Tag Archives: gluten-free

Muddy creek and spicy cake.

gl-1-9-pine-branch-img_4080A big branch fell from my Canary Island Pine last night, just missing the lemon tree that we intentionally planted under its leggy canopy, hoping for a bit of frost protection; I hadn’t thought it might be a dangerous location instead. It’s been very blowy and wet in these parts – lots of flooding in the county, though not in my neighborhood. Today came a break in the rain, so I walked again along the muddy creeks.

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I was surprised to see this tree looking like Autumn. How could it still hold on to its leaves through the gale? I guess our winter is very like some people’s Fall. gl-1-9-cotoneaster-with-robin-jan-9-2016

It was cool, not cold, the air as fresh as can be. A hundred robins would startle and rise up in a swirl out of the cotoneaster bushes when I walked past, and then settle back down to eat the berries. One is sitting in this bush but he is hard to see.

Big limbs had fallen from eucalyptus trees along the path, and in many places the pavement was strewn with redwood cones and needles. I was alone the whole two miles of my loop. gl-1-9-eucalyptus-downed-branches

Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty,
give unto the LORD glory and strength.
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name;
worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thunders:
the LORD is upon many waters.

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privet

A few of these words from Psalm 29 were quoted by our rector on Sunday, referring to the storms that, surprisingly, didn’t force us all to stay home. My youngest two children and I memorized this Psalm about 20 years ago. I think I picked it for them because of all the vivid imagery like skipping, flames, cedars breaking, hinds giving birth. It still thrills me, and is indeed a good Psalm for stormy weather.

The thought of gingerbread came to me out there on my winter walk. So I came home and put together yet another version of Wheatless Gingerbread. This time it was even gluten-free, because I used the flour mix from Minimalist Baker.

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It came out lovely and light. This time I also added milk powder and used butter… I think I might still be able to improve on this recipe in various ways, so I should try to make some again soon.

We’ve been keeping the stoves busy in our house. Someone even cooked her chicken breast and handmade tortillas on the wood stove last week. Keepin’ cozy!

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Prunia Walnut Bread

gl P1030442My primary motivation for creating this loaf was to use a big bag of prunes that was taking up space in the fridge. Plus I wanted to make some kind of bread I could keep eating when (Orthodox) Lent arrives, which is soon. When I saw a recipe for a prune bread using buckwheat flour, I saw another opportunity, to incorporate some of the many kinds of flours and grains I have stored up and haven’t been using.

I took ideas from that recipe I saw online and made my own version. The name Prunia comes from joining prune with chia (seeds), another item I had on hand and that figures prominently in the bread, as do walnuts. I love walnuts, especially when they have been toasted, and their flavor may be the most dominant one here.

The picture of honey at the top puts the brightest ingredient forward, color-wise. We have many jars of honey around here lately, the most wonderful being the quart of golden sweetness from Kit’s own bees, whom she had to leave in Oregon on The Farm, when she came here. I often buy honey from the nearby monastery, or receive it as gifts from friends… it all adds up to our being a household rich in honey.

Unfortunately, the other ingredients that the beautiful honey gets mixed into are very drab. Buckwheat flour is gray, gray, gray, and chia seeds and prunes are pretty much black. Walnuts are brown… When I look at a loaf like this:

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…it makes me remember a Garrison Keillor spoof on health food in which the high-fiber cereal being put forward as so essential for regularity was called “Raw Bits.” My loaf does look rough on the outside. It is fairly high-fiber, too, as well as being gluten-free and vegan — with what I consider just the right amount of sweetness.

Prunia Nut Bread    gl P1030440

 1 ½ cups buckwheat flour
½ cup coconut flour
3 cups walnuts, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cardamom
1/3 cup chia seeds soaked in 1 cup water
30 large pitted prunes, divided
¼ cup coconut oil
½ cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ cups plant-based milk

First toast the walnuts, 300° for 40 minutes, stirring once.

While they are toasting, put 10 prunes in a small bowl and pour on boiling water to cover.

Mix the chia seeds with the water in a small bowl.

Chop the remaining 20 prunes, sprinkling a little of the flour over them as you do, to keep them from clumping up again.

Into a medium-large bowl sift the flours, salt, baking powder and spices together.gl P1030441

When the walnuts are toasted and cooled, chop 2 cups coarsely and set aside.

Grind  the remaining 1 cup of walnuts in a food processor. Add these to the dry ingredients – but don’t wash the processor bowl yet.

Put the prunes and water in the bowl of the processor and purée.

In a medium bowl melt the coconut oil with the honey, then add the milk, the chia seeds and the prune purée.

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Combine the wet and dry ingredients, mixing in the chopped prunes and walnuts.

Put into oiled medium-sized loaf pans – or one very large – and bake for 50-60 minutes at about 350°. Cool on racks.

The bread comes out very moist and dense. I’ve made it three times in order to perfect my recipe, but each version was well worth the eating, which tells you that this recipe is still pretty tweakable. You might leave out the bit of coconut oil and I bet it wouldn’t be missed; or you could increase the amount of spice if you like more intensity. As it is it is a mellow loaf.

If I wanted to spend more time on the project, it would be to figure out how to use fewer cups and bowls in the mixing of the batter, and to do without the food processor altogether. For one thing, that little bit of prune purée is probably dispensable. But for now, for this Lent, I think I have plenty stashed in the freezer; the kitchen has been cleaned up, and I have a little more room in the fridge.

If anyone tries the recipe, let me know if you made any changes and how it worked.

Bon appétit!

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Amazing Lenten Spinach – and Himbasha

One batch made with frozen spinach

The main ingredient is spinach, but the other ingredients in this dish, which can be a vegetable side or a spread for bread or crackers, make it very unusual and in my case, addictive. I know, eating in an uncontrolled manner is the opposite of what Lent is about, but maybe overdoing it on spinach is not as bad as some things. And to reduce temptation, so far I have made sure to take this dish to potlucks where I would be embarrassed to hover over the plate and reveal my piggishness.

The origin of pkhali is the Republic of Georgia. Though I have a Georgian acquaintance at church, I found the recipe on The Traveler’s Lunchbox blog, about a year ago. I’ve made it several times since then, at least twice using frozen chopped spinach, and most recently with fresh spinach.

The recipe, pasted from the link above:

Spinach Pkhali

Pkhali (the ‘kh’ is pronounced as a deep, guttural ‘h’) is a whole class of Georgian vegetable dishes that straddle the line between salad and dip. The constant is the walnut sauce, and the fact that the vegetable is cut very, very finely – almost (but not quite) to a puree. 

Beet pkhali is also very popular, and is often served alongside the spinach; to prepare beets this way, wrap 3 large ones in foil and bake until soft, then peel and finely chop (or pulse in a food processor) before mixing with the sauce. 

If you’d like to substitute frozen spinach in this recipe, I imagine it would work, though I’m not sure about the amount; maybe start with a pound (half a kilo) of the frozen stuff and add more as needed to balance out the flavors. [I used 2 -10 oz. packages, which was a bit much. -GJ]

p.s. After making this again, I’ve decided I like a slightly smaller amount of spinach, to let the flavors of the walnut sauce really shine. Alternatively, you could use the full 2lbs and make one and a half times the sauce. 

source: adapted from Anya von Bremzen’s Please to the Table
serves: 4-6 as an hors d’oeuvre or side dish

1.5-2 pounds (.75-1 kilo) fresh spinach, stems removed and washed in several      changes of water
1 cup (100g) walnuts
4 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
pinch cayenne
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, or to taste
1 small onion, minced
3 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
1 1/2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh tarragon
salt
pomegranate seeds, for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the spinach and cook just until tender, about one minute. Drain well and let cool. When manageable, wrap the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze until nearly dry. Chop it as finely as possible (don’t use a food processor or blender, which may puree it; it should have texture) and set aside.

In a blender [I used a food processor. -GJ], combine the walnuts, garlic, coriander, fenugreek, cayenne and vinegar. Add 3 tablespoons of warm water and blend until you have a smooth, creamy sauce about the consistency of mayonnaise, adding a little more water if needed to get things moving.

Add the walnut sauce to the spinach and stir until thoroughly blended and smooth. Stir in the minced onion, cilantro and tarragon, and season with salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours to allow the flavors to blend. Taste again before serving and adjust the salt and vinegar if needed.

To serve, spread the pkhali on a plate and smooth the top with a spatula. With a knife, make a pattern of diamonds in the top, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds (or, in a pinch, walnut pieces). Serve with bread.

(Me again) Using the fresh vegetable took more time, though boxes of Costco baby spinach make it easy; the result was definitely a refinement of the dish, as it did away with the many pieces of stem that you get in the frozen greens. As to quantities of all the ingredients, they are fairly flexible, and I did a lot of tasting at the end to make sure there was enough salt and spreadability.

The last time I took it to a community dinner, I also brought along a loaf of the Eritrean flatbread called himbasha, which dark-skinned parishioners in flowing white gauze bring to our church dinners every week to pass around in baskets. I always make sure to reach in and tear off a piece.

It was the first time I’d tried making it at my house. My loaf came out a little thick compared to what I think are the best versions I’ve eaten, because I didn’t notice I was supposed to make 2 loaves with the dough, and I put the whole thing into one large skillet. But it was wonderfully chewy and flavorful all the same, and my tasters loved it still warm from the pan with some of the pkhali spread on.

Here is that recipe from a book I helped to compile, a small collection of international dishes that are cooked and served by members of each ethnic community (we are truly a pan-Orthodox group) for my church’s yearly food festival.
 

Himbasha

Makes two 12″ round breads
3 pounds flour
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups water, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, yeast and sugar. Dissolve salt in water. Add oil and water/salt mixture to flour mixture, and mix until you have a stiff dough. Add raisins and mix until incorporated.
2. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board. Form into one or two large circles the diameter of your frying pans and up to 1″ thick.
4. Lightly grease electric frying pan or cast iron skillet or paella pan. Heat over medium heat (about 300 degrees on an electric skillet) until a drop of water dances on it. Place dough carefully in pan, cover and cook about 15 minutes, until bottom is golden brown. Turn and cook another 15 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on wire rack.


And at right, a photo of the last plate of pkhali I accomplished. Pomegranates were not to be found in the supermarkets in March, so I used the walnut option for garnishing.

You can see the little pieces of onion that I hadn’t minced finely enough….I thought they would overwhelm the dish, but no, it was as addictive as ever. Still, I might put the onions in the food processor with the walnuts next time.

Will I have time to make this again during Lent? Probably not — but we spinach lovers don’t need to be fasting to enjoy something so yummy.

Biscuits and Buns

In this post I will share two recipes I’ve had waiting in my Recipes-to-Try folder, and recently did get around to. I loved them both.

I found Brazilian Cheese Bread here at The Traveler’s Lunchbox. The Portuguese name is Pão de Queijo. These little buns are said to be very popular with coffee for breakfast in Brazil. (The picture at right is not of these rolls. I was afraid that if I didn’t put a colorful picture there you might not keep reading. That picture is of the biscuits I tell about further down.)

There are many recipes for the cheese buns around, with different ingredients and techniques (This one at the San Francisco Examiner looks plausible), but I will tend to stick with the Lunchbox version, as mine came out so good. One thing non-traditional in that recipe is the use of butter rather than oil. And I do love butter. I did cut down on the salt in my recipe, by 50%.

They are quite unusual, in that they are made with tapioca starch rather than flour, and therefore are gluten-free, and chewy.

The first picture I took was of the sticky dough that one puts little globs of on parchment paper. This is the unappetizing stage. But just be patient.

The rolls puff up as they bake, and while mine did come out with some “horns” and such like, they were oh-so-tender and light, while at the same time moist and tasty. I noticed that the Examiner recipe does have you make balls of the dough, which would reduce the prickly nature of the crust somewhat. But my dough was not firm enough for that.

The thin crispy crust broke open to reveal an interior that was not doughy at all, but very cheesy, with a stretchy “crumb.” No need for extra butter or anything. One eater said they were “intense.”

We all noticed the likeness to mochi, the Japanese term for food that is chewy like this and often made with a highly-refined rice flour called mochiko. I think if you like mochi-anything, you would love these buns. I’ll tell you more about mochi in another post.

Mr. Glad doesn’t like mochi, and he didn’t like the Brazilian Cheese Breads. Too bad.

I put the leftovers in the freezer, even though the original recipes say to only bake as many as you need and to freeze the balls instead, etc. This morning we put them in the microwave for a few seconds and they came out quite delicious.

The other recipe I tried last week was Sweet Potato Biscuits. I would be happy to live off sweet potatoes, and because they are almost nutritious enough for that, I like to use them in as many ways as possible.

I was a bit skeptical about how flaky a biscuit could be with the addition of vegetables, but they passed that test. Buttermilk biscuits have been my standby, so these were sweet by comparison, but not overly so. They were enjoyed by all. [lost the recipe somehow while trying to edit it at a later date. Sorry.]