Category Archives: Nuts ‘N’ Berries (Recipes)

Gluten-Free, Egg-Free, Soy-Free “Matzo” Balls

While this recipe is every-day Kosher, it is not Kosher for Passover. It is my personal belief, however, that in cases of severe allergies, G-d will understand. Do with that what you will.

I recently chose to accept the challenge of assisting in making a meal for a Passover Seder. If you have ever been involved in hosting a Seder, you know what a massive undertaking that is. Additionally, one of our guests has a long list of allergies, including soy and…eggs. Yes, eggs, the foundation of most Passover baked goods, since yeast and chemical (baking soda/baking powder) leavenings are forbidden. ARGH!!! And, since I, myself, have a strong and unpleasant reaction to gluten, I knew that anything I made would be automatically gluten-free.

Having been to my fair share of meals where, because of my ONE food allergy, I was told, “Oh, well, you can just have a salad while the rest of us have this incredible 5 course meal,” I knew that I could not do this to our guest with all the allergies. For me Passover, is about coming together and celebrating with family. It is exactly the wrong time to be excluding anyone. As far as I was concerned, all of our guests would be eating the same exact food as everyone else at the table.

The search began by looking for gluten-free, egg-free matzo (or matzo meal). Turns out, it doesn’t exist at a mass-produced level. I have heard rumors that a company tried making gluten-free, vegan matzo one year, but it never came back the following year. I suppose the need is simply too niche. So unless you are willing and able to make your own matzo (I am not), it simply doesn’t exist. However, I am a pragmatist, so I found some gluten-free crackers that did not contain any allergens OR leavening. No yeast, no baking soda, no baking powder. It was the best I could do. This is the first reason why I state that these “matzo” balls are not Kosher for Passover, even though they were Everyday Kosher. (Regardless of ingredients missing or present, there are other factors that make food Kosher for Passover, and these crackers were not.)

Once we had confirmed that the crackers would be safe for all guests, the next step was to create “matzo” meal, which is traditionally just matzo ground down to about the texture of corn meal. (I checked. Even the matzo meal is either egg-free or gluten-free. I could not find both in one tin.) I used a food processor and ground up my substitute matzo until it was nice and crumbly. (If you grind it too much, you make “matzo” cake flour, which is too fine for our purposes here.)

I then followed the process laid out in Tablet’s Egg-Free Matzo Balls, with some minor adjustments. The biggest problem with following the recipe exactly* is that it uses actual matzo meal (egg-free, of course—I hope!). When working with gluten-free flours, the absorbency of each flour is slightly different, so using gluten-free crackers means that the meal won’t absorb liquids the same way that wheat flour matzo would. Because of this, I had to work from feel.

When I followed the directions exactly (okay, well, I doubled the recipe, but other than that, I did everything exactly) and mixed everything together, I ended up with a salty, soupy glop. (Ooooh! Those crackers were already salted and the recipe called for more salt. D’oh!) Adding a bit more “matzo” meal brought the mix together.

The next step is super important, especially for GF flours. I chilled the mixture for 15 minutes. Knowing now what I didn’t know then, I’d actually lean closer to 45 minutes to an hour.

Once it set, the mixture had a texture firm enough to scoop into balls and hold its shape, but still moist enough to be malleable. The matzo ball expert on NPR’s Good Food said when forming the balls, if you must form them into perfect orbs, to use a light touch. Too much handling will make the “matzo” balls sink when they should float. That sounded reasonable to me, so I tried not to handle the mixture too much.

Around this time, I realized that even though I had doubled the recipe, I still didn’t have enough “matzo” balls to feed seven people, so I quickly made another, regular-sized, batch. But I didn’t grind as much “matzo” meal, so the batter was a little wetter than the first batch. I let the first batch rest on the baking sheet while I mixed and chilled the second batch. I did not let the second batch rest. They all just went straight into the oven! (Bad idea. Now I know for next time.)

According to Tablet’s recipe, you want to par-bake the “matzo” balls until they are just lightly golden. For this I had to trust my baking instincts. I didn’t want to fully bake them (because they should be boiled), but if they were under-baked, they would dissolve when processed in the salt water. And again, the types of flours, their specific combination, and how they were baked could all affect the final outcome.

I found that during the baking process, the second batch of the “matzo” balls lost their shape a bit and flattened out. This could be because they a little wetter, or it could be because they didn’t rest as long, either in or out of the fridge. (I would love to hear back if anyone decides to experiment with this.)

Once the “matzo” balls were par-baked, it was time to boil them. The matzo ball expert recommended using salt water, not soup, because fat in the soup can cause the matzo balls to become dense instead of fluffy. When I simmered in salt water, of the 21 “matzo” balls I originally par-baked, only about 13 survived. I suspect the survivors were the ones that got extra rest time. The others disintegrated, and honestly, even the survivors were much smaller when I pulled them out than when they went in. I’m pretty sure mainstream ones puff up. Oh, well.

After they had simmered for the prescribed 25 minutes, I took them out of the salt water with a slotted spoon and dropped them into a baggie, which I then refrigerated over night (because I made everything early, not because they needed the rest). The next day, I got the chicken soup piping hot, dropped in the “matzo” balls and let them warm up a bit, and then served immediately.

It wasn’t exactly matzo ball soup, but it was close enough, and everyone with or without allergies thought it was quite delicious, if a little heavy on the salt. (ARGH! Those pre-salted crackers!) Not bad for an “on the fly” recipe remake.

Have you tried something similar? How did it come out?

 

*A note about aquafaba, less delicately known as “bean water”: many, but not all, Jews do not consider legumes of any sort to be Kosher for Passover. This is the second reason these “matzo” balls would not be acceptable at a strictly Kosher Seder. I have heard that you can also try using bananas and/or applesauce as binders instead, but I’m not sure how well they’ll hold up when they are boiled, and I haven’t tried yet. Again, for my personal use in this case, I think that Gd will understand.

MiriBear’s Breakfast Cheesy Garlic Bread of Awesomeness

There was a while where every time that I was on my own for dinner, I would gleefully run home and crank on the oven. Within 30 minutes, I’d be dining on some variation of tomato soup and a metric ton of garlic bread. Sadly, due to my body going crazy on me over the last three years, I can no longer eat any grains in the evenings or I’ll be up all night, so dinners that includes any sort of bread, glutenous, garlicy, or no, are now out.
 
But that doesn’t stop me from having it for breakfast! 

Continue reading MiriBear’s Breakfast Cheesy Garlic Bread of Awesomeness

No Longer a N00b: Gluten-Free Resources

I’m realizing that I have quite a collection of resources at my fingertips for living a strictly gluten-free lifestyle. I think it’s about time that I share them with whoever else might need a little guidance– or maybe you’re more of an expert than me, but are looking to expand your knowledge base. 🙂 This list is by no means complete. It’s just my favorites. Continue reading No Longer a N00b: Gluten-Free Resources

A Quick Howdy and a Redirect

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

First of all, I would like send out my thanks to all the laborers of our great nation–the teachers, the drivers, the baggers, the checkers, the factory workers, the miners, the loggers, the workers, the doers, the makers… and pretty much everyone who puts in a hard day’s work. You are the backbone of our county. Your daily industry is valued and appreciated. Thank you.

On a separate note, I hope you have been having a wonderful and relaxing weekend. I certainly have. After a month of multiple deadlines, I don’t think I realized how tired I was until I slept in for the last two days and took midday naps to boot! So, here it is, day three of my weekend, and I’m finally ready to dig in and do stuff. LOL!

My post here is fairly short, but that’s mostly because I wrote up a nice little tutorial on single-serve cookie baking, over at Food From Our Kitchens. (This method is especially useful on days when you feel like you’re living inside Mt. Doom, and cannot bear the thought of turning on the oven, but yanno, you still want cookies.)

Feel free to check it out.

 

Image found here: http://www.browncountypubliclibrary.org/sites/default/files/images/Labor-Day.jpg

My House Smells So Good

There’s been a lot going on Chez Bear these days. I’ve been slamming out writing and editing projects around my full time job, and Honey has been dealing with dramatic changes at his job, plus slamming out… writing and editing projects. But, you know, totally different projects. Heh! No such thing as geeks at rest, I guess.

This weekend was a little different, though. Saturday, I went to a writing retreat out in the mountains of Monrovia, and I waved to all my friends who lived out there, but since they were probably more than a hundred yards away and on the other side of a lot of trees, I don’t think they saw me. But yes, the writing retreat was out in the woods on the side of a mountain, and there would be no grocery stores or restaurants within walking distance, so I knew I’d have to bring my own lunch. And for some reason, this put me in a little bit of a panic.

The embarrassing truth is that I haven’t packed my lunch in a very long time. At work, I have nearby eateries that can cater to my needs, and at home I have a refrigerator with things I can use to make a decent lunch/snack/breakfast thing. And Del Taco is nearby, too.

Also, I couldn’t think of a sandwich I could make for myself with what I had in the kitchen that would a) taste good, b) contain any sort of nutrition, and c) contain stuff I actually had in my kitchen. So I decided that rather than making a run to the grocery store for crappy GF sandwich bread, I’d make something in advance.

I made pepperoni rolls. I did not, however, read all of my notes from last time, so that recipe is still not quite perfect, more’s the pity. But it was still good enough that when the instructor of the retreat asked me what I was eating and I shared with her, she literally jumped up and down in her seat and waved her hands, trying to tell everyone else at the retreat about what I was eating. #PepperoniRollsFTW #CanYouEvenUseHashtagsInABlog #WhoCares #MyBlog

The thing about my recipe is that the bread recipe I use is already halved, but it still makes enough bread for a double batch, so I always have dough left over. (More dough than pepperoni, you see.) Sometimes I just bake the bread straight up– very good. Or I can make monkey bread. Yum! But this time, I wanted to make cinnamon rolls. Mmmm!

So Sunday, I knew I’d be making cinnamon rolls, using my Frankenstein recipe, where the dough, the filling and the frosting all come from different places, and got stitched together with me in the middle making minor tweaks. But I wasn’t done yet, so I also made buckwheat pancakes for breakfast, flourless brownies, and chicken casserole for dinner the next night. In short, I didn’t write. I didn’t edit. I didn’t go to Disneyland. But I had a blast.

And I posted the recipe for the cinnamon rolls over at a new blog I’m a joint member of, Food From Our Kitchens. Pop on over and check it out. And find out how to make easy-peasy cinnamon roll dough. (SO EASY.)

Peace.

“Everybody Eats” Baked Beans

Over the weekend, Honey and I went to a backyard barbeque, hosted by our friend, Belle. There were hot dogs and hamburgers available for pretty much every diet I can think of. We had our choice of all-beef, pork, turkey or tofu/veggie burgers or hotdogs with three different kinds of buns—including gluten free ones for me. (I was so touched to be remembered.) Even though no one asked it of the guests, I had decided to bring baked beans, because what is a Southern (California) barbeque without baked beans? When I went to make them, though, I had a decision to make: do I include bacon or no?

I know, I know. Everyone eats bacon right now. But that’s not really true, is it? For instance, people who keep Kosher—actual Kosher, as opposed to “Bacon counts as Kosher”—don’t. Nor do vegetarians or vegans. Nor do people who are watching their cholesterol or their salt. The question that faced me was “how inclusive do I want these beans to be?” How many people or groups do I want to tell that their presence is not important to me? How many people should know that I have no interest in breaking bread with them? Continue reading “Everybody Eats” Baked Beans

My, Oh My! Cherry Pie

I have been obsessed with pie, lately. Also, cherries. (It was cherry season last week.)

The pie thing is fairly obvious. I mean, c’mon. Pie. In addition, though, I have been listening to back-episodes of KCRW’s Good Food, and the host, Evan Kleiman, is obsessed with pie. So, I’ve been having her in my ear, talking about a LOT of pie. On top of that, two of my favorite diners carry all sorts of yummy pie. The only kind they don’t carry is gluten-free. So I’ve known for a while that I need to learn, once and for all, how to make a damn pie crust, especially since all the pre-made gf pie crusts I could find were only sold during the holiday season.

I did what I always do when I’m learning how to do something that intimidates me. I pulled out the training wheels. In this case, that meant buying a piecrust in a box. Well, a bag, really. Bob’s Red Mill to the rescue! In addition, I did a lot of research on what makes a good pie crust, and what to do and what not to do when working with it. It turns out, a lot of the Not To Dos are related to not activating the gluten in the flour, so I felt I was already ahead of the game.

Continue reading My, Oh My! Cherry Pie

The Week of Hosting: The Plan Was To Have French Toast

It started with an email. But then, it usually does anymore, doesn’t it? Have I mentioned I hate the phone? Because I hate the phone. I would much rather email. If not that, then I’d rather text. But if this shit is just going to take too long to type, I’ll move the phone. But I hate the phone, because nine times out of ten, I can’t understand what people are saying. Skype is generally a much better experience, because I can use two ears. Where the hell was I? Email. Yes

We miss you! it said. Come over, it said. “I want French Toast!” I said. And thus, the Henson Brunch was born. The funny thing is, I think this one was on the books before cinnamon rolls or pie were even a blip on my mental screen, but you know, busy people are busy, so it took us quite a few weeks to find a time that was mutually agreeable. And then Cinnamon Rolls and Pie popped up around it, and all of a sudden, Honey and I were facing an epic Week of Hosting. Continue reading The Week of Hosting: The Plan Was To Have French Toast

The Week of Hosting: The Plan Was to Have Pie

Honey has a friend/former-co-worker– let’s call her Belle– who just got a job at a new company. Also a promotion. Also, she is now directly on her desired career path. This is a fantastic news! The unfortunate part is that she moved to Los Angeles less than a year ago, and all of her family is out of state. Anyone who has ever moved to LA knows just exactly how much of a bitch it is to make friends out here. The place is so spread out. There’s so much to do. And everyone already HAS friends. Angeleno-transplants know this pain. While I know Belle has a couple of friends through work, I wasn’t sure if she had any on the outside yet– you know, someone local to help her raise a glass in celebration of her successes.

So we decided that she needed a proper celebration. But due to timing restrictions on both her part and ours, we realized that it would be easiest for everyone involved for us to get together in the middle of the week, rather than on a weekend. Which meant Planning. Continue reading The Week of Hosting: The Plan Was to Have Pie

Games and Toys and Wolves

A couple of busy weekends have passed, and I haven’t been able to tell you about them, because stuff.

Three weekends ago, Honey and I threw a great, big launch party for Spy Guys. At first we were aiming for some sort of industry mixer thing, you know for reviewers and publishers and the like. Then we realized we really don’t know any reviewers or publishers or anything remotely of the like. So we invited people we thought would like to play the game– you know, our friends. 🙂 But it was in an open space at our favorite local pub, so if people off the street wandered in, they were welcome to join us, too! It definitely changed the tenor of the event– for one thing, now kids were invited, but I think that since the game is kid friendly, that worked to our advantage.

Continue reading Games and Toys and Wolves