Violets and Amaranth

Eating weeds and gaining grains: an adventure in 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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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!


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Soy-free Asian? It’s possible, and delicious

Not every post I make will be about baked goods.  Honest.  For example, this week it’s all about savory.  That key to Asian cooking, the savory and umame filled soy sauce.  How does one cook Asian food without soy?  Well, we’ve made a game of it, and no recipe enters this house and comes out the same in the end.  Anymore, recipes are really just guides and templates for whatever we’re making, which is a nice place to be.  We’ve finally learned to cook enough that we don’t need recipes.

If you search for soy-free soy sauce, you will find a host of ideas that play with the same ingredients; beef broth, cider vinegar, maybe some molasses, some recommend ginger.  We’ve found playing with all of those flavors, then reducing them makes for a great stir fry sauce, but what if you want a 1/4 cup of soy sauce for a recipe.  It’s a lot of work to reduce all those other things for one little 1/4 cup.

Our solution for small amounts of soy-sauce in recipes is to use Worcestershire sauce with several drops of fish sauce.  So far the only soy-free, gluten-free Worcestershire sauce I’ve found is Lea and Perrins brand, but only their reduced sodium, the rest have soy in them.  Our favorite kind of fish sauce is Three Crabs, and we usually have to go to an Asian market to get it.  If you’ve never used fish sauce before, don’t be alarmed when you smell it – it smells awful.  But, you don’t really taste it if you use is in small quantities.  It blends nicely with whatever you’re making and gives it that depth of flavor that umame-filled foods tend to have.

Next stop on our Asian food adventure creating a great hoisin sauce replacement.  Anyone have any suggestions?

Updated 4/4 to fix typos.