Domesticity Nouveau

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gluten-Free Bread Recipes ~ Honey Oat and Multi-Grain

Thank goodness for our modern kitchens!  Could you imagine having to make a fire and get your oven just-so before you could make some yummy gluten-free bread?!  No KitchenAid mixer to do the work that would exhaust your arm!?  No dishwasher!??!?!  I'm surprised the woman in the photo looks so happy... maybe she has a martini stashed where we can't see...

This is just another quick post, and unfortunately without pictures to show you how absolutely easy and DEEEE-LICIOUS these gluten-free breads are.  I'm sorry there are no pictures, but please trust me that these breads are wonderful!

I started with the basic gluten-free bread recipe and tweaked things to create two breads I had been missing, honey oat and Dave's Killer Bread.  I think everyone knows about honey oat bread, but if you have not experienced Dave's Killer Bread... oh, boy are you missing it out!  Nuts and seeds, soft and sweet, but not too sweet... heaven!  It truly is worth tracking down the ingredients to make the Multi-Grain recipe below. 

Gluten Free Honey Oat Bread
1 loaf

Dry Ingredients
1 cup sorghum flour
2/3 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup gluten free oat flour
1/3 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup gluten free rolled oats
2 teaspoon instant/quick rise yeast (about 1 packet)
1 teaspoon flake kosher salt
2 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

Wet Ingredients
2 eggs + 2 egg whites, room temperature
1 cup warm water + 2 Tablespoons
3 Tablespoons melted butter, warm but not hot
3 Tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1.  Place all dry ingredients in bowl of heavy duty mixer.  Using paddle attachment, mix on low speed for 2 minutes to combine.
2.  Mix all wet ingredients thoroughly in a separate bowl.
3.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and start mixer on low speed.  Mix for a moment and then scrape down sides.  Mix on medium high speed for 5 minutes, scraping bowl half way through.
4.  While dough is mixing, butter a loaf pan and set aside.
5.  When dough is done mixing, scrape into loaf pan.  Dough will be soft, very unlike traditional wheat based bread.  There is no kneading or additional rising and rest times.
6.  Using a spatula, smoosh dough into pan, making sure to get it into the corners.  Smooth top with spatula.  Cover with a dish towel or greased foil and let rise 30-60 minutes in a warm place (stove top on a cold burner is great) until it reaches the top of the loaf pan.
6.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  You will know when bread is done when it has a golden brown crust and a hollow sound when tapped.
7.  Let rest in loaf pan for 5 minutes, then remove and cool on baking rack.  If you let it sit in the pan too long and steam has made the bottom crust soft, you can place back in the oven, out of the loaf pan, for a few minutes to crisp it again.
8.  Once completely cooled, store in a sealed container or zip top bag and slice as needed.  Storing in the fridge will extend the keeping time of your loaf.
9.  Save the heals and any stale portions in the freezer until you have enough to make your own gluten free bread crumbs by whirling in a food processor until desired consistency.

Gluten Free Multi-Grain Bread
1 loaf of the bom-diggity!!

*Feel free to use whatever seed and nut mixture you prefer.  You will need approximately 3/4 cup combined of chopped nuts and seeds for this recipe. 

Dry Ingredients
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup amaranth flour
1/4 cup teff flour
2/3 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup gluten free oat flour
1/3 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup gluten free rolled oats
2 teaspoon instant/quick rise yeast
1 teaspoon flake kosher salt
2 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

Wet Ingredients
2 eggs + 2 egg whites, room temperature
1 cup warm water + 2 Tablespoons
3 Tablespoons melted butter (warm but not hot) or oil
3 Tablespoons honey, sugar or combination

*Nut and Seed Mixture
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas)
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 Tablespoon flax seed
1/2 Tablespoon Amaranth seed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1.  Place all dry ingredients, along with nut and seed mixture, in bowl of heavy duty mixer.  Using paddle attachment, mix on low speed for 2 minutes to combine.
2.  Mix all wet ingredients thoroughly in a separate bowl.
3.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and start mixer on low speed.  Mix for a moment and then scrape down sides.  Mix on medium high speed for 5 minutes, scraping bowl half way through.
4.  While dough is mixing, butter a loaf pan and set aside.
5.  When dough is done mixing, scrape into loaf pan.  Dough will be soft, very unlike traditional wheat based bread.  There is no kneading or additional rising and rest times.
6.  Using a spatula, smoosh dough into pan, making sure to get it into the corners.  Smooth top with spatula.  Cover with a dish towel or greased foil and let rise 30-60 minutes in a warm place (stove top on a cold burner is great) until it reaches the top of the loaf pan.
6.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  You will know when bread is done when it has a golden brown crust and a hollow sound when tapped.
7.  Let rest in loaf pan for 5 minutes, then remove and cool on baking rack.  If you let it sit in the pan too long and steam has made the bottom crust soft, you can place back in the oven, out of the loaf pan, for a few minutes to crisp it again.
8.  Once completely cooled, store in a sealed container or zip top bag and slice as needed.  Storing in the fridge will extend the keeping time of your loaf.
9.  Save the heals and any stale portions in the freezer until you have enough to make your own gluten free bread crumbs by whirling in a food processor until desired consistency.

Note:  If you like these bread recipes and want to make up a few jars or bags of mix for quicker use in the future, place all dry ingredients in container except for yeast, seeds and nuts;  a quart size canning jar works great.  Label and add a note with remaining ingredients to be added and instructions for mixing and baking; store in a cool, dry, dark place.  The most time consuming part of making gluten free bread is measuring all the ingredients.

Happy Baking!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gluten-Free Cornbread

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and the questions of stuffing (or is it dressing?) and being gluten-free come about.  If you make a bread stuffing, you have lots of good options to make your bread cubes from, like this basic gluten-free bread recipe, or some of the store brands which have greatly improved over the years.  Finding a good gluten-free cornbread recipe is key if your family makes a cornbread stuffing.

This cornbread recipe is GREAT!  You can see in the photos that it is moist and tender crumbed, what you can't experience is just how darn tasty it is!

This is a quick post, without the normal Q&A.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will get back to you as quickly as I can.

Gluten Free Buttermilk Cornbread
1 12” cast iron skillet or 9x13 baking dish or 24 muffins

Dry Ingredients
1 1/3 cups gluten free flour blend
2/3 cup oat flour
2 cup cornmeal
1/2 to 1 cup sugar or honey, to taste
1 tsp xanthan gum or guar gum
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 Tbsp buttermilk powder**

Wet Ingredients
1 cup butter, melted and cooled
4 eggs
2 cups water**

**can use 2 cups buttermilk in place of water and buttermilk powder.  Buttermilk powder can be found near the powdered milk in the baking section of your local market.  It is super handy to have on hand!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place cast iron skillet in oven to preheat as well.

1.  Measure all dry ingredients into a large bowl and whisk well to mix.
2.  Make sure butter has cooled sufficiently to not cook eggs and mix with eggs and water.
3.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until combined with a few small lumps remaining.
4.  Remove cast iron skillet from oven and fill with batter or pour batter into a buttered baking dish or divide batter into muffin cups.
5.  Bake cast iron skillet or baking dish for 30-40 minutes; muffins take much less time, start checking at 15-20 minutes.  Cornbread is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
6.  Leftovers freeze well.  Cool completely, wrap in foil and then place in a zip top bag.  This recipe is easily cut in half for a smaller batch.

Note:  If you like this cornbread and want to make up a few jars or bags of mix for quicker use in the future, place all dry ingredients in container, a quart size canning jar works great.  Label and add a note with remaining ingredients to be added and instructions for mixing and baking; store in a cool, dry, dark place. 

Happy Baking!

Gluten-free Flour Blend

It's been a while since I have done any gluten-free baking, but with the holidays coming up, I know a lot of you are looking forward to baking up some gluten-free goodies.

Finding the right flour mix was a challenge!  I tried some that had bean flour in them and they sat like a lump in my tummy and digested just like beans are known to do... that wasn't fun for anyone!  Some were grainy and gritty, others were just a bunch of starch that got gummy.

Somewhere along the journey I stumbled across enough recipes and information to come up with the blend below.  It substitutes straight across to *most* baking recipes that call for wheat flour, meaning you can use it cup for cup in your favorite family cookie recipe.  Make sure to add in the appropriate amount of xanthan gum or guar gum to mimic the missing gluten.

The sorghum flour really was the key to having a great gluten-free flour.  It is lighter than rice flour and doesn't have the grittiness that rice flour sometimes imparts.  It adds a slight hint of sweetness that mimics the sweetness in wheat flours, bringing the flavor closer to what we remember from wheat based goodies.  If you want to play around with it in recipes, you can swap it out cup for cup with rice flour.

No Q&A on this post, just wanted to slap it up for those who are going to need it in the next week!  If you have any questions that need an answer, leave me a comment and I'll get back to you as soon as I can!  Leave a message at the beep.....

Gluten Free Flour Mix
6 cups

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
2 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1 1/3 cups potato starch
2/3 cup tapioca starch

Mix all together thoroughly and store in a cool, dry, dark place such as the freezer or a cupboard away from the stove.  Use cup for cup in recipes calling for all purpose flour.  You will need to add xanthan gum or guar gum to your recipes to mimic gluten properties for proper baking.  Feel free to use white rice flour if you prefer it over the brown rice flour.

Per 1 cup of gluten free flour used in a recipe:

Cookies            1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
Cakes or muffins    1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
Quick breads        3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
Yeast breads        1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
Pizza crust        2 teaspoons xanthan gum

To make up smaller or larger batches of this mix, I did the hard math and here are the calculations for your ease and pleasure... yeah, I know that was awesome of me!

18 Cups Gluten Free Flour Mix
4 1/2 cups brown rice flour
7 1/2 cups sorghum flour
4 cups potato starch
2 cups tapioca starch

12 Cups Gluten Free Flour Mix
3 cups brown rice flour
5 cups sorghum flour
2 2/3 cups potato starch
1 1/3 cups tapioca starch

3 Cups Gluten Free Flour Mix
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1 1/4 cups sorghum flour
2/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca starch

2+ Cups Gluten Free Flour Mix
1/2 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup + 2Tbsp sorghum flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 tapioca starch
*(slightly more than 2 cups)

1+ Cup Gluten Free Flour Mix
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup potato starch
2 Tablespoons tapioca starch
*(slightly more than 1 cup)

Happy Baking!!
Don't forget to stir in the Love!

Spinach Artichoke Dip

I love the spicy spinach artichoke dip that Costco sells, but I don’t love all the wonky ingredients.  I could get on my soap box and rant about all that, but I know you really want a good recipe instead.

I looked through many different recipes, broke them down and rebuilt a recipe that suited my cupboard ingredients.  The base is very simple and you could easily change out any of the ingredients and customize the flavors to your preferences.  Maybe you would prefer caramelized onions and bacon instead of artichokes... mmmmm, bacon....

I'm looking forward to digging into some more of this cheesy, gooey, loveliness on Thanksgiving!  You can easily make this the day ahead, stash it in the fridge and bake it up the next day.... just make sure to let it come to room temperature for about 30 minutes first.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
8 oz package of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup of mayonnaise
1 cup grated parmesan
1 1/2 cup grated mozzarella or jack
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 4oz can diced green chilis

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients, except artichokes, together with hand mixer, keeping back a bit of the cheese to sprinkle on top.  Once combined, mix in the artichoke hearts with a spoon or rubber spatula.  Place in baking dish and top with cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until bubbling and the cheese on top is browned. 

Here we go with another round of questions...

Can I use marinated artichoke hearts or frozen?
Absolutely.  The marinated ‘chokes will carry the flavor of the marinade with them into the dip and that could be really delicious!  My grocery market had the plain canned ones on sale, so that is what I went with.  When I first made this, I didn’t chop the artichokes and they proved to be too big for a dip, but just fine as a topping for a burger.  I have a hard time finding frozen artichokes in my area, but I have seen them before.  Make sure they are thawed and well drained if this is the route you take.

How do I drain spinach?
Place the frozen spinach in a sieve to thaw and drain a bit.  The easiest way to get the moisture out of the spinach is to squeeze it tightly in your hands.  Some people prefer to put the thawed spinach in a clean dish towel  and squeeze it tightly.  That makes laundry.  I don’t like laundry.  Squeezing with your hands gets you in touch with your food and your hands wash easily.

Do I have to use mayonnaise?
I saw many recipes that had 50/50 sour cream, mayonnaise base.  I didn’t have any sour cream, so I just made a batch of mayonnaise and called it good.  The sour cream would add a nice tang to the dip and I think I will try it the next time I whip this up, which will be for Thanksgiving!

About the parmesan cheese... is it okay if I use the stuff in the green container?
Of course, your kitchen, your rules.  That’s all I had on hand, so I went with it.  I know that the real stuff, in shreds or grated would be MUCH better!  You have to work with what you have... if you have romano cheese on hand, use that.

Which is better, mozzarella or jack?
It depends on which you prefer, both are mild cheeses that get gooey when heated.  You could really spice things up and use some pepper jack cheese or Crimson Fire from the WSU cheese heaven.  Maybe swap it out for some gorgonzola or bleu cheese or plain ol’ cheddar.  Every cheese brings something different to the party.  The base is the mayonnaise and cream cheese, everything else is negotiable.

I don’t like a lot of spiciness, are green chilis really hot?
Green chilis are fairly mild.  I will be adding in some jalapeno in future recipes because I like more of a kick!  Keep in mind that the dairy in the recipe tempers the heat of the peppers a bit.  The chilis or peppers are completely optional, feel free to leave them out.  You could change things up anyway you like... maybe some cranberries and goat cheese with some walnuts tossed in, or bacon and cheddar, or roasted garlic and bacon, or...

What size dish do I use?
I used an 6 cup soufflé dish because it was a brand new gift and I wanted to play with it!  An 8x8 baking dish or a loaf pan or a 9” cake pan or 10” pie plate or anything that will hold about 4-6 cups.  You could even do this in a slow cooker, just increase the time needed for everything to get all gooey together!  The thinner the layer is in the pan, the less time it will need to get all melded together, the deeper the layer the more time.  Take a peak part way through the cooking time to see how things are going and adjust accordingly.

What do I serve this with?
I topped burgers with this delicious, creamy goo and it was MARVELOUS!  A vegetable tray would be lovely for those who don’t eat grains.  Of course crackers, pita chips, corn chips etc for those who do eat grains.  My personal favorite delivery device is a spork... nothing but a spork to interfere with the creamy deliciousness!

Happy Cooking!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Marinated Mushrooms

These wonderful marinated mushrooms would be a welcome appetizer or snack at any party!  With the holiday season coming around, it is the perfect time to learn a quick and easy recipe that you can bring to your gatherings.  They also make a great topping for salads or a side dish to a steak!

When I have to travel, I pack a cooler full of fun picnic type foods.  It is difficult to be assured that I can find gluten-free foods on the road, so I just eliminate any potential of being ill (or hungry!) on a road trip by planning ahead.  It also saves money and is much higher quality!

I like to try some new sort of treat for each trip and this time I went for marinated mushrooms.  They are one of my favorite options at the high priced olive bars and I knew they had to be easy and cheaper to make, so I dug through a bunch of recipes and melded them together.

The base is oil and vinegar with seasonings and salt.  The salt helps draw the moisture out of the ‘shrooms and ups the flavor.  Don’t be intimidated by the heavy hand of salt in the recipe, in no way does it create mushroom salt licks!  Since the simplicity of this recipe is a vinaigrette dressing, you could potentially use a bottled salad dressing, but the few moments of whipping together a JERF version makes this MARVELOUS!, rather than just good.

My husband always teases me about all the jars I save, but when I make something as tasty as this, it justifies my jar obsession!  The best part of this recipe is it can all be made in one jar (or bowl), leaving you with minimum dishes to wash!  I love a lazy recipe.

Marinated Mushrooms

1 lb button mushrooms
1 red pepper
2/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp dried lemon zest
1 tsp Italian herbs
1 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp kosher flake salt
Fresh ground pepper

Mix all but mushrooms and peppers together.  Slice red pepper into bite size strips and if necessary, quarter or halve mushrooms into bite size pieces.  Add mushrooms and peppers to marinade, stir (or shake) to get everything covered with goodness and let sit in the refrigerator at least one hour, preferably overnight. 

Questions, questions, who has questions?!

Do I have to use olive oil?
Nope, but it is the best option for getting a really good flavor!  This is a time to use your good extra virgin olive oil so that the flavor really shines.  If you can’t bear to part with 2/3 cups of your good stuff, go half and half with your fancy stuff and your common use oil.  You can really use any oil you want, but remember that the flavor is going to greatly influence the end results.

Why two vinegars?
I like balsamic vinegar.  A lot.  However, it is a strong flavor and can overwhelm everything else in a dish.  To get a good balance of yummy balsamic flavor, I decided to cut the super punch of the balsamic with milder white wine vinegar.  You can use any vinegar you would like in the amount of 1/4 cup, but just like the oil, the vinegar is a predominant flavor against the subtle mushrooms.  You could even use juice from your jar of pickled peppers.  That would really spice things up!

I don’t like red peppers, do I have to use them?
Of course not!  You can use any vegetables you like!  Carrots, green beans, asparagus, cauliflower, green peppers  Throw in some Kalamata olives or pepperonicis.  Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and Brussels spouts will likely impart an unpleasant flavor, so avoid those in the mix.  I came across several recipes that even used leftover steamed and roasted veggies in the marinade mix!   Talk about changing up your leftovers!

How do I clean mushrooms?
You can either wipe them clean with a paper towel, rinse them under running water or give them a quick swish in a bowl of water.  There is always debate over which way is best.  Soaking mushrooms for any length of time in water will effect them, but a quick rinse or swish under water isn't going to make any impact in my experience.  I'm cheap, so I don't like to waste my paper towels on mushrooms.  I used white mushrooms for this recipe, but crimini should work well, too.  I prefer to save the fancy expensive mushrooms for a recipe where they shine... the vinaigrette of marinated mushrooms would overpower the delicate loveliness of some of the more expensive gourmet 'shrooms.

Just mix it all up in a jar to save doing dishes!
What about the seasonings?
You can season the mix however you prefer.  The base is the oil, vinegar and salt.  Everything else is going to change up the flavor.  Try Greek seasoning in place of the Italian or maybe some Herbes de Provence.  Use orange zest in place of lemon zest.    Leave out the Aleppo pepper, or make it extra spicy with diced jalapeno instead.  Try a 1/4 cup of diced red onion in place of the shallot.  There are so many ways to customize this recipe, just keep the oil, vinegar, salt ratio and season as desired.

I don’t have dried lemon zest, how much fresh should I use?
I adore Penzeys’ dried lemon zest!  I never remember to buy lemons at the market and at 10 p.m. the last thing I want to do is run out for a lemon.  If you happen to be more on your game than me and have a fresh lemon, you’ll want about a teaspoon of fresh zest.

Before marinating overnight
Do I have to make it in a jar?
Of course not!  You can make this in any vessel you chose.  I just chose a jar because it was handy.  I do start the jar out upside down so the marinade gets a chance to make friends with the mushrooms on the top, and then flip it part way through.  You can make this in any bowl or dish, giving a stir if needed to get all the 'shrooms a chance to make nice with the lovely flavors of the liquid.

There is a lot less marinade in the jar than my mushrooms.  Is that okay?
As the mushrooms sit for a while, the salt will pull the moisture from them and they will shrink a bit.  I put my jar in the refrigerator upside down for a while and then turn it right side up before going to bed.  That lets the top mushrooms get a good soaking before the bottom mushrooms get to linger in the lovely juice.  As they sit for a while the liquid will increase in volume.  Make sure you have a jar with a lid you trust before storing it upside down!  No one wants a mess in their fridge!  If in doubt, or simply extra cautious, place the jar in a small bowl... just in case.

After marinating overnight
Now that they have sat, I have A LOT of marinade... what else can I do with it?
When you serve your mushrooms, drain off the marinade and save it for your next salad.  It is now a mushroom and pepper infused Italian vinaigrette dressing!  You can add a dollop of Dijon mustard and whisk away till your reach salad dressing heaven. 

Happy Marinating!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sugar-free, Gluten-free, Teriyaki Jerky and Marinade

Beef jerky has always been one of my favorite snack foods, but trying to find a sugar-free version to buy left me empty handed, hungry, and on the verge of tears. 

Teriyaki has always been one of my husband’s favorite sauces and flavorings, but trying to find it sugar-free left him with an empty bento bowl, hungry, and maybe a little ticked off at my attempts to get us healthy by eliminating sugar from our diets.

While sugar and honey are commonly used to provide the sweet factor in teriyaki, I went with stevia extract powder.  A lot of people do not care for stevia, and I understand.  In large quantities it can have a licorice-type back note which is really unflattering to desserts (licorice cheesecake – YUCK!) but in savory dishes and used moderately, that back note disappears or blends in perfectly.  Different brands have different expressions of the aftertaste and you may find that you prefer one over another. 

Since my household has been sugar-free for the better part of a year, our palettes have changed.  Things I never found to be sweet in the past are almost candy-sweet now, i.e. roasted carrots or cauliflower.  If you are just embarking on the sugar-free path, you may find that your experience of sweet will change, too. 

I came up with the recipe to make beef jerky, but when I found myself with more beef strips than would fit in the dehydrator it quickly became apparent that it is also a fabulous recipe for stir-fry marinade!

Sugar-free, Gluten-free, Teriyaki Jerky and Marinade

4-5# lean beef, sliced 1/8 inch strips
1/4 tsp stevia extract powder
1 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
12 cloves garlic
1/2 medium sweet onion
1 cup tamari
1/2 cup rice vinegar
3/4 tsp kosher flake salt
1/2 tsp liquid smoke (optional)

Slice beef and place in zip top bag.  Place all other ingredients in food processor and run until onion and garlic are liquefied.  Pour marinade over beef strips and place in fridge overnight.  Drain marinade from meat and lay strips, without touching, onto dehydrator trays.  Dehydrate 8-16 hours until leathery, but not brittle.  Store in the fridge or freezer.

It’s time to play questions!

Can I just use this as a marinade?
If you aren’t up for making jerky, this makes a fantastic marinade for a teriyaki stir-fry.  You can easily cut the recipe in half and use it for any chicken, beef, or pork of your choosing.  Because there is no sugar, the sauce will be thinner and less like the sticky glaze that is characteristic of commercial teriyaki, but the flavor will satisfy a craving while keeping you sugar-free.

What type of beef do you use?
Any lean cut of beef will work.  My local market often has petite sirloin on sale so that is what I commonly use.  I freeze (or thaw if pulling from the freezer) until the meat is halfway frozen, not completely solid, but not squishy to make slicing easier.  Trim off as much of the fat as you can, it doesn’t dehydrate like the meat and can become rancid in storage.  You want to cut with the grain of the meat to get that chewy, stringy jerky texture.  As best you can, make all your slices even in thickness so they dehydrate at the same rate.  If some are thin and some are thick you run the risk of over drying some pieces to brittle cardboard and under drying the others.

Do I have to use stevia?
Of course not.  Feel free to use whatever sweetener you desire to the equivalent of 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar.  Different sweeteners will impart different flavors to your marinade.  Start with less and taste the marinade before it comes in contact with the meat; adjust as necessary, but remember the sweet will concentrate a bit during dehydration.

Can I use garlic and/or onion powder?
Yes, but you might need to add a bit of water, like 1/4 cup to make up for the liquid that the fresh onion contributes.  2 Tbsp garlic powder and 3-4 Tbsp onion powder should translate to the same flavor that the fresh offers.  Every manufacturer's potency of garlic and onion powder differs, so you might need to play with it a bit; keeping in mind that like sweet, you can always add, you can’t take it back out.

What is tamari?
Tamari is a fermented soy product that is almost identical in flavor to soy sauce, without having wheat as an ingredient.  Make sure you read your labels, as I have crossed paths with some tamari that contains wheat.

What kind of dehydrator do you use?
I use a 12 year old Magic Chef dehydrator.  Yeah, it is kind of ghetto and cheap, but it works GREAT!  There are a variety of models on the market that range from reasonably priced to needing to take out a second mortgage on your house.  Each and every one will operate slightly different, and when combined with the humidity of your house and thickness of your beef slices, the time needed to create your meat leather is going to vary widely.  I rotate my trays part way through the process, but I don’t think it is necessary; I just can’t help but fuss.  You can also dehydrate in your oven at 150 degrees for 8-16 hours.  Place your strips of beef across wire racks on cookie sheets and then into the oven.

How do I know when it is done?
If it is floppy, it is not done.  If it cracks like a corn chip, it is overdone.  Inevitably some of your slices will be thinner or thicker than others, so you might need to pull some of the thinner slices before the thicker slices are done.  You are shooting for flexible and leathery strips.  After it all sits for a day or so in a zip top bag, the moisture tends to even out and some of the strips that maybe got a little too dry will steal some moisture from the others and improve in texture.  If after resting for a day, any of the jerky seems underdone, place back in the dehydrator and continue to dry.  With experience and practice you’ll get to know your dehydrator/oven and how long it takes to get the perfect leathery jerky.

How do I store the jerky?
Although jerky should be just fine in a closed container on the counter, I prefer to keep mine in the fridge and freezer just to add an extra ounce of prevention.  Remember that this is a JERF food product and since it isn’t full of all the chemicals and preservatives that grocery market jerky has, it is subject to eventual spoilage.  The sodium in the tamari and salt greatly help with preventing nasty bacteria, but be smart about your food: if it smells bad or gets slimy or moldy, pitch it to the curb.  Jerky seldom sticks around very long in our house, a couple of weeks at the most, so I can’t tell you precisely how long you can expect it to last, but I suspect you will gobble it all up before you even have to question if it is still good!

Happy Dehydrating!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Spiced Chocolate Pumpkin Custard

After a few days of pumpkin custard, I was wanting chocolate pudding.  Good Chocolate pudding.  Not just a “healthy” attempt at chocolate pudding.

I really didn’t want to disrupt my lazy and create something new, so I worked with what was already great, the pumpkin custard recipe.  I was hoping that chocolate was a strong enough flavor to dominate the pumpkin and coconut.  Thankfully it is!  I was worried that this would be a strange combo, but it is surprisingly perfectly chocolaty... mmmmmmmmm, chocolate, mmmmmmmm....

Spiced Chocolate Pumpkin Custard

Sugar-free, Dairy-free, Gluten-free

1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp kosher flake salt
3/8 tsp stevia extract powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
15 oz can pumpkin puree
14 oz can coconut milk
Optional: pinch of ground chipotle

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, stevia powder, and chipotle if using,  in small dish, set aside.  Beat eggs and vanilla in large bowl, stir in pumpkin and spices.  Stir in coconut milk.  Place Six 4oz ramekins, lightly greased with coconut oil, in baking dish and fill with custard mix.  Pour 1 inch boiling water into baking dish around ramekins and bake at 350 degrees  for 25 minutes, until still a bit wobbly in the center.  Remove from oven and immediately take out of the water bath and set on a rack to cool.  Serve warm or chilled, with or without a dusting of cinnamon.

I’m going to refer you to the original Pumpkin Custard post for the majority of today’s questions and answers, but there are a few points that deserve attention...

The original recipe I came up with mimicked a pumpkin pie recipe in starting at one oven temperature and then reducing to a lower temperature part way through cooking.  This is WAY too complicated for this lazy cook, so I took a gamble and went for one temperature for the entire cooking time.  The gamble paid out and this is soooo much easier! 

I boosted the stevia just a wee bit to accommodate for the bitterness of cocoa powder.  Combined with the natural sweetness of the coconut milk and pumpkin there is a perfect balance.  Of course, we don’t eat a lot of sweet foods and haven’t had sugar for most of this year, so our palettes may be different than those that are accustomed to a lot of sweet.  If you are using an alternative sweetener, such as honey or sugar or maple syrup, etc, you will want to start with 1/3 cup, taste and adjust as needed.

I’m thinking next I might switch this chocolate version up a bit with orange extract or zest, or maybe some almond extract and toasted almond slivers, or maybe some fresh raspberries, or.... so many chocolate possibilities!

Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pumpkin Custard

Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Sugar-free Pumpkin Custard

I have been craving pumpkin pie lately, but really didn’t want to go to the effort of trying recipes for grain free crusts, being the lazy cook that I am.  And really, it was a yearning for the filling that I wanted to satiate, not some need to replicate pie dough. 

I wanted that traditional pumpkin pie flavor, nothing fancy and ‘gourmet’, just good ol’ pumpkin pie.  My family has always used the Libby’s brand pumpkin pie filling, so I went to their recipe, tweaked things a bit to fit our dietary desires and below are the results.

I am in pumpkin pie heaven and I hope you are, too... get out your sporks and dig in!

Pumpkin Custard
Sugar-free, Dairy-free, Gluten-free

1/4 tsp stevia powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1 tsp kosher flake salt
2 large eggs
15 oz can pumpkin purée
14 oz can coconut milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix stevia, salt & spices in small dish, set aside.  Beat eggs in large bowl, stir in pumpkin and spices.  Stir in coconut milk.  Place Six 4oz ramekins, lightly greased with coconut oil, in baking dish and fill with custard mix.  Pour 1 inch boiling water into baking dish around ramekins and bake at 425 for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 bake 15-20 minutes, until still a bit wobbly in the center.  Turn oven off, crack door and let rest 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately take out of the water bath and set on a rack to cool.  Serve warm or chilled, with or without whipped cream.

(11/5/2011 edit:  Check out the Spiced Chocolate Version and alternative baking method!)

Here we go with another round of Q and A...

I don’t have stevia powder, can I use something else?
You can use whatever sweetener of choice you would desire in the amount you desire.  The original recipe from Libby’s called for 3/4 cup sugar.  The 1/4 tsp of stevia powder is equivalent to about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sugar in sweetness.  Feel free to use sugar, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, etc from 1/4 to 3/4 cups.  The coconut milk has quite a bit of sweetness to it, which is why I was able to cut back on how much sweetness needed to be added.

Can I just use pumpkin pie spice instead of the spices listed?
Sure, that would be much easier!  You will need 2 1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice instead of the individually listed spices.  Libby’s recipe doesn’t call for nutmeg, but I thought a little bit would add a nice touch.  Freshly grated nutmeg tastes quite different than ground nutmeg from the jar.  You don’t need a fancy nutmeg grating contraption, simply use a microplane to grate however much you desire from the whole nutmegs.  Whole nutmegs keep for a very long time compared to ground nutmeg.

I don’t have kosher flake salt, can I use table salt?
Of course you can, just cut the measurement to 1/2 tsp salt.

I don’t have a mixer, can I do this by hand?
You sure can.  I hadn’t used Betsy (my Kitchenaid mixer) in a while.  It was probably a bit of overkill in the power tool department for this recipe, but I missed her.  The coconut milk doesn’t mix in quite as easily as the original recipe's choice of condensed milk, but that just means you get more of a workout whisking it in.

Won’t this taste like coconut because of all that coconut milk?
Surprisingly not!  I always worry about that in recipes that substitute coconut milk.  I think pumpkin and all the spices are much stronger flavors and why this works.  For those of you new to coconut milk, it tends to form a thick, hearty layer on top, with a thin watery layer on the bottom.  This often results in me trying to pry the thick layer out of the can while simultaneously applying enough force for the watery layer to come squirting out and dousing my face with coconut liquid.  If I was smart, I would remember this each time and slide a knife down the side and into the thick layer so I could gently pour out the thinner liquid without the mess, then remove the thick layer.  Unfortunately, I forget this most times.  If you happen to lose a little of the thin liquid because of this, don’t worry, it will still turn out fine!

Do I have to use coconut milk?
Of course not.  If you are not worried about dairy-free or the additives in condensed milk, feel free to use a 12 oz can of condensed milk as the original recipe calls for.  I decided to go with the coconut milk because I could use less stevia to sweeten the recipe and am trying to avoid as many additives in food as possible.  I have nothing against dairy in general, but try to use it in as whole a form, without additives, as I can.  Too much stevia can sometimes have a back-note on the palette that is unpleasant.  It works in recipes where a subtle and mild fennel/licorice type flavor isn’t noticed or is complimentary, but not so much in desserts.  The Kal Pure Stevia Powder has the least of this back-note in my experience, but it is still there when used in amounts necessary for some sweets.  Thankfully it works perfectly with this pumpkin custard recipe!

I don’t have coconut oil, what else can I grease the ramekins with?
You can use whatever fat of choice you would prefer, just make sure it is a flavor you would like with pumpkin pie... olive oil, not so much, walnut oil, much better.  Palm shortening and butter would work well, but avoid the butter if you are trying to keep this dairy-free.

Do I have to use ramekins?
You can use whatever vessel you desire, the baking time will just need to be adjusted.  You could even pour this into a pie plate (with or without your crust of choice) and bake.  The original Libby’s recipe calls for baking a pie at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes.  I like the ramekins because they are cute and I won’t eat the whole recipe in one sitting while hiding in the closet with my spork.

What’s with the boiling water?
It’s called a water bath and it helps to keep smaller portions from overcooking and drying out.  I thought about skipping this traditional step in custard making, but I’m glad I didn’t.  I really think it helped to make this treat creamy, light and moist.  Be careful when moving to and from the oven so you don’t slosh yourself or your treats with scalding water!

What does wobbly in the center mean?
When the final timer goes off, give the baking dish a little wiggle and you should see the custard jiggle but not slosh like it does before baking.  Before you start the baking, give a filled ramekin a little nudge to see how it moves so you have something to compare with when deciding if baking is complete.

How do I get the ramekins out of the hot water and baking dish?
I used a solid pair of tongs.  Make sure you have a sturdy grip on the little dishes as it would be a shame for them to slip from your tongs and splash back into the water bath!  If you are unsure of your tongs, or just don’t have any, carefully do this with a pot holder.  You need to remove the ramekins immediately because the water bath will continue to cook the custard since it is very, very hot.  I placed mine on a cooling rack so that air could circulate and cool all the sides evenly, assuring the bottoms did not retain heat and overcook.  Once at room temperature, you can place them in the fridge to chill if that is how you plan to serve.

How do I make whipped cream?
Whipped cream happens when the fat in the cream surround the air you mix into it.  In order for this to happen you need everything very cold.  Think about the difference between cold butter and room temperature butter; the room temperature butter is soft and doesn’t hold its shape as well, the same thing applies to the fats in liquid cream.  Pour your cold heavy whipping cream into a chilled bowl and add sweetener of choice.  Using a chilled whisk or chilled mixer beaters, whip at a high speed until it doubles in volume and holds its shape.  Be cautious not to over whip or you end up with butter or buttery textured whipped cream.  To keep this sugar free, I used Sweet Leaf Vanilla Cream liquid stevia to sweeten the whipping cream.  I hear you can whip coconut milk the same way, but have yet to try that.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sugar-free Canadian Bacon

Friends of mine who have hearts in Canada will probably argue that this is not true Canadian Bacon, which I hear is rolled in corn/pea meal and quite different from the American thoughts on Canadian Bacon.  Some may argue that this is more like ham.  Some may say this is spot on.  Others may debate smoking the cured meat or leaving it to just a simple low and slow oven roast.  Regardless, this is some tasty tasty meat!!

Curing your own meat at home sounds intimidating to some people, but if it wasn’t a lazy activity, I promise I wouldn’t be doing it.  Charcuterie is the fancy term for curing meat, and it is also the title of a FANTASTIC book by Michael Ruhlman.  If you are at all interested in meat preservation, sausage making, and many other gourmet meat treats I can’t suggest this book highly enough!

Sweetener is a necessary part of many cured meat products because it balances the extreme saltiness needed for preservation of meat.  I looked everywhere for sugar-free bacon and sugar-free Canadian bacon but couldn’t find it; so of course, I figured it out on my own.   Stevia powder works great for this!  I am wary of artificial sweeteners.  There is a lot of research out there and it is conflicting, so we just avoid them when possible.  Also, I was unsure if there would be any bizarre chemical reactions between the sodium nitrite essential to the curing process and the chemicals in the artificial sweeteners.

While sugar-free was my main concern, many more people flip their lids over nitrites and nitrates.  There is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to this subject.  Nitrites are essential for making that cured meat flavor, pink color and keeping meat safely preserved (botulism is no fun!).  Unfortunately, they have an undeserved bad reputation.  “Spinach, beets, radishes, celery, and cabbages are among the vegetables that generally contain very high concentrations of nitrates (J. Food Sci., 52:1632). The nitrate content of vegetables is affected by maturity, soil conditions, fertilizer, variety, etc. It has been estimated that 10 percent of the human exposure to nitrite in the digestive tract comes from cured meats and 90 percent comes from vegetables and other sources.  Did you get that?  Vegetables, not cured meat, are the main source of nitrates in our diet.

“Uncured” bacon that you see in the market falls into a marketing & USDA labeling gray zone.  Because sodium nitrate/nitrite is not directly added to the process it cannot be labeled as a cured meat.  The fact that naturally occurring nitrates in vegetables are used as the curing medium is quietly dismissed since it allows marketing folks to create an illusion of a healthier product and charge more.  Applegate Farms is one of the companies that is more honest about the nitrite/nitrate issue and has an excellent FAQ explaining the differences.

Long before you could go to to order your sodium nitrite, saltpeter (AKA potassium nitrite) was used for the curing process.  Saltpeter is also an ingredient in fireworks and gun powder and was traditionally created through a process that involves mixing urine (or manure), straw and wood ash.  Even though I am very much a DIY gal, I don’t see myself harvesting urine to make saltpeter anytime soon. 

Modern meat curing relies on sodium nitrite, which also goes by the names of Instacure #1, Prague Powder #1, DQ Cure #1, DC Curing Salt, Pink Salt and a few other names.  It is dyed pink so as to avoid any accidental confusion with regular salt (it is the nitrite, not the dye that gives cured meat its recognizable pink color).  It is mainly made up of salt as a carrier for the small amount of nitrite.  It is available from many sources:  Amazon, Butcher and Packer, The Meadow and a variety of other places.  Prices are all over the board for the same product, shop smartly!

Much more can be written about curing meat and nitrates, but I’m more interested in getting to the actual simplicity of the recipe instead of the complexity of the science and health arguments.  If you are interested, you can read more here:
Nitrite in Meat
Meat Curing Safety Issues
The No Nitrites Added Hoax
REPORT 9 OF THE COUNCIL ON SCIENTIFIC AFFAIRS (A-04), Labeling of Nitrite Content of Processed Foods

Sugar-free Canadian Bacon


8-10 pound whole pork loin
1 gallon of water
12 oz Salt
1.5 oz Prague Powder #1
1.5 tsp Pure Stevia Powder
8 Bay leaves
1/4 cup dried rubbed sage
1 Tbsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp black peppercorns

Combine all but pork in a large pot over high heat until dissolved, and then chill completely.  Submerge pork loin fully in brine for 48 hours.  Remove from brine, rinse and dry thoroughly.  Allow to rest on rack in fridge 12-24 hours, uncovered.  Hot smoke and/or low roast in 200 to 250 degree oven until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees.  Refrigerate completed pork up to 2 weeks, or portion as desired and freeze for future use.

Certainly you have questions!

Do I need to make 10 pounds!?
You can easily cut this recipe in half or a quarter.  I prefer to go all out with ten pounds since that is the size of one whole loin, it freezes well and it is just as much work to make 10 pounds as 2 pounds.  Make sure to get a pork loin that is just meat, not something that has been infused with a solution.  I haven’t tried this recipe with pork tenderloin, but considering that the tenderloin is part of the whole loin, it should work just fine.  You will need to cut a whole loin into 3-4 pieces to be able to fit into a container with brine.

How many cups is 1 gallon of water?
16 cups is one gallon.  When dissolving the salts in the water, you can speed the chilling process by using only 1/2 the water and adding in the remaining water (in the form of ice or cold water) once the salts are dissolved.  It isn’t necessary to bring the brine to a full boil, just heat and stir until everything is dissolved.  I start the brine in the morning and let it cool to room temperature by the afternoon.  Once at room temperature, I stick it in the fridge to cool even further.  The key is that you don’t want to be putting raw meat into hot brine.  Once it is cool by evening, I then submerge the loin in the brine.  This sets me up for the time schedule to take the pork out in a couple of nights for an overnight drying in the fridge and then to start smoking the next morning. 

What size pot do I use?
You need one that will hold all your brine and all your pork loin.  I use an 8 quart stock pot which is just about perfect.  Depending on the size of the pork loin, I might need to pour off a small amount of the brine, just so it isn’t filled to the brim and spilling as I move it to the fridge.  Make sure to use a non-reactive container, glass or stainless steel is best, cast iron and aluminum are not for this project.

Do I have to weigh the salt?
Yes.  Different grinds of salt, when measured by volume, have different weights, i.e. light and fluffy kosher salt vs super-fine salt.  The only way to assure that you have a safe amount of salt in your brine is to weigh it.  You can use whatever salt you would like, provided it has no fillers or anti-caking agents or other additives.  Diamond brand Kosher Flake Salt or Morton’s Canning and Pickling Salt are two that I have used with great results.  The key is that the only ingredient should be salt.  Save your fancy sea salts and finishing salts for another project.
I don’t like sage, can I use another herb?
Sure, you can use whatever seasonings you like.  The part you can’t mess around with is the water, salt and curing salt ratio.  Here’s a version of Canadian Bacon from Michael Ruhlman’s blog.  The sweetener and flavorings are adjustable to personal preferences.  Maybe you want to throw in some hot peppers or orange zest, go crazy, it’s your project!

I don’t care if it is sugar-free, how much sugar would I use?
If the stevia powder isn’t for you, feel free to use whatever sweetener you would like to the equivalent of 1 cup sugar.  Brown sugar, white sugar, demura sugar, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup... totally up to you!  I use Kal Brand Pure Stevia Powder, but I’m sure there are others out there.  Be cautious with some of the supermarket stevia blends, many have ingredients that might not work well in a brine.  Sweetener, whatever you use, balances the large amount of salt in cured meats.  Since it isn’t essential to the chemical preservation, which comes from the salt and curing salt, you can adjust this to personal taste.

My pork loin wants to float, how do I keep it submerged in the brine?
I put my pot of brine in the sink before adding the pork loin, just to avoid any potential overflows on the kitchen counter.  To keep the meat submerged, I place a salad plate on top which offers enough weight to keep the meat under.  Depending on the size of the loin and how it is arranged in the pot, I might adjust the position of the pork pieces half way through the soaking process.  It probably isn’t necessary, but it makes me content to play with my project and assure that all parts get a good exposure to the brine.

Why do I rinse and dry and let sit in the fridge uncovered?

You’ll need to rinse your pork to get all the bits of herbs that stuck to it off.  This is more for appearance sake than for flavor.  Drying is important for the same reason you let it sit in the fridge uncovered:  you want to develop a pellicle.  Pellicle is a tacky (not as in bad fashion choices, but sticky) surface on meat that acts like smoke glue.  If you put wet meat into a smoker, the smoke won’t adhere as well and your flavor won’t be as rich and deep.  The sticky surface that comes from 12-24 hours of air drying in the fridge gives the smoke something to cling to.

The time scheduling is confusing me, how do I calculate it?

Day 1 morning:  make brine and allow to cool at room temperature
Day 1 afternoon:  move room temperature brine to fridge to chill
Day 1 evening:  submerge pork loin in brine
Day 2:  patience and dreams of porky goodness
Day 3 evening:  remove from brine and place on rack to develop pellicle
Day 4 morning, afternoon or evening: smoke and/or roast 
If you want to finish on a Saturday, begin on Wednesday morning.  Yes, this takes many days, but the steps themselves take about 5 minutes each and the rest of your time can be spent napping.

How long does the smoking/roasting process take?
Several hours.  It is hard to say beyond that because all smokers and ovens are different.  In my smoker it takes about 2-3 hours for a pan of chips and then another 2-3 hours in the oven (200 to 250 degrees) for the meat to reach 145 degrees internally.  If you aren’t smoking and are just roasting in the oven, I would think 3-4 hours.  Start checking your temperature when you pull from the smoker, or about 2 hours into roasting.

How much smoke and what flavor wood chips?
That’s a personal preference.  The first time I made this recipe I used 2 pans of apple wood chips and it was a bit too smoky, closer in flavor to streaky bacon than Canadian bacon.  I now use one pan of chips, which goes for about 2-3 hours in the smoker, and then finish in the oven.  Apple wood is my preferred wood chip since it is sweet and mild.  Mesquite is a really hearty and strong smoke and I find it over powering for bacon, better suited for a grilled steak.  Hickory is a favorite smoke for bacon, and cherry or other fruit woods are good, too.

What kind of smoker?

I use a Little Chief smoker.  I created an insulation blanket out of HVAC insulation to boost the heat a bit because it never really gets warm enough for me to completely finish my meat to temperature.  Because of this, I first smoke my meats and then finish them in a low oven.  If you don’t have a smoker, you’ll miss out on a bit of the flavor, but the oven works just fine and you still have a great cured meat to enjoy.  A Google search can provide many ideas on how you can smoke meat in your oven, which might work if you have really great ventilation in your kitchen.

Now go get busy Makin' Bacon! 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Salmon Mousse


Halloween is always a fun time to play with your food.  This year I was able to get a cute little brain mold which was perfect for Salmon Mousse.

Salmon Mousse sounds fancy, but I promise it is so easy a zombie could do it.  It is a great appetizer for your holiday parties or a cool and refreshing meal on a weeknight.  We like to use it to top cucumber slices, but crackers would work great, too.  It is quite rich and small individual servings would make a fantastic appetizer for a dinner party.

The original recipe called for fresh cooked salmon and fresh herbs, but I have found canned salmon and dried herbs to be a very tasty and more wallet-friendly version.  I can only imagine that smoked salmon would be quite delightful! 

Salmon Mousse

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 shallot, quartered
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp kosher flake salt
2 tsp dried dill weed
2 tsp dried chives
1 14oz can salmon, drained
1 cup cream

Place gelatin, lemon juice, shallot and boiling water in bowl of food processor with ‘S’ blade and whirl for about 1 minute.  Add all remaining ingredients, except cream, and blend for an additional minute.  Slowly pour in cream, with machine running, until combined.  Pour into a 4 cup mold or serving dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 5 hours, preferably overnight.  To unmold, dip dish into warm water for 30 seconds, and invert onto serving plate.  Garnish as desired.

Zombies don’t ask a lot of questions, but you might have some...

What size shallot should I use?

About the size of a jumbo egg should work.  If you don’t have shallots or access to them, a thick slice of onion would work just as well in the recipe.

Is that fresh or bottled lemon juice?
Either is just fine!  I normally use bottled because it is handy and I forget to buy lemons.  If I had a fresh lemon handy, I think I would add a bit of the zest finely grated, too.

Do I need to use smoked paprika?
You can use regular sweet paprika if you would like, or none at all.  I like the little hint of smokiness that comes through with the smoked paprika, it just adds a nice depth to the flavor.  A 1/4 tsp of liquid smoke would add a nice little boost also.

If I am using fresh herbs, how much would I use?
About 1 Tbsp fresh chopped dill and 1 Tbsp fresh chopped chives.  I don’t always remember to put in the chives and the mousse still turns out great.  Green onions would work fine in place of the chives...  work with what you have on hand.

Do I need to pick out the bones and skin from the canned salmon?
Nope!  That’s the easiest part, just drain off the liquid and dump the can into the food processor.  The bones and skin breakdown in the time spent whirling around in the food processor and all those healthy vitamins, minerals and fats keep our brains running great, just in case we need to out-think a zombie.  If you are using fresh cooked or smoked salmon, you will want to make sure the bones are removed.

What type of cream?
ANY!  I use heavy whipping cream, but half and half would work well, too.  The notes with the original recipe state that 2 percent milk is fine, but why miss out on the decadence and richness of good cream!

How do I invert the mold?
After a quick dip in warm water to loosen the mousse, place a plate on top of the mold, face down.  Grab both the plate and the mold together and flip.  You might have to give the mold a couple of sharp raps with your fist to get it to release, or it may just slide out perfectly.  The other option is to serve the mousse out of a serving dish that you don’t have to unmold at all.

A sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley or chives... a dusting of paprika...  those little finishing touches can really make things fancy.  You know your zombie guests will appreciate fancy brains!