Wednesday, 28 August 2013

10 Minute Roast Pork

...With roasted potatoes, caramelised onions, and delicious gravy.

In today's day, where there are often two working parents (or one working single parent), busy schedules and an abandonment of the philosophy that someone should be at home to take care of things, it's no wonder our grocery store shelves are stocked with ready made and heavily processed products.

People used to eat everything from scratch, at home, prepared by a family member. I know, crazy right?  But with the dawn of the dual working parent age, when moms were no longer content to stay home all day, came a profitable new business for those willing to sacrifice quality and nutrition. I like to refer to this stage as the TV dinner generation. Double the income, women gaining equal rights and not having their lives predetermined for them, able to enter into once male dominated territory, and then come home to a nice steaming hot Salisbury steak that's ready twenty minutes after walking through the door, sounds great! Unfortunately though, it came at a cost, our health

Now I'm not going to tell you about the nutritional content or the level of processing that goes into one of these things, you already know that. I am also not going to tell you about the down right awful food that comes out of a drive through window, because you know that too. I am not even going to tell you that all those so called "healthy options" in the freezer isle are only slightly healthier than their predecessors and only when considering certain things like added sodium or fat. I will however, tell you that you are not forced into eating like this just because we now live in an age where you need two incomes just to make ends-meat.

People think there are no other options when you work all day, get home at 5:30, and the kids will be looking for dinner at six. You need to do a bit of pre-planning, but your body and your wallet will thank you for the "real food diet".

Now this roast pork obviously didn't cook in ten minutes, but I truly only spent about ten minutes of any hands on prep and you can have it on the table in about twenty minutes after getting home from your day.

Roast Pork and Potatoes:
medium sized pork loin, thawed
1 large onion
2-3 bay leaves
1 carton chicken stock (whichever brand you like, or homemade)
small palmful of whole peppercorns
a few sprigs of thyme (or about a tsp dry thyme)
10-15 new potatoes

Special Equipment: Crock pot (don't have one? get one. doesn't need to be fancy, but if you want food ready when you get home, there is no better tool)

  • Peel and quarter the onion. This should take about 15 seconds, then wash and halve the potatoes, unless they're mini new potatoes and you can leave them whole, but double the amount. I do this with a paring knife so I don't have to wash a cutting board. (If you can't do this without cutting your fingers off, then don't, the price of a finger is too high for one unwashed cutting board)

  • Next, dump everything into the crock pot, pop the lid on and set it at medium for six plus hours, or high for four to six hours, choose what suits your needs best. 

  • Go to work (or shopping, or protesting for green peace, or whatever you do with your day)

When you get home, your roast will be tender, and the potatoes will be cooked. They will also be in need of some love. I don't think you can just pop something into liquid and then take it back out and serve it. It must be the restaurant chef in me, I can't serve blasé food, not even to toddlers.

  • Turn your oven up to 500° F And let it preheat while you line a baking pan with parchment, scoop out your potatoes and onions with a slotted spoon, and pop them and the roast onto the pan. liberally season roast (both sides please) and potatoes with salt and pepper, and pop into the oven. Cook for about twenty minutes, turning the meat over once and tossing the potatoes around a bit at the same time. The potatoes should start to get a bit of a coating from the fat rendering from the pork, this will help them brown. 
  • When you first put the pan into the oven, strain the juice from the crock pot. I like to do this into a juice jug, this way it all fits and if I have any left over I can put the lid on and leave it in the fridge for later use.

  • In a pot on the stove top, cook about 2 TBSP Ghee with about 2 TBSP rice flour on med-high for about two minutes after it starts to bubble, whisking constantly. Slowly pour about half of the cooking liquid into the pot while continuing to whisk. Let this come up to a gentle boil, and if it is too thick, add a bit more liquid. Continue to do this until desired consistency is achieved. You can make the gravy as thin or thick as you like. make sure you whisk the entire time, and that you bring the mixture back up to a boil to achieve full thickening power of the flour. Once desired thickness is achieved, simmer gravy for about ten minutes, or until any residual texture from the rice flour is gone. It should be perfectly smooth. Remove from heat.

  • After Your gravy is thick, taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Remember that gravy should be just a touch salty to taste, as it is the seasoning for the roast (remember you can only season the outside of the meat). 

By the time your gravy is cooked, your potatoes and meat will be nicely browned, and your onions will be beautifully caramelized. turn off oven, and transfer roast to cutting board to rest.
In the meantime, set place settings and scoop potatoes into serving dish or directly onto plates. Pour gravy into serving dish as well, at my house that's a fancy dancy measuring cup ;)
Lastly slice the meat fairly thin and serve.

***To store any leftovers, put potatoes and pork into an airtight container and pour remaining gravy over top. This way when you warm it back up it will still be moist. 

Gluten Free Flour Blends

Photo Credit:

I have had great success with some recipes using my brown rice flour blend. Brown rice seems to be the most popular of bases for gf flour blends. It is inexpensive, mildly flavoured, and easy to find.

With other recipes however, I found that the rice flour didn't quite cut it. I attempted to make a shortbread using my handy dandy flour blend and ghee. The ghee was perfect for this recipe, buttery and rich. Though the texture of the cookie from the rice flour left much to be desired. It was very gritty. I had noticed a little bit of grit in other things but not enough that I thought it was a big deal. I had noticed the same grit in commercial products, more than homemade. This time though, I couldn't ignore the flaw and it sent me on a search for something new.

Don't get me wrong, I still use my rice flour blend for certain things. In fact I have tried my new flour blend in my very favourite cake recipe, and it took a wonderful recipe from amazing to meh. I will specify in my recipes which flour will work best in my opinion, but feel free to use them how you think they would suit your needs best.

I usually do these in large amounts and keep them in airtight labelled containers in my pantry so I don't have to fuss around too much when I feel like making something. I do them in one full cup per part. For example the 5 parts brown rice flour in the first blend, I do as 5 cups, and then 3 cups for the potato starch and 2 cups for the tapioca. Super easy to remember and makes a good amount.

***Update: I have recently added a paleo flour blend. This blend is grain free, and works quite well in a lot of recipes, however is not cup for cup. Increase liquids and eggs accordingly, or watch for future recipes using this great blend****

Brown rice flour blend (I will often refer to this as my cake flour)
5 parts white rice flour (super fine if you can get it)
2 parts brown rice flour (super fine if you can get it)
2 parts potato starch (not potato flour)
1 part tapioca starch (sometimes called flour)

This is a light and fluffy cake flour that yields beautiful results when used in batters which contain a lot of liquid and fluffiness is the desired result.

Sorghum flour blend (This has become my All Purpose Flour)
4 parts sorghum flour
4 parts potato starch
1 part buckwheat OR oat flour
1 part almond meal/flour (can substitute  with millet flour or more oat or buckwheat flour for nut allergy)

This blend is great for cookies, pie crusts, brownies, pancakes, etc. 

Teff flour blend (This is my Hearty Flour Blend)
2 parts sorghum flour
2 parts potato starch
1 part teff flour
1 part buckwheat OR oat flour
1 part almond flour/meal (can substitute  with millet flour or more oat or buckwheat flour for nut allergy)

This is a nutritious blend that tastes a lot like whole wheat flour and is great for muffins, quick breads and pizza crust.

2 parts coconut flour
2 parts almond flour
1 part tapioca starch

This blend is great for anyone on a grain free or paleo diet.

***For all blends, just measure into a large bowl or container that you can fit a whisk into, and whisk until blended. You will know when it is mixed because you won't see layers of slightly different colours anymore.

***I purchase all of my flours at the bulk food store (Bulk Barn here), but they are readily available at most health food stores as well.

***I do not add gums to my flour mixes, as I find that I like to add different amounts to different recipes to ensure that I do not use more than necessary as this can result in a slightly gummy texture.

Well, I think that's it. It may seem like a bit of work to get these mixed up, but honestly, do yourself a favour and do it in big batches as recommended and you'll see how simple it can be. Five minutes worth of measuring and then you have exactly what you need for many recipes to follow. Happy Baking!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Butter without the bad... AKA Ghee

So I have mentioned ghee a couple of times as of late and thought I would share the method of making it.

Just to recap from earlier posts, ghee is butter that has been clarified, separating both the proteins and the lactose from the milk fat. 
This is not a vegan option, but it is a great way to eat tasty butter for those who are casein or lactose sensitive. 

There is a bit of a debate about ghee because it is almost 100% fat, and a saturated one at that. I am of firm belief however, that when you keep moderation in mind, a natural fat source is a much better option than man made or refined fats. 

I have switched entirely to cooking with ghee and coconut oil. Coconut oil for it's many health properties and ghee because of it's buttery flavour. I have also successfully substituted both into my baking, allowing for real butter flavour in my cookies and a healthy alternative to the canola oil found in a lot of recipes. 

Making ghee is really quite easy if you know what you're looking for. In this post I have included many pictures so that you will be confident in the process. 

You can purchase ghee in stores as well as on line, however it is quite costly. I find that if I buy butter when it's on sale and make a large amount of ghee at once that it is much more cost efficient. Ghee will keep for quite a long time; at least a month in the pantry and several in the fridge. In making it yourself you also have the option to use organic, grass fed and free from antibiotic butter. 

How to:

First start off with slightly cold butter, about two or three pounds. 
Unwrap, no need to cut it up, and pop it into a large pot with enough room that it won't bubble over the edges. 
Cook on low-med heat for 1-2 hours depending on the amount you are making. There is no real time line for this. When its done, it's done. 
The first stage will be quite foamy looking. Let it do its thing. Don't stir or play with it. It should look like this
At this point, you may find it is bubbling and spitting a bit, just leave it alone and watch out, It will settle eventually and look something like this
This is the stage when you need to pay a bit of attention. At this point the water has cooked out and you are beginning to cook the milk solids to the bottom of the pot. You want to make sure it is all separated, but if you have it turned up too high or you forget about it, you will end up burning the milk solids and the whole thing will be trash. I usually tip the pot a bit to see if the white on the bottom moves. if it does, let it continue, if not, this stage is complete. It will look pretty much like this once you are there. Remove from heat.
Let it cool undisturbed for about 15-20 mins, and then skim the thin top layer of solids off as well as you can.
Carefully pour clear ghee into container. You can pour through a few layers of cheese cloth if you like, I find that I make it enough though, that I don't need it. If any of the solids are pourable at the bottom of the pot, be careful and stop pouring once you can go no further without including them. This is what will be left in  the pot. All of the casein and lactose removed.

What you are left with is buttery, golden milk fat. This has a higher smoke point than coconut oil as well as a delicious flavor, so I do a lot of my searing and high heat cooking with this. It is also great when used for garlic butter as well as in cookies and other baked goods.

Put a lid on the container and pop it into the fridge for about an hour to re-solidify. Then take it out and keep at room temp for ease of use. It will remain solid but soft.

I looove ghee for its ease of substitution and its diversity. Not to mention it tastes better and is not chemical laden like those "buttery products". It's butter, lactose and casein free butter, who could ask for more?

Keep an eye out for upcoming recipes that utilize the wonderful flavor.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Big brother... again.

Boy oh boy, do we have some catching up to do.
Eight weeks ago we were blessed with our beautiful baby boy. He is healthy and gorgeous and I'm so in love. 

 Life always takes some adjusting to when a baby comes along, especially when there's a sassy two year old little girl and little man takes a spill and busts his leg. 

That's right. Full leg cast through the summer. Poor guy. 
He's coping surprisingly well though. I was very worried about what things were going to be like for him. Considering he has an electronic addiction (no seriously, Betty Ford here we come) which we try to moderate most of the time, it was really quite easy to keep him happy. I felt awful putting a limit on time with an iPod. I mean really, "ok no more iPod today, now sit there... For the next twelve hours"

Sometimes you just need to bend the rules, makes me feel like I'm still in touch with my rebellious side anyway. Now I imagine that iPod detox is gonna be a hoot after all this, but he'll survive. 

Now as you can imagine, pain, immobility, a new brother, and the loss of his main way of stimming (running), things were rough at first. He was just starting to get used to the new baby when he wound up in a cast. 

When parents of autistic children expand their family further they are extra worried and stressed for the future. You have a newborn and any parent knows how demanding and energy consuming that can be, and you have an autistic child who probably requires a substantial amount of hands on time. Also worrying about how brother or sister will cope with such an enormous change to home dynamic is at the forefront of your mind all the time. For little man, home is a sanctuary filled with familiar sounds, faces, energy. We have a chaotic home, but its chaos that he's used to. He is free to be himself without odd looks being thrown his way. He is happy here. So when you throw it all out of whack, it's bound to affect my rigid little angel. 

The only piece of advice I can offer is don't put too much pressure on them. Autistic children need time to warm up to change, new people, new sounds, and a baby brings all those things. We talked while I was pregnant with him about how he was going to get a brother and used our "this is so awesome" voices to invoke excitement. By the time the baby arrived little man was flappy at the thought of meeting his new brother and all smiles. 

When he came to the hospital however, he was completely thrown. He wasn't comfortable with any of it.  We introduced him and he seemed uninterested (his typical attitude about something too big to deal with) and then we didn't mention it again. Once babe and I came home we did reintroductions several times a day, but were very nonchalant about it. Eventually he wanted to sit beside him. Then it turned into making silly faces at him. Finally he asked to hold him. He was so proud. He was ok with it because he reached that point on his own and was ready. He held him for about two minutes and then ignored him the rest of the day, but it was clear that he really liked his new brother and thought it was pretty cool. He still randomly asks to hold him and says "I have a brober" and just beams while he's with him. 

We are very proud of how well he handled everything, and tomorrow the cast comes off. It's funny, you spend so much energy in worrying about how things are going to turn out. Energy that bought you nothing but anxiety filled nights and distracted days. It does seem to work out though. Baby Ronin is a happy, calm little slice of serenity, and Little man is a loving and caring older brother. Now all I have to worry about is the two little firecrackers in pretty pink dresses.