Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Living: Challenge #2 Yummy GF Chinese Stir Fries without SOY SAUCE

September 6th, 2008 yum Posted in Chinese, Dinner Party, GF Support Groups, Karina Friendly, Mushrooms, Nut Free, Party Food, Soy Free, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian, Vietnamese, jicama, soy-free challenges 8 Comments »

Recently I had the special challenge of creating completely allergen free food for our latest CeliacBayArea potluck. These dishes had to be gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, egg-free, bean-free, nut-free, and even coconut-free. What’s a soy, coconut, nut loving girl to do? One of my go-to potluck dishes that I enjoy making is a simple spring roll, but my favorite dipping sauce uses nuts in some form or another. Luckily, some time back I’d discovered a lovely and easy sweet chili sauce that went beautifully with spring rolls. I’ve often made this as well as a peanut sauce in case there are people at the party allergic to peanuts. However, as I thought about the party, I wasn’t sure my ordinary, salad-like spring roll would do. Many (although not all) of our diners were not vegetarian, and I thought they might find a salad-type roll a bit light and unsatisfying. But what if I made a heartier filling with mushrooms- something seasoned like a rich Chinese food dish- and combined it with fresh cilantro (just a leaf or two) and some rice noodles? Wouldn’t that be hearty and tasty, and give my soy-free friends a chance for Chinese food flavors that they don’t often get to enjoy? I had a plan. I’ve been working on a jicama stir-fry for a while, ever since I discovered how delicious it is fried in flavorful oil. For this variation, I combined jicama, carrot, and mushroom for a hearty and pleasant stir fry with sweet and savory elements. The sauce required some thought- ordinarily I would have used sesame oil to give it savory appeal, but since nuts were out I had to look elsewhere for my flavors. I came up with a savory sauce using alcohol, vegetable stock (yes, mine is soy-free and guten-free! I use the bouillon on the left for all my Chinese dishes), honey, and rice vinegar. On its own it wasn’t special, but combined with the salty and savory elements of the stir fry, it really brought everything together. The verdict of my tasters? DH loved the stir fry and kept stealing bits of it, to my chagrin. He wanted to just eat it on rice, but I had other designs for it. And as far as the potluck- I think our allergen-free members really enjoyed the flavor. Allergy-boy (a fervent carnivore) liked the combination of vegetables, and my friend JM (of okra fame) wanted the recipe. Perhaps the greatest compliment of all- even though I’d made enough for an army (I thought), with two boxes filled with two tiers of rolls, our small-ish party managed to eat almost all of the summer rolls I’d brought. So much for leftovers… heheh. Although I am lucky enough (I think) not to be intolerant to soy, with some of the negative press around it, it seems like it doesn’t hurt to take a break from it once in a while. And, when you can make something this tasty, and this allergen-free, being soy-free no longer seems like such a restriction. After all, how yummy IS soy sauce, when it comes down to it? When’s the last time you felt like glugging it straight from the bottle? I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to think I could do without it.

How to make Spring/Summer Rolls and peanut sauce recipe
Summer Rolls Vegan Lunchbox-Style
Gluten-Free Soy-Free Chinese Fried Rice Recipe
Soy-free Szechuan Chinese Pea Recipe
Soy-free Szechuan Chili-Zucchini Brown fried Rice Recipe

Coming Soon
Gluten-Free Soy-Free Living- Challenge #3 Gluten Free Vegetarian Sushi without the soy sauce (and without missing it!)
Recipes, Tricks and tips for gloriously yummy (and healthy) Japanese dining- out AND at home!
Past Episodes
Gluten-Free Soy-Free Living- Challenge #1 Gluten-Free,Soy-Free, Dairy-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Soy-Free Chinese Jicama Stir Fry
1/2 cup Canola Oil (or peanut, if allergies don’t forbid)
1 tbsp. szechuan peppercorns
a few slices of fresh ginger
2 large garlic cloves
2 scallions, just the white part

1 small jicama or 3/4 large jicama, peeled and cut into sticks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
8 med-lg. mushrooms (white or crimini), washed, stems removed, sliced

1/4 tsp. salt (NO LESS! Chinese food NEEDS the saltiness, and remember, you’ve already cut down on sodium by not using soy sauce)
2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced

1/2 cup vegetable stock (or make from vegetable bullion)
1 tsp. mirin
1 tsp. brandy
1/2 tsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. honey
a touch of salt
1 tsp. cornstarch
(the important measurements here are the VEG STOCK AND CORNSTARCH. proportions of the alcohol and honey etc. are estimated- just add until you’ve created a balance in sauce that you like. This isn’t a lip-smackingly yummy sauce on its own- it is to add depth of flavor to well seasoned vegetables that are already flavorful)

Szechuan oil:
Heat a wok on high and add Szechuan to pan, tossing lightly. Turn heat to low and toast peppercorn lightly, stirring frequently- about a minute and a half. Add the peanut oil and raise heat to medium or medium high, depending on your stove. Once oil begins to bubble lightly (if it ever does), add ginger, and garlic cloves. Lower heat and let cook until the garlic cloves and ginger turns brown. You may want to turn them in the oil to get them brown on both sides. When they are golden brown remove them and discard. Add in the white part of the scallions and let it brown, and then remove it from the oil and discard. You should have nicely flavored oil by now. If you have the patience, let cool and strain into a glass container (with a lid). If you don’t have the patience, strain with heat resistant metal strainer after letting it reach a cooler temperature into a heat resistant metal or glass. You don’t need to clean your wok if you are planning on immediately making this stir fry.

Mix your sauce ingredients in a small bowl and reserve. Add cornstarch last by mixing it with a small amount of the sauce first and then adding it to the sauce.

Take two tablespoons of the flavored oil and heat in your wok over high heat.

Toss in your salt and then, a few seconds later, your fresh minced ginger. As it starts to brown, throw in your jicama sticks. Move them in the wok with cooking chopsticks or other wooden cooking device (I have a wooden paddle thing I’m rather fond of) to allow them to brown evenly and not burn as well as get evenly coated with the yummy oil. After two minutes or so, add in the mushrooms, and then the carrots. You do NOT want to overcook the carrots, so watch them carefully. You want the mushrooms to be nice and soft and melty and the carrots to be crisp tender. Continue moving the food around as needed. When the dish seems ALMOST done, stir your sauce one last time and create a well in the center of the wok. Add the sauce to the center of the wok and then fold in the veggies as it thickens. Make sure the sauce has evenly coated all the veggies and then turn off the heat. Remove from wok and place in serving dish.

If needed, you can add more oil right before you add the mushrooms and carrots, but try to let the oil heat up a little before adding the next ingredients, and keep the jicama away from it on the sides of the wok. You can also experiment with LESS oil, but it adds a lot of flavor and the interest to the dish, so I would try it first with the given amount and then adjust for your own tastes. Steamed veggies are an alternative for the super-health conscious- but I’ve never been keen on them and the goal here is to achieve lip-smacking Chinese restaurant style tastiness without soy or gluten.

You can serve this with rice (white or brown), rice noodles, or even in a summer roll rice paper wrap. Craziness, I know. :)

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Gluten Free Celiac Bay Area Support Group Potlucks: BBQ Menu and Apple Cake Recipe

August 7th, 2008 yum Posted in Baked Goods, Cooking for Karina, Dairy Free, Egg Free, GF Support Groups, Soy Free, Support Groups, Vegan, apple 6 Comments »

We had our most recent Celiac Bay Area Support Group Potluck this last August second, and as usual, everyone really outdid themselves. The hostess selected a BBQ theme for the event, so we had grilled bits, non-veg and some really superb thin, crispy stalks of asparagus, grilled red onion slices, and grilled peppers, along with potato salad, a lovely salad with tiny, sweet grapes, fruit and pickled veggies, a refreshing bean vinaigrette salad and some exotic slow-simmered fruits. Meanwhile, I made Bette Hagman’s wonderful rapid rise gluten-free french bread recipe and some fresh basil dipping oil, as well as a little dish of julienned fresh basil with halved sweet grape tomatoes in olive oil. I also made my favorite fresh lime soda, but there was lovely mint lemonade and a wide variety of wine for people to enjoy.

I loved all the savory dishes, but dessert time was especially fun, as we had all sorts of exotic fare from gluten-free cream puffs to allergy-free (egg-free, bean-free, soy-free, dairy-free etc) chocolate wacky cake and an absolutely divine allergy-free brandied apple cake. I was ecstatic over the cream puffs, as I’d only had them once before (in my life!) and I wasn’t the only one. I think everyone enjoyed them. The only problem with fluffy bread bits filled with ooey, gooey custard filling and topped with luscious chocolate frosting? You end up wearing as much filling and frosting as you ate- or maybe that’s just me. You can see the big ol’ mess I made on the left. But the recipe, the recipe was divine, and I was so thrilled that one of our members went to all the trouble to make them. Hurrah for ambitious gluten-free bakers! The recipe was based on Melonie Katz’ recipe for cream puffs from the SillyYaks message board through Yahoo, and then variations of filling recipes found online. I’m eager to make them myself. I will be contacting Melonie to see if she’ll let me share them with you on here. I’ll test the recipe with my own luxurious filling, and hopefully you’ll be seeing my version at the Book of Yum soon. In the meantime, feast your eyes on them above.

But I also really appreciated the allergy-friendly recipe for brandied apple cake that our master bakers, V and H, brought to the party. This allergen-free (but not taste-free) cake was gobbled up by those with special allergies as well as by the simply gluten-free folks. As one of our party commented “I think I like cakes with brandy.” Me too! This is my version of V and H’s excellent recipe. I would like to do some experiments in the future- maybe add a little more liquid ingredients (one half cup applesauce?) in addition to my dry brandied apples. Also a teaspoon or two of xanthan gum might make it less crumbly. Quinoa adds its own stamp to this cake, but you could also try it without for a lighter flavor. I have to admit, the powdered sugar V and H added really took it to a whole new level. Too bad we didn’t have any powdered sugar in the house… but that shouldn’t stop you from adding some. Trust me, it’s worth the sugar guilt. I would strongly recommend you visit V and H’s GF Recipe Web Page to check out their tasty recipes- there are tons of yummy gems in there, including their Simply Amazing Easy Cranberry Pie Recipe that I blogged about in October.

Isn’t it wonderful having gluten-free friends with such great kitchen voodoo? :) The meals I enjoy at these support group potlucks are always worlds better than most restaurant offerings- and certainly there’s way more variety and imagination present! If you haven’t tried joining a gluten-free support group, why not look into it? You may find, as I did, that there’s a whole community right outside your door that can understand better than anyone else the joys of GF online shopping, the best and worst of the latest gluten free products, and the highs and lows of the gluten-free lifestyle.

Vegan Brandied Apple Spice Cake Recipe
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup quinoa flour (or teff)
1 generous tsp. baking soda
1 generous tsp. baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves

1/2 cup vegan margarine like Earth Balance
1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cup brandied apples- recipe below (may substitute applesauce but the texture will be different)
1 cup raisins

Prepare 8*8 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray or by greasing with vegan margarine. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine flours and baking powder and baking soda with spices in a medium size bowl.

Cream margarine and brown sugar together in a mixer and then add flour mixture, brandied apples, and raisins to the bowl. Turn the mixer on and let the apples get chopped up a bit by the mixer.

Place the (stiff) batter in your baking tin and bake in your pre-heated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve. (I was out so left it off.)

How to make 1 1/2 cup brandied apples:
5 medium (green?) apples, peeled and thinly sliced
several healthy slugs of brandy
generous sprinkles of ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp high quality vanilla
plenty of brown sugar

Add your apple slices to a cast iron pan and heat, mixing slugs of brandy, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and a healthy layer of brown sugar. When the apple slices brown you can turn them over and if you like, add more brandy and brown sugar. Cook until the apples are tender, and remove from stove. Place in glass jar, cool, and reserve (or use right away in a recipe). There may be more than 1 1/2 cups apple slices after cooking- don’t worry, just use them in another recipe, like on ice cream or in a mini tart. (mmm, mini tart.)

My version of this recipe is tasty but not especially moist. (Although in a way that makes it tasty- like a bar cookie!)

Next time I might try:

an extra 1/4 or 1/2 cup applesauce (or yogurt if dairy or soy is not an issue)
1 or 2 tsp xanthan gum

Sweet Lime Soda
1 1⁄2 tbsp. or more freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tbsp. or more simple syrup (equal amounts of sugar and water, boiled together and let cool)
3⁄4 cup soda water
Lime slice

Put your lime juice and soda water in a tall, clear glass. Add simple syrup, mix, and taste. Add more simple syrup to taste. Garnish with a lime. Enjoy!

If you like you can add ice, but we were generally skeptical of the water used for ice in India so enjoyed ours at room temperature or cooled, if the soda water had been refrigerated.

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