, so she gave requests for research material to the reference librarian all the time, sending her deep into the stacks so she could kiss her boyfriend unobserved.

photo at podium

Rep. Kate Hogan — “Investing in libraries is the same as investing in our democracy.”

Rep. Kate Hogan speaking passionately about the need for library funding, said, “Investing in libraries is the same as investing in our democracy.”

For details on how to advocate for libraries in Massachusetts, or in your own state, check out this post, and dial that phone!

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