Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Taco Bread and Other Quick Breads (Homemade and Corn-free)

I have a quick bread recipe that I make a lot (with subtle variations to suit the kind of bread needed). Using this quickbread, I am basically making Mexican Cornbread without the corn. I mix up the quickbread and layer taco meat, onions, peppers and grated cheese in the middle. We like to call it:

Taco Bread

Ingredients:
1 lb. taco meat*
2 small onions (diced)
1 red bell pepper (diced)
3 jalapeno peppers (diced) optional - substitute peppers of your choice or omit
1 block Kerrygold cheddar cheese (grated)
1 batch of quick bread batter (see below)
1/2 stick butter


Put a half stick butter in a 9x13 pan in a 375F oven to melt.

Chop onions and peppers. Grate one block of Kerrygold cheddar cheese (8 oz., I think). Prepare one pound of taco meat* and mix up one batch of quick bread batter.

Place 1/3 of bread batter into pan. Spread meat mixture, onions, peppers, cheese all across the top of the batter evenly. Pour the remaining bread batter over filling and put in oven to bake. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown on top and bread is done in center.


We eat this all the time because we have no uncorny flour tortillas available here and this is much faster than making tortillas. I have a great from-scratch recipe for red sauce so I may have to break down and make homemade flour tortillas for enchiladas one day.

*browned ground beef seasoned with paprika, cumin, garlic, onion, sea salt and ground cayenne pepper and/or ground chipotle pepper, add a touch of sugar if desired.

Quickbread:

3 c. flour (I use Naturally Preferred Organic Unbleached)
1 tbsp. baking powder (homemade)
1 tsp. salt
1 c. sour cream (Daisy full fat)
~1-2 c. water (enough to make a good batter)

Mix all ingredients until a thick batter is formed. It should be much thicker than pancake batter, but not quite dry enough to be dough.

 I use that basic bread recipe for pizza crust, too. I can't buy red star yeast packets here so we never have yeast bread. I would like to perfect sourdough bread from scratch one day, but don't have time for it now.

That basic bread recipe is biscuits if you cut in half a stick of butter before you add the sour cream/water and mix it into a dough instead of a batter (be careful not to overwork it - that makes biscuits tough). I pour the dough into a buttered pan and score it into biscuit size pieces instead of rolling out and cutting biscuits. They taste exactly the same and it is much quicker. The same dough is waffles if I cut in virgin coconut oil instead of butter (virgin coconut oil is my shortening substitute) and add eggs and ground vanilla beans. It's pizza dough or bread sticks if I use extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and all water with no sour cream. You can make the batch as big as you need. I just figure about 1 tsp. baking powder per cup of flour. I never measure anything except the flour. I made two baking sheet size pizzas using a 4 c. flour pizza crust variation. Bake it for 10 minutes before topping it with homemade pizza sauce (tomato paste, basil, garlic powder, salt, sugar, water) and then bake for another 10-15 minutes with toppings. You can mix sausage seasonings into ground beef as easy as ground pork for sausage topping, you can hardly taste the difference.

The bread recipe is a variation of a basic choux pastry. If I rolled out a batter with cold butter cut in. and kept doubling it over itself, it would be a choux pastry. It goes without saying that you can vary the type of flour, add seasonings or herbs (breadsticks are great with diced onion and garlic and herbs of your choice). Just experiment with it and vary the liquid and pan sizes to see how it cooks with each variation. It is a life saver because quickbreads do not require precision like yeast breads do. Have you ever tried a waffle variation as a substitute for sandwich bread? It is pretty easy to do. I am thinking about a cinnamon roll variation using brown sugar and cinnamon......

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fermented Onion Relish (Homemade and Corn-free)

I just had to share my new favorite fermented veggie combination. I accidentally bought too many onions even for me to use before they went bad. I needed to find something to do with them because I refuse to waste food. I have since read another excellent idea but I will go into that later. Right now I want to share the secret to the best relish you will ever eat. It is super simple, too.

I sliced a lot of onions (I don't remember how many but probably close to a bag) into quarters and then turned them and sliced thin slices from each quarter. I put them into the dishpan then sliced several red bell peppers so that the slices were approximately the same size. I didn't measure anything (as usual) but used about a 3 to 1 ratio of onions to peppers (mainly motivated by the high price of organic red peppers). Feel free to adjust according to your taste. I salted them and stirred them. I added quite a bit of hot red pepper flakes (one of my favorite seasonings) and let them sit undisturbed for about 30 minutes. When I came back to it, it was pretty juicy so I packed it into mason jars and waited for four days. This is my favorite vegetable ferment so far. We can't get enough of this onion relish, the first quart was gone in three days!

I am about to start frequenting garage sales in search of a food dehydrator. I have been reading a lot about preservation methods in preparation for spring and summer. I am determined not to be in the same dire straits next winter that we were in this one. Having to depend on the grocery store is not a very pleasant option when you are corn allergic. The average local produce department is atrocious and there are very few frozen or canned options available that are corn-free.

I have some excellent tips I picked up from one of ladies at the Avoiding Corn Delphi Forum about dehydrating and preserving foods. Here is an excerpt from her post:

I also have excalibur dehydrators, they are pretty much the Cadillac of dehydrators. I love mine, I highly recommend them to anyone that thinks they will dehydrate very much food. It has a nice range of heat settings and allows me to dehydrate almost anything! I do fruits and veggies, I caramelize onions in the crockpot then, dehydrate them and use them for flavor in so many dishes. I dehydrate leftovers (sometimes planned overs) and use that food when I travel away from home, just add water! I make croutons, "instant" rice, the list goes on and on.  (tomatoes dehydrate very nicely)

You can probably see what caught my attention in that paragraph. I can't wait to try the caramelized onions even though I don't have a slow cooker or a dehydrator. I do spend a bit of time every day slicing onions. It is appealing to think that I could instead spend an afternoon slicing and caramelizing and dehydrating and be done with it for a while.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Corn-free soft drinks

My children wanted to try a recipe I found on the Avoiding Corn Delphi Forum for a ginger simple syrup. We tried it and tweaked it and were rewarded with ginger ale and a batch of crystallized ginger rolled in vanilla sugar. Then my daughter had the idea of making vanilla simple syrup. Genius! Now after a year of drinking only water and ginger tea, we were treated to ginger ale and cream soda in the same week. We are so happy.

Ginger Ale (Corn-free and Home-made)

1 - 2 ginger roots (peeled and sliced)
10 cups sugar
5 cups water
Big K sparkling water (or perrier)

I mixed all ingredients in a large saucepan and cooked on low for at least two hours. I suppose you could do this in a crockpot as well. Do not allow to boil rapidly. You don't want to make hard candy and you want the ginger tender and sweet for crystallized ginger. I waited for mine to reduce and we just taste tested it. When a couple of teaspoons added to a glass of sparkling water tasted like ginger ale, it was finished. We were rewarded with almost two quarts of ginger syrup.

Once the syrup was ready, I took the ginger out with a slotted spoon and placed on foil to dry. After allowing it to dry for an hour or so, I rolled in vanilla sugar and placed it in an airtight container.

Vanilla Sugar

To make vanilla sugar: add (at least) three supple, moist 12 Madagascar Vanilla Beansinto a quart mason jar and cover with organic sugar of your choice. After about a month, you will have the most fragrant and smooth vanilla sugar to be used for making ice cream or to sweeten tea or bake sweet treats. We keep several mason jars full at all times and replace the sugar that we have used and rotate that jar to the back. Once the beans are no longer supple, you can grind them in a spice grinder (or dedicated coffee grinder) for ground vanilla beans. We also buy 3 oz Madagascar Pure Ground Vanilla to use in place of vanilla extract since corn-free vanilla extract is hard to find. (You can also use some of your whole vanilla beans to make the best vanilla extract using potato vodka.)

Vanilla Syrup (Corn-free and Home-made)

Now, for the vanilla syrup, the process was exactly the same using one or two tsp. ground vanilla beans instead of ginger slices. If I had any extra vanilla beans on hand, I probably would have split one or two and scraped the insides into the sugar/water mixture and then placed the entire bean into the syrup. I only had ground vanilla beans and a few less than supple whole beans (I need to re-order) so I used ground vanilla beans. We don't mind the tiny particles of vanilla that end up in our cream soda, but if you think it will bother you, simply use whole beans instead. The resulting two quarts of vanilla syrup makes the best cream soda we have ever tasted.

To make any of these syrups into a soft drink:

Just add 1 to 2 tbsp. syrup to a tall glass and fill the rest of the way with safe sparkling water. I believe that LaCroix is corn-free as well as Perrier. I am looking into one of the counter top carbonation machines like this one to make sure they are corn-free. It might make a nice family Xmas present. It would certainly make me feel better about soft drinks since I hate buying anything in plastic containers. 

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