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Colcannon

colcannonI slipped up last Friday, pausing my month-long gluten-free diet for slices of soda bread at my office. We held a bake-off, and as one of three participants, it would have been rude for me not to try my competitors’ bread. Right? That’s how I rationalized it. I was just getting in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit, but I haven’t had gluten since.

When St. Patrick’s Day arrived on Sunday, I couldn’t celebrate with green beer or whiskey, so I chose red wine, beef stew, and colcannon instead. Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made with mashed potatoes, milk or cream, kale or cabbage, salt, and pepper. I love the flavor and vibrant green of kale leaves, so I used them instead of cabbage, along with thinly sliced leeks.

kaleAnd did I mention butter? There’s a lot of butter in this dish. If you look at the photo at the top of this post, that’s a whole tablespoon melted in the middle just for serving. It’s all part of the tradition and immortalized in this Irish folk song: Continue Reading →

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Ultra Chocolate Pudding

ultra chocolate puddingI had brunch with friends this past weekend. It was the first time we’d been together in ages, so we went to our favorite spot by the park and ordered plates of French toast and omelets. Over the last few years, some of us have moved far away, some not so far. Careers have begun to solidify. One friend brought their young son who sat at the head of the table in a highchair, teething on coffee creamers and smiling between bites of his pancakes. We were newer versions of ourselves in the same old context, and yet, it felt just as comforting as our lazy Saturday brunches years ago.

Seeing them sent me on a nostalgia bender for most of Sunday, drawing on sources of comfort from years before—indie music circa 2005, old novels, and of course, food. Maybe I was looking for remedies to stress and the dreary end of March, when the Brooklyn sky alternates between gray with clouds and gray with clouds and freezing rain. Maybe I was trying to recapture what I’ve been lacking in recent months: moments when I’m completely at ease.

That’s all to say that I have a pudding recipe for you. It’s a dessert to make on a Sunday afternoon when all you want is to feel content, with a spoon in one hand and a cup of decadent chocolate and fresh whipped cream in the other.

milkI call it Ultra Chocolate Pudding because I increased the amount of chocolate by a third from the recipe I adapted. The result is a thick pudding with a near-custard consistency. Continue Reading →

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Thyme and Parmesan Popcorn

parmpopcornI’m going on day fourteen of my gluten-free experiment. I wish I could say that I don’t feel any different, that cutting cookies and bread and pasta out of my diet has done nothing for my body, but alas. I feel better and lost two pounds. The weight loss is probably tied to just eating less, but my body isn’t as fatigued and my ongoing battle with acid reflux has reached a truce. It could all be psychosomatic, but we’ll see how the rest of the month goes…if I can make it that long without a cookie.

I’m turning to different kinds of snacks in place of sweets that call for wheat flour. Popcorn is my new favorite with different toppings like dried herbs, cheese, cinnamon and sugar, or a handful of peanuts. Tonight I popped a bag of plain, unsalted, unbuttered popcorn and tossed it with Parmesan cheese, thyme, salt, and melted butter.

parmpopcorningredientsI used a bag of Newman’s Own, but did you know you can pop any amount you want in a plain brown lunch bag? Just pour a few tablespoons of popcorn kernels into the bag, fold the top over a few times, and cook it in the microwave for about two minutes. At 50 cents per pound vs. $3.53 for the pre-bagged and buttered kernels, it’s cheaper and healthier. Continue Reading →

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Baking for Katie Fisher Day: Vanilla Macarons

macaronsKatie Fisher baked cookies for her brother Matt every single week he was away at college. She was killed in a car accident in 2010, and to honor her memory, Matt declared March 12 “Katie Fisher Day.” The goal? Get “everyone in the world to follow Katie’s example and send some cookies to someone they love.”

I hope you’ll take part, and if you do, share what you make over at katiefisherday.org.

In honor of Katie Fisher Day, I made cookies for Ramsey. It seems like an easy choice, and there’s no mailing involved, but this man deserves some cookies. He makes me laugh more than anyone and helped pull me out of some stressful times over the past year. He’s also dedicated to his work, exhibiting laser-like focus at his home office desk late into the night while I refresh my Facebook feed for the millionth time.

One of my favorite memories from our trip to France last summer was eating macarons on the steps of the Pantheon, so I made him vanilla macarons with bittersweet chocolate ganache filling. macaronsandchocolateIt wasn’t easy, but the results were worth it. And did I mention they’re gluten-free? Recipe and more photos after the jump. Continue Reading →

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Sweet Detour: BabyCakes NYC

babycakescupcakeI promised I wouldn’t look for food substitutes during Gluten-Free March, but I couldn’t resist cupcakes from BabyCakes NYC. This gluten-free, vegan bakery opened on the Lower East Side in 2005 and brought delight to the city’s growing population of eaters with special diets. Last weekend, BabyCakes brought delight to me and the hosts of the comedy podcast Wonderful, Thanks, fresh from recording this week’s episode with Julie Klausner. Here they are with cupcakes in hand. babycakescheersRamsey and I got banana chocolate and Adam got mint chocolate chip.

In addition to cupcakes, BabyCakes has a full line of donuts, cookies, scones, and other treats that avoid the pitfalls of so many gluten-free foods: upping sugar and fat to improve the flavor. Continue Reading →

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Parmesan Polenta with Tomatoes and Spinach

polentaplatecloseGluten-free March is off to a good start, but I’m already craving wheat. I went to a bar with friends on Saturday, and while everyone ordered grilled cheese sandwiches or burgers with beer, I got an arugula salad and hard cider. Now, I love a salad and cider, but when you’re craving a burger on a brioche bun with a cold, hoppy beer, they just don’t satisfy. I hope the wheat cravings diminish as the month goes on.

To help quash my craving for something warm and wheat-like, I made polenta squares for lunch the next day. It was my first time trying them at home, and I was amazed at how easy they are to make: boil, whisk, pour, cool, cut, broil. And good goodness are they cheap at just $1.75 for a two pound bag of cornmeal. Throw in a can of diced tomatoes, garlic, spices, and a handful of spinach, and you have a meal.

cornmealCornmeal has the color and consistency of a fine sand when it’s dry. Once you add it to boiling liquid and start whisking, it plumps and thickens. Continue Reading →

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Roasted Vegetables with Caper Vinaigrette

roastedvegetables3I’m still working my way through a bag of lemons in the fridge. Lemon curd seemed like an obvious way to use all of them at once, but I’m trying to keep sweets out of the house. A cup of lemon curd would be gone in about 48 hours, spread on scones and spoons for breakfast and afternoon snacks. Using just one lemon for a pan of roasted vegetables was a better option, especially when it was for a recipe adapted (slightly) from Yotam Ottolenghi’s vegetarian cookbook, Plenty.

roastedvegetablesThe recipe roasts root vegetables and tomatoes in stages and then tops them all with a lemon caper vinaigrette.  Continue Reading →