Violets and Amaranth

Eating weeds and gaining grains: an adventure in eating

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Pie, Pie, me oh my!

Remember that saying from the movie Michael?  My son, age 2, says it, and one snowy day, came up to me saying, “Mom, we need pie, pie, me oh my”.  He was right.  Usually in winter, we eat a lot of fruit turnovers; the kind from the freezer section.  Well, we can’t eat those anymore.  Nor can we eat other fried dough delights, like samosas.  The first week of February became fried pie week!


I decided to adapt the recipe from Extending the Table by Joetta Handrich Schlabach (1991, Herald Press).  To make the pastry, I combined 2 cups bean 4 flour blend, 1/2 tsp salt, 2/3 cup water, and 1 tbsp oil.  I let the dough hydrate while I fried some potatoes in turmeric, ginger, coriander and cumin powders.  I added fresh cilantro to the mix and then went back to the dough.


The dough was sticky, and impossible to roll out.  I ended up grabbing lumps of it in my hands, stuffing potato into it, and frying in my electric skillet.  They tasted ok, but working with the dough was unbelievably frustrating.

These samosas were fairly good, but not worth the effort.






It was with a bit of trepidation that I tried fried dough again the next day.

Empanadas (Let’s be honest, fried turnover pie):

I worked to combine the Empanadas recipe from Extending the Table and the Four Flour Pastry recipe from The Gluten Free Gourmet. I ended up with:

  • 2 cups Bean 4 flour mix
  • 1 generous tsp xantham gum
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ½ cup butter-softened
  • 3 T boiling water+ 1 T ground flax seed
  • ½ cup milk (I used whole milk for the fat content, you could use heavy cream too)
  • 1 tsp white vinegar

Combine the flours, xantham gum, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut in the butter. Then add the flax seed, milk and vinegar. Once the dough comes together, shape it into a ball, cover in plastic wrap, and let it sit for an hour on the counter.


Then, divide the dough into small balls.   To work with the dough, don’t put a lot of pressure when rolling it out.  Dust the whole ball in flour before rolling and roll the ball out to something symmetrical, square or octagon is ok here.  Fill half of the circle with the filling of your choice, we like cherry pie filling. You might also try any combination of meat or potatoes.  Be carefull not to over-fill it, and when folding it over, aim for the thinner patches of dough.  Use water as you go to keep the dough together.

Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes, or deep fry until brown.  We decided to fry half, per the directions on the empanadas recipe, and bake half, to mimic those freezer pies we love so much.


The results were flaky, yummy goodness.  The fried pies were just a bit flakier than the baked, and both were exactly what we had hopped they would be.  In the future, I would use the empanadas recipe to make samosas.  I think we could make a pie and freeze it, then bake it, just like those freezer pies we like so much.  Now I just need the time to make enough that I can eat some and freeze some!



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A-Z: Fun with Four Flours

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I used the Four Flour Bean blend as an all-purpose flour.  This flour blend has saved our gluten-free kitchen.  It is a great all-purpose flour with some ability to hold together on its own, and a great texture when baked or cooked.  I have used it with great satisfaction in everything from cakes and cookies, to yeast breads and pie crusts.  I make my own blend, but I have also seen some of the main-stream gluten-free all-purpose flours in the grocery that seem to be the same general blend.  Based on the ingredient labels, I suspect they use a bit more sorghum flour than this recipe does, and they also use potato starch.  I find too much sorghum has a metallic taste, but the recipe that follows, minimizes that metallic taste.  I keep a container of this on hand and just use it one for one in any recipe that calls for flour.  As this adventure continues, I’m sure I’ll find times and places for other all-purpose flour blends, but for now, this is my go-to blend.

Note: there is no rice flour here.  Someday I’ll find a good use for rice flour.  If you know of one- let me know!

A complete list of flour mixes, including the one listed below can be found at the Celiac Sprue Association website.  This recipe can also be found in Bette Hagman’s Gluten Free Gourmet- a resource that never fails me.  This recipe is based on a 20 oz bag of tapioca flour (which happens to be 5 cups).

  • 3 1/3 cups garfava bean flour (this is a blend of garbanzo and fava bean flours)
  • 1 2/3 cup sorghum flour
  • 5 cups cornstarch
  • 5 cups tapioca flour

I put them all into an air-tight container, then shake.  I usually give the container before each use.

Anymore these flours can be found in almost any grocery in the baking or gluten-free aisle.  Some co-ops sell these in bulk, and of course the natural foods stores sell these.  I have been finding mine at a discount chain called Marc’s, but as friends of mine recently reported, theirs didn’t seem to carry the flours and they ended up at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.  Wherever you go to find them, if you want to cook and bake without gluten, this flour blend will see you through a lot!

Happy baking!

Updated 4/4/11 to respect copyright rules.

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Subtracting foods increases our options

Limitations breed creativity.  That’s my motto in the kitchen, which is good.  We have a long list of foods that my husband reacts to, most are allergies.  One such food is citrus.  Yep.  You would be amazed at how many foods you eat in a day have some citrus in them. But, like all food restrictions, when one pantry door closes, another opens up – with the added bonus that the food made through substitutions keeps everyone feeling healthy!   What are your options if you are citrus-free?  Our favorites include:

  • Sumac berries we mainly used dried ones, which are easy to find in Mediterranean markets.  It’s the red spice some people sprinkle over humus.  Others make a lemonade -like drink out of the fresh berries, watch for a post on that later this summer (I hope!).
  • Tamarind a dried fruit concentrate that you can easily find in Indian groceries.  I use this a lot in soups or stir-fries.  Just cut the amount in half.  If your recipe calls for 1 tablespoon lemon juice, use 1 to 1 1/2 tsp tamarind.  A little goes a long way!
  • Cider vinegar especially in soups or casseroles, in small quantities, can replace that sour taste without making your dish taste like vinegar.
  • We’ve also been better about using herbs like parsley and cilantro, which also provide a citrus-like taste to foods.
  • For large quantities of citrus replacement, I like to use pomegranate.  It is easy to find in grocery stores and has tartness to it.

Which brings me to a recent cake I wanted to make.  I subscribe to the Splendid Table’s Weeknight Kitchen, which is a mostly weekly email with very yummy and usually quick meals.  Sometimes they throw in dessert recipes, and the French Lemon Yogurt Cake they printed from A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg seemed too tempting.  Never mind that the main ingredients are lemon and wheat flour.  By the time I was done with it, it was a completely different cake, but very satisfying!

I created the Pomegranate Yogurt Cake for the same dinner with friends I described in my last post.  I started in on the cake about a week before our dinner, when I stared looking in earnest for ground pomegranate seeds.  I’d been looking for months for them, after I had heard somewhere about their use as a sour agent in some types of cooking.  I checked the Mediterranean market several times, the high-end spice store, the grocery store, and then I finally found it at the Indian Grocery.  They called them anardana powder.  I call them tart and slightly bitter, a nice replacement for citrus zest.

Pomegranate Yogurt Cake:
I followed the directions for the Lemon Cake, roughly well.  I substituted  1-1/2 cups 4 flour bean blend for the flour called for in the recipe.
I also added in 1 teaspoon xantham gum and substitued  2 teaspoons pomegranate seeds for the lemon zest.  In place of the eggs, we used 3 tablespoons ground flax-seed steeped in 9 tablespoons boiling water.  Let the flax steep about 15 minutes, or until the mix is the consistency of an egg.

The recipe also called for both a syrup and an icing for the cake.  When it called for lemon juice, I substituted pomegranate juice in the same amount.  It baked for about 40 minutes, and came out fairly well.  It was a little dense, but I have some ideas on how to deal with that.  More soon, but in the mean time….Eat and enjoy!

Updated on 4/3 to accommodate my evolving understanding of copyright rules 🙂  Oh, and to fix a few typos.  Cheers!