whole foods and beyond....nourishing the body, spirit and soul

Thursday, January 19, 2012

the ravioli fiasco

"sorry this is so crappy guys. but at least try to get full." dinner should never start off with such harsh words, and yet it did last night.  to my horror, the homemade gluten free ravioli i had envisioned to serve my husband and son for dinner, played out far worse than my scariest nightmares.  spending hours in the kitchen, using up expensive gluten free flours, and six freaking organic eggs!!!....only to have it land on a  plate as a total disaster, literally left me feeling unsatisfied with my whole day as i laid my head on my pillow last night.  am i crazy or what?

not only did it taste horrible, but it looked horrible as well

so let's start from the beginning.  ever since we got to germany, i've had strange longings for foods that i haven't had in a while.  some may say pregnancy, but i know myself, and i say it's desiring to eat for comfort and to induce feelings of familiarity in a foreign place.  cheese filled ravioli has always had a special place in my heart.  whether it was the frozen garbage straight out of the bag, eaten for lunch with friends as a teenager, or ordering it in an upscale restaurant, those raviolis always treated me right.  so i've been searching for a frozen gluten free ravioli to make, knowing in advance that it would be a task and a half to try this from scratch.  with no luck (for the last five years!) i finally had the courage for some stupid reason this week, to think "hmmm ill try to make homemade ravioli for dinner one night." oh how naive of me.....

so i found a good sounding recipe from a trusted gluten free blog.  i love everything over at http://glutenfreegirl.com/, and felt pretty confident about how straight forward her gluten free ravioli recipe was.  and as a bonus, she was also rolling her dough out with a rolling pin for lack of that "must have" pasta making machine.  watch enough food network, and you too will realize that this is a necessity in every kitchen.  things were promising as i blended my flours of choice; brown rice, quinoa, corn starch and xanthan gum with the eggs, oil and salt in my food processor.  to my surprise the dough actually looked like a dough! and i was able to knead it! now we all know how rare that happens in the gluten free world... so i joyfully rolled the dough into a ball and set it in a dish to rest for a while.

things looked promising as i went upstairs to put dimitri down for his afternoon nap. just over a half hour later, i glided into the kitchen on a cloud thinking i was about to make a successful dinner from such a previously daunting task. wrong! here's where everything started to fall apart.  of course, when rolling gluten free dough, it will inevitably stick to your rolling pin. so, annoyed that this happened with my first portion of the dough, i pulled out my trusty wax paper and placed the dough between two sheets.  back and forth. back and forth. i vigorously rolled this dough out as thin as i could get it.  of course, when i tried to peel the top layer off, it was one huge sticky mess and wouldn't come off with out ruining the whole disk.  i regrouped, made a new game plan and decided to put the flattened dough, still between the sheets of wax paper in the freezer, so it could think about how to behave.  of course, my two year old had to wake up after only an hour of sleep.  so i laid down with him to help him fall back asleep, therefore leaving me more time to nurture this pasta to life. nope. didn't happen.  of course, he fell asleep, but woke up every time i moved to get off the bed for the next hour.  now this really put me behind.  the rest of my portions of dough were in the fridge waiting for me when i finally got back to the kitchen over an hour later.   so i rolled the three remaining portions between wax paper and stuck those in the freezer too.  when the first disk was finally frozen enough to take the wax paper off of it, i set out to cut them in squares, fill them with about a teaspoon of cheese and seal them off, all with a beautiful crimped
edge.  ive seen giada, mario and even bobby do this a million times on the food network in five seconds flat...how hard could this be?  ill tell you how hard it could be...i slaved in that kitchen for at least the next hour, trying to problem solve my way through this mess, as everything around me became disorderly, and my back cried out for a heating pad, only to have the dough continually fall apart in my hands and stick to everything! i did manage to get most of them into the pot of boiling water so i wouldn't be completely defeated.  at this point, i tried to get past the fact that they were all misshapen and looked ahead to smothering them in a delicious red sauce. wrong! of course, the texture was thick...like card board, and the flavor was just off, leaving a strange after taste in your mouth. it was utterly and completely gluten free. and the last thing you want to be thinking when you're eating something, is that it's gluten free.  if you can figure that fact out by just tasting something, then some where down the line things went horribly wrong. my husband comforted me by making jokes and continuing to taste them through out the cooking process.  but all we could really say in the end was "this would have been the most simple thing, had it just been regular white flour...."

if you have any information of the whereabouts of good gluten free ravioli (homemade or pre made...although at this point i think it will take a lot of counseling and reflection before i attempt to make it from scratch again) please send me the info.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

sunbutter chocolate bites

homemade chocolates are my favorite

 and apparently, they're my husband's favorite too...a tray of twelve was gone in a week! 
and i only had three!

when i decided to come up with the recipe for these chocolates, i wanted them to be bigger than bite size, but small enough that they could be eaten in two or three bites. an ice cube tray was the perfect mold for the job.  smooth velvety homemade chocolate will make your conscience feel good about eating a sweet treat at any time:) since it's loaded with healthy fats from coconut oil, sunflower seed butter and almonds, you'll be nourishing your body as you tame your sweet tooth as well.

with two layers of filling, your tongue will dance with delight, as the chewy nougat mixes with the cookie layer!  i was even surprised at how well this combination worked out to transport me to that magical chocolate candy bar land.... but on a more important note, the nougat i created for this chocolate bite contains raw egg whites. what better way to come up with a healthy, fluffy consistency with just the right chew to it?  if this is concerning to you, or perhaps you've never had whipped raw egg whites, consider this: research shows that as few as three per thousand eggs are infected with salmonella.  and these findings are referring to the commercial variety.  i never use anything other than organic eggs in my kitchen for many reasons, but to avoid salmonella contamination is a reason high on the list.  Dr. Mercola states, 

whipped egg whites are fluffily like marshmallow dreams
"only sick chickens lay salmonella contaminated eggs."  stick with a trusted organic brand and this should never be an issue.  although egg whites, raw or cooked contain many nutrients, it's important to not overeat raw them.  Sally Fallon teaches, " it is fine to consume plenty of raw egg yolks, a custom found in many traditional diets, but consumption of raw egg whites on a regular basis can lead to digestive problems.  the problem is...that raw egg whites contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with protein digestion."  so have some self control, and don't go making these chocolates everyday!

to learn more about eggs and their true benefits check out these articles from the Weston A. Price Foundation.

this is what your cookie layer should look like
Sunbutter Chocolate Bites:
1/2 c almonds
5 dates
2 tsp maca
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt

*place almonds and salt in food processor.  grind until the almonds have become a flour.
*pulse in the rest of the ingredients and run until the mixture holds together. add another date if its not sticky enough, or add a little water if it's too sticky.
* set cookie mixture aside.

2/3 c gluten free puffed rice cereal (see notes)
1/2 c roasted sunflower seed butter
2 organic egg whites
2 tsp raw honey 
pinch sea salt

*beat sunbutter until smooth. (to help mine out, i added a tbs of warm water, since i store nut butters in the fridge.) set aside.
*in a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until you have reached firm peaks.  this should take around five minutes.
*little by little, fold the egg whites into the sunbutter.
*next stir in the honey and cereal.
*set aside.
he had to taste everything! he was downing coconut oil:)

1/2 c coconut oil                                                  
1/2-3/4 cocoa powder
1/2 c dark cocoa powder
1/4 c raw honey plus two tbs
dash sea salt

*gently melt the coconut oil on low heat.
*combine cocoas and salt.
*pour oil and honey into the cocoa mixture and whisk until smooth.
*taste and see if the chocolate is dark enough to your liking or sweet enough.  adjust by adding more cocoa or more honey.

*pour about a teaspoon of chocolate on the bottom of each ice cube mold. let stand in the freezer for at least five minutes.
*after mold has been taken out of the freezer, pour a teaspoon of nougat in each mold. return to the freezer for at least five minutes.
*after mold has been taken out of freezer, mold a teaspoon of cookie layer to fit just inside the perimeter of the mold and set it on top of the nougat. press down gently.  next, cover the top with chocolate and enough to run down the sides and reach the bottom of the mold.
*let chocolates chill in the freezer for at least fifteen minutes before popping them out of molds. 
*this chocolate will not hold up very long at room temp, so store in freezer.

1. i wanted the inside of this chocolate to have a crunch factor.  my solution was the box of gluten free puffed rice cereal we had laying around. (we only eat cereal in emergencies around here...like when my son decides to wake up before 7 am and im not even alive yet to fix a real breakfast!) however, to my extreme disappointment, the cereal lost its characteristic crunch during the freezing process.  if you want to achieve a crunch with this bar i would suggest folding in raw cacao nibs, or chop up one of your favorite nuts.

2. when you're finished making chocolates, check around your house for mysterious little chocolate hand prints:)

instead of making a couple batches of these in ice cube trays, i decided to use my leftovers to make truffles for a new years party we went to.

i rolled the cookie layer in tiny balls. and then rolled a chocolate brownie layer made of walnuts, dates and salt around them.

then i covered them all in melted semi sweet chocolate:) they were awesome!

just between you and me, we all kept sneaking back to the fridge all night to grab more of these;)

happy new year and happy chocolate making!