Tag Archives: recipes

Buck Up with Buckwheat!

It’s cold in New York City.  I sit at the computer, writing away at articles for my job, gobbling hot tea constantly.  And as I puttered around the kitchen this morning, I realized my normal breakfast of eggs and veggies wasn’t gonna cut it. I need something warm, filling and slightly sweet.

Enter BUCKWHEAT.

buckwheat kernals

This gluten-free grain is often overlooked when compared with its massively produced cousin, Oatmeal, but it’s now readily available in health food stores large and small.  It’s not actually a grain, but a seed somewhat related to rhubarb.  It cooks very similarly to oatmeal, though, is as deliciously versatile and is wonderfully filling on mornings when there’s a lot of day to face.  It’s completely gluten-free and a very healthy-happy food.

Healthy-Happy Buckwheat!

  • Completely gluten-free as it’s a seed, so it’s digestible for those with celiac and gluten sensitivities
  • Contains a very high level of magnesium, which relaxes blood vessels and therefore contributes to healthy blood flow and is good for the heart
  • Lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol (that’s a good thing…)
  • Helps lower and regulate blood-sugar levels by containing chiro-inositol.  Researchers are not sure why this does what it does quite yet, but in humans and animals alike, whole grains containing this compound lowered blood-sugar levels by 12-19% when compared with those given a placebo (check it out at WHFoods)
  • Generally high in antioxidants, so is generally an on-your-side superfood

Let’s Cook It!

Some cook buckwheat as an alternative to rice.  I prefer it as a porridge, all gooey and slightly sweet.  Below is my recipe for a coconut-buckwheat cereal.  Alternatives would be to cook with water or an animal milk, then add any variety of vanilla extract, cinnamon, dried or fresh fruits, carob powder, fresh nutmeg, chai… the list goes on.  I prefer coconut milk on some mornings because it makes the porridge thicker and naturally sweet and creamy.  I pressure cook my morning grains normally, as it adds to the digestion ease and also makes the grains that much more moist and fluffy.  Toasting them for a few minutes on dry heat before adding the liquid increases their digestibility.  Directions for pressure-cooking and stove top cooking are below.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of buckwheat
  • 2 cups of liquid – I used a can of light coconut milk and then topped off the rest with water
  • 1 tsp maple syrup (per serving)
  • dried cranberries, golden raisins or blueberries (preferably sugar and nitrate-free)
  • raw or toasted nuts (I used pecans, but hazelnuts or almonds would also be delightful)

Directions:

  1. Pressure Cook Grains: Add grains and liquid into a pressure cooker, bring up to full heat (you’ll know because it’ll be sizzling away, making lots of noise and releasing some steam), cook for 12 minutes, then turn off the heat and let pressure release naturally.
  2. Stove-top Cooking Grains:  Toast the grains in a dry pot on medium heat, stirring continually, until they become nutty and fragrant.  Add the liquid, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer.   Cook about 15-20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.
  3. Serve with 1 tsp of maple syrup per serving, and a small handful of raw nuts and dried fruit.

Note: Adding a non-animal protein such as nut-butter or eggs is a great way to make this breakfast a perfect protein and aid digestion.  I actually rarely do such heavy grains first thing in the morning as I can’t digest nuts well in the early day, but as a sweet-treat and with some extra digestive boosting supplements, it’s a great way to face the rain.

How to make this a dessert? Simmer about 2 1/2 cups coconut milk on the stove, adding 4 tablespoons maple syrup, 2+ teaspoons each of vanilla extract and cinnamon and, if you want to live dangerously, a little dark rum.  Add grains and cook on low until thick and sweet.  Whip a whole egg and add in just before the grains are fully cooked, stirring thoroughly.  Taste and add seasonings to your preference.  Remove to a wide pan and refrigerate until cold.  Sprinkle with cinnamon, raisins and (if desired) a little more agave.

Vegan Chocolate Fudge Cake – The Easiest Recipe Ever!

Adding a can of pumpkin to a boxed chocolate cake mix.  A gluten-peanut-dairy-soy-free chocolate cake mix?

Success!

I can say without a doubt that this is the easiest recipe for a vegan fudge chocolate cake EVER!  The pumpkin obliterated the dry, crumbly issue I had last weekend with the gf cakes, and the denseness and moistness balanced out the dark semi-sweetness of the chocolate.  My host commented on how you couldn’t taste pumpkin specifically, but that it added a vanilla finish instead.

I served the cake on a dish of coffee vanilla sauce, also vegan, and with a few fresh blueberries.  While one desserter noted that the sauce tasted like something you would get at a vegan restaurant, another said it was the coffee that hit them first and then the texture.  Not a bad pairing for the cake, but I’m going to find a better one.

Conclusion to this experiment?  I will, with confidence and excitement, use a can of pumpkin and a boxed allergy-free cake mix to make a cake for those with food sensitivities and food snobs alike.

Oh, and our hosts created a phenomenal dinner for us – short ribs that literally fell of the bone, beet and goat cheese salad, cheese and cured meats that were divine, and more bottles of Prosecco and red wine than I care to admit.

Not a bad Friday night for this tired, dusty baker.

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Allergy-Free Chocolate Cake

…That is, unless you’re allergic to chocolate.

This afternoon your Dusty Baker got on the subway with four bags and a good book.  About 30 minutes later I realized I was express-ing my way past any station I could transfer at and was headed to the Bronx.

It was a long trip home to making this chocolate cake, I tell ya.

Luckily, the book was really good and I’m NYC savy enough to figure out a way to not go the 100 blocks back in the opposite direction to transfer, but rather did a little schlepping and got my ingredients home.  A can of organic pumpkin and a box of gluten-free chocolate cake mix from Gluten-Free Dreams, to be exact.

I read on a vegan blog that you can substitute the oil and eggs in a cake recipe with a can of pumpkin.   Why not throw this into the mix of my boxed gluten-free cake mix experimentation?

As with the Betty Crocker and Glutino mixes I used last week, this mix from Cherrybrook Kitchen is made primarily with rice flour, potato starch, sugar and xantham gum.  Not my personal favorite mix of ingredients.  Allergy-free, yes.  Healthy alternatives, not really.  But I remind myself of the purpose of the experiment – is baking gluten/allergy-free now just as easy as traditional recipes? – and soldier on.

Into the bowl goes one box of allergy-free chocolate cake mix, one can of organic pumpkin and two teaspoons of vanilla extract. I mix until everything is absorbed, and then throw in 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (if you’re allergic to nuts, obviously substitute with cow, soy or rice milk).

The mix is thicker than a traditional cake batter, but with confidence I lump it into a 9″ greased cake pan and into the 350 degree preheated oven.  29 minutes later, the toothpick comes out clean.  15 minutes later, it’s successfully flipped over and onto my carrying plate.

I’ll let you know what the peanut-eating-gallery thinks.

Vegan Coffee Vanilla Sauce

I’m bringing a vegan chocolate cake to a dinner party tonight,  And to go along with a cake, one needs a frosting or a sauce, right?

Last weekend I made a gluten-free chocolate/vanilla layercake with a traditional buttercream frosting for a friend’s birthday.  It was way sweet, and full of, obviously, butter.  And since the cake was vegan, logic follows that I shouldn’t just dump some animal by-product frosting on top, right?

In a pastry class I took a few years ago I learned how to make chocolate mousse out of silken tofu.  Figuring the texture was the first thing to worry about with a vegan sauce, I grabbed a container of the stuff from Whole Foods and figured I’d improv the rest.

Okay, here’s the list of what eventually made it into my new food processor.  It took a bit of trial-and-error-and-trial-more.

  • 1 package silken tofu, drained
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, the insides only
  • 1 tablespoon of wild clover honey
  • 2 tablespoons of palm sugar
  • 1 rounded tablespoon instant coffee granules

A mess of ingredients, right?  I mean, palm sugar and maple syrup and honey?

Originally I had meant to make a maple vanilla sauce.  But I only had about 2 teaspoons of syrup left.  Not wanting to use the dreaded agave, I thought maybe palm sugar would suffice.  Nope.  Adding more vanilla to the original teaspoon?  Well, it was something.   Adding honey for sweetness?  A bit better.  But the darned thing still tasted like tofu!

(By the way, I totally just swore and then edited myself.  It was a frustrating scenario but even when things are dusty, one must retain her propriety, right?)

So the sauce wouldn’t be a maple vanilla sauce.  I was determined not to melt chocolate and throw it in.  Then, brilliance struck (while Sigur Ros was playing, as often happens in my kitchen, for some reason.  Icelandic magic, maybe).

Coffee brings out the richness in chocolate and the depth of vanilla.  Would it save the sauce?

It did!! I now have a mildly sweet and richly complex sauce to drizzle over the chocolate cake.  For friends who, by the way, have no food allergies or special dietary requests.  I will probably reel from the amount of sugar in what I’ll be sampling – I just hope it’s enough for their taste buds to do a happy-dance.

Easy, Healthy, Yummy, Lamb and Roast Veg Dinner

There are just some things about living in NYC’s lower east side that you’d be a right nut not to love.  In a total of twenty minutes, I procured a pound and a half of gorgeous local Frenched lamb rib chops from Whole Foods and dried fruits, nuts and a creamy, sharp goat cheese from Russ and Daughter’s (and if you’ve ever tried to go in there on a Sunday, you’d appreciate the spaciousness and quiet going in there early on a Thursday evening provides).  Then I hauled the lot up to a roomy apartment with a great view to gaze out at while I got some work done.

Ok, I don’t live in the LES.  But the current man-in-my-life does, and he’s stuck out of the country on, um, legal matters (insert ominous music).  And while absence does make the heart grow fonder (and crankier), the presence of his apartment and darling roommate do somewhat soften the blow of not knowing when he’s coming back (ooh, it’s scandalous).

(I kid – he’s Canadian.  Not that scandalous.)

So, food and the Canadian.  What’s the connect?

Since I’ve started dating Mr. Current MIML, my playing with meat has lessened to a great degree.  MIML doesn’t eat much meat.  No pork, beef or lamb.  Very little duck.  He does eat shrimp.  I find this out a few dates in and my left arm starts to hurt a bit.  I breathe again when I realize that MIML’s roommate devours meat and likes to cook.

Hence my presence at their apartment this evening with said booty.

I chose lamb ribs because, well, the market had no duck.  And the boys don’t have a proper dutch oven for me to slow-roast anything.  Or a deep saute pan for anything on the stove.  Lamb ribs only require a sheet pan and season delectably with salt, pepper and rosemary, so the list of ingredients that had to be added to their cupboard was minimal.  These ribs cook quickly and are succulent and juicy, an impressive dish for one so simple.

You hear me out there?  If you want to serve up a savory dish that requires little time in the kitchen and will easily impress both a friend who doesn’t know how to George Forman a hamburger and one who believes foie gras is a food group, roast some lamb ribs.  Don’t try to over season or over sauce.  If they’re cooked perfectly, all they need is a minimal amount of love to shine.

The roommate suggested roasted cauliflower with dried apricots and pine nuts.  Russ and Daughter’s didn’t have pine nuts, so raw cashews took the prize.   Delicious addition.  In a relaxed atmosphere we created a simple, healthy, delicious lamb dinner that was the perfect accompaniment to red wine, good conversation, a comfy couch and The Social Network (mixed feelings on that one).

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs lamb rip chops, Frenched (about 5 chops – I got three for the gentleman and two for myself.  Add one or two more each if you’re really hungry)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped small
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper (I usually stock a four-pepper blend – white peppercorns add a fine dimension to meat, in my opinion)
  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 1/4 pound raw cashews, chopped
  • 1/4 pound dried apricots, quartered
  • extra virgin olive oil (we used Whole Foods’ organic blend).

Directions

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Place florets in a baking dish and season with salt, pepper and olive oil to taste. Make sure they aren’t crowded in the dish.  Stick on the middle/low rack in the preheated oven.  These will cook for about 20 minutes before you add the lamb.
  • Meanwhile, chop the cashews and toast lightly in a dry frying pan on low heat, until they start to smell nutty and are slightly brown.  Remove from heat to cool.
  • Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray and lay lamb ribs out.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and about 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary.  With your (clean) hands, rub the spices in on both sides until evenly coated.
  • When the cauliflower has been in the oven for at least 20-25 minutes and is starting to soften, place the lamb in, uncovered, on a high rack (2nd down in the oven works best).  Cook for ten minutes, flip and cook for 5-7 minutes more, depending on how rare you like your lamb.
  • Remove all from the oven.  Let the lamb sit for 3 minutes before removing to serving plates.
  • Meanwhile, toss cauliflower with apricots, cashews and a little more olive oil / salt and pepper if necessary.

Buen prubechu!

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Boxed Gluten-Free Cake Mix – Taste Test

My how the world has changed in the 17 years I’ve been gluten-free. Back in those days a girl couldn’t get a cookie or a decent piece of bread, let alone make a cake from a Betty Crocker gluten-free mix. This absence perpetuated the need for me to learn how to bake for myself, as it has for thousands upon thousands of us.

But now we have the gift of being able to make a cake just as swiftly as our glutenous counterparts through several brands of cake-in-a-box. And a new friend’s birthday party this weekend gave me the opportunity to test a few brands out.

I chose to use both Betty Crocker’s Devil’s Food and Glutino’s Gluten-Free Pantry Old Fashioned Cake and Cookie Mix, since both only make one round cake and a bit of chocolate and vanilla layered in one cake never hurt anyone.

I must confess, I had my doubts. Both mixes use rice as their only flour, and sugar bulks up the flavor content. The mixes felt grainy between my fingers, and the vanilla one sort of went flying in the air when I poured it into the bowl.  Here’s the nutritional content of both:

For the Betty Crocker chocolate layer:

  • one cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk rather than the one cup water in the recipe.
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not in recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons of instant coffee (not in recipe)

I baked it according to the instructions at 350 degrees for 43 minutes in a lightly greased 9″ round pan, and cooled it for about 15 minutes in the pan before inverting it to a cooling rack.

For the Gluten-Free Pantry Vanilla layer:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

And baked it for 28 minutes in a lightly greased 9″ round pan, and cooled it for 15 minutes before inverting it onto a cooling rack.

The frosting:

I made Williams-Sonoma’s Quick Buttercream Frosting, using unsweetened almond milk instead of cow’s milk.

The result:

The cake went over far better at the party than I had expected, and many were shocked to find it was gluten-free.  I was told it was actually a bit denser than a normal boxed cake, which people seemed to prefer.  The payoff for this was that I thought it was a bit dry.  No one could tell the difference between the two brands, neither being particularly more or less sweet than the other.

I was particularly shocked that it wasn’t grainy, but think the cakes would have benefited from the addition of another flour such as amaranth to both moisten and naturally sweeten.  While I could respect that they tasted like traditional boxed cake mixes, I’d still rather make my own cakes from scratch so that I could use more natural forms of sweetener and bulk up the flavor content with a few different flours.  But I was impressed.

Several people said they’d pick up the brands to make for an event where a gluten-free guest was in attendance, knowing that other guests would still enjoy it.

Two thumbs up.  That’s really all I have to say about that.    In a pinch, these cakes are nutcrackers.

Coming up, one more boxed cake-test using canned pumpkin instead of the butter/eggs to make a vegan version!

Gluten-Free Easy Banana Nut Muffin Recipe

I don’t normally bake with bananas.  My mother has a delectable recipe for banana bread, but these deliciously sweet fruits have been forbidden since hypoglycemia reared its ugly head.

But sometimes opportunity is the mother of invention, and I inherited four very ripe bananas from a friend with little time to utilize them.  The same person who passed them on was also a bit under the weather.  Time to get baking!

One thing I love about making muffins is how you can just sort of throw in whatever you have around to make them as simple or complex as your mood is flowing.  I had some pecans around that were ready for toasting and was trying to use the rest of my agave syrup (I won’t be baking with it soon – more to come on that).  Tossing stuff into a bowl with gusto, I’ve got a decent recipe going here.  The challenge was using the agave syrup instead of sugar: in most muffin recipes, sugar and butter are beaten until fluffy so that the moisture of the banana doesn’t soup the batter.  But with agave, which is liquid, there is no such dry and sweet combination.  So I added cormeal, increased the amount of baking soda to give it a little extra lift, and threw in the pecans that I had toasted ever so slightly for some texture.

The result?  They came out light and fluffy while still being dense, and the cornmeal gave them a scrumptious, ever-so-slightly crumbly texture that I love.  The amount of sweetness was perfect for me.

Because I was staying with friends at the time I made these get-better muffins, my full flour-arsenal wasn’t at my fingertips, so I used Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose gluten-free flour mix.  In a recipe with this complexity, it blended just dandily.

As always with my recipes, you can always substitute the butter with butter flavored Earth Balance and the eggs with powdered egg replacer to make them vegan, gluten-free banana bread muffins.  They may lack a little heft, but they’ll still be delicious.

Ingredients:

Yields one loaf or 16 muffins

  • 2 cups gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Baking Mix)
  • ½ cup ground cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp xantham gum
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (8 tbsps) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup light agave syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • ½ cup toasted pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts (optional)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Grease and flour (preferably with rice flour, as it’s grainy and helps the bread release) a loaf pan or muffin tins
  • If you have raw nuts, spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake them while the oven preheats.  Check on them regularly to make sure they don’t burn – this should take no longer than 10 minutes and they’ll brown quickly once brought to heat.
  • In a small bowl combine flour, cornmeal, baking soda, xantham gum and salt
  • In a large bowl, beat butter with a hand mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes
  • Add agave syrup and beat to combine
  • Add eggs one at a time and beat to incorporate
  • With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in mashed bananas
  • Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine
  • Fold in toasted nuts
  • Bake for 1 hour for a loaf pan or 18 minutes for muffins
  • Cool completely before removing from pan

Corn-and-Dairy-Free Apple Pie

 

Dusty Dan - the Brother

My brother Dan’s friend Matt’s fiance Marissa can’t eat corn or dairy.  Dan is spending New Year’s Eve with them and some friends in Vermont.  I owe Dan a baking session as part of his Christmas gift.  On a snowy, cold evening in Washington Heights at the late hour of 11pm, we head into my kitchen to develop a recipe for a corn-and-dairy-free apple pie all the revelers will enjoy.

I must admit, I’m a little concerned about this assignment.  Butter is the one thing I can count on in baking when my sugar and flour sources are limited.  I completely avoid milk, cream, cheese and the like, but the minimal presence of protein in butter somehow makes it easy enough for me to digest without too much disturbance.  Especially clarified butter, where more protein has been removed.  So no matter the flour combination or inclusion/lack thereof of sweetener, I’ve always been able to rely on butter to add complexity and flavor.

Technically, butter also acts as the fat that binds the flour together in a crust.

Now, while I generally don’t use corn flour or products when I bake, I also haven’t been particularly attentive to it being in products I use.  So when Dan said Melissa uses Smart Balance Light as her “butter”, I stick to it.  I’m a bit confused about it’s being made with canola oil, which I assume is from corn.  Or if there’s a specific reason she doesn’t use Crisco shortening, which is made from palm and soybean oils.

After some quick googling I realize that canola isn’t made from corn but from rapeseed – who knew?!?

These are all questions to ask her at another time when we make “Melissa’s Apple Pie Take Two”.

For now, here’s how this basically plays out:  I use regular flour so that the gluten binds and develops the pie dough.  Other than replacing the butter with the Smart Balance and only using 1 tablespoon of water, we make the Williams-Sonoma Basic Pie Crust.  I also use white sugar in the dough and the filling, which I don’t usually do.  I figure this pie needs to be a gentle step for those who don’t have food allergies.

So – this pie is NOT gluten-free nor sugar-free.  Not a particularly alternative recipe, it just lacks corn and dairy together.  For tips on making the best of your apple pie, check out my posts on Apple Pie Filling and The Best Basic Pie Crust.

Ingredients: Apples

  • 12-16 hard, ripe apples, of three different varieties.
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, two varieties if possible (one sweet, one spicy)
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (preferably ground fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions: Apples

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Peel, core and slice your apples, and spread them equally on two rimmed cookie sheets.
  • Sprinkle 1/4 cup white sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon cloves on EACH of the sheets.
  • Mix with your hands until all apples are coated.
  • Bake for about 15-20 minutes while you prepare your crust, turning the apples once, until softened.
  • Remove from oven and let cool before filling.

Ingredients: Crust

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 16 tablespoons cold Smart Balance Lite
  • 1 tablespoon ice cold water
  • 1 egg (for washing on top)

Directions: Crust

  • Fix a standing mixer with a paddle attachment and pour in flour, sugar and salt.  Whisk together.
  • Add the Smart Balance in little chunks and start mixer on low.  Mix until the dough just starts to pull together.
  • Add the 1 tablespoon ice water and mix until the dough forms a ball, being careful not to over mix.
  • Separate dough into two balls, flatten into disks, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate until a bit harder.

Directions: Assembling and Baking the Pie

  • Turn the oven down to 375 degrees when the apples are done baking.

  • Flour your workspace and rolling pin, and place one disk of dough in the center (an option is rolling between two pieces of parchment paper).
  • Start rolling from the center out, in one direction, to stretch dough.  Because we used Lite Smart Balance, which I assume means the water content is higher and fat content lower, this dough has much more of an elastic pull and a bit more oil to it.  Rolling away from the center in one direction with a good amount of weight seems to help it extend.
  • Gently place the crust into the plate.
  • Fill with apples, pressing down slightly and roll the top crust.
  • Place the top crust gently on the filled pie and crimp edges with a fork.  This won’t crimp as easily as other crusts, but as long as the edges are together, the filling will steam nicely.
  • Wash the crust with the egg, slightly beaten, and dust with sugar.
  • Bake on a cookie sheet or “pizza” stone for 40 minutes at 350 degrees or until apples are fully tender and crust lightly browned, covering edge of crust halfway through with tin foil or a pie lip.
  • Cool before serving and, if you can wait, don’t eat until the next day! Enjoy!


Notes:  This crust doesn’t taste like much on its own.  But paired with lots of apples sweetened with white sugar and scented with cinnamon and nutmeg, it’s a hearty compliment.  The crust softened the day after it was baked, and continued softening so that it was still tasty (I’m told) days later, and somewhat even more so.

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