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Archive for October 10, 2015

PRODUCT UPDATE: Gluten Free Comfort Food

Blake's Chicken Pot Pie

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This gluten-free chicken pot pie will please many. Photos courtesy Blake’s All Natural.

 

BLAKE’S GLUTEN-FREE CHICKEN POT PIE & SHEPHERDS PIE

With the fall season, the gluten-freer’s thoughts turn to comfort foods—which usually mean soups, hearty stews, pot pies, mac and cheese and heaping dishes of pasta.

This is also, as it turns out, one of the most challenging categories in the gluten-free realm. Most of the hot comfort foods contain noodles or crusts of some kind, and substitutions are not easily made.

Enter Blake’s All Natural, an 80-year old family firm that was acquired by ConAgra in May 2015. Most of the line is conventional, but there’s a GF version of their most popular item, Chicken Pot Pie; as well as Shepherds Pie, which is naturally GF (the crust is made from mashed potatoes instead of grain).
 
Blake’s Chicken Pot Pie

I tasted their Chicken Pot Pie in a bit of a fever, recalling happy afternoons spent at my Gram’s where my favorite treat was classic pot pie. Grandmas know what makes a child’s heart go pitter patter. Hence my bar for Chicken Pot Pie is quite high, attached as it is to golden memories.

Blake’s did not let me down. You can taste the quality and the care.

The filling is delicious! You can taste the distinct flavors, yet also appreciate the blended sauce and the good crust, which is the hallmark of a top pot pie. There was a little too much sauce for my liking (not atypical in store-bought pot pies), but I relished the classic pot pie flavor.

 
There are no chemicals, no antibiotics, no wheat. Bonus: The pot pie is also microwavable

The brand makes both all-natural and organic products. With the gluten-free pot pie, the vegetables and crust are organic. The chicken is not, although it is natural (antibiotic free), and quite tasty!

I was surprised that I actually preferred the cornmeal crust variety of the two options. The brown rice crust was a bit sweet and shortbread-y (I prefer buttermilk-y/salty flavor notes), whereas the cornmeal crust was hearty, had better body and just enough salt.
 
Blake’s Shepherds Pie

Next I tried the Shepherds Pie, made with organic corn and organic mashed potatoes.

As with the pot pie, the veggies are organic but the beef is not. (Although organic meat is important to many, it would raise the price beyond where enough consumers are flexible. Hence the balance between organic and natural ingredients.) The beef was perfectly spiced and tasted of a high quality, so I added points back for flavor. I liked it even better than the pot pie.

My recommendation: Absolutely give Blake’s a try! Their products are great cool- and cold-weather comfort food options, a great convenience when you don’t have time to make your own. That goes for the “regular” line, too.

You can also send a GF gift box, containing four gluten-free pot pies and four shepherds pies.

Discover more at BlakesAllNatural.com.

—A review from Georgi Page, Gluten Free Specialist

 

LUCY’S COOKIES

It was 2010 when we first selected Lucy’s Gluten Free as a Top Pick Of The Week, followed by a product update in 2011. The brand continues to treat consumers new gluten-free baked treats.

This year, the new GF treat is Triple Chocolate Brownie Crisp, the first flavor of Lucy’s new brownie line to hit shelves. It’s made with chocolate chips, 72% dark chocolate chunks and cocoa powder (comprising the “triple chocolate”), plus Madagascar vanilla.

A cross between a chewy brownie and a crunchy cookie, Triple Chocolate Brownie Crisp is a symphony of deep, rich chocolate flavor. A serving size of three crisps contains just 100 calories.

As with all Lucy’s products, Triple Chocolate Brownie Crisp is allergy friendly: no gluten or wheat, dairy milk, butter, eggs, casein, peanuts or tree nuts.

 

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There are three types of chocolate in Lucy’s Triple Brownie Crisp. Photo courtesy Dr. Lucy.

 
The line is also Non-GMO Project Verified, certified vegan, and certified kosher (pareve) by Star K.

Brownie Crisp is currently available in a 4.5-ounce pouch size and a 1.25-ounce grab ‘n go individual bag.

Continued thanks to Lucy’s founder and chairman, Dr. Lucy Gibney, for showing that allergen-free can also be delicious. Discover more at DrLucys.com.

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Make Cheese At Home Today

Farmer Cheese

Make it today, enjoy it tomorrow. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

 

What are you doing this weekend? How about making some farmer cheese? Do it today and enjoy it for Sunday brunch. All you need is buttermilk, cheesecloth and a sieve (strainer).

This recipe, from Alice Waters via Good Eggs in San Francisco, illustrates how much fun making fresh cheese can be. It’s much easier than mozzarella, so it’s a good “first cheese.”

Prep time is just 25 minutes, but the curds need to drain for 12 to 24 hours, depending on how soft or crumbly you like your farmer’s cheese. Alice Waters drains hers for 16 hours, at which point the cheese is still soft enough to spread, but dry enough to crumble onto salads.

The cheese should be flavored with a bit of salt, but can be made salt-free. Go gourmet with added chives, black pepper or other favorite seasonings. It can also be sweetened, for something like cannoli cream or ricotta cheesecake.

RECIPE: HOMEMADE FARMER’S CHEESE

Ingredients For 1-1/2 Cups Cheese

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • Salt
  • Optional: olive oil
  • Optional savory seasonings: herbs, spices
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  • Optional sweet seasonings: agave, honey, maple syrup, noncaloric sweetener, table sugar
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    Preparation

    1. POUR the buttermilk into a 1-quart canning jar and put the lid on tightly. Place the jar in a pot and cover with enough water to keep it submerged. Heat over medium-high heat until little bubbles appear on the jar and in the water, but before the water reaches a boil.

    2. TURN off the heat and let the buttermilk cool in the pot until the water reaches room temperature. Meanwhile…

    3. LINE a nonreactive* sieve with a few layers of cheesecloth, or a single layer of butter muslin, and set it in a nonreactive bowl deep enough that there is an inch or two between the sieve and the bowl. Once the water has cooled, remove the jar of buttermilk and pour the contents into the sieve. You should have firm white curds. You can add a pinch of salt or salt substitute to the curds at this point.

    4. COVER the curds with the tails of the muslin and refrigerate the sieve over the bowl for 12 to 24 hours, depending on how soft or crumbly you like your farmer’s cheese.

    5. SPREAD and enjoy, or top it with yogurt.

     
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    *Reactive vs. Non-Reactive Cookware: Aluminum, cast iron and copper are popular for cookware because of their superior heat-conducting properties. However, these metals can react with acids in a recipe (citrus, tomato, vinegar, etc.), imparting a metallic taste and discoloration of light-colored foods. This is also true with mixing bowls and utensils. Non-reactive materials include enameled metal, glass, plastic and stainless steel.
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    WHAT IS FARMER CHEESE OR FARMER’S CHEESE

    Farmer cheese or farmer’s cheese is a fresh (unaged), simple, cow’s milk cheese that’s the “child” of cottage cheese (see below), and a relative of paneer, queso blanco (more solid, like feta) and queso campesino (Spanish for farmer’s cheese, more like cottage cheese with curds). The texture is much dryer and the curd is tiny, such that it is molded into loaves and sliced.

    It is so versatile, we could eat it twice a day!

    Farmer cheese is made by pressing most of the moisture from cottage cheese. It can be flavored with herbs or puréed fruits. In fact, mixed with purée and baked, it is similar to ricotta cheesecake. Another variety is paneer, or Indian farmer cheese, which is easily made at home. It should be consumed fresh, as it goes stale if kept too long, and becomes brittle and useless with refrigeration. In Canada, the term “farmer’s cheese” refers to a different type of white cheese that does not have a rind and is firm but springy in texture. It is mild, milky and buttery in flavor. Canadian “farmer’s cheese” may be used in a similar fashion to Colby or Cheddar.

    Once a staple of Middle European cuisine, farmer cheese was made in the U.S. by Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants; but any cheese maker can make it; but not many do. It can be hard to find outside of strongholds of Jewish cuisine.

     

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    Here’s what the final product looks like. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     
    WAYS TO USE FARMER CHEESE

  • Blintzes: first and foremost, the filling for blintzes, flavored with cinnamon, sugar and vanilla (or other flavor profile)
  • Cheesecake
  • Cheese pierogies
  • Dip, mixed with mayonnaise or sour cream
  • Green salad or roast vegetables: a crumbled garnish
  • Noodle kugel (noodle pudding): another Jewish delight that incorporates cottage cheese or farmer cheese
  • Spread on bagels, crusty sourdough bread or toast, with or without jam
  • Substitute for cotija, paneer or ricotta
  • Sandwich: in pita or on toast with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and plain or pickled sliced onions
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    SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT FRESH CHEESES

  • Cottage cheese: The fresh, drained curds of slightly soured, pasteurized milk. The whey is drained from the curds, and the remaining curds are known as cottage cheese.
  • Pot cheese: Drained longer, cottage cheese becomes a drier-curd product known as pot cheese.
  • Farmer cheese: When the remaining moisture is pressed out of cottage cheese, causing it to become dry and crumbly, it is called farmer cheese.
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    WHAT IS CHEESECLOTH?

    Cheesecloth is a loosely woven cloth used for lining colanders and other purposes in home cheesemaking. It is used for draining, bandaging cheeses and covering air-drying cheeses.

    Butter muslin is a more tightly woven cloth used for draining, pressing, and bandaging both hard and soft cheeses. It is better for holding in small, soft curds and for making fresh cheeses and soft cheeses, because the tighter weave keeps some of the necessary moisture in.

    Here are more tips for using cheesecloth and butter muslin.

      

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