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Friends, I think we have our first family recipe.

A week or so ago we went on a lovely drive through Niagara County on the hunt for fresh apples, concord grapes, pumpkins, and other seasonal produce. We bought a bushel of the sweetest apples I’ve ever tasted, and I quickly laid plans to make a pie. I’m not actually a big fan of fruit pie, so I wanted to come up with a way to make an apple pie that I would really enjoy. I was inspired by Julia Child’s recipe for a custard apple tart from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but I changed a few things and used a different recipe for the crust.

It was so, so good. Creamy custard with sweet apples and just the right amount of spice. I’ll be making this pie every fall.

Apple Custard Pie

Ingredients:
1 pie crust (see below)
3-4 of your favorite apples
Pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Pie crust:

Use whatever pie crust you like, I’m a fan of Gluten-Free Girl’s pie crust recipe, or for a conventional crust, I really like this one by Smitten Kitchen.

In either case, add a pinch of cinnamon to the dry ingredients for this pie, you’ll notice the difference. Also note, especially if you are using the Smitten Kitchen recipe, you do NOT need to pre-bake the crust. The baking time for the custard will be plenty of time for the crust to bake.

Prepare your pie crust, and roll out to 1/4″ thickness and line your pie pan. Fold over the edges or crimp your crust, and poke some holes in the dough with your fork so it doesn’t puff up in the oven.

To make the custard, whisk together the eggs, sugar, cream, and vanilla until combined.

Chop 3-4 apples (depending on size – I used 3 large Jonagold apples) into slices and lay them in concentric circles around the pie crust. Sprinkle the apples with a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, then pour the custard mixture over the top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until the custard in the center has set.

I’d recommend refrigerating this pie overnight after it cools, it’s absolutely delicious cold.

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I love pasta, but summer is not the season for thick red sauce or traditional alfredo sauce. I’ll be posting a few different summer-friendly pasta recipes over the next few weeks as I try different combinations of fresh veggies and herbs.

Linguine with Slow-Cooked Zucchini, Basil, and Cream

(adapted slightly from this recipe on NPR)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, cut into paper-thin slices
3-4 medium zucchini, sliced into thin coins
1 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. heavy cream
Handful large basic leaves, chopped into strips
1 pound dried linguine (regular or your favorite gluten-free variety – mine is Ancient Harvest Quinoa Linguine)
1/2 c. fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 c. fresh grated Romano cheese

Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Stir in garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes or until garlic begin to soften. Do not let the garlic brown. Add the zucchini, salt, and a generous amount of pepper and cook slowly over medium to medium-low heat, gently tossing from time to time, for about 30 minutes or until zucchini are completely tender. The zucchini will be very soft, with some coins breaking up as they cook.

Gently stir in the cream and cook for 5 or so more minutes, or until the cream has thickened slightly. Turn off the heat and add the basil, tossing the sauce gently to incorporate. Reheat the sauce briefly when the pasta is almost done cooking.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously. Add the pasta, stir, and cook until al dente (usually 8-10 minutes). Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water, and drain the pasta in a colander.

Transfer the pasta to the frying pan and gently toss to incorporate the pasta and sauce thoroughly, adding a splash or two of cooking water to loosen. Add the parmigiano and romano cheeses and toss again, adding more cooking water if necessary. Top with a few fresh basil leaves, and serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 servings.

This recipe was inspired by a recipe I found written on a scrap of paper while cleaning last week. I don’t know the original source, but I’ve edited it slightly and the results were positively delicious.

Banana Bread

1 stick melted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or your favorite gluten-free blend)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
2 thoroughly ripe bananas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan or 9×9 baking pan.
Combine the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the egg, butter, and vanilla mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the bananas and greek yogurt, and pour evenly into your pan. Bake for 30-60 minutes (varies depending on the pan you use). The top and sides should be a golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

If you’d like, add chocolate chips, walnuts, or sliced almonds along with the bananas and yogurt in the final step for some yummy variations.

Strawberry season is in full swing in Buffalo, and I really wanted to take advantage of it in my baking. I’m working on a recipe for a gluten-free strawberry cake, but for now I kept it simple with a sweet strawberry shortcake-like creation. I made gluten-free yellow cake cupcakes, fresh whipped cream, and a compote of fresh local strawberries and fresh rosemary. They were delicious! Sweet, fresh, and a little woodsy.

Here is a simplified recipe:

Strawberry Short-Cupcakes with Rosemary

12 ct. your favorite yellow cake cupcakes*

For the compote:
6-8 large strawberries
1 sprig rosemary
Splash of orange juice

Chop the strawberries into smaller than bite-sized pieces. Chop a small amount of rosemary into tiny pieces. You’ll want about 1/2 teaspoon. Add the strawberries, rosemary, and splash of orange juice to a small sauce pan. Simmer on low for 5-10 minutes.

For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

In a large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat, or cream will become lumpy.

Using a teaspoon, hollow out a shallow hole in each cupcake. Drop a dollop of whipped cream in the center, and a small spoonful of compote on top. Enjoy!

*I used a basic gluten-free recipe and reduced the sugar and the vanilla to give the cakes a heartier taste. They’d also be great with traditional shortcakes, or regular sweet cake.

I’d like to start by saying that I love this cake. This cake made my weekend.

This cake is moist but not mushy, perfectly chewy and rich, and so satisfying. It’s like this cake has no bottom – the bottom of the pan is lined with butter and brown sugar and pineapple so that ends up being the delicious top of the cake, and the top becomes this wonderfully crisp, golden-brown base that makes every bite special. This cake is already gone. I miss this cake.

I am especially proud of this recipe because not only is it my first pineapple upside-down cake, but it’s one of the first recipes I feel I really built myself. I used Allrecipe’s Gluten Free Yellow Cake recipe as a base to make sure I had my proportions right, but the rest was me.

Cake bonus: I had everything on hand in my pantry to make this cake. I love when that happens.

So, please. Make this cake. I swear it’s as good as I’m making it out to be.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups white rice flour
3/4 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups turbinado sugar
2/3 cup greek-style plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk (any kind – I used fat free)
1/2 cup fresh pineapple puree *
2 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla extract

Also:
About a cup of thinly sliced fresh pineapple chunks *
2 tablespoons butter, melted
A tablespoon or so brown sugar

I know it’s tempting and easier to use canned pineapple, but I think one of the reasons this cake was a success was because I used fresh fruit. I would strongly recommend you use fresh pineapple for this recipe, you won’t regret it! Not to mention all the extra pineapple you’ll get to eat if you buy the whole fruit!

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Blend together the dry ingredients, besides the sugar, in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, and yogurt and whisk together until fluffy. Add the milk, pineapple puree, and vanilla extract. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix until smooth.

In a bundt pan, pour melted butter along the bottom and spread evenly. Sprinkle with brown sugar, and arrange the pineapple chunks along the bottom of the pan.

Pour the batter into the pan, and bake for about 30 minutes or until the top becomes a dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

This cake is best enjoyed warm, or even better reheated in thick slices in the toaster oven with some butter slathered on top. This is not a crumbly cake, so it stays together well when sliced. Enjoy!

I love ugly muffins. I call them that because they’re not the perfect, dome-top muffins you might find in a bakery. They are made with gluten-free grains, and that makes the batter a little different. I don’t try to correct the shape of the muffins or round them before they’re baked because I’ve found the little peaks all over the top add some crunch to the muffins which I love. They’re delicious and healthy, so ugly is no matter!

I use Beth’s recipe as the base for these muffins, and I add different fruit and spices to mix things up. On her recommendation, I tried some dried fruit this time. I used organic dried cherries, cranberries, and apples along with some cinnamon and nutmeg. They taste wonderful, and they’re great for keeping on hand for a quick, healthful, homemade snack.

I am obsessed with basil. I love how it smells, tastes, and I love what you can do with it. Most of all, I love pesto. Tossed with some al dente spaghetti (I found a quinoa/corn blend that I love) it’s perfection.

Cashew Pesto

Makes about 1/2 c. pesto

1 cup fresh organic basil leaves, tightly packed
1/4 c. freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese (I use a blend of both)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
10 or so whole cashews
salt and pepper to taste

Throw it all in your food processor, blend, and enjoy!

I had the most lovely Valentine’s Day.

My valentine had to work all day, but it gave me the chance to get into the spirit. I hung a paper heart garland, made a valentine for Rosie, and prepared a special dinner and dessert. I made gluten-free devil’s food cupcakes with pink vanilla icing and shredded coconut, and for Rosie a batch of yummy (to her) all-natural peanut butter dog treats.

I also received the best Valentine’s Day present ever – my first typeface! 12 & 18 pt Original Old Caslon, can’t wait to print with it.

Here’s a peek at our little Valentine’s Day:

This week I had my first chance to cook with meyer lemons. What a delight! Their skin is smooth and canary yellow, and the smell, well, it’s just plain wonderful – a mix of sweet, citrusy lemon flavor with a hint of floral notes that makes me wish I could wear it as perfume. The flavor of meyer lemons is commonly described as a cross between a typical lemon and a mandarin orange. I think they are a joy all their own.

They only fruit for a very short time in January, so if you see them at the market one week, they may not be there the next (unless you live in California). I picked up about a dozen last week when I saw them at my local market, and I made a meyer lemon curd, marmalade, and vinaigrette.

Meyer lemons grow well indoors, but you have to be diligent in pruning and caring for the tree. I’d like to find one this summer and take extra good care of it so that the last week in January can always be Meyer Lemon Week! instead of Is The Snow Actually Falling From the Sky Already Grey?! week.

The meyer lemon curd was a beautiful match with this gluten-free rosemary flatbread I made on Sunday. I’m saving the rest of the curd for some buttermilk sandwich cookies this weekend.

Meyer Lemon Curd
(originally from The Perfect Pantry)

1/2 cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
Grated zest of two Meyer lemons
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice
6 eggs

Put all ingredients, except eggs, into a nonreactive bowl set over a pot of simmering water. When the butter has melted and before the mixture is too warm, gradually whisk in the beaten eggs. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Place the curd in a container, cover, and store in the refrigerator.

Works great on a sweet or herbed bread, with baked goods, or for lemon bars.

Gluten-free Rosemary Flatbread

3/4 c. your favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour blend (I use Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Baking Flour – sold in bulk now!)
2 tsp Xanthan Gum
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 Tb Olive Oil
3/4 cup Warm Water
1 tsp Sugar
1 Egg
2 tsp Yeast, Active Dry
Small handful of chopped fresh rosemary (thyme works nicely too)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine yeast, sugar and water in a large bowl and let stand about 5 minutes. Combine dry ingredients (besides rosemary) in separate bowl. Add egg and oil to wet ingredients, then add dry ingredients. Mix with a blender for a minute, adding a teaspoon of water if dough moves up beaters. Fold in the rosemary. Scoop onto greased baking sheet, wet your hands with water and spread dough over sheet until smooth (this dough is rather sticky and probably won’t be completely smooth. It won’t matter though, I promise). Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and your house smells like the rosemary fairy fell from heaven and landed in your kitchen.

I can’t wait for next January already!

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