Saturday, October 23, 2010

Noodle Pudding, Sort Of

I made the mistake of buying some gluten-free pasta that was not Tinkyada a couple of weeks ago. It was on sale at Henry's for a really irresistible price.

Unfortunately, the pasta itself turned out to be pretty resistible.

It wasn't awful. It just didn't hold up well. It turned to mush -- as I'd been warned that all non-Tinkyada gluten free pasta would.

I got to thinking about noodle kugel, and how it's kinda sorta like baked french toast or strata: Eggs and dairy and such mixed with starchy stuff and baked. 

I had 4 ounces of the pasta spirals left, so why not make a small pasta pudding, kinda sorta like noodle kugel, for the Spouse?

So, I cooked the pasta. It was really nice not having to worry about cooking it for exactly the right number of minutes. If underdone, it'd cook some more when I put the eggy goo on it and baked it. If overdone, the eggy goo would disguise it.

Next, I tossed in some dried cranberries and some frozen ones.  Mixed a large egg with 1/2 cup almond milk; dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, & cloves; a splash of vanilla; and a tablespoon of raw sugar.

Poured the eggy goo over the pasta and baked it in the toaster oven at 350 for about 40 minutes.

It came out surprisingly good for being such lousy pasta.  Looking forward to seeing if Spouse 1.0 likes it.

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

In my defense, it been a long day at work.  I was tired and my hands hurt.

And, yes, I wanted chocolate pudding.

I was out of the handy little cuplets of Zensoy, and I really, really, really didn't want to bother with the homemade mess of cocoa powder, almond milk, and blah blah blah.  I was also out of arrowroot.

Spouse 1.0 had plenty of chocolate soy milk.  90 calories per cup.

Hmmmm.... What if I borrowed some?

The resulting pudding would be nearly as low cal as that famous name brand pudding I'd given up when we went healthy. Oh, happy low calorie thoughts.

But, what to thicken it with?  I had potato starch and tapioca starch.... And no arrowroot.

Tapioca pearls = tapioca pudding. So tapioca starch must be a most puddingly starch indeed.

Woo hoo! Low cal and just 2 ingredients!  Chocolate soy milk and tapioca starch.

Yes, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

As it cooked, I tasted it. Not bad, but bland and needed to be sweeter. Added a dash cinnamon, a splash of vanilla, a few drops stevia, and a very light sprinkle of raw sugar.

Tasted better, but as it thickened I noticed a very strange stretchy sliminess to its texture.  Ewww.

But, I really, really, really wanted chocolate pudding.

So I ate it.

And, was glad I'd only made four servings. 

On the bright side, it has separated less than all the other homemade non-dairy chocolate puddings. And, when chilled it's not so very stretchy and slimy. 

And it is chocolate.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Modular Cooking

My mom made the best chili.  She used real beans, usually a combination of pinto and kidney. She'd pick through the beans to make sure there were no rocks or other foreign matter. Then she'd rinse them a few times, put them in a huge pot, add water, and get them boiling.

She didn't soak them. Mom was a bean heretic. 

Next, she'd add all kinds of stuff. Chopped onion, bell pepper, canned tomatoes, real garlic, oregano, other seasonings, and hamburger. 

She didn't brown the hamburger first, the way recipes tell you to do. I guess she was a hamburger heretic too.

Like most of Mom's cooking, chili was an all-day affair.  Real food requires real cooking. And real cooking requires real time. Lots of it.

I don't have entire days to devote to cooking.

I have minutes. 30 here, 15 there.  I have to cook in modules.  It goes something like this:

Week one: Brown 2 or 3 lbs of hamburger with onions, garlic, and other seasonings. Place in two containers, label with the date, and freeze them.

Week two:  On Sunday morning, pick through about 1.5 lbs of black beans.  Rinse, drain, add water, and set aside to soak. Shower, dress, go to church.  After church, drain the beans, add water and seasonings, and put them on the stove to cook.  Eat lunch, then do laundry and other Sunday afternoon chores while the beans cook. When they're done, package in several containers of various sizes and freeze.

Week three: Take 1 package of hamburger and a large container of beans out of freezer to thaw. Run a bunch of Saturday-type errands.  About 1/2 hour before dinner, dump the black beans and hamburger in a 3 quart pot. Add 1 can organic tomatoes, 1/2 can organic tomato paste, the last of the pre-chopped Trader Joe onions, some dehydrated garlic, oregano, chili powder, cumin, celery seed, and whatever else strikes your fancy.  Add more garlic.

Voila. Easy, healthy chili. And, it only took three weeks to make it.

Garnish with a few blue corn tortilla chips and call it dinner.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Vanillascotch Pudding

Yup, I continue my quest for an easy and perfect pudding.

For now, I'm giving up on the crock pot chocolate pudding.  I think I'm finally strong enough to stir a 4-serving recipe on the stove, and the extra work hauling out and washing the crock pot is no longer mitigated by being able to spread the stirring out.

I'll still crock pot the tapioca. It's not as high-maintenance as chocolate.

So, hurray for stove-top chocolate pudding.  But, woman does not live by chocolate pudding alone, or even chocolate with periodic bouts of tapioca.  I need butterscotch.

Luckily, there are recipes for butterscotch out there. So, last week I decided to make butterscotch pudding.

Of course, I can't leave well enough alone. I can't even leave "well enough except for substituting almond milk" alone.

First change: Just say no to processed sugar -- even brown sugar. Raw demerara. About 1/4 what the recipe calls for. And, add a tiny bit of molasses to provide extra brown-ness to the raw sugar.

Next change: Substitute 1/4 date sugar for brown, just because I have it on hand, and just because it's novel.

Third: Leave out the other half of  the sugar. Add some liquid stevia.

Use 1/2 the butter the recipe calls for.  Never mind the fact that this is supposed to be butterscotch. Who needs all that fat?

No corn starch. Arrowroot.

And, of course, almond milk instead of cow's.

Now, add a little extra vanilla to make up for all the flavor lost by cutting back on sugar and fat and such.

Not really butterscotch. Not really vanilla. Vanillascotch.

Results: Don't try this at home, kids.  It's ugly. The date sugar doesn't dissolve, leaving it grainy. It's not bad while it's still warm, and it's even edible when cold. But, who wants not-bad edibility for dessert?

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Sounds like something they'd serve on Cajun Night in the MIT cafeteria. But, no, this is not about how people from the fourth state pronounce things.

Spouse 1.0 loves, loves, loves the jambalaya at Mimi's.  He especially loves, loves, loves it over pasta instead of rice. And, any jambalaya out there is bound to contain sausage that in turn surely contains maltodextrin, dextrose, random sources of free glutamic acid, and assorted other unpronounceables.  Plus, last time I checked, Mimi's pasta wasn't gluten free.

But, it didn't start out as an attempt to give Spouse 1.0 a glutamic acid free, gluten free jambalaya-like experience. It started out as an attempt to throw something together for dinner.

Given my abscessed tooth, I was thinking I might have soft boiled eggs. Room temperature. Preferably sans pepper. Intravenously, if possible. Not something Spouse would welcome. 

Hmmm, what to fix for him?

Digging around in the freezer, I unearthed a 1 lb bag of pre-cooked shrimp from T-Jo. I had some chemical-free sausage I'd picked up at Whole Foods in the fridge. Even had a bell pepper or two.... Jambalaya!!

Problem: I have no idea what's really in jambalaya. And, with the abscessed tooth sapping my joie de vivre, I was in NO MOOD to research recipes. Besides, it's always more fun to just wing it.

So, step one: put shrimp in colander and run cold water over to thaw.

Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta.

Next: Cut up one 3 oz link of the Whole Foods mild Italian sausage and put it in a sauce pan.

After it browns a bit, toss in the chopped bell pepper and some pre-chopped onions. Turn heat down to low, add a little water, and cover.

Toss in a can of organic tomatoes and half a can of organic tomato paste. Cover and think about spices.

Garlic.  A bit of basil.  A pinch of oregano. Cumin. Maybe a bit of chili powder. Cayenne. Oops. Too much cayenne. Oh well.  Cover and hope for the best.

By now, the tomato & sausage mixture should be starting to boil. Turn heat really low.

Throw some gluten free pasta into the boiling water. Maybe 5 or 6 ounces. More if you like lots of pasta. Set the timer for 12 minutes, or whatever the pasta calls for.

Taste the tomato & sausage mixture. Add more cumin, basil, and garlic. Or whatever it is you think you need to add.

About 3 minutes before the pasta's done, stir the shrimp into the tomato & sausage mixture.  Cover.

When the pasta's done, drain it.

Put a little pasta in each person's bowl, top with the jambalaya-like mixture, and eat.

Not a true jambalaya. More like a jambaliar. But, not bad.  I think I'll do it again sometime.

Maybe I'll even read a recipe first.