Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dirt for Dinner; Take a Picture

A spoonful of dirt as an ingredient?
In a restaurant in Tokyo, patrons are eating dirt. When I first came across this article, I was astonished not only by the fact that someone thought of dirt as an ingredient, but that people would pay $110 for the privilege of eating this earthy stuff.

I was also surprised that the writer referred to this new culinary product as dirt, rather than soil. There is a difference, but that really is a topic for just az gardens.

Turns out, the dirt served up in this Tokyo restaurant is palm fiber, a product similar to coir pith or coconut husk. It's used in gardening, and more specifically, used in hydroponics. It's neither dirt nor soil.

My husband and I have used coir pith in our hydroponic projects. It never occurred to us to eat the stuff.

The 'dirt' is a mix of palm fiber and coffee grounds, what most gardeners refer to as compost.
The first course in this meal is soup, a potato starch and dirt soup. I use potato starch as an ingredient in gluten free cooking. It's pretty cheap stuff. It never occurred to me to mix it with some water and coconut pith and call it soup. Wish I had. I could call it a culinary art piece and sell a bowl to anyone with a $20 bill.

Then he could take a picture of it and post it to instagram and tweet about his dirt soup in a bowl for twenty bucks.

This brings me to my next topic: taking photographs of food and sending it out to the social media sphere.

Apparently, some restaurateurs and chefs take exception to patrons snapping photos of the culinary creations served up in their establishments. Apparently, they think it's rude.

Snapped a pic of a Caribbean Chicken Sandwich
More precisely, other patrons are disturbed by camera flash, or a photographer's need to stand on his chair to get the shot, or even set up a tabletop tripod and shoot from various angles.

Okay, I can see that. I don't want to go to a restaurant and have someone at the next table snapping away with his camera. But I don't really care if someone holds their small camera and takes a quick pic, or uses their camera phone. I've done that myself.

But the problem lies in those who do not understand how to behave in public, people who have little regard for the strangers around them. They lack good manners.

The issue is compounded by all those food photos filling up cyberspace. Think about it. Do you have a friend that sends you a pic of every meal they eat? Do you really care about that bowl of blueberry oatmeal at McDonalds, or that bait served up as sushi at the latest trendy restaurant that will close in six months?

These guys never snap a pic or tweet a dish
I like food, obviously. And I like taking pictures of beautifully presented food. And I take pictures of food I make so I can share them here on this blog.

But I don't think all my friends would like it if I flooded their inboxes with images of the latest addition to the salad menu at Wendy's.

But I have to admit: If I went to a restaurant and had potato starch and dirt soup, I would have to snap that pic and put it out there.

Hey, at least it's low fat, gluten free, and vegetarian. Maybe that's what's for dinner tonight.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review for Gluten Free Pantry Muffin and Scone Mix

Gluten Free Pantry Muffin and Scone Mix
Gluten Free Pantry is part of the Glutino Food Group, a manufacturing and distribution company with a focus on gluten free products. Recently I purchased a box of Gluten Free Pantry Muffin and Scone Mix.

The directions indicate the user is able to add up to 3/4 cup of dried or fresh fruit, chocolate chips, raisins or whatever one happens to fancy in their muffins.

I opted for orange muffins because I had just picked some fresh oranges off our tree in the back yard. The directions call for 1 cup of milk or any suitable substitute, depending on your own personal allergies or tolerances. I used 3/4 cup of rice milk and 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice.

The directions also call for 2 eggs, 6 tbs. of butter, and 1 tsp of vanilla. I used my stand mixer to make the batter. I also stirred in the zest of one orange into the batter just before I scooped it into the muffin tin. 

Now, it has been my experience that not all packaged gluten free products produce muffins or brownies or cakes or breads that taste very close to what the wheat-eaters of the world enjoy. They may be pretty good, or not bad at all or they may be really, really awful.

The muffins that came out of the oven using the Gluten Free Pantry Muffin and Scone Mix are really, really good. They are light. They are fluffy. They are moist and bready and all the things I want a muffin to be. Yay!
The average cost of a box of this mix is $4.95, which is fairly expensive considering you also have to add 2 eggs, 6 tbs. of butter, 1 tsp. of vanilla, and 1 cup of milk, as well as your own additional ingredients for fun and flavor.
A dozen muffins with this mix could cost close to a dollar a piece. It's cheaper than a coffee shop, but then try to get a gluten free muffin in a coffee shop.
But the cost isn't too bad when you consider that these 12 muffins are snack, dessert and breakfast for two days for three of us. And because my own muffin recipe doesn't produce muffins this good, the box wins.
These can also be frozen once cooled, and that's a bonus for those who may not go through a dozen muffins in two days time.
Another bonus: Using rice milk and a cholesterol-free butter makes these muffins more heart friendly. Gluten free and guilt free. Can't get better than that
The Gluten Free Pantry Muffin and Scone Mix wins this Contemporary Cook's recommendation.

Attn: If you purchase this product through the linked image in this post, I, the author, may receive a small compensation. Very small.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Time to Make the Donuts

Donuts and Coffee
Donuts were practically a food group for us when the kids were young. Sunday mornings Bob or I would go to the Safeway down the street, which had a great bakery, or sometimes to Dunkin' Donuts, which wasn't quite so close to home. The kids, of course, loved the sweet cakey treats and it was an easy breakfast for a lazy day.

The Safeway down the street has closed. Bob and I aren't allowed the deep fried cakes because, well, they're deep fried. My son can't have them because he has to maintain a gluten free diet, and donut batter is made with wheat flour. Only my daughter the vegetarian can have donuts, but she doesn't eat many sweets these days, so donuts aren't around anymore in our house.

Until now!
Donut Pans
We missed donuts. We wanted donuts. So one day I saw in a Bed Bath & Beyond flier these nifty pans for baking donuts. The next chance I got I went to that cook's paradise and purchased two of them.

I've written a recipe for chocolate donuts that are pretty low in fat, comparatively speaking, and of course, gluten free. It's an easy recipe and you can store them in a cake saver or similar container for up to three days - if they last that long.

Gluten Free Chocolate Donuts
Makes 12

Dry ingredients:
1 1/4 cup Gluten Free Bisquick pancake mix
1/4 cup gluten free cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Wet ingredients:
1 egg
1/2 cup rice milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp softened gluten free butter

-Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
-Use a gluten free cooking spray and spray the two donut pans.

-Sift the GF Bisquick and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl.
-Add the sugar and whisk the dry ingredients together.
-Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
-Fill each donut round three-fourths of the way full, smoothing out the batter with a small spatula or the back of spoon.
TIP: Wet the spatula or spoon first. The moisture makes the batter easier to smooth.
Bake in the preheated oven for 7-to-9 minutes. Allow to cool in pans for 5 minutes. Slide a butter knife around the edges to loosen and remove the donuts from the pans. 
Try these with your morning coffee or tea, or with a cold glass of your favorite sort of milk. These are great for breakfast, for snacks and for dessert. The calorie and fat count is much lower than store bought donuts and of course, they're perfect for anyone on a gluten free diet.