La Tortilleria Tortillas : A shameless (unpaid) plug

As a consumer I try to shop wisely. We don’t have a lot of money in our grocery budget but I also think it’s incredibly important to make ethical decisions and support local businesses. How food is produced matters more to me than how much it costs – and if it’s too expensive I’ll just buy it when it’s heavily discounted and put it in the deep freeze (I’m looking at you organic, grass fed and finished beef and lamb,  organic chicken and sustainably caught fish!), purchase less of it or figure out how to make it myself.

When Mr Incredible was diagnosed as being allergic to wheat though, our grocery bill shot through the roof. So many things I’d done to save a penny here and there were negated with one diagnosis. Sure, we could continue to bake our own bread but a wheat free loaf costs both a lot to make and a lot to buy – especially if you care about taste, texture and ingredients. One of the biggest shocks I got was just how disgusting some of the ingredients that make up mainstream GF food are. I have a habit of reading labels and the amount of times I couldn’t bring myself to buy a GF item are without count… Mr Incredible just missed out 😦

One of the items that’s been difficult for us is wraps. We really like burritos and my mince base usually does us for two meals – burritos one night and Mexican potatoes the next. (It’s here that I should also apologise to my North American readers – we do Mexican a lot less traditionally here most of the time and what I serve up as burritos might be unrecognisable to you!) Regardless, it’s one of those meals were we purchase two different types of wraps. Wheat based and freshly made for us – preservative laden for Mr Incredible who asked me to make an exception on the ingredient rule for this dinner. Which is why, when I came across a demonstration by La Tortillieria in our local grocer the other day I purchased three packs of their incredibly delicious, traditionally made wraps. We’ve gone from these ingredients:

  • Whole Ground Corn treated with lime (54%), Water, Preservative (282, 202), Food Acid (297), Thickener (412, 466), Enzyme (1100)

To these:

  • Corn & Sea Salt

If you’re in Australia and looking for a better option, do yourself a favour and check them out. I do realise they’re probably rather easy to make yourself… but when you can buy them this good I have so much less incentive.

*This blog is unpaid and with no incentive other than hoping enough people buy the product so that it will stay on shelves and I can continue to.

Lunchbox safe: nut, dairy, gluten and sugar free muesli bars – which are delicious too!!

Mr Incredible just got the following text message:

Cooked these. They’re awesome and may not be any left when you get home…. shall I save you one??

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Made with banana as a binder and whatever you have in the cupboard, these muesli bars are incredibly versatile and super duper delicious. In fact, with the fruity undercurrent and chewy texture they remind me a little of the roll-ups I had as a kid. They’re also super easy to make – no electronic equipment required except for the oven. I’ve passed this recipe on to friends who “don’t bake” as they’re really that simple and satisfying.

Thanks to a friend for sharing this incredible idea – we make these almost daily at the moment and each batch is always gobbled up faster than I can believe. I’ve adapted the recipe from Eat Your Greens.

Pick and mix Banana Muesli Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • optional 1 tsp vanilla / honey / maple syrup
  • * 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • * 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • * 1/3 cup sultanas
  • * 1/4 cup dried blueberries
  • * 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 3 mashed bananas (to the puree stage)

* These ingredients are interchangeable with what you have in your cupboard – if your school allows nuts you can also add chopped almonds, cashews, walnuts etc.. You also don’t need exact measurements – again, just use what you have and ensure that there’s enough banana to cover the ingredients. To be honest, now I’ve made them so many times I’m not even measuring the ingredients out!

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C (fan-forced oven 180 for non fan-forced).
  2. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-by-9-inch square pan (I use a silicone pan so this isn’t needed)
  3. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients
  4. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas with a fork until they resemble a puree and add the vanilla / honey / maple syrup to this if you want to use it (I find it’s sweet enough without)
  5. Pour the bananas over the oat mixture and stir until all the dry ingredients are evenly moist.
  6. Press mixture evenly and firmly into the bottom of the pan.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until firm and lightly browned on the edges.
  8. Cut up and place on a cooling rack (they hold quite a lot of moisture so a cooling rack is better than cooling in the pan or on a plate).

 

Cooking notes:

  • You can store them in an airtight container for a couple days, but I recommend wrapping them individually and freezing them in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months if you don’t think you’ll eat them that quickly.
  • Mine were quite thin, If you wanted them thicker like a commercial muesli bar, you might need to add more ingredients and another banana to cover the mix. Try it as it is the first time though – then get your confidence up and experiment.
  • The chia seeds also help to bind the mixture – if you leave these out it might not work as well.
  • These are super easy to make with kids!
  • The more I make these the more I take short cuts and still have success. I now mash the bananas in a bowl first, then just top all the dry ingredients on top and mix it together – less washing and works just as well.

Not a weeknight family dinner: Ottolenghi’s Beef Stew with pale ale, juniper and prunes

You know when things all come together in your pantry and fridge for a recipe you’ve heard of but never made? It’s brilliant. It’s seeing the brisket, the juniper berries, the beer and going… I think I’ve seen a recipe for this! Yesterday, when I purchased some beef brisket that had been “further reduced for quick sale” the inspiration came to make Ottolenghi’s Beef Stew with pale ale, juniper and prunes. Before I go any further, I’m a massive fan of this chef… I don’t think I’ve ever made anything of his that hasn’t had at least one person (usually everyone) exclaim with delight. It was enough, on a week that I’ve been struggling with a cold, to decide to make a meal that took 4 hours to cook… yup, you heard me right. Four hours. For a weeknight meal with just our little family of four eating it and leftovers for Mr Incredible’s lunches. Crazy right? Yeah. I hear you. When Adventure Girl refused to even taste it (in her defence she was super tired after a huge day and not having a nap) I was rather miffed. However, Mr Incredible loved it and there’s a big part of me hoping for work colleagues to be very jealous of his lunch today.

When I come to a meal like this I have to ask myself, “was it worth it?”. The truthful answer is no. It wasn’t worth it for last night’s dinner. However, should I have some people around one night it’s definitely on my repeat dinners list. For us as a family though, I should have used that brisket for something else or put it in the freezer for another night. Should you be unfamiliar with Ottolenghi please make yourself acquainted with his recipes! I’ll share more of them in weeks to come as the seasons change but his use of ingredients has changed my cooking dramatically, and, as stated above given delight to many of my friends and family.

Beef Stew with pale ale, juniper and prunes by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp juniper berries
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 4 tsp Flaky sea salt (if I were making this again I’d cut this down to 2-3 as I found the dish slightly  too salty for my taste)
  • 900g beef brisket, cut into 2 pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g baby shallots, peeled and left whole
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 5g picked thyme leaves
  • 500ml pale ale
  • 2 tbsp date syrup (40g)
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 600g small waxy potatoes (desiree or charlotte), peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
  • 10 large pitted prunes (about 100g-worth)
    (finely grated zest of ½ lemon 80g soured cream, to serve: I didn’t use these but did serve with yogurt and a cauliflower and cashew mash)

Method

  1. Put the juniper berries and peppercorns in a spice grinder with four (3) teaspoons of salt. Blitz well, then put in a medium-sized bowl, add the two pieces of brisket and, using your hands, mix well until the beef is well coated, then set aside for an hour.
  2. Heat the oven to 160C/320F/gas mark 2½. On a medium-high flame, heat a tablespoon of oil in a 26cm-wide casserole or ovenproof saute pan for which you have a lid, then add the brisket pieces and fry for two to three minutes, turning them over halfway, so they brown on both sides, then lift out the beef on to a plate.
  3. Turn down the heat under the pan to medium and add another tablespoon of oil. Once hot, add the whole shallots and fry for five minutes, stirring frequently, until golden-brown, then add the garlic and thyme, and fry for another minute, just to soften. Stir in the ale, date syrup and mustard, return the brisket to the pot and bring to a boil. Pop on the lid, transfer the casserole to the oven and roast for two hours.
  4. After two hours, turn over the brisket pieces, stir in the potatoes and prunes, cover again and return to the oven for another hour, until the brisket is very tender, the potatoes are cooked and the sauce is thick. Take the pot out of the oven and leave the meat to rest for at least 10 minutes.
  5. To serve, cut each piece of meat into four to six chunks (or even shred it into smaller pieces), then divide the stew between four or six shallow bowls. Sprinkle lemon zest on top and serve with a spoonful of soured cream alongside.

Notes:

  • I served this with a cauliflower and cashew mash along with some plain yogurt
  • As noted, I’d decrease the salt in the beef rub as the whole dish was too salty for me (as Heston Blumenthal notes, salt is essential for bringing out the flavour of the dish but as soon as you can taste the salt, you have too much salt!)
  • I have seen a recipe for this adapted for a slow cooker… I might be interested to try that sometime but my previous slow cooker attempts never quite get the sauce right – it’s never reduced enough and the whole dish is compromised – any tips? Please!

Gluten Free Breakfasts on the go: Nigella’s Breakfast Bars

Mr Incredible, while being incredible in many ways is NOT incredibly good at getting out the door quickly in the morning.Since he was diagnosed as being allergic to wheat, this daily process has become harder. In my search to find an easy breakfast for him I chanced on this breakfast bar recipe by Nigella Lawson and I’m glad to say he loves it. Personally, I love it as it’s easily adaptable for whatever ingredients you have on hand – you don’t need to stick to Nigella’s recipe. Below, I’ve adapted it but you can see her original recipe here. I’m sure there’s a healthier alternative to condensed milk that you could use to bind this, but, as Mr Incredible likes it the way it is I’m not messing with what works (this time)!

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Breakfast Bars

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

Ingredients

  • 1 can (395mL) condensed milk
  • 250 grams rolled oats (not instant)
  • 425 grams of mixed dry ingredients (I use a blend of almonds, cashews, shredded coconut, chia seeds, sultanas, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds and walnuts).

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 130 deg Celsius and line a roasting tray with baking paper
  2. Warm the condensed milk in a saucepan on the stove
  3. While that’s happening, mix all the dry ingredients
  4. When the condensed milk is thinner, pour it over the dry ingredients and mix (with your hands or a fork)
  5. Spread the mix into your prepared tray and press down with a spatula (or your hands)
  6. Bake for 1 hour and cut into 16 bars (4 cuts in each direction) and store in an airtight tin

Market Day Inspiration: Carrot and Cashew Dip

Each week we visit our amazing local markets. I buy most of our fruit and veg from one of the stalls, and while it’s not organic it’s all chemical free produce. The best thing is that, along with being affordable, it tastes like food should. Carrots taste richer and sweeter, apples are amazing and quite frankly, we’ve never eaten as many mushrooms in our lives. When food is seasonal, picked very recently and sold by the grower (so you can ask questions about how best to cook, store and utilise it) it is at its best.

Last week, I wandered by one of the other stalls and found “juicing carrots” for $2/kilo… not bad for organic carrots that were perfectly edible but just a little odd looking. I bought them for juicing but decided to try something different as Dash’s vegetable intake has recently left much to be desired. As we all eat the same food in our household (except for Mr Incredible’s wheat free) I don’t cook anything special for the kids… Adventure Girl knows she won’t get dessert (yogurt or a gold kiwi-fruit which she loves) if she doesn’t eat all her food but Dash is a lot more choosy as well as being younger – he still gets dessert regardless!  With this in mind I created the following dip, which, I am pleased to report Dash devoured for afternoon tea AND dinner, along with roast pumpkin bites and cauliflower mash with some marinated chicken.

IMG_6304.JPGCarrot and Cashew Dip

An original recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 carrots
  • A handful of cashews
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of cumin
  • A Tbsp Olive Oil

Method

  1. Cut and steam carrots until soft (but don’t over cook)
  2. Blend all ingredients
  3. If too soft add more cashews and if too thick add cooking water or olive oil.

 

Oatcakes : better than rice crackers any day

In our search to cut more wheat out of our lives (while the kids and I can eat it fine, it’s less to buy if we all eat the same thing. And no, I haven’t decided if I want to read Grain Brain!). Sadly, rice crackers have become an all too familiar trade off in our household as we’ve compromised a wheat free diet with accessible snacks. Thankfully, I discovered how easy oatcakes are to make and how delicious they can be, especially when you include the satisfying crunch of seeds in the mixture. As an added bonus, they’re super easy to make and quite fun for the kids to help with… there’s no egg in the dough/batter so sneaky munching of the raw ingredients by Adventure Girl and Dash is ok.

Oatcakes.jpgI’ve been  a fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall ever since my mother and I watched The River Cottage on telly before he/it became famous (i.e the late ’90s!). I loved the idea of a smallholding that, with the help of neighbours and surrounding people, can be self-sufficient… I guess it’s community-sufficiency. Grow what you can, swap/sell what you have too much of and all help each other out. A romantic ideal that grabbed me from a young age and still does. Within his book, River Cottage Everyday, this recipe, along with many other gems, is found… true confession though… when Mr Incredible went to eat them today there was only one left! The rest may have been consumed by me even though I really did make them for him 🙂

BILL’S RONA OATCAKES

Ingredients

  • 300gr Oats : 150gr blended to oatmeal and 150gr blended to porridge oats (or 150r of each)
  • 1/2 tsp sea/Himalayan salt
  • A few twists of freshly ground pepper
  • A small handful of seeds (I like pumpkin or sunflower)
  • 75mL extra virgin olive oil
  • 150mL boiling water

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180 degrees C
  2. Mix all the dried ingredients together in a bowl and make a well in the centre
  3. Pour the oil in the well and stir
  4. Pour in the water to bind it into a firm dough
  5. Work the dough quickly and if too watery add more oatmeal
  6. Shape the dough into a ball and rest it for a couple of minutes
  7. Roll out the dough on a non-stick surface until about 5mm thick.
  8. Cut into rounds and place onto a baking tray
  9. Combine and work the remaining dough to roll it out again and repeat the process until all the dough is gone. Try not to work the dough too much though as the more you handle it the crumblier it will become
  10. Bake for 20min and then turn the cakes over and bake for another 10 minutes.
  11. Leave to cool on a wire rack and enjoy! (I love to eat these with cheese and pickles)

Cooking notes

  • The oatcakes will keep for a week in an airtight container.

 

 

 

 

Finally, a gluten free bread we can make at home

Almond and Chia BreadPrevious to Mr Incredible being diagnosed with a wheat allergy we made all our bread at home. We often still do for the kids and I but I lost a lot of drive to do this after diagnoses. Firstly, he couldn’t eat it and he ate a lot of it. Secondly, for those who love bread, the smell of a good loaf baking that you can’t eat can be classified as torture. Instead, we’ve been purchasing Ancient Grain’s Oat or Breakfast breads, really great alternatives for the wheat free (no additives, wheat free, tastes great and good textures) but expensive… really expensive (between $8-10 a loaf and as I said, Mr Incredible loves his bread).

I’ve been looking everywhere for a good loaf recipe but have been turned off by xantham gum and quinoa/coconut flour loaves that didn’t resemble the cravings of my hubby’s dreams. In fact, when I told Mr Incredible that I’d found a great recipe his first comment was “it’s not with quinoa flour is it?”. Thankfully, it wasn’t and finally, thank God, we’ve discovered this loaf (huzzah for amazing social media pages!). Not only is it easy to make, has ingredients we stock in our pantry already and tastes great (none of the awful texture in most GF breads), it’s also highly adaptable. Here come home made Olive and Rosemary or Fig and Walnut or Fruit loaves! Oh, and the only “kitchen equipment” you need is a bowl, a whisk, measuring implements and an oven… awesome.

Almond and Chia Bread

By Tania Hubbard of www.glutenfreegrainfree.com.au

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds (soaked in 30 mL of water)
  • 30mL water (this is used to soak the chia seeds (do this whilst preparing the dry mix))
  • 3/4 cups arrowroot or tapioca (remember to sift this to remove any lumps)
  • 1 teaspoon bi-carb (baking soda) (sifted with the starch to remove any lumps)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or use lemon juice if you cannot have vinegar)
  • 3 eggs (usually no larger than 60 gram eggs)
  • pinch salt

Method

  1. preheat oven to 175C
  2. soak chia seeds in water whilst preparing the dry mix in a bowl. Stir to make sure the seeds are in the water
  3. sift arrowroot and bi-carb (baking soda) into bowl
  4. add almond meal and salt and mix well
  5. use a whisk to combine the dry ingredients to help break up lumps and distribute ingredients evenly
  6. add eggs, soaked chia seeds and apple cider vinegar
  7. combine everything well until there are no lumps (about 1 minute of whisking)
  8. don’t be tempted to add any liquid – this mix is meant to be thick
  9. pour mix into a baking tin lined with non-stick baking paper or a silicon bread mold lightly oiled with olive oil
  10. bake for 25-30 minutes until the bread is firm (single loaf) to the touch and bounces back when lightly pressed and a skewer comes out clean. The top will be golden in colour and firm to the touch.
  11. Remove bread from the oven and turn out onto a cooking rack.
  12. Adjust cooking time to 45-50 minutes if cooking a double mix (larger loaf)

COOKING NOTES:

  • This is a small loaf – a single mix – it won’t rise and rise like traditional bread so you need to use a small baking mold to “force” the rise – I purchased a single size loaf tin once I was happy with the recipe but previous to that used a pyrex dish lined with baking paper. If you don’t the bread won’t rise very well. You’ll end up with more of a focaccia loaf… which might be nice for a change anyway!
  • BIG LOAF: you will need to double the mix and bake in a loaf tin or 20 cm or smaller cake tin (lined with non stick baking paper)
  • Missing buns and rolls? Make the recipe in a muffin tin for individual GF buns.

For more information, check out the recipe on Tania’s page and read the comments for information on freezing etc: http://www.glutenfreegrainfree.com.au/gluten-free-almond-chia-seed-bread/