Category Archives: gluten free

Improving on Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cornbread Mix

cornbreadplateI make cornbread for us about once a month. A 12″ cast-iron skillet and one bag of mix yields a giant skillet of cornbread. We use ¼ to 1/3, and I freeze the rest for later (which can be mighty convenient on a 100-degree day when I’m only up for tossing a salad). I’ve made a few amendments to the mix, and I think they really help. First, and I know sugar is a villain so feared that, like Voldemort, we dare not to speak its name, I add it anyway (I really like to live on the edge). Second, I add more milk – ¼ cup more. Third, the way you mix the batter matters. Continue reading

How to make brown rice — UPDATE

I’m always messing about with cooking — who knows, tweaking a bit might make it better, right?

This version makes rice that is fluffy and less starchy, which brings out the nutty flavor of the rice.

  • 1 cup of brown rice, rinsed and drained (removes excess starch)*
  • Bring 2.5 cups of water to a boil in a covered pot before adding the rice.*  Set a kitchen timer for five minutes and head off to open mail or tidy up.
  • Once the water boils, add the rice and give the pot a shake to distribute the rice evenly.*
  • Leave the lid almost closed, but with a little space to vent (or the rice will foam and create a mess)
  • Set the timer for 25 minutes and go live a little.
  • When the water is at the same level as the top of the rice, turn off the heat, close the lid and walk away for another 15 minutes.
  • Fluff and enjoy.  Makes about 3 cups.

*These are the only steps that differ from my original post, but oh, they make a difference.  In the first post, the rice goes from the bag to the pot of water before heating it all to a boil.  The result is more starchy, sticky rice (which is nice if you prefer it that way, or are making sushi).


Emergency food

This building fell on the cars below.  A nice new building has replaced it, but it took years.  Luckily, no one died here.

This building in nearby Sherman Oaks fell on the cars below. A nice new building has replaced it, but it took years. Luckily, no one died here.

We’re just around the corner from the 20th anniversary of the Northridge earthquake.  During the horrible jolt and subsequent shaking, my husband threw himself over me while saying over and over, “It’s okay.” When the second round of violent shaking  began, he changed his tune to, “We’re going to die!”

We made it, though everything in our kitchen except one dish didn’t.  Even the bread maker and the microwave took it in the shorts.

Now we have a little stash of earthquake supplies, including backpacks we bought on sale after the school-time crush was over, bits of medicine and gauze, an emergency bucket-toilet that the kid thought was the greatest purchase we ever made, and emergency food and water.

Yesterday I made a trip to S.O.S. Survival Products — a great place for this stuff — and discovered something odd: There are NO emergency bars without gluten.  For the past three years, our emergency food has included only food I cannot eat. (For the rest of you, I heartily recommend the 2400 calorie bars and other smaller bars they sell.  They have a 5-year shelf life and taste great).

The solution for us will be food with a long shelf life that we will change out more often.  Costco has nut bars, peanut butter, and other grain-based cereals and bars that we can store for up to a year.  They also have gluten-free soups by the case that are inexpensive.  However, here are some links with more options:

Be sure to check ingredients and expiration dates.  Program your phone to let you know when it’s time to buy new supplies.

If you do nothing else, put together a few cans of food, a gallon of water or more per person, a small first aid kit and a plan.  What you really want is to get out alive, shut off the gas and have something to eat on hand — for three days or more.  Don’t forget medications, and don’t forget your pets too (we even had a fish bowl for our aquarium fish!).  Just in case, here is my most popular post: it’s about how long refrigerated/frozen food stays at a safe temperature without electricity.

I hope it never happens, but we’re told we’re in for a big earthquake at some point, and while I’m not an Armageddon-level prepper, I’m inclined to believe it.  If it does, for a good bit of time we’ll have no one around to help us except each other.  Plan accordingly.

Japanese cooking shows are BOSS!

By the time 6:30 am rolls around, I’m tiring of both working out and all of the morning news shows.  The news generally runs out within ten minutes of the start of the broadcast, and the broadcast never covers world news.  Channel surfing landed me on NHK World, where there is both world news and the weather everywhere — everywhere! — in Celsius.  I know 37 degrees = 98 degrees F, but for the rest, I have to guess.

Then at 6:30 am, NHK airs cooking shows.  I absolutely love Lunch ON!, which features not only lunch, but the lives of the people making and eating it.  Top it off with a overly eager narrator who really piles on the flourishes and you’ve got the beginnings of a great day.  Not that I wouldn’t watch it ALL day, because I would.

This morning the listing for NHK said, Viewers’ Choice, so I saw Seasoning the Seasons instead.  This episode showed Ekiben — bento boxes one eats while traveling — from around Japan.  The cuisines differ based on region and history within the prefectures.  In the process, the show also visited artisans making koji, cooking sake, and the bento boxes themselves.

Koji is the base for soy sauce and miso, made by fermenting soy beans and cracked wheat in a place where the air is rich with wild yeasts and microbes, or by inoculating the mixture with them.  I never forget koji because I missed a question about it on a test once.  Cooking sake is fermented sushi rice.

This had me wondering about avoiding gluten in Japan, and I came across an interesting post about how deceptively difficult it can be to avoid it here and here.  Though I really wish I could enjoy more of the food, and would search long and hard for a good mochi, I would endure rice and SoyJoy bars for a long while if I could visit Japan.

How to cook beans

See those shriveled little guys in the cup? They’re cheap, and they turn into those plump, delicious beans still steaming in the glass container.

This is so easy you’ll be amazed you never thought of it before.  After that you’ll taste freshly made beans and only keep canned for the times you forget to soak some in advance (which, shamefully, is quite often for me).

All you need to cook beans is a pot, a mixing bowl, beans of choice, water and a dash of oil.  Some beans, like black eyed peas (beans) and adzuki beans, don’t need soaking.  Today I made garbanzos, so I’m going to use those as the example.

Start by scooping out about a cup of beans into a mixing bowl.  Check for any discolored beans and toss those.  Fill the bowl with water until it’s about 3 inches above the beans.  I cover mine with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator overnight.  Beans should soak 6-8 hours before cooking — there are other ways to accomplish this, but the results are just not as good. One cup of dry beans yields 2.5 to 3 cups cooked and is the equivalent of roughly 8 oz at the market (I usually buy just over a pound to be sure I’ve got at least 2 cups). Continue reading

How to make corn tortillas

You will need:
Plastic wrap
Bob’s Red Mill Masa Harina
Tortilla Press
silicone spatula, for stirring Masa
spatula for flipping, measuring cups, and

a little patience with yourself…

When I gave up on Teflon for good because I became convinced that it wasn’t worth the risk from PFOA fumes (if it’s so safe, why are manufacturer’s phasing out PFOA with most manufacturers — by 2015?).  I gave away a perfectly good All Clad egg pan (*sniff* — the new eco-pan I bought just isn’t as good, alas) and a lovely nonstick griddle, which I replaced with the Lodge reversible grid/iron griddle, a total powerhouse piece of cookware.  Great for pancakes, veggie burgers, and what else?  Makin’ tortillas, that’s what else. The search for the right Masa ended with Bob’s Red Mill Golden Masa Harina (Update: There is now a gluten-free version; check the package).  Use this and not the white corn stuff, as it tastes wayyyyy better. You can follow the directions for mixing using hot water, but I usually pop about a cup and a half of Masa into a mixing bowl for about 10 tortillas.

Keep your masa covered between tortillas to prevent the stuff from drying out. You see the consistency here: Not over dry (you can’t see masa grains) but not so sticky that you can’t play around with it. Shoot for a consistency like Play Doh (Doh!)

Not one for directions, I also vibe the boiling water while I stir until the mixture is just a bit sticky (there are directions on the package too).  Once mixed, cover the bowl with a towel and walk away for a half hour or so.  When you return, fire up the gas under the cast-iron pan on low-medium heat.

While you’re waiting on that, go ahead and line a Tortilla Press with plastic wrap.  I had tried wax paper, parchment, oiling it — finally I realized that I had to stop being a dummy and use plastic wrap.  Into this plastic wrap, cut off and plop down a small palmful of dough.  Eventually you will learn how much dough to use, so if you make a mistake and the tortilla comes out too thin, or appears absurdly thick, ball the thing up, make adjustments,  and do it again.  Lay the plastic wrap over your little dough ball, pat it down a little, gently, then close the lid and give it a little squashing.  If you get crazy, the tortilla will come out see through, usually with the masa pouring out the sides.  Ease up!  If it’s still too thick, let the lid down and press a little harder, then check.  If it’s an odd shape, turn the plastic wrap a little and press again.  If you’ve done this right, Continue reading

How to make brown rice

Wait, you already know how to make rice?  Well then go away of you, sillypants.  You have other things to read about.  But for the rest of you, for whom rice that doesn’t have the word Minute in front of it, or boil-in-bag (NO!) behind it, allow me to explain the mystery.

Get yourself some nice, short grain brown rice from the bulk bin.  Make it organic if you can.  Why short grain?  Because it’s nice and starchy and will make you feel so warm and cozy inside.  It’s such a comfort food it’s a miracle that it is so good for you.  It’ll cost under $2 for a pound of the organic stuff from the bulk bin, and a pound of it will make a lot of rice (about six cups).

Generally, 1/3 cup of dry short grain brown rice will give you a cup of cooked rice, 1/2 cup will yield 1.5 cups, 1 cup will yield 3 cups; we could go on like this all day but now let’s make some rice.

Once you have worked out how much rice you would like, lob it into a pot.  Here is a picture of the rice all measured up in an actual measuring cup (highly recommended).

It’s a whole grain, but who cares? It’s DELICIOUS!

You’re really supposed to boil water first at this point — about 2 cups for every cup of rice — then add the rice.  You should/could also use a measuring cup made for liquids for the water. I’m too lazy/busy for that.

I add the rice, use the same (dry measuring) cup I used for the rice to add 2.5 cups of water for every cup of rice because I like mine a bit sticky. If you’re going for fluff, add 2 cups of water for every cup of rice. (If you’re making 1/3 cup of dry rice, fill the measuring cup with water 2.5 times and by the time you add it to the pot the cup is almost all the way clean.  I told you I was lazy).

The instructions always say to keep the lid on, but whenever I do, the pot overflows with foam.  You can avoid that by adding a teaspoon of oil if you like. Instead, I leave the lid ajar, balanced on my well-worn wooden spoon over low heat.  Set a kitchen time for about 25 minutes and walk away (not too far).

Check on the rice after the timer rings — the water should be a bit foamy and still hovering over the top of the rice (eventually you won’t need to do this; you will have rice-making confidence and you’ll know when to look for this last last bit with the leftover liquid). Set the timer for 15 minutes and run off to do something else you forgot to do (I’m projecting here, but really, could it just be me who forgets?).

I think I steamed the ol’ cell phone, but you get the picture: When you tilt the pan, there’s a little liquid left. Let it steam for 10 and it will disappear, leaving starchy goodness behind.

When the liquid is closing in on the bottom of the pan (it’s below the level of the rice but not wholly evaporated), turn the off the burner, put the lid on, reset the clock for another 10 minutes, look over the kid’s homework, the mail, or ponder the wonders of the Universe and then, pow, it’s go time: yummy rice.

Make extra and store in the fridge for a few days worth of delish.  Add tofu, beans, ricotta, whatevah.

For an updated version, in which I actually rinse the rice and boil the water first, click here.