Gilding the Raw Brownie Lily

Whoah, mama, stop the car!!!  Feast your eyes on these beautiful hybrid specimens of raw and not-so-raw:

Gloriously organic, raw, brownies, are slathered with a raw ganache, ten gilded with not-so-raw, but molti deliziosi Italian candied oranges. Take a deep breath....then inhale a brownie or two or four. Hm, wonder if that could be called a chocoprana :)

I happened to have flavored this batch with some chipotle (ok, so that also is not raw), and thought the orange would be a scrumptious flavor and texture contrast -- and I was right on the money. That sweet pop of chewy, syrupy, crystal-crunchy orange is perfect.

Try this flavor combo with your favorite brownie recipe, raw or not-so-raw, and enjoy with the beverage of your choice.  And just to mix it up really good, listen to some "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele or "What Doesn't Kill You" by Kelly Clarkson....or go for it and whip out the Stones' "Brown Sugar."

Love & Cornbread

Look closely at the photo.  See that little kernel of corn, right there in the middle, center-stage of that pan of cornbread?  Well, that's the role that pan of cornbread played in my dinner yesterday.  I'd made a lovely pot of potato leek soup and was craving some kind of bread to go with it.  No crackers, nothing toasted or reheated.   Fresh bread.  Just fresh bread.  How hard is that??
Actually, what I was really craving was a fresh, crispy, chewy sourdough baguette, but at 5 in the evening it wasn't real likely that I was going to get that wish granted.
Hm, so what could I do about fresh bread?!?  Throwing in the gluten-free and egg-free wrench, and my wish was even more unlikely to become my command. 
Then it hit me. By George, I've got it: Cornbread.  It's hot, it's fresh, it's delicious.  Cornbread?? Does that even go with potato leek soup??  You bet it does!!
"I think this is the best cornbread I've ever eaten," is what J had to say about it.  And that about sums it up.  And to prove it, we ate up nearly the whole pan.  It was that good :)
Wanna know how I made it?  Read on....

The "best-ever" gluten-free cornbread

Put a 2 T chunk of butter into a 9" cast iron skillet and place it into the center of your cold oven.
Start heating your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, and allow the butter to melt in the skillet.  You may want to check occasionally that the butter doesn't get brown -- it should stay golden.  If the butter is browning, remove the skillet from the oven and set aside till the batter is mixed.
In a small bowl, stir 1 heaping T of ground flax seeds into 3 T of water.
In another small bowl, pour 1T of lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar) into 3/4 c of coconut milk (or milk of your choice).
In a large mixing bowl, stir together 1 cup stoneground cornmeal, 1/2 c Pamela's baking mix, 1 T baking powder, 1 t himmy, and 2 T of coconut sugar (or sugar of your choice).
Now, stir 2T of olive oil into the flax mixture and mix it really well with a fork, till it's good & frothy.  Then add it to the cornmeal mixture along with the coconut milk mixture.  Stir until all the ingredients are well-incorporated.  Add a good 1/2 c of corn kernels, give it another stir.  If you want, you can even stir in some cheese (real or vegan).
Take the hot hot hot skillet out of the oven ~ the butter should have melted ~ and pour the batter carefully over the butter.  Return the pan to the oven and bake about 22 minutes.


Now cut you a big slice, butter it up if you want to, and let me know if that's not some good cornbread.  Uh huh, yeah, I thought so  :)
Ok, so it's probably real close to how you make your cornbread, right?  Confession time:  I'm not about reinventing the wheel.  Is there really anything new under the sun, anyway??  But I am about making things I used to love to eat edible for me.  That means it's got be transformed to gluten-free, egg-free, and for the most part dairy-free.....although I do love the "je ne sais quoi" taste that a good lump of good butter or piece of cheese, especially goat or sheep, lends to certain foods.
Anyway, the most important thing with food isn't the physical ingredients that go into it.  And it isn't whether it's vegetarian or vegan, raw or organic or local or ethically raised or served in 5-star style or whatever.  How enjoyable is any food when it's served to you along with a plate of guerilla foodism & a side of guilt-trips?!?!

The most important thing is the secret ingredient we all have at the tip of our fingers..........c'est l'amour.  Don't just sprinkle it extravagant & generous.

Keik-e Yazdi

Discussed Persian food a few weeks ago with a friend who very generously offered to cook all sorts of yummy Persian goodies for me.  I would LOVE to have her, someone, anyone cooking Persian goodies for me....but it has to be without meat.

Yanni chi, bedoon-e gusht?? (What do you mean, no meat??)

Well, it can't have any meat in it.

Morgh chi? (How about chicken?)

No.  No beef, chicken, lamb, fish; no eggs; no wheat.

Nemishe!  (Can't be done!)  Ye zarre gusht.  (Just a little bit of meat.)

Alas (or aakhe, as one says in Farsi), most Persian food doesn't translate well to vegetarian and/or gluten-free.  Some dishes are vegetarian, like kashk-e bademjoon, or some simple rice dishes like adas polo (though people usually add chicken to the rice dishes).  Most of the delicious khoreshes (sauces) -- fesenjoon, ghorme sabzi, and others -- they're just not the same.  Must work on vegetarianizing those!

Unfortunately another one of those pesky, persistent little "craving seeds" was planted during that last foodie conversation and I had in my mind that I must come up with a vegetarian, gluten-free version of keik-e yazdi, little rosewater and cardamom-scented (really, what other scent is there in Persian desserts??) cakes.  So I got right on it.

I soaked some flax seeds, mixed up some Pamela's flour, melted butter, added some rose water, freshly ground cardamom, a little this and a little that, nary a trace of eggs, or wheat, and  popped them into the oven and waited.  Not in vain either, mind you.  

Mage mishe?? (Is it possible??)

Khob, bokhor yedune.  (Well, taste one.)

Che aali!!!  Dasturesh-o barayam benevis. (How wonderful!!!  Write the recipe for me.)

These little gems are lovely with hot tea, coffee, or chocolate.  Perfect after spicy food or whenever you need an exotic little pick-me-up. 

Noosh-e jaan.  (Enjoy).

Craving satisfied

Sometimes you get a craving and it haunts you till you give in.  Ever had one of those?  Yeah, I thought so!!

Well, I got one for....drumroll please.....doughnuts.  Uhuh, doughnuts.

I'm not a doughnut person -- except, maybe those hubcap-sized midnight snack Moroccan ones we had in Paris back in the 70's --  but not too long ago I read about a recipe for some "killer" gluten-free doughnuts and I must admit they looked and sounded pretty good.  And J is always raving about some maple doughnuts that his favorite doughnut baker lady never makes enough of and why can't she make more of them and fewer of those multicolor-sprinkles ones that sit in the case till the store closes?!?  Ah, but that's another story.

So yesterday I'm shopping at Whole Foods and because it's so crowded, the checkout line I'm in snakes  into the frozen food cases and there I am eye to doughnut hole.  Gluten-free doughnuts, no less.  I was tempted, but for some reason never opened the case to get a box.  Instead, I came home and made one.

One single, solitary, all by it's lonesome doughnut.

Black. Fuzzy. Flowery.
A knit and felted doughnut-shaped ring, "sprinkled" with a little bit of free-form embroidery.

And it's gluten-free!!

I've got the hots for cold

If you know anything about me, it’s that I don’t like cold.  Oh, I like cold things all right: ice cream, Eiskaffee, um….uh….hm, this list is shorter than I thought it would be.  And it’s got to be pretty warm for me to even enjoy those short-list items. 

I much prefer warm things: snuggly warm sheets and down blankets; warm baked goods; warm wool socks, hats, scarves, and mittens; warm hugs; warm thoughts; and the “warm” list goes on and on.  Add to that all the hot things I like, e.g. hot soup, hot water bottles, hot tea, etc. and the list goes on ad infinitum.

Guess here is where I should clarify that I don’t like the cold – cold weather.  Let me take that back.  I like cold weather that involves beautiful azure skies, whipped cream mounds of snow, cardinals happily chirping away high atop ice-glazed tree branches, skaters waltzing dreamily over a frozen pond, the scent of piƱon wafting heavenward in twirls of misty grey……yep, just like on the “wish you were here” postcards.  That’s not the kind of cold we have here in North Texas.  No, we have the “icy wet wind that goes right through every last layer of clothes and straight to your marrow” kind of cold.  Doesn’t last from November through April, doesn’t even last all of winter.  No matter, I don’t like it.  Each year I hope pray to wind up living in a more “comfortable” geography; alas, as the cold inevitably sets in and I’m still in North Texas, I try to make peace with it…embrace it.  I’m here to tell you that, a few decades later, reverse psychology for cold does not work……not for me, anyway.

So, how to cope with the cold??  Heaps of warm/hot things.  Mornings start with one last snuggle under the duvet and the promise of a mug of steaming hot tea.  Followed by copious amounts of more hot tea, from Earl Grey, to sencha, to mugicha, to any number of herbal teas and/or coffees like Teecino. Candles flicker in warming vanilla, winter forest, or spicy fruit scents.  Hot lunch promptly ensues, followed by hot snacks & tea, followed by more hot tea, followed by hot dinner, and that final steaming cup of nitey-nite before it’s off to the land of down.

I think you’re beginning to see the picture, that I don’t like cold.  Which it started off as to today:  40 degrees, windy, dismal lack of sunshine.  Which immediately got me thinking about what I’d have for lunch today.  Which was going to have to be something quick because I had way to much work to do.  And, which, was unfortunate because I didn’t have any leftovers to warm up.  So, as I’m nodding off concentrating during a work colleague’s brilliant webex presentation, I’m trying to picture what’s in the fridge that would whip up into a speedy meal.  An onion, carrots, zucchinis….uttapam!  Too much work, plus they’d for sure burn while I’m on the concall.  Same thing with a pot of clean-out-the-fridge soup and abgreste Nudeln, too.  Curry!  Red curry!  With zucchinis & green beans.  And tempeh.  And brown rice.  Yes!!  And within about 5 minutes it was done: measured rice into cooker, added water, pinch of himmy, spoon of coconut oil, and pressed “cook;” heated some coconut cream, added some red curry paste, along with some tamari, coconut sugar, and a red chili. Rinsed and chopped the zucchinis and green beans, threw them into the curry, along with some julienned kaffir lime leaves.  Sliced up the tempeh and set it into the rice-cooker steamer.  That’s it.  All while listening to the concall….on mute, natch….in about 5 minutes.  The rice cooked, the tempeh steamed, and the curry simmered for another 10 minutes.  The house was filled with the exotic perfume of Thai deliciousness, and I was….ahem….surprising glad it was chilly outside, because I sure don’t eat that kind of food for lunch when it’s warm J

Rumpelstiltskin: almond butter & hemp

I know, I know.  It’s been 3 months!!  Not only did lot of water go under the bridge, it swept the bridge clean away.  NOT……but it seems that way some times.
First this happened and that didn’t happen.  Then this didn’t happen, and that did happen, then it all did and/or didn’t happen.  Couldn’t keep up and CharivariLife just stumbled, then crawled, and finally heaved a great sigh and laid down by the wayside….savasana……only to catch some much-needed breath before it could slowly, gently, revive itself.

Meanwhile, there was a great trip to California and a wonderful visit with best old friends…old best friends? Best older friends? Older best friends?  How to word it without sounding “odd,” (oh my, that sounds wrong, too)??  Hm, maybe I should say long-time best friends.  Yeah, that’s it!! Anyway, so fun to catch up on “deep into the night” conversations, good food, lots of laughter, some tears, and promises to make it all happen again soon.  The plan is for Austin in the spring!  Nothing like the Texas Hill Country in springtime!!  Miles of yellow flowers, poppies, Indian paintbrush, bluebonnets....and lots of sunshine.

What are the girls waiting on, you ask?  Homemade raw organic almond butter.  I’ve been making little batches, spiked with a touch of himmy, and eating it on my breakfast toast in the mornings.  By the way, Food for Life makes a most wonderful Bhutanese red rice bread that is so delicious toasted & spread with almond butter and a drop of raw honey.  I love it because, not only is it gluten-free, it’s egg-free, too – woohoo!!  The girls obviously like it, as well, and are passively "vulturing" around the table, hoping it will inspire my generosity.  Don’t count on it, girls. 

Each batch of the almond butter takes quite a while to make in the food processor because the motor tends to want to burn up.  You process the almonds till they’re floury, then keep on processing till the almond meal becomes like a ball of dough and spins around the processor bowl a few times.  Apparently that releases the oil and voila – almond butter.  Now I know why it’s so expensive in the stores: it’s labor intensive, besides the fact that organic almonds aren’t cheap.  But it is so good and so so worth it.  Give it a try; just make sure you let the machine rest occasionally to cool the motor.  Otherwise, that jar of almond butter will have cost you the price of a new processor J
Doesn’t that look gorgeous? I feel like I’m making something magical when I’m making almond butter.  Made me think of Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold.  I don’t like raw almonds, but grind them up and add a sprinkle of salt, and I’m all over it. 

Which brings me to………
The postie left me a wonderful surprise in my mailbox today – 1500 yards of 100% pure spun hemp by Hemp for Knitting. Can’t wait to start knitting with this yarn.  Not sure what it will end up being – Shawl? Cardi? Face flannels? (Flannel sounds much nicer than wash-cloth.) And the color – isn’t it absolutely gorgeous??  I LOVE green!!
And now, one last item…… J and the girls ran a 10k last weekend, while I supportively cheered them on from the warmth of the car….knitting away on a lace moebius wrap. It was too windy and chilly to sit at the amphitheater and listen to the band, so I got in some knitting and could watch them as they started the first round of the run………..and welcome them back.  I made a short video; will work on getting it posted, as well as some pics from SoCal.

A bientot......