Living without gluten, casein, soy, eggs and peanuts. Living with ASD and ADHD. Life is good!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chewy Gooey Ginger Bars

Ah, Prune Butter...there is not enough time to sing its praises. It turned my Chewy Ginger Bars into total fabulousness. Don't get me wrong, they were good before now, but they had eggs in them. Eggs have been out for months now and all my current baking is gluten free and vegan. It's not so bad, really. It gets easier and easier with time, and more fun with each experiment. I promise it does, really!

For these bars I substituted two eggs with both prune butter and flax meal, cut back on the sugar and increased the leavening. I stuck them in the oven and walked away until they started smelling good. Then I turned on the oven light and watched. At first I was totally bummed out by what I was seeing...the bars had risen nice and high and fluffy and then one by one, little sections split, spit out steam, and fell. At the end, when a toothpick finally came out clean, the middle section was sunken and the edges were raised, like brownies but flatter.

When the bars had cooled completely I offered one to DH, thinking to myself that I was glad he accommodates my failures. But guess what? They ended up being great! More than great! They were so good that I had a hard time keeping away from them (and remember, I don't care for sweets too much). The prune butter makes these bars richer, tastier and more toothsome than their predecessor. If I had a choice, I'd choose to keep making these without eggs.

At the end of the day, I don't think it's a bad thing that these bars turned out a little flatter than I wanted them to be initially. I'm not inclined to make any changes to this recipe, it's that good. If you try them, I hope you think so too. These bars keep well on the counter for a day or two and in fact, they taste better the next day. Store leftovers in the refrigerator until they are our house, they did not last long.

2 cups Sorghum Chickpea Blend
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup canola oil or coconut oil
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup prune butter
1 tbsp. flax meal in 3 tbsp. very hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 inch baking pan, set aside.

Stir the flax meal into the 3 tbsp. very hot water and let sit for several minutes to thicken and gel.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour through the cloves, set aside. In a large bowl, stir together the canola oil or coconut oil together with the brown sugar until smooth. Add the molasses through the flax meal mixture and stir until well blended. Add the flour mixture and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary (I did all of this with a large spoon, but you can use a Kitchen Aid).

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan - it will be thick. Spread the batter evenly. Place in the oven and bake about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the bars in the pan completely on a wire rack before serving.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gluten Free, Vegan Bran Muffins

This was the first recipe I tried replacing eggs with prune butter. Holy cow, these muffins came out so good! I'm not into muffins or sweets too much - I make them for my family - but I really enjoyed these. The prune butter keeps the muffins moist and really does add a rich flavor - and the muffins don't taste like prunes at all. I've made gluten free bran muffins before, and this vegan version is my favorite by far.

1 cup rice bran
1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour Blend
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 cup raisins or dried currants
1/2 cup prune butter
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup rice milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a muffin tin with baking cups, set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the rice bran through the xanthan gum. Add the raisins or dried currants and toss to coat. In a separate bowl, stir together the prune butter through the rice milk. Add to the flour mixture all at once and stir until well-combined.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake 15 - 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Turn muffins onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Prune Butter (Egg Substitute)

It's been busy here lately. Among a myriad of other things, I've been trying to find creative ways to replace eggs in my baked goods. Whereas before I'd use applesauce or mashed banana as egg replacers, I can't do that now with Anna's elimination diet. I've been using a lot of flax and needed a change - flax meal, while good, isn't a great egg substitute for everything.

So while searching for other egg substitutes I ran across this recipe for Prune Syrup which is meant to replace butter. But I thought...why can't it replace the applesauce and banana which are no longer options for me? So I tried it. And it's divine. I've made this prune butter a thicker version of Prune Syrup and it lends a decadent, rich quality to my egg-free baking! Plus, prunes are so healthy and the only way the girls will eat them is if they are hidden in something. So far, so baked goods are coming out awesome and the girls are none the wiser. I love stealth baking!

1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 lb prunes

1/4 cup water

Soak the prunes in hot water for 20 minutes. Drain. Place agave nectar and prunes in a food processor and process until nearly smooth. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the 1/4 cup water. You may need to scrape the sides and process a bit more to get the mixture smooth and thick. Refrigerate up to one week. Use 1/4 cup prune butter to replace 1 egg.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gluten Free, Vegan Pie Crust

Thanksgiving is arriving soon. And while Thanksgiving is currently the farthest thing from my mind, other people are thinking about it. Recently a friend asked - how does one make a gluten-free and vegan pie crust? I told her as I'm telling you - it's very easy. This recipe below is adapted from Better Homes and Gardens (I still use their cookbooks on a regular basis, gluten-fee or not).

I have had fairly good luck using a rice and chickpea (High Protein) flour blend. I find that chickpea flour is essential in pie crust for taste and texture (it also makes the dough pliable and easy to work with), but some people really don't care for the taste of chickpea that case, a simple All Purpose Sorghum Blend will work fine. I do advise against using rice flour without the addition of chickpea flour as chickpea flour moderates the grittiness of rice flour. My best advice is to chill the dough before rolling and don't overwork it. Now get baking!

1 1/4 cups High Protein Flour Blend
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup palm shortening or Earth Balance Dairy Free, Soy Free margarine
1/4 cup cold water
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and the salt. Cut in the shortening or margarine with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles pea-sized meal. Add the cold water and vinegar all at once and stir until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a piece of wax paper. Knead two or three times and form into a ball, dusting with a little flour as needed if the dough is too sticky. At this point you can wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for about an hour before rolling (but you don't have to... I often don't have time for this step so I skip it). Place another piece of wax paper on top of the dough. Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand. Roll the dough with a rolling pin into a 12 inch circle, or about an inch past the edges of your pie plate.

Carefully peel the top layer of wax paper from the dough. Set your pie plate next to the dough. Then with one hand carefully slide your hand under the dough. With your other hand lift the dough and turn it quickly upside down onto the pie plate, centered as best you can, so that the wax paper is on top. You can position the dough slightly, pressing the dough into the pie plate. Carefully peel away the wax paper from the dough. Don't worry if the dough tears, it is easily fixed.

Once the wax paper has been peeled away, finish pressing the dough into the pie plate. Repair any tears with your fingers as needed by pressing the dough together. Most likely the dough will fall away around the sides of the pie plate, at least it does for me as I like a thin crust. This is okay. Just take a knife and finish trimming the crust around the pie plate.

Here is where it gets a little different. You will not be able to roll the edges of the crust underneath itself and in fact, you don't want to as it will be much too thick. Simply press the dough down a bit into the pie plate to make a ridge all around the edges of the pie crust. Flute the edges with the tines of a fork or with your thumb and finger. Bake according to your pie recipe. Makes enough pastry for a single-crust pie. For a double-crust pie, double the ingredients.

Ta-da...gluten free and vegan pie easy as pie! (Sorry, I could not resist.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sauteed Kale

I love kale - really, really love it. Actually, I love most greens...spinach, swiss chard, beet greens, mustard greens...the greener, the better. My tastes have slowly changed over the years from preferring savory over sweet almost all the time. It started when I was pregnant with Anna. I just could not get enough of spinach. Crazy, right? I craved the stuff from morning till night. I'd eat it cold for breakfast. The nurse at the midwife's office was shocked at how high my iron levels were, she said she'd never seen them so high in a pregnant woman before...I think she thought this was good. I was pleased, anyway, and then went home to eat more spinach. Funny that now, Anna loves the stuff too. Veggies and greens are right up her alley. I can't get her to eat kale yet, but maybe someday she'll love it too.

Megan, on the other hand, limits herself to ketchup, vegetable juice, and Bell peppers. Unless they are in a soup, Megan doesn't do veggies. She's been getting a little better about eating sweet potato and butternut squash and she'll even tolerate a little pesto now and then. It's a start.

Speaking of Megan, her whole drama crystallized for us last week. On Friday morning, DH gave her a hug and said "Megan, I need you to be a brave girl and go to school today. Mommy and I know you work really hard, and we know school is hard for you. We are going to get you some help". Megan heaved a big sigh and visibly relaxed in his arms. We were like - wow. She knows. And for now, it's good enough for her to know that we know too. Two weeks and counting until her evaluation.

And so for now, I leave you with this yummy kale recipe. It's really simple but very good. The vinegar might be the most important part of this dish - it makes the kale vibrant. The original recipe by Bobby Flay can be found here.

1 large bunch kale
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup vegetable or chicken broth
salt and pepper
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

Wash the kale, removing the stems. Tear the leaves into large chunks. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until soft but not brown. Add the stock and the kale. Toss the kale to coat with stock and garlic. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and continue cooking, stirring, until the stock has evaporated. Turn off the heat. Add the vinegar and toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dairy Free, Soy Free Coconut "Sour Cream"

As a sour cream substitute, Avocado Cream is really very good. But avocados have been sub-par at the grocery stores lately, Whole Foods included, so I cannot make mock sour cream for any of my favorite foods, which include quesadillas and black bean soup. I keep looking for a dairy free, soy free and nut free sour cream alternative at the stores, but so far nobody has ponied up on that front.

So I took a gander at these recipes and bought a large container of So Delicious Plain Coconut Milk Yogurt and mixed it with a tablespoon of lemon juice (although I think plain white vinegar would work here too). I placed a fine sieve over a medium sized bowl, lined the sieve with 4 layers of cheesecloth, and poured the yogurt on top of the cheesecloth. I let the yogurt drain for 2 days in the refrigerator. There was 1/2 cup liquid in the bowl and I was able to scrape about 1/2 cup of fairly thick "sour cream" off of the cheesecloth.

So how does this "sour cream" taste? It's a little delicate tasting, not as robust as the dairy version. But I like it. It's another option, anyway, when Avocado Cream just won't do. And it was good in my black bean soup.

(Shae's Black Bean Soup with Coconut "Sour Cream")

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dirt Cake

This cake is a hit with kids and adults alike. I always get the best comments when I bring this dessert to a party, usually centered around the flower in the cake and the worms sticking their heads up out of the "dirt". It's a great way to use a "failed" cake - if you have one that craters or is delicate and breaks apart, just turn it into Dirt Cake. It may not be the cake you originally envisioned, but it will be a crowd-pleaser all the same!

1 recipe prepared Chocolate Pudding
1 recipe prepared Chocolate Cake or cupcakes
1 small plastic flower pot or serving bowl
1 small plastic flower
1 package Yummy Earth Gummy Worms

Wash and dry flower pot. Line with Saran Wrap.

With your hands, crumble the chocolate cake into small chunks. Place 1/3 of the crumbled cake into the bottom of the flower pot. Toss in a few gummy worms and layer 1/3 of the pudding over top. Repeat the cake, gummy worms and pudding layers, ending with a cake layer.

Wash the stem of the plastic flower and insert the flower into the cake. Use pudding if necessary to help "shore up" the flower stem. Lay a few gummy worms on top of the cake. You can add green sprinkles for "grass" if desired.

*If you want to be sneaky and make this healthier, layer in some fruit (strawberries, raspberries or sliced bananas) underneath the pudding.