Monthly Archives: September 2010

Daring Bakers: Get Creative – Sugar Cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking. We were to decorate our cookies in the theme of September – whatever that means to us. For me, I created fall leaves, pumpkins, and apples.

I used to bake sugar cookies at Christmas-time every year with the kids, the same way my mother did with us when I was young. However, I haven’t made them since going gluten-free, and I never made them with royal icing. While royal icing wasn’t mandatory, I wanted to challenge myself with this decorating technique. So in addition to the challenge to make decorated sugar cookies, I had the additional challenge to make them dairy and gluten-free. I also opted to use natural food coloring (I used India Tree food coloring).

Mandy did suggest a gluten-free recipe for sugar cookies – a recipe from Gluten Free Girl and the Chef! How could I not follow it – every one of their recipes is amazing. The only changes I made: I substituted the butter with coconut oil and the margarine with Earth Balance soy-free buttery spread. I also added 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract. They were simple to make, and tasted just like the sugar cookies I grew up with.

As for the royal icing, it was actually easier than I thought it would be. However, it was time-consuming, and my hat is off to people who do this on a regular basis. I’ve seen some intricate cookies in my day, and I now have a deeper appreciation for all of that hard work.

The verdict on these cookies? Well, sugar cookies aren’t my #1 favorite, but they were well-enjoyed by my family this weekend. Delicate, not overly sweet, with that lovely hint of almond, they were definitely a treat.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Sugar Cookies recipe, adapted from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef

1 1/2 c sweet white rice flour

1 c tapioca starch

2 1/2 t xanthan gum

1 c granulated sugar

1/2 c unrefined coconut oil

1/2 c Earth Balance buttery spread (or other dairy-free butter substitute)

1 egg

2 t vanilla extract

1/4 t almond extract

Mix all of the dry ingredients together well in a large bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the sugar with the coconut oil and buttery spread until well-blended. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and almond extract very well. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Divide in half, and roll out each half between two sheets of parchment paper to about 1/2 inch thickness. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out just a bit more, to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes, and re-roll the leftover dough to cut additional shapes. (You might find that it’s easier to refrigerate the dough scraps periodically if they become overly soft.) Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges just begin to start to color. Allow to cool completely before decorating with icing.

Makes about 3 – 3 1/2 dozen cookies, depending on size.


Filed under Baked goods, Dairy-Free, Desserts, Gluten-Free

Guest Post at Daily Bites – Italian-Style Spaghetti Squash

Hallie, the owner of Daily Bites, is currently hosting a series called “Cents” – able and Savory, where she is featuring healthy gluten-free recipes that won’t break the bank. So far, she has shared a recipe for 5-minute BBQ sauce, and twice-baked acorn squash. Hallie posts a lot of healthy recipes featuring whole, natural ingredients – which I love, as this is primarily my style of eating. I discovered Hallie by a guest post she wrote for Simply Sugar and Gluten Free a while back, where she featured these amazing carrot cake bites. (I’ve made them several times – they’re addictive!) Hallie has a wonderful passion for delicious, healthy eating, and I am so excited to get to be a part of it! Head on over to Daily Bites today for my quick-and-easy, budget-friendly recipe for Italian-style spaghetti squash.


Filed under Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Quick and Easy, Vegetables

Vegan and Gluten-Free Cheesecake with Blueberry Compote

When I went dairy-free, I thought I’d never enjoy cheesecake again. Oh, sure, there are soy cream cheese substitutes, but I can’t tolerate much soy, and besides, it tastes “off” to me. So when my friend Noelle at An Opera Singer in the Kitchen opened my eyes to the existence of raw vegan cheesecakes, such as the ones offered by Earth Cafe and this recipe, I was amazed. Amazed is such an understatement. I was ecstatic. Soaking raw cashews to make cheesecake? I tested out this theory when completing this Daring Bakers challenge, and was so impressed, I knew I had to go all out and make a cheesecake.

Then life got in the way, and the months passed, and still no cheesecake. I decided that we’d waited long enough, and I went ahead and made plans to make it. I made a crust following a recipe from The Almond Flour Cookbook, as that crust served me well in other pies I’ve made previously. (If you eat gluten-free and don’t already own a copy of this book, I highly encourage you to get one! The recipes are easy to make, require few ingredients, and are delicious.) I did add 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract to the crust, just to enhance the flavor. Otherwise, I stuck to the recipe, as there’s no real need to change it.

As for the cheesecake filling, it was a breeze to make. I don’t own a Vitamix (hopefully one day, I will!), but even my inexpensive blender yielded a creamy filling – it just took a bit of time to blend. I would even say that making this cheesecake was easier than a traditional cheesecake, because there was no baking of the actual cheesecake. No worrying that the cake will split. Just blend all of the ingredients, pour into the crust, and into the freezer it goes. And if you don’t constantly go peek at the cheesecake in the freezer, I imagine it’ll set up pretty quickly. Not that I would know anything about that.

I can’t wait to have an excuse to make this again. I might try a date and nut crust and go totally raw, as I’ve seen with other vegan raw cheesecakes, just to see the difference. But this cheesecake definitely was a delicious treat as is. So why wait? Whip this up, and sit back, relax, and close your eyes as you take your first bite. This is a dessert worth savoring.

Vegan, Gluten and Sugar-Free Cheesecake, adapted from The Daily Raw Cafe

Crust: (The Almond Flour Cookbook  Basic Pie crust, plus ¼ t almond extract), baked in a 9-inch springform pan and cooled (Elana also has the recipe posted on her blog here)


3 c raw cashews, soaked in water for 1 hour

¾ c agave nectar

Juice of 3 small lemons (about 1/3 cup)

Zest of 1 lemon

½ c coconut cream (cream from top of coconut milk can)

2 t vanilla extract

¼ t almond extract

¼ t sea salt

3 T coconut oil

¼ c water

Drain cashews and place in blender. Add agave nectar, lemon juice, lemon zest, coconut cream, vanilla and almond extracts, salt and coconut oil and blend, scraping down the sides as needed with a spatula, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time, until a thick, smooth, creamy consistency results.

Once crust has been baked and cooled, fill with cheesecake filling. Freeze for several hours or until firm. Cut into slices while frozen, and thaw in fridge for about an hour before serving.

Blueberry Compote

10 oz frozen or fresh blueberries

1 T agave nectar

1 t lime zest

1 T arrowroot starch whisked into 1 T cool water

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a low boil, covered, on medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer, stirring once or twice, until the blueberries have given off their juice and have softened. Add in arrowroot starch slurry and allow to cook for another 2-3 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

(Also makes a tasty topping for ice cream, pancakes, and waffles!)

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays and A Spunky Holiday.


Filed under Baked goods, Dairy-Free, Desserts, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian

Kids in the Kitchen: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Brittany is my partner in baking. She immediately knew she wanted to bake muffins this weekend. What kind? She wasn’t sure yet. After a bit of discussion, we decided on one of my favorites – banana chocolate chip. However, I wanted to make them healthier and allergy-friendly without sacrificing taste. This took a bit of experimenting.

You see, lately, I’ve been toying around with a more primal way of eating for a variety of reasons. It took me a while to jump on board, but after reading Elana’s blog for a long time, and more recently, Mark’s Daily Apple, I took the plunge.  Right now, I’m in a “let’s see what happens” phase, and I’m not avoiding grains 100% of the time. (I will be partaking when I attend the North Texas Gluten-Free Makeover tomorrow, for instance!) I thought if I could make these muffins grain-free, that would be a step in the right direction for primal/grain-free eating, and I could feed my desire to bake creatively. (I always love a baking challenge!) So I opted for coconut flour, a bit of arrowroot starch, and almond flour in these muffins. But rather than going in blind on my “experimental” muffins and risking a failure on Brittany’s time, I opted to have a trial run a few days ago.

I was glad I did, as my first batch, while tasty, wasn’t perfect. I only used 2 bananas, and I baked at too high of a temperature. The muffins weren’t tender enough, and didn’t have enough “banana” taste. I knew what to do, and made notes to make changes for this morning.

While they’re not entirely refined sugar-free (the dark chocolate chips have some sugar to them), they were certainly much lower in refined sweeteners than normal muffins. They’re also higher in protein and fiber. But how do they taste? Lightly sweet, with a warm, full, banana flavor, and a moist and tender crumb –  Brittany and her friend (who helped us make these muffins this morning) gobbled down three a piece, and Matt even enjoyed one. (He’s not much for muffins.) I imagine they’ll be gone by tomorrow morning. If that’s not a good sign, I don’t know what is!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

3 mashed bananas

4 beaten eggs

½ c honey

4 T liquefied coconut oil

¼ t almond extract

1 T vanilla extract

¼ c arrowroot starch

½ c coconut flour

¼ c almond meal

1 T flaxseed meal

¾ t baking soda

½ t baking powder

½ t sea salt

1 1/2 t cinnamon

½ c chocolate chips

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with cupcake papers and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the wet ingredients (bananas through vanilla extract) together well. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (arrowroot starch through cinnamon) in a separate bowl. Combine the wet and dry ingredients in the large bowl until well-incorporated, and then stir in chocolate chips.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool on a rack for 5 minutes, and then carefully remove from the muffin tin and allow to cool on the rack for 10-15 minutes more.

Makes 1 dozen muffins.

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays and Go Ahead Honey, it’s Gluten Free.


Filed under Baked goods, breakfast, Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Desserts, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Quick and Easy, Vegetarian

Daring Cooks: Food Preservation and Fresh Tomato Salsa

 The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

The recipes John suggested to make and preserve were apple butter and a tomato bruschetta. I contemplated making apple butter, but as both of these recipes were for things that usually top bread or toast – something that is a rarity in our household – I opted for something that would be more popular and useful for our family in the coming months. When I visited the farmers market and scored a huge cardboard box full of “sauce-ready” (meaning less-than-perfect) tomatoes for $10, the deal was sealed. I was going to can salsa.

I have prepared salsa many times on the fly for meals during the summer months. With fresh tomatoes, jalapenos, and herbs, how could I not? But when winter comes, I’m forced to buy jars of salsa from the grocery. While I’ve found some decent brands, nothing compares to salsa made with ingredients at the peak of freshness. I have not spent a great deal of time canning in the past (I’ve made pickles and jam, but that’s about it), but I had the general process down, so I got started.

First step was roasting some of the vegetables. While it’s not mandatory to do so, roasting the veggies gives the salsa more depth and an oh-so-subtle sweetness. This took a while, as I had a lot of tomatoes. But the blitz in the food processor was easy (gotta love food processors!), and then my attention was turned to canning the salsa. And of course, the best part – listening to the cooling jars for that satisfying “pop” of the lids, ensuring that my jars were sealed and I was successful!

This recipe is for a large quantity of salsa (it makes about a gallon!), but of course you can cut it back to suit your needs, and of course, you don’t have to can it. It’s excellent eaten as soon as it’s made. Of course, if you do choose to can, you’ll have that satisfaction of knowing that in the gray, chilly days of February, you can open a jar and taste the freshness of summer all over again.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

25-30 large tomatoes

22-25 garlic cloves, unpeeled

7 large yellow onions, cut in half and unpeeled

10 hot chiles, such as jalapenos or serranos

Juice of 2 large limes

1/3 c cilantro, chopped

1 t ground cumin

1/2 t ground chipotle chile powder

2-3 t salt (to taste)

Preheat the broiler in the oven and place the top rack about 6-8 inches below the burner. Line rimmed baking sheets with foil. Place tomatoes, garlic cloves, halved onions, and peppers on the baking sheets and broil, turning as necessary, until skins are blackened and tomatoes and peppers are soft. Remove and allow to cool. (You will likely have to do this in batches) Remove skins from garlic cloves and onions, and remove skins and seeds from jalapenos. Place vegetables in food processor and process until no large chunks remain. (If you like a chunkier salsa, you might like to pre-chop the vegetables so that you don’t have to process in the food processor so long. We like a thinner salsa, so I just let it nearly puree the vegetables.) You will likely have to process salsa in batches as well. Place in a large bowl and add in cilantro, lime juice, and spices. Stir and taste. Add salt as needed and stir.

To can: Heat clean jars and new lids in simmering water for at least 10 minutes (this will prevent the jars from breaking and will help to sterilize the jars). Prepare the canning pot by bringing water to a near-boil. Remove the jars from the water and fill the jars with salsa, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. Clean rims of jars well and add lids. Screw the threaded lids on the jar until fingertip tight. Lower the jars into the canning pot and make sure they are covered by the water by at least an inch or two. Bring the water to a boil and process for 12 minutes. Remove and place jars on a towel on the counter. Allow to sit and come to room temperature for 12 hours. You might hear the lids pop – this is a good thing. Check the jars to ensure they sealed properly – the lid should be concave in the center. Remove the threaded part of the lid and attempt to lift by just the lid – you should be able to lift without the lid coming off. If the lid comes off, then reprocess or refrigerate and use within a week or two.

Makes about 8 pint-sized jars of salsa.

This post is linked to Real Food Weekly.


Filed under Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Side Dishes, Vegetarian

Love: Of Family, Of Friends, Of Country

This morning greeted me with cloudy skies and sleepy eyes. A drip or two of rain on the window. A neighbor placing flags in his yard to honor the day. A lump in my throat, reminding me that later today, family will gather in a church to say farewell to a brother, a son, a friend.

The way I truly feel about today slowly dawns on me. Reflection on the family and the friends we lose shouldn’t be just about a day – September 11. I appreciate the significance. We all need a “place” to put these feelings, and what better way than to set aside a day to mourn, to reflect, to be thankful for what we have. But the true feelings, the true significance, comes from our appreciation, reflection, and love of family, friends, and our country that also happens the other 364 days a year.

And while I will gather with family and friends to mourn the loss of a loved one, I will also remember that it’s not just about today, and it’s not just about loss. It’s about celebrating life. I will draw close those I love every day – and remember, appreciate, and be thankful for the gifts in my life.

Celebrate life today. Tell your loved ones how much you care. Love your family. Love your friends. Love your country.


Filed under About

Gluten-Free Fall Specials: Adzuki Beans and Rice

Have you ever visited Iris over at The Daily Dietribe? If not, what better time than now? The Daily Dietribe is full of gluten-free, allergy-friendly, healthy recipes, and honest discussions of weight loss, self-image, and healthy living. I’m a subscriber, that’s for sure. I always anxiously await her posts. So when she asked if I could create a guest post for her blog, I happily agreed.

You see, Iris is currently in the middle of a big move and a big life change – one worth celebrating. She is moving from the East Coast to Washington state to pursue a Masters in Nutrition at Bastyr University. I commend her. A cross-country move alone is a big decision; to continue education is even bigger!

I decided to share my recipe for masala-spiced adzuki beans and rice for her Gluten-Free Fall Specials, as the dish is humble, comforting, and warming – all attributes I seek out in the fall. Additionally, it’s a healthy recipe – vegan, gluten-free, and full of nutrients. Head on over to The Daily Dietribe to check it out!


Filed under Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Rice, Vegetarian

End of Summer Peach Salsa

I am honored to say that I am guest blogging over at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free today. Come on over and check out this super-fast peach salsa and celebrate fresh summer produce before it’s gone!


Filed under Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Quick and Easy, Side Dishes, Vegetarian

Kids in the Kitchen: Gluten-Free Donuts

The kids received cell phones this summer from their mom. Great for them – because they can text and call their friends all the time. Great for us – it makes it easier to get in touch with them. Case in point: Matt was undecided on what to make for his turn in the kitchen the last time he and I spoke. But now, rather than hunting him down at his house, I could simply send a text message. And when I did, what was his response?

Breakfast: little donuts.

Awesome, I thought. Never had I tried to make donuts, gluten-free or otherwise. This would certainly be a challenge – and if we could pull it off, a tasty one! I researched a few recipes, and found a promising one at Living Without. The last recipe I’d tried from their site was successful (I made baguettes), so I went with it. Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone, so I modified the recipe slightly to accommodate my dairy-free needs and my pantry supplies.

The result? While they definitely didn’t look gorgeous, they certainly made up for it in taste. The texture was just like a gluten-y donut. The kids gobbled them up. I think that Matt was surprised – his eyes lit up when he took his first bite. It was gluten-free donut love.

I think I was in love a little bit too.

Gluten and Dairy-Free Donuts, adapted from Living Without

1 1/4 c white rice flour

1  c granulated sugar

 3/4  c potato starch

1/4  c tapioca starch

1/3 c arrowroot starch

1/2  cup plus 1 T chickpea flour

4  t xanthan gum

1  t salt

1 3/4 t baking powder

7 1/2 t instant dry yeast

1 1/4  c unsweetened almond milk, warmed to 110 degrees F

1/4 c palm shortening, melted

2  large eggs, lightly beaten

4  cups canola oil (or more)

Extra sugar, powdered sugar or cinnamon, optional

Place rice flour, granulated sugar, potato starch, tapioca starch, arrowroot starch, chickpea flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder and dry yeast in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat briefly to combine.

Add almond milk, melted shortening and eggs to dry ingredients. Beat for 5 minutes at medium speed. Let dough rest for 20 minutes in a warm, draft-free area.

Cut 5×5-inch squares of parchment paper. Spoon dough into a pastry bag fitted with the widest tip or use a plastic bag with the bottom corner cut to create a 1/2-inch opening. Pipe a donut-shaped circle onto each parchment square. Set squares on baking sheets and let proof for 20 minutes in a warm, humid environment. (I turned my oven on for just a minute or two, then turned it off. I threw a bit of water into the bottom of the oven to evaporate and make it humid, and placed the donuts on baking sheets in the oven.)

In a deep skillet or electric fryer, heat oil over medium heat until oil reaches 350 degrees. Gently slide 3 or 4 donut sheets into the oil and fry 4 minutes or until golden brown. (Yes, put the donut, still stuck on the paper, into the fryer.) Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the paper and gently turn donuts. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a tray lined with several sheets of paper towels.

While still warm, sprinkle donuts with sugar, powdered sugar or cinnamon, if desired.


Filed under Baked goods, breakfast, Dairy-Free, Desserts, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian

Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook

Earlier this year, my recipe for Vegetarian Bean and Pumpkin Chili was submitted to Foodista’s contest for Best of Food Blogs. Winners were to be published in the upcoming cookbook.

Well, this recipe won! Needless to say, I am excited.

If you’re interested in the chili, check it out here. And if you would like to pre-order the book (it releases on October 19, 2010), check it out here at

A big thanks to everyone for their support and votes!


Filed under Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Soups, Uncategorized, Vegetarian