Violets and Amaranth

Eating weeds and gaining grains: an adventure in eating


A season for observation

Hello all who may still check this site…

it’s been a while.  A long while.  We’re still here.  Still trucking along gluten-free and edible landscaping.  It’s just been incredibly busy.  You’ll note the drop off in posts coincides with the arrival of our newest sous-chef, almost 2 years ago now.  Its amazing how much time growing kids takes, and I don’t mind.  The garden and yard will always be there, as will cooking adventures, but these babies are only babies once.

I don’t have any new recipes, although I’m sure if I thought hard enough about it, I could come up with some fun ones to share.  I mostly wanted to say hello to anyone who’s still checking in here, and also to put out into the ether my hopes and future directions.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the logistics of eating well.  It’s all fine and good to tell people to eat more fruits and veggies, and whole grains, avoid sugars and the like, but in the real world that is really hard.  I’ve been helping to run a CSA stop for 3 years now, and one thing I notice are the people who subscribe have either money or time or both if they are lucky.  Those with money can afford to waste what they can’t process before it goes bad, those with time have the capacity to cook meals from fresh foods.  Those without time or money have a hard time eating fresh, minimally processed foods.  It takes time to clean and chop food, to cook the food, and to clean up the food.  A friend recently told me, “I’ve stopped eating fresh foods.  I can’t clean it up fast enough and I don’t want bugs in the house.”

These observations deflate me.  Many of us in the allergy community, or maybe just those of us in my house, have little choice but to cook fresh foods.  Even if I wanted pre-processed foods, there are few out there that are safe for my family.  What do those with allergies like ours do if they are time poor?  Our solution was for me to deliberately work less outside the home, and I have no regrets.  To have allergies and health mostly under control is completely worth it.  But I realize we are blessed to be able to pull this off.

When I get back to writing, I want to explore this more.  I want to start cataloguing the recipes and techniques that are fast and easy, even for the time poor.  I’m sure others have already done this to some extent, so I’m just looking to add my voice here.  If you’re still reading this and know of good resources, add them to the comments, maybe they’ll help someone.

In the mean time, here’s to the bounty of August.  I don’t even have pictures this time around, but despite the polar vortex, tomatoes and corn and beans are in full swing right now.  It has been a great summer for eating, even if the Ohio peaches were destroyed this winter.  (And they are sorely missed right now).  I”m still trying to make homemade ice cream when I can.  My latest was the sweet corn and blackberry ice cream from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream at Home.  It was amazing.  I highly recommend that book.

Eat something fresh and local today, and if you can, help someone else to do the same.  Imagine if we all ate fresh food, how healthy we could all be.





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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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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Getting Organized


It’s been a good long while since I’ve stopped by to blog.  It will likely be a while before I stop by again.  I’m getting organized.  I’m working on getting my recipes into a database.  Yes, I’m that geeky.  But, I just can’t keep what gluten-free combos work straight anymore.  I’m excited for the software.

The garden is winding down too.  We had a lot of last-minute projects as we tried to beat the end of the season.  I now have a newly seeded back yard (all in grass I’m afraid).  A cheeky woodchuck ate all the violets and left only creeping Charlie.  So, the great no-mow lawn experiment will have to wait another year.  Better to have grass than creeping Charlie!  I also have a new moss patio and a new veggie garden, along with proper grading around the house.  It was the wettest year in history in Cleveland, and by the end of the season, my basement only gets a trickle of water when we get 2 or more inches of rain in a day 😉  We got a new front porch too;  what a busy summer!

I had a few cooking adventures this summer.  Maybe they’ll get in here sooner than later.  We’ll see.  Look for some changes.  As I get organized, I’m looking for a new theme for the blog and better menus.  We’ll see.  Hopefully as I settle in for winter I can write more.  Maybe this will be a Winter/Spring only blog in the future?

I hope fall is treating you well.  Enjoy the sun while we have it!


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Time for a poll- what do you think about recipe software?

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Where have you been hoisin?

Hiding right in the open.  That’s where.  As a good friend pointed out earlier this week, hoisin is essentially a sweetened, thickened soy sauce. Over the last few weeks we’ve tried two methods.

First, we tried making a quarter cup of “hoisin” that was mostly molasses, with a few red pepper flakes, with a little beef broth and a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce.  (As an aside, Better than Bouillon makes a soy-free, gluten-free beef base.  Not all of their bases are soy-free, so you have to watch the labels, but their Organic base is- regular is not.)  Anyway, this worked fairly well.  I just mixed it in to the stir-fry I was making and it tasted great.

As in my earlier post about soy-sauce, if you need more than a 1/4 cup, I think cooking it and thickening it works better.

V&A Soy-free hoisin sauce: (~1 cup)

  • 3/4 cup beef broth
  • 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup molasses (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tsp each of Worcestershire sauce and fish sauce

Combine all of these ingredients and let them come to a boil and let it reduce about a 1/4.  Then add

  • 1 Tbsp of corn starch in about an 1/8th of a cup of water

Add the cornstarch slurry to the mix and heat and stir until it thickens.  Serve with your favorite stir fry!  Now I think we can eat all our favorite Asian dishes again.  Time to dust off those recipes.  This also means my weeknight standby of veggie stir-fry is back on the menu.  I love substitution!