Saucy White Sauce

Greetings Ninjas in Training!

I hope you all are having a fabulous summer. It is ten million degrees where I live, which may or may not explain/excuse this post title. The sauce recipe I’m going to share is not particularly saucy – in fact, it’s a nice basic recipe that can be adapted for millions of different dishes.

Everything’s in the millions today, I guess.

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(I wish.)

(For you Orphan Black fans out there, you have no idea how hard it was for me to not use a gif of Alison and Donnie rolling in their soap money. I had to think of the children.)

Anyways, without further ado, a recipe for sauce!

Actually, just kidding. Quick announcement: I am working on restructuring the recipes page, so it may look derpy for a little while. I will be publishing all the recipes as individual posts, which should be much easier to use than a giant page.

Ok, NOW the recipe.

White Sauce
Courtesy of Lemon Ninja’s Mommy

White sauce is used in a variety of dishes and is the base for many sauces.   Here is our dairy free/citric acid free version for a basic medium white sauce, with adjustments for other thicknesses.

Ingredients:
Organic rice milk (read label for citric acid)
Spelt flour
Organic expeller pressed Canola oil or lard
Time Required: 15 minutes

Directions:

  1. In a small, heavy saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of canola or lard over medium low heat.
  2. Blend 2 tablespoons of spelt flour into the melted oil.
  3. Cook over low heat, stirring, until it just begins to bubble.  You don’t want to overwork the spelt flour, its fragile gluten breaks down easily.
  4. Slowly add 1 cup of rice milk, stirring constantly.  I like to use a flat whisk to stir this.
  5. Continue cooking slowly until smooth and thickened.

Notes: For thin white sauce, follow instructions using 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon flour. Thin white sauce is often used for cream soups.  For thick white sauce, follow instructions using 3 tablespoons oil and 3 tablespoons flour. Thick white sauce is for things like soufflés.  For heavy white sauce, follow instructions using 4 tablespoons oil and 4 tablespoons flour. Heavy white sauce is used to make croquettes or croquetas.

That’s all for now, ninjalings. Until next time, when life gives you lemons, RUN!

The Lemon Ninja

Chocolate of the Carribbean

Greetings, Ninjas in Training!

At last, the most anticipated post topic of the century.

Chocolate.

Can you eat it? Can you not?

The short answer is:

See what I did there? There is no short answer. Hold on to your nunchucks, ninjalings. Let’s dive in and take a look at the mystery that is chocolate.

What is Chocolate?

Excellent question. What exactly are we talking about here? Chocolate can mean a lot of things.

I could tell you all about how cacao beans are fermented, dried, and roasted, but that took me months of research to sort through and I’m not going to bore you with it.

(Wait, months??? “It’s right there on Wikipedia,” you say. The thing is, more than one ninja has sent me a particular scientific paper about cacao fermentation, which contains information on the citric acid content of the beans and how this is important for flavor. The thing is, we don’t eat the whole bean, so I basically got lost in the tunnels of the Internet trying to find information that did not include the word “fermentation.” It’s harder than it sounds, I swear.)

Anyways, the part we care about is what happens after the fermenting, drying, and roasting. They crack open the beans, get rid of the hull (a source of citric acid in many hulled foods), and smush up the inside part, the “nib.”

(I deserve a medal for finding information on those darn nibs.)

The nib gets annihilated into what is called chocolate liquor, which, despite the name’s suggestion, is not going to get you drunk.

Because, Jack Sparrow, we are talking about chocolate.

Apologies. Captain Jack Sparrow, we are talking about chocolate liquor, which is comprised of roughly 50% cocoa butter, 50% cocoa solids, and 0% rum.

Aw 😦

Oh well, we have more important things to do anyways, like discuss what it means when you look at a chocolate bar and it says “Blah% Cacao.” What it’s referring to is the total content that comes from cacao – in other words, the chocolate liquor content. If you want to learn more nerdy things about cacao percentages, check out this page where I got all the info!

Now, I could start giving you science numbers, but first I’d like to give you some ninja numbers.

Ninja Survey Results

Roughly 100 years ago, I asked you whether you’d had a bad reaction to chocolate. The answers were broken up by tolerance level: High (1.2%+, can probably eat grapefruit), Moderate (0.4-1.2%, can probably eat tomatoes), Low (0.1-0.4%, can probably eat apples), or Saddest Tolerance Ever (<0.1%, should never eat anything) (I fall into this category) (see here if you want to figure out your tolerance level).

(Parentheses.)

The results:

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We will come back to these momentarily.

Science Results

After trekking through the wasteland of fermentation and lies, I finally happened upon a paper that gave me the citric acid content of cacao nibs.

Drumroll please…

30 mmol/kg.

Uh, ok, so that tells us nothing. Let’s convert that into something we understand:

30 mmol/kg = 0.030 mol/1000 g
(0.030mol/1000g)(192g citric acid/mol)(1/10) = 0.56g/100g = 0.56%

Thank you to my chemistry nerd friend Maria for checking my math, because I was pretty sure I’d forgotten how to do math when I saw that result.

Please click here for an appropriate emotional response: D:

But wait. We don’t just sit there eating chocolate liquor (I hope). Milk chocolate contains roughly 10% cacao, and dark chocolate must contain at least 43% to be considered dark (in Europe at least… let’s be real, in America it’s probably 5% but we won’t get into the inferiority of American food right now) and can even be found up to 85%.

So really:
Milk chocolate = (0.56%)(.10) = 0.056% = safe for ninjas with a low tolerance
Dark chocolate = (0.56%)(.43) to (0.56%)(.85) = 0.24% to 0.47% = safe for most ninjas with a moderate tolerance

Please click here if you need to respond emotionally again: D:

Ok, But Why Aren’t We Dead?

Ah, yes, the survey results. Roughly 2/3 of our moderate tolerance ninjas had never had an adverse reaction to chocolate; the same goes for more than half our low tolerance ninjas, and nearly 2/3 of our sad tolerance ninjas.

What’s up with that? Let’s break it down by group. You may have had a bad reaction if…

Moderate Tolerance Ninjas:
*You were eating super dark chocolate with 85% or more cacao
*You were eating chocolate with extra rude ingredients like soy lecithin (which contains citric acid and is in everythingggggggg)
*You are independently allergic to chocolate

Low Tolerance Ninjas:
*You were eating dark chocolate
*That nasty soy junk again
*You are independently allergic to chocolate

Sad Tolerance Ninjas:
*You should not survive chocolate
*How did 2/3 of us survive this?
*Are 2/3 of us crazy?

Are We Crazy, or is Chocolate Magic?

Here’s the thing, ninjalings. I have an exceptionally low tolerance to citric acid. I cannot breathe if I am in the same room as someone who was next to someone eating an orange 3 hours ago.

And because there was no information on citric acid to be found back when I was inducted into ninjahood, I found out everything the hard way. I went on the assumption that everything but citrus fruits and tomatoes were ok, then paid the price after eating dumb things like sweet potatoes and carrots and yes, even lettuce.

I did not find the list until after I’d found out pretty much everything the hard way – all it did for me was confirm that I was not crazy.

Many, many times, I have eaten a favorite food (see: sweet potatoes) fully assuming it was safe, and then I started wheezing and needed my friends to half carry me back to my dorm.

If only I could sing like Kristin Chenoweth

If only I could sing like Kristin Chenoweth

In other words: expectation does not influence whether or not I have a reaction.

I’m assuming the same is true for most, if not all of you. It’s not like we are talking about dairy or gluten – who the heck expects to react to citric acid? How many months and years did you suffer, researching and swinging wildly with your nunchucks at an unknown target? You are not here because you’re crazy, you’re here because you understand your body well enough to figure out what’s bothering it.

So.

I asked my two favorite M.D.s, my allergist and my homeopath, what the actual heck was going on. Is chocolate made of magic?

Yes, Chocolate is Magic

Both of my doctors agreed that chocolate is, in fact, magic.

“It certainly would make sense that some of your chemical reactivity causes neurological changes that might be reversed by any or all of the mechanisms you mentioned,” said the allergist.

“Cocoa powder is a magical substance indeed. It is so full of nutrition and antioxidants that in the old days tribes indigenous to where the trees grow used the number of them on their territory as a measure of their wealth!” said the homeopath, who then literally proceeded to prescribe me chocolate.

Sidebar: these are my physicians talking to me. Please don’t go prescribing yourself chocolate and then dedicating your Darwin Award to me and the doctors on my dope squad, ok?

Anyways, you may have gathered from my allergist’s response that I wasn’t just asking about my lack of reaction to chocolate – something in chocolate was not only preventing me from reacting to the citric acid it contained, but seemed to be taming my allergic responses in general: chocolate works better than Benadryl for me, especially when my reactions have neurological symptoms. But what’s the secret ingredient?

Turns out, there could be several. Here are just a few:

Nitric oxide – A vasodilator, which means it helps oxygenate your body and brain. It also acts as a neurotransmitter. These two actions might explain why it helps with my neurological symptoms.

FlavonoidsAnti inflammatory and antioxidant. Inflammation is a biggie, ninjalings. Pretty much every symptom ever is the result of an inflammatory reaction: everything from hives to an angry tummy to anaphylaxis. Antioxidants are also important because they keep those little jerks called free radicals from running around in your body and punching everything they touch, though this is more of a long-term helper and not an immediate one.

MagnesiumReduces histamine, which is the instigator of allergic reactions.

There’s probably other stuff, but if I keep researching I’ll never post this 😉

That Was Way Too Long, What Even Did You Just Say

In sum:

  • We’re not invited to Captain Jack Sparrow’s garden party
  • Milk chocolate contains roughly 0.056% citric acid
  • Dark chocolate contains anywhere from 0.24% to 0.47% citric acid
  • Lots of ninjas who shouldn’t be able to eat chocolate can eat it
  • Chocolate is magic

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So What Should *I* Do, Lemon Ninja?

Well, Ninjas in Training, this is a highly individualized question.

Bottom line: listen to your body.

Every ninja is different and some of you will not be able to eat chocolate. Some of you will. Either way, please be safe if you decide to experiment! Listen to your intuition and don’t try something you’re unsure about. If you’re prone to dangerous reactions, talk to your doctor about it first – if you get the green light, try a VERY SMALL AMOUNT, and do so in the company of emergency meds and a friend who knows what’s up.

A general procedure to follow:

  1. If you’ve been eating chocolate without a problem, eat on
  2. If you’ve had a reaction to chocolate, check the ingredients. If it contains anything other than chocolate liquor, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and cane sugar, you may be reacting to the extra ingredients (especially if there is soy involved)
  3. If there were no additives, either the cacao% was too high for you, or the magic of chocolate does not work for your body
  4. If there were additives or you think you can handle a lower cacao% (plus you feel brave and desperately need chocolate in your life), find a low cacao%, additive-free chocolate and give it a small try in a safe environment (I recommend Enjoy Life!)
  5. If the magic of chocolate still doesn’t work for you, that’s ok. The recipe I’m about to share tastes absolutely delicious even without chocolate!

 

Lemon Ninja’s Chocolate (or not) Custard

Courtesy of Lemon Ninja, her Abuelita, and her Mommy

Ingredients

Chocolate Sauce
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/4 cup water
6 Tablespoons organic powdered cocoa

Crema Pastelera
3/4 cup organic sugar
2/3 cup spelt flour
1 1/2 cup rice milk
6 egg yolks

Notes: This recipe is equally delicious with or without chocolate. It is also equally delicious as a pudding or a frozen custard. You can use anywhere from 4-8 egg yolks – more makes it richer and more flavorful, especially in the non-chocolate version. If you can, get organic chocolate. You’ll thank me later.

Part One: Chocolate Sauce

  1. Dissolve sugar in water in a small sauce pan while heating; it should get a little thick.
  2. Add cocoa and stir till dissolved.
  3. Set aside to cool.

Part Two: Crema Pastelera

  1. Mix flour and sugar in saucepan.
  2. Add in rice milk.
  3. Stir while warming over medium heat; when it begins to steam, turn the heat down and continue mixing until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat, add eggs and mix thoroughly.

Part Three: The Third Part

  1. Once both the chocolate sauce and crema are cooled to room temp, mix them together.
  2. Pour the custard into a freezer friendly storage thing, or into individual plastic cups for easier nomming later on.
  3. Let cool in the fridge for about an hour.
  4. Move the custard to the freezer and impatiently wait for it to get frozen.
  5. Eat it. All of it. At once. 😀

That’s all for now, my ninjalings.
Until next time, when life gives you lemons, RUN!
The Lemon Ninja

Caramels and Computers and Cats (oh my!)

Greetings, Ninjas in Training!

Have you missed me?

(I’ve missed you too.)

I’m afraid I have no excuse for abandoning you, except that I’m a small bit healthier than I was when I last wrote, and now I’m doing super important things like sleeping more and finding new ways to keep you all from finding out that I’m not human.

Actually, I do have a better excuse: I have been busy making caramels and eating them.

As a peace offering, here is the recipe, along with a recipe for rice milk! I will add them to the recipe page soon…

Homemade Rice Milk

Ingredients:
1 cup cooked rice
4 cups water

  1. Throw it all in the blender.
  2. Turn on the blender.
  3. That’s it. Seriously.
  4. Actually you might want to stop the blender before you drink it.

Maple Caramels

Courtesy of Lemon Ninja and Ninja Mama

Ingredients:
1 cup rice milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (real stuff only – the fake stuff is ninja poison)
2 Tbs lard

  1. Go here.
  2. Read the entire thing before starting. Caramel happens fast, yo.
  3. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, familiarize yourself with the old-fashioned cold water testing. I cook phase 1 (just the sugar) to the soft crack stage, and phase 2 (everything) to the firm ball stage, but you can play with that a little if you want.
  4. Follow the article’s directions with my ingredients. The rice milk is in lieu of the heavy cream and the water, the lard is in lieu of the butter, and the maple syrup is in lieu of the corn syrup. Don’t worry about the vanilla (as you may recall, it “probably” has citric acid), and you can add salt if you want, but I think it’s excellent without!
  5. While the caramels are cooling, cut some individual wrappers out of parchment paper.
  6. Don’t cheat and try to eat the caramels before the 2 hour waiting period. It will crystalize and you will be sad.
  7. Eat the caramels all at once, because how can you not?

That’s all for now, ninjalings. Thank you for all of your wonderful messages, questions, and marriage proposals; I promise I will make that post about chocolate eventually. Until then, when life gives you lemons, RUN!

The Lemon Ninja