Big Bites BBQ in Quakertown is Awesome!

If you are craving some tasty barbecued pork or brisket and can’t decide where to go, head South to Quakertown along Route 309 below the 663 junction.  On the left you will find Big Bites BBQ in a small strip mall.   bigbites I read about it on FaceBook and had to give it a whirl.  I had been feeling the need for all the yummy goodness of BBQ and couldn’t imagine where I would find barbecued meat safe for me to eat.  I didn’t have to look any further; this place is run by a family with three members who have celiac or another wheat allergy.  So they definitely know how to cook and serve GF foods.

You can get regular wheat buns there which are tasty according to my man.  But they order their GF burger buns directly from Udi’s in Colorado to get them as fresh as possible.  All the bbq and the fixings are made gluten free. Safe, safe safe!

On my first visit I ordered a brisket sandwich as well as smoky baked beans, coleslaw and some GF cornbread that came with a small cup of honey butter. It was all delicious. There was a lot of meat in that sandwich and it was tender to say the least.  I added extra bbq sauce from a squeeze bottle on the table.  The slaw was some of the best I have ever eaten in a restaurant.  My dish of baked beans was indeed smoky with great flavor including some shredded pork. And the corn bread was lovely; tender, flavorful and sweet after I poured on some of the BigBites special butter.

Joe had a fat juicy pulled pork sandwich and the same sides as me.  He polished it all off and didn’t have a single negative comment.  I know he was glad I could relax and eat without worrying about food safety.  He took home a second sandwich for lunch the next day.

The service was pretty fast and the owner came over to check and see how we liked our meal.  BigBites only has counter service with maybe 8-9 tables for customers to chow down at.  As we ate people came in to pick up orders, turns out get takeout to eat at home is a popular option.  There is a cooler full of ice tea and other drinks to have with your meal.  The small restaurant is comfortable and cozy if not fancy.

I wrote this October 2013 but have eaten there 3-4 times since then.  I tend to get the same thing, the half a bbq’d chicken platter which includes a quarter rack of ribs and two sides.  The chicken is so tender and smokey I had hardly bear not to have it every visit. We took some friends with us last time and they loved the barbecue too!

I am longing to go back and try some more of the menu including a bbq parfait that a friend says is awesome.  It is not a huge menu but for someone who loves barbecue and all the sides, it is exactly the right size!

 

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Microgreens are Mighty in Taste and Nutrients

Microgreens…what the heck are they?  Well…they are, basically, sprouts grown in dirt.  I got some from superseeds.com a/k/a Pinetree Seeds of Maine, a family business which has been around since 1979.  I have found it to be a great place for inexpensive, good quality seeds and plants.  I get most of my seeds there.

Going gluten free has lead me to continue searching for healthy food choices and I always loved sprouts so this past winter I bought a packet of these microgreens.  I chose the kitchen sink variety; a mixture of many greens and veggies.  I planted them 1/3-1/2 inch deep in seed starter medium.  Watered them well, and waited. In just 4-5 days the first shoots appeared.  I was thrilled with the more than 95% germination rate.  That meant that my pot was packed solidly with tiny shoots.  Maybe a tad too tightly……. I put them in the kitchen window sill.  Watered them almost daily and turned them around every other day. Some grew extra fast; pea shoots that were nearly 2 inches taller than the rest of the plants.

In less than two weeks I was getting out my kitchen scissors and snipping off a section of my shoots to toss on a just made salad. This boosted the nutritional value of my salad considerably.  Not to mention the interesting flavor of all those tangy sprouts!

Sprinkled on my salad they added lots of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals.  They are a great flavor booster for your side or main salad.

Phytonutrients are what you say?  Well, one definition, courtesy of Wiki links is this:

The term is generally used to refer to those chemicals that may have biological significance, for example antioxidants, but are not established as essential nutrients.[1] Scientists estimate[citation needed] that there may be as many as 10,000 different phytochemicals having the potential to affect diseases such as cancerstroke or metabolic syndrome.   From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytonutrients.  FYI: Wiki Links uses phytochemicals as a synonym of phytonutrients.

 

According to medterms.com:

Currently, the terms “phytonutrient” and “phytochemical” are being used interchangeably to describe those plant compounds which are thought to have health-protecting qualities.

Anyhow, definitions aside, microgreens are chock full of those healthy phytonutrients as well as crunch and flavor.  A small handful would be perfect in a spring salad or on top of a burger.

So, if you are not much of a gardener but want fresh salad stuff that is cheaper, fresher and healthier for your body than you can buy just about anywhere, get some packets of microgreens and start planting!  If you want to learn more Pinetree seeds has a book for sale called Microgreens by Eric Franks and Jasmine Richardson.   Image

If you don’t have any pots lying around most any container with drainage will do.  Actually, I used a half and half container scrubbed clean and laid on its side with the uppermost side cut off and a few holes punched in the bottom.  I filled it with potting soil.  Do avoid soil mixtures with “miracle grow” in them.  Get plain soil, preferably organic. This is as easy as gardening can be. I promise that in a few short weeks you will be able to cut and enjoy your own super sprouted greens. Go forth and sprout!

Chopped Strikes Again…Mahi Mahi Style

Another episode of Chopped occurred at my house tonight.  I worked late, two jobs actually, starving hungry by time I drove to my house.  So there wasn’t much time for messing around in the kitchen when I got home after 8.  I had defrosted a fillet of mahi mahi.  I like its firm texture and meaty flavor.  My other required “Chopped” ingredients were a zucchini which had been languishing in my fridge veggie bin for more than a few days, a just barely sprouting yellow potato, and some garlic chives growing lush in my herb garden.   Image  Image The second picture is of them blooming, best used before they bloom.

Ingredients (for one)

1 4-6 oz. mahi mahi fillet

¼-½ tsp Cajun seasoning

2 tsp sweet rice flour

1 tbsp olive oil (I prefer EVOL but use what you have)

1-2 tbsp chopped shallot (or onion)

½ cup zucchini cut in ¼ inch half rounds

1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

½ small lemon; zest and juice

1-2 tbsp. snipped leaves of garlic chives

1 potato

1-2 tsp butter

Directions

Place the mahi mahi fillet on a sheet of wax paper; sprinkle it with some Cajun seasoning; about ¼ tsp.  Sprinkle with 1 tsp sweet rice flour, spread it around with your fingers.  Flip it and do the same thing on the other side of the fillet.   Image

Heat a small to medium Teflon frying pan and add the olive oil.  Slide in the fillet.  Cook for 5 minutes on med high heat.  I used half a shallot, just cutting the peeled bulb into thin half rounds.  As the fish cooks sprinkle the chopped shallots around the fillet and then the zucchini rounds. Stir them often. Keep them moving but not on top of the fish.  Carefully turn the fillet after 5 minutes and cook 4-5 more minutes until it is firm and opaque.  Do not let it burn or overcook. Poke the potato in two places and put in the microwave, cook until done.  Let rest while you finish the fish. At the end of the second cooking place the fish on top of the zucchini and zest the lemon peel on top. I used a zester that makes long skinny strands but you can grate it if you don’t have a zester like mine.  Squeeze the lemon juice all over the fish, add the thyme leaves.  Then add 1-2 tbsp. dry white wine; I used some Italian Bollo pinot grigio I had left in the fridge.  Sometimes I make do with the vermouth I keep in the fridge for cooking purposes.  After the mixture cooks for 10-20 seconds add 2 tbsp water and stir up the zuke.  Sprinkle the pan with the garlic chives; I just snip them with a scissors into the pan.  If you don’t have garlic chives you can use regular chives.  Put a tsp of butter in the pan and allow to melt before serving, Gently stir the veggie mixture to coat it with the melted butter.  Taste the mix and add some sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Place the fish on a plate, spoon the zuke and shallot mixture next to it; be sure to get all the pan juices. I put some of the veggie mixture on my baked potatoes which I had split and seasoned with salt/pepper and 1 tsp. fresh butter.  Dive in to this healthy and GF meal.  The fresh herbs and lemon juice add a lot of flavor and seasoning.  You might add a side salad to round out the meal.  It took me about 14 minutes to pull it together.

You can sub other herbs as long as they are fresh.  Don’t use too much or you will overwhelm the delicate flavor of your fish.  And yes, you can use any fish you like if you don’t have mahi mahi or dislike it for some reason.  I have begun to love shallots as they have a delicate flavor that does not intrude or cover over the other ingredients but if you only have yellow onion that will work fine. Other veggies might work as well but I do suggest you try the recipe unchanged before you start mixing things up!  Image

My camera is missing in action and my tablet camera seems out of order today.  Phone not available either so no picture of this lovely meal.  I will toss up some photos of the ingredients. 

Of course you can make this for 2-4 people; just increase your ingredients accordingly. It is definitely going to be a go to recipe of mine for busy summer evenings particularly when the zucchini crop come in!

An Amazing Book on Making Great Food

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is like second nature to me.  I grew up on a small farm and my parents were crazy gardeners.  When the green beans were ready we would eat gigantic bowls of them and nothing else! When it was strawberry season my mom would make a huge shortcake with an enormous biscuit that filled a turkey platter and was piled nearly a foot high with a second biscuit and hundreds of juice homegrown berries.  Don’t even get me started on the asparagus she served in a cream sauce made with raw milk from our own cows.

So when I saw this book at the library with a bag of veggies and fruits on the cover that talked about reclaiming the nutrients and flavors that have been lost in today’s meals I was hooked before I opened the cover.  It is “Eating on the Wild Side…The Missing Link to Optimum Health” by Jo Robinson.   Image

I read it in about 3 days, couldn’t put it down.  It covers a wide array of fresh produce and categorizes them by plant family; melons, alliums (onions), stone fruits, lettuces and so on.  There is a summary at the end of each section that gives the reader the most salient facts necessary to make good food choices.   This book tells you which varieties have the most nutrients and minerals in them, which to grow in your home garden and how to prepare them to get the most out of your produce, both in flavor and nutrition.  Image

If you are serious about your health and eating right it is incredibly informative.  If you are a vegetarian it ought to be required by law.  I highly recommend it even if you just borrow it at the library like I did and read about the best ways to store, cook and grow vegetables and fruits you will be glad for the great details on what is more nutritious  and why.

There are a few recipes sprinkled through out this volume but it truly is a great reference on getting the most nutrition and eating to feed your body to a new healthier you.  The color of veggies and fruits can be a clue as to what is healthier, how you cook your carrots matters and she tells the best way to freeze foods for enjoying off season.  artichoke

This is such an amazing book, I had to write about it.  It is chock full of surprising plant facts and helpful hints on how to store produce better, prepare it healthier and make better choices in the store.  I promise you will be inspired by it!

Gluten Free Dog Treats…Yummy for Him and Safe for Me!

For a long time I have debated about feeding my dog wheat dog treats. I used to occasionally buy them and I used to make several kinds of homemade dog cookies. Chesse loved them all.

But I worried about contaminating my hands and touching my lips which would be not good at all. I also was uncomfortable with baking wheat products in my kitchen. I had to clean up (a lot!) after each time I made wheat based dog cookies last year.

After much thought I decided to change what snacks I fed him as his dog cookies are held in my hand, unlike they dry dog food which I use a scoop to gather the appropriate amount.  Image

Gluten Free Dog Biscuits

Ingredients:
• 2-3/4 to 3 1/2 cups of wheat and gluten free flour (I use a mixture like this: 1 cup sorghum flour, ½ cup cornmeal, 1 cup white or brown rice flour and 2/3 to 1 cup gf old fashioned oatmeal. You can use whatever flours you prefer

1/2 tsp xanthan gum (optional)
• ½ to 3/4 cup of milk, 1-2 percent
• 1/3 to 1/2 cup of mild olive oil or canola oil
• 2 tablespoons of brown sugar (Optional, I have made it both ways)
• 2 gf stock cubes (any flavor you chose) dissolved in
• 3/4 cup of boiling hot water
• 1/2 cup of grated or finely chopped carrots (1 medium carrot)
• 1 egg

Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 300 F
2. Combine all dry ingredients and add the rest of the ingredients and mix them well either by hand or in a mixer. If it is really sticky add up to ½ cup more of any gf flours you have.
3. Using a large spoon scoop out cookies; approximately 1-2 tbsp.
4. Place onto non-stick baking sheets, smooth the tops with damp fingers and bake for 30 minutes. This recipe usually fills 3 cookie sheets for a total of 38-40 cookies.  I generally leave them in the oven for 30 minutes more after I turn the oven off and crack the door to release some of the heat.Image

Let cool before storing in an airtight container. I like to freeze most of the cookies; leaving out a 4 day supply. The will otherwise spoil before my doggie can eat them.

Now I can serve dog cookies without worrying I will be contaminated while making or handling them. No preservatives and healthy ingredients for your favorite pooch!

Gluten Free Granola to Grin Over!

I recently purchased some gluten free granola that Aldi’s sells; their own brand.  It had freeze dried bits of strawberries and raspberries in it.  I ate some last night as a snack, covered with milk.  It was okay but really kinda pale and bland.  I had not planned to re-post my granola recipe so soon but I really think you can make your own gf granola so easily that it is almost criminal to buy the blah, teeth breaking stuff that stores carry for a premium price.  So I am reposting my recipe.  I myself seldom add much fruit to it; it has so much flavor and crunch just as it is that it rarely occurs to me to throw in the dried fruit.  If you are a dried fruit lover; by all means, add it in!  Image

Finding decently tasty and safe-for-me granola seemed impossible once I went gluten free. I have tried a few gf kinds and they were all less than impressive: tough, lacking in flavor and devoid of any fruit. So, in desperation, I took the recipe that my sister makes all the time and modified it slightly. You can change it to suit your pantry and your tastes. It is lovely with milk and frankly divine sprinkled on Greek yogurt or over unsweetened applesauce!

Homemade GF Granola

4 cups old fashioned GF rolled oats

2 cups shredded coconut, (the sweetened kind that comes in a bag)

1 cup sliced almonds or broken pecans/walnuts

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

¾ cup canola oil

½ cup good quality honey

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the oil and honey in a small bowl. Mix the four other ingredients in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer. Pour over the oil/honey and mix well. Pour onto a full size sheet cookie tray (one that has sides). Spread out to fill the sheet. Bake 35 to 45 minutes, stirring it up a few times, until it is an even golden brown. Remove tray from oven and cool, stirring it occasionally. Store in an airtight container. Note: if you don’t care for sunflower seeds use 2 cups of nuts in any proportion you like.  Be sure to get decent quality honey, I like to get mine at Bechdolt’s Orchard just south of Hellertown on Route 412.  Great flavor and it is the real deal, not watered down or adulterated.

Fruit Additives:

Any combination of the following in these or your own proportions:

1 cup each, diced dried apricots, raisins, dried cherries, dried cranberries, roasted unsalted cashews or any other dried fruit (figs and dates come to mind) totaling about 4 cups. I like to store it without fruit and add them when I am eating it. This way it stays crunchy. I had some this morning with sliced bananas and milk, just a bit of dried cherries added: fabulous flavor.  This batch was made with pecans but any nuts would work well.

I made a batch early this week and put some in a sturdy Tupperware container and froze it. I am not sure how many weeks it will keep on the counter without preservatives but honestly, if real deal granola is sitting around I will be compelled to munch it so I felt it best to store half safely in the freezer out of easy reach! It is rather addictive even all by itself.

Of course, you who can eat gluten just use any old fashioned oatmeal and you will have a fantastic granola for your family to crunch on. Far better than any you can buy and not that expensive compared to store granola especially if you leave off some of the added fruits and nuts. So whip up some granola, it is easy and wickedly tasty.

I found that it kept well in a sealed jar and the rest of it froze fantastically. After my original posting I read somewhere that freezing half your batch is a good idea as it will go stale even stored in a lidded jar.

Originally posted January 2014 on Patch. 

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Shoe Fly Pie to the Rescue!

Sometimes I need a pie and I have no fruit in the house.  What can I make? This is a simple to create pie and very popular in Pennsylvania.  The venerable shoe fly pie…. a Pennsylvania Dutch treat, sweet and crumbly in your mouth.  I took my sister Margie’s recipe that I have used for many years and substituted in my favorite gluten free crust and crumbs.  It worked great and frankly your pie eaters will never know the difference.  Whip some up and your family will be thrilled.  Image

Margie’s Shoe Fly Pie, GF version

Directions 

Make one GF crust; roll out and put in a 9 inch pie pan.  Do not bake.

Crust:

1 c plus 1 tbsp brown rice flour mix (see flour mix recipe)

2 tbsp sweet rice flour

1 Tbps. granulated sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbps. cold butter; cut into 6 chunks

1 large egg

2 tsp fresh orange or lemon juice

Directions:

Spray 9 inch metal pie pan with cooking spray, dust with white rice flour.

Mix dry ingredients in bowl of stand electric mixer.  Add butter and mix until crumbly and resembling coarse meal.  Add egg and juice.  Mix until it comes together into big chunks.  Shape into a ball with your hands. Put it on a crust sized piece of wax paper (14 x 14 inches more or less), flatten the crust ball some; put on top of it another piece of wax paper and chill it a bit in your fridge 15-20 minutes while you make the crumbs.  You can use the same mixer bowl and beater without washing them up.

 

Brown Rice Flour Mix
2 c brown rice flour (make sure it is finely ground)

2/3 c potato starch

1/3 c tapioca flour

 

Crumb topping

1 c brown rice flour mix

½ c sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

1/3 c cold butter cut into six chunks

Put all four ingredients in the same mixing bowl you made the bottom crust in and mix well with mixer paddle until crumbs form.

Roll out chilled pie crust between the two sheets of wax paper; try to get the thickness even, no fat middle! Peel off one side of paper and place in pie pan, try to get it centered.  Peel off other slice of wax paper.  Crimp edges all around.  I do like to use a pie crust bag; can get on Amazon or at King Arthur flour (also on line.)  It works far better than wax paper and I get a lovely even thickness of crust.

Put 1/3 of your crumbs (more or less) in the bottom of the crust.  Pour over the hot filling.  Top with the rest of the crumbs.  Don’t press them into the filling. You don’t need to use all the crumbs; up to you.  I do though!

Filling:

1/2 cup molasses

¾ cup boiling water

Scant ¼ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp baking soda    Image

Put all ingredients in a small mixing bowl. It will foam up when you add the baking soda.  Don’t freak out! If you like a dry bottom pie you can leave out ¼ cup of the water.  Up to you…

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the crumbs are light brown. Let cool an hour or two before cutting.  I like it with a big glass of milk.

Don’t forget the cinnamon, it makes the filling pop.  Image If the pie sinks a touch while cooling, no big deal, it will still taste fantastic.

This is an easy, tasty, gf, made from scratch pie that you can quickly make with the ingredients in your fridge and pantry.  No need to shop for fruit or other fancy filling ingredients.  You get the accolades for serving this classic without all the work of most fruit pies. Now go make a pie!