just me

Archive for the ‘Breads / Grains’ Category

The Facts About Gluten

In Breads / Grains on November 16, 2011 at 6:50 pm

ZOMG. Click the pic to buy this Tom Vano print.


Talk about demonized — poor gluten. Gluten is blamed for many things — weight gain, slow metabolism, digestive problems… Most of them are not true.

“But wait,” you say, “my friend lost a bunch of weight by giving up gluten!” Maybe she did — but it wasn’t the absence of gluten. Maybe she was eating less food overall, maybe she started working out, maybe she started making healthier choices all around.

The truth is that most people will lose some weight in the first stages of a diet, only because it’s in the forefront of their minds and hasn’t become tedious yet. It takes a while to fail. But I digress — back to gluten.

There is nothing about gluten that makes you sick, makes you fat, causes autism, etc., etc., etc. Anybody who tells you any different is trying to sell you something. There is a very small segment of the population who needs to avoid gluten, but we’ll get to that. First, let’s get on the same page about what gluten is.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and related grains. That’s it, just a protein. It’s what provides the

Yup, yeast farts! (photo from Apple Pie, Patis and Pate - click the pic.)

structure and shape. You can see it at work in a slice of bread — see the air pockets? The air is gas released by yeast, and the “walls” of each bubble are made of gluten. In fact, the whole purpose of kneading is to stretch and strengthen the gluten fibers so they can more effectively trap the yeast farts inside the bread to make a fluffier loaf.

People with celiac disease (about 1% of the population) can’t eat gluten because their immune system sees it as an invader. An inflammatory reaction ensues, and tremendous pain and (possibly permanent) intestinal damage results. As the intestines get damaged, they lose the ability to absorb nutrients from food, so the sufferer begins to lose weight despite eating normally. Going gluten-free stops the process, and in most cases returns normal intestinal function. In other words, giving up gluten helps these people GAIN weight. Ha. Tell that to your friend!

There is a condition called gluten sensitivity that affects a wider swath of the population, but it’s difficult to pin down. Instead of digestive pain, it manifests as headaches, fatigue and other general yuckiness — much different from celiac disease. People with a non-celiac gluten sensitivity don’t incur any kind of intestinal damage from the gluten, it just makes them feel yucky. It’s a big range, though — some people can’t take it at all, while others can tolerate varying amounts up to a particular threshold. It’s really very individual. Many of these people quickly learn and abide by their personal threshold, but some must give up gluten entirely.

As for the rest of us, gluten poses no threat whatsoever. Feel free to give it up if you want, but any celiac sufferer can expound upon the inconvenience of the whole thing. Gluten-free food are not lower in calories or fat — in many cases they’re higher. They’re not healthier, they’re just made with a different grain.
Now if you want to give grains up altogether, that’s a different story. I have, and I don’t miss ‘em. But that’s a post for another day.


Spinach Pasta With Acorn Squash

In Breads / Grains, Pasta, Uncategorized, Vegetables on November 9, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Everybody jump in the wayback machine for a post from February 2011!!!

This meal is a great carb-loader. Go run a marathon! Or around the block. Or around the room...

Welcome to the new incarnation of Kitchenella! I thank you all for waiting. I know, I’ve taken a looong break, but I’m back with more delicious stuff. The difference is, this delicious stuff won’t turn you into an enormous fattie like the other delicious stuff.

Rest assured, there will be cheat days – after all, science has proven that one day a week of diet abandonment actually does you good. Just not EVERY day. Right, self? Um, yeah…

Okay. This post is about several things:

Acorn squash – because I had never had it before, and I always like to do different things with squash. So I made a pasta sauce out of it.

My new pasta machine – this one. My grandmother sent it to me for Christmas, and I couldn’t wait to try it out. I’ll post the recipe for the spinach pasta below, and I’ll share my adventures in pasta-making.

My new KitchenAid mixer – this one. W00T! Yeah, you can go ahead and be jealous. The mister gave it to me for Christmas, and I’ve been looking for reasons to use it just about every day since. Please notice that it is the PRO model, not the piddlin’ little Artisan. Heh heh. Don’t worry – you can still make the pasta without it.

So, on to the food. Like I said, squash. Good for you, pretty to look at, sweet and nutty, but once you’ve made soup with it, what do you do? I know, I wondered the same thing. For some reason, I have a hard time eating just plain old chunks of squash like a side dish.

I ended up taking a chance – I had an idea that a squash puree might be a good ravioli stuffing, so I tried. As it turned out, I severely overestimated my skills at making non-punctured ravioli, so that is a skill to polish for another day. But I still needed to make dinner, and I had all this pasta sitting around (see below), so I turned it into a sauce.

Genius! Awesome. Even the veggie-averse Gorilla raved about it. Different at first, perhaps, but definitely a keeper (just like, incidentally, the Gorilla himself).

And get a load of the nutritional info! Chock full, it is. Oh, by the way, I’ll be putting that stuff on every post, so no fooling yourself about your diet any longer. ‘Kay?

Acorn Squash Pasta Sauce:
1 acorn squash
salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, cumin to taste
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup peas, frozen
1 teaspoon lite maple syrup
dash coriander
2 carrots, shredded
2 ounces, mozzarella cheese, crumbled

Do this ahead of time – place the squash on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 for about an hour, or until the skin is dark and bubbly. Remove it from the oven and let it sit until it is completely cool.

Okay. When you start getting hungry, separate the squash from the skin – it should come right off. Throw away the seeds and stringy pulp, because it’s a weird texture and you don’t need it. You can roast the seeds, though – they make a nice snack.

Put the usable portion of the squash in a bowl and mash it until it’s smoothish. Add the spices except for the coriander – taste as you go, and add what makes you happy. I used only a dash of everything, but if you like stronger taste, go for it. Refrigerate the bowl until you are ready to use it.

Saute the onion in 2 tablespoons of canola oil until tender and translucent, and add the garlic and peas. Keep everything moving around the pan until  the peas are cooked through, about five minutes or so.

Add the squash, along with any liquid that may have separated and accumulated in the bottom of the bowl. Mix everything around, and add the syrup and coriander.

If your squash didn’t release very much liquid, you can thin the sauce with chicken or vegetable broth, but not too thin. If it’s too thin for your taste, simmer on high for a couple of minutes until it reduces. Otherwise, just simmer on medium or low for a few seconds.

Serve over pasta, sprinkle with shredded carrots and crumbled mozz, and chow down!

Nutrition Info
Servings: 4
Calories: 130
Carbs: 21.9 g
Fiber: 4.4 g
Protein: 6.7 g
Total Fat: 2.6 g
Sat. Fat: 1.5 g
Sodium: 133.3 mg
Cholesterol: 8.2 mg
Vit A: 97.2%
Vit C: 36.1%
Calcium: 15%
(based on 2000 calories)

This was only the beginning...

Okay, now on to the pasta debacle. It turned out well, but I was completely unprepared for the length of the process. Did you know that pasta machines are not magic?

Anyway, I tweaked a typical pasta recipe, and was totally unaware of the sheer volume of pasta that was about to happen. It didn’t seem  like a large quantity of ingredients, and it didn’t seem to be a lot of dough. But once I began running it through the machine, I discovered I was in over my head.

I had pasta everywhere, and no choice but to continue rolling until the entire batch was done, or all that dough would go to waste. The directions said to dry the pasta on a kitchen towel, but I only own, like, five of them, and two of them were already in use. I ended up using parchment and an old ugly curtain we had bought out of desperation.

This project ended up taking over three entire counters in my kitchen, and it even spilled over onto the dining room table. Yes, two rooms. I implore you not to attempt this on a busy day. It was actually very fun, but gosh. It took a long time.

Spinach Pasta


10-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed

4 cups flour

4 eggs

Honestly, you can use fresh spinach if you’re a purist, but the frozen saves you the trouble of cooking and chopping it yourself. Anyway…

In a blender, puree the spinach and the eggs.

Mound the flour into a large bowl (or the bowl of your KitchenAid stand mixer… hee hee!), make a well in the center, and pour in the puree.

Mix until smooth. If you have a KitchenAid, you can actually walk away for a bit at this point…  hah!

The dough should be moist but not sticky. When it’s finally reached the point where it is cool, smooth and solid-feeling, pick the ball up between your hands and mash it around a little.

Now, either run it through your pasta machine or knead it by hand until you can roll it extremely thin without it breaking. It may take some trial and error.

I sent most of mine through the kneading process only once, and it came out great. But then I had to send a ball through a second time, and it definitely did come out more homogenized and together-like, so use your judgement.

Once the dough is kneaded, just send it through the portion of your pasta maker that cuts the shape you want, or roll it out and cut it by hand. I got a little creative, and tried some giant bowties in addition to my fettucine. Meh. Kinda sloppy. You can’t properly pinch pasta with long nails.

Once the pasta is whatever shape you want it, lay it on towels or parchment or something to let it air dry. I left mine out overnight, and it came out beautifully. If you made long, skinny pasta, you can dry it in little piles – it will separate when you cook it. If you make ravioli, though, you should freeze them right away so the filling doesn’t go bad.

Nutrition Info
Servings: 8 (generous)
Calories: 337
Carbs: 60.4 g
Fiber: 4.7 g
Protein: 13.8 g
Total Fat: 4.5 g
Sat. Fat: 1.6 g
Sodium: 117.5 mg
Cholesterol: 119.4 mg
Vit A: 94.6%
Vit C: 23.7%
Folate: 45%
Iron: 24.6%
(based on 2000 calories)

Sooo… okay! That’s it! It’s been awhile since my last post, but I sure made up for it, didn’t I?  🙂

Piece Montee for the Daring Bakers!

In Breads / Grains, Daring Baker's Challenges, sweets, Uncategorized on May 27, 2010 at 4:32 pm

I made this! And it was goooooood!

When I saw the challenge for this month, I almost wet myself. They expect me to make that?!? Hoookaaay…

But, once I set my mind to it and began, it went very quickly and easily. Just follow the directions. The only thing I changed about the recipe was that I added about 3 ounces of cream cheese to the filling with the butter. ZOMG. It ended up tasting like cannoli filling. Lordy, lordy. And it was so easy to do, I’ll probably make it again. Damn. Just what I need. Easy access to French pastry.

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.

As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.

It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.

Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Hard Caramel Glaze:
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place – see video #4 below).

When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate. Have fun and enjoy! Bon appétit!

MexiGreek Phyllo Wraps

In Breads / Grains, Chicken, Uncategorized on May 26, 2010 at 4:31 pm
phyllo wrap

Betcha never heard of MexiGreek food before!

Okay, I totally made this one up. Even the name. MexiGreek. What the bleep is that? I’m so goofy. This dish is almost totally Mexican, but because of the phyllo dough, I couldn’t just call it a burrito. I had to acknowledge the Greekness somehow. So, MexiGreek.

It’s a lighter, healthier version of a burrito, made from the leftovers of a couple of previous dinners. They taste great, and there light enough that you can even serve them as a side dish if you make them smaller. Know what? You could even make them like little eggrolls, and they would be MexiGreekese.

Phyllo Wraps


16 sheets phyllo dough

cooking spray

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups shredded chicken

4 diced Roma tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, pressed

2 cups chopped polenta

1 cup tomatillo sauce or salsa verde

1 roasted pepper (bell or poblano work), chopped

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

guacamole, sour cream, and chopped cilantro for garnish


Preheat oven to 350, and spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Set aside.

Saute the onion in the oil over medium heat until tender.

Add the tomatoes, garlic, chicken, and pepper, and cook until tomatoes are soft, about 7 minutes.

Tranfer mixture to a large bowl, and add polenta, tomatillo sauce, and cilantro. Mix well.

Stack 4 sheets of phyllo dough, spraying each sheet with cooking spray and pressing down to form a seal. Spoon about 1/4 of the mixture onto the dough, towards one end.

Roll up the sides of the dough, then begin rolling like a burrito, finishing seam side down. Repeat the process until you have four wraps.

Place the wraps carefully on your prepared cookie sheet, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until heated through.

Garnish with cilantro, guacamole, and sour cream.

This is what they look like all rolled up. Pretty!

Tomato Parmesan Biscuits

In Breads / Grains, Uncategorized on May 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Great savory biscuits to accompany any meal.

I made this recipe while reviewing Biscuit Bliss by James Villas. I originally picked it because I had all the ingredients already, but god, were they fantastic! They complimented dinner just perfectly, and they even made a great cold-pizza-like breakfast the next morning.

I have to say, since reviewing this book, I’ve really gotten into the whole daily bread product thing. Mr. Gorilla was always a bread fiend, and I was as a kid but grew out of it. Funny – when my cousin Cory and I were little, we would rob every family function of dinner rolls before the meal even started. I remember one time at a family reunion or something, we each must have eaten half a dozen of these sandwich-sized rolls from DiFonzo’s Bakery. My mom caught us and was quite miffed. But they are so good!

Anyway, memory lane aside, these biscuits are awesome. The only way I altered the original recipe was to run fresh tomatoes through the food processor instead of using tomato juice. Came out chunkier and awesomer.

Tomato-Parmesan Biscuits

(slightly adapted from Biscuit Bliss by James Villas)


2 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cu parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

3 Roma tomatoes, run through food processor

1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled


Preheat oven to 425.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. I like to use a whisk for this. I don’t know why.

Add the cheese and oregano, and stir well.

Add the tomato and butter, and stir until soft and slightly sticky.

Using your very own floured hands, lift the dough and sort of flop it back and forth from hand to hand a bit. Knead it if you want, but I haven’t really found that to be necessary. Just kind of manhandle it a little.

Plunk it down on a sheet of parchment and pat down to a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.

Using a very sharp knife, cut into squares, but do not separate.

Transfer the whole shebang, paper and all, to a cookie sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until slightly golden and cooked through.

Allow to cool for five minutes or so, then pull apart at cuts and gobble. Breathe. Gobble some more.