Tag Archives: Alton Brown

Gluten Free Trial

In the past year I’ve had two surgeries, the second of which laid me up for two months with absolutely no exercise allowed.  These two months happened to oh-so-conveniently coincide with Thanksgiving and Christmas, the marathon eating season for this particular food enthusiast.  I ate pretty much whatever I wanted with abandon and, even now 3.5 months later, I am paying for it to the tune of 15-20 pounds of excess weight.

Needless to say, I’m trying to lose weight, but I’m also on a constant journey to change to a healthier lifestyle without giving up delicious food that delights me.  This doesn’t mean that I’m trying to live life eating an entire sleeve of Thin Mints every night and deluding myself that I can still lose weight. This means that I’m trying to find new foods that actually satisfy my taste buds but aren’t going to ruin my waistline, my heart, my pancreas and my brain.  I’m trying to have it all, essentially.  Yeah, you guessed it – I’m a millennial.  But an OLD and GRUMPY one who does not like being compared to the characters on Girls.  Just a warning.

Frankly, I am not generally a “well” person , especially for a 30-year-old.  I never feel good.  If I’m not suffering from embarrassing gas attacks due to gallstones, it’s a migraine, a sore shoulder, heart palpitations, acid reflux, general fatigue.  It’s sort of pathetic.  But I’ve been aggressively seeking medical attention to figure this out, and currently I’m tackling my migraines, which I’ve been suffering from for 12 years!

After undergoing lots of treatment including physical therapy and a sleep study, my doctor is able to conclude two things: my migraines occur when I’m stressed, when I tend to clench my right shoulder which is pinching my occipital nerve, and that I am mildly narcoleptic.  You read that right – narcoleptic.  My headache specialist kindly termed it as “a sleepy brain.”  It is oddly satisfying to know my love of sleeping late is not due to laziness, but the term narcolepsy definitely wasn’t what I was expecting…

We talked about a lot of different pills I could try to reduce stress or stimulate my brain, but I told her I’d really like to try to reduce stress manually instead and she was in full support of that.  So she suggested I try 3 things in the meantime: a magnesium lotion, more exercise, and a gluten-free diet.  Sigh.  Thank god I’ve had my gallbladder removed so I can still eat cheese.

And that is the beginning of a journey I have vowed to embark upon: going gluten-free for a solid month.  I know there’s a lot of debate about this in the news and in medical communities and I don’t necessarily believe in it.  But see the paragraph above – I never feel good.  If this could help me join the land of adult humans who function correctly then, what the hell, I’ll try it.  Geez, I’m so mature at 30!

My goal is to do this for a month and record how I am feeling.  Then introduce gluten-type foods into my diet when I am occasionally indulging (there’s no way I’m giving up cookies for good, people!) and see how that affects me.  And the increase in exercise.  Like WHOA increasing my exercise.  But that’s a year-long goal I’ve been doing pretty good with – my goal is to be able to keep up, speed-wise, with my boyfriend who has been running 5 miles a day for the past 5 years by December 31, 2015.  We’ll see. 😉

Anyways, this month is also a very stressful one for me, so I think it’s a great time to test if removing gluten from my diet has a positive effect on me – I predict a lot of right shoulder clenching.  I’m an event planner and I am on the core team planning a 1,200-person conference at the beginning of May, followed by an 800-person conference in the beginning of June.  It will be hard to fit my exercise in, though I’ll be doing my darndest, and I’ll be travelling, likely lacking optimal sleep, and working a lot of long days where food can often be an afterthought – grabbing a roll off the buffet before they close it down and running off to the next thing.  Well, rolls aren’t exactly an option for me, are they?  I hope this will present lots of opportunities to talk about my successes and failures in gluten-free eating when in these kinds of situations.

Because of the busy month, I won’t be updating this blog every day, but I will try to post on social media every day with any interesting tidbits I may have.  You can follow me on Facebook, InstagramTwitter, and Google+.

My very first substitution attempt: replacing the breadcrumbs in this favorite Alton Brown roasted broccoli recipe with slivered almonds.  Dare I say – I think it actually tastes better.  I also added some smoked paprika, which makes everything awesome.  This won’t be so hard… right?

Let’s see what all the fuss is about, shall we?

 

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Buttermilk Biscuits – the sexy side of Buttermilk

I want you to try that Buttermilk-Brined chicken so badly (fan of the blog Rudy Basso already has, to much success!) Therefore, I’ve decided to continue the buttermilk love by including a few more recipes to make good use of that extra buttermilk you’ll have in your fridge.  I had the perfect opportunity to make Alton’s buttermilk biscuits at a brunch birthday party for James’ Dad this weekend (Happy Birthday again, Lou!), that I decided to go ahead and share the step-by-step process.

I do believe that biscuits are the best looking baked-good.  You can have your perfectly decorated cupcakes and marbled cakes, just leave the biscuits to me.  I mean – just look at this glamour shot:

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How can you resist?

Biscuits seem incredibly intimidating.  A well-known culinary delight in the south, the flaky layers and light but rich texture seem like they must take hours and some secret ritual only southern grandmas know.  However, from start to finish, the process takes about an hour – including clean-up!  (There’s plenty of time to clean your dishes while the biscuits bake, which is a major encouragement.)

Once we had tried them at home, we decided to whip them up for James’ parents when we stayed with them last year.  Always the most enthusiastic audience for our cooking, James’ Dad told people about those biscuits for weeks.  The only thing more encouraging than an easy recipe and delicious product to show for it is a boost to your ego.

I hope you will take these on at home and impress your friends and loved ones.  Having never made any kind of complicated pastry before, James is now the biscuit whisperer.  We know you can be, too!

Buttermilk Biscuits

Adapted very slightly from Alton Brown’s Southern Biscuits recipe found here

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder (this is more than you think – make sure you have enough!)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter (cut into cubes and kept as cold as possible)
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk

The Process:

1.  Preheat the oven to 450ºF.

2.  Measure out the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk together to aerate (whisking takes place of sifting here, but you can sift if you like.)IMG_2624

3.  Incorporate the cold butter into the flour.  My method is by hand: coat all of the cubes of butter in the flour and then rub the flour mixture and butter together with your fingers.  You want only a few large chunks to remain.  Here’s how I do it:IMG_2626 IMG_2628

4.  Make a well in the middle of the flour/butter mixture and pour in your cup of buttermilk.IMG_2647

5.  Stir until the dough comes together. IMG_2657

6. Flour a cutting board or some wax paper/parchment paper on the counter and turn out your dough onto the floured surface.IMG_2661 IMG_2667

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This is about how much flour you should use in between folds – a little goes a long way.

7.  Using your hands, shape the dough into a square/rectangle and fold the dough onto itself 3-4 times.  Each time you fold and reshape, make sure to FLOUR the top of the dough before folding again.  This step is very important – and the first time I totally forgot.  I had to knead the dough again, adding the extra flour each time so they weren’t too sticky.  Even with this mistake, the biscuits still came out great.  PHEW!IMG_2669

UPDATED video with the correct technique:

8.  Once you’ve kneaded the dough, pat it down so that it measures about 1″ high.IMG_2690

9.  Use your cookie-cutter/biscuit-cutter/glass (we use one sized 2-3″ usually) to cut out the biscuit shapes.  You may need to do this two or three times.  By the third time, I could only cut out one biscuit and just molded the last one the best I could.IMG_2697 IMG_2704 IMG_2710 IMG_2712

10. Arrange your biscuits on a pan for they are touching each other – but not the sides of the pan.IMG_2722

11.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes (mine only took 15), until they are lightly golden.20140525_084930

12. If you can, eat them while they’re fresh out of the oven – AMAZING.  If not, as soon as they’re cool enough to touch, wrap them in a cloth napkin or dish towel to keep them warm and moist until serving time. 20140525_085138

13.  Be lauded as a baking prodigy, earn the envy of your friends and neighbors – enjoy it, you’ve earned it.