Nothing Pink Can Stay

I’m loving the exotic hair color, but what I’m not loving is how fast it fades. Three weeks in, and the bright pink made it to a salmon-ish color, thanks to the pink fading and revealing the orange undertones of my bleached hair. I used the second half of the tube of magenta and left it on for a good two hours, so I’m freshly fluorescent again. I’m thinking once this pink fades, I’ll make my way to purple, then from there to blue. I figure as my dark roots grow out, I’ll want a darker color on top so it isn’t that drastic of a difference.

Before and after:

Faded salmon, then bright pink again.

Faded salmon, then bright pink again.

This should get me through to Arizona; then I’ll go purple after we move.

Speaking of the move, we’re packing and cleaning a little bit every day. Sometimes, we have helpers.

Cats. In Boxes. Surprising!

Cats. In Boxes. Surprising!

We have everything booked, from cat airfares (they’ll ride in the cabin, under the seats in front of us, as our carry-ons) to the moving cube for our stuff, to moving dudes on both ends. I feel as ready as I’ll ever be, I guess.

We’ve culled a lot of stuff out — a lot of clothes and kitchen stuff went to Goodwill, and we donated lots of books to the library. I still kept tons, of course. Here’s a peek at the paperbacks I’ve kept. You can tell some of them are older and crustier than others.

Beat-up paperback books.

Beat-up paperback books.

Some of them, the pages aren’t even stuck to the spine anymore. And yet I can’t get rid of them! Though they are a challenge to read.

We had a credit left at a place up in Winter Park called The Wine Room — they have hundreds of wines in the Enomatic wine dispenser machines. So we cruised up there and had ourselves a few tastes, and found a couple of new wines we really liked.

Enomatic wine machines.

Enomatic wine machines.

Although some of the descriptions didn’t sound all that appetizing:

Wine flavored with asphalt?

Wine flavored with asphalt?

Somehow, “crushed rock, loamy earth, and asphalt” aren’t the flavors I’m usually looking for in a wine. We decided to pass on sampling this one. I like my wines mild, and a little sweet. Found a couple of Rieslings to get a full bottle of, once we’ve moved. (There are a lot of things that are being put on hold right now, and added to the “once we’ve moved” list. The less stuff I have to pack and have transported, the better.)

We cruised out to IKEA locally here, to decide which bed frame we want to get once we land in Arizona. It’s pretty much going to be [1] get the apartment keys; [2] set up the cats in a closed-off area with litter box, food, and water; and [3] go to IKEA to get a bed. We’re getting the Sultan Hanestad mattress, which is the newer version of our old Sultan Huglo which I love.

While we were there, I saw these light fixtures. Does anyone out there like them? They look kind of like wadded up tissues to me.

IKEA crumpled tissues lights.

IKEA crumpled tissues lights.

Eh, maybe if you had the right other decor in your house. Though I can’t imagine what that decor would be.

Last but not least, I finally found a place that serves gluten-free fish and chips. And it was right in my backyard the entire time! A place called Cookes of Dublin, in Downtown Disney, makes all of their fried stuff (fish, shrimp, onion rings, even mozzarella sticks) fresh to order, so you can get it in the gluten-free batter and fried up in a separate dedicated gluten-free fryer.

Gluten-free fish and chips.

Gluten-free fish and chips.

I haven’t had fish and chips in years. And it was great!! Plus, they mix a little bit of chopped parsley in with the gluten-free batter, so you always know for sure that you got the right stuff. We’ll probably have to stop by one more time before we leave the area, because who knows when we’ll find GF fried fish again?

So, that’s where we’re at. Busting ass and stressing out, but soon we’ll be rid of Florida for good, and launched on a new and exciting adventure!

Homemade Toasted Corn Nuts

As hinted at the end of my post about roasted garbanzo beans, I’ve embarked on using my roasting-toasting methods to make my own corn nuts.

First, I tried hominy.

Look, it’s even friends with garbanzo beans!

I used the same methods as garbanzo beans, but the hominy shrunk a crazy amount when toasted. What came out tastes corn-nutty, and looks like itty bitty baby corn nuts.

Seriously, these came out seriously small. Though I guess if you like feeling like a giant, you could use hominy for your corn-nutting needs. And on a side note, I don’t know that the term “corn-nutting needs” has ever been written before.

What to do? Well, if you’re me, you ask Dr. Google. And he’ll tell you that there are a couple of varieties of giant corn out there, and one of those varieties is what corn nuts are made from. So then, if you’re me, you ask Scott (who’s already going to Costco that day, and it’s just a little further to the local Hispanic supermarket) to go on a giant corn scouting mission. Then, if you’re me, you’re delighted at the bounty of giant corn he brings home.

Both bagged and canned! What a bonanza!

I decided to start with the bagged stuff. First off, just like with dry garbanzo beans, you have to soak them. I left my giant corn soaking for 24 hours, but I hear rumors that the people at Planters soak their giant corn for three days. Maybe I’ll try that next time, when I have more patience.

After the soaking comes the rinsing and drying — give them a good swirl in a colander, then pat them with paper towels. They don’t have to be bone-dry, just not soaking wet.

Then, just like the garbanzos, I tossed them with about three tablespoons of coconut oil. I then spread them on my non-stick foil-lined cookie sheet, and salted them.

I put on a glove, so I could thoroughly coat the kernels with oil. I’m also trying to make my way through this box of size-small gloves, because they’re a little TOO small. My hands always feel like sausage.

ANYhoo, spread them out on your non-stick surface, so they’re in a single layer. Again, set your oven to 375°.

This time, I timed my stir-and-mix sessions a bit differently. I started by letting them go for 20 minutes. Stir/mix. Then I set the timer for 15 minutes. Stir/mix. Then I went for 10 minutes. Still 45 minutes total, just divvied up oddly. It didn’t really make much difference, that I could tell.

Once they’re golden brown, put them on paper towels to get rid of the extra oil. Salt them more while they’re hot and oily, if you want more salt.

So how are they? Well, they’re very corn-nut-like. The flavor is a bit different from the packaged stuff, but it’s still really good. And the coconut oil gives them almost a movie-theater-popcorn vibe. There’s definitely more tinkering to be done — longer soaking of the dry corn, trying out the canned corn, maybe different cooking temperatures. But this first attempt is quite satisfactory.

Also, there was hardly any shrinkage. Unlike the hominy. And did you know that the back of the 2012 pennies was so pretty?

Those Roasted Garbanzo Beans I Mentioned

I made more roasted garbanzo beans (or chickpeas, for those so inclined) the other day, and they continue to be delicious. And so very easy, as well! Here’s a little more detail.

You can either use dry or canned garbanzo beans. This time, I used:

Ooh, I guess for some there’s the third option of “chick peas”.

If you’re using dry garbanzos, soak them in water overnight. Done? Good. Now you’re at the same step as if you’d opened up a can. Then move on to step two:

Rinse those mothers! No matter which kind. But especially the canned kind, because (just like beans) the water they’re packed in is slimy and foamy. (Scott is right, I should totally write catalog copy. Because I can’t stop myself from using words like slimy and foamy.)

Then, add my favorite two roasting friends:

Oh my goodness, I love cooking with coconut oil so much. Not only is it packed with healthy fat, and it has an incredibly high smoke point so it doesn’t go rancid in the heat (like most vegetable and seed oils do), but it also tastes really, really good.

Salt, likewise: delicious, and good for you.

Pat your garbanzo beans dry-ish with paper towels, then toss with … oh, I’ll say three tablespoons of coconut oil. Spread them out on a non-stick cookie sheet (or, if you’re like me, a gnarly mangled baking sheet lined with non-stick foil). Then salt them up.

Put them in a 375° oven and set your timer for 15 minutes. When it goes off, stir everything around. Another 15 minutes, another stir around. One more 15-minute session will probably do it — my garbanzos are golden brown and delicious after about 45 minutes total.

They shrink a bit when roasted, but not as much as I thought they would.

Throw them onto some paper towels, or a brown paper bag — something to soak up the extra oil. Now’s the time to taste one, and hit them with extra salt if you like, while they’re still a little oily so the salt will stick.

They’re tasty, and crunchy, and relatively good for you.

Next up: if I can do this with garbanzo beans, can I use the same method to make corn nuts?

(Hint: you bet your bottom dollar I can!)

Photodump: Fruits, Legumes, and Abbreviated Musical Acts

My little lemon trees appear to have made it through the winter. They both dropped a LOT of leaves when the weather got colder, and I worried that they would both kick the bucket.

You can see the general leaflessness of the Eureka lemon, but a couple of weeks ago I noticed that it was starting to bud like crazy. And those buds are now getting ginormous. Within the next week or so, that sucker will be flowering.

The lemons that were growing on the Meyer lemon tree stopped getting any larger for a while, but they seem to be on the grow again. The Meyer is also budding up, but not as violently as the Eureka. It still has probably a dozen lemons in the works, with the largest ones about the size of a small lime. We’ll see if they continue their journey now that they’ve had a little winter nap.

The other night we attended an awesome concert — They Might Be Giants, with Jonathan Coulton as the opening act. Coulton played the electric guitar (as opposed to the acoustic performance two years ago [and I’m amazed that it’s been two years since JoCo visited]), and he was accompanied by a bass player and drummer. A small band, but a band nonetheless. His performance was awesome, as always, and he played many a good song, but it was too darned short.

We hadn’t seen TMBG for years; certainly not since we moved to Florida. They gave a great show, and did some fascinating bits with knit puppets. And we got to see what was probably one of the last public performances of “Marty Beller Mask” ever.

Paul and Storm are also visiting our town this coming Friday. I may have to venture downtown to see them.

I changed the strings on my second-best ukulele, and it sounds much brighter. I think I’ve had this thing for three or four years now, so it was about time for a string change. I’ve special ordered strings for my first-best uke, so I can get the low-g string instead of the high-g. Those should come in later this week. Then I’ll put the used first-best strings on my third-best, littlest uke. Yes, I have three ukuleles. And like cats, I’d have more if I was allowed.

Finally, in the category of tasty things, I made some roasted garbanzo beans (or chickpeas, if you prefer to call them that). I started with the Alton Brown base, then fiddled with the recipe. I ended up soaking the dry beans for at least 16 hours (overnight), then roasting at 375° for about 45 minutes (stirring them around every 15). Instead of his oil-vinegar-spice mix, I just used coconut oil and salt.

With the coconut oil, they smell like movie theater popcorn while they’re cooking. When they’re done, they have the texture of corn nuts, but a flavor similar to roasted pumpkin seeds. Me likey!

Gluten-Free Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

This was a surprisingly hard recipe to put together, only because there weren’t all that many recipes to reference on the internet. Half of the chocolate chip cookie recipes that mentioned coconut didn’t use actual coconut — they used coconut oil, or coconut flour (I admit, one of them was mine).

Then you get into the gluten-free world, and my permanent frustration with recipes there: the bulk of them are either dairy-free or totally vegan. That doesn’t fly with me — like Paula Deen, I’m big on butter.

So for this one, I had to use mostly recipes involving wheat flour, then use my old friend science to cobble together a recipe.

Fortunately, I have lots of friends in the baking box who can help. I have the baking box because this apartment doesn’t have all that much kitchen shelf space, so those are full of everyday staples. I think I like the baking box better, anyway — one quick glance and I can see what I have and what I don’t. For dry goods, anyway.

Bear in mind, this recipe is NOT low-carb. In fact, for giggles, I used actual sugar. And the sweetened coconut flakes you get at the grocery store, instead of the unsweetened dry stuff from the Whole Foods. I’ll tell you right off the bat (spoiler alert): these came out a tad bit too sweet. At least for me. Maybe it’s because I’m not used to sweet stuff anymore. Anyhoo, onward!

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar (probably could have skipped this)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp coconut flour*
1/4 cup tapioca flour (also known as tapioca starch)
1/4 cup almond meal (also known as almond flour)
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips**

* I added the extra 3 Tbsp coconut flour at the end, since the batter still seemed a bit wet. This may be due to the Florida humidity. Your mileage may vary.

** I started with a heaping 1/2 cup, then threw a few more in. It’s chocolate, go nuts.

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Add the vanilla, salt, and baking soda. Add the flours one at a time, mixing thoroughly each time.

Bake at 375° for 14-18 minutes.

I could have used my Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Baking Mix on this one, but I felt like cobbling. The coconut flour is one of my favorite foundations, but use too much and it sucks up all the liquid. The tapioca flour adds a springy stretchiness that non-wheat flours lack (it’s used to make the amazing cheesy rolls they serve at the Brazilian steakhouse). And almond meal is always welcome for flavor and texture.

Besides being a little too sweet for me (but probably just right for normal people), these are pretty darned good. The coconut adds a chewiness, and coconut flavor is always welcome in my mouth. Unless it’s mixed with pineapple in a pina colada, but that’s neither here nor there.

Overall, I’ll give them an 8 out of 10. Good texture, good flavor, and next time I think I’ll just cut out the regular sugar.

Now that I have this sweetened coconut, it may be time to make some macaroons. Once these cookies are gone, that is. Which should be soon.

Review: Tinkyáda Gluten-Free Elbow Pasta

Last time at the grocery store, they didn’t have the Ancient Harvest gluten-free pasta. I checked both Target and Publix, and all either place had was this same purple bag of elbows from Tinkyáda. Usually, the 8-ounce box from Ancient Harvest runs about $3 or $3.50. But this 16-ounce bag of Tinkyáda was a mere $3.99.

Plus, they made a HUGE deal about the good texture. Not mushy. Al dente. Okay, Tinkyáda. We get it.

I was a little leery about the cooking time, for starters. I mean, the Ancient Harvest stuff was just right after 8 minutes in boiling water. But this stuff?

Seriously, 16-17 minutes? Not only does that seem like a really specific amount of time, but it seems like a really long time. And in case you’re wondering, the “Easy and energy-saving method” (which is clearly Easy with a capital E) is printed on the front of the bag. Bring water to a boil, insert pasta, cover and turn off the heat. Wait 20 minutes, then drain. Not so much with a time savings.

Oh, and if you think this packaging reads like Engrish, check out the Tinkyáda website. It’s not quite Dr. Bronner-grade weird, but it’s certainly unusual. The design takes me back to the late ’90s, and the writing doesn’t seem to be from a native English speaker. Though the stuff is made in Ontario, Canada, which I always thought was less French than Quebec. Hm, je ne sais quoi.

Anyway, with vows of such non-mushitude …

Promised by two happy bunnies holding a … gigantic grain of rice?

I had to try it out. I weighed out a 2-ounce serving, got water heating up in my little single-serve saucepan, and got my Tinkyáda on.

Once the elbows hit the water, I had 16 minutes to figure out how to dress the stuff. But really, when presented with elbows, there’s only one logical choice.

That’s right, neon orange. Sorry, marinara and alfredo. Maybe some other time.

(Side note: did you grow up calling it “macaroni and cheese” or “Kraft dinner”? I’d never heard “Kraft dinner” until the Barenaked Ladies discussed it in a song. Maybe that’s a Canadian thing. For some reason, it also makes me think of the battle of “Lik-M-Aid” vs. “Fun Dip”.)

(Oh, and that oven mitt in the background? The groovy orangey yellowy one with even groovier blue innards? I made that.)

Onward. I tested the pasta at 10 minutes and again at 12, and I actually pulled it and strained it at 12. I do like mine with a little bite, and I think the 12-14 zone will be just right. Melted some butter, threw in some cream (yeah, I know you’re supposed to use milk, but I don’t have milk in the house). Then I added the neon orange cheese powder. What I don’t get is how the container encourages me to shake and sprinkle the cheese on stuff, then says the serving size is 2 teaspoons. That would take a LOT of shaking. Anyhoo, I just screwed the cap off and shoved my teaspoon down in there. And I went with 3 teaspoons, because that’s how I roll.

This is really why I should invest in a non-clear bowl for food display purposes. It feels like the mac-n-cheese is hovering over a dish towel. I mean, I guess I could have put the food on one of my white plates, but only a monster would eat mac-n-cheese out of anything other than a bowl (or the pot it was cooked in).

So, how did it taste? CHEEEZY GOOD. And none of the vague rice flavor like the De Boles rice pasta had when I tried it. The pasta itself was mostly flavorless, which for me is a good thing.

As for the texture, it was indeed al dente and not mushy. Maybe one or two more minutes would be even better — I’ll have to play around with the cook time. So good on flavor, texture, and price — 50¢ per serving is a price that the other guys can only match when they’re on sale. I give the Tinkyáda brown rice elbows a solid 9 out of 10 and will certainly use the rest in a variety of tasty ways.

Unless I end up making 8 servings of neon orange.

Bahamas Cruise!

We just took our first ever cruise.

And it was awesome!

I put 84 pictures up on the Flickr, which is a few too many to put in a blog post. But let it be said, I ate a lot of:

And we did a lot of:

And even partook of some:

And it was totally and completely:

I stayed gluten-free the entire time, and despite stuffing my face with all sorts of deliciousness (and ice cream after almost every meal), I gained less than half a pound. It was only a 4-day cruise, and here it is the next day and I still feel like the world is gently rolling. Hey, vertigo! Cut that crap out! At least while on the boat itself, I didn’t have any problems with motion sickness.

Here’s a link to the Flickr gallery — most pictures by me, but a few by Scott and some by my dad. (You’ll see him and my mom in a few shots, but my mom hates her picture, so I went easy on her.)

Even though our last day’s excursion to Norwegian’s private island was cancelled due to heavy wind and waves, we still had a great time. I read three books, and got some much-needed relaxation done. And now that we know we can handle cruising and we like it, we’ll be keeping our eye out for future voyages. We’re also thinking about JoCo Cruise Crazy in 2013.

Gluten-Free Low-Carb Pumpkin Cookies. And Muffins. And Bars.

That’s right, I’ve made this recipe three times, in three different formats. Each time just tweaking the spice mixture until it was to my satisfaction. Just different cooking times in different cooking vessels.

(Here’s the cookie version from today.)

1 15-oz can of pumpkin puree (pure pumpkin, please — none of that “pie filling” stuff)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1/4 cup sweetener*
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup almond flour

* Normally I use Splenda. This time I used about 3/4 xylitol and 1/4 Splenda. I’m moving over to xylitol for sweetening things, since it would appear that Splenda is even worse for you than originally thought. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, but less gastrointestinally upsetting than most.

My coconut flour and almond flour are both from Bob’s Red Mill. Love that stuff.

Mix everything together, then either make 20 2-inch cookies, 12 muffins (please use paper muffin cups), or put it in a parchment paper-lined loaf pan for a flat, cuttable loaf (not so much a bread as brownie-like bars).

Bake at 350° for 20 minutes (cookies), 30-35 minutes (muffins), or 60-70 minutes (loaf).

For the cookies, nutritionally:

(per cookie, batch of 20 cookies)
60 calories
4.5g fat
4.25g carbohydrate
– 2g dietary fiber
1.5g protein

This is a recipe that’s forgiving to overcooking — the pumpkin keeps everything moist even if you go a little too long in the oven. I like to put everything in the fridge when done; something about that pumpkin flavor feels like it should be served cold, to me. Plus, moist can be an understatement — even though they’re fully cooked, all of these can have an almost custardy, puddinglike consistency. Refrigeration firms them up a bit.

I also shoved some white chocolate chips into a few of the cookies. They add a nice contrast, but it’s upping the carb count.

Gluten-Free Banana Bread / Muffins

We had a discussion about banana bread at work the other day. Mainly it centered on the concept that you can replace the eggs in a banana bread recipe with applesauce. My point was that you’re taking the ONE ingredient in the whole thing that isn’t sugar, and replacing it with more sugar. Bleah.

But since then, I was jonesing for banana bread. So this is what I came up with.

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup), softened
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/3 cup Splenda
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

Mix the bejeezus out of it all, then put it into cupcake papers. This made 8 muffins; you could double the recipe for either 16 muffins or a loaf. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes (muffins) or 1 hour (loaf) or until a toothpick comes out clean.

These came out great. I described them to Scott as “like so much Aperture Science cake — delicious and moist.”

They’re not low-carb (How could they be, with bananas?) but they’re moderate carb:

Per muffin (8)
calories: 150
fat: 10g
carb: 13g
– fiber: 4g
protein: 4g

Now I’m trying to come up with other fruit/vegetable matter that could be a good muffin base, since these had the squishy moistness that’s missing in so many gluten-free baked goods. Scott suggested avocado, which … hmm. Seems a bit weird. Certainly canned pumpkin with some pumpkin pie spice might work. What other lower-carb fruits or veggies could be made into muffin or loaf form?

Gluten-Free Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m still working on perfecting a recipe. It’s getting better all the time! Chewiness is hard to achieve with gluten-free baking, but these cookies came pretty close.

These aren’t low-carb cookies per se, but they’re lower carb than normal cookies. I’d say roughly half the carbs of a standard wheat-flour-and-white-sugar cookie.

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup Splenda
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp coconut flour*
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup chocolate chips (I prefer semi-sweet morsels)

* I added the extra Tbsp coconut flour because after adding everything else, the dough was a little wet. You may need it, you may not, depending on humidity / size of eggs.

Combine the first five ingredients (butter through eggs). Add the flours 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well after each.

Bake for 10 minutes at 400° F. makes approximately 20 two-inch cookies.

Usually, my coconut flour cookies are more fluffy and cake-like, and not so much chewy. These, while they did puff up a bit, actually did have some chewiness to them. I took them to work and asked my coworkers for feedback. Comments ranged from the simple “Awesome!” to “They’re really moist and chewy” to “These are bake-sale-worthy.”

I think the tapioca flour helps with the chewiness. After all, it can be used to make the fantastic Pao de Queijo — the gummy cheesy little rolls served at Brazilian steakhouses.

This makes a smallish batch — the chocolate chip cookie recipe on the side of the Toll House bag requires two sticks of butter, so I’d call this a half-batch, easily doubled.