Violets and Amaranth

Eating weeds and gaining grains: an adventure in eating


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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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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!