Monthly Archives: January 2013

Gluten-Free Blueberry and Cream Cookies – Milk Bar Mondays!

Blueberries-and-Cream-Cookies2

One of the many things I love about our Milk Bar Mondays swap is that it helps me branch out with the kinds of baked goods I make. This cookie is a perfect example – I wasn’t totally wowed by them, but I gave a bunch away for my New Years presents (I’ve decided that I’m giving cookies away in January instead of for Christmas, and it’s my new favorite tradition), and tossed some at my roommate.

They got rave reviews. Continue reading

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Cherry Bread – Baked with Love

Cherry Chocolate Chip Bread

Cherry Chocolate Chip Bread

* Note: This post is sponsored by King Arthur Flour and Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs for their “Baking with Love” Pinterest contest! Details on this below!

——————

I feel fortunate to get to do so much of what I love. And this week am even more amply blessed.

I don’t bring this up much anymore because I consider myself somewhat “retired”, but I got my degree in stage acting, and for all of my twenties it was my main focus in regards to work. Looking at my resume you could even say I was rather successful at it. But my body couldn’t keep up with the crazy schedules and multiple jobs it took to stay afloat, and writing seemed a healthier career choice. While I don’t regret a minute I spent pursuing or taking the stage or my decision to focus elsewhere… I do really miss going from one creative project to another sometimes, and the sense of teamwork and community that goes into a production.

So I was honored when asked to perform again as Bird in Thin Air in the last year of the Universal Theatre Festival in Provincetown on the end of Cape Cod.

As Bird in 2006 at StageWorks/Hudson and then warming up last weekend in Provincetown.

As Bird in 2006 at StageWorks/Hudson and then warming up last weekend in Provincetown.

Bird and I go way back: I did the premiere of the piece at StageWorks up in Hudson, New York at the delightful age of 25 (along with four other parts). It’s a 16-minute solo short piece about a tightrope walker who’s trying to gather the courage to walk the wire after having lost her partner/husband only days before. There’s no way I could fully explain how much this piece has meant over the course of these 6 years as I’ve performed it in 5 productions: it’s the kind of piece that an actor rarely gets to call their own, and Bird grows with every year and every hundreds of experiences I go through as a person. By the end of those 16 minutes I’ve gone through a delicious range of emotions and am spent, sometimes to the point of near vomiting.

I could say it’s nerve-wracking to be on a small platform alone without an actor to share the performance with. But the older I get the less I worry about a memorable performance or “wowing” anyone. I care more about connecting with the words, the character, the writer, my director and the joy that is many eyes upon me as I step onto that platform alone and just talk. I’m completely unable to see the audience in front of me because of the blast of the spotlight a foot away. But I can sense them, and hear their reaction to points of humor or sarcasm or… at the end… my complete terror and anguish. And I could never describe my gratitude at the sighs, applause, “bravos” and – once – “hurrah” that comes when that spotlight goes down.

There’s really nothing like it. I love those opportunities. And I am so thankful that now and then I get to live them.

I spent this past weekend far from my kitchen at work, my kitchen at home, my dog and (for the most part) a computer. I stretched, I slept, I worked with my much-loved director, I dissected pages of text and made sure my body could keep up with the story while on stage looking out, blinded by light.

Clockwise from top left: sign at the beach, tech rehearsal, the view from my room, the empty streets after the last show closed, the farewell season banner, bouys in the cold.

Clockwise from top left: sign at the beach, tech rehearsal, the view from my room, the empty streets after the last show closed, the farewell season banner, bouys in the cold.

Pinterest Contest – Baking with Love

This post is a little late, because while I had planned to pen it over the weekend on my luxuriously quiet days before the shows, I came down with an upper respiratory infection and had to put all focus on muscling through the performances and my drive home. So this is a little late, but still full of love.

Screen shot 2013-01-23 at 1.38.08 PMI don’t normally do sponsored posts. But I actually like and use both of these products, so when asked to do a post with King Arthur Flour and Pete and Gerry’s eggs, I said “yes” with confidence. I love Pete and Gerry’s eggs because they’re free-range, organic, from somewhat nearby and rather affordable. Though I don’t often use flour blends King Arthur is my go-to gluten-full flour. And when it comes to using a blend, I love that there’s does not include xanthan gum – which is a plus in my book.

So we’re all coming together for a contest on Pinterest where pinners can pin their loving baked treats up until February 14th and win up to $250 in King Arthur products! Click here or on the image above to learn more (and click HERE to join me on Pinterest!).

Chocolate-Cherry-Bread1

Now I had intended to do something pink and heart-full and sweet for this contest, and I may do another by the due date, but performing and cold and what-not had me doing something simple and rich and warming. There’s something I adore about a quick-bread recipe. The fact that it’s two bowls and no electronics. The fact that a basic ratio is endlessly adaptable. The fact that it can be a loaf or a muffin. I love quick-breads. And this one tastes even better on day two, and day three.

And now, to quote Meg Ryan (who looked way more adorable with her cold in You’ve Got Mail than I do right now), “my head is getting fuzzy”. Back to the couch.

Lots of love,

– Jacqueline

Chocolate-Cherry-Bread2

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cherry Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup / 8oz King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour Blend
  • 3/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 cup (4oz) white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, beaten
  • 8oz milk (I used unsweetened almond), warmed
  • 1/2 cup (4oz, 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup chocolate chips or chunks

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a loaf or muffin pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, gum, powder, soda, sugar and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs thoroughly. Add milk and butter and whisk thoroughly to combine.

Whisk dry ingredients into wet. Fold in cherries and chocolate chips.

Pour into greased pans and bake 40 minutes for a loaf or 18-22 minutes for muffins.

(Werking Woman’s Meat)Balls Deep in Resolutions

Meatballs3-TheDustyBaker

This is gonna get personal, today, people. But it’s my blog, and that’s why blogs are blogs.

(If you’re looking for a recipe for light and fluffy meatballs that the kid I work for gobbles up, just skip the tirade and scroll down to the next picture, please and thanks).

I am so over “New Years resolutions”. I’m tired of reading them, joking about them, and them being taken so fricken seriously.

Because, one thing about living with a chronic illness is: you make resolutions every day. Every day is New Years Day as far as resolutions go.

  • I will “say no first” and really have to convince myself to say “yes”.
  • I will not work after 8pm.
  • I will drink more water, less tea, and reserve alcohol for worthy social events.
  • I will eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks and take my meds before and after as prescribed.
  • I will not wear shoes that look seriously awesome but affect my walking so that I later have to take a percoset to be able to walk at all.
  • I will avoid people who require too much energy, though the healthier version of myself simply adores and cannot get enough of them.
  • I will work less at my jobs and work more on the job of keeping a relative level of health.

Here’s the thing: I have a good life. I love my jobs, my family, my friends, my dog, my roommate, my apartment, my car, my city… they’re all fine and dandy and I count my blessings daily. But I’ve had Lyme Disease for over half my time on this planet, now. Some people I share this with – others I do not. Many people in my life know nothing about it, because I’m fortunate that, for the most part, I can avoid looking ill and only see certain people when a limp, hunched back or drugged-up gaze aren’t present.

At my healthiest, I can convince myself that I don’t even have an illness. There are awesome periods where I can eat, drink, dance and be merry, and wake up without a life hangover the next morning, moving into the next thing I want to do.

But that’s not the norm, and it doesn’t last long. And it’s a flat-out lie that I tell myself, sadly. Because when I get by with a few weeks, months or even year of that, I inevitably make poor decisions and my health declines to the point that there’s no lying or covering up that I got bitten by a bug when I was 12 and it’s affected almost every day of my life since then.

I don’t think resolutions are bad. As is obvious in the fact that I admit to making them constantly. I just don’t think that we should give so much attention to making them once a year. July 6th can be the day I make a resolution that is going to change my life drastically for the better. Every day we get a chance to say, “I’m going to choose the healthier, happier option”.

Healthy people should be doing this as well as those who have to deal with their bodies a bit more. You said you were going to go running three times a week to lose that little extra weight and you “failed” in week four? Screw it; make the resolution again. Trying to quit smoking but light up when something goes bad? Throw the pack out and try again tomorrow. Made a resolution to “do more of this” and find out that it adds way too much onto your already full schedule? Make your next resolution “do less of that“.

Here’s what I’m going to work with now:

I’m going to make specific resolutions. I’m going to ponder them fully, discuss my options with those closest to me, and draft out a plan on how I’m going to carry them through. For example: I’m going to blog more is too general. What will really serve me best is I’m going to blog with more honesty, with more integrity, and when I truly feel I have something to express, not just because I should keep up with a certain schedule for social media purposes and targeted numbers of views. (This is actually something I started a few months ago, and I can tell you I enjoy blogging so much more right now).

I’m going to develop recipes that mean something to me and connect me with people on the interweb of food shakers and makers that I respect. Rather than throw a “it’s the holidays so I need to make five holiday cookie recipes because that’s what you do when you blog” I posted one: Triple Chocolate Gluten and Dairy-Free Biscotti, which was part of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap benefiting Cookies for Kids Cancer and connected me with blogger Jody at The Hobbyroom Diaries. It was a joy, not a job, and felt more in the spirit of Christmas than those five other cookie recipes probably would have. This year that makes sticking with my Milk Bar Mondays ladies, adapting more Cooks Illustrated recipes, tackling my mom’s favorites and starting a new seasonal swap with some lovely blogging ladies I miss.

I’m going to cut back on work so that when I plan to go out to a friend’s party, a food event, or even just for drinks and ridiculous food at a restaurant I drool for, I can with energy and confidence. This is the hardest one: my natural inclination is to burn the candle at both ends, and I like to work hard and party. Right now if I do something social it takes about two days to recoup. But it’s happening…

I was chewing on what resulted in this tirade today because (a) I’m way burnt out, even after a 10-day break from my cooking job, (b) my Muffin sent me this piece on chronic illness explained in spoons (it’s a great read and my next piece will be on it, (c) I found a similarly frustrated writer with a great expression of it at Mouth from the South (d) with all my self-reflection and self-analysis sometimes I want my brain to shut up about resolutions and this time of year is not helping in that and (e) I was making meatballs at work today, and I find making meatballs calming.

This is my official Happy New Year post. I’ll resolve to write another one tomorrow.

My dog is being too cute – I have to stop this now.

And enough of that anyway… onto meatballs.

– Jacqueline

Meatballs4-TheDustyBakerUntil I started my current cooking position I would tell you that I’m much more Portuguese than I am Italian. But for some reason my meatballs, lasagna, bolognese… those are what my bosses latched onto in the beginning. And since I can’t do the gluten or dairy thing, it’s fun to get to use these types of ingredients again through work.

I now make meatballs weekly. My boss family likes their meatballs extremely fluffy. So to accomplish that I came upon a combo of ideas stolen from various sources:

  • From a friend (the chef before me), I learned finely chopped mushrooms almost dissolve in flavor but provide fluff.
  • From Chef Daniel Holzman (of the Meatball Shops) I added ricotta cheese (he made a recipe for me for Easy Eats that was gluten-free and used ricotta).
  • From my brain I decided to mix pork in with the beef (I hope they don’t read this, because I don’t think they’ve realized there’s more pork than beef in the ones they like the most).
  • From everyone good at rolling meatballs I’ve ever talked to I’ve learned over handling is a very bad thing!, so these require loose tosses and a light touch.

Everyone’s got their opinions on meatballs. These ones have been specifically crafted for the people I work for. I can’t eat them, and have to go by smell and touch to know if they need more of something. But they’re a real deal, promise. If you’re looking for a gluten-free one, check out Chef Holzman’s in Easy Eats, and come back here for the gluten- and dairy-free ones I make for myself when I’ve made a resolution to blog them.

Meatballs1-TheDustyBaker

Werkin Woman’s Meatballs

The way I roll em, this makes around 34- 2″ meatballs.

Ingredients:

  • 10oz Baby Bella brown mushrooms
  • 1 small onion
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 3lbs ground meat – I go with around 2lbs ground pork and a pound of either ground chuck or sirloin, whichever is looking better that day.
  • 15oz ricotta cheese (around 1 1/2 cups, methinks)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (Progresso Italian works just dandy in this)
  • Around 2 tsp salt (your call)
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • Around 5 cups tomato sauce (note below)

Preheat oven to 425°. Grease a very large baking dish with olive oil or cooking spray (this is the fullest batch I do, which requires a 9×13 and sometimes also 8×8).

If you don’t have a food processor, chop de-stem the mushrooms and chop them into very tiny bits. Do the same with the onion and the garlic. If you do have a food processor, rock it: de-stem the mushrooms, break them with your hands and toss them in, then pulse in short bursts until they break into as tiny pieces as possible with becoming mush (this picture shows them at the perfect time – a few more pulses and they’d be a mass of mushroom):

Meatballs2-TheDustyBakerToss them into a large bowl, and repeat with the onion and garlic.

Add the ground meat, ricotta, breadcrumbs, eggs and seasonings. Lightly mix them together with your hands, until everything is fully incorporated. Roll them with a gentle touch, sort of tossing them between your hands, into about 2″ balls (or whatever size you like, really). Place side-by-side, touching, in greased tray.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until they’re nice and browned. Gently tilt dish over sink to pour off access grease (this amount will depend on your meat choice). Cover in sauce, return to oven (I put a rimmed cookie tray below to catch flying tomato), and bake around 20 minutes more.

Note on sauce: Use what you like. My current standard at work is also made for the family I work for specifically, which is basically this: in around 1/4 cup olive oil, soften 1 medium yellow onion that has been finely chopped and 4 smashed cloves of garlic. Add 3 large cans of peeled tomatoes (I’ve landed upon Nina’s as the house favorite… for now). Bring up to a simmer and cook down for at least 3 hours. Smash tomatoes with a potato masher, and blend until really smooth with a hand blender. Add salt and pepper to taste, and a few pinches of sugar if desired. I wish I could say I do more fun things with this, but you have to cook for your clients, and this is the way she likes it.

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