Violets and Amaranth

Eating weeds and gaining grains: an adventure in eating


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Growing

Spring is finally here for real, and that has meant time spent in the garden.  A lot is popping up around here, and I recently had a few good conversations with people who reminded me I should get posting again about our efforts to eat local and eat our weedies!

Growing our Local Eating

Eating locally and eating seasonally works for me. I like that every three months I change the batch of recipes I pull from (with a few year-round standards of course). I like that what I’m eating tends to be cheaper because its in season and locally available. I like that there is a rhythm. Eating local makes me more mindful of where our food comes from, how it is produced, and who produces it.  When we deliberately eat local, we put ourselves back into the food commodity chain. We make a conscious choice, not a mindless one, and that makes a huge difference in food production.

How do you start?  Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group, start visiting a farmer’s market regularly.  To find a farmer, CSA, or market check out: http://www.localharvest.org  If you live in NE Ohio, check out localfoodcleveland.org or cityfresh.org.  Also, once you start going to farmer’s markets or subscribing to a CSA, the rest just sort of falls into place. You’ll hear about good CSAs and herd shares just by being around the farmers and asking questions, building relationships. The building relationships part is what is so cool. It doesn’t necessarily mean the farmers become your best friend, although, when that can happen it is a lot of fun. My first CSA was like that. But even if it is a mild relationship, a neighborly one, one where the farmer feels comfortable telling you about what’s happening on the farm, and you feel comfortable asking, that right there makes a HUGE difference in everyone’s food quality.

This is an exciting year for me as I get more involved with local CSA work!  I hope to get a chance to blog about it!

Growing and Eating Weeds

Cheeky Woodchuck

This has been an interesting year in our yard.  Last year was very wet, and as a result we got a lot of weeds this spring that I had never seen before.  They clearly loved the wet year last year, and were equally surprised by the extra hot (and cold) and dry spring we’ve had.  But, my violets are coming back, and the cheeky woodchuck, who ate every last one last year, is no where in sight!

Sorrel in my Iris Bed

The wood sorrel is blooming, and I have a host of new weeds to identify and figure out if they are keepers (edible and desirable to eat) or if they need to migrate to the compost pile.  I haven’t seen any purslane yet, and there is an unidentified weed in those beds, so I hope my favorite succulent comes back despite the competition.  My moss garden is spreading too, and I think in about 2 more seasons, my back yard is going to be quite edible and visually attractive.  This has been a slow process, but very fun.

Blueberries in Bloom

A friend asked me over the weekend how to get started with edible gardening.  Obviously, one way is to research edible plants, seek them out and plant them.  But, for those of you like me, who are low on funds, or time, or both, I’m finding this patience-method to work.  We spend time every year identifying what we want to eat (Sorrel, Purslane, Violets, Lambs Quarters), and what we can’t or won’t eat.  We pullwhat we won’t eat, and encourage what we will eat.  Every year we’ve gotten new edibles, and so far the ones we encourage seem to come back every year.

Garlic is Growing

But how do I know what is edible?  Well, I don’t.  But, the Geographer, who is also trained in Ecology does.  He spent a good chunk of his teenage and adult years studying plants.  Books like A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants or A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs can help.  What I find even more helpful is calling up our friends, the Foraging Family, and asking them, or using their well photographed blog as a resource.  They’re doing a series on wild edible recipes this year-definitely worth checking out!

Growing Miscellaneous

And of course, the gluten-free life is always there too.  In recent weeks we have had tons of success with tortillas, and soon I will have a whole post just for bread- I’m close to perfection here I think.  But, as those of you with complicated food restrictions know, it can be difficult to keep up with all this cooking, especially if you don’t feel well.  I haven’t been full strength now for a few months, but for a joyous reason– we’re growing here too!  We are expecting another little sous chef this fall!   My plan of keeping up the blog hasn’t been as easy as I thought.  Nor has cooking something a week out of Allergy-Free Deserts.  That said, in the last several weeks I have made 1) zucchini bread- it tasted JUST like my grandma’s- so good! and 2) Maple cookies- they were very good. My first batch didn’t work out for some reason, but the second batch, which I baked after letting the dough rest overnight in the fridge came out great.  Very similar to my ginger cookies I worked out over Christmas.

So what’s growing with you?  Love your CSA, your edibles?  Feel free to share your spring triumphs with the rest of us!

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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

Close-up!

Merry Christmas!

April

Edited on 1/26/12 to add photos


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Happy Gluten-Free Birthday (part 1)

We have celebrated the birthdays of almost everyone in our families in the last couple of months.  It has been a great time of visiting and catching up with family after a long winter and spring.  All of this celebrating took place away from home, which meant a lot of thinking through food arrangements, and of course coming up with good treats that everyone could enjoy.  Today, I’m going to share a restaurant we found, and a treat I made, and in Part 2, I’ll share what my sister worked out for a quick, easy, and yummy set of birthday cakes.

For my birthday, we ate dinner out, and I did some research trying to find a restaurant in the Toledo area that we felt confident would work, and we were rewarded big time.  We used the Gluten Free Registry and discovered Biaggis Italian Restaurant in Perrysburg.  They’ve got a lengthy gluten-free menu (a full-page plus), which I did not expect from an Italian restaurant.  Their breads and pastas were also egg and soy-free.  I couldn’t believe it.  My husband ordered a pizza and a salad and was very pleased.  The food off the gluten menu was great too.  I will definitely go back there again.

For the next round of birthdays I was really in the mood for lemon bars.  It sort of snuck up on me, and I couldn’t get the thought of them out of my mind.  So I spent a couple of weeks trying to figure out how to make an egg-free, gluten-free, citrus-free version.  After a couple of attempts, I think I’ve finally figured it out.  I started by trying to modify an actual lemon bar recipe, but since those have something like 4 eggs minimum in them, it just seemed like too much substitution to work out.  Then I started to think about the texture and consistency of the lemon filling in a lemon meringue pie.  Obviously, this too is loaded with egg, but for different reasons than the lemon bars.  Ultimately, I crossed the lemon meringue filling with a panna cotta recipe, and found my pineapple bars!

A&V Pineapple Bars

Since GF cookie dough is often kind of crumbly, I used the sugar cookie recipe from Gluten Free Gourmet and pressed it into a 9×9 pan.

I baked it for 15 minutes at 350F.

A cookie crust

As the crust bakes and cools, heat:

  • 1 1/2 cups of pineapple juice
  • and dissolve in 1 1/2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin

Turn the heat to low and stir in:

  • 1/4 cup of agave syrup
  • 1/2 cup of white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup of corn starch
  • a pinch of salt (1/8 tsp)

Stir until the filling sets up into a uniform and light consistency.    Remove the pan from the heat and stir in:

  • 1 TBSP of butter

The Pineapple Filling

Spoon the filling over the crust.

Adding the filling to the crust

Bake at 400F for 40 minutes or until the filling looks slightly toasted.

Pineapple Bars

We liked these very much.  They aren’t exactly like lemon bars, but they are close.  Keep an eye out as I tweak this recipe more in the future!


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Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free, a cookie (and ice cream) for a friend

Clearly, when faced with a dietary restriction, I go straight for the sweet treat and figure out how to make it. This is probably not the healthiest approach, but it is what I do.

My friend, The Diva, is currently fighting breast cancer (and doing a great job I might add).  She’s on a Mediterranean diet, which is a low-fat diet focused on fresh foods.  She is also avoiding foods with estrogen links, like soy.  I got to see her last week, and wanted to make a treat.  The first thing I thought of was ice cream to help with the various sore throats she’s been experiencing.  I had been dairy-free for 18 months so I wanted to immediately direct her to my favorite dairy-free frozen treats, which include some great fruit sorbet recipes from How to Eat Supper, which are easy to make even without an ice cream maker.  Another easy to make sorbet come from Food Network and Giada At Home.  It is a Pomegranate and Mint Sorbet, and is so good- especially with the chocolate chips, and you can make the simple syrup with agave instead of sugar to lower the glycemic index.  Both those icy treats are great because they are low-fat, and you can control the sugar content, so it is easy to make a yummy treat with lower sugar.  Finally, in my dairy-free days I loved better balanced coconut based ice creams, that are both low in sugars because they use stevia as a sweetener.  Other than the fat from the coconut, these seemed like a great fit for my friend.  Check out The Ice Dream Cookbook and there is a Better Balance Ice Cream cookbook out there that I’m having trouble finding on-line.  When I find it I’ll update this post.  Finally, for those of you who can have soy, Tofu Cookery has a great selection of tofu-based ice creams.  When I was dairy-free, these were some of my favorites.

When I realized that the ice creams might be problematic from both the sugar or fat content, and honestly, it wouldn’t travel very well, I started thinking about cookies.  Which led me to Quinoa, Cherry, Applesauce Cookies. I took the oatmeal cookie recipes I have in various spots around my house and developed this.  It comes out a bit more like a scone than a cookie because of the lower sugar content, and I baked it at a lower temperature to make it chewy.  But, it fit the bill!

Quinoa, Cherry, Applesauce Cookies.

I beat together:

  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup combination of dairy-free palm shortening and coconut oil.  If you don’t need to be dairy free, I’d do butter here.  Let’s face it, gluten-free cooking needs at least a little fat.
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of honey.  Those 2 tablespoons could be molasses too.  I did not reduce the liquid in this recipe even though I substituted the honey for sugar.  The recipe came out too dry when I cut back on the liquids.  Also, in my first test batch I scaled back on the honey, and it just wasn’t enough sweet to overcome the bitter taste of quinoa.
  • 1 TBSP flax steeped in 3 TBSP water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

In a separate bowl, I mixed together:

  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of xanthum gum
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa flakes (If you find the bitterness of quinoa bothers you, cut this back to 1 cup and use 3 cups of bean flour blend)
  • 2 1/2 cups bean four flour blend
  • 1 cup dried cherries (any dried fruit would work here)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

I mixed the two sets of ingredients together and then I let it sit and hydrate for at least a 1/2 hour.  I sometimes will let a cookie dough sit overnight even.

The dough comes together well and holds together really well before you bake it.

After spooning the dough out onto cookie sheets, I put the sheets in a 325 oven, and 20 minutes later I had nice, chewy cookies.  Perfect for little hands and good friends.

Quinoa Cherry Cookies (and milk, in a sippy cup)

What I like about this experiment is that it does reduce the fat.  The original recipes called for about 1 cup of fat; either butter, oil, or a combination of the two.  And as you learn when cooking gluten-free, to make up for the lack of gluten, most recipes have you use a ton of butter or eggs.  We found that the Geographer’s weight first declined a bit when we switched to gluten-free and then started going up as our foods suddenly contained a lot more fat.  Perhaps tricks like the applesauce will help in the future!

Finally, why did I make a gluten-free cookie for my friend who isn’t gluten-free?  First, I don’t keep wheat flour in the house anymore.  Second, according to Dr Peter Green in Celiac Disease:  A Hidden Epidemic, gluten-free diets might help cancer patients.  They certainly don’t hurt.

Speedy healing Diva!

1/26/12: Updated for a spelling fix!