Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cooking with Zucchini, inspired by Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 is terrible, because it so frequently makes me hungry. In real life, I had this ginormous zucchini from a family friend and it desperately needed use. One day in GW2, I'm cooking up a storm and discover some new zucchini recipes:

Genius. Challenge accepted!

I had great success! Here are the recipes I developed:

Rory Triscuit's Spicy Turkey & Zucchini Chili
1/2 lb ground turkey breast
1 cup black beans
1 red onion
1 white onion
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
1/8 cup diced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 tsp liquid hickory smoke
Chopped up zucchini in 1" pieces.
chili powder
chipotle powder
ground cumin

Soak beans overnight. Drain and boil in new water. Drain again and bring to simmer in a large pot. While beans are simmering, prepare everything else. Heat oil in a skillet at medium high temp and add diced onion. Cook until the onion is caramelized. Add ground turkey breast and spices. Cook turkey thoroughly, then add diced green and red bell pepper. If the beans are not yet ready, cover the turkey mixture and allow to cool. If the beans are ready, put everything prepared so far in the pot and keep on a simmer for another two hours or so. Add hickory smoke and molasses. The longer it simmers, the better. Add water whenever it gets too dry, keep cooking if there is still too much water. In the meantime, chop the zucchini into about 1" diameter, 1/4" width slices (I had a giant zucchini so chopped half of it into "coins" and then chopped those into fourths.) Make sure there are no seeds!

The recipe doesn't have to be too precise, so have fun with it! About an hour before you want to eat, add the chopped zucchini. You'll want it to be soft, but not gooey. Top it off with cilantro and guacamole, perhaps some green onion, salsa, sour cream or chipotle sauce, and you have yourself some gourmet chili!

Rory Triscuit's Gluten-Free Sugar-Free Zucchini Bread
1 1/2 cups gluten free flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp finely shredded orange (or lemon) peel
1 c finely shredded unpeeled zucchini
1/2 c xylitol
1/2 c Stevia
2 eggs
1/4 c applesauce (or fruit puree)
1/4 c olive oil
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 Fahrenheit. Combine in small mixing bowl flour, spices, and baking powder. In large mixing bowl beat together eggs, xylitol and Stevia, whisking rapidly for about five minutes until frothy. Add applesauce, oil, and vanilla to the mix and combine well. Stir in zucchini. Then gradually pour dry mixture into wet mixture and combine just enough to moisten the dry ingredients. Do not overstir! Pour batter into a well-oiled breadpan and bake for about 60 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick or fork in the center and it comes out clean. Cool in pan for half an hour. Run knife or flat blade along edges to ensure there is no sticking, then turn the bread out onto a cutting board. Best served fully cooled. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

HP Web Support is Ridiculous!

Already, I've been a little annoyed with the HP Pavilion DV7 Notebook because it has an Nvidia card which of course includes the brand new and amazing (obnoxious) CUDA technology. Annoyed because the CUDA technology occasionally causes my computer screen to black out when I switch between a game and my browser, or from my browser to a video, etc.

So when I'm uploading a YouTube video and my entire screen goes black and stays black, I of course freak out a little bit. When I restart my computer and the screen is still black, I really start to freak out. I even try plugging my laptop into the TV to see if perhaps it is merely the display, but no, the TV will not receive input. I try not to lose my head.

So I wait a few minutes and turn my laptop back on, and magically the graphics seem to be working again. I decide perhaps it is merely that my laptop has overheated, even though it is about 65 degrees Fahrenheit in my bedroom and I keep my laptop elevated and the vents uncovered. I wonder if perhaps it's time to do a little "Spring Cleaning". Shouldn't be too difficult to look up instructions on how to open up a laptop case, right?

Well, HP will have none of that. They strongly recommend against opening the laptop case. Here's what the official HP website suggests if you want to clean your laptop's fans:

So let me get this straight, HP. You want me to...

blow air into here...

which will then wind up here...

then eventually here, as evidenced by the dust bunnies I'd found...

and then finally here, where some moron at the factory had failed to fully seal the protective plastic.

(Click to embiggen. A couple dust bunnies are hanging out under the upper left corner of the plastic seal.)

My laptop is not a Nintendo game cartridge, thank you very much. But what really gets my goat is that once I clean my fan using your wonderful method, if that doesn't work, then I should move my laptop to a cooler room, and if that fails, then I should "Test for hardware failure."

Excuse me? Perhaps if you didn't tell me to blow dust bunnies even deeper into the crevices of my laptop, it wouldn't have hardware failure. Oh, I get it. That's what you want, because then some poor sap will have to call you, deal with the awful customer support, and then mail in the laptop to have parts replaced. Wow, HP. You haven't advanced much beyond your days as a printer manufacturing company.

If ever this laptop breaks, I will be getting myself an Alienware computer. I'm done with your company. Screw you and all your screws, and your dustbunny breeding practices.

I gotta add another little pet peeve I didn't mention before.
The person who didn't properly apply the plastic seal on the interior also failed to screw in the parts properly. I could tell that the person used an electric screwdriver to put each screw in completely, individually, one at a time, rather than screwing in each one most of the way and tightening them all after they were all in place. Thanks for causing a bunch of screws to sit diagonally, moron.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rory's Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Rory's GF&SF Carrot Cake

1 1/2 c. gluten free flour (Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose is good)
1/2 c. Stevia
1/2 c. Xylitol
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
sprinkle of ground cloves and cardamom to taste; less is more
1 1/2 to 2 c. finely shredded carrot (use cheese grater)
1/4 c. coconut oil or butter
1/2 c. applesauce
4 eggs

Prehead oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine dry ingredients except the sweeteners very well in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine stevia, xylitol, and the eggs. Whisk the eggs and sweeteners until fluffy, then add and stir them into the dry mixture. Add coconut oil and applesauce. Do not overstir! Bake in a oiled and floured 9x9x2 inch pan for 45-50 mins.

[Note: When I first made this cake, I did not whisk the eggs and sugar separately from everything else, and I only used three eggs and erred on the side of less sweetener. The flavors of the cake were perfect, other than I think it wasn't quite sweet enough or fluffy enough. The above recipe is what I plan to do next time.]

Rory's GF&SF Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/2 to 2 oz cream cheese
2 Tsbp coconut oil or butter
1-2 tsp vanilla
1/3 c. Stevia
1/3 c. Xylitol

Heat cream cheese and coconut oil in saucepan or microwave until slightly melted. Stir in vanilla and sweeteners until smooth. Cover and place in refrigerator until fully cooled. Apply to cooled carrot cake. (And really, make sure that cake is fully cooled, or the frosting will melt!)

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Raw Milk Controversy

So what's with all the controversy regarding raw milk? The biggest concern over raw milk is that humans can contract tuberculosis or brucellosis from contaminated milk. In a child, senior, or an immunocompromised individual, TB (tuberculosis) can bring swift death. Hence the strict laws imposed and the uproar against raw dairy products.

I'd like to alleviate some concerns.

First of all, regulations regarding the production and bottling processes of raw milk in the USA are much stricter than they are for pasteurized milk. All the equipment is cleaned frequently. The pumps are cleaned after every use. The bottles and lids are sterilized several times. Everything is sterilized every single time there is ever a possibility of cross-contamination from something in the environment, because the farmers simply cannot afford to have even one minor case of contamination. Remember when a little girl died from drinking Odwalla juice, so Odwalla decided to pasteurize beverages from then on?

Not only are the cows at these raw milk producing farms tested more frequently, but their equipment is cleaned far more often. Furthermore, the milk is quite often from cows that have not been given hormones or antibiotics. Because they are not on antibiotics, they must be given plenty of space to roam and cannot stay in cramped quarters. Because they are not given extra hormones, they must be happy to produce milk. And unlike Odwalla, if a small dairy farm has one minor contamination issue, they can say goodbye to business. They just don't have the funds to make up for it.

Keep in mind, if a cow at a dairy farm, even at an organic farm gets a bacterial infection, she is immediately given antibiotic treatment! Her milk is not used for a few months until she has been tested clean. This is why on occasion you will find traces of antibiotics even in organic milk. It happens. Our country's laws are already protecting us. Cows with TB are treated, and often culled (pulled from the breeding and milk production pool, usually sent to the slaughterhouse). Cows with Burcellosis are killed. Sad, yes. But it prevents the spread.

In contrast to raw organic milk (which will be "free range" by natural requirement, because crowded quarters are not conducive to good health and happy cows), conventional milk is produced at facilities which:
1. Load their cows up on meds (antibiotics and hormones),
2. Sterilize their equipment maybe once per day, if even that, and
3. Pasteurize to make up for any possible cross-contamination that may have occurred.   [Want Video Evidence? See: Pasteurized milk 150 times more contaminated with blood, pus and feces than fresh milk - videos the CDC won't show you Please note that the "150 times" estimate is ironical.]

Have you heard of Louis Pasteur, the inventor of the pasteurization process? Here's the issue people were facing back in his day (and really, still face): Milk can become contaminated quite easily.

Manure, dirt or grass can be on the udder of a cow, so you must wash and sterilize her teats. If the person milking the cow is sick or has dirty hands, that person can contaminate the milk. The milking equipment can contaminate the milk. The bottle can contaminate the milk. The lid can contaminate the milk. Heck, even a gust of wind carrying a bit of yeast & fungus-filled dirt could potentially contaminate the milk.

Previous to Pasteur's time, scientists and microbiologists took note that children who drank milk died more frequently. This is because milk was a common way to for people to contract "consumption" (i.e. bovine tuberculosis), and children were especially susceptible to mortality from the infection. Further, people in crowded conditions were more likely to transfer the infection (just as cows in crowded conditions are). We know now that it can be transferred via cough or sneeze (water droplets). In any case, it was obvious that the people in cities and small farms couldn't uncrowd themselves, so the process of pasteurization was adopted in these areas. Mortality rates dropped significantly and Louis Pasteur was hailed as a savior of the children.

Here's the interesting thing, though. Studies have demonstrated that in areas where people and animals were not crowded, the introduction of pasteurization actually caused an increase in infant and child mortality rate.

Why is this? Perhaps it's the destruction of the useful A and D vitamins, the breakdown of enzymes, and denaturing of some proteins, especially the useful bacteria. (Hooray for probiotics!) Perhaps the destruction of useful bacteria leaves the milk more susceptible to cross-contamination. Who knows?

I posit that pasteurized milk is more dangerous here in the USA because testing standards for the cows, hygiene standards for employees and sanitation standards for equipment at the conventional dairy farms are far too lax because "Big Dairy" has become overly reliant on the pasteurization process.

Somewhat tangential, but related, I read a few years ago that only 1 in 17,000 organic, free-range eggs have salmonella, whereas about 1 in 300 conventional eggs have salmonella. Based on what I can find now, the rate of salmonella infection amongst birds at conventional farms is still way higher than at organic farms. [See: Organic poultry far less prone to salmonella than conventional, study finds]

Again, this all comes down to crowding. Poultry that cannot be given regular antibiotics will not live long in crowded conditions. If you always wondered why Washington Grown chicken tastes so much better than Southern Grown chicken, you now know why: WA banned use of antibiotics and hormones in poultry long ago, so our chickens roam free, getting exercise and gobbling up all the good plants and insects they like and roosting comfortably at night.

Observing this and knowing how TB and other bacteria are spread, I can only imagine that organic beef and dairy farms have naturally adopted "free range" practices for similar reasons. Hey, my grandfather and his father raised cattle. I've been to several dairy farms. I know how these things work.

Other contamination concerns regarding raw milk include E. coli, salmonella and listeria.

Look, we've had fewer cases of E. coli in milk than Europe has had in raw tomatoes, fewer cases of salmonella in milk than we've had in raw peanuts and lettuce, oh and it seems we now have to worry about listeria from peanut butter as well? (Just Google it.)

How many E. coli, salmonella or listeria related deaths have we had in the past decade due to raw milk? Zero. [See: CDC admits not a single person has died from consuming raw milk products in 11 years and an article in the UK Is raw milk really safe to drink?] Guess what really puts you at risk for E. coli infection. Ground beef. [See: CDC Info on Escherichia Coli 0157:H7]

All of this said, I caution children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems to avoid raw milk. If you fall into one of these categories, you should probably stick to pasteurized organic, free-range milk if you can get it. As I said, TB can kill a weak individual swiftly. If you do drink raw milk, watch for symptoms of illness. TB causes coughing, night sweats, and eventually extreme weight loss (hence its old name of "consumption"). Weight loss is the biggest indicator that a person will die soon. Get your TB vaccines if you can, though remember that they are not 100% effective! Brucellosis infection has less extreme symptoms - sweating, fevers, weakness, anemia, head or muscle aches, etc. - and it is far less likely to be fatal. Educate yourself and make the decision based on your needs.

Normal, healthy adults would benefit most from raw milk, in my opinion, given its many nutrients. Many asthmatics and people who complain of milk allergies and sensitivities have found that raw milk does not cause the problems that pasteurized milk does. (Though sometimes even just making a switch to organic has a positive health effect.) Also, raw milk is so freaking delicious!

Seriously, the first time I ever tried Claravale Farm's raw milk, I fell in love. Once I even purchased skim milk by accident (I usually buy whole), but it was so rich and creamy, I didn't even notice! [See:] Strauss is my favorite company who offers pasteurized organic milk. [See: Straus Family Creamery] I've found both of these brands at Whole Foods.

For more interesting reads, check out the following!

The Fight for Safe Milk: Pasteurization
Louis Pasteur
Raw Milk Causes More Dairy-Related Illness Than Pasteurized: CDC
CDC Cherry Picks Data to Make Case Against Raw Milk (My Favorite)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Making Naan (Gluten-Free!)

Let me start by saying I have never before made naan. Unfortunately, because I am gluten intolerant, I should not eat traditional naan because of the wheat flour. And I miss it! So I have taken it upon myself to develop a gluten-free variety.

I did not use an actual recipe... Instead, I read a few tips about the process, and developed this recipe purely by texture. Here are the ingredients that I used:

Gluten-Free Naan
~1 cup warm water 
1 package dry active yeast
~1 Tbsp sugar
~1 Tbsp agave nectar
1/2 package Arrowhead Mills pizza dough flour
1/2 package Arrowhead Mills sorghum flour
2 eggs
refined olive oil (~4 Tbsp)
butter (~4 Tbsp)
dried crushed garlic

Step 1. Add yeast to warm water in a large bowl. (I microwaved distilled water for about 45 seconds, placed it in a bowl, then added yeast.) After the mixture starts to bubble, stir together with sugar for a couple minutes until it gets frothy.

Step 2. Add beaten eggs and just enough sorghum flour to make the dough into something kneadable. (Is that a word?) Knead for about 10 minutes on a floured surface, shape into large ball, cover with damp towel and set in warm place to rise for 1 hour. Try to err on the side of too little dough! You can always add more, after all.

Step 3. Once the dough is about double in size, knead again for a couple minutes and then shape it into about eight to twelve balls. (I went with eight, but they resulted in naan nearly the size of my head.)

Step 4. Cover with warm towel and set in warm place to rise for half an hour.

Step 5. Flatten the double-sized balls into thin round flatbreads. Mine came out about 8 inches in diameter.

Tip: It's a lot easier to flatten using your hands, flipping the dough back and forth between your palms as if you were working with pizza dough. :) I don't recommend using a floured surface. The naan I made this way wound up with a bit of flour on the exterior and I don't find that as palatable as a somewhat smooth surface. Ideally, the flour should be a little bit sticky, but not so much that it's unmanageable.

Step 6. Coat pan with olive oil and place flatbread at medium-high heat. If the heat is too low, the naan consistency will be a little bit more like a pancake. If it's too high, you'll wind up with a sadly burned, uncooked flatbread. Be very careful of oil splashback.

This is what the naan should look like as it cooks. See how it bubbles? Cook on one side for about 3-4 minutes, pick up with a spatula, and I find that throwing half a tablespoon of butter in the pan next, swishing it around to coat, tossing in the naan on its flipside and then heating for another 2 minutes works perfectly.

Tip: Refined olive oil has a higher burning point than virgin olive oil; in other words, it is refined for cooking at high temperatures. Any other refined oil will probably work, whether it's peanut, coconut, or canola. Coconut has a higher burning point; canola has the lowest. Do not use extra virgin or virgin olive oil! Unrefined oils are high quality oils for dipping! (Besides, heating them would destroy all those delicious antioxidants.) Also, keep in mind that butter has a low burning point, so you don't want to cook the buttered side for too long.

This was the prettiest naan I made. Depending on how much oil you use, you might want to let the naan cool whilst folded up in paper towels.

The naan I made today works out to about 250 Calories per piece... I had one with hummus for lunch, and though it was quite delicious, I think smaller naan would be ideal.

A friend of mine informed me that paratha is very similar, but is pre-blended with the oil. Hmmmm. I may have to try this in the future.

Got any tips or tricks? If so, please share! :)

Spicy Peanut Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Yesterday was a glorious day of which I spent most lazing about in the sun. Then I trekked a mile to the store to grab fresh produce and a mile back, snapping photos along the way. By the time I got home, it was about 8pm and I was starving, so rather than follow a recipe, I threw this together last-minute. I apologize for not having exact measurements, but here's what I used:

• approx. 1 Tbsp peanut oil
• approx. 1 Tbsp agave syrup
• whole romaine lettuce leaves
• 1/2 white onion, sliced
• approx. 1/4 cup fresh ginger, sliced
• approx. 1 cup green napa cabbage, sliced 
• 1 carrot, sliced
• 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
• 1 jalapeño, sliced
• approx. 1/2 cup peanut butter
• 1/2 can coconut milk
• approx. 3/4 lb chicken breast, cut into small pieces
• Spices: cumin, chili powder, paprika, cayenne powder, dried crushed garlic
• green onion, chopped
• fresh cilantro
• fresh mint
• rice noodles

Step 1.  Caramelize onion in peanut oil on med-high heat.

Step 2. Slice ginger and stir in at med heat. Cook long enough for peanut oil to absorb flavor.

Step 3. Add spices; stir to coat onion and ginger. 

Step 4. Add coconut milk and peanut butter. Stir until smooth consistency.

Step 5. Put cabbage and carrot into small saucepan of shallow boiling water.

Step 6. Add chicken to peanut sauce. Stir to coat and place lid over pan to cook on med. heat for approximately 20 minutes, or however long enough to thoroughly cook chicken.

Step 7. Chop bell pepper, jalapeño, and fresh herbs.

Step 8. Once cabbage and carrots seem slightly soft, remove from heat and drain water.

Now is a good time to  place the rice noodles in boiling water. Remove lid from fully-cooked chicken and simmer to allow peanut sauce to thicken while the rice noodles cook.

Step 9. After noodles are cooked and drained, stir the chicken and peanut sauce. It also wouldn't hurt to double- and triple-check to see that the chicken is fully cooked.

Step 10. Arrange plate with lettuce leaves on one side, fresh herbs and peppers on other, and the rice noodles, chicken, and steamed veggies in the center. Eat  as lettuce wraps. :)

Another option is you can shred the lettuce and place the rice noodles, steamed veggies, and chicken over the lettuce, drizzle the remaining peanut sauce over your salad, then sprinkle it with the remaining fresh herbs and peppers.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Shrimp Curry

Hello, folks! In the past, I have shared food porn and recipes, usually separately, but never before have I taken photos every step of the way to share with everyone else. At the urging of many drooling friends and family, I have decided to finally give a little taste of my own e-cooking lessons. (That sounded more clever in my head than it does on screen.) My goal as of late is to learn how to cook Indian and Pakistani foods, and maybe go back to my Thai obsession for a brief period. I spent several hours reading recipes and, inspired by a particular shrimp curry recipe on, developed this version. :)

[Note: After the dish was complete, I learned that it's better to err on the side of not enough oil than too much. Otherwise, this recipe was met with great approval. Indian approval, at that. ::cheers::]

Are you ready?

Rory's Shrimp Curry
Main Ingredients
1 Tbsp peanut oil
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 tsp salt
4 tomatoes, diced
1 14-oz can of coconut milk
1 lb fresh or fresh-frozen shrimp
plenty of cilantro
dried basil and cilantro
(Note: I would have liked to add fresh basil as well, but unfortunately did not have any.)

1 Tbsp dried crushed garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1-1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1-3 tsp cayenne powder (adds heat; choose your level carefully!)

Step 1. Bring water to a boil and put in shrimp.

Step 2. Heat peanut oil in a skillet and add diced onion; cook until translucent or mostly brown, depending upon your preference. I chose to caramelize only slightly.

Step 3. Blend spices and add to skillet; stir together and remove from heat.

If your shrimp was fresh, it should be fully cooked by now. Poke or stab with fork to test texture. Remove from heat, drain hot water (and be careful not to burn yourself like I did!), then place shrimp in bowl with cold water.

Step 4. Dice tomatoes and add to skillet. Sprinkle in salt. Stir tomatoes to coat with spices.

Step 5. Throw everything from skillet into a large pot. Add coconut milk.

Step 6. Simmer for about a half hour or so, stirring occasionally. The mixture will appear pale orange at first, but will become a more vivid and darker orange as the curry thickens.

After about 15 minutes might be the ideal time to start cooking basmati rice, depending on your rice-cooking techniques.

Try not to eat too many snacks as you impatiently wait for this delicious-smelling curry to reach perfect consistency! While I was waiting, I relaxed in the sun and "shucked" shrimp. :) (In other words, I peeled off their shells and icky little legs.)

Step 7. Peel shrimp.

Step 9. Stir in shrimp, fresh cilantro and dried cilantro. Cook for another couple of minutes.

Step 10. Cover rice in a bowl with the curry, and top with even more fresh cilantro.

And then... Eat! :D (My favorite part.)

Questions, Comments, Suggestions, Ideas? Please share! :) kthxbai