Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Gluten Free Refined Sugar Free Spritz Cookies

Gluten Free Spritz Cookies When I was kid we had a tradition of making spritz cookies every year. It was one of my favorite holiday traditions. I loved picking out the shapes and still do. You can come out with some different shapes even out of one template by pushing out more or less dough.

I haven't made these in the last couple of years since I changed my diet but this year I decided to try making gluten free ones using raw coconut crystals instead of refined sugar for the sweetener. This is the first time I've used coconut sugar but I've been reading a lot about it.  The crystals are made from the sap of a coconut tree and is very low glycemic and contains 17 amino acids. I used Coconut Secret brand that I found at PCC. They are certified organic and non-GMO. The crystals are dark brown, about the color of brown sugar and actually tastes similar to brown sugar.  The dark specks you see in the cookies are from the crystals.

I followed a recipe I found on landolakes.com but substituted the coconut crystals for the refined sugar 1:1 in the recipe. My first attempt at pressing out cookies was a big disaster. The shape didn't hold at all and was left with a sticky glob of dough on the sheet pan. I didn't give up though. I added more flour to the batter and also refrigerated the dough for about 45 minutes to firm it up. Tried again and it worked out pretty well.

If you've never had spritz cookies before, they are similar to shortbread. They're kind of dry and crunchy and should be eaten with a big glass of milk!

Recipe: Gluten Free Spritz Cookies

Yield: approximately 50 cookies
Total time: 90 minutes

INGREDIENTS:
2/3 Cup Raw Coconut Sugar Crystals
1 Cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 Cup gluten free flour

Gluten Free Flour Mix:
2 Cups brown rice flour
2/3 Cup potato starch
1/3 Cup tapioca flour
1 tsp xanthan gum

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Combine crystals, butter, egg, salt and vanilla in mixing bowl and beat at medium speed until creamy.
2. Add gluten free flour (use your own or use mix above) to bowl and beat until well mixed
3. Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
5. Fill cookie press with dough and desired template. Press dough 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. If dough does not form a shape, refrigerate longer and/or add more flour to the dough.
6. Bake 7 minutes or until edges are lightly browned
7. Enjoy cookies with a glass of milk.

Spritz Cookie Making
Gluten Free Spritz Cookies

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

brussels sprout and apple hash

Brussels Sprout and Apple Hash It's been a busy couple of months since IFBC. I'm long overdue for posting about another great recipe from the Herbivoracious cookbook. This recipe comes from the "side dishes" section of the cookbook and would be a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving meal. I never liked brussels sprouts as a kid but I like them now. One of my favorite ways to prepare them is with bacon which I also didn't like as a kid. This recipe however is vegetarian so no bacon this time.  Instead, the addition of apple sweetens it up and I don't even miss the bacon.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Sahale Snacks Factory

I don't usually eat store bought snack foods mainly because of all the nasty ingredients that are in them and prefer to just make my own. Then Sahale Snacks came along which I was introduced to at the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle a couple of months ago though they've been around for many years. I was happy to see that the ingredient labels didn't have a laundry list of ingredients like most processed snacks in a bag. They use whole ingredients: nuts, unsulphured fruits, spices, organic sweeteners (honey, cane syrup and/or tapioca syrup) and no preservatives and they are gluten free! Seemed like my kind of snack so I tried the maple pecans and was blown away by the flavors and texture.

I was excited to get an invite for a tour of their snack factory. It was during a week day so I took the day off from work and made a 45 mile drive to Tukwila, WA for the tour. Their mission statement is displayed on the wall as you walk in the front entrance.

Breakfast

BreakfastWe were greeted with a nice breakfast of yogurt and berries topped with a choice of two of their nut blends. I chose the cashews with pomegranate and vanilla and a cup of coffee. While enjoying breakfast, the owners, Edmond Sanctis and Josh Schroeter, joined us and told us about the history of Sahale Snacks and about the pride they have in the ingredients that go into them. Edmond and Josh have been best buds for 25 years. People say you shouldn't go into business with your best friend but they've proven that it can be done. After 10 years of being in business together their friendship has only grown stronger and it shows if you ever meet them.

The Beginning

Sahale Owners and BFF'sEdmond and Josh met as news reporters right out of college and went to graduate school together at Columbia University. They didn't always live near each other but they stayed in touch and every year they got together to go hiking in the Cascades.  Edmond and Josh aren't your typical hikers. They are both food enthusiasts and they want their hikes to include a good food experience. Every year they stop at Pike Place Market and stock up on gourmet meats, cheeses, capers, spices and yes even wine and whatever else they could find that looked good and brought it all with them on their hikes. It sounded like a blast and it made me want to go hiking with them. They started looking into what was available for snacks while preparing for a Rainier climb. They didn't have room in their packs to bring their usual spread of gourmet food and had to resort to boring trail mixes and energy bars. When they got back from their climb, they decided to do some experimenting in the kitchen and make their own enjoyable gourmet snacks that they can take on hikes and the rest is history. They named the brand after Sahale Peak, one of their favorite hikes in the Cascade mountains. I embarrassingly only recently learned the proper way to pronounce it: suh haw lee. Edmond and Josh are best friends and business partners and it was a challenge to get them to pose and be serious for a picture.

Ingredients

IngredientsThey put a lot of thought into each and every ingredient that goes into their snacks and choose the best they can find. For example they get their cinnamon and black pepper from Vietnam and their Vanilla from Madagascar because they did their research and found that is where the best is. They love to travel and have been to Vietnam and saw how the cinnamon is harvested. They are involved with Peace Trees Vietnam, a Seattle based organization that is working on the safe removal of bombs and land mines that are covering 85% of the land in Central Vietnam. Once the land is made safe, buildings can be constructed and much of it will become farmland which Peace Trees also helps with planting. Edmond and Josh are hoping to also visit Madagascar and see how the vanilla is grown, harvested and processed in person.

Experimenting

Edmond and Josh did a lot of experimenting with flavors, they still do and we got to do some experimenting of our own. We put on some lab coats and started thinking about what we wanted to make. We got to choose between pistachio, almond, cashew and pecan for our main ingredient. We also had a selection of fruits to choose from but I'm the only one that decided to do a no fruit blend. They also had a cabinet full of spices for us to use.  We had a little assistance with the nut to fruit to spice ratio and the rest was up to us. I made a pistachio Mexican blend with guajillo chile powder, cumin, ginger, salt, pepper, lemon, orange and a little buttermilk. I liked how it came out though I think lime would have worked better than the lemon and orange but that wasn't available. Some cayanne would have probably been good too for some more heat. They did the glazing and toasting for us and shipped everyone a sampling of all 5 creations. I had some fun and did a little taste test with Mark and made him choose his favorite. He had no idea which one was mine and I assured him I wouldn't feel bad if he didn't pick mine.  He had a hard time choosing between Jacqueline's Mango Salsa and A&J's Ricotta Blueberry Pancake but ultimately went with the mango salsa and we both agreed it was the best looking one of the bunch but my favorite was hands down the blueberry pancake.
Jess's Creation My Creation
Blogger Blends Jacqueline's Mango Salsa Blend

Lunch

After the experimentation we went back to the conference room we had breakfast in and had lunch. We had a nice green salad with sliced chicken breast and a few choices of Sahale snacks to garnish. This time I chose the pomegranate pistachio and drizzled some creamy balsamic dressing over the top.  I learned that Sahale Snacks are great addition to any meal.
Sahale Style Lunch Sahale Salad

Factory Tour

After lunch we put on hair nets and went for a walk around the production floor. We got to see the almond roaster which is a really old machine but still works surprisingly well. It's in its own room and the aroma of roasted almonds filled the room. We also walked through the humongous pantry where they store all of their ingredients and inventory. One of the challenges for companies is deciding how large of a building to purchase. This isn't their first factory as they have had such success and had to expand. It looks like this building has plenty of room for growth so they should be able to stay in this location for a good while. The last stop was the packaging room where a machine does a pretty quick job of packaging the snacks. They were packaging Almonds with Cranberries, Honey + Sea Salt, one of my favorite blends.
Nut Roaster

Quality

Sahale Snacks takes the quality of their product very seriously. Every batch that comes out of the factory is taste tested for appearance, aroma, texture and taste and if they don't score high enough they they don't get sold to customers but are donated. We got to play inspector and judge the maple pecans and almonds with cranberries that were produced the day before. It was interesting to see how the different batches had slight differences in the 4 categories.
Sahale Quality Manager Quality Control

Where to Buy

I will warn you that if you try them, you will likely get addicted to them like I have and start putting them on everything. Use their store locator to see where you can purchase these incredibly tasty gourmet snacks near you or you can get them on Amazon. Below are links to a few of my favorites.


You can find more pictures from my tour at the Sahale Snack factory on my website. Jacqueline, the hedonista, also posted about the tour on Heed the Hedonist along with the recipe for Sing Buri Cashew Brittle from our dinner at Urbane.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Urbane

I was treated by Sahale Snacks to a special welcome dinner at Urbane in Seattle where I got to meet the two owners of Sahale.  It was a treat getting to know more about them and how Sahale started which I'll share more about in my factory tour post soon. I will say they love the outdoors and good food too, just like me.

I've never been to Urbane before and I'm embarrassed to say I had never heard of it before even though I've driven by it many times. It's such an awesome restaurant located at the Hyatt Olive 8 downtown. I'm amazed at how many really great hotel restaurants there are in downtown Seattle. I'm happy that so many are becoming "farm to table" where ingredients are sourced seasonally and locally and Urbane is one of them. They are gluten free friendly too!

Our group had a space reserved at the Urbane Market, a room just across the hall from the restaurant. The table was elegantly decorated with candles and bamboo stalks in beds of rock running down the center of the table. A set of 3 empty wine glasses were placed at each seat along with a special menu and a usb drive with more information about the restaurant. The usb drive included a map of the local Washington vendors they work with from bakeries and creameries to farms and ranches.

Since Urbane uses seasonal ingredients, their menu is always changing but you probably won't find these exact dishes on their menu.  Audrey Jones Spence, the new chef de cuisine as of Oct 3, created a wonderfully unique special menu for us that was inspired by Sahale Snacks and each course had a little Sahale in it.  Our first three were served with glasses of delicious Nefarious Cellars wines including a 2012 Viognier, 2012 Consequence white blend and my favorite, a 2011 Syrah.
2011 Defiance Vineyard Syrah

We started off with a salad of autumn greens and apples with a tahini vinaigrette, oranges, sing-buri cashew brittle and viognier-orange gastrique. Sing-Buri is one of Sahale's snacks and it sure makes a fantastic brittle. Everyone wanted more brittle and they were nice and brought us a little more to pass around.

The second course was an aleppo pepper glazed neah bay black cod with california almonds, spicy roast squash and carrot hash. I loved having the texture of the nuts to go with each course. Who knew almonds and fish go so well together?
Autumn Greens and Apple Salad Aleppo Pepper Glazed Neah Bay Black Cod

The third course was the most beautifully plated chicken. It was a pan seared palouse pastured chicken with a cashew pomegranate vanilla sauce, cranberry chutney and garnet mustard greens. I love fruits and chicken together but I don't think I've ever had cranberry with chicken but it makes sense since it goes so well with turkey.
Pan Seared Palouse Patured Chicken

I was the only gluten free eater at the table so I got treated with a different dessert than anyone else and I'm glad because crème brûlées are one of my favorite desserts!  So while everyone else got a baked mt rainier with vanilla cake, cherry-pecan ice cream, maple meringue and cider caramel, I got a coffee crème brûlée topped with pecans. It was the perfect ending to a perfect meal. Chef Audrey definitely showed her creativity and I'm looking forward to trying more of her creations utilizing the best ingredients of the Pacific Northwest.
Coffee Creme Brulee Baked Mt Rainier

Urbane1635 8th Avenue SeattleWA 98101    

Urbane on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 01, 2013

Six Seven Fall Menu

I was invited to try out a few items from Six Seven at the Edgewater Hotel's new Fall menu. I arrived just as the sun was setting and a couple of us went out on the deck to get a few pictures. It was a cold evening but it actually felt pretty nice on the deck since Six Seven has outdoor heaters that were nice and warm. I even spotted a couple sitting outside enjoying the view with their dinner. 
Puget Sound Sunset
Before we started on the tasting menu, we were treated with three appetizers. I don't believe these are on their main menu but are on the catering menu so you might not be able to try them yourself. All three were great but my favorite was probably the breaded shrimp. The breading was unique and I asked what it was made with but all I could get was something about rice krispies so it might be a secret. The Moroccan chicken pops were the favorite among most of the others around me and the third was a plate full of spanakopita which I really liked but they are best eaten when they're fresh from the oven. Every dish that came out during the meal was exquisitely plated. It was super dark in the restaurant so all of my photos had a little help with my McGizmo Mule flashlight. It's been well worth the obscene amount of money it cost.
Spanakopita and Breaded Shrimp Moroccan Chicken Pops

Appetizer

The first course was the best course. Before I moved to Washington, the thought of raw fish was appalling. I've been here over 13 years now and sushi no longer freaks me out and I will eat raw fish and like it. Under the thinly sliced fresh salmon was a puree of sweet chile pepper and it was topped with apple salsa, avocado and yellow curry oil. Yum!
Salmon Crudo
Salmon Crudo with sweet chile pepper puree, washington apple salsa, avocado and yellow curry oil

Soup

The second course was a sweet potato & Leek soup garnished with kale, prosciutto, pine nuts, chanterelles, and charred onion crème fraîche. I love it when soups are garnished with fun stuff like this. They had me with pine nuts, I love pine nuts. This was like a vichyssoise (potato and leek soup) but with sweet potato. I've made potato and leek soup a few times before and love it but never thought of making it with sweet potato. It works! I might have to try making some myself.
Sweet Potato and Leek Soup
Sweet Potato and Leek Soup with sauteed kale, prosciutto, pine nuts,
chanterelles and charred onion crème fraîche 

Salad

I love a good salad and I got it. The endives in the golden beet salad were so crisp and crunchy. I don't really eat endive very often and have never bought it myself. When I saw it in the grocery store the other day, I had to get some. I haven't decided what kind of salad to make with it yet but this dish inspired me. I've become a big fan of golden beets over the last couple of years. I even tried to grow some in my garden this year but I think I planted them too late. Will have to try again next year. I'm not sure what kind of black pepper they use but wow is it strong. I like black pepper but not everyone does so if you opt for the fresh ground pepper you may want to go easy on it. A little bit of this stuff goes a long way.
Golden Beet and Endive Salad
Golden Beets, belgium endive, candied pecans, craisins, oranges,
blue cheese, fujui apples, and sherry reduction

Intermezzo

I love these little sorbet palette cleansers in the middle of meals. It's a good way to prepare us for the main dishes that were to come. This was an apple granita and Basil Hayden. If you don't know, that's a whiskey. I like whiskeys but have never had this one before. It went really well with the apple. The slice of apple was like a whiskey sponge.
Apple Granita and Basil Hayden
Apple Granita and Basil Hayden

By Sea

The first main course was a seafood dish of halibut with saffron risotto, grilled green onion, cherry tomatoes, arugula, mussels and saffron broth. Even though there were a lot of saffron components in the dish it wasn't really very noticeable. It was a nice light dish.

Pan Roasted Halibut
Pan Roasted Halibut with saffron risotto, grilled green onion, cherry tomatoes.
arugula, mussels and saffron broth

By Land

They like their lamb at Six Seven as we also got to try a lamb dish in the Spring. This time it was prepared on the rack and served with my favorite pasta, gnocchi. The lamb was cooked perfectly, nice and pink and juicy. I used to only eat well done meats and didn't like to see any pink but that's another thing that has changed since moving here. You just don't get that tenderness when meat is cooked well done.
Roasted Rack of Lamb
Roasted Rack of Lamb with rosemary roasted vegetables, gnocchi,
carrot crisps and stone mustard lamb reduction 

Dessert

I was really looking forward to seeing what they were going to have for dessert. I thought it might be something with pumpkin or pears in it and I was right. It was a pear and frangipane tart. It had a brandy caramel sauce but I couldn't really taste much of the brandy. It didn't look like a typical dessert tart. It looked more like a pot pie but it tasted like a tart and I love tarts so I really enjoyed it. The center was kind of like a thick jelly. It was served on vanilla sour cream, kind of like a crème fraîche and you can never go wrong with that in a dessert!
Pear and Frangipane Tart
Pear and Frangipane Tart with vanilla sour cream and brandy caramel
Six Seven: 2411 Alaskan Way Pier 67 SeattleWA 98121 (206) 269-4575    

Six Seven on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cascade Ice Water Giveaway

CascadeIce_Logo_0Cal

Over the last couple of years I have stayed away from just about every kind of drink except plain old boring water or non-decaf herbal teas. I drank no alcohol, pop, coffee or even juice due to a yeast overgrowth in my digestive system. I'm happy to report that is under control and I am now able to eat/drink fruits again but pop will probably never be back in my diet. I am trying to be more careful with what I eat and drink by avoiding processed foods and eating and drinking organic as much as possible.

The International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) came along where I got to try all kinds of awesome food and beverages and that's where I was introduced to Cascade Ice's sparkling waters. I had never tried them before the conference and I'm not sure why. It's much better than the plain water I've been drinking for so long. They are up to 31 different flavors and have some new additions: strawberry banana, coconut mango, coconut pineapple and for a limited time,  pumpkin spice. I got to try the pumpkin spice at the conference and it seems like a weird flavor for water but it really does taste like pumpkin and is perfect for this time of year.

Cascade Ice The best thing about Cascade Ice water is that they are sugar free, caffeine free, sodium free, gluten free and have zero calories so they are guilt free! My favorite is their organic selection which comes in four flavors: lemon zest, citrus twist, lemon lime and mixed berry. They sent me a sampling of all four to try and I've been enjoying each one. They're much more fulfilling than the plain water I've been drinking for so long and the bubbly almost makes it feel like I'm drinking pop but without all of the sugar. You can find their waters on Amazon and just about any convenience or grocery store.

Prize: 1 variety pack case of Cascade Ice Waters
Rules: Giveaway ends November 13th at 12am and is open to the US only.
How To Enter: Enter using the contest form below. Once the mandatory entry has been done, 5 more options to enter will be displayed.
Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by Cascade Ice and they are responsible for prize fulfillment. Cascade Ice provided me with a free sample of this product to review. The views expressed in this blog post are my own and I was not under any obligation to write a positive review. Winner will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 21, 2013

Facing East

Facing EastI enjoy Asian food, especially when it's something different and served family style so I can try a little bit of everything. I prefer going with someone who is familiar with the cuisine and knows what's good. Facing East is just that kind of place and I went with a co-worker who did all the ordering for us.  It's probably her favorite restaurant so it had to be good. They serve Taiwanese cuisine and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've been to a Taiwanese restaurant so was looking forward to the adventure.

She picked out four courses for us to try and I know she wanted me to try the "Everything Shaved Ice" dessert but I managed to escape it this time. It seems to have gotten mixed reviews by another co-worker and I can't say it sounds all that appetizing.

She didn't save the best for last and instead we got the best first, a plate of Taiwanese Pork Burgers. I could have eaten a few orders of those for lunch and gone back to work happy. They are so full of flavor and the bun is kind of spongy and reminds me of hum bao. You might want to get a couple plates of these. Definitely a dish I would get again and again.

We also got a small plate of five spiced beef wraps. The thinly cut beef was wrapped, along with cucumber and cilantro, inside a thin flaky tortilla-like wrapper.  There is a jar of spicy sauce on the table and I recommend adding a few drops in the wrap for a little more flavor.

Next up seemed to be a traditional dish that families would eat a lot of at home, rice topped with a spiced pork stew. There's also a braised pork stew option. And the last dish we had is called Three Cup Chicken.  The chicken is served in an a cast iron pot coated in a spicy sauce with basil, garlic, ginger and chile peppers.  Loved that dish but it is a little messy as there are bones on the chicken so you gotta get your fingers dirty.

Taiwanese Pork Burger
Five Spiced Beef Wrap
Spiced Pork Stew over Rice
Three Cup Chicken
Facing East 1075 Bellevue Way N.E. #B-2​, Belleuve, WA 98004 (425) 688-2986

Facing East Taiwanese Restaurant 東來食府 on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Veggie Grill

Veggie Grill EntranceIf you're a vegetarian, this is the restaurant for you. Veggie Grill is, as its name implies, a vegetarian restaurant chain. They have locations up and down the West coast from California to Washington. I've never been to one or really even heard of it until the International Food Blogger Conference but they have been in Washington for a little over a year. They were one of the restaurants serving up some good eats during the lunch culinary expo. I was very impressed with their kale salad and the carrot cake was amazing. They gave the conference attendees some coupons for the restaurant so I used one of them last week at the South Lake Union location. They also have one in University Village and they'll be opening soon in Bellevue and downtown on 4th.

Veggie Grill Tea and LemonadeThe restaurant was bright with lots of white, orange and green decor. Instead of pop they have a variety of lemonades and organic teas to quench your thirst though we didn't try any of them so unforunately can't report if they were tasty or not. They don't have meat but they do have chickin, fish, steak and crab made with soy and plant based proteins. All of their dishes are free of meat, dairy, eggs, cholesterol, animal fat and trans fat

I had the blackened chickin plate with steamed kale and quinoa pilaf. I was impressed with how much it actually tasted like chicken. If you have soy sensitivities though you will want to stick with one of their salads or ask them which items are soy free. I usually try to avoid soy because it doesn't always agree with me so I probably wouldn't get the chickin again for that reason. Many of their menu items are gluten free and they are labeled on their menu. Mark got the fish tacos which he seemed to enjoy. We didn't get any dessert but I still think of the carrot cake I had at IFBC. I still have a couple of coupons for Veggie Grill and look forward to going back and next time I plan on getting the carrot cake.
Blackened Chickin Plate
Blackened Chickin' Plate with papaya salsa, steamed kale and quinoa
Baja Fish Tacos
Baja "Fish" Tacos with roasted corn salsa and "bean me up" chile
Veggie Grill 446 Terry Ave N, Seattle, WA (206) 623-0336   

Veggie Grill on Urbanspoon