Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mixed Plate: Heeding the Primal War Cry of FOOD NINJA

It was a dark and stormy night... I was approached by a wandering stranger, wise in the ancient ways of Food Ninjas, to take part in something mysterious and powerful... and it went a little something like this...

Yes, you nerd, those are d20 gem dice - Photo Dramatization by Wasabi Prime

So maybe the introduction into being a Food Ninja didn't really happen like this, given the fact that I am not a pink and white eraser shaped like a hamster. A girl can dream, can't she? I was introduced to the ways of the Food Ninja by none other than foodie friend and blogger, Salty Seattle, aka Linda Nicholson, who looks both stunning and deadly, wielding her fierce kendo swords and her even more fierce disco-fro. If you want to know the full details about just what it means to become one with the stealthy art of food fabulousness and how to enter a TOTALLY AWESOME CONTEST, read her Food Ninja post and get your creative thought-cells pinging over what you can do to show off your inner Food Ninja skills. And if you just want to stay up to speed about what's going on in the Food Ninja world, follow the ninja shenanigans (ninja-nanigans..?) over Twitter with the hashtag #FoodNinja.

My way of getting my Food Ninja swerve-on was to incorporate the favorite flavors of tea into a breakfast muffin. The bright citrus burst of orange. A tall, dark and handsome charm of fennel seed. The sultry round flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. All baked together in a hearty muffin that will get your morning moving. But there's Food Ninja Stealth involved in this muffin... something you can't see... something the aromatic flavors deceive you with...What's missing?! you ask, frantically looking all over, wondering if you'll suddenly be attacked from all sides by nearly invisible assailants.

Food Ninja Spiced Muffins - my throwing stars are hidden underneath! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

The missing ingredient is... gluten. And the stealthy ingredients are a mix of sorghum flour, xanthan gum, and an all-purpose gluten free flour mix that has a combination of rice, sorghum and tapioca flours. Gluten-free baked goods are by no means a new thing, it's just something new I wanted to try in my own kitchen, as I have several friends who have developed wheat intolerances over the years. This was my first foray into gluten-free baking and hope to improve on my Food Ninja skills to feel truly at ease with the Do of Gluten-Free Mojo.

I'm including this fledgling gluten-free recipe, which was patchworked together from reading other recipes and suggestions over subbing-out wheat flour. The orange fennel and spice flavor was something I'd wanted to do in a baked item, and this seemed like a good way to test it out, as it would be a really heavy flavor that would need to be in something hearty. This recipe produces a dense muffin, like a whole-grain bran, but the flavor is good. I'm keen to improve on this recipe, so I may play around more with the flour combinations, using less sorghum, as I know it's a heavier, protein-rich flour and the rice flour would probably lighten things up a bit. Xanthan gum sounds strange and factory-made, but it's a natural carbohydrate that's made from fermented sugars; it's in a lot of gluten-free baking recipes as it gives that nice chewy texture that gluten normally provides, and you can buy it by the bag in a natural food store or the gluten-free section of your grocery store.

Overall, I was pleased with this early foray into gluten-free baking and aim to improve as I familiarize myself with the way different flours interact in doughs and batter. Being able to bake yummy things in a gluten-free way will just feel like another Food Ninja skill in an arsenal of weapons used for fighting off the evil horde of boring meals!

Food Ninja Gluten-Free Orange Fennel Spice Muffin
(makes 10-12 muffins)

Dry Ingredients
1 cup all purpose gluten free flour
1 cup sorghum flour
3/4 tablespoon xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds
1/2 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients
3/4 cup sugar
2.5 tablespoons of orange zest (about two oranges' worth)
4 tablespoons of fresh-squeezed orange juice
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine all the flours together, including the xanthan gum and sift into a bowl. Grind the fennel seeds in a spice mill or using a mortar and pestle to break down the seeds into small bits. Add in the fennel, cinnamon, nutmeg, and all the other dry ingredients. Mix to combine.

In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, orange zest and juice, egg and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly add the wet to the dry ingredients, mixing until fully incorporated, but do not overmix. The final batter will be thick and sticky, more like a cookie dough.

 Divide the dough between a muffin pan lined with paper muffin cups and place into the preheated oven to bake. Full baking time should take between 15 and 20 minutes, depending on your oven. Rotate muffin tin halfway through to ensure even baking. Enjoy with your morning coffee or tea before you leave for your daily ninja rituals.

Do you like my muffin top? It's gluten-free, baby - Photos by Wasabi Prime
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  1. This entry is going to be HARD to beat! I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I am forever in awe of your many talents- and that comic strip, plus incorporating gluten-free baking? Genius. Also, as you know, I am a Jedi, so getting Yoda in on the food ninja action melts my heart.

  2. Wonderful post! I'm anti-fennel, personally, but could easily see just leaving it out. Yay for another gluten-free recipe!

  3. What a fabulous way to kick off our contest! This is absolutely awesome. You totally embodied the spirit of the challenge. And that comic book start? PURE GENIUS.

  4. Glad you enjoy the cameo appearance of Master Yoda - he was a little freebie culled from a comic book convention years ago. As for fennel seed, it's actually NOT my favorite thing, but in small doses with the orange, it mysteriously becomes tasty. Food Ninja magic, perhaps?

  5. Yum yum yum! Fennel and orange is one of my favourite flavours and these muffins look rather delicious with them. Oh and I am loving this Food Ninja contest..if I have time between using my ninja powers on my two rambunctious kids I may enter, but I don't know if I can compete with the likes of you!
    Oh and I love the hamster and Yoda intro...hilarious.


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