Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New Apple Pie Crust Recipe

I'm working on making a better apple pie crust dough, and in general, gluten-free baked goods that don't fall apart so easily. I know Xanthan Gum is supposed to provide some structure, however, I have had some great results with this Rice Protein Powder lately.

New Pie Crust Idea:

1 c. finely milled buckwheat flour (like Hodgson Mills)
1 c. brown rice flour
(you can use some millet flour if you like, or try any other flours)
about 1/2 T. Rice Protein Powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. vegetable shortening or coconut oil (I use Spectrum)
8 T. cold Rice Milk

Mix the flours and salt. Use a pastry blender to cut in the vegetable shortening. With a fork, add the cold Rice Milk, 2 T. at a time. Stop adding Rice Milk when your dough is starting to hold together well (or add more if it's a dry day!)

Make a ball with the dough and cut it in half. The secret is to roll the dough between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Take one half, roll it out between the two pieces of plastic wrap, carefully remove the top layer and flip the crust in the pie dish. If it is falling apart, just pick up the dough and carefully work in a little more rice milk.

Poke a couple fork holes in the bottom layer, add the filling, the top, and poke a couple more holes or cut slits. Bake at about 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Caramely Popcorn

This is kind of like caramel corn, except it's faster - there's no baking involved. I used Indian ingredients.

I didn't measure anything for my first try, but here's what I did - have fun experimenting!

Popped Popcorn (I usually pop mine in a little safflower oil) Spread the popcorn on 2 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper
about 1 T. Ghee (clarified butter, it is only the fat so it is sometimes ok for people allergic to dairy)
about 1/2 c. Brown Rice Syrup
about 1/2 square of Jaggerty (raw sugar, available at Indian stores)

Cook the ghee, brown rice syrup, and jaggerty in a small sauce pan, bring to a boil then simmer until about 230 degrees on a candy thermometer. Mine got up to 250 and was a little too crunchy.

Quickly drizzle the candy over the popcorn and salt the popcorn. Let cool before eating.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Minimally Processed Snacks - NO Crackers!

Who can make it through the day without snacks? Kids definitely can't, and I've gotten used to having a snack with them. A couple of snacks a day can be healthy, but forget all the pre-packaged over-processed commercial snacks. Here's a list of 25 (what I consider to be minimally processed) snacks that are delicious and easy. Not all "low fat, low calorie" snacks, but are nutritious and natural.

1. Grapefruit/Avocado Salad - cut out the sections of a grapefruit & mix with cut-up avocado
2. Popcorn - heat a little olive or safflower oil in a pan, add plain popcorn kernels & pop
3. Yogurt with blueberries, raspberries & honey (I use frozen berries if I don't have fresh)
4. Tortillas - with fruit only jam or nut/seed butters
5. Hard boiled eggs
6. Applesauce (plain, fruit-only or homemade) - can add honey & cinnamon
7. Fruit Salad - when you have a crowd, everyone can bring one piece of fruit & add to the salad
8. Grapes & Cheese
9. Apples with a nut/seed butter
10. Hummus (ground chickpeas - make your own or buy it) and carrots
11. Some sort of bean spread & vegetables
12. Homemade Salsa & corn tortillas
13. Roasted Chickpeas
14. Smoothies (homemade)
15. Smoothie Pops (homemade)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Gluten Free Crepes (still contain eggs & dairy)

I think you can take away the dairy & wheat from Crepes and still come up with something decent...but it seems best if you don't omit the eggs. If you have an egg sensitivity, you might still be able to have yolks, try it without the whites and let me know!

1 c. sorghum flour
1/2 c. buckwheat flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. xanthan gum (holds the crepe together since it's gluten free)
2 c. milk (or rice/almond/soy milk)
1 T. honey
2 T. melted butter (or ghee where the proteins are removed, or olive oil)
1/2 t. vanilla
2 large eggs

Mix the flours, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum in a large bowl. Whisk the milk, honey, melted butter, vanilla and eggs together separately, then whisk them into the dry ingredients. You really should use a well-seasoned crepe pan. Heat the pan on medium-high and melt a little butter in it. When the butter has foamed (but before it burns), add about 1/4-1/3 c. batter, and swirl it around in the pan. When the crepe starts looking "dry" on top, but still a little wet, flip it with a large half-moon shaped spatula. Cook the other side about 30 seconds - 1 minute, then place on a plate, fill with strawberries & bananas, or jam or anything you like.

You can freeze these between wax paper too.

Mexican Beans/Rice (no tomatoes, cheese optional)

Hmmm, what can I make for lunch today? Or dinner tonight?

If you're like me, you're always asking that question. Today was one of those days where I realized I had no meat in the house, and had to think of a decent protein source for lunch.

I had leftover rice and a can of beans. So I created this stir-fry:

2-3 T. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
2 small garlic cloves, minced
chili powder to taste (about 1/2 t.)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
about 1 cup frozen sweet corn
about 2 cups leftover brown rice (I use brown basmati)
1 can black beans, drained (but not rinsed)
fresh cilantro from the garden
salt & pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet or wok on medium-high heat. Fry the onion & garlic for about 5 minutes until tender, then add the chili powder and cook for 1 minute longer. Next add the bell pepper & corn, fry about 1-2 minutes, then add the rice and beans, cover, and cook until hot (about 5 minutes).

Add cilantro & salt & pepper. Serves about 4.

We sprinkled some shredded cheddar cheese on ours. But you really don't need the cheese.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gluten-Free/Allergy-Free Cooking Classes or Lessons

It's been a while since I've posted a new recipe, as we have been experimenting lately with the kids and trying potentially allergic foods in small amounts. My daughter is now 4 (previously her cheeks turned red and broke out in a rash with avocado, cinnamon, soy, and nuts). Now, she has been able to eat avocado/grapefruit salad, guacamole, small amounts of cinnamon in cookies/oatmeal, some soy sauce in stir-fry and Vietnamese peanut sauce. In reintroducing these past-allergic foods, I have tried to introduce them a little at a time while avoiding over-processed foods.

Some would think that this should be an exciting development; that we can go back to eating anything we want, whenever we want. Yes, it is easier (especially traveling or at parties), but I don't want to go back to the way things were before. We have been cooking allergy-free/gluten-free/refined flour & sugar-free for over 3 years now, and it has become a part of our life. I find my kids do much better eating whole-grains, natural sweeteners and avoiding refined sugar and flour. I don't think we can ever "go back."

One reason for this post: I want to update my readers. There will be more posts coming! We are experimenting more than ever and I want to get back into updating my blog.

But there is also another reason. Has anyone ever taken any gluten-free or allergy-free cooking classes or lessons? Would you be interested in classes if someone were to offer them? I've been thinking about branching out to my community in the Boston area and offering some cooking classes that would incorporate gluten-free/allergy-free/refined sugar & flour-free lessons. Also lessons that incorporate kids cooking, because for us, this has made all the difference for our kids. So, please comment, let me know your thoughts!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

"Sugar" Cookies - With Maple & Agave Syrup

My 4-year old daughter saw some decorated sugar cookies at church today. Before we even went downstairs, I was prepared with my organic no-soy graham crackers and promised her we would make some cookies of our own at home. She was excited about making them ourselves and was satisfied with her graham crackers. Yes!

This is the adapted "Betty Crocker" recipe that we used.

1/2 c. organic blue agave syrup (by Wholesome Sweetners - there's a reasonably priced one at Trader Joe's)
1/2 c. maple syrup
1 c. shortening (I have been using Spectrum shortening as it is palm oil instead of soybean oil, but now Whole Foods brand 365 is making a cheaper version of palm oil shortening)
1 t. vanilla
1 large egg (or, 1 1/2 t. egg replacer mixed with 2 T. rice milk)
2 1/2 c. buckwheat flour (fine milled; I like Hodgson Mills)
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cream of tartar
1 t. xanthan gum (necessary to help the dough stick together, since it is gluten-free)

(1) Beat the syrups, oil, shortening, and egg with an electric mixer until combined.
(2) Add the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Stir with a wooden spoon.
(3) I skip chilling my dough because I think the shortening I use works better at room temperature.
(4) Roll out on a cutting board with lots of buckwheat flour (dough will be a little sticky, but with quite a bit of flour it should be easy to handle). Roll them fairly thick; I like about 1/2" thickness...I think it helps them taste more cake-like.
(5) Cut out shapes, bake at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.
(6) Cool, then frost if you wish.

We made our frosting using some of the palm-oil shortening, organic pure cane powdered sugar from Trader Joe's, vanilla, and a little rice milk.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sweets & Nutrition - Refined Sugar

After reading various allergy-free blogs, vegan blogs, and cookbooks, I've noticed many recipes which omit wheat, eggs, dairy, and other common allergens also include high amounts of refined sugar and chocolate in baked goods. While homemade is of course always better than processed food, I am re-thinking the use of refined sugar even in homemade cooking.

With the recent Valentine's Day holiday, my daughter brought home a few sweets from preschool - thankfully they save all the kids' treats and give them to the parents (so she didn't even know she had most of them). Earlier in the week she had a very small piece of chocolate from preschool that I allowed her to have - against my better judgment. In a relapse moment, I was feeling guilty for not letting my daughter have sugar & chocolate like other kids and I was disillusioned into the concept that kids should learn how to manage addictive foods early. I let her have the chocolate, and my daughter didn't take her nap and we dealt with tantrums all afternoon and the next day.

My husband says the argument about letting kids learn how to manage sugar is like teaching the budding alcoholic how to "hold his liquor." It simply doesn't make sense to give very addictive foods to very young children and expect them to learn how to handle it.

This issue really concerns me, as there was recently an article in the Washington Post that 50% of the high-fructose corn syrup on the market contains mercury. Many foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup are given to children.

My personal strategy is to avoid all processed, refined foods - especially those that contain high-fructose corn syrup (in the regular grocery store, this is difficult - easier at Whole Foods). In my own baking at home I have experimented with using refined white sugar - but cutting it in half - for a special occasion. If I know my kids are going to be around lots of processed foods like Twinkies (say, at a preschool party), then I'll bake with a small amount of refined sugar and make sure I can tempt my kids enough to only eat what I brought (this has been very successful lately, but I'm not sure how long it will last). For any treat we make at home, I use maple sugar, honey, brown rice syrup or molasses in place of sugar and carob in place of chocolate. When there are no outside influences, my kids seem more than fulfilled.

Yes, I realize that maple sugar, molasses, honey, etc. are still sugars and should be limited; yet I have to believe that they at least hold more nutritional value than refined white sugar and I think that they are much less addicting and tantrum-causing (I think kids tend crave natural sweeteners less than sugar and are usually fulfilled after eating a baked good made with them instead of wanting more).

I hope this post helps any parents out there to form your own opinions in the sugar debate, for at least spelling out my beliefs has helped me feel less guilty about throwing away my daughter's Valentine's Day candy. And I am confident my children can only be better without the candy. Now, whenever we see "treats" in the store that my daughter wants, I promise her we will go home and create our own. The learning from this is amazing - she remembers what the treat looks like, thinks about what we might use to re-create this treat, has a chance to measure and taste all the ingredients, mix everything up, and bake something herself. And she can add her own personal twist. It is creative, fun, a life-long learning experience, and best of all - much more nutritional.

"Chocolate Chip Muffins"...minus the chocolate, wheat, eggs, dairy, soy, nuts....

I use my basic muffin recipe for everything. This is a modification for a semi-sweet & healthy dessert.

I made a double batch, which makes two 6-cup large muffin tins full.

1 1/2 c. buckwheat flour
1/2 c. brown rice flour
1 c. teff flour
1 c. sorghum flour
2 T. aluminum-free baking powder
1 t. xanthan gum
3 t. Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 4 T. rice milk (or 2 eggs)
1 1/2 c. rice milk (or any other "milk")
1/2 c. honey and/or brown rice syrup mix
1/2 c. safflower oil
Vegan Carob Chips - I use Sunspire brand, which contain "malted barley & corn, palm kernel oil, carob powder, and soy lecithin)

Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, then mix them together and add the carob chips. Put into slightly greased muffin tins and bake about 20-25 minutes on 375.

Frosting - I didn't measure very accurately, just blend it all together with an electric mixer
(about 1/4 - 1/2 c.) Spectrum Organic Palm Oil Shortening (or 365 at Whole Foods just came out with a cheaper version of palm oil that doesn't contain soy)
1 t. vanilla
2-4 T. rice milk (as needed to make the frosting smooth)
2 T. carob powder
about 1 1/2 c. organic powdered sugar - unrefined/unbleached if possible

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pressure Cooker

I remember my grandma and her big aluminum pressure cooker with the old-fashioned gauge on the top. She was always canning relish, tomatoes, or pickles.

As most grandmothers know, pressure cookers aren't just for canning. They cook foods like root vegetables and beans really fast and cook meat very tender.

After reading about pressure cookers on blogs like Fat-Free Vegan, and having several good friends say they use them, I decided to just check them out on Amazon. I found a great deal on a Presto 6-quart model, which is stainless steel. I try to avoid cooking on "non-stick" surfaces or aluminum. I even found a stainless steel rice cooker which I've been very happy with.

I soaked some great northern beans overnight in anticipation that my shipment would arrive. It did. The first thing I did was read the instructions and wash the pressure cooker. Then I spied a recipe for baked beans in the instruction book. It's been a long time since we had baked beans (and we live in Boston!) This recipe was the same as all the others - navy beans, water, molasses, catsup, ham, onion, brown sugar, dry mustard, and black pepper. However, I used my great northern beans, and instead of the catsup (allergic to tomatoes), I used a little sweet garlic-chili sauce from the Asian store. Though we don't usually eat pork, I bought a little nitrate-free ham from Whole Foods and I cut the amount of brown sugar by 2/3. I used pure blackstrap molasses.

I have to admit, I was a little fearful about the using the pressure cooker for the first time. In my mind I'm thinking: what if it boils dry? what if I didn't get the lid sealed on right and the entire thing blows up in my kitchen? is it ok that I made the substitutions?

The beans turned out very nicely. I was a little nervous that the instructions said to cook them for 35 minutes (doesn't count heat up and cool down time), since this was much longer than plain beans, which only take 3-5 minutes. The whole house smelled wonderful, like the smell of baked beans cooking for hours. They didn't turn out as thick, but they were tender and sweet with little chunks of ham.

I made some carrot soup in the pressure cooker tonight, and I made a huge batch. The cooker was 2/3 full. It took about 45 minutes total (about 20 minutes for heat up and cool down, and only 5 minutes at full pressure). The carrots were very tender, sweet and moist. I think that it took so long because I made such a huge batch, for smaller quantities of food the heat up/cool down time seems to go much faster.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Blueberry Streusel "Coffee Cake"

We adapted a recipe for blueberry streusel muffins, when my 4 year old daughter decided she wanted to make "blueberry cake."

It was actually very nice, because instead of a crumbly, less-than perfect texture gluten-free muffin, we had a really yummy coffee cake.

1 c. rice milk
1/4 c. safflower oil
1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 c. honey
2 t. egg replacer mixed w/ 3 T. rice milk
1 c. sorghum flour
1 c. buckwheat flour
1 t. xanthan gum
3 t. aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. frozen blueberries

Streusel Topping:
1/4 c. vegetable spread, slightly chilled (all palm oil, no soy)
1/4 c. brown rice flour
1/4 c. maple sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Mix wet ingredents, then add the egg replacer mixture, followed by the dry ingredients. Mix everything together and fold in the blueberries. Add some more rice milk if the mixture isn't at least a little spreadable. Spread in a rectangular cake pan. Mix the streusel topping with a pastry blender into crumbs. Sprinke streusel topping on top. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes.

Source for Gluten-Free Flour

Sorghum seems to be one of the cheaper GF flours - I found it for $2.99 for a 2 lb bag at my local Indian Store under the name "Jowar."

Hodgson Mills has now started selling buckwheat flour. It's very nice and finely ground, I can find it at my local Stop & Shop for $3.99 for a 2 lb. box.


By far the most expensive GF flours I've found are teff & quinoa. Quinoa flour has gone up to $7.99/lb at my local health food co-op. There is just no way I can afford that, so we've been using mainly buckwheat, sorghum, millet, and brown rice.

Chinese Dumplings

Happy Chinese New Year!

My brother and his girlfriend, Lucy, live in Shanghai. They sent me this cool video for how to make Chinese Dumplings since a couple friends and I are having a dumpling party to celebrate the New Year.

Ironically, we all have some sort of food allergy in our families, so we are all bringing a different stuffing mix, and I'm also making the wrappers out of sorghum flour (instead of wheat). I had pretty good luck using sorghum with a little xanathan gum. The wrappers aren't as thin and translucent, and instead of rolling you really have to work the dough and press it into a circle with your hand. Only use a little filling, because without the gluten they're not as stretchy.