Violets and Amaranth

Eating weeds and gaining grains: an adventure in eating


Pie, Pie, in July- and that’s no lie

The days have been busy here!  But, I have made a new discoveries lately in the pie and ice cream departments.  Both make me very happy!

First on deck was the great pie crust discovery.   Since going gluten-free we have struggled and struggled to find a good pie crust recipe.  I have one now.  It works like wheat flour crust, but it is gluten-free.  We’ve made several pies, and they all come out flaky and light, like real pie crust.  My grandma even liked it, and she makes the best pie crust in the world.

How did I do it?  The flour blend did it.  Otherwise I followed regular pie crust making protocol, like you might find in Elizabeth Gordon’s Allergy-Free Deserts, or even from Alton Brown’s method.  Honestly, I find the two of them to be quite similar, and in the end I blended the two sets of directions.  If I understand copyright correctly, I can give you my list of ingredients, which is different from either of the above sources.  To get the directions on what to do with the ingredients, follow the link or go get the book.  Either way, you’ll be happy- I promise.

Ingredients for a perfect gluten-free pie crust:

Makes 1 1/3 crusts and the left over freeze, thaw, and roll well.

  • 6 tablespoons butter, place in freezer while assembling the rest of the ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons palm shortening, place in freezer while assembling the rest of the ingredients
  • ** if you are dairy-free, use 6 tablespoons palm shortening and 2 tablespoons coconut oil**
  • 1 cup flour blend, plus extra tapioca starch for rolling dough
    • 1/4 cup sorghum flour
    • 1/4 cup sweet rice flour
    • 1/2 tapioca starch
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup ice water, approximate, will depend on the day

Follow basic pie crust directions, and I tell you, you have pie.  I pulse it in the food processor, drizzling in water as I go, until a ball forms and sticks together.  If you add too much water, just add a bit more tapioca starch.  I find this rolls like a dream.

Rolled Out Pie Crust- hard to see since it is the same color as the counter top

“Well thanks for the crust recipe, but in case you haven’t noticed, we’re in the middle of a heat wave.  No way I’m turning my oven on.”

Funny you should say that.  You don’t have to turn the oven on.  You can grill this pie!

All you have to do is place the dough in the bottom of a cast iron dutch oven.

Bottom Crust Ready for Filling

Fill with the fruit or whatever of your choice and put top crust on. Then cover with the lid. Place on tops of dying coals after say, a nice dinner grilled out. Put a 1/2 batch of freshly lit coals on top of the lid. Cover the grill and cook for about 40 minutes to 1 hour. depending on how hot your coals are.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Grilled Pie

Now what could be finer than a little pie a la mode?  I just read through Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, yes, read it like a book.  It is that good.  The ice creams are mostly all egg and gluten-free (yay!) and the macaroons are gluten-free as well- BUT they are nut and egg based.  She also gives recipes for ice cream cones and fortune cookies- two recipes that should be easy to adapt to gluten-free flours.

I have made several of her sorbets and have her beet ice cream freezing in my freezer as I type.  Everything has tasted great so far!  The big bonus being that her ice creams actually scoop unlike all the other homemade ice cream recipes I’ve tried.  I’m not even using an ice cream maker.  I’m doing it the lazy way- putting it in a container, and stir every hour for three hours.  It doesn’t get as much air that way, but it will work if you don’t have a maker.

One last summer thought.  Have you found a good gluten-free ice cream sandwich recipe?  If not, check this link out.  When I make it, I use flax steeped in water for the eggs and sweet rice flour for where she calls for “rice flour”.  They come out great.  Rather than cut them by hand, I roll them like pie dough and use a biscuit cutter to cut uniform circles out of the dough.  They freeze well.

Enjoy summer!  I hope you’ve got a great link to fresh produce and that you can enjoy the flavors of summer!


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Catching Up: THE sugar cookie recipe from Chirstmas

Christmas was only a month ago. It isn’t so bad that I’m just now posting the recipe, right? On this grey day, it’s nice to remember the glitter and shine of Christmas anyway. This recipe came from several disastrous attempts on my own, then the research and merging of recipes from other places. The result is now a cookie that I can roll and cut, frost, and love. I like them better than gluten-filled sugar cookies. We found if you roll them out very thin (1/16th of an inch) they bake in about 4 minutes and are very good. Thanks to my sister for getting us a new rolling-pin with thickness discs on it!

Cookies cut, and heading to the oven

½ cups millet flour
¼ cup sorghum flour (Or you could skip the millet and sorghum and do 3/4 garbanzo bean flour instead)
½ cup corn starch
1 cup tapioca flour
1 ¼ cups sweet rice flour
½ cup potato starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon flax steeped in 4 tablespoons water
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup whole milk , (or just 1/2 cup sour cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cracked anise, (eye-ball it)
3 drops peppermint oil

Makes about 3 dozen – depending on how you roll them

1. Mix together the dry ingredients. Set aside.
2. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light in color. Add flax, milk and sour cream, and vanilla. Beat to combine. Gradually add flour, and beat until mixture combines and is creamy.

If you want your cookies to just be sugar cookie flavored, wrap the dough in plastic for a couple of hours and skip to step 4. If you’d like to play with the flavors continue to step 3.
3. Divide the dough in half. In one half, add in cracked anise (this batch will taste like pizzelle, especially if you roll it thin). In the other add the peppermint. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight
4. After the dough has rested,  roll the dough between plastic. I use a pie crust bag (go google it or look for it on amazon).  Don’t forget to preheat the oven to 375 ℉. Use tapioca flour to keep the dough from sticking to the bag.   If dough has warmed during rolling, place cold cookie sheet on top for 10 minutes to chill or pop it back in the fridge.
5. Cut into shapes if you want, place a cookie sheet lined with parchment, or silicone baking mat, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating cookie sheet halfway through.  The cookies won’t brown and that’s ok. Move them, baking mat and all to a cooling rack.

A little Tip: This dough keeps really well in the refrigerator.  Instead of baking up all 3 dozen at once, we would roll out a sheets worth every day or every other day and bake them up.  That way the cookies always were fresh.  I will say though, we kept some towards the end for over a week and they still tasted fresh and crisp.

Lightly browned and still holding their shape!

Lots of sugar cookies heading to an office party

Now, if you’d like to frost these, I recommend looking at the new Allergy-Free Deserts cookbook by Elizabeth Gordon (I am making a desert every week out of it all year, watch for posts on it soon!).  I got that book for Christmas, and she has a lovely icing that would work here.  But, I made these cookies before I had her book, so this is the icing I used.

Vegan Frosting
¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup agave
½ teaspoon vanilla

1. Combine all the ingredients.

2. Add food coloring if desired.

3. Spread it on the cookie and refrigerate to get the frosting to harden.


A Christmas goodie plate with ginger cookies, frosted sugar cookies, and cream cheese and hot pepper jelly on a pecan nut cracker.

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Christmas Baking Part 1: Gingerbread Cookies (gluten, egg, and dariy-free!)

Last year, I worked all December to make cookies that worked.  While I lost that cookie recipe, the lessons I learned stuck with me.  I came up with a fabulous cookie right out the gate.  These are not cut-out cookies.  I’ll work on that for next year.  For this year, I will be happy to have a round, fluffy, ginger bite of goodness.  Next year, I’ll figure out how to make them hold their cut out shape – even if it means baking them in a cookie cutter mold.  Enjoy the recipe; I hope it works as well for you as it has for me.  Pictures to follow – soon I hope.  We keep eating the cookies and forgetting to pause long enough to pose them for the camera!

Honey Gingerbread Cookies (makes about 2 1/2 to 3 dozen, depending on how big you make the cookie)

¼ cup coconut oil, (could also use the same amount of butter or shortening instead of coconut oil)
1 cup molasses
¼ cup honey
¼ cup cold water
½ cup millet flour
½ cup sorghum flour
1 cup sweet rice flour
1 cup tapioca flour
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon cinnamon

1. Mix the oil and sugar. Add the cold water and mix until blended. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

2. Chill the dough. Spoon in small rounds onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or greased with butter. The cookies will expand so place them with space between each cookie. Bake at 350℉ for 10 to 12 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

A plate of Ginger Cookies


Merry Christmas!


Edited on 1/26/12 to add photos

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The best Gluten-Free Pizza? I think we found it!

We’re almost ready to settle in for a long winter here in NE Ohio.  I finally put the garden hose away today, and my son delighted in all the ice cubes that we shook out of it first.

I’m ready to start Christmas baking.  Last year, right at the end of December, I found the perfect cookie recipe, and promptly forgot to write it down.  But I have a whole year of successful (and almost succesful) GF baking under my belt, maybe this year it won’t take all month.  In the past few weeks I have gotten ever closer to that elusive gluten-free egg-free bread, and I am unlocking the benefits of both millet and amaranth.  I intend to have lots of posts on them soon.  In fact, I intend to start blogging more regularly again, and in smaller chunks when I do.  After all, this is a Web Log- and I think I’ll start using it as such.  A place to record my successes and failures, and probably a little less on the food photography and recipes but we’ll see 😉

The stand out success for the last week was pizza.  Real, perfect, cook it on the pizza stone pizza dough.  Not this pancake batter dough that I’ve been using.  My neighbor saw it in an e-newsletter she gets and forwarded it on to me- Thanks Judy!  We’ve made it several times now (yes, in just the last week and a half) It tastes so good.  Plus, it holds together so well we were able to form it on the pizza peal, transfer it to the pizza stone and bake just like the old days.  It comes right off the pizza stone when done.  We did bake it at 500F, and it did just fine.  Remember though, it only makes one pizza.  Double or triple it. I don’t have a picture, but the next time I make it, I’ll take one of the perfect, workable, ball of dough.  For those of us who are gluten-free and egg-free, isn’t that the better picture anyway?

The other success MacGormet.  This is the best recipe software I have tried so far.  I am able to keep my hundreds of recipes more organized, and searchable by keyword or category.  I’ve made categories for my seasonal eating tendencies (Fall, Winter, and so on), for cost (low, medium, high), and for time (short <1 hour, medium 1 1/2 hours, and I suppose long, but I don’t think I have any recipes for long!).  This is a huge help for planning and budgeting.  Best of all, I can keep track of all the changes I make to the recipe along the way and reference back to the original.  My cookbooks are almost unreadable for all the scribbling I do altering the ingredients.  If you’re juggling a lot of food restrictions, and like to cook from recipes, check it out.

Happy eating!

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Happy Gluten-Free Birthday- Part 2

I said ages ago I was going to share this, and recently a friend of a friend asked how to make gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free cake, so now seems like a good time to finish writing about the cake recipes that are working for us.

Over the course of all of our spring birthdays, my sister developed a great cake. It was a chocolate cake gluten-free mix (I think she used King Arthur, but Bob’s has a chocolate mix too) and then she used 18 oz of canned pumpkin. Mix them together, add a little water if the batter is too thick, and bake following the directions on the cake mix box. You may need a little more or less time. This works fabulously with brownie mixes as well and I used a brownie mix in the photos below.  I have had this using both brownie and cake mixes. The actual recipe is 15 oz of canned pumpkin to an 18.25 oz of cake mix. She just eye balls it though, and wow- it is moist and stays moist for a couple of days unlike most gluten-free, egg-free baked goods.

Gluten-free brownies in a pan

For frosting, in my family we have a long history of putting cherry pie filling on our cakes.  Comstock is even gluten-free!  But if you want a frosting, I have 2 favorites.

The first comes from my sister-in-law, and I don’t know where she found it:

Chocolate Frosting: (double for 2 layer cake)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all the ingredients. Pour it on the cake, spread it around and then chill the cake. The frosting will get hard once it is refrigerated, so do all of your spreading before you refrigerate it.

My second favorite frosting is a basic butter-cream frosting, if you can have dairy!

Beat together:

  • 6 TBSP of butter
  • 4 TBSP of milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla
  • 1/8 of a tsp of salt.
  • Add powdered sugar to taste.  I usually add about 1/4 cup of powdered sugar, but the recipe can take a lot more if you like it sweet.

From there you can also beat in melted soy-free chocolate.  Dark chocolate is almost always soy-free, and Enjoy Life has a great semi-sweet chocolate chip, I get it at my local grocery. Or add other flavors like pineapple. You may need to reduce the milk to keep the consistency of the frosting if you add in other flavors.

From there it is yours to enjoy!  As I still take a bit of a break this summer, I’m working on trying a gluten-free, egg-free sourdough bread, and I’ve been heavily experimenting with flour blends to get a protein mix that will hold air and moisture.  I hope to have great results to post in a few more weeks!  Oh, and I think I’ve perfected pizza crust.  Just a few more tests, and I think I’ll have it.  Yay!

What are your cooking triumphs this summer?

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Pineapple Pie and Thoughts on Rice Flour

Pineapple Pie with a rice-flour crust

This recipe came from Extending the Table, and I didn’t have to substitute anything.  Well, ok, I did use GF flour, but anymore that doesn’t count.  The filling is a nicely spiced, thickened pineapple sauce, which was light and tropical the perfect foil for these cold, damp spring days we’ve been having.

Slice of Pineapple Pie

I learned a little something about rice flour as I made this pie. I used the Gluten Free Pantry’s pie crust, and I was not impressed.  It was crumbly and didn’t hold together, which is why the top looks the way it does.  It tastes great though.

I’m starting to wonder if my consistent problem with items made with rice flour is because we are egg-free?  Perhaps the flax and xanthum gum aren’t enough with rice flour to make it come together and stay together.  Which reminds me, there was no xanthum gum in this pie dough mix and I didn’t add any.  Hmm….   Well let’s see how they compare:

Rice flour is very low in protein, and flax seeds, while higher in protein, have less than an egg.  When I make something based in rice flour, it will only have the 3.5 to 5 grams of protein depending on how much flax I use.  Rice flour mixes that use eggs, have 8 grams of protein.  That’s only 1 gram shy of the protein content of wheat flour and an egg.

When using regular wheat flour, the amount of protein is related to how much gluten will be produced.  The higher the protein content, the more gluten will be produced.   But, what about gluten-free proteins?  Are they as important to baking? Colorado State’s Extension office has some useful information on the subject.  They point out that gluten is important in baking because it lends structure and creates spaces where gas can form, but not escape, which makes baked goods  light, fluffy, and chewy.  Without gluten, air bubbles can escape, which is why we use eggs, xanthum gum, and other binders.  They make up for some of that lost elasticity.

Given that explanation, I think my hunch is right- those of us who are egg-free are going to have a harder time with rice flours.  Now to ponder the next question, will all proteins create those ideal situations to keep air and moisture in the baked good, or will only some proteins?  If all proteins, then let’s just experiment until we get the protein ratios right and call it a day on all this flour experimentation.  If all proteins are not created equal, then which ones are more suited to baking?  I mean, if all we needed to do is add in another high protein flour and all our gluten-free worries are over, then why did anyone even bother experimenting with rice flour?  And, finally, where does xanthum gum fit in here?  It doesn’t have any protein at all!  Is there a food scientist in the audience?

Look for the thrilling answers to these and other wheat-free questions in future episodes!

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Gluten-Free Easter Week

I know Easter was a couple of weeks back, but the food was so good I’m still thinking about it :-).  We ate well and there were several gluten-free gems hiding in the various celebration meals.  The best part was that the savory dishes were inherently gluten-free.

Coloring Easter Eggs

Maundy Thursday

We started the Holy Week celebrations with a simple dinner at church for Maundy Thursday.  Several of us were all given the same recipe to make and bring for dinner. Unfortunately I don’t have pictures, but I was amazed that while we all used the same recipe, no two pots of soup were alike.  I loved the recipe though because it is a corn chowder, but it didn’t call for a flour base.  It is a higher fat soup, but it was satisfying and delicious.  I did swap out the chicken from the original recipe I was given, but other than that, I didn’t need to make any substitutions.  I also changed it from a stove-top recipe to a slow cooker recipe, which made it easier to take to church hot.

Kelbasa and Corn Chowder Soup

  • 4tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 Anaheim chili pepper, seeded and chopped (or jalapeño)
  • 2 12oz bags frozen corn kernels
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 6 red potatoes cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 2-3 tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • ½  package cream cheese
  • 5-10 drops Tabasco
  • 1 pound cooked kelbasa, cut into bite-sized pieces (I used Easter Kelbasa)

In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter.  Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, and peppers. Cook while stirring for about 5 minutes until softened.

Add 1 bag of corn, salt, pepper, cumin, and thyme, cook a few more minutes and then transfer to a slow cooker.  Add broth, stir and add potatoes.

With a blender, puree cream, cream cheese, remaining bag of corn, and cornstarch.  Pour puree into soup. Stir and add kelbasa and parmesan to the soup.  Season with Tabasco and additional salt and pepper if necessary.

Cook on low for 3 hours or until the potatoes cook through.


Then, of course, came the two main meals of Easter Sunday, the breakfast potluck at church, and our dinner at home.  For breakfast, we decided to bring blintzes.  I’d never made them before, but we saw the recipe as we flipped through The Gluten-Free Gourmet, and they just sounded good.  They were.  I was able to follow the directions and only needed to swap out eggs for flax seed.  The crepes came out tasting and feeling like they had egg in them.  I did find they only cooked properly in my teflon coated electric skillet.  They stuck too much in the cast iron skillet.   We made a raspberry sauce to go on top.  The Geographer loved them, and they didn’t last very long in the buffet line either.

Egg-like crepes

Crepes filled with ricotta and cream cheese

Gratin and Ham

This year, instead of traveling for Easter Dinner, we stayed home, just the three of us.  I made a ham with a pineapple glaze baked on top and the Potato, Leek, and Smoked Gouda Gratin recipe I found in the Plain Dealerjust the Wednesday before (Follow the link and scroll down-the recipe is towards the bottom of the page).   Instead of the Idaho potatoes the recipe called for, I used purple potatoes.  I also

added in about a pound of chopped brussels sprouts.  I love the way the purple of the potatoes and green of the brussels sprouts go together.  I thought it was an appropriately colored dish for Easter.  Purple potatoes are a Peruvian heirloom variety that is very high in antioxidants

Spring Colors

The finished product

Ginger “Pudding”

We ended the meal with a ginger “pudding” from a recipe I found in Extending the Table.  It was good.  I’d never made a cake using this method before, so I’m not sure if it came out right or not.  Some parts were almost like a jelly, and others were  a bit dry.  The recipe said to drop the cake batter into the ginger syrup, it did not say to mix it.  I think I would make it again though.

Raw Ginger Pudding

Ginger Pudding

All in all, a yummy few days.  I hope that those of you who celebrate Easter had a blessed celebration as well.

(*For some reason, this post won’t save my formatting that allows the text and pictures to look reasonable with each other.  It insists on lumping it all together like you see here.  Sorry for the messed up aesthetics!)