A Diagnosis and some Q & A

Well, I finally got to see the nurse practitioner Thursday and she gave me the happy news that my bronchitis is now pneumonia.  She prescribed me something called a Z-Pack – apparently fairly aggressive, broad spectrum antibiotics which I only have to take for 5 days (a good thing, since I suck about remembering to take pills) – and 9 days worth of Prednisone.  *sigh*  Yes, just what I didn’t want to have to take – steroids.  She was quite frank about it; if I don’t take them, I will be in a hospital on a breathing machine in a matter of days.  She also told me what I already knew, of course:  I could experience “some irritability” and “an increase in appetite,” but assured me I would “feel like a new person” within the next 48 hours.

Yeah, a new person who wants to do nothing but eat and shouldn’t be allowed near firearms.

Other than that, though, I appear to be fine – I’m down 9 pounds, my blood pressure was fine, my temperature was fine, my resting heart rate was in the 60s and my oxygen content was at 98%, which astounded me considering I hadn’t taken a deep breath in over a week.  In other words, I’m in pretty good shape for a fat, middle-aged broad with pneumonia.

Unfortunately, now Beloved seems to have come down with the bronchitis.  As soon as he gets home from his business trip tomorrow, I’m installing him in his recliner and dosing him regularly with vitamin D, vitamin C and fermented cod liver oil.  The last thing we need is for both of us to have The Big P.

Anyhoo, because I’ve been feeling so punk, I haven’t been responding to questions in the comments section of Ye Olde Blogge this week (I’ve barely been up to posting, frankly), so I thought I’d take this opportunity to do so.

From the Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Pork Ragu:

Think this would go well under some shortribs, or would they overpower?

Well, I’d said in the recipe that I wouldn’t recommend ground beef for the ragu because I thought it might be too strong, but after eating the leftovers yesterday, I changed my mind – beef would probably be fine.  And the gnocchi should stand up to the richness of the short ribs quite well.  I think it sounds delicious, in fact.

I’m just starting to explore the different flour substitutes. Is there a reason you use potato and tapioca flour with the almond flour? I would really like to try your recipe, but am wondering if it’s worth me going out to buy potato and tapioca flour or if I can just use 1.25 cups of almond flour.

The tapioca flour is to lighten up the dough and help give it an airy texture, while the potato flour helps give it the “chewiness” that would normally come from the gluten in wheat flour.  You can try to use all almond flour, but I fear the gnocchi will come out dense and heavy, and I’m not sure how well they’ll hold together – they may disintegrate in the boiling water; you might have to bake them.

From the Gluten-Free Crab Cakes:

Would you consider making a recommendation on a brand or brands that you prefer for lump crab meat. I am hesitant to just pick up a can. Thanks.

That’s exactly what I did, as a matter of fact – I just picked a can off the shelf.  Now, I did get it at our local organic foods store, but I can’t for the life of me remember what the brand was and I threw the can away.  I do remember it had a white label with a drawing of a blue lighthouse on it (as if that helps any).  I’m sorry – perhaps you could ask someone at the store where you shop, maybe someone who works the meat/seafood counter, what brand they recommend.

From The Foodee Project:

I’m still trying to figure out how to use my dang camera, I don’t use it enough and I’ll never learn if I don’t pick it up more often. I even recently went to a food photography seminar and picked up a few tips, but not how to actually use my camera. Do you use special lighting and reflectors?

I try and use natural lighting as much as possible, which is easier in the summer because it remains light for so long, but that’s not always possible so I have a single studio light with a white matte cover over the bulb to act as a diffuser.  I also use the back from my white cyclorama as a reflector for fill-light, but the whole set-up is rather amateurish .  It works well enough for now, though, until I can afford some better equipment.

And that’s it for this week, folks.  Today’s steroids have kicked in and I’m about to jump out of my skin, so I believe I’ll do some work and clean the house or watch another episode of Downton Abbey (yeah, I’m hooked).  Have a lovely weekend, y’all.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Pork Ragu

My status on the blog’s Facebook page last night read, “Dinner’s on the stove – grain-free sweet potato gnocchi with a pork ragu. If it’s any good, you’ll have the recipe tomorrow.”

Guess what.

I’d never made gnocchi before, although I really enjoy it.  And I’m not sure what possessed me to make it last night, but I’m glad I did – it came out better than I could have possibly hoped for; even The Young One ate it, and he generally turns his nose up at anything made with sweet potatoes, even the tater tots.  They came out light and fluffy, and I had to restrain myself from eating every one of the tender little beauties before I could plate them with the ragu and take a photo.

The recipe may seem long, but it really wasn’t difficult at all – the ragu is simplicity itself, and the gnocchi came together much more quickly and easily than I had anticipated.  I used Japanese sweet potatoes, because that’s what I had on hand, and the proportions of the recipe are correct for that ingredient.  If you use the more common red-skinned sweet potatoes, you may need to add a little extra of the potato flour to get a smooth dough that can be easily handled, since the Japanese sweets tend to have less moisture than the orange-fleshed variety.

If you are not grain-free, you can substitute the tapioca and potato flours with 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour, but don’t substitute the almond flour – it gives the gnocchi a nice texture.  If you don’t eat pork, ground lamb would be nice in the ragu, or ground turkey, but I think ground beef might be a little strong tasting for this dish.

Note:  You’ll notice there are two options with the gnocchi at the end of the recipe; I browned it last night, but I don’t think I’d bother to do that again – I’d just go ahead and toss it with the ragu.  Also, these days when a sauce calls for thyme, I just tie several sprigs together with kitchen twine and toss them in the pot with the other ingredients, then fish it out when the sauce is ready.  Thyme is a bit of a bugger to strip from the stems, and this method saves a lot of hassle.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Pork Ragu
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Pork Ragu
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Pork Ragu
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • Gnocchi:
  • 3 small sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), unpeeled and scrubbed
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/4 cup potato flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Ragu:
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 cans (15 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
Instructions
  1. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil; cook the potatoes whole, without peeling, until they are fork tender all the way through. Rinse with cold water and set aside just until cool enough to handle.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork with salt and pepper and brown in the olive oil; when it is mostly browned, but still pink in places, add the onion and garlic; continue cooking until the pork is completely cooked and the onion is soft. Add the wine, tomato sauce, sage, oregano and thyme; reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mixture is thick and the gnocchi is ready. Remove the thyme stems before serving the ragu.
  3. While the ragu is simmering, whisk together the tapioca, potato and almond flours in a large bowl with the cheese, two teaspoons of kosher salt and several grinds of black pepper. Peel the potatoes, discarding the skins, and squeeze them through a ricer or run them through a food mill into the flour mixture. Add the egg yolk and gently stir all the ingredients together, forming a soft dough.
  4. Divide the dough into three equal parts; roll the first part of the dough into a 1/2-inch rope. Cut the rope into 1- inch pieces (about the size of a grape). If desired, roll each piece gently with the tines of a fork before transferring to a large, lightly oiled baking dish. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  5. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Gently drop batches of the gnocchi into the boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes, until the gnocchi float to the top of the pot. Transfer the cooked gnocchi with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Continue until all of the gnocchi are cooked.
  6. At this point, you can toss the gnocchi in the ragu and serve, or melt 2 tablespoons of ghee in a large skillet over high heat and gently pan-fry the gnocchi until golden brown. Drain the gnocchi briefly on paper towel; divide between six bowls and top with the ragu, and additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 485 calories, 24.6g total fat, 88.1mg cholesterol, 897.8mg sodium, 1150.9mg potassium, 43g carbohydrates, 6.9g fiber, 11.1g sugar, 18.8g protein.

 

This Little Piggie

Okay, I finally have to face the fact that my cough just isn’t getting any better.  So today I’ll be making a trip to see a nurse practitioner so she can tell me I have viral bronchitis and there’s nothing we can do about it but let it run it’s course (Dana Carpender of Hold the Toast is suffering from the same thing, and her doctor told her she could expect it to hang around as long as three weeks).  She’ll offer me a steroid-based inhaler to help with the congestion, and I’ll consider it before declining – I’ve lost 7 pounds in the last two weeks and the last thing I want is to become a homicidal eating machine.

If it seems like I’ve been through this scenario before, it’s because – yup, I have.

In the meantime, I’m staying home and working on a redesign for our company website; perhaps I’ll give the cookbook a little attention as well (I’ve finished beef, poultry and pork and am about to move on to seafood/fish).  Since it’s supposed to get up to a whopping 96 degrees today – a bit of a rarity for this neck of the woods, especially so early in the summer – I’ll take a little time to go water our gardens.  I may even cook something amusing for lunch with the pound of ground pork sitting in the fridge.

At any rate, the Spin Cycle this week is “Word Collage.”  Our Fearless Spin Leader, Miss Gretchen, has tasked us with playing with Tagxedo, an amusing little application that will take the content from your blog, Twitter feed, a particular interest or even a poem, if you’re so inclined, and do amusing things with it.  There are some examples on the site of some really original stuff, but I don’t think anyone here will be surprised that mine are, well, let’s just say the product of a one-track mind.

Tagxedo - Pig

Tagxedo - Chicken

Tagxedo - Fruit

What did you expect – the Preamble to the Constitution?

Have a lovely day, y’all – I’ve got to go see a woman about a cough.

Gluten-Free Crab Cakes

[button size=”small” color=”#508273″ link=”#” align=”left”][/button]I found myself completely alone last night (well, if you don’t count the dog).  Of course, it’s that time of the year – Beloved is traveling a lot for business and The Young One is either at work, at a friend’s house or in Texas visiting the paterfamilias.  As usual, I relish this the first few times it happens; I’m not the kind of person who dislikes being alone.  I enjoy the quiet and keep the television off, although sometimes I’ll watch a movie (usually something that makes me cry) or play a video game (Amnesia: The Dark Descent is CREEPY).  After awhile, though, it gets old and I find myself asking Scooter how his day was just to make (obviously one-sided) conversation.

I mostly cook very simple things just for myself – I’ve been known to opine that if I lived alone permanently I’d find myself living off of scrambled eggs and red wine – but sometimes I’ll cook things that are a bit more ambitious, especially if I think it will be good and I won’t mind eating the leftovers for the next 3 days.

Leftovers definitely aren’t a problem with this dish; I found myself going back for seconds, which I rarely ever do.  But then again, I love crab cakes – in fact, I love shellfish of just about any type (the major exception is oysters – blech).  At any rate, I had a 6-ounce can of premium lump crab in the pantry that I’ve been meaning to turn into crab cakes for quite some time, and since I wouldn’t have to share was alone, I figured it was about time I made them.

Oh. My. GAWD.  These crab cakes are just as good as any I’ve ever had – if I have any issue with them, it’s that they need MORE CRAB.  But the texture was wonderful, as was the seasoning, and they came together in a snap.  Served over steamed asparagus with a squeeze of lemon and some homemade mayonnaise mixed with a little sriracha, I was in dinner heaven.  And yes, went back for seconds.

These would be marvelous with a good tartar or cocktail sauce, too.

Note:  I used coconut flour and coconut milk in my cakes and fried them in coconut oil (making them Whole30 compliant) but if you don’t care for coconut, sub the coconut flour with 3 tablespoons of potato flour, the coconut milk with heavy cream and cook them in ghee.

Gluten-Free Crab Cakes
Gluten-Free Crab Cakes
Gluten-Free Crab Cakes
Serves: 3
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, preferably homemade
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 6 ounces lump crab meat
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons dill pickle, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • few grinds black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Gently combine all of the ingredients except the coconut oil in a medium mixing bowl. Carefully shape into three patties; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the coconut oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the crab cakes until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.
  3. Serve with fresh lemon and tartar or cocktail sauce.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 293 calories, 22.8g total fat, 128.3mg cholesterol, 948.4mg sodium, 255.1mg potassium, 8.1g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 1.9g sugar, 14.5g protein

 

Chocolate Pots de Creme

Happy Monday, everyone!  I’m still hacking away a mile  a minute, but at least I don’t feel like death warmed over any more.  Hopefully I’m on the downside of it all.

I hope all the dads out there has a great Father’s Day; poor Beloved spent his in transit for a business trip.  Since he wasn’t home, I made his Father’s Day dinner on Saturday night instead – grilled steaks with Bearnaise sauce, sauteed greens and roasted sweet potatoes.  I haven’t made a Beanaise sauce in many years and was worried it would break or curdle, but I needn’t have worried – it came out beautifully (you get the recipe later this week).  I also decided that dessert was in order, since it was a special occasion, and made this one – I’d been pondering it for quite some time.

Pots de Creme are really just a sophisticated pudding, and when made with high-quality dark chocolate are a rich and decadent treat.  Since they’re a custard, they are typically made with eggs, sugar and milk or cream but with this damn bronchitis, I’ve been avoiding even the small amounts of dairy I normally consume and used coconut milk and water.  Refined sugar is out of the question, of course, and while the recipe calls for coconut sugar, you could also use evaporated cane juice.  I used 85% dark chocolate, but if you choose to use a 72% dark, you can probably decrease the sugar to 1/3 of a cup.

And was this good?  It got the reaction I was hoping for – Beloved gobbled his down and finished mine off, too.  Not that it wasn’t good, because it is simply delicious, but it’s so rich, and my appetite has been so poor lately, I just couldn’t finish it.

Note:  You can, of course, use cow’s dairy rather than coconut milk if you choose.  I recommend 1 cup of whole milk with 1 cup of heavy cream.  I also had melted the chocolate in a double boiler and added it to the mixture after I’d whisked the hot milk into the eggs, and it seized up a bit – I had to whisk it briskly to incorporate it, and the result was that the custard was just a tiny bit grainy.  I’m recommending melting the chocolate in the coconut milk before adding it to the eggs in the hope that the custards will be silky and smooth when done.

Chocolate Pots de Creme
Chocolate Pots de Creme
Chocolate Pots de Creme
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 large whole eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (13.5 ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
  • 3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (85% cocoa)
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the coconut milk and water in a large saucepan; add the vanilla bean pod and seeds and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; cover and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean pod and discard.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and coconut sugar in a large mixing bowl until the sugar is mostly dissolved.
  3. Break up the chocolate and add it to the coconut milk mixture; reheat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is almost, but not quite, at a boil. Slowly whisk in a small amount of the chocolate mixture to the eggs, to temper the mixture and avoid cooking the eggs. Keep adding the hot chocolate mixture until it is fully incorporated into the eggs and sugar.
  4. Carefully pour the custard into individual ramekins and place them in a baking dish or roasting pan large enough to hold them all without crowding the containers. Fill the pan with hot water until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins, taking care not to let water splash into the custards.
  5. Bake the custards for 30 to 40 minutes; when they are done, the centers will be soft but the edges should be firm. Remove the custards from the oven and allow them to cool in the water bath. Cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate before serving.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 292 calories, 22.2g total fat, 122.5mg cholesterol, 37.6mg sodium, 271.8mg potassium, 18.8g carbohydrates, 1.8g fiber, 13.4g sugar, 5.4g protein.