The Best Gluten-Free Pizza Crust EVER!

Psssst. . .come here. You want in on a secret? You want the recipe for the BEST tasting gluten-free pizza crust that will EVER pass your lips? Ok — well, listen — this crust is NOT really a secret. In fact, it’s been posted on countless sites BUT not with this method — I do one thing different from everybody else but this one thing, makes ALL the difference. So if you’ve tried a crust like this before and had it FAIL because it ended up soggy or you had to eat it with a fork, stay tuned for the recipe and the one simple change that makes all the difference. (more…)

Building a Better Me with Tasty and Healthy New Year’s Cooking Adventures

Raising a toddler and juggling the full-time feast-or-famine-always-gotta-hustle solopreneur lifestyle of a freelance writer can be taxing enough, but with all that’s going on around here on The GrooVy Foody — creating new recipes, partnerships, promotions and giveaways and plans for more, I need good energy more than ever before.

Being a food blogger, of course, hasn’t helped matters — I cook, I take photos, I eat, I sit and write. Know what all of this translates into — besides awesome site stats? Pounds on my ass.

This is where my renewed commitment to healthful eating and a healthier lifestyle (exercise anyone?) comes into play. Apparently, others have these thoughts of renewal at the start of a new year and call them (wait for it!). . .resolutions?! 😉

My friends in the Virtual Potluck are no exception, which is why we’ve all decided to help each other in our journeys for balance and a healthier us in 2012! So, in addition to the awesome promo going on all month here (and on the 11 other VP Bloggers sites) for A Tasty and Healthy New Year, we’re launching Build a Better Me, a year long challenge to eat more healthfully, blog about it, get a bit of exercise and try and maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

Well, you’ll still get the occasional decadent dessert post  (watch out this Valentine’s Day for chocolate and cocktails!) It’s just that you’ll also be getting plenty of healthful and delicious (if it’s not delicious — we don’t eat it!) food recipes to help you stay on track with your resolutions too!

For all of the members of VP and foodies everywhere — eating healthfully means finding a balance between nourishing and nurturing — between being painfully stuffed or pleasantly satiated and as always it means local and organic (when available) whole foods ingredients. It also means stepping away from the computer for a 15 minute power walk a couple of times a day, stretching and drinking lots of water.

For me,it will also mean that I’m cutting gluten from my diet for a bit — so for readers who are looking at reducing gluten in their diets or for those that have Celiac disease, I’ll be exploring the world of gluten-free goodies and recipes for a while here on the site.

(I promise it won’t be every post!)

Happy Eating!

A Tasty and Healthy New Year: Cheesy Asian-inspired Sesame Rolls

California Olive Ranch

By now you’ve seen my “Host Page,” for the Virtual Potluck Tasty and Healthy New Year Challenge sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill and California Olive Ranch. I love doing these promotions, and not just because we get to try out some truly fabulous products (gratis) but because, as a foodie I absolutely adore seeing what everyone else comes up with using the same ingredients.

Same Ingredients, Same Recipes? No Way!

Inevitably, yes, there will be some similar recipes but they are NEVER exactly the same. Cooking, for those who truly love it, is like creating art, or loving someone, or leaving your fingerprint behind — there’s always an inimitable piece of you in there. And knowing that always makes me smile.

Bob's (Actual) Red Mill

So when charged with 12 of us making 4 dishes (one each week for the month of January) and given the same ingredient pairings each week — we didn’t skip a beat and decided to jump in with both feet. (You should all know that we do not discuss what we’re doing prior to posting — so the fact that are recipes differ to such great degree is a testament to the creative cooks I’m working with here and I hope you will go to the host page and visit them all — because if you don’t you’ll be missing out on a KILLER GIVEAWAY!!

That’s right, Bob’s Red Mill and California Olive Ranch are giving away an ingredient prize package each week — on each blog! That’s 48 recipes and 48 chances to win — pretty great chances. (See details below)

So what did I make for the first week? (I’m glad you asked.)

Good Health and Good Fortune for the New Year

Since we’re kicking this promo off in the New Year I tried to think of a dish that had New Year’s connotations but that just made me think of Chinese New Year, which made me think of dim sum and once we get into dim sum, then it’s all over.

But seriously, the idea for these rolls came from my love of dim sum. Oh, how I adore those lovely little chewy sesame balls filled with red bean or lotus paste and topped with crunchy, nutty sesame seeds. No dim sum visit is complete without satiating my yearning for shrimp (loads of it) and for great Hum Bao — both steamed and baked. Not only are the doughy (Hum Bao) or chewy sesame balls delicious and both savory and a little sweet but they are also filled with the most wonderful surprises — it’s like a gift and a dish. What’s not to love?!

But I needed my own twist, because sesame rolls are made with rice flour and I would be using BRM’s Hard White Whole Wheat Flour and COR’s Arbosana extra virgin olive oil. This week’s oil, as assigned, was to be Arbequina (and that’s what you’ll win if you get the prize this week) but I chose to go with the Arbosana because of it’s peppery notes and greater complexity.

The recipe for these rolls is rather basic (some might say bland) which is why I wanted a more flavorful oil to take center stage, without overwhelming it, the way sesame oil would, when coupled with sesame seeds, upon the canvas of hard white whole wheat flour (which you’ll find is surprisingly light and supple when used in baking, as compared to your average whole wheat flour.)

In any case, because of the flour and oil flavors, I decided to fill my light and fluffy, Asian-inspired Sesame Rolls with cheese — yes, I said it — cheese. I know this may not seem a typically Asian choice for these buns but trust me — it works!

As for the cheese, I used shredded Gruyere (I had it on hand) and it was lovely, but I could easily see Mozzerella or cheddar working equally well.

Cheesy Asian-Inspired Sesame Rolls Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Hard White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1.5 tsp Bob’s Red Mill dry active yeast (their yeast is the best by far!)
  • 1/4 tsp honey
  • 1 cup warm water (110°F)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup soy milk (or regular milk whatever you drink)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup California Olive Ranch Arbosana Olive Oil

Filling:

  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere, Mozzerella or Cheddar cheese

Exterior:

  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

Prepare the dough:
Combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water in a small bowl. Stir to dissolve. Set it aside 5 minutes or so, until the mixture gets bubbles.

Mix flour and salt in mixing bowl with dough hook. Add milk,  egg and olive oil, mixing on low. Slowly add the yeast mixture, on medium speed dough is mixed, increasing your speed at the end until a ball forms and pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl about 2 to 3 minutes.

Coat a glass bowl with olive oil, and set the dough to rest in the bowl, rolling it around to coat it in the olive oil. Cover and set to rise in warm place, until it has risen and doubled in size — 1 hour.

Form and bake the rolls:
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Fill a small bowl with the exterior olive oil and pour your sesame seeds on a lipped plate. Coat your hands and a round spring-form pan (like the kind used for cheesecake) with olive oil.

Punch the dough down and pull off a piece about the size of a golf ball. Flatten the dough enough to make a hollow for your cheese to reside. Place a tablespoon of shredded cheese in the center and gather the edges around it, twisting and pinching the dough together like you would to seal off the end of a balloon. Holding the tapered end closed, dip the smooth side down, into the olive oil, then roll into the seed mixture, never letting go of the sealed end. Place the roll, sealed side down, in your pan, working from the outer edges in. Repeat with the remaining dough, filling your pan and nestling the dough balls tightly together (this will keep them from unraveling.

Bake until golden, 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before removing the outer springform ring. The rolls will be pillowy soft, with melted cheese nestled in the center (NOTE: Some cheese may escape from a roll or two but no matter as it won’t go far– a neighboring rolls may be wearing it!)

A Tasty and Healthy New Year Challenge Giveaway

WINNER Announced!

Each week, the VP bloggers will challenge you to find (and use) the secret code word of the week, posted in the contest tab labeled “Virtual Potluck” on the California Olive Ranch Facebook page.

Each blogger will pick a single winner per week to receive a pack of the featured products from Bob’s Red Mill and California Olive Ranch.

That’s right- four weeks, 12 winners each week! That’s like 48 chances to win! The more blogs you visit the more chances you have to win~ so what are you waiting for?! Let’s get cooking (and eating!) A Tasty and Healthy New Year!

For more information on how you can win– visit the host page for links to the other sites!

 

Holiday Gift Ideas for Cooks: Cookbooks,Cusinarts & Cool stuff

Each year, as I get a little older, I find my must-have list waning. When people ask me what I want, I usually tell them something homemade — a card, a story, a scrumptious treat, a song written just for me (thanks hon!) I’m pretty easy to please. But I was thinking, that if someone really wanted to spend money on me (like my mother-in-law likes to — Thanks Gigi!) most times, the things I come up with are the essentials (a new bra or a new blade for my Cuisinart) which can be boring for the purchaser. (Hmph.)

Shadow family in Maryland Christmas snow

When my hubby gives me gifts, he knows I’m a sucker for the hand-drawn cards he gives and the sentimental photo items he makes me (our “bear family” and “shadow family” series, a video slideshow of my son’s birth, a special photo album of our trip to California, when my son met my grandmother.)  He also knows that he can never lose with music and  books.

Years ago, when I left my ex, I took only my clothes, photos, books and CDs. In fact, books and CDs were, really, the only things I was willing to fight for and as a result, he got everything else (the house, the car, the furniture, the dog and cat, my favorite poster of Paris, that I hand-carried back from the La Ville-Lumière — the city of lights — I mean EVERYTHING else!)

Well, everything else — but my pans! (Now, I sound like Steve Martin‘s Jerk, don’t I?– “That’s all I need the ashtray, the paddle game and this remote control.”)

But, YES! I kept my stainless steel, Cuisinart pans and most of the other big cooking equipment (it was clearly mine, as he didn’t really cook.) It’s a decision, I’m glad I made, each and every time I use them. Which got me to thinking, as a cook, what’s your most treasured cooking utensil or kitchen tool?

LOVE these pans -- especially, the deep skillet for Bolognese

My food processor is a must-have. I realized this recently, when my “S” blade broke and I was forced to start using my $10 cheapo blender for sauces and soups and I’ve had to resort to hand-chopping for everything else.  (Which, for a busy working mom who likes to serve her family whole, healthful foods — is a total pain!) I haven’t, yet, been able to afford to replace it ($40 for the replacement blade! Yikes!) But — Hey! — ‘Tis the season, right? Maybe . . .

Dreaming of Cuisinart Claus. . .

Dear Cuisinart Claus — if you’re listening, I’d love to review any of the new food processors you’d like to send my way, here on the blog (–and maybe one to give one away to a loyal reader?!) I’ve had my eye on the New Elite Collection 14-cup with three nesting bowls  (Yowza!)

Anyway, the point is, that there are things you love, no matter how simply you live or how anti-materialism you are — that aid you in the guilty pleasures of cooking. This is why I have compiled a quick list of some of the coolest cooking-related goodies this holiday season. Things, I think, are just fabulous for the cook in your life.

It’s important to note that, as with everything I talk about on this blog, I have NOT be paid for endorsing any of these products, these are my true opinions. If any products were given to me for review, it is noted.

AWESOME COOKBOOKS

Simply heaven ~ Simply Truffles

Simply Truffles:

Recipes and Stories That Capture the Essence of the Black Diamond By Patricia Wells

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book (courtesy of Morrow) and it is truly delightful. If looking at blogs like mine is considered food porn, then Wells’ book is the more high-brow but no less exciting counterpart of food erotica. This is a book that upon opening it, I quickly closed it again, knowing that I could NOT just flip through it like my normal cookbook perusal.

No, this required something special:  a warm bath filled with lavender Epsom salts, a lemon verbena and lavender scented candle, a glass of Sangiovese and chunk of dark chocolate later, I was soaking my cares away while dreaming of the French countryside and nibbling (in my fantasy) on truffle soaked eggs while drinking in the rich history of truffles, which Wells’ makes highly palatable. This book feels truly decadent — even if you never make a single recipe from it. (Though I intend to.) Loads of tips and tricks for black truffle use, including how to get the most out of it and even substitutions for the truffle impaired. I confess, I am in love with this book!

Off the Menu is Off the Hook!

Off the Menu: Staff Meals from America’s Top Restaurants by Marissa Guggiana

This was also an advance copy, that I received for a book review column called Great Reads in Portland Woman Magazine. Usually, I’m reviewing novels for them but getting to review this gem was areal treat. Because I have a review coming out in the next edition (coming soon) I’ll be brief. Off the Menu takes you behind the scenes to the meals that the staff at some of the country’s finest restaurants eat. HINT: You’ll be surprised at what’s cooking at some of these places. BONUS: PORTLAND READERS: 3 of our best restaurants are featured here including Paley’s Place. . .which brings me to. . .

The Paleys have a Place both in my kitchen and my heart.

The Paley’s Place Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from the Pacific Northwest by Vitaly and Kimberly Paley with Robert Reynolds

I’ve mentioned this cookbook here on the blog before and with good reason — it is fantastic. Simple ingredients, masterful preparations with step-by-step easy to execute instructions, great for any level. Paley’s builds on the beauty of fresh, seasonal ingredients (don’t let the section on where to order elk daunt you) by adding subtle but flavorful flourishes throughout (like keeping Persillade on hand) and techniques that once learned, can be carried with you to the book’s end and beyond. My goal is to one day cook everything in this book and I’m well on my way — that is, if I could just stop making the bacon crusted razor clams with basil aioli.

Kitchen Gadgetry & Fun

Sometimes it’s not the tools you need but the tools that make cooking even more fun that float your boat — this is how I feel about Fred (Hint, hint Fred — I could use some swag over here!) They have some totally unnecessary stuff (French Toast Paris toast stamp and the Cakewich pan) that cracks me up and some completely necessary and useful cooking and kitchen clean-up tools that are way too cute to boot!

Like:

NinjaBread Men

Thanks to Shelby over at Diabetic Foodie for showing me these!

 

 

M-Cups

Russian nesting doll measuring cups — available in red for a limited time! I adore Russian nesting dolls and would LOVE to get a set of these — maybe your foodie would too!

Happy Holidays!

“Baking a Better Holiday”: Chocolate-Almond Olive Oil Cake (*with a Kick)

. . .California Olive Ranch in my kitchen.

When Bob’s Red Mill met. . .

Not long ago, as things with the Emeril promotion were winding down but before Virtual Potluck really solidified into the amazing network of food bloggers it is today, I approached Bob’s Red Mill (BRM) asking them to partner with my blog and to let me explore their many flours, grains and legumes. Being the “real people,” kind of company that they are, they got right back to me (the SAME day!) and agreed to let me sample their wares.

(Look for a post on this later in the week AND a brilliant Giveaway, courtesy of Bob’s Red Mill!)

Cooking up a plan

As I chatted back and forth via email with Cassidy from BRM, she mentioned that my blog might be perfect for a holiday baking promotion they were running with California Olive Ranch Olive Oil (COR) — since I LOVE olive oil, for everything from sauteing to baking to conditioning my hair — I said an immediate, YES!

Something for your little monster. . .and the big ones too!

NOTE: After pitching my Virtual Potluck brethren to both Cassidy at BRM and Kirsten at COR they decided to tailor a little cross promotional fun for our group in January (Look for VP’s Healthy New Year in January — there will be freebies!)

Bake a Better Holiday

Needless to say I was pretty stoked about the partnership and looking forward to exploring the food items. Then I received the first batch of Bob’s Red Mill ingredients (full disclosure I already LOVE this company, anyway!) and my first bottle of California Olive Ranch’s oil (I’d never tried it before) and Wowy-Zowy! I was over the moon.

The reasons:

  • I love to feed my family whole, unfettered foods (no added crap!) and BRM and COR are just that!
  • The quality is amazing in both companies lines.
  • The flavors found in just that one bottle of olive oil were enough to make me a believer — NOT all olive oils are alike!

The capper on this “Bake a Better Holiday” promo — I got to create my OWN unique recipe using one grain of my choice from BRM and one olive oil of my choice from COR.  I was SO in!

Endagered Species chocolate (fair trade and eco-minded) + COR's Arbosana

Recipe Development

Though there are many amazing ways to use olive oil in baking, both savory and sweet, I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to use California Olive Ranch’s Arbosana Extra Virgin Olive Oil in my recipe this holiday season.

Since Arbosana is a Spanish variety, what better match than chocolate (no surprise to my readers!), whose history runs deep with the Spaniards and cayenne, which seems to provide just the right amount of subtle, flavorful heat to many latin (as well as French and Creole) based dishes and always pairs well with the dark mistress.

LUV this almond flour for cookies, cakes and breading chicken!

While you might be thinking, “Olive oil in sweets?!” I would like to quickly point out that the Italians use olive oil in everything — including sweets. Besides the extra added health benefits of using olive oil, it lends itself quite nicely to both savory and sweet cooking and baking.

In fact, if you look at a line like COR’s, which cultivates and bottles different varietals, that in turn, produce different flavor profiles (like wine) and when paired correctly, can help take your dish to that next level, you’ll see exactly why olive oil like this is made for baking sweets. Through my travels in Italy, I came across the beautifully dense Italian olive oil cakes, made with almond meal, because of this, I chose Bob’s Red Mill’s Almond Flour Meal for its added moistness and complimentary flavor pairing.

This cake came out amazing!

The Arbosana really is a lovely, complex oil that I enjoyed working with it on this and in many other dishes.The cayenne in the recipe gives this cake a little kick, while the combination of whipped egg whites, olive oil and almond meal flour give this dense, flourless cake an unparallelled moistness and delicate crumb. Though many like to glaze or frost cakes like these and it would be undoubtedly delicious with a scoop of homemade vanilla bean ice cream and a trickle of dessert wine, I urge you to use premium chocolate and eat it naked (the cake, not you — or both, if you like!) If you need something more, just lightly dust it with powdered sugar and a sprinkling of cayenne powder!

Now, they’re passing  on the fun to YOU

Visit California Olive Ranch or Bob’s Red Mills’ Facebook Pages to enter their Contest for a chance to win a $50 BRM gift card and some COR olive oil. From COR’s Facebook page:

“We’ve teamed with our friends at Bob’s Red Mill to launch a Facebook Contest here starting this Thursday, Dec 1. It runs thru Dec 8.  Share a favorite pairing of our olive oil with a BRM product  –  3 winners with the most ‘likes’ will win fabulous prizes.

You can win a $50 BRM gift card and olive oil to boot!  Winners will be announced Friday, Dec 9.

We’re looking for pairings that showcase our two products – perhaps muffins using our oil and one of Bob’s flours. We don’t need a detailed recipe – just an idea and two ingredients, like Gingerbread using California Olive Ranch’s Arbequina and Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat flour.

Wanna stay in the loop on all the baking and cooking fun?!

Xocolātl (Chocolate) Almond Olive Oil Cake

  • 6 ounces premium bittersweet (72% or higher) dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1 vanilla bean pod, scraped (or 1tsp pure vanilla extract)
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • ¼ cup California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Arbosana Olive Oil
  • ¾ cup sugar (divided into ½ and ¼ cup measurements)
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • ¾ cup Bob’s Red Mill almond flour

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In a double boiler (or a bowl within a pan set-up) melt chocolate over simmering water, stirring smooth. Once melted, stir in the olive oil and cayenne. In your mixer or a mixing bowl by hand, beat egg yolks with ½ cup sugar and vanilla pod seeds or extract until combined and pale in color. Stir melted chocolate mixture into eggs, a bit at a time, incorporating it swiftly to keep the eggs from cooking too quickly. Then add the almond meal flour.

Set this mixture aside and beat the egg whites with your mixer until foamy and white. Slowly beat in the ¼ cup of remaining sugar and the cream of tartar. Continue beating until the egg whites are stiff but not quite meringue. Fold ¼ of your egg white mixture into the chocolate batter, then the rest, a ¼ at a time until completely mixed. The batter will be sort of firm like a loose cookie dough consistency and may be a bit tough to work with, take extra care when folding in the portion of egg whites. As you add more, the batter will become looser and smoother, making it easier to handle. Pour the batter into an 8-inch or 9-inch cake pan (I think a springform pan works best!) that has been lined with foil or baking parchment paper.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely and then pop open the spring and slide onto your serving dish, carefully removing any baking paper or foil. Serve as is or garnish with raspberries, chocolate shavings, almonds, glaze or dust with powdered sugar and cayenne.

Happy Cooking — And Eating!

*BONUS-- I got to use some of my leftover Marx Foods Madagascar Vanilla bean, too!