Thursday, April 17, 2014

Torchy's-Inspired Fried Egg Breakfast Tacos (with bonus recipes from Ginger's Kitchen!)


Learning about Torchy's secret menu is like being handed the key to a city made of candy. It feels like dancing through streets made of spicy breakfast meats with rivers of poblano cream sauce. In other words, it is exciting. These tacos are outrageously over-the-top. In my pre-secret-menu innocence, my favorite taco was the green chile pork. Essentially shredded pork in a corn tortilla. The secret menu version, Missionary-style green chile pork, adds pickled red onions, guacamole, jack cheese, and chipotle sauce, and then the whole thing is deep fried so the corn tortilla gets beautifully crisp, and then that's wrapped in a flour tortilla so your hands don't get greasy. It's deliciously clever. Another taco, the Jack of Clubs, is easier to recreate at home and just as delicious. It's black beans, potatoes, a fried egg, tortilla strips, jack cheese, sour cream, and cilantro. I am so enamored with the missionary-style technique of combining a fried corn tortilla with a soft flour one that I added that technique to this taco, in lieu of the crunchy tortilla strips on the Torchy's version. I omitted the potatoes (which almost seemed mashed in the Torchy's taco and were quite tasty) because the taco was a lot easier to make without them, but you should add them if you've got the time.

I made this the taco in my friend Abbie's kitchen, with a group of fellow food52ers. We call ourselves Ginger's Kitchen (after Abbie's sweet pup) and bounce ideas off of each other and come up with collaborative recipes.  Here are the two we developed that morning for that week's food52 contest, Your Best Weekday Breakfast. None of our recipes were selected as possible finalists, but I can assure you they were all quite tasty!


Johnny McGriddle Sandwich
Our homemade spin on a McDonald's McGriddle, replacing the pancakes with johnny cakes (cornmeal pancakes) and the sausage with a Mexican chorizo patty.  There's maple sugar in the pancake batter, but you could go the extra step of making your own maple sugar crystals, which will then melt into delicious pockets of syrup in your finished pancake a la this recipe- it's easier than it sounds and so good!


S'More Grilled Cheese, Please
A grilled "cheese" sandwich featuring cream cheese, almond butter, dark chocolate, and strawberries. I can assure you that you won't be disappointed if you put chocolate on bread and grill it in butter. The rest of the ingredients are definitely gilding the lily, but we devoured it all the same!

The Ultimate Fried-Egg Breakfast Taco
inspired by Torchy's Jack of Clubs taco

makes 2 hearty tacos
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 corn tortillas
  • 2 flour tortillas
  • 1 cup cooked black beans (canned or homemade, recipe follows)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar or jack cheese
  • 1 handful of cilantro
  • 1/2 lime
  • pickled jalapenos
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  1. Get out two skillets. Heat both over medium heat. Put a flour tortilla in one and toast it a bit on both sides until it has puffed up. Repeat with the second flour tortilla. Meanwhile, put the 2 tablespoons of oil in the other skillet and, when the oil is hot and shimmery, put a corn tortilla in and shallow-fry it on both sides, until it has crisped up a bit but is still malleable, about 30 seconds per side. Repeat with the second corn tortilla. Put one flour tortilla on each of two plates and top each with the fried corn tortilla. (Yes, each taco will have two tortillas!) 
  2. When the tortillas are done, put the black beans and a splash of their cooking liquid into the dry pan where you toasted the flour tortillas and heat them gently and season to taste. Melt the tablespoon of butter in the pan where you fried the corn tortillas (leaving the remaining oil in the pan) and crack in two eggs. Cover this pan with a lid and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny, about 2-4 minutes (check them often!). You might need to spoon some of the fat in the pan over the top of the whites to finish them off. 
  3. Assemble the tacos by spooning some of the black beans onto the tortillas and top with a sprinkling of cheddar. Put the fried egg on next and season with salt and pepper. Put a good handful of cilantro on next and squeeze some lime juice over it, and then add 3-4 pickled jalapeno slices. Enjoy!
Great Homemade Black Beans

This is the same basic formula I use for any kind of bean (pinto, cannelini, garbanzo) and it works beautifully with all of them. I don't always include the bacon strip but it adds a wonderful hint of smokiness.
  • about 1 pound dried black beans, soaked in plenty of water overnight
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 slice of bacon
  • Kosher salt
Put the soaked beans in a large dutch oven and cover with two inches of cold water. Add the bay leaves, garlic, and bacon slice, and then season the water with plenty of kosher salt (as much salt as you would use for pasta water- several tablespoons). Bring the pot to a boil over high heat and then lower the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the beans are done, 1-2 hours. (I prefer to transfer the covered pot of beans to a 300 degree oven after they've come to a boil because that keeps it at a very even and gentle simmer without having to constantly monitor and regulate your stove's burner.) Test your beans at the one hour mark by eating a few- they should be soft and creamy. If not using all the beans right away, transfer them to mason jars and cover with their cooking liquid.  You can freeze them like that too.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Bacon and Spinach Quiche with Latke Crust


It's the last day of the month, so that must mean it's time for another gluten&dairy-free-pie-of-the-month post! Strawberries (and delicious ones too!) have already made their way to my farmers' market, and so I seriously thought about a strawberry pie this month, followed by two more strawberry variations for April and May, but opted instead for a savory one.  I saw a Martha Stewart recipe for a quiche with a hash brown crust and was immediately smitten with the idea. But the recipe was a bit lacking- you dump a bag of frozen hash browns in a pie pan and bake it for a measly 25 minutes, which didn't seem like enough time to get the potatoes sufficiently crispy. Then, on instagram a few days ago, mrswheelbarrow posted a pic of a gorgeous potato crust all ready for the oven.  She very kindly explained her technique to me (which is listed in the recipe below) and the results were just as I'd hoped for.  Like a delicious latke, beautifully seasoned, firm but easy to cut through on the bottom of the quiche and delightfully light and crisp around the edges. The inside of the quiche features local bacon from Flying Pig, spinach from my garden (planted as a lovely surprise by the Kitchen Gardener!) and my favorite easy quiche filling, with the normal heavy cream and milk mixture replaced by a can of full-fat coconut milk. I was very happy with it, and it is one of those blessed results where you miss neither the gluten nor the dairy.

Bacon and Spinach Quiche with Latke Crust
filling adapted from Cooks Illustrated's quiche lorraine, crust slightly adapted from Mrs. Wheelbarrow

  • 2 medium-large russet potatoes
  • 1/2 large white onion
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • lots of kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 oz bacon
  • small bunch spinach, washed and chopped into rough 1-inch pieces
  • more kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • one 14oz(ish) can of full-fat coconut milk
  • still more kosher salt and black pepper
  1. For the crust: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel the potatoes and onion half and grate them, by hand or with the grater attachment of your food processor if you've got one.  Put the grated potatoes and onion in a colander set in the sink, and let sit for a few minutes. Grab one small handful at a time and squeeze as much water out as possible, until you've squeezed it all, then let sit for another 5 minutes or so and squeeze all the water out again. The more water you're able to squeeze out the better your final product will be- it's worth being meticulous here! Transfer the squeezed-out vegetables to a medium bowl, and toss with the two beaten eggs and plenty of salt and pepper. Press the potato mixture into a pie pan or a springform pan, pushing the mixture up the sides.  Bake the crust for 40 minutes. Then take the crust out of the oven, brush all over with the canola oil, and put back in the oven for an additional 10 minutes. 
  2. For the filling: Meanwhile, dice the bacon into roughly 1/2 inch pieces and put in a cast iron skillet set over medium heat. Cook, tossing occasionally, until most of the bacon is crisp, 5-7 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Pour off all but about a tablespoon of the bacon fat into a small bowl for another day and add the washed and chopped spinach to the bacon-greased skillet. Cook until the spinach has wilted and much of the water has evaporated, about 3 minutes, and season with salt and pepper. 
  3. For the quiche: When the crust is done, lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the bacon in the bottom of the crust and distribute the sauteed spinach on top of that, as evenly as possible. Put two whole eggs and two egg yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk gently and then add the can of coconut milk and a good amount of salt and pepper (at least a teaspoon of kosher salt) and whisk again so that the ingredients are well blended. Pour the egg mixture over the bacon and spinach and put the quiche in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the center of the quiche is set when you jiggle the pan. Let cool a bit and eat warm or at room temperature. 



Sunday, March 16, 2014

Who Wants Seconds? A Cookbook Review


The Piglet, food52's annual tournament of cookbooks, is one of my very favorite things to read on the web, and I look forward to it with the fervor and fanaticism that most people reserve for their home town football team. The reviews cover 16 of the most notable cookbooks from the year, and they are pitted against each other in a bracket-style tournament. The winning book this year was selected because it was deemed to be the one that cooks would reach for most often in their day-to-day cooking, a metric I completely agree with. But if that's the case, then Jennie Cook's new cookbook, Who Wants Seconds?, may very well have won my personal vote for cookbook of the year.

My delightful sister Helen worked for Jennie at her much loved restaurant in Culver City, the Double Dutch Dinette, where she said everyone was a regular. It was the type of place where if you wanted to learn how to cook, they would teach you. Jennie encouraged everyone to cook and made everyone feel like an important member of the team. All of her employees were viewed as artists and creative people and if someone had a good idea she would use it. Art on the walls was from the waiter or the chef's girlfriend. If you were good at writing you worked on the website. If you had an idea for food or the menu, even if you weren't a chef, your idea was taken seriously. Helen, in a bad mood one day, made herself an ice cream sundae, which ended up being a feature of every Sunday dinner service. Helen describes her time there as the absolute best place to learn and grow. This love of teaching and creativity is infused through Jennie's beautiful cookbook. She has picked up recipes and techniques through the people she has met and worked with, and the end result is a cookbook that blends the classic comfort food she grew up eating with more modern and global flavors, sprinkled with great tips for hosting parties and planning meals from the queen of LA catering.



Jennie's recipe for Slow Roasted Baked Beans is one of the first ones in the book, and I knew I had to make it after reading her headnote: 

"Every Saturday night we had the same meal: charcoal-grilled steaks, baked beans, home fries, and a salad. We always ate late on Saturday nights. Cocktail hour still started at 5, but the weekend pace was leisurely, pushing diner till 7. This meant more time to dance in the kitchen. (As party people we love to dance.) I loved watching Ma and Pop gently swing around the kitchen to Sinatra, with Ma harmonizing in her sexiest voice. I still also love a little piece of steak and a big plate of slow-roasted baked beans. Saturday night steak dinner will always have a hold on me."

Wonderful, right? I love the familiarity, the nostalgia, and the casual tone of Jennie's writing. The bean recipe itself is simple and delicious. (I've copied it at the bottom of this post). I used canned whole tomatoes squished up a bit with my fingers instead of tomato sauce and really liked it that way, because the larger chunks of tomato got sweet and roasty and it really reminded me of a full english breakfast. One important note about this recipe and the other bean recipes in this cookbook though. Jennie recommends not salting the beans before cooking, which she says makes them tough, and her recipes also include a bit of vinegar in the cooking water, a vegan old wives tale of sorts about making the beans easier to digest. I recommend you do just the opposite. ALWAYS salt beans while cooking (this won't make them tough but will make them taste better- see why here and here), and never add an acid like vinegar or tomatoes to beans before they're cooked- this is what causes beans to seize up and stay too firm. The best way to make beans easier to digest is to eat more beans. Your body gets used to it and you won't be plagued by GI issues.



Farro al Fresco - this is a wonderful formula for making any grain salad, which includes something green, some nuts, dried fruit, crumbled chevre, and a simple vinaigrette. 


Green Beans with Chile Pecans and Sesame Dressing were light and satisfying. I'm not a huge fan of green beans, but the sesame oil plus chile pecans made them much more palatable!


Feijoada, a Brazilian black bean and sweet potato stew was a delight. Jennie's recipe is vegan and served with a delicious pineapple relish. As with the the baked bean recipe above, I'd recommend that you omit the vinegar from the cooking water and add plenty of salt instead. This is a great party recipe (it makes a ton!), and is naturally gluten free and vegan too.


Cumin Scented Turkey Meatloaf with Creamy Gravy and the Amazing Corn Sensation. This turkey meatloaf is easily worth the price of the cookbook- it is my new go-to meatloaf and absolutely perfect.  Most meatloaf recipes call for 3 different meats (pork, veal, and beef) to get the texture and flavor right. Jennie manages to make the most sublimely-textured meatloaf using just ground poultry and a few tricks. I used ground chicken because it was readily available at my farmer's market and it was still fabulous. Jennie calls for 3/4 cup of quick oats to be mixed in, which she says "create an almost creamy center." It's true! And I didn't have quick oats, only the thick old-fashioned rolled oats, and they still disappeared into the meatloaf and made it creamy and delicious. The cumin really adds a delicious note too.  I can't say enough good stuff about this meatloaf. Get the book and try it!

The creamy gravy and amazing corn sensation were both lovely and perfect accompaniments to the meatloaf, but they definitely played second fiddle in my book!

Jennie's book is filled with tons of appealing recipes, and the recipes themselves are very thoughtfully written and just the sort of thing I like to cook on a weeknight. A lovely book written by a lovely person.

Slow Roasted Baked Beans
adapted slightly from Who Wants Seconds?

prep time: overnight soaking
cooking time: 4 1/2 to 5 hours
serves 10 as a side dish

  • 1 pound dried white beans, soaked overnight in 4 quarts water
  • kosher salt
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups tomato sauce or crushed whole tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large stockpot, cover the beans with water by 2 or 3 inches, add thyme, bay leaves, and enough kosher salt to make the water taste like the sea, and bring the beans to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until beans are soft, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine onion, sugar, tomato sauce, and mustard in medium bowl. When beans are soft, drain the cooking water, remove bay leaves and thyme stems, and stir beans into sauce mixture. Pour into greased 4-quart glass, ceramic, or stainless pan and bake, covered, for 3 hours. Check and add more water, one cup at a time, as necessary, keeping it saucy but not watery. Uncover and continue cooking until beans are caramelized on top, 30-55 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. 

Variation: Grammy added a pound of chopped raw bacon to the pot, and I'd certainly understand if you chose to do the same.

What a delightful book! I hope you get a chance to read and cook from it! 


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Grapefruit Pie (Gluten and Dairy Free)


I'm sneaking the second post in my series of a gluten/dairy free pie of the month in just under the wire- February was here and gone in a flash for me. When I was planning out my GFDFPOTM posts, February was a no-brainer. It had to be a take on Christina Tosi's famous Grapefruit Pie. Two of my favorite food52 bloggers have raved about this pie, and we've got tons of beautiful and local grapefruit in February, so I was determined to try to make a gluten and dairy free version. But man alive, those ingredients were against me from the start! A crust made of ritz crackers, butter, and milk powder, a buttery passion fruit curd filling, and a topping made from condensed milk- so much dairy!

So I'm going to tell you the changes that I made, but before that I'm going to tell you that they weren't all successful. (A copy of the original recipe is here). The grapefruit-y  part of this pie, a beautiful passion fruit curd with hundreds of grapefruit threads suspended in it, was outstanding, and quite simple to make GF/DF- I just had to sub coconut oil for butter in the curd. (Heads up for any central Texas folks attempting this pie- you can find passion fruit puree in the freezer section of Fiesta, but not by the ice cream- it was on the other side of the store closer to the Jewish foods. Central Market didn't have it). For the crust, I picked out the most ritz-looking gluten free crackers I could find (a plain Glutino variety), subbed coconut oil for the butter, and shredded unsweetened coconut for the milk powder. The crackers tasted pretty terrible on their own, but mixed with fat and sugar they were (unsurprisingly) improved! I baked the crust as directed in the original recipe, and it didn't really brown, but did turn into a crunchy crust, so huzzah! The topping in the original pie is a sweetened condensed milk mixed with citric acid to thicken it (citric acid is surprisingly easy to find- I've seen it in bulk at Wheatsville and I bought a small bag at the Savory Spice Shop). In lieu of condensed milk I emptied a can of coconut milk into a small pan, added 1/4 cup of sugar, and cooked it on low until it had reduced to 3/4 of a cup. While it looked thicker, it was no where near as thick as regular sweetened condensed milk and the citric acid did nothing to thicken it, and instead only made an under-sweetened condensed milk unacceptably sour. This layer is supposed to have red food coloring added too, which I omitted because I don't like food dyes. The original recipe says that this pie is supposed to be frozen. I've got one of those side-by-side refrigerator/freezers and the damn thing is not wide enough to accommodate my pie plate! So I tilted the pie and stuck it in slant-ways. Naturally, since the topping was under-thickened anyway it all pooled on one side and froze that way, which explains why my picture of the pie at the top of this post is cropped so oddly and why you don't see a lovely smooth pink layer on top. Whew!

As for the taste: The grapefruit/passion fruit layer is outstanding- Henry and Andy and I enjoyed swiping tastes from the emptied blender jar, and the technique for separating all those little grapefruit segments into their individual threads is so fun (you just heat them gently in a teaspoon of oil!)- I'm thinking of other things I can fold little citrus bits into. But the crust and the topping were really not worth replicating. I'm sure the crust made with real ritz crackers is sublime, but I just don't think it was worth the added work and expense with GF crackers. And the topping just didn't work at all when made dairy free. So for this recipe I have decided to write it up how I will cook this pie next time, with my favorite coconut crust (it's paleo!) and with a whipped coconut cream on top instead of the condensed milk/citric acid layer. Finally, I really preferred this pie just chilled, not frozen. The curd was so smooth and dreamy when it was cold, and I thought it was just a bit too hard and icy when frozen, so I won't serve it that way again.With these changes, this is a pie I'd be happy to make again and again.

Grapefruit Pie
adapted from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook
(this recipe is different than the pie pictured at the top of this post- read the notes above to find out why)

For the Crust
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted

For the Filling
  • 1/4 cup passion fruit puree
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 gelatin sheet or 1/4 teaspoon powdered gelatin
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large grapefruit
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil 

For the Topping
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
1. For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the coconut flour, almond meal, shredded coconut, coconut sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the melted coconut milk and mix well so that every bit is coated. Dump the crumbs into a 9" pie plate and press evenly up the sides and bottom of the pan with your fingers. Bake the crust until golden brown, around 20 minutes, and then remove and cool completely.

2. For the filling: Put the passion fruit puree and sugar into a blender and blend until the sugar has dissolved. Add the egg and blend on low until the mixture is smooth and bright orange-yellow. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and clean the blender canister. Bloom the gelatin in 2 tablespoons of cold water. Heat the passion fruit mixture over low heat, whisking regularly as it thickens. Once it starts to boil, transfer back to the blender (note: mine never boiled but seemed thick so I continued with the recipe- it turned out fine). Add the bloomed gelatin, coconut oil, and salt, and beat until the mixture is super-smooth. Transfer to a container and chill in the fridge until completely cool.

While it’s cooling, remove the rind of the grapefruit completely, leaving no white pith behind. Then carefully remove each segment of grapefruit from its membrane by slicing down both sides of each segment along the membrane to the center of the fruit; the segments should come right out. In a small saucepan, heat the teaspoon of oil and grapefruit on low heat, stirring occasionally. After about 2 minutes, the warm oil will help separate and encapsulate the individual grapefruit ‘threads’. Remove from heat and let the threads cool slightly before proceeding.

Using a spoon or rubber spatula, gently stir the grapefruit threads into the cooled passion fruit curd. Spread the chilled grapefruit and passion fruit curd evenly over the cooled crust.

3. For the topping: Carefully scoop the solid white fat from the top of the chilled coconut milk can into a small bowl (it's ok if some of the liquid-y part makes it into the bowl too- this happens to me every time and it still whips beautifully) Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until the coconut fat is fluffy and whipped cream-like.

4. Finish the pie: Spread the whipped coconut cream on top of the grapefruit curd and eat immediately or refrigerate until you're ready!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie (Gluten and Dairy Free)


I got my pie for my money and my money for my pie.
I got 99 problems but a pie ain't one.
You can find me in the club, pocket full of crust. I got that pie you need if you want your belt to bust.
Ain't nothing but a pie thang baby! Got that lemon fillin makin me crazy!
It takes pie to make a thing go right. It takes pie to make it out of sight! Preheat it! I wanna bake right now, I'm Arielle and my pies throw down. I'm not internationally known, but I got you with the pies and scones.

Ok, I'll stop now. Also, I don't make scones.

All this to say, my crazy generous sister-in-law Joanna (of the Austin Kitchen Gardener fame!) is giving me her gorgeous DSLR camera in exchange for baked goods. I'm going to make her and her gluten and dairy free family one pie for every month this year, each one featuring a local and seasonal ingredient. Pie is my new currency. (Thanks for the pie raps, Jordan and Helen!! You guys are the tops!)

Anyway, this is my January pie! There are some beautiful meyer lemons at the markets now, and this pie makes great use of them.  If you don't care about eating gluten free you can substitute your favorite crust. The rest of the pie is naturally gluten and dairy free, featuring a bright lemon filling based on Caroline Beck's genius recipe for olive oil lemon custard. And also, it's got half the amount of meringue as one of those wacko mile-high meringue pies. Why so much meringue, pie? I want just enough to add a sweet foil to the tart lemon filling, not a big floppy pile of egg white blob that doesn't fit on my fork.  One other cool thing about this recipe- it borrows the Cooks Illustrated technique of adding a gel made from corn starch to the meringue which allows you to pile the hot meringue on hot filling, and you can eat it right away with no chilling, in case you're pressed for time or want your remixed meringue pie hot and fresh out' the kitchen.

Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie
recipe adapted from this, this, and this
  • Gluten and Dairy Free pie dough (see recipe below)
  • Meyer Lemon Filling
    • 3 whole eggs, room temperature
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon zest
    • 1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 cup cold water
    • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Meringue Topping
    • 1 tablespoon corn starch
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 4 egg whites
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fit a homemade or store-bought pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate (I used the recipe copied below); line crust with parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until crust is lightly browned, about 35-45 minutes. Carefully lift and remove paper with pie weights and let crust cool.
  2. Make the lemon filling. Place the 3 whole eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla extract in a blender and blend until smooth and frothy. Stream in the olive oil with the motor running.
  3. Pour into a double boiler or bowl set over gently simmering water on the stovetop. Whisk together 1 cup cold water and 1/4 cup cornstarch and add to the lemon mixture in the double boiler. 
  4. Stir until the mixture thickens up (it should reach 160 degrees for fully cooked eggs, or hold at 140 degrees for 3 1/2 minutes).
  5. Poor the thickened lemon cream into the cooled crust. (It's ok if your crust is still a little warm- mine was and everything turned out just fine.) 
  6. Make the meringue. Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1/3 cup water in small saucepan; bring to simmer, whisking occasionally at beginning and more frequently as mixture thickens. When mixture starts to simmer and turn translucent, remove from heat. Let cool while beating egg whites. Beat egg whites and vanilla until frothy. Beat in the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, until sugar is incorporated and mixture forms soft peaks. Add cornstarch mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time; continue to beat to stiff peaks.
  7. Using a rubber spatula, distribute the meringue evenly around edge and then center of the pie. Use a spoon to create peaks all over meringue.
  8. Turn on your broiler to high and adjust your oven rack to the top position. When the broiler is hot, slide the pie onto the rack. Keep the oven door cracked and watch carefully as the meringue browns under the broiler- this happens fast! Turn the pie if needed, to ensure even browning. Remove pie from oven. Let cool to room temperature, and then eat or refrigerate.
Gluten Free and Dairy Free Pie Crust
adapted from the New Best Recipe
  • 1 1/4 cups gluten free all purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface (I used cup4cup, but I also like the King ArthurGF flour multi-purpose blend)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold vegan butter (I used earth balance), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 4-5 tablespoons ice water
  1. Mix the flour, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the shortening and cut in with a pastry knife until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand. Scatter the vegan butter pieces over the flour mixture and cut in with a pastry knife until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas.
  2. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of ice water over the mixture. With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix. Press down on the dough with the broad side of the spatula until the dough sticks together, adding up to 1 tablespoon more ice water if the dough will not come together. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 2 days before rolling.
  3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator (if refrigerated more than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable). Place the dough on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, dust the top with more GF flour, and top with another sheet of parchment paper. Roll the dough into a 12-inch circle between the sheets of parchment. Transfer the dough to a nine-inch pie plate and crimp the edges.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Baby George!


This is George Arthur Arizpe, my baby boy, and a very fine fellow indeed. George is almost 4 months old now. My days have been filled with trying to work out how to care for two kids, the solution to which, I am happy to share with you, is to forego bathing yourself and said children. Seriously- my sweet Henry received a bath toy for Christmas, and as I was writing the thank you note earlier this week I realized that Henry hadn't had a chance to play with it because he hadn't yet taken a bath. So we have some kinks to work out. But back to George! He has the most marvelous half smile- one side of his mouth curling into a grin, offering you a glimpse of his darling little dimple. He adores being held and laughs his head off when his brother smiles at him (something that is happening more often these days).  We are all settling into our new life as a family of four.

As the new year starts, I've been itching to blog again. But I didn't feel like I could jump back in with recipes for meyer lemon meringue pies and meatloaves without first announcing George's arrival.  I also wanted to write down the story of George's birth before I've forgotten it. Stop reading now if you have no interest in hearing about lady feelings and placenta smoothies. My sister Helen, of Thousand Ships makeup and photography, documented George's birth for me, so I'm going to use her pictures to tell the story.


Henry was born in a hospital with a midwife. I loved the midwife and nurse, but hated the hospital. I didn't like the atmosphere, or having to be monitored all the time, or the sitting around after the birth waiting for them to let you go home. I also had a long labor, and thought that it might partly be blamed on leaving the house and driving to the hospital (my contractions stalled out for hours after arriving). I decided that I would want to do a home birth with baby George.

On Monday, September 9, I woke up with the first inklings of contractions. They weren't terribly regular- ever 20-30 minutes I think, but that went on for a few hours, so I decided to call my mom, who was supposed to fly in the following Saturday to be my doula (I wasn't due until the 21st). She decided to change her flight and come out that night. I had no idea if it was real labor or not, so I was worried she'd be missing an extra week of work for no reason. After she arrived, the contractions stopped all together. We hung out and ran a ton of errands on Tuesday, and then that night, they started again. Around midnight they were regular enough that I started timing them, marking the start times on my phone for 3 hours, until they got strong enough that I had to get out of bed. Andy sat with me for a bit, and around 4, I woke up my mom and sister and called the midwife.



I really did spend hours in just that spot. Andy and Helen and my mom all took turns standing with me. I rocked from side to side and leaned against the wall and held onto my belly. And I felt like things were happening fairly quickly. Monika, my wonderful midwife (from Heart of Texas Midwives) said that Andy should start filling up the birthing tub (actually a metal stock tank we had bought that spring as a wading pool for Henry), and that she'd be over soon. 


When Monika arrived, she got set up and then checked me. She said "you're a good 5!", and I completely lost my shit. I had all but convinced myself that I was fully dilated, that I'd be pushing soon, and that this birth was going to be much shorter and easier than Henry's. When she said I was a 5, only halfway, all of my deepest fears about this birth dragging on like Henry's did bubbled up, and I was terribly worried that I wouldn't be able to handle it again and I'd have to go to the hospital and get an epidural. That's why I look so miserable in so many of the following pictures.




Monika said I should get into the tub. Oh, but it felt so much better in there! The contractions were still intense, but in the tub they became tolerable, and my back felt so much better. 







When we had talked about the birth with Henry, I told him that he would be able to climb into the tub with me if he wanted. He did! I was still feeling really low at that point, but Henry gave me a hug and said "there's a George in mama's vagina" (actually, I think he said "there's a George in my vagina," because he mixes up his pronouns) which made me laugh for the first time in hours and really cheered me up. 




My contractions slowed way down when I was in the water.  It was a really lovely break- I even fell asleep for a bit- but I worried that I would never get anywhere if I stayed in the water. So I got out and did more side-to-side rocking a squat-like movements and things started feeling much more intense. Things are sort of hazy from this point on. I lay down in bed and started pushing, but I was still feeling pretty down, partly because my water hadn't broken yet, so I figured I was still far from giving birth. I remembered reading about the power of self-talk in Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth (my favorite pregnancy book by far) and so I said to myself, 'on the next contraction, I'm going to push so hard that my water is going to break.' If I was a more gracious person, I'd have said this out loud, because it worked (!) but I managed to splash Monika and Debra (my midwives) and Brandi (the student midwife) in the process.



The midwives asked if I wanted to give birth on the bed or in the tub, because we were getting close (huzzah!). I wasn't sure (something about labor makes me incapable of making decisions!) but then decided to get back in the tub. 


I pushed some more in the tub- not long, I don't think, and then I reached down and felt the head- what an amazingly reassuring feeling that was! Just a bit more pushing and the head was coming out. This is what that felt like:




Really really intense. I cried. But it was over quickly!


I was on my hands and knees when George came out. Andy reached in and pulled him out and that unparalleled feeling of relief and happiness washed over me. And George was here!







And just for the zero of you who are interested, here's a little bit of info about my placenta smoothie:


I had no intention of eating my placenta. Major ick factor. But over the course of my pregnancy, I read more about it, and I slowly but surely became convinced. The benefits are huge- foremost on my mind being that it greatly reduces your chances of postpartum depression, helps your hormones get back in balance, helps your body repair itself, and reduces your postpartum bleeding. It absolutely worked for me, and I couldn't taste any placenta-ness in the delicious strawberry banana smoothie my brave and beautiful sister made for me (she just tossed a few walnut-sized chunks of raw placenta into a regular old fruit smoothie). I definitely felt like my moods were more balanced this time, and I only bled for six weeks after the birth (I bled for 12 with Henry!). I'd recommend it to anyone who has someone in her life who is willing to cut up your own organs and serve them to you.

And that's George's birth story! Thanks for reading it! I'll be back soon with actual food blog material. 


George Arthur Arizpe, 7 pounds 6 ounces, born September 11, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Huge thanks to my sister Helen for documenting the birth for me! Please visit her website, Thousand Ships makeup and photography, if you're interested in having beautiful pictures of your loved ones or of a special moment in your life.