26 November 2011

thanksgiving wrap-up -- cranberry breads!

Our internet was out most of the day on Wednesday so instead of telling you about the cranberry breads I planned to make, or telling you that I posted a Thanksgiving article at Gluten-Free Works, I spent the day making a This-Isn't-Really-How-Pilgrims-Dressed dress for Muffin:

So now I will give a summary of my Thanksgiving cooking: Yum.

We were invited to a potluck dinner with some friends and our contribution was rice and cranberry bread. I cheated a bit and had my housekeeper make a rice pilaf (from the Moosewood Restaurant cookbook) while I made the cranberry breads.

Earlier in the week I tried a cranberry apricot nut cake from Anja's Food 4 Thought. There's no flour in it and if you use unsugared dried fruit then it's sugar-free as well. I had to substitute some of the nuts and I used cranberries that I'd brought back from the United States with us last summer. Ocean Spray Craisins can be found here sometimes, but I didn't want the expense and the inconsistent supply chain to keep me from making cranberry bread at Thanksgiving so I've been saving them to use since September. Anja calls for a mix of pecan and hazelnuts, but I haven't seen hazelnuts here in months so I used all pecans -- which hadn't been around for a few weeks and miraculously arrived on the shelves last Sunday. I bought enough to get me through Christmas. You could fool around substituting different fruits and nuts. (I bought some amazing dates this week, too, that would be good.)

Muffin and I ate most of that cake, which was evidence enough that it would be a good Thanksgiving dish. I had chopped and pre-measured the fruits and nuts when I made the first loaf so on Thursday morning I could make a fresh loaf in less time.

For my second bread I went back and forth on whether I should add cranberries to either the Pamela's baking mix banana bread or zucchini bread recipes. I went with the banana bread. I know the recipe by heart so it was quick to make on Thursday morning. I made it as muffins to ensure it cooked evenly and to save time and mess from having to cut it up.

Muffin tossed all breads and muffins aside once she got her first taste of turkey. Last Thanksgiving she was too young for real food. This year she inhaled the turkey off my plate and took a few bites of mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, and broccoli as well. We thought giving her a turkey leg to play with would make a funny photograph and we were surprised to see her bite right into it. She is definitely a Thanksgiving eater.

13 November 2011

flaxseed as an egg replacer

Maybe this is well-known to vegans and those with egg allergies, but it's news to me. I recently read on a package of flaxseed meal that it can be used as an egg replacement in some recipes. Here in a Hindu society, eggless recipes are a must. Alongside the regular Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker cakes mixes on the grocery store shelves, you'll see eggless varieties.

I tried the flaxseed replacement with a loaf of bread. A risky move, given the delicate balance of bread ingredients. For each egg I mixed 1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal with 3 tablespoons of water. I let it sit for a couple minutes to thicken up, then I added it to my bread at the time when I would have added the eggs. It worked! I never would have known there wasn't egg in the dough. I didn't notice any change in the taste or texture of the bread at all.

I think this could work well for a variety of baked goods. I'm surprised that news of this flaxseed replacement hasn't hit the bakeries here yet. Flaxseed is difficult to find, but I do see it occasionally in grocery stores. If more people knew about it, maybe there would be more flaxseed on the shelves.

12 November 2011

double chocolate pomegranate cookies

I read this recipe at MADE recently and realized that pomegranates are in season here, too. With a few modifications to make the cookies gluten-free and to allow for local supplies, these cookies were a success in our house.

Here is the recipe as I modified it. If you live in the United States or another country were basic ingredients are easily found, or if by chance you stumbled upon this blog but you are not gluten-free, you can read the original recipe at MADE.

2 cups Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter (or half cup butter and half cup shortening, if shortening is available to you)
3/4 cup castor sugar (a finely ground white granulated sugar)
3/4 cup demerara sugar (a brown sugar substitute here that I really like -- it has more of a burnt sugar flavor and the large granules provide a nice texture)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I horde this stuff and buy it whenever I'm in an extract-selling country to bring back with me)

2 1/2 cups chocolate chips (or if you're like me and are unsatisfied with your local chocolate chip selection, chop up some chocolate bars; I chopped four 80-gram bars)
1 cup pomegranate arils, or seeds (you can slice a pomegranate in half and whack at it with a wooden spoon to get the arils out)

Do the standard cookie-backing stuff.

Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C.

In one bowl blend together the baking mix, cocoa powder, and salt.

In another bowl, cream the butter then add the sugars, eggs, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture. Then add the chocolate chips and pomegranate.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a baking sheet. I like to line my sheets with parchment paper. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes then allow them to cool on a wire rack for as long as you can keep your family's paws off of them.


If any play group moms are reading this, I froze half the dough and will be making a fresh batch for brunch on Friday.

There were a few shady moments were I wasn't certain these cookies would be completed. I didn't soften enough butter at first and when I grabbed my second box out of the fridge, I opened it up to find mold! I'd never even heard of mold on butter. Of course India could provide that experience for me. We had a small bit of table butter, which has salt in it, but I added it to my unsalted cooking butter in order to save Mike a nighttime walk to the local grocery, which probably wouldn't have had unsalted butter anyway. The cookies turned out not to be too salty, as I feared, but perfectly salted for the chocolate and pomegranate.

I was also dancing around on a cruddy floor. When I was pulling sugar out of the cupboard I was so relieved Muffin was distracted and not trying to help me that I didn't notice at first what distracted her. She'd dumped a box of loose-leaf tea onto the floor and was having fun walking on it in her bare feet. I have yet to get it all swept up. I am not having as much fun stepping on it in my bare feet.

Earlier in the day Muffin had a glue incident. The tea leaves were not spilled anywhere near the faint glue spot still on the floor.

I forgot about all of that when I started eating cookies.

I couldn't get a good photo of the cookies, but if this isn't a good endorsement, I don't know what is:

It's cookies like this that have encouraged me to join the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge. I run to eat baked goods. At least these cookies have vitamins and antioxidants, right, due to the pomegranates? There's still time to sign up for HBBC. Come join me!

09 November 2011

les premièrs macarons

Recently I wrote about my new obsession with macarons and how I was planning to battle the India humidity to make my first batch. I did battle the humidity and the little cookies came out much better than I expected.

Per the book Cecile Cannone's Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the MacarOn Cafe I separated my egg whites two days before using them. Early in the morning on baking day, I took my egg whites and other ingredients out of the refrigerator to bring them up to room temperature. I also turned on the oven early and brought the dehumidifier into the kitchen to dry out the room as much as possible.

I had to dry out my almond meal before I started the real baking and that took about thirty minutes in the oven. After that things moved along much more smoothly than I expected. I used the Cuisinart food processor (nearly blowing a fuse but stopping when I could feel the electricity struggling) to grind the almond meal and confectioner's sugar (or icing sugar) into a fine, smooth powder. I had to use an electric handheld mixer rather than my KitchenAid stand mixer to beat the egg whites (because the KitchenAid did blow out a few weeks ago and I haven't been able to get it repaired yet) so it took a long time to get the egg whites and sugar to the stiff peaks they needed to be at but it eventually happened. And I did a little dance of joy because I was so relieved and happy to see them beat properly!

I carefully folded the egg whites with sugar into the almond meal with sugar to complete the batter -- yeah, lots of sugar. So far things had gone by the book but I actually had no idea if my batter consistency was correct. It seemed useable so I kept going.

Getting the batter into the piping sleeves was a tricky, sticky mess and who knows how much I wasted. I had a blocked nozzle once or twice with some almond meal clumps but for the most part the batter flowed just as it was supposed to. I made my little circles on my parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, let the cookies rest for a few minutes, then popped them into the oven.

It's the resting and cooking time that can be difficult. The mixing of stuff is all mechanics, but the resting and cooking is a total crapshoot. The cracked cookies and the ones without the nice little shelf on the bottom are the ones that either did not rest long enough, or rested too long, or were not cooked long enough, or were cooked too long, or the oven wasn't opened enough times to let out steam while they were baking, or they were removed from the tray and parchment too early, or too late. There are lots of factors to worry about.

Although my introductory photograph is purple, I did not use food coloring for this first attempt. The purple is the result of my fooling around with some new photo editing stuff. I wanted to see what the macarons looked like naked, so to speak.

They looked pretty good. Much better than I expected them too. They were shiny on top and not all of them cracked. The cracking is the result of too much moisture but there are a few tricks I can use to combat the moisture next time, especially since we are moving away from the rainy season.

Fresh out of the oven. My first tray, before I got the hang of making perfect circles.
The best macaron from the whole batch.
Lots of them cracked.
They tasted great. They are sweet, that's for sure. But they melted in our mouths just like they were supposed to. We ate most of them plain, but when we had some friends over for dinner I made sandwich cookies, some with chocolate frosting left over from birthday cupcakes a few days earlier and some with cherry preserves.

I'm game to keep trying. I have some colors and flavors in mind to play around with. I've purchased several macaron cookbooks lately and I love the colorful photos. I kind of want to make them just so I can take photos of them, too!

Note: I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the book link and ultimately decide to buy it, I will receive a small amount of money.
All photos taken by me. 

01 November 2011

pumpkin seeds

This was originally published on 3 November 2007. I updated it with our recent jack-o-lantern photo. I actually liked the pumpkin seeds from our Hyderabadi pumpkins better than seeds I've gotten from American pumpkins. They have a nice meaty inner seed.

If you carved a pumpkin this week, then you had a bunch of pumpkin seeds laying around afterward. I've always loved roasting them for a post-carving snack.

I wanted to say a little more than "spread on tray and put in oven" for this post, so I turned to Wikipedia for some pumpkin seed info. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of stuff that's good for us: iron, zinc, essential fatty acids, potassium, and magnesium. There's also new research showing that they are high in tryptophan. So when you're feeling jittery from eating all that trick-or-treating loot, down a handful of pumpkin seeds to help you relax.

There are various "favorite" ways for preparing pumpkin seeds. I separated mine from the pulp and rinsed them in a colander. Then I forgot about them and left them to dry overnight in the sink. The next morning I spread them on a foil-lined baking sheet and lightly salted them. I baked them at 350 for about 15 minutes. They were crispy and light brown on the outside and just a little chewy on the inside.

First I ate them by the handful while they were still warm from the oven. Later in the day I mixed some with sweetened dried cranberries for a sweet and salty snack. Then I topped a green salad with the last of them.

Why do I only do this once or twice a year? I only roast them when I've cut up a pumpkin for some reason. It's just not the same to buy them from the store. I like to get my hands in the pumpkin guts.

27 October 2011


For Diwali this week, our housekeeper showed me how to make laddu, one of the traditional sweets. They're made with besan, which is lentil flour.

She started with 500 mL ghee, which is clarified butter. She heated it up on the stovetop until it was clear. Then she took small spoonfuls of the ghee and put it in a frying pan with a few spoonfuls of the besan, heating it all up together until it was all incorporated and the mixture was free of clumps. She did this for a long time, until she'd combined the ghee with about half of a kilogram (about one pound) of besan. It takes a while because you have to do such small amounts at once, in order to keep the besan from burning.

Then she put half of a kilogram of sugar in the food processor until it was very fine, and she stirred that into the besan-ghee mixture. She also added a few shakes of ground cardamom.

Once everything is mixed and is the right texture, you pick up small handfuls and form little balls. You can also add chopped nuts to the mixture and our housekeeper did half with cashews and half with pistachios. They sit in a cool room (we had to blast the air conditioner over the dining room table) until they've hardened up enough to not fall apart. Then they are eaten!

I liked them. They are heavy and sweet, but also quite filling because of the lentil flour so I tried to convince myself that one or two with a cup of coffee wasn't the worst treat in the world. Muffin enjoyed them as well.

According to our housekeeper, laddu are also given to women in labor to help ease the pain and they are also given the children who are deemed "too skinny."

These are easy to make, but I probably won't make them again until next Diwali because they are too sweet and heavy to enjoy on a regular basis. Next year Muffin will be old enough to get her hands in the dough and help shape the little balls.

Heating up the ghee.

Heating up the besan with ghee.

After the sugar and cardamom is added, shaping the dough into little balls.

A tray full of laddu.

More laddu pleeeeeeeeease!

13 October 2011

dreaming of macarons

For some reason I've become obsessed with macarons. Not the coconut macaroons, the French macarons made from almond flour. I've only had them once in my life, in Paris, but I've decided that one of my goals by the end of the year is to perfect making macarons in India. India loves sugar and food coloring, which are part of the specialness of macarons. But once my supply of almond meal from the States is used up, I'll have to grind my own from almonds that are expensive here. There's also a bit of a humidity problem this time of year. And I may have to grind granulated sugar in order to make it "superfine," as many of my recipes call for. It's going to be tedious and messy and time-consuming -- but hopefully delicious -- and I will have to run many miles to combat all the sugar and butter I'll be test-tasting over the next few weeks.

Armed with Cecile Cannone's Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the MacarOn Cafe, I'll be making my first attempt this weekend. I'll be separating the eggs tonight, as Cecile suggests, in order to bake on Saturday or Sunday.

Stay tuned!

Image from Ladies Day to Play, "Interview with Cecile Cannone."
Note: I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the book link and ultimately decide to buy it, I will receive a small amount of money. That will go toward purchasing almonds, most likely.

12 October 2011

gluten-free flours, grains, and legumes in india

This is more for my personal reference, but if it helps anyone else, that's great! I'm sure this is not a comprehensive list. I'm making additions and adjustments all the time as I learn about new flours and different names in different regions. I can't really guarantee ultimate gluten-freeness because you never know about cross-contamination and kitchen conditions, but I can say I've been living in Hyderabad for almost a year now and I've only had one gluten incident, and I know exactly where it came from so I can now avoid it.

Here's what I've been working on:

India to English
 amaranthus = amaranth
 bajri = millet
 besan = lentil
 chana = chickpea
 cholam = sorghum
 corn flour (sometimes “corn flour” is actually corn starch)
 corn meal
 dhokla, dhokra = blend of rice, urad dal, and chickpeas
 gram = chickpea
 jowar = sorghum
 kurakkan = millet
 kuttu = buckwheat
 moog dal = lentil
 mung dal = legume
 okhla = buckwheat
 ragi = millet
 rajgira = buckwheat
 rice flour
 soya = soy flour
 urad dal = legume

English to India
 amaranth = amaranthus
 buckwheat = kuttu, okhla, rajgira
 chickpea/lentil/legume = besan, chana, dal (moog, mung, urad), gram
 corn flour (sometimes “corn flour” is actually corn starch in India)
 corn meal
 millet = bajri, kurakken, ragi
 rice flour
 sorghum = cholam, jowar
 soy = soya
 blend of rice, dal, chickpeas = dhokla, dhokra

I have compiled this list through personal experience, discussions with bakers and cooks here, and with help from Cook's Thesaurus and the discussion boards at Celiac.com.

26 May 2011

headlines, giveaways, and sales this week

What We’re (Not) Eating: A Potential Danger Of Gluten-Free, Forbes

Pasta Prima Introduces First Gluten Free Refrigerated Ravioli on the Market, Press Release

Gluten Free Tennis, Boston Herald

Pizzeria Offers Gluten-Free Option, Messenger Post

Cheeseburger in Paradise Adds Gluten-Free Bun to Menu and Continues to Raise Awareness for Gluten Intolerant Efforts, Press Release

Gluten-Free Labeling and the FDA: We Are Watching (and so is Monty), Celiac.com

Will A Gluten-Free Diet Prevent Childhood Diabetes?, The Stir

From Want Not: Search for gluten-free restaurants near you and use the 80% off code FLAG at Restaurant.com to make them affordable. Read the fine print and restaurant descriptions carefully to make sure they have food that suits you!

The Be Free For Me blog is giving away Rudi's products this week. "Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, I am so thrilled that Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery will be sponsoring the next two week’s Win-it-Wednesday’s on BeFreeForMe.com! A total of FOUR (Yes… 4!) BeFreeForMe members will be selected to win a gift pack of Rudi’s Gluten-Free Breads and Rolls. Two winners will be randomly selected from the entries received before Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 at 11:59 PM EST, and two more winners will be randomly selected to win from the entries received between Wednesday, June 1st and Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 11:59PM. SO – make sure you enter to win two times!" Check out the blog post here for all the entry details.

Delightfully Gluten-Free is giving away a copy of Living Gluten-Free for Dummies. You have until June 1 to enter.

Bob's Red Mill has several gluten-free products up on the Monthly Specials page, including all-purpose baking flour, pizza crust mix, quick-cooking oats, bread mix, and brownie mix. Please note that not all products on the Monthly Specials page are gluten-free, so read the product descriptions carefully.

It's not too late to take advantage of some yummy Celiac Awareness Month sales at Amazon.com Groceries.

20 May 2011

headlines, giveaways, and sales this week

Alice Best Wants to Teach You All About Celiac Disease, Philadelphia Daily News

Gluten-Free Food Fair May 21 at Bellingham Public Market, Bellingham Herald

Kellogg's Rice Krispies Joins the Gluten-Free Brigade as FDA Drags Feet on Definition, BrandChannel.com

Gluten Sensitivity Talk in Edwards Wednesday, Vail Daily

Mouthwatering Gluten-Free Recipes from French Meadow Bakery, Marketwire.com

Gluten-Free Diet Said To Be Behind Djokovic's Success, Times of India

The Diet That Shook Up Tennis? Starch Madness: Novak Djokovic's Domination of the Sport Has Coincided With His Gluten-Free Turn, Wall Street Journal

Gluten-Free Guide Published for Caterers, Eat Out

Gluten Allergy? Park City Pizza to the Rescue, Park Record

THE FAMILY TABLE: Gluten-Free Isn't the End of the World, San Angelo Standard Times

Eating Out Gets Easier for Celiac Patients, New York Times

Delightfully Gluten-Free is giving away a copy of Living Gluten-Free for Dummies. You have until June 1 to enter.

Courtesy of Gluten Freeville, "Sprouts Farmers Market Grocery Stores is offering 25% off more than 2,000 specially signed gluten-free products around the store including Gluten Free grocery and frozen grocery items, plus select items in other departments, between now and May 25." Sprouts stores are located in California, Colorado, Arizona, and Texas. The sale, unfortunately, does not include Henry's and Sun Harvest at this time. Visit the Sprouts website to find a store near you.

Also from Gluten Freeville, a special from Jules Gluten Free, makers of the world's largest gluten-free cake. You'll find the recipe and a sale on the flour used to make the cake. There's also a special on shipping.

Readers of Cool Mom Picks can get free candy from  JJ's Sweets at Foodzie. "The first 100 CMP readers who sign up for the Foodize Tasting Box subscription (which is so awesome if you're a foodie type) will get a free bonus of 4 assorted cocomels from JJ Sweets in your May order. Just sign up through this link." Note that not all Foodzie products are gluten-free, although the JJ's Sweets candies are. Read product descriptions carefully before ordering.

Bob's Red Mill has several gluten-free products up on the Monthly Specials page, including all-purpose baking flour, pizza crust mix, quick-cooking oats, bread mix, and brownie mix. Please note that not all products on the Monthly Specials page are gluten-free, so read the product descriptions carefully.

It's not too late to take advantage of some yummy Celiac Awareness Month sales at Amazon.com Groceries.

15 May 2011

labonel fine baking

The people of Hyderabad like their sweets. There is no shortage of chocolate cakes at bakeries, coffee shops, grocery store bakery counters, and restaurants. It's been difficult, being a gluten-free chocoholic and having to face cakes every time I leave the house. Some places offer a chocolate mousse, and I've been eating my way through the mousses of the city, but those are a topic for another post.

A couple weeks ago Mike came home and announced he'd found a gluten-free bakery. They are not specifically gluten-free, but the head baker is familiar with the gluten-free diet and has perfected a few treats with the local flours. For Mother's Day, Mike brought home a chocolate cake from Labonel Fine Baking.

Labonel uses millet flour as the base for their gluten-free cakes. The texture was great, but the flavor was a little off. I loved the chocolate icing, but the millet lends sort of a grassy flavor to the cake. It grew on me, though, and we've been picking away at the cake all week long.

Whether gluten-free, eggless, or "regular," Labonel's treats are only available as custom orders. They are a little tricky to find, being that the office is on the side of a house behind a gate with no sign. It's like a secret society. A secret, chocolate-cake-loving society. You can find their products and directions to the house on their website.

on sale for celiac awareness month

I'm a little late in telling you that May is Celiac Awareness Month, but it's not too late to take advantage of some yummy sales at Amazon.com Groceries. I stocked up on a few things earlier in the month and I'll be going back for round two before the month is over.

Some of my favorites:

It's gross, but Fruity Pebbles one of my favorite cereals from childhood. I'm not quite ready to fill Muffin with so much sugar and artificial color yet, so these will be a special treat for me after she's asleep for the night. Save 15% when you enter code POSTGFO5 at checkout. Plus, save an additional 15% when you combine the instant rebate with your Subscribe and Save order--bringing your total savings to 30%.

KIND bars are my go-to, stuck in the car, didn't get breakfast because the baby didn't nap, snacks. Save 15% when you enter code KINDMAY5 at checkout. Plus, save an additional 15% when you combine the instant rebate with your Subscribe and Save order--bringing your total savings to 30%.

It's too hot to light the oven, but I still want some cookies to snack on every once in a while. I love the Pamela's shortbread. Save 10% when you enter code PAMGFMAY at checkout. Plus, save an additional 15% when you combine the instant rebate with your Subscribe and Save order--bringing your total savings to 25%.

I am an Amazon affiliate. If you purchase from these links or from my store, I will receive a small kickback.

06 May 2011

adventures in veggie shopping

Much like going to the farmers' market in San Francisco or Dupont Circle to check out the fresh produce before heading out to the grocery store, here I have to go to a fruit stand and a vegetable stand to find the best produce before I take my chances on the grocery store produce aisle.

Finding the best "Western" produce is a competitive sport. I only just discovered the secret of the produce stand a few weeks ago. I usually send my driver out for groceries or make one stop at the grocery store and settle for what's there. But now that it's a little easier to shop with Muffin in tow, I love our weekly trek to Star Fruit and Tarkari Vegetables. The veggie ladies give Muffin carrots to play with. Star Fruit is a tiny, jam-packed shop and Muffin pokes and grabs at any fruit or customers within range. (And because people love babies so much here, they don't mind a little grabbing hand from the whitest baby they've ever seen.)

The best thing about Tarkari -- they almost always have green leaf lettuce. At most stores you can only get iceberg lettuce, which I detest. But Tarkari has green leaf lettuce and -- get this -- with a little washing it's perfectly safe to eat! We can have salad again! The first day I discovered the lettuce, there was an Australian woman in the shop who told me to take what I wanted because she was going to buy all of it. Competitive lettuce shopping indeed. When I found fresh basil after weeks of not seeing it, I was the one who bought the whole stock (and then I had my housekeeper make about a gallon of pesto). And I'm sorry other expats, but I also cleaned out the thyme and rosemary at qmart a couple weeks ago.

The prices at the grocery store aren't prohibitive for most expats, like they might be for local shoppers. It's certainly more convenient for one-stop shopping. But what I like about the smaller stands is that the fruits and veggies are local. They are fresh. They are ripe. They may have traveled from another state in India, but few things came on a plane from another country.

You do need to wash everything, but that's one of the benefits of having a housekeeper. She washes and cuts everything up, which makes it much more likely that we'll actually eat all the fruits and vegetables that I buy.

Muffin's been enjoying the local watermelon lately.

Cross-posted at Where in the World Am I.

19 April 2011

contes frozen cheese ravioli

When I was home in the United States last summer I was thrilled to find Conte's frozen cheese ravioli at a health food store near our house. After two years in Africa and being between seven and nine months pregnant at the time, I was craving something new.

These cooked up easily and one package made two meals for my giant, pregnant self. I found the flavor to be somewhat lacking so a spicy tomato sauce or extra basil-ly pesto was definitely needed to perk up the flavor. The texture of the cheese and the chewiness of the pasta was perfect. You'd hardly guess they were made from gluten-free dough. With a flavorful sauce, some fresh tomato slices and basil leaves, and freshly grated parmesian cheese, I had a wonderful feast to welcome me back to American convenience foods.

They were a little expensive, but I was pregnant and only in the United States for a few months so I allowed myself to splurge. The fact that I could easily get two meals out of them helped justify the cost as well.

Conte's frozen foods can be found in health food stores and can be shipped to certain areas from sites such as Gluten-Free Mall.

Image from Gluten Free Mall. I was not compensated in any way for this post. Items were purchased by me for personal consumption.

29 March 2011

The Best Coffee in the World

Here's a little note to let you know that the best coffee in the world, Peet's Burundi, is back for a limited time, online only. I'm not just saying it's the best because we lived there and I'm happy when Burundi has great economic opportunities. This really is great-tasting coffee.

Image from Peets.com. I was not compensated in any way for this post. Product was purchased by me for personal consumption.

21 March 2011

banana date muffins with coconut oil

I'm in love with coconut oil. I'd been hearing about its magical properties in the removal of Holi paints and this morning as I was rubbing it on Muffin's head, hungry from the toasted coconut smell, I started wondering how I can cook with it. I was going to make banana bread today anyway... could I replace the butter with coconut oil?

Before answering that question, I had to make sure the coconut oil I used was marked "edible." Coconut oil is used in women's hair here and the hair oil is a different grade than the cooking oil.

I pulled out my trusty Pamela's baking mix and got to work.

4 tablespoons coconut oil
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups Pamela's baking mix
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup golden syrup (You can also use granulated sugar or honey, but golden syrup is another new obsession of mine.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup ripe, mashed banana
1/2 cup chopped dates (You can substitute nuts or another dried fruit if you prefer.)

Mix it all up and spoon into oiled or paper-lined muffin tins. Bake at 350 F / 175 C for about fifteen minutes, until edges start to turn golden and a toothpick comes out clean. My yield was about fifteen muffins, but the muffin papers I've found here a a bit smaller than the usual ones found in the United States.

These were soft and tasty-warm-delicious right out of the oven, and they kept their softness and moisture for a couple days. They are oh-so-yummy, rich with the coconut and banana flavors. I'd love to try dried mango for a full-on tropical muffin.

The answer is yes, I can replace butter with coconut oil, at least in this recipe.

Muffin enjoys her muffin.

(Recipe modified from the banana loaf recipe found on the Pamela's baking mix package.)

14 March 2011


Today my driver pulled over to buy some bananas and he asked if I'd ever eaten jackfruit. I hadn't, and as he excitedly negotiated a price for some bananas and jackfruit, because jackfruit is so great I just had to try it, I wondered if jackfruit was the big, ugly spiny melon that was sitting on the cart covered in flies.

It was. But to my relief the vendor pulled out a plastic bag filled with what looked like large, yellow unpeeled garlic cloves. They smelled good, like pineapple. They looked pretty clean. My driver advised me to eat a little of the flesh, peeling it off the large seed on the inside.

Yum! Imagine a pineapple, only sweeter and with less annoying juice and fewer annoying fibers. I gave a tiny bit to Muffin and her head nearly exploded from yumminess. I only ate one pod, thinking it was best to wash the rest before eating them. I'm trying to save some for Mike to try, but it's just too sweet and delicious. I'm popping them like candy corns. 

Jackfruit has vitamins and stuff, and some of the less-sweet flesh is used as a carbohydrate source. People make jams and chutneys out of it and dry it out for chips. I'm just going to be eating it from now until it goes out of season. I can go buy one every day if I want to! I'm thinking they'd be a great addition to my smoothies.

Find more information at Jackfruit Basics. Image from Jackfruit Basics.

07 March 2011

At the Steak House

Yes, you heard me correctly. Steak in Hyderabad. Tender, juicy, perfectly seasoned grilled tenderloin. Decent, and even passable, steak is difficult to find here. Hindus and Muslims don't eat a lot of beef and the cows aren't raised for eating purposes. The few times we've bought beef to roast or grill ourselves it's been tough and no amount of pounding or marinating has made it tender enough to be enjoyable. And for some reason I always think of buying a steak for Friday night dinner, but you can't buy beef on Fridays (all the Muslim butcher shops are closed).

Since we arrived our driver has been pointing out Chef Inam's Steak House to me every time we pass it and one night Mike and our neighbor stopped there on the way home from work to pick up some take-away. Mike met Chef Inam, tried the steak, and has been insisting we get back there right away. Inam lived in the United States and took culinary classes at Johnson and Whales (Yay Rhode Island!) and has brought his American steak-grilling skills back to India. On Friday night I packed up Muffin, we went to pick up Mike at work, and we went at Chef Inam's for a steak.

This is not a steak house like you'll find in the United States and I can see why so many expats get their steak for take-away. It's a little hole-in-the-wall with a couple tables and plastic chairs. Inam grills on the street in front of the facade. There's a cooler full of sodas and water. It's a dive. But we pulled out our hand sanitizer and ate there anyway.

It was worth it. Mike got a French-style peppercorn-encrusted steak and I had what Inam calls his Boston steak, covered with herbs and English mustard. They were perfectly cooked (rare for Mike, medium rare for me), tender, and deliciously seasoned.

We took Muffin outside to watch the grilling. She was fascinated. We even gave her a few bits of meat to chew on. She loved it until she got a peppercorn. She was getting tired by then, so instead of her spitting-out yucky face, she screamed. Luckily the place was getting full of men talking and laughing loudly so no one else could hear her. We paid the bill and made a quick getaway.

Speaking of the bill, the steaks were about five or six dollars each and the serving was big enough to fill Mike and for me to eat half and bring the rest home.

Don't let Muffin's reaction deter you from Chef Inam's Steak House. She's just a baby. And we're the stupid parents who gave her spicy peppercorns, then stopped to take a picture of it.

Cross-posted from Where in the World Am I?

06 March 2011

almond meal and other gluten-free monthly specials at bob's red mill

Almond meal is great for baking with. It adds a little something special to muffins, quick breads, and pancakes. I also use it in brownies. I'm not saying brownies are health food, but a little almond meal will give you a boost of healthy fats, vitamins, and fiber.

This month at Bob's Red Mill almond meal, rice bran, hemp seeds, chia seeds, raw shelled sunflower seeds, and brown flaxseeds are on sale. They are all part of a fiber-rich, heart-healthy diet and they are all 20% off this month.

Note that not all products on the specials page are gluten-free and not all products are processed in Bob's strictly gluten-free facility. Read product descriptions carefully for making informed decisions.

*I was not compensated in any way for this post. Products are purchased by me for personal consumption.

roland quinoa and other grains on sale at amazon.com

I love quinoa. It's the supergrain that the Aztecs warriors ate. It's packed with protein and for the pregnant ladies it's a good source of folic acid. Roland quinoa, along with polenta and rice, is on sale from Amazon.com. Throughout the month of March, select Roland products are 15% off with the coupon code ROLAN655. You'll save an additional 15% if you sign up for Subscribe & Save.

Note that not every product on this page is gluten-free, so read descriptions carefully.

*I am an Amazon affiliate. If you purchase from these links or from my store, I will receive a small kickback.

udi's gluten-free granola on sale at amazon.com

Granola is not always gluten-free. You have to make sure it's made from oats that haven't been contaminated and make sure the dried fruit hasn't been dusted with wheat flour. Here comes Udi's to the rescue. It's great with milk or yogurt or baked into muffins. Throughout the month of March, Amazon.com Groceries has select Udi's granola on sale for 15% off when you use the code UDISO3II at checkout. You can save an additional 15% with subscribe & save.

Note that not every Udi's product is gluten-free, so read the descriptions carefully.

*I am an Amazon affiliate. If you purchase from these links or from my store, I will receive a small kickback.

16 January 2011

dosa masala

Dosa are thin rice-flour pancakes stuffed with spicy yummy fillings. They're often served for breakfast with side sauces. They're a convenience food that you can buy from a cart off the street.

We have two dosa sources within walking distance of our house, a cart and a restaurant, and dosas have become my favorite fast food. A plain dosa is usually filled with onion. My favorite kind is dosa masala, which is stuffed with masala-spiced potato. I've also had dosa palak paneer, which is stuffed with spinach and cheese. The sauces are usually a coconut chutney and a lentil soup. One of the restaurants near us also serves dosa with a ginger chutney, which has been my favorite sauce so far.

Here's the tricky part about dosa. Despite the fork and spoon shown in the photo, dosa are traditionally eaten with your fingers, with just your right hand. It takes some practice to rip the pancake, scoop up all the filling that falls out, dip your fingers in one of the sauces, and get it all into your mouth (and in our case, without dropping any on the baby's head) with one hand. I'm getting the hang of it.

09 January 2011

new year new you sale at amazon.com

A couple more Amazon.com sales that I'm excited about...

Select Kind bars are 5% off with the coupon code KINDNYNY through January 31 and if you subscribe you'll get an additional 15% off. I'm a big fan of the Kind Plus bars with calcium, since I don't drink as much milk here in India as I probably should.

Select Bob's Red Mill products are 15% off with the code BOBSNYNY through January 31 and if you subscribe you'll get an additional 15%. Note that not every product on the page is gluten-free, so read the item descriptions carefully.

*I am an Amazon affiliate. If you purchase from these links or from my store, I will receive a small kickback.



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