Trending Tries: Vegan Lemon Cheesecake

“Going vegan….”

COVID has brought many changes to people’s lives, one of which is folks thinking more about their health. Over the past year and a half, a growing trend has been more people turning to veganism, for a variety of reasons.

As someone with a dairy allergy, often our family recipes end up being vegan anyway, but recipes like cheesecake use eggs. Because several extended family members are now vegan, I decided to experiment with making a vegan cheesecake.

Many recipes I found utilized nuts which we cannot have due to allergies, so I went to the very basics which is that a cheesecake is usually cream cheese, sugar, and eggs. So, the issues were twofold: how to bind the cheesecake without using eggs and how to add the liquid which came from eggs.

In the end I used a vegan condensed milk which added both the sweetener and the liquid, and I opted for cornstarch to help bind. The result was a creamy, delicious cheesecake which we all enjoyed.

Vegan Lemon Cheesecake

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups gluten, dairy, nut free gingersnap cookie crumbs (an 8 oz bag of your favorite allergy friendly brand, pulsed into crumbs)

1/4 cup melted vegan butter (use your favorite brand)

Three 8 ounce containers of vegan cream cheese (use your favorite type), at room temperature

11 oz vegan sweetened coconut condensed milk (use your favorite brand)

1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed in best)

3 tbsp cornstarch

1/4 tsp lemon extract

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Wrap the outside of a 9 inch springform pan with a couple of layers of aluminum foil, and bring water to a boil for later use.
  2. Mix together the gingersnap cookie crumbs with the melted butter and evenly spread the crumbs into the springform pan, patting the crumbs into a solid crust.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and allow it to cool.
  4. Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Scrape down sides frequently.
  5. Add the sweetened condensed coconut milk, lemon juice, cornstarch and lemon extract, and blend until completely combined and smooth.
  6. Pour into the springform pan and spread evenly over the cookie crumb crust.
  7. Place the cheesecake into a pan larger than the springform pan and pour the boiling water into the pan until the water is about halfway up the springform pan.
  8. Bake the cheesecake for 60 to 65 minutes until the cheesecake is mostly firm and just slightly jiggly in the center. A knife inserted at the edge of the cheesecake will come out clean.
  9. Turn off the oven, and with the oven door open, let the cheesecake cool for 45 minutes to an hour inside the oven.
  10. Put the cheesecake in the fridge and allow it to cool for several hours or overnight.
  11. Once the cheesecake has solidified in the fridge, run a butter knife around the edge to loosen it from the springform pan, and remove the cheesecake.
  12. Serve plain, with vegan cream, and/or decorated with fruit.

Trending Tries: Rhubarb

“I don’t like change….”

When you are raising children on the autism spectrum, you spend a lot of time helping them to learn how to adapt to change, which is not an easy feat. As we are all aware, life is nothing but change. If we are lucky, the changes are gradual, giving us time to adjust, but many times the changes are unexpected and take us by surprise.

The last year and a half has brought many changes for the entire world, some of which we have all experienced together, while others have been unique to individual lives, families, countries.

I have noticed a trending change in how people are thinking about food. The pandemic has provided not just the time to consider eating habits but the thought that maybe our eating habits are not as they ought to be. As such, people I have known to always be staunch meat supporters are suddenly vegan. People who never cooked at all are now experts in homemade, whole grain bread baking. Others have realized that the cause of many of their health issues are due to the foods they have been eating and are adjusting their diets. Still more folks are trying foods they have never eaten before.

Recently, the conversations I have had with folks have centered around rhubarb. Rhubarb has been around for a long time but mostly ignored by people I know whose response to rhubarb is usually, “Oh, you mean the purply-green thing which looks like celery but isn’t?” If folks are familiar with rhubarb, it is only as part of a strawberry, rhubarb pie.

Rhubarb, however, is a good source for vitamin K, antioxidants and fiber. It is also extremely versatile, useful for more than just a strawberry, rhubarb pie. During the summer, it is plentiful in both markets and many people’s yards because it is so easy to grow.

This summer, our family has been making rhubarb, lentil soups and rhubarb cake, both of which I will share in this post.

Rhubarb, Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

1 lb dried lentils, rinsed and picked over

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped onions

2 tsp minced garlic

2 tsp minced ginger

1 tsp curry powder

1/2 cup thinly sliced petite carrots

1 cup quartered and diced zucchini

2 cups finely sliced rhubarb

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp salt (if your broth is unsalted)

6 cups choice of broth (vegetable, chicken, etc.)

Cooking Instructions: 

  1. Rinse, check, and drain the lentils. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot (I use my Dutch oven), heat the olive oil, and saute the onions, garlic, ginger, and curry powder for a minute to release the flavors.
  3. Add the sliced carrots and zucchini and saute for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the rhubarb and saute for 5 minutes until they are soft.
  5. Add the lentils, black pepper, and salt. Stir well.
  6. Add the broth and bring to a boil.
  7. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 45 minutes until the lentils have swelled and the soup has thickened.
  8. Serve with a garnish of chopped green onions.

Rhubarb Cake

Ingredients:

3 cups gluten free oat flour

¾ cup sweetener (I use coconut sugar or monkfruit sweetener blend)

2 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

1 cup vegan butter

4 eggs, beaten

¼ cup gluten free oat flour

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp salt

1 cup dairy free milk (I use unsweetened soy or oat or flax)

¾ cup sweetener (I use coconut sugar or monkfruit sweetener blend)

4 cups thinly sliced rhubarb

¼ cup sweetener (I use coconut sugar or monkfruit sweetener blend)

1 tsp cinnamon

Optional: 1 cup finely diced strawberries

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using a pastry blender or a food processor, blend the oat flour, sweetener, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter until you have coarse crumbs.
  3. Remove 1 ½ cup of the crumbly mixture, and set aside.
  4. Pat the remaining flour mixture into an ungreased 9 x 13 pan, and bake for 15 minutes.
  5. While the crust is baking, mix together the beaten eggs and oat flour until very smooth.
  6. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, milk, and sweetener. Set aside.
  7. Blend the rhubarb with the sweetener and cinnamon (and strawberries if using).
  8. When the crust is done, evenly spread the rhubarb over the crust, and pour the egg mixture over the rhubarb.
  9. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly on top.
  10. Bake for 45 minutes until the topping is golden and the eggs have solidified.
  11. Eat warm or cooled as is or with dairy free frozen vanilla dessert.

Rockin’ Rolls: Gluten Free Garlic-Herb Rolls

“Try, try again….”

One of the hardest adjustments to having to be gluten free was the many disappointing gluten free roll recipes which did not live up to expectations. One of my daughters, though, was persistent, and many, many adjustsment later, we finally have a recipe which which has worked time and time again. So, I’m sharing it here with you for you to try.

Gluten Free Herbed Garlic Rolls

Ingredients:

2 tbsp white vinegar plus dairy free milk to equal 2 1/2 cups (We use soy or flax milk.)

1 1/2 cup liquid egg whites, at room temperature

6 tbsp safflower oil

1/2 cup gluten free flour (We like to use oat flour.)

2 tsp garlic powder

6 cups gluten free flour blend (We have been using the King Arthur’s whole grain blend.)

2 tbsp xanthan gum (This is in addition to what is in the flour blend.)

1 tbsp dried chopped chives

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup sugar

9 tsp active dry yeast

melted vegan butter

Baking Instructions: (If your mixer can’t accommodate the 6 cups of flour plus additional ingredients, you will want to cut the ingredients in half and make two batches.)

  1. Line two cookie sheets which can fit twelve rolls each with parchment paper and sprinkle cornmeal on the parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a large measuring cup, pour 2 tbsp vinegar and add enough “milk” that you have 2 1/2 cups of liquid. Mix well, and set aside to thicken.
  3. In a bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Then add the oil, and rewhisk until well combined. Set aside.
  4. Mix together – in a bowl large enough to roll dough balls in – the 1/2 cup flour and garlic powder, and set aside.
  5. In large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, xanthan gum, chives, thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary, garlic powder, and onion powder. Then add the yeast.
  6. Add the vinegar milk and egg whites with oil to the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until all ingredients are combined.
  7. Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and beat about 5 minutes. The batter should be smooth and shiny. (If the mixture is not smooth and shiny because it is too stiff and dry, add a tbsp of “milk” and remix. You may need to add a couple of additional tbsps of “milk”, depending on the flour blend you use. With the King Arthur, the 2 1/2 cup has always been just right.)
  8. Flour your hands, and roll 1/4 cup size dough balls in the prepared garlic-flour, shake off any excess flour, and place the rolls on the prepared cookie sheets.
  9. Once all the rolls have been floured and place on the pans, lightly bruth the tops of the rolls with melted butter. You can leave the rolls roundly topped, or as in the second picture, cut gently into the top with a knife to form a crease.
  10. Cover the rolls with plastic wrap and allow them to rise for 45 minutes. (A trick for the winter is to turn on the light in your oven while you’re preparing the rolls and put the pans into the oven to rise. The warmth from the light will help the rolls to rise better. If you don’t have an oven light, another trick which my mother-in-law taught me is that you can also preheat your oven to the lowest setting – mine is 170 degrees – then turn off the oven and let it cool while you are preparing the rolls. This should allow the temperature in the oven to go down to the 70-80 degrees which is ideal for rising dough.)
  11. After the rolls have risen, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  12. Place the two pans side by side in the oven and bake for 30 minutes until the rolls have risen, are golden, and sound hollow when you tap them. If you are a temperature-taker, the internal temperature of the rolls should be 200 degrees.
  13. Remove the rolls from the oven and put them onto a cooling rack to cool. They can be stored in a tupperware on the counter and rewarmed in the oven or in the microwave.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Roasted Brussel Sprouts

“But it’s not the same….”

For many of us, the holidays ahead are fraught with mixed feelings. Usually, the anticipation of celebrating with family and friends adds to our excitement and joy, but this year, all around the world, people are being told not to do that one thing which makes the holidays the holidays – gathering with one another.

And that’s hard.

For me and my children, though, we have been having discussions about how we can still celebrate as a nuclear family, and of course, many of those conversations revolve around food.

Those conversations caused us to think about the pluses of not cooking for extended family members this year: you do not have to make that one dish that only one person eats but you “must” have; you can release the “perfectionistic” stress of making the pies and desserts look beautiful for the guests; you will be able to eat when the food is done and not when the last late member of the extended family decides to show up; and you get to keep all the leftovers for yourself instead of sharing with the extended members of the family.

How exciting is that?

To help you menu plan, I’m pointing you to previous years’ posts and adding a recipe for roasted Brussel sprouts below. I know many folks are not fond of them, but I have discovered that many folks have also not had them roasted, which makes all the difference.

I hope this Thanksgiving season will bring you much to be thankful for, despite the global and personal situations we find ourselves in this year.

Turkey Talk

Roasted Vegetable Medley

Winter Squash Soup

Vegetable Souffle

Vegan Spanakopita

Apple Pie

Apple Crisp

Vegan Pumpkin Pies

Grain Free Pumpkin Pie

Vegan, Gluten Free Cornbread for Stuffing

Thanksgiving Muffins

Orange Cranberry Muffins

Gluten Free Popovers

Dairy Free Cranberry Cheesecake

Dairy and Gluten Free Tiramisu

Pie Tips

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Ingredients:

3 lbs fresh Brussel sprouts (off the stalk)

4 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 tsp ground onion powder

1/2 tsp ground garlic powder

Roasting Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line your largest shallow sheet pan with parchment paper. (Depending you may need to roast your spouts in two batches, if you can’t fit them all at one time on the pan.)
  2. Prepare your Brussel Sprouts by slicing off the hard, knobby ends, peeling off any outer leaves which are falling off, and cutting the sprouts in half.
  3. Place the prepared sprouts in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil.
  4. Season with the salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.
  5. Place the sprouts cut side down onto the prepared sheet pan, leaving some space around each sprout for air circulation.
  6. Roast for 30 minutes without opening the oven to check on them. When they are done, they will be crispy, blackish-brown.
  7. You can eat as is or if you want, toss them with thin slices of turkey bacon and/or drizzle with your favorite balsamic vinegar and/or a bit of maple syrup.
  8. You can make these ahead of time for Thanksgiving and then pop them into the oven at 300 degrees to rewarm and re-crisp them on Thanksgiving day.

 

Autumn Appetites: Vegetable Frittata

“Finding the beauty….”

The other day I drove up a hill toward my mother-in-law’s and was surprised by the colors suddenly surrounding me. Red, purple, orange and yellow – the leaves of the trees closest to the highway had already begun to change, and set against the backdrop of a clear blue sky, the beauty of it all made me stop – literally, since I pulled over to be able to better drink in the scene.

For many of us, these many months of the pandemic have thrown a wrench into our normal routines, and slowly we have had to build new routines and wrap our minds around new ways of doing and being. But nature has continued its usual paths. The leaves are changing (for those of us in the part of the US where that happens). Temperatures are cooling. Frost warnings compel us to close up the garden.

This latter life cycle event has meant bowls of tomatoes, peppers, kale and onions adorning my kitchen counter. (Fortunately the carrots and potatoes can remain in the ground still for now.) And what to do with the abundance has been a daily question. Like the leaves, there’s a beauty in the deep colors of the vegetables and the fact that we grew these and are reaping from our hard work. So, they should not be wasted.

This is where frittatas are useful. Quick and easy, they are also nutritious, especially when loaded with onions, kale and tomatoes. There’s also the ‘beauty” of a frittata, which are its versatility and indestructibility. You can add whatever you want to a frittata, and you really cannot mess it up. Plus it’s a great way to use up leftover cooked vegetables and meats, which makes for a fast meal on those busy nights.

The Basic Recipe:

2 tsp olive oil (or other preferred plant based oil)

1/2 cup onions (any type: red, white, yellow, green)

1 tsp minced garlic

1 1/2 tsp seasonings (your choice: oregano, thyme, basil, marjoram, rosemary, cumin, turmeric, etc….)

3 cups of chopped cooked vegetables and/or meats (If you don’t have leftovers, dice and cook vegetables and/or meats until cooked through: Be creative with kale, spinach, collards, broccoli, peppers, drained tomatoes, zucchini, squash, bacon, ham, chicken, sausage, etc….)*

9 large eggs

1/2 cup unsweetened “milk” (your choice: regular, soy, coconut, oat, etc….)

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

*NOTE: If you want to add cheese (whether regular or dairy free) you can do that, too.

Basic Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. In a 14 inch cast iron pan, add the olive oil with the onions and minced garlic. Cook over medium low heat until the onions begin to soften.
  3. Add seasonings and cook for a minute to release the flavors.
  4. Add the cooked vegetables and mix well with the onions and garlic and seasonings. *Note: If you are adding cheese, sprinkle it over the top of the filling before adding the eggs.
  5. Whisk the eggs with the milk, salt and pepper, and pour over the filling in the pan. Shake the pan as needed to evenly cover the filling and the pan.
  6. Cook for a couple of minutes until the bottom of the egg mixture begins to set.
  7. Pop the cast iron pan into the preheated oven and cook for 10 minutes. When done, the frittata will be puffed and firm to the touch with no runny egg.
  8. Enjoy!

 

Sweet Treats: Egg Yolk Chocolate Chip Cookies

“But what will you do with these….?”

I love making flour-less chocolate cake but if I don’t have egg whites and use whole eggs, I’m left with yolks which I don’t want to waste. So, I started looking around and discovered a nifty little recipe for egg yolk chocolate chip cookies. Of course, the recipe called for butter, sugar and all purpose flour, so a little revamping was required.

Here’s the recipe the kids and I reworked. Great little dessert bites for when you need just a little lift.

Gluten, Dairy Free Egg Yolk Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

6 egg yolks

1 tsp gluten free vanilla

1/2 cup soy free vegan butter

1/2 cup Truvia stevia-sugar blend

2 1/2 cup King Arthur whole grain gluten free flour blend

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks with the vanilla. Set aside.
  3. In a mixer, beat the vegan butter until smooth. Add the Truvia blend and mix well.
  4. Add the egg yolks to the butter mixture and combine until smooth.
  5. Blend together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add to the wet ingredients and blend well until combined.
  6. Add the mini chocolate chips.
  7. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Form batter into balls using level tablespoons of batter.
  8. Place formed cookie batter balls one inch apart on the cookie sheet and flatten each ball.
  9. Bake for about eight minutes, turning the cookie sheet halfway through the cooking time, until cookies are puffed and golden and firm to the touch.
  10. Let the cookies sit on the pan for two minutes before removing to a wire cooling rack to cool.

 

Summer Harvests: Tomato, Zucchini, and Kale Flatbread

“It’s what I want….”

Summer is a special time for our family because we celebrate two of our three children’s birthdays, one in July and one in August. The pandemic, though, put a bit of a damper on our usual festivities, so more emphasis was put on making something special and different for the birthday meals.

One of my daughters wanted to make flatbreads which is not as easy to do gluten free. However, I discovered that Schar makes a thin gluten free pizza crust which I could adapt, and with the garden providing an abundance of fresh tomatoes, zucchini, and kale, we could create our own gluten free flatbreads for my daughter’s birthday meal.

There are no measurements for the ingredients because it really depends on how many flatbreads you are going to make, but I suggest cooking up a lot of the ingredients because once you’ve made a couple of these, you are going to want to make more in just a couple of days!

Tomato, Zucchini, and Kale Flatbread

Ingredients:

garlic cloves (I roasted about 40 cloves)

fresh basil (at least a cup to two cups worth of leaves)

black pepper and salt (to taste)

olive oil (for both the garlic and for the basil-garlic sauce)

onions, thinly sliced (at least a couple of cups worth)

olive oil (for caramelizing the onions)

kale, thinly sliced (at least a couple of cups worth; remember that you double the amount of fresh to get what you need cooked)

zucchini(thinly sliced into half moons; about a couple of cups worth)

minced garlic, olive oil, dried oregano, salt and black pepper (for both the kale and zucchini)

tomatoes (thinly sliced and drained of the seeds; two to four tomatoes at least)

Schar gluten free thin pizza crusts (as many as you think you’ll make; each package has two crusts; we made four but then made another two a day later!)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. In an ovenproof pan, coat the garlic cloves with just enough olive oil to keep the cloves from sticking. Roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes until they are browned and shriveling and the aroma fills your kitchen. Remove from the oven and let them cool.
  3. Add the garlic cloves to a food processor with the basil leaves and begin to food process both, adding just enough olive oil to make a paste. Add black pepper and salt to taste. Set aside.
  4. In a pan on the stovetop, coat the sliced onions with just enough olive oil to coat and cook the onions over low heat for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once or twice until the onions are golden and caramelized. Remove from the heat and let them cool.
  5. In a pan on the stovetop, separately saute both the kale and zucchini with olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper until they are tender. Remove and allow them to cool.
  6. Slice the tomatoes and drain them in a colander, removing the seeds. Set aside.
  7. Preheat the oven to 410 degrees. Place the pizza crusts on a cookie sheet and bake for 3 minutes. Then flip the crusts and bake for another 3 minutes.
  8. Spread some of the basil-garlic paste thinly over the crust. Layer with caramelized onions, then tomatoes, then zucchini, then kale.
  9. Bake in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes until the crust is crispy and browned.
  10. Remove to wire cooling racks for five to ten minutes. Enjoy!

 

Summer Harvests: Zucchini-Squash Bake

“That time again….”

This time of year is my favorite. The garden is blooming with zucchini, squash, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, and kale. From the garden to the kitchen to the dinner table, these veggies make for great meals on summer days. The only down side is that we often find ourselves with such a plentiful yield that I need to come up with different ways of serving the vegetables so we are not caught in a rut.

This week, I had an abundance of zucchini and squash and thought I would look up some recipes online. I noticed that there were several sites boasting a zucchini-squash bake but noticed that they were actually the very same recipe over and over again for using heavy cream and butter and cheese to make a white sauce for the vegetables.

Since a dairy allergy precludes all three of those ingredients, I decided to revamp the recipe to create my own sauce. I also decided the recipe had too many complicated steps and made some changes so the prep work would be about ten minutes tops, and the oven could do the rest. The result was pretty tasty.

Zucchini-Squash Bake

Ingredients:

2 tsp olive oil

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp oregano

2 tbsp chopped green onions

8 cups sliced zucchini and squash (cut in half, then sliced into half moons)

1 tbsp olive oil (not a mistake – more olive oil in addition to the first)

2 tbsp garbanzo bean flour

1 cup unsweetened soy milk

1 cup Violife dairy free cheddar cheese

1 cup unsweetened soy milk (not a mistake – another cup’s worth in addition to the first cup)

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp ground onion powder

1 cup freshly chopped basil

2 tbsp chopped green onions (yes, another two tablespoons)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large pan, heat the olive oil with the minced garlic, oregano and green onions for about a minute to release the flavors.
  3. Toss in the chopped zucchini and squash moons and saute for about two to three minutes, just until the colors become vibrant and the herbs have flavored the vegetables. Removed from the heat source and set aside.
  4. In a smaller pan, heat the 1 tbsp olive oil for about a minute. Add the garbanzo bean flour and stir until the flour is completely absorbed into the oil.
  5. Add the first one cup of soy milks, stirring until the flour mixture is dissolved and the mixture begins to thicken.
  6. Add the Violife cheese shreds and stir until until melted. It will be thick.
  7. Stir in the second one cup of soy milk until the sauce is thinner and smooth.
  8. Add the black pepper, onion powder and basil. Remove from the heat.
  9. Stir the sauce into the sauteed zucchini and squash until well coated.
  10. Pour the vegetables into an 11 x 7 pan and sprinkle the green onions on top.
  11. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time.
  12. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Corona Cooking: Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

“It depends on your perspective….”

For many of us, the topsy-turvy daily changing world we are currently living in as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic is not welcomed. We fear for more than just our physical health. The closing of schools can exacerbate familial tensions. Mandated work leave may bring financial hardship. Social distancing can increase already felt isolation. Much stands to be lost, both globally and locally.

Yet, for just as many, this is an opportunity to embrace rest from the stresses of the daily grind and routine. Some see this as a time to be with family members we have too little time for in the midst of the usual “rushing here and there” lives we live. Others have been taking the unexpected time at home to spring clean or to create or to try something new. Many have been connecting more via social media, encouraging one another, even as social distancing prevents physical gatherings.

Perspective is an interesting concept. It refers to the view from which someone considers something, and recently I realized just how different my perspective is from a well-known cooking organization. “Ground-breaking recipes” in bold letters hailed my attention across the grocery aisle. I wondered what they had learned which those of us who had been cooking gluten free for years did not already know.

On the positive side, I was glad that this particular organization had created a gluten free issue of their magazine. It seemed to me, they’d been slow to do so. As I read through their recipes and suggestions, they appeared to offer good advice and had great tips, a couple of which I actually hadn’t tried myself before. They even had a short section at the end about those who are dairy sensitive as well as gluten, offering some ways to alter their recipes.

Where I took issue, though, was very bald statements they made about the fact that in order to create tasty gluten free food, only white rice flour should be used, that if you deviate from their homemade versions of flour blends you do so at your own risk, and that only a few of their recipes should be amended because the butter, whole eggs, and sugar were necessary. Since white rice flour has absolutely no nutritional value, and few people have the time to make their own homemade flour blends, and even more people are trying to eat healthier with less butter, whole eggs, and sugar, I found myself a bit put-out overall by the magazine.

And since I have a bit of time on my hands these days, I decided to see if I could literally make the magazine eat their words. I took one of their recipes for a dark chocolate cupcake and altered it to see if the difference was as stark as the magazine indicated it would be. My test-eaters agreed it was not, and that they actually preferred the version I had created. So, I share it here with you now, in case you, too, have some unexpected time to bake.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 cup safflower oil

3/4 cup Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips

2/3 cup Hershey unsweetened Special Dark cocoa powder

1 1/4 cup King Arthur whole grain gluten free flour blend

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup liquid egg whites

2 whole eggs

2 tsp gluten free vanilla

1 cup coconut sugar or monk fruit sweetener blend

1 cup non-dairy milk (soy or oat or flax)

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffin/cupcake tins with cupcake liners.
  2. In a large microwave safe measuring cup, melt together the safflower oil, dark chocolate chips, and unsweetened cocoa powder by microwaving for a minute and stirring until everything is smooth and completely melted. Set aside to cool.
  3. Combine in a bowl, the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the egg whites, eggs, vanilla and coconut or monk fruit sugar until well mixed.
  5. To the large bowl of liquid ingredients, add the cooled chocolate and milk, blending well.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the the liquid and stir until all ingredients are completely incorporated and mixture is smooth.
  7. Divide the batter evenly among the lined tins.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes until the cupcakes are puffed, dry and firm to the touch.
  9. Remove from the tins and allow the cupcakes to cool on wire cooling racks.
  10. Eat as is or frost with desired frosting.

 

 

Handling Holidays: Grain Free, Vegan Pumpkin Pie

“It’s just one more thing….”

The song tells us that “it is the most wonderful time of the year,” but all too often it is also the most stressful time of the year. On top of the usual routines and busyness, we add having to prepare for festive dinners and company, present shopping, holiday recitals and business gatherings, and a myriad of other events and preparations which are squashed into a six week period of time.

If you add on top of all that having to make sure that the food you prepare can accommodate Uncle Bob’s dietary restrictions and little Susan’s food allergies, it can become overwhelming – as one mom mentioned to me this week. She needed to know how to make a pumpkin pie which was grain free, vegan, and nut free. She figured the nut free part she could do, but she didn’t know what to do about the grain free and vegan parts.

So, I went to work. Instead of wheat flour and butter for the crust, I used Cassava flour and vegan butter which are grain free and vegan, but decreased the butter from 16 tbsp to 10, which was more than enough. For the pumpkin filling, I used flax milk and arrow root flour to substitute for the evaporated milk and egg, both of which are grain free and vegan. Because this would affect the silky, custardy texture, though, of the pie, I added a small amount of oil to the filling to increase the fat content but which added good fats instead of bad. For both the crust and the pie, I omitted sugar, using only a small amount of agave and some monk fruit sweetener for the filling so folks could really taste the pumpkin. For added flavor for both the crust and filling, I used spices and orange peel. The result was a tasty pie which the whole family could enjoy.

Vegan, Grain Free Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients for the crust: (will make two crusts)

2 1/2 cups cassava flour

1/8 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp grated, dried orange peel

1 cup plus 2 tbsp vegan butter

1 tbsp vinegar

6 to 10 tbsp cold water

Ingredients for filling: (filling is for one pie; double for two)

2 3/4 cup cooked, pureed pumpkin

1 1/2 cup unsweetened flax milk (can use soy or almond milk if you prefer; just make sure it has no grain starches added)

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp grated, dried orange peel

1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp agave

1/4 golden monk fruit sweetener blend

1 tbsp arrow root flour

1 tbsp extra light olive oil

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients for the crust: the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange peel.
  3. Cut in the butter with a pastry knife or grate cold butter squares with a grater into the dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Add the vinegar and cold water, beginning with 6 tbsp and adding one tablespoon at a time as needed until the doug is moistened and holds together well for rolling.
  5. Form the dough into two balls and then pat into disc shape. Roll one of the balls between two pieces of wax or parchment paper dusted with flour to fit 9 or 9.5 inch pie pans. (If making two pies, do the same with the other ball. If only making one pie, wrap the disc tightly in plastic wrap twice and put into the fridge. Will last for a couple of weeks. Just be sure to let it sit at room temperature before rolling for use.)
  6. Shape the crust in the pie pan and set aside.
  7. Combine the pumpkin, flax milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, orange peel, salt, agave, and monk fruit sweetener until well blended.
  8. Add the arrow root flour and olive oil. Mix well.
  9. Pour into the prepared crust.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Then cover the edges of the crust with aluminum foil, reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 40 minutes until the filling has puffed a bit and only jiggles in the center.
  11. Allow the pie to cool on a wire rack for 15 to 30 minutes, before placing in the fridge to cool and set completely.
  12. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Cooking: Grain Free Spice Pancakes

“Nope, none at all….”

Whenever I lead a workshop, inevitably someone asks me my opinion about all the “diets” which are being lauded these days which advocate restricting this or that. I always tell folks that they and their doctors know best for their health, but as a general rule for many people, as long as there are no health issues, I believe in a diet which moderately mixes the food groups – healthy vegetables and fruit, lean proteins like fish, chicken, beans and tofu, and whole grains like barley, oats, and quinoa – with a healthy baked treat every so often. Add in a doctor approved exercise regiment, and you’re good to go, in my opinion.

Lately, though, I seem to be meeting more and more folks who can’t eat any grains at all for a variety of health related reasons, and they find themselves frustrated that foods they enjoyed may be a thing of the past. Fortunately, there are many grain free flours these days. The most common on the market and easily found in supermarkets are almond, coconut, bean, and cassava flours.

For cooking needs, such as breading chicken or fish or thickening a sauce, these grain free flours work the same way that regular flour does and needs no adjustments.  When using them for baking, the number one consideration is that these flours require more moisture so often you need to increase the number of eggs or the amount of liquid ingredient being used. I often just begin with 1/4 cup increase to start and experiment from there.

Almond and cassava flours tend to work best if you’re looking for a 1 to 1 substitute. Coconut flour is much more absorbent so you can usually only use up to 1/3 cup for every cup of flour you are substituting. Bean flours are heavier so you should decrease the amount to 3/4 cup for every cup of regular flour. For all the flours, they bake best in items such as pancakes, muffins, waffles, shallow quick breads, and cookies. If you want to use them in cakes, you need to mix them with lighter grain free flours like tapioca or arrowroot flours.

For this post, I made a garbanzo bean and cassava flour pancake, heavy with Autumn spices, which is filling and substantial so folks can make due with just one or two for a protein-filled breakfast. They have the added benefit of not having any sugar in them. We topped ours with sauteed, seasonal apples, and they were yummy.

Grain Free Spice Pancakes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour

1/2 cup cassava flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup unsweetened dairy free milk (we used soy but flax or oat or almond work, too)

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 eggs

1/4 plant based oil (we used safflower but extra light olive oil or avocado oil would work, too)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Mix together the garbanzo bean and cassava flours with the baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt. Set aside.
  2. Blend together the unsweetened milk with the lemon juice, and add the eggs and oil.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet and mix until well blended.
  4. Heat a griddle at 325 to 350 degrees or a skillet on the stove on medium heat. If either is nonstick, no additional greasing is needed. If neither are nonstick, then you’ll need to grease your pan with your preferred method.
  5. Pour 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake and let it cook for a minute or two until the edges become dry. Flip and finish cooking on the other side for 30 seconds to a minute. Your pancake will rise and be golden on both side when they are done.
  6. To keep the pancakes warm, put them into a glass container with a lid and put them into a preheated oven on the lowest setting (mine is 170 degrees). To cool, put them on a wire rack, and then stack them in a container to keep in the fridge. To reheat, just popped them into the toaster or in the microwave. They freeze well, too.

Creative Cooking: Orange Chiffon Cake

“Labors of love….”

“I’m sorry, Mama,” said my son. He and I were in the car, and I was not feeling well. He was not apologizing because I didn’t feel well. He was sorry because he felt badly that I was driving him even though I was not well.

Mothers do this all the time, placing our children’s needs before our own. Most of us don’t think twice. I assured my son that he didn’t need to feel badly about anything. If I was truly unable to drive him, I would not have, but for me, being able to do things for my children brings me joy.

Recently, we celebrated a birthday in the family, and I made a chiffon cake, which was requested. I realized that I hadn’t made a chiffon cake in many, many years because it is more work than a regular cake, and I certainly hadn’t made one to accommodate food allergies.

The first thing you’ll see when you google chiffon cakes is that the recipes vary. There are what they call “easy” recipes which use very few eggs and take less time and then there are the more “complicated” recipes which I read were the better way to go. Because the cake was another “labor of love” for someone I care about very much, it was a no-brainer. Complicated it was.

As it was, chiffon cakes are not complicated, just time-consuming. Most recipes want you to bring the eggs to room temperature first, and then the eggs require several steps: separating the whites from the yolks, whipping the whites, and folding them into the batter. At the end, the chiffon cake also requires complete cooling time in an upside down position which had several recipes concocting elaborate sets with soda bottles to hold up the cake pan!

It seemed I needed to find a way to make things less complicated, so I did.

First, I simply took the eggs out as my first step and immediately separated the yolks from the whites, and I put the whites on the counter to sit while I assembled the other ingredients and got out my pan. It’s important to note that you need a tube pan for chiffon cake, and if you have a tube pan like mine where the center tube is wide and longer than the edges of the pan, you can simply turn your pan upside down on the tube to cool at the end with no elaborate strategy needed.

For substitutes, I swapped olive oil for the vegetable or canola oil used in most recipes, and I used monk fruit sugar in place of sugar, reducing the amount by 1/3. For the all purpose flour, I used King Arthur’s whole grain gluten free blend. Because I was using a gluten free flour, I wanted to make sure my eggs were well-whipped and airy, so I increased the cream of tartar to 1 tsp from the usual 1/4 tsp, and I increased the baking powder to 1 tbsp. By the time I had measured out all the other ingredients, I felt enough time had elapsed that I could whip the whites, and I was correct.

The resulting cake was light and airy and tasty, and I’m thinking I may even make it again!

Orange Chiffon Cake

Ingredients:

9 large eggs (will use 9 whites but only 7 yolks)

2 1/4 cups gluten free flour blend

1 cup monk fruit sugar blend (divided into 1/4 cup, 1/4 cup, and 1/2 cup)

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp dried orange peel

3/4 cup unsweetened orange juice

1/2 cup extra light olive oil

1 tsp cream of tartar

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and put out a tube pan. You do not grease the pan for a chiffon cake.
  2. Separate the yolks from the whites. You will use only seven yolks for the cake. (I put the extra two yolks in a bowl and added other eggs to them the next time I made a fritatta.) Let the nine egg whites sit in a bowl to be whipped, and put the seven yolks into a large bowl.
  3. Mix together, the flour, 1/2 cup of the monk fruit sugar, baking powder, salt, and orange peel. Set aside.
  4. To the bowl with the egg yolks, add 1/4 cup of the monk fruit sugar, orange juice, and olive oil and blend well. Set aside.
  5. To the egg whites, add the cream of tartar and last 1/4 cup of the monk fruit sugar, and whip until the egg whites are crayon white, doubled in size, thick and airy and when you pull the whisk up, the whites form a sturdy upside down peak.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and blend well.
  7. Using a curved spatula, gently fold the egg whites in a little at a time to the batter until all the egg whites have been incorporated. This will take time. Best not to hurry the process. Just slowly fold the whites in while you think about how lovely it will be when everyone enjoys the cake. *grin*
  8. Using the spatula carefully put the batter into the tube pan and once all the batter is in, gently tap the pan to let the batter settle.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for about 50 minutes. The cake will be puffed and golden and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
  10. Put the tube pan upside down. If your pan is like mine, you can just set it on the center tube. If not, you want air to be able to circulate so place at least two items opposite one another so you can balance the pan upside down with space between the pan and the counter.
  11. Allow the cake to cool completely. This may take several hours, depending on how warm or cool your kitchen is.
  12. Once completely cooled, go around the edges between the cake and the pan with a butter knife to release the cake from the pan. Be sure to do the same between the cake and middle tube. When the cake releases, you will note that the cake is crummy around the sides where it stuck to the pan and tube. I use clean fingers to gently rub the excess crumbs off the sides of the cake so it will be neater.
  13. Serve the cake as is with whipped cream or ice cream or frost with your favorite frosting.
  14. Enjoy!