Sunday, May 23, 2010

Homemade mustard - corn free, gluten free

We've been looking for a good mustard for a while, but every one we found either had gluten or corn in it. So finally, I bit the bullet and we decided to make our own mustard. We had a yummy looking recipe for chicken salad with cilantro dressing that needed 'coarse ground mustard,' so that's what we tried. Coarse ground means chunky, essentially, for those of you who are not mustard aficionados (Yes, that would be me. I had to look this up!)

This sucker turned out quite nice, according to my children's taste testing. Chunky, a bit sweet like a honey mustard, but with a nice spicy kick at the end of it. We found this recipe at, where they had quite a few different mustard varieties to make from scratch.

Coarse ground mustard recipe

Now, one of the first things is soaking the mustard seeds in apple cider vinegar for 36 hours. We did it a bit longer. 7 days, actually, as it languished in my fridge. Not that I forgot, I just conveniently didn't think about it for a looong while, is all. Still, it turned out just fine. The seeds soaked up all the vinegar, and after quite a bit of time in the food processor, the texture came out just like the pictures.

Hopefully that means we got it right.

I'll admit, there's something fun about have this big, clunky glass jar with homemade mustard in our fridge. As my daughter says: it's like we're a farm now! Without the work or the chicken poop, but by god, we have homemade mustard!

I'll blog later about how it turns out when we start to use it!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Herbs, Cactus, and Better Cooking

When I start shopping these days, I get sucked in by herbs. They always look so pretty and wonderful, and not too hard to keep alive (I think that last is a cruel lie designed to create heartache and guilt, actually).

But they also look like salvation.

Fresh herbs are expensive, oh heck yeah, but when there is no dairy in a dish, no gluten, no eggs? Well, the difference between fresh and dried herbs is more noticeable than I'd ever imagined. I need the flavors the fresh herbs are giving me; I just don't want to pay for it at the store every time.

So yesterday, I went herb crazy - three types of mint, two types of thyme, cilantro, basil, oregano. Now, I have only used mint three times in a my life, and thyme barely more than that. But those adorable little pots with the tiny green leaves sucked me in. I wanted an herb garden, goshdarnit, and I was going to make one. Whether or not it had herbs that I actually used.

I'm not sure how that happens. There is something about an herb garden that screams 'I am chef.' Better than a certificate of completion from culinary school. Herbs mean I am cooking, and cooking something that tastes good. Of course, herbs are a big fat bunch of liars, but I like them anyway.

And I figured out what to do with all that mint, too: mint water. It's simple, adds a little something pretty for when people come over, or you want a little verve to your humdrum drinking experience.

Mint Water

What you need:
2-3 sprigs of fresh mint
a pitcher of water, about 2 quarts

What you do:
1. Wash the mint, make sure it's bug free. Set out the pitcher with water and pop the mint in it.
2. Let this sit at room temperature for a few hours, or overnight.
3. You can dink as is, or chill before using. The mint taste is mild, but pleasant, for those who like mint.

Hey - this is a recipe even I can't screw up!

But let me add a cautionary note to all this herb usage. They are gateway foods: they lead to culinary experimentation in all possible foods in your yard. How else can I explain carefully picking buds off my cholla cactus, to try to prepare and eat, when I've never eaten one in my life? I'm checking out prickly pear pads and how I can cook them, thinking about how long until the beans on my palo verde tree are ripe so I can harvest them and freeze them for later use.

I have gone off the deep end. Not because these aren't interesting and possibly even tasty foods, but because I have NO idea what the heck to DO with them. I don't use these. I am a mediocre cook with foods I've seen in the kitchen my whole life. I don't know why some ancestral part of my brain thinks that if I use food I've actually picked, my cooking will somehow improve to match. Positive thinking at it's best.

Although honestly - cholla buds tasted pretty darn good. SCARY, but good. Have you ever eaten a food that you had to de-prickle so that you don't get spines in your mouth? And you're not even sure you're doing it right? That, my friends, is eating on the edge. Putting that first bite of boiled cholla bud in my mouth was very, very nerve wracking. But it tasted awesome - slimy like okra, but tasting of asparagus, with a tart aftertaste. Very unique, and really good!

Ahem...before my throat started up on me again and we realized these, too, are off Shauna's menu. But they were awesome until then!

And it looks very, very interesting. Here, take a look!

My cholla buds, partially de-thorned.

And now cooked - which is not nearly so pretty.

If you ever get a chance to try these, they are supposedly good in soups, but I think they'd go very nicely as a side dish, too, in slices.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My town and tomatoes

I decided not to go visit the relatives. My husband took the kids, they all had a pretty good visit, and I'm glad they got to go. I understand there were some challenges - we're still finding our way in the realm of 'preparing food in a kitchen that contains gluten' and I believe my MIL was surprised by how much of a challenge that really is.

I wish I could have gone. I was just about ready to go with them, and then I had a little allergy cascade of doom. It's like a waterfall, with health at the top and hacking, throat swollen agony at the bottom. And once I start down it, I can't seem to stop it until I hide out at home and stay away from everything in the known world for about a week.

It sucks. Like a big suck-a-roo roundup. My 20th highschool reunion is coming up - I likely can't go. I'd like to see my great uncles for possibly the last time this summer when they will be within a state of me for the first time in decades - I likely can't go. Conventions - no. Vacations - no.

Until I can react and make it STOP, I'm kind of stuck like someone from Little House on the Allergy-Free Prairie. At least it's an allergy-free prairie that now includes tomatoes. I can have cooked tomatoes now - that is beyond awesome. They actually go well with the foods I can eat, they are tasty, and easy to get, and frankly cheaper than almost all my other foods.

I am so excited to start trying out some recipes!! I'll put 'em up when I get any interesting ones.