Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mini Cheddar Gougéres

Gougéres are crunchy, fluffy mounds of savory choux pastry. Imagine a cream puff, but with a savory dough and no cream filling. They can be unfilled, as in this recipe, or filled with cheese or meat.

We adapted this recipe from here, changing it quite a bit. In our version, we miniaturize the puffs by piping them in teaspoon size. We use sharp cheddar and more of it. We also use a convection oven instead of a regular oven.

The result is faster baking time and more crunchy surface area. The bits of cheddar that make it to the outside crunch up nicely too.

They're typically served as hors d'oeuvres, but they also make for a nice snack while watching a movie at home.

Mini Cheddar Gougéres

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
Freshly ground salt, 2 turns
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Freshly ground pepper, 2 turns

Preheat convection oven to 375°F, convection bake setting.

Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. (We found this at Target next to the aluminium foil. They also had some in the baking section, but it was significantly more expensive and pre-cut into tiny sheets. Get the kind that's not pre-cut, and use large baking sheets.)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan at medium heat. As it melts, you can add the water, then the salt, and then the milk. Stir with a wooden spoon. When it melts all the way, keep stirring it frequently to keep it from burning. Bring it up to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the flour to the saucepan. Combine with the wooden spoon for 2 minutes. It will turn into a nice dough and start to dry out.

Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl, and let it cool for 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time, whipping them frantically with the wooden spoon. Add the cheese and pepper, and mix until evenly combined.

Scrape the dough into a gallon-sized zip-lock bag with the wooden spoon. Cut off a corner and pipe teaspoon-sized mounds of dough onto the parchment paper, spaced an inch apart.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until light golden brown on the outsides.

The top ones were just put in. The bottom ones have just puffed but are still light-colored.

Serve immediately, while they're still piping hot.

We had leftovers, which we refrigerated overnight. The next day, we baked them at 375°F for 3-5 minutes, just to heat them up. They were very good, but not as great as when they were freshly baked.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pineapple Smoothies, Core Included

Daniel and I love pineapple smoothies. Sometimes we have them as easy breakfasts or lunches when we've got a busy day. They taste good and give us energy. But they do a bit more than that.

The secret to our smoothies is that we include the core, which contains a high concentration of bromelain. Bromelain is known to reduce inflammation, and in our experience, it really works. We find that it works as well as a regular dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen. (Your results may vary.)

A powerful blender may be required for the hard pineapple cores. We use a Vitamix, which is one of the toughest home blenders available. Be warned, if you use a regular blender, it may break. Using a strong blender will also give your smoothie an airy, whipped texture. Pineapple tends to froth up a lot, especially when the fibrous core is included.

A frothy glass of whipped pineapple smoothie for pain relief.

Variation 1: Sweet Pineapple Protein

1 cross-section slice of a pineapple, 1 inch thick, including core
1 scoop protein powder
1 1/2 cups water

This smoothie is for those days when we're sore after a long hike, intense workout, or even just from sleeping funny. In addition to the bromelain, the protein helps rebuild muscle.

Variation 2: Pineapple Spinach Whip

1 cross-section slice of a pineapple, 1 inch thick, including core
1/4 cup spinach, tightly packed
1 cup whole milk

This smoothie works as a meal replacement. It's important to use whole milk as opposed to skim, as it will keep you full and make the vitamins in the spinach and pineapple more easily absorbable by the body. A meal replacement is no good if you end up eating afterward. The fiber in the pineapple core and the spinach is also very filling.

If you really don't like the taste of spinach in smoothies, you can omit it and this will still be a great power smoothie. It will be more like the Dole Whips at Disneyland.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Garlic Chicken Adobo Wings

One of my favorite Filipino foods is chicken adobo. I've eaten it since childhood.

There's a wide variance of chicken adobo levels. If you've had it and didn't like it, you probably had the bad stuff. After a lot of trial and error, I can say this is the good stuff.

It's gently simmered in garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar, and then the skin is crisped up before serving. The leftover liquid is thickened to form a nice sour garlicky gravy.

This variation uses the wings. I had some trouble with the meat falling off the bone too much during the crisping stage. If it falls off the bone, pull all of the meat, then crisp the meat and skin for some nice adobo pulled chicken.

Perfectly caramelized adobo wing skin.

Garlic Chicken Adobo Wings

8 chicken wings (2 of those Costco packages)
1 1/2 c vinegar
3/4 c soy sauce
4 c water
4 bulbs garlic
1-3 tbsp flour or chickpea flour (optional)

Place wings in a stockpot. Cover with vinegar, soy sauce, and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer.

In the meantime, peel all 4 bulbs of garlic. Put the garlic cloves through a garlic press, then add to the stockpot and stir gently.

Simmer for 1 1/2 hours total.

Just before serving, carefully scoop out one wing at a time into a large frying pan. When you have 4 wings in the pan, turn on the heat to medium and crisp up the skin on each side. The bits of garlic and sauce will caramelize as the skin crisps. No need to add oil, as the chicken crisps in its own fat.

Once you're done crisping, transfer the wings to plates. Pour some of the leftover cooking liquid into the frying pan to deglaze it. Optionally add 1-3 tbsp of flour as needed to thicken, and add water as needed. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon to remove any flour lumps. It will still be a bit lumpy from all that garlic, which is okay. The thickening isn't absolutely needed; you can omit this and it will still be a fantastic sauce.

Pour the resulting sauce over the wings. Keep in mind that it's more garlicky and sour than your typical gravy, so serve less than you'd normally serve per plate. It looks like a normal gravy, but it's vinegar-based, not fat-based. The amount pictured here ended up being too much.

The lumps in the sour, aromatic gravy are pieces of garlic. Served with quinoa.

Typically this is served with rice to soak up the extra sauce and balance the sour flavors, but you can substitute cauliflower rice or quinoa depending on your tolerance for grains.

Assuming 2 wings per person, this makes for a nice dinner for 2 people with enough leftovers for a second meal the next day.

Monday, February 16, 2015


A couple of years ago, Daniel and I were lost in Pisa, Italy. We had gotten lost after taking one wrong road after another on our way from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to the city center.

Hungry and unsure if we would find another place to eat, we stopped into the first restaurant that we found. It was a casual pizza joint, similar to the mom and pop takeout pizzerias in US cities. No frills, just a counter with slices and a few tables.

We were the only ones there, so we were unsure whether this was a good idea, but we were starving. So we ordered a couple slices of pizza. We also noticed this strange thing on one of the pizza racks, which looked like a sad, empty pizza devoid of toppings, but with an extra-thin yellow crust. We ordered a slice of that too. Why not, we thought. Farinata, the little paper sign said.

We tried the farinata, nibbling off small bites. It was heaven. It was so good that I tried to get Daniel to have most of it. Likewise, he tried to insist on giving it to me. In the end, we shared it pretty equally. I may have gotten an extra bite.

This is now one of the recipes in regular rotation in our home. It's high protein and high fiber. It makes for a satisfying snack on its own. You can portion it into zip-lock bags and take it on trips with you. Or serve it as lunch with lots of homemade bruschetta on top.

We're in the bad habit of making this without measuring and having it turn out different every time. We measured this time, though. We've also tried making this with other oils, such as avocado oil. Don't use other oils. The flavor of the olive oil is important here.


2 1/2 c chickpea flour
1/2 c olive oil, plus 4 tbsp for greasing the pans
4 c water
1 tsp lemon pepper blend (ours includes salt; if not, use 1/2 tsp lemon pepper and 1/2 tsp salt)

Preheat convection oven to 400°F, or regular oven to 425°F.

Stir all ingredients in a large mixing bowl until there are no more lumps.

Grease 2 large baking sheets with 2 tbsp of olive oil per pan. Be thorough and generous, because farinata likes to stick to pans. Besides, the olive oil will give it a nice olive taste and a crunch around the outer edges.

Pour batter into baking sheets. Carefully transfer to oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are browned. The time may vary depending which baking sheets you own. If you see any edge starting to burn, take out the baking sheet immediately.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Chickpea-Crusted Cauliflower

This recipe takes standard cauliflower and transforms it into crunchy, battered, low-fat nuggets that enhance the flavor of any sauce that you have on hand. It's great for those days when you have leftover sauce from another recipe, as these adapt well to a variety of flavors.

Here, we tossed our chickpea-crusted cauliflower pieces with a mix of homemade buffalo and garlic-parmesan sauces. But this would also work well with a Thai or Indian curry sauce, a homemade tomato sauce, or even a spinach pesto or cream sauce.

One of the more unusual ingredients that we keep in our cupboard is chickpea flour. It can be used in place of regular flour in certain recipes. It adds a kick of healthy legume protein and fiber, replacing some of the flour carbs that you wouldn't want on a low-carb diet.

Chickpea flour makes any recipe taste a bit chickpea-ish, so you can't always substitute it for white/wheat flour, but in certain dishes it works well. It's a nutty flavor. Think of the flavor of Indian chickpea fritters if you have trouble imagining it. It's stronger-tasting than ordinary flour and makes for a nice breading.

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 cup of chickpea flour
  • 1 egg
  • 10 turns of salt grinder
  • 10 turns of pepper grinder
  • 2 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • Sauce of your choice, e.g. garlic-parmesan sauce or curry
Preheat oven to 400°F, convection setting.

Cut cauliflower into small florets.

Combine chickpea flour, egg, salt, pepper, milk, and 1 tbsp of avocado oil in a plastic bag until blended. Add florets to bag. Squish around with your fingers until the florets are evenly coated.

Grease a baking pan with the remaining 1 tbsp of avocado oil. Pour the coated florets into the pan.

Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Flip the florets to ensure that they roast evenly. Then bake for another 15 minutes.

Toss with sauce of your choice and serve.