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

Monday, November 28, 2011

Squash Flower Quesadillas

I have not fallen off the face of the earth, I promise. I just cannot seem to get my feet underneath me. I'm feeling very busy and very scattered, but in a good way. Life is busy, but good.

In late August DH built raised garden beds and we planted squash. Crazy, I know, but we thought what the heck? It's been so hot since May, maybe the plants will produce squash in the milder temps of October. Well we did get baby butternut squash (which tonight I threw into some turkey soup) and a few very small zucchini squash. I was surprised that they were edible, and tasty to boot. But the squash plants were far more interested in producing flowers than anything else.

And then came the cold snap. And for some reason that escapes me, DH thought that it would be a good idea to rip up the squash plants to sow some garlic! Ahhh, all those pretty squash flowers, full of life and promise, just ripped up and thrown on the compost pile! I could have cried. I sent Anna out to harvest what squash flowers she could find. She was so excited to pick flowers in November that she ran out in her fleecy jammies and Hello Kitty fuzzy slippers. I don't know what the neighbors thought about that, but I thought it was funny.

I have never cooked squash flowers before. But I've heard that it can be done. Not wanting to waste anything from our garden and deeming the flowers too delicate for the compost bin, I decided to go online and find recipes for cooked squash flowers. Nothing I saw appealed to me...sauteed squash flowers (meh), fried squash flowers (too much work)...and then I ran across this recipe for squash flower quesadillas. I am so down with squash flower quesadillas! So I made some. And they were very good.

This is what I threw into my quesadillas. You may modify to suit what you have on hand.

1/2 cup diced onion
1 large clove minced garlic
several itsy-bitsy zucchini, diced (about 1/3 cup)
several coarsely chopped squash flowers, ends chopped off and stamens removed
several grape tomatoes, diced (about 1/3 cup)
a good splash of lime juice
several dashes of ancho chili powder
a few dashes of chipotle chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
two gluten free tortillas (such as Food for Life)
Daiya Mozzarella or Pepper Jack
cooked diced bacon, if desired

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat in a skillet. Add the onion, cook about 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, cook another minute. Add the zucchini, cook another 2 - 3 minutes. Add the squash flowers through the pepper and cook a couple of minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste, then remove from the heat.

In a separate dry skillet, heat a tortilla over medium-low heat. Sprinkle generously with your choice of cheese. Spread half of the squash flower mixture over half of the tortilla and sprinkle with diced bacon if desired. Cook until the cheese just melts and the bottom of the tortilla is lightly browned. Fold in half and remove to a cutting board. Repeat with the second tortilla. Cut each tortilla in half and serve hot.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cinnamon Walnuts

Anna's third grade class is collecting family holiday recipes for a little recipe book they are putting together. I had the arduous task of picking a simple favorite recipe (most of my favorite holiday recipes are a little involved for third graders). I settled on this recipe - I've made it every year for many years, and every year it's gone in no time flat. It's easy, addictive and smells like Thanksgiving and Christmas and everything that is fabulous about fall and winter encapsulated in one little sugar-coated nut. Yum.

This is originally a Penzey's recipe. I cut it out of one of their catalogs a long time ago, and now it's almost impossible to find online. So I'm posting it here for safekeeping. These walnuts (or you can use pecans, if you wish) are addictive by the handful, or good on top of tossed salad with diced apples, dried cranberries and a little bit of balsamic vinaigrette.

Cinnamon Walnuts
4 cups walnuts

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 tsp. dried minced orange peel rehydrated in 2 tbsp. orange juice, OR 2 tbsp. fresh minced orange peel

1 tsp. cinnamon

2/3 cup water

Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the orange peel and water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Add the nuts and reduce the heat to medium-low so the liquid is simmering. Stir constantly while the liquid evaporates. This may take 10 - 15 minutes, so be patient. It is important to stir the mixture constantly so the nuts don't scorch.

At first the liquid will be shiny, but as the water boils off, the sugar will form brown crystals on the walnuts. The nuts at first will be easy to stir, and once the liquid evaporates they will be harder to stir, which is your cue to take them off the heat. Don't remove them too soon, or whatever liquid remains will harden around the nuts when you dry them.
When the nuts are completely coated and all of the liquid has evaporated, remove the pot from the heat. Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet or waxed paper to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks (if they last that long!).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gluten Free & Vegan - Dumplings for Soup

Anna and I are both sick. So I made a big pot of soup for dinner, and to complete the meal-in-a-bowl, I made dumplings to go with the soup. It was fabulous....comfort food always hits the spot, but even more so when you are feeling under the weather.

Dumplings for Soup

1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca starch
2 teaspoons dried parsely
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil or olive oil
1/3 cup non-dairy, non-soy milk alternative

Sift together the rice flour through the sugar, make a well in the center and set aside. Whisk together the canola oil and milk, then pour into the dry ingredients. Stir until smooth. Add up to 1 tablespoon of water if the mixture seems too dry. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls into a gently simmering broth-y soup. Cover the soup pot and simmer 15 minutes. Uncover the soup pot and turn off the heat. Serve hot. Makes about 6 dumplings.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Gluten Free & Vegan - Pumpkin Muffins!

It's that time of year! Time to bake with pumpkin, my very favorite autumn baking squash! I have been dying to bake with pumpkin since diving into egg-free baking (a year and a half ago, wow the time flies!) but have mostly held off until now. Why? Some things just take time to knock around in my head before I can do anything with them. I love pumpkin breads and pies so much that I didn't want to turn out terrible failures of baked goods...that would just be depressing. I wanted to make sure I'd be reasonably successful, especially as DH is not as fond of pumpkin as I am. He's very good about consuming my experiments/trials and errors...but I didn't want to push it with pumpkin flops.

What kept knocking around in my head for lo, these many months were these facts: anything traditionally featuring pumpkin requires eggs, usually at least two. Pumpkin puree is dense and needs something to make it airy (the eggs usually accomplish this). I don't bake with Egg Replacer. Egg-free baking tends to go downhill when you try to replace more than two eggs. Starch flour tends to torpedo gluten-free, egg-free baking (yes, I'm still traumatized by watching that happen). Although nut flours generally provide for a better rise, I don't bake with nut flours (Anna is sensitive to nuts). Like other fruit purees, pumpkin puree can be used as an egg replacer, but what would replace the egg in a pumpkin recipe? Surely not more pumpkin or another puree - even compensating with a little extra leavening I was afraid the end product would be too dense and wet. So, more than likely I would not be able to convert a recipe - I'd have to stitch one together on my own.

So for inquiring minds - here's my deal on Egg Replacer. I don't keep it in the house and refuse to bake with it. Why? Because I believe I can do it better all by myself. I don't need to buy a hella expensive egg substitute that in my experience doesn't work as well as fruit purees or even flax meal. All Egg Replacer contains is starch flour, leavening agents (calcium lactate which is baking powder, calcium carbonate which is a baking soda substitute and citric acid) and thickening/emulsifying agents (sodium carboxymethylcellulose and methylcellulose - carbohydrate gums which for those who care, may be corn derivatives). Egg Replacer is a glorified leavening agent. But more important to me than that is that it just goes against my DIY tendencies to use Egg Replacer. If I really wanted to use it, I could make it myself. But I don't. I'd much rather use other more handy egg substitutes such as fruit purees, flax meal, maple syrup, honey, canola oil, gelatin or agar powder (which I'm getting ready to play with soon) with a little added leavening. For me, it's more challenging and more fun to do it myself. So that is why you'll never see Egg Replacer called for in any of my recipes.

Okay, enough of that. Without further ado, here is my take on pumpkin muffins. I based them on my zucchini muffins, and they came out smashingly. They are not dense or gummy, not crumbly, and remain airy even after being refrigerated. I'm so pleased with how they turned out that I'm all gung-ho to try pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie...get ready, DH. I fear the onslaught is near!

Gluten Free, Vegan Pumpkin Muffins

Dry Ingredients
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup millet flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup potato starch
1 tbsp. flax meal
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 generous tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Wet Ingredients
1/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup coconut milk (or rice, hemp or nut milk)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with baking cups, set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center, set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients until smooth (it should look like thick caramel). Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Fill the baking cups 3/4 full. I only get 10 muffins - remove any extra baking cups and put a little water in the bottom of any empty muffin cups to prevent the pan from warping.

Bake the muffins about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the muffins completely on a wire rack before serving. Makes about 10 muffins. They can sit on the counter for a day, but store in the refrigerator after one day - they will keep two more days in the refrigerator.

I know there is a difference between muffins (a quick bread) and cupcakes (a cake).
But I frosted these muffins and called them cupcakes anyway. The girls loved them.