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Gluten-Free Mushroom Stuffing (Vegetarian)

Gluten-Free Mushroom Stuffing Muffins (Vegetarian)

When I found out I was going to be a part of Book of Yum’s Gluten-free Vegetarian Thanksgiving Event – I was so excited. This is the first time I have had the pleasure of participating in something like this, but I have wanted to ever since I started my blog a year and a half ago. This one felt like the perfect place for me. Although I am not exactly a traditional vegetarian, I consider myself to be a “conscientious omnivore”, meaning I only eat meat that I feel good about eating that comes from a local farmer where it is raised humanely, free to roam, eat pasture and not be filled with hormones or antibiotics.  We get all of our meat from Sojourner Farms in Olean, NY. This is the ONLY meat we ever have in our home and I feel like it is the right choice for us. We probably only eat meat anywhere from once a week to once a month at home, depending on what we have on hand and what we feel like. The rest of the time we eat completely vegetarian. I really love cooking vegetarian and find that eating a mostly vegetarian diet plus eating a small amount of local pasture-raised meat to have really changed my health immensely. I also feel like for me, it is a wonderful way for me to take a stand against the factory farming industry.

Sea, from Book of Yum, really wanted this event to not only make the transition into the first holiday season for newly diagnosed gluten-free folks to not seem so daunting, but to also highlight all of the wonderful options for those who are, or are cooking for those who are gluten-free and/or vegetarian (or vegan). Many of us find ourselves bringing our own food since many times the hosts are so terrified and paralyzed by what to cook, plus it alleviates the stress we have on wondering what we are even going to eat when we show up at someone else’s house. I love all of the wonderful recipes that have been featured so far, it’s such a great collection of classic dishes and new unique Thanksgiving options.

This year, like last, hubby and I are making the healthy and gluten-free Thanksgiving meal that we want and eating early in the day. After I get up and go to an early morning yoga class, while hubby takes our dog, Seri, to the park, we’ll spend the day cooking together, watching the parade and football and a enjoying a relaxing day at together at home without any work. After we are done eating, we will head over to my parent’s where they are having nearly 30 people for dinner (!) and we’ll join them for dessert, a cocktail or two and it will be the perfect way to have it all.

We took a nice long drive out to the country yesterday to pick up our Thanksgiving turkey from our farmer, Pierre, at Sojourner Farm in Olean. Since we will be having a turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner, I wanted to plan the rest of the meal without any meat. I was really excited to take on the challenge of making a meat free stuffing this year. So making it ahead of time for Book of Yum’s event was even more exciting since it was a test run of this recipe, for me. In the past I have sought out some type of healthy sausage to make my mom’s famous stuffing recipe that I had to have, but it always feels so redundant and unnecessary to have a side dish with meat in it, alongside the turkey. I really don’t need or want that much meat in one meal.

Gluten-Free Mushroom Stuffing Muffins (Vegetarian)

I decided on making mushrooms the stars of the stuffing this year. This delicious side dish is so full of rustic and earthy flavor, the mushrooms have a nice chewiness to them and the beautiful fresh thyme pulled it all together so nicely. Additionally, as you can see by the above photos, I also decided to experiment with making little individual stuffing “muffins”, if you will. I dreamt this up as a way to make sure that everyone gets lots of the crispy goodness that makes stuffing so darn delicious. Come on, admit it, you’ve gotten into with a family member on Thanksgiving over who get’s the edges. In our house, my hubby usually gets the crispy edges on anything that has them, by default. If you don’t care about the crispies (as my husband calls it) or don’t want to mess with a muffin tin, this will perfectly fit into a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. I ended up having a little bit leftover after filling the 12 muffin cups, that I put into a very small glass casserole dish. I didn’t want to call this recipe “Stuffing Muffins”, as I feared it would turn people off, since it does sound pretty disgusting, really. Even if you don’t try the stuffing “muffin” approach for this Thanksgiving, you have to try it soon, it is so worth it and I honestly cannot believe I didn’t think of it sooner.

This stuffing does have two eggs in it, so if you are vegan you could experiment with an egg replacer such as Ener-G or making your own flax-seed egg replacer (To replace one egg: 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds plus 3 tablespoons hot water. Stir together until thick and gelatinous.) I have never made my stuffing vegan, but I am sure it would work perfectly. Please let me know if you try it out. Additionally, you will obviously have to make sure the bread you use is vegan.

Besides being very excited about how this recipe turned out, I am also very excited that I get to have stuffing twice in a week’s time, that isn’t a bad deal at all. Stuffing is one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving dinner, I don’t think I have it any other time during the year, so it always feels so special. Between that and the mashed potatoes, those are two things that will NEVER be missing from my Thanksgiving menu. For my husband, Mark, I always have to make him a single-serving of his Momo’s famous sweet potato casserole, complete with an ungodly amount of butter, brown sugar and yes, it is even topped with marshmallows. It’s not for me, but I can totally appreciate how it won’t be Thanksgiving for Mark without it, so I will always make it for him.

What dish will always be a part of your Thanksgiving dinner?

Gluten-Free Mushroom Stuffing Muffins (Vegetarian)

Gluten-Free Mushroom Stuffing Muffins (Vegetarian)
Gluten-Free Mushroom Stuffing (Vegetarian)
serves 6-8

1 loaf of gluten-free bread, dried and roughly torn into small pieces (I used a loaf of Rudi’s all natural gluten-free multigrain bread, you can use your favorite bread)
1 – 1 1/2 cups mushroom broth, vegetable broth or water
1 medium onion, finely chopped or grated
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
8 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 cup wild mushrooms, fresh or reconstituted from dried, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
2 large farm fresh brown eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Crumble or tear the dried bread into small pieces and place into a 9″ x 13″ glass baking pan. Wet the bread with enough broth or water so it starts to get soft, but you don’t want it insanely soggy, either. If you add too much liquid, just pour it out. Mix with eggs, mushrooms, onions, celery, herbs, olive oil and salt and pepper. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, roll your sleeves up and just get your hands in there to mix it all up, it’s the only way to do it. Once everything is evenly mixed in you can either leave it in the baking pan and bake it as is or start scooping with your hands, an ice cream scoop or a large spoon into a greased non-stick muffin pan. (I greased mine with a very small amount of vegetable shortening). If it doesn’t all fit into the muffin pan, scoop the remainder into a small glass casserole dish.

Place the glass pan or the muffin tin into the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour until the top(s) are browned and crispy. Let the stuffing “muffins” cool slightly before attempting to pop them out of the muffin tin and don’t worry if they don’t come out like a perfect muffin shape, most of mine didn’t, some even fell apart a little. Don’t worry, it’s stuffing, its rustic and it isn’t about the shape and look of them, it is all about the crispies!

Enjoy.

NOTE: since I didn’t want to dry my bread overnight or for a day or so, I placed the sliced loaf in a single layer on a baking pan in the oven at 200º for about an hour to dry it out.

Butternut Squash Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce

Butternut Squash Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce

Having a creative job means that sometimes you just can’t work. I know that sounds like an excuse, but when you are supposed to be creating something and you just don’t have any ideas, it’s quite hard to “work”. I am very lucky that we now work from home, so some days when that “creative block” happens – if I can’t find some silly administrative task like updating our webstore, shooting photos of new products or responding to emails, I can just walk away from my computer and get into any number of different things that are completely unrelated to work, like taking the dog for a walk, heading to a yoga class, watching TV, reading a book or magazine and my most favorite distraction from work… cooking! This week I have been feeling a bit stressed and the ideas just haven’t been flowing as freely. It has been a bit frustrating to say the least. We have a ton of work on the books right now, so it is no time to screw around or to just stare at a blank sketch pad. Wednesday, I decided rather than sitting at my desk with my sketchpad, that I would make our dinner early, so we could enjoy it for lunch and I could take photos when it was freshly cooked instead of trying to shoot them without daylight or shooting the leftovers the next day!

Beautiful and fresh tomatillos for the Butternut Squash Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce

Roasted butternut squash for the Butternut Squash Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce

Tomatillo's cooking down for the sauce for my Butternut Squash Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce

So, I got up at my usual 7am and started prepping the squash and the tomatillos for the sauce. Then I went upstairs for a few hours, it was the perfect boost that I needed and I started working on a poster design that I was stuck on and I made some major headway! It felt great. When lunchtime came, I scooted downstairs, preheated the oven, heated up the sauce and started assembling the enchiladas. I popped them in the oven and went back upstairs to work for a bit. When the buzzer rang, I ran down, took some photos and served my husband and our assistant the best lunch we’ve had since we moved the business home. It was actually really fun to eat a bigger meal in the middle of the day. It felt like the right time to eat that way.

These enchiladas, besides being a burst of beautiful colors, are so full of delicious and bright flavors. The squash has a bit of a rustic nuttiness, the tomatillo has a bright almost citrus flavor to it, with a little bit of heat from the lemon drop peppers I added. I thought about adding black beans inside of the enchiladas, but ended up deciding against it since I thought they would just be bursting open. I think even though it would taste incredible, it would be too many things inside with the big hunks of squash. But I will likely make them that way at some point. I used a simple traditional Mexican crumbly white cheese called queso fresca, it was the perfect compliment and didn’t make the dish too heavy and gooey cheesy, which can be a bit too much for me, sometimes. They were delicious topped with a fresh squeeze of lime juice, fresh green onions and cilantro and a little dollop of organic low-fat sour cream. If you are vegan, you could definitely leave out the cheese or substitute Daiya for the queso fresco. Or if you can’t find queso fresco, you could go with a small amount of good quality sharp cheddar cheese.

I have made homemade tortillas in the past when making enchiladas and it is most definitely worth it, but since I didn’t really have an unlimited amount of time to make these, I decided to go with a high quality corn tortilla from the store. The key to making enchiladas keep their shape, is to steam the tortillas first, otherwise they will break apart a bit. I know this and I steamed mine, but I think they should have been steamed a bit more, some definitely fell apart just a tad when I rolled them up. I decided to just go with it, since I knew it would all taste the same, but some would just fall apart when I served them. Of course, the two that I decided to take a photo of did just that when I served them, but I kinda liked how rustic they looked and I love how you could see the color from the squash exploding out. So I said, screw perfection and just went with it! Life isn’t perfect, I’m not perfect and my enchiladas aren’t perfect – and I am OK with ALL of it! I embrace it.

Butternut Squash Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce

Butternut Squash Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce
Yesterday afternoon I had another one of those moments where I hit a creative road-block, for some reason this one hit me harder than ever. I actually felt sad over it and I let it beat me, a bit. I was working on a project that is seemingly very simple and should have an easy solution, but I was struggling. It broke me! I cried. I decided to take a step away “virtually” and move over to another project and then to editing the photos for this post. It definitely helped and today I am looking at it again with fresh eyes and I am ready to tackle it again. So I wanna hear from you….

What do you do when you hit a creative roadblock?
Do you find cooking and baking to be a good escape from everyday life and your work or does it stress you out too much?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you get through when you are feeling stumped with a problem, creatively or otherwise. Share away!

Butternut Squash Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce

Butternut Squash Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce

Butternut Squash Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce
serves 6

Tomatillo Sauce
1 1/2 pounds of fresh whole tomatillos, husked and rinsed
2 hot chiles of your choice, stems removed (I used dried lemon drop peppers from my garden) – you can skip this or just use one if you want it less spicy
enough water to cover the tomatillos
3 whole cloves garlic, peeled
1 handful of fresh cilantro (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Add your tomatillos and chiles to a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over a medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for approximately 5-7 minutes until the tomatillos are soft but still whole. If they aren’t all totally soft, no worries, still remove them from the heat and drain. Add the tomatillos and chiles to a food processor and add 2 cloves of garlic, fresh cilantro and salt, puree all the ingredients together and set the sauce aside.

Butternut Squash Enchiladas

1 – 2lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
6-8 ounces queso fresco, crumbled (you can skip the cheese or use Daiya to make this vegan) – reserve approximately 1/4 cup for the topping
12 corn tortillas

fresh lime wedges
fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
fresh green onions, thinly sliced
organic sour cream

Preheat the oven to 400º, place the squash cubes on a rimmed baking sheet toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and place into the oven to roast for 30-40 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Set aside when done.

While the squash is baking, add the onion, garlic, red bell pepper and a dash of salt to the teaspoon of olive oil in a medium pan over a medium-high heat, sauté. Cook for 5-8 minutes until the onion is translucent and both the onion and pepper are tender. Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside in a bowl.

Use the same pan from the onion and pepper mixture to heat up your tomatillo sauce. Bring it to a simmer over a medium-heat and allow it to heat through and slightly thicken. Just about 5 minutes.

Once the squash is done, you are ready to start assembling your enchiladas.

Start by spooning a small amount of the tomatillo sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish (I used an 8.5 x 11 pan and it was a bit crowded, but it worked) – just enough to cover the bottom with a very thin layer.

You will need to steam the corn tortillas so that they don’t break when rolled. Moisten two paper towels, working in batches of 3 or 4 tortillas at a time, wrap the tortillas in the damp paper towels and microwave them for approximately 30-45 seconds. Once microwaved, dip each tortilla into the tomatillo sauce, one at a time, making sure both sides get coated in the sauce. Scoop a small amount of butternut squash cubes (probably about 2 tablespoons), the onion and pepper mixture and cheese, keeping in mind how much to use so that you can roll the enchiladas shut and also so you have enough to fill 11 more. Place the enchilada, seam side down, in the baking dish. Repeat until you’ve made as many enchiladas as you want or have filling for (this recipe made 12, with a small amount of squash and pepper mixture leftover).

Spoon the remaining tomatillo sauce overtop all of the enchiladas and top with the remaining 1/4 cup of queso fresco.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until the cheese is slightly melted, golden brown and everything is bubbling. Pull it out of the oven, sprinkle a bit of fresh cilantro on top to make it even prettier and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Serve your enchiladas warm with fresh cilantro, fresh green onions and a squeeze of fresh lime juice, you can also add a dollop of organic sour cream, if you wish.

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup

I have been making this soup for years and have shared my recipe with so many people, I was shocked that I hadn’t yet posted in on here. It is one of my favorite soups, it is so simple to make and it’s loaded with so many of my favorite flavors. You could probably easily make it with vegetable broth and just double up on the vegetables and it would still be delicious. I always find this is a great way to use one of the whole chickens we get from the farm since it really makes the soup the best and the more chicken in the soup, the better it is, in my opinion.

Also, if you don’t feel like making the broth from scratch, you can use a good quality organic low sodium chicken broth or stock and pick up a quality simply spiced rotisserie chicken from the market. Just remove any fat and skin from the chicken, take the meat off the bones and shred or dice it, adding it to the soup near the end. It’s that simple.

You could certainly make your own corn tortillas from scratch for the tortilla strips, which I do most times and it is super simple, or you could just buy a package of good quality corn tortillas from the grocery store or a local Mexican market.

The fun thing about this soup, as with many, is the measurements of your ingredients can be really loose and to taste to your preferences. I almost NEVER measure when making a soup like this, I just taste it along the way and add more of things as I see fit, so definitely keep that in mind when making this for yourself. Use my measurements as a guide, but please taste along the way. If you don’t like super spicy, you can leave out the jalapeños, but I would really suggest keeping in the chipotles when making the stock and definitely in the soup, that smokey flavor really makes this soup what it is, in my opinion. If you can’t find dried chipotles, you can use the canned ones in adobo sauce and if you are worried about the spiciness, just skip adding a chipotle pepper all together and simply add a tablespoon of the adobo sauce.

You can also have fun with the toppings on this soup, besides the necessary tortilla strips, I usually like a good squeeze of lime juice, a little cubed avocado, some fresh cilantro and green onions. It’s also good with a little sprinkle of shredded sharp cheddar and if you like sour cream, it is good with a little dollop of that, too.

As usual, when I make this for the two of us, I make the full amount and we just live off of it for a week, it’s great for lunches or on those nights when I am too busy to cook. This time of year, I almost always have some type of soup or stew in the fridge that I made a couple of days prior, it is a must for me in the cooler weather.

Tortilla Soup
Serves 8-10

Chicken Stock
(this soup tastes the best with homemade stock, but if you are in a rush, you can still make it delicious by using boxed organic low sodium chicken broth and adding in the meat from an already cooked rotisserie chicken you bought from the store)

2-3 quarts water
1 whole organic chicken, about 4lbs (rinsed and giblets removed for the dog)
1 whole red onion, peeled and quartered
2 dried chipotles, halved
2 garlic cloves
1 bell pepper, seeded and quartered

In a large stockpot, (use the strainer that fits in your stock pot if you have one) combine all of the ingredients making sure to use enough water to cover your chicken and bring to a gentle boil over a high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 2 1/2 hours, adding more water if necessary to keep the chicken and vegetables covered. Skim the surface occasionally to remove any foam or impurities that forms on the surface. The longer you cook the stock, the stronger the flavor will be, but 2 1/2 hours was more than adequate and the stock had a fantastic flavor to it.

Remove the meat and bones and reserve any meat on the bones that can be separated and added back to the soup. If you didn’t use the strainer in the pot when making the stock, strain the stock to remove all the vegetables and other bits and add the broth back to the pot. Throw out the bones and vegetables. Use the stock immediately or let the stock cool completely, and refrigerate overnight. Skim any fat that forms on the surface. Keep refrigerated in airtight containers until ready to use, up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Since I was using the stock immediately, I skimmed any visible fat off the top, made sure that it was strained of everything, and kept it on a low heat while I prepped everything for the soup. You will probably end up with about 48-64 ounces of stock when making it homemade (give or take). Use all of it for the tortilla soup.

Tortilla Soup

6 to 8 cups of low sodium organic chicken broth or stock (I make my stock from scratch with one of our whole chickens from the farm, see above)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 dry chipotles, roughly chopped
2 to 3 bell peppers (you can use any combo you like, red, yellow, green, whatever), diced
1 (or 2) jalapeños, minced (optional, depending on how much spice you like, you’ll get a little from the chipotle)
2 teaspoons sea salt plus more to taste
2 teaspoons ground chili powder or to taste (you can add more as it cooks)
1 teaspoon ground cumin or to taste (you can add more as it cooks)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander or to taste (you can add more as it cooks)
1 large can of organic diced tomatoes
The meat from the chicken you made your stock from or the meat from 1 small pre-cooked rotisserie chicken or 2 chicken breasts, already cooked – skin and fat removed, shredded or diced
1 or 2 limes

For Topping:
8 or more corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
lime wedges
fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
fresh green onions, thinly sliced
avocado
sour cream
shredded cheddar

Saute onion, garlic and all your peppers with the olive oil. Cook till slightly soft, but I like to leave a little bit of the crunch there. Add chili powder, cumin and salt, stir. Add broth and canned tomatoes and bring to boil. If you made your stock from scratch and its already in a large pot, just cook up the vegetables in a pan and add to the broth. Bring to a simmer and continue to add seasonings to taste, depending on how spicy you like it. Cook for about 20-30 mins or so to really allow all of the flavors to come together.

Meanwhile, slice 8 or more corn tortillas into thin strips, put on a cookie sheet, drizzle with 1 teaspoon or so of olive oil and lightly salt. Bake at 375 degrees until desired crispiness. (about 10-15 mins) Put aside.

Dice and shred the chicken and add to the soup, simmer until chicken is heated through. Add a few bunches of cilantro and the juice of one to two limes stir and serve.

Serve soup topped with tortilla strips, diced avocado, fresh cilantro, green onions and a few squeezes of lime. You can also top with shredded cheddar, hot sauce, sour cream or whatever else you might like.

Apple Crisp (Gluten-Free and Vegan)

I absolutely love my mom’s apple crisp, it is one of my favorite things about fall! I have been making my own gluten-free version for a while now and it is so delicious. After I made the vegan apple cobbler two weeks ago with palm oil shortening instead of butter, I decided I wanted to make an updated and healthier version of the apple crisp, too. I’ve actually been calling it Apple Crisp 2.0, but I didn’t think that would make for a good title or dish name. This apple crisp is as healthy as dessert can get in my opinion – it is gluten-free, vegan, refined sugar-free, dairy free, egg free and corn free. Besides using organic all natural palm oil shortening in place of butter in recipes to make them vegan, I have also really fallen in love with baking with coconut oil (I use Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil). When solid, it makes a great replacement for butter in many baking recipes that call for cutting it in. The benefits of coconut oil are numerous and can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, soothing, etc. It is great for your skin and hair when used topically and has been found to have anti-aging, regenerative effects. We even use it topically on and feed it to our dog, Seri, when she has itchy skin. She LOVES the way it tastes.

I was also excited to play with date sugar and maple syrup in this recipe instead of refined white or brown sugar. It turned out so perfectly sweet. Date sugar is totally unprocessed, unrefined and raw. It naturally contains fiber and is loaded with vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, and selenium. Because date sugar doesn’t melt the way sugar does, I knew I wouldn’t get that delicious syrup with the apples that I usually get with the brown sugar, so that is how I decided to add in the maple syrup. It was such a small amount, you can barely distinguish any maple flavoring, if any at all. Other options  instead of the maple syrup would be rice syrup or molasses or if you aren’t vegan, you could also use honey. I am so excited about how this apple crisp turned out. It has so much flavor and I actually think it is better than any apple crisp I have made in the past.

You could serve this with your favorite vegan (or not vegan) ice cream or whipped topping. Something that I saw a while back on Healthful Pursuit that I have been meaning to try is coconut whip, which I think would be perfect on top of this recipe. I may just need to make that happen this week.

Apple Crisp (Gluten-Free and Vegan)

Apple Crisp (Gluten-Free and Vegan)

Apple Crisp (Gluten-Free  and Vegan)
serves 6

Filling:
4 cups of peeled and sliced apples (4 med)
2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Topping:
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup certified gluten-free oats (I like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Rolled Oats)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup date sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup (1 for the topping and 1/2 to drizzle over the top)
1/3 cup coconut oil (make sure it is somewhat solid and not liquid)

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Place apples in an 8-inch square pan, pour lemon juice over. Add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, spices and vanilla, toss around to combine.

Mix almond flour, oats, spices, date sugar and maple syrup together in a medium sized mixing bowl.  Cut in coconut oil in to make crumbly consistency.

Sprinkle over the apples, drizzle remaining 1/2 tablespoon of maple syrup over top and bake 30-40 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is golden brown. Serve warm.

Hey everyone – just wanted to give you an update on life right now and also check in with you all before Thanksgiving. We were in New York City at the end of last week for the opening of a gallery show of our work in Brooklyn, we attended Creative Mornings in D.U.M.B.O. with swissmiss and Jessi Harrington and we had another meeting with our clients at the Metropolitan Museum of Art regarding a new project in a few weeks. It was a very busy and very inspiring trip to the city, as usual. I love going there.

In addition to our usual stop for dinner at Risotteria in Greewich Village, my favorite gluten-free restaurant in the city, I also accidentally stumbled upon Fabiane’s Cafe and Pastry shop on Bedford Ave and N. 5th St. in Williamsburg, on our way out-of-town. We stopped to grab a quick morning bite plus some coffee and tea. I assumed that the best I could get would be some type of egg dish, so I ordered at the counter what turned out to be a delicious organic baked egg dish with smoked salmon and potato and went to sit down. Once I sat down at our table, I looked up and saw a HUGE gluten-free menu that I didn’t see while standing at the counter, the menu included gluten-free waffles, french toast and so much more. I didn’t change my meal, but I changed my side of toast to be gluten-free and started eyeing up the pastry case for a road-trip treat, which was also loaded with beautiful gluten-free goodies. Besides all of the breakfast and pastry options, Fabiane will also make any of their sandwiches with gluten-free bread. I couldn’t believe I had never heard of this place before. They make all of the baked goods right there and each and everything was absolutely delicious. The toast was some of the most delicious gluten-free bread I had every tried. I, of course, had to snag a gluten-free banana chocolate chip muffin from the pastry case for the car ride, because I didn’t think I could sit 6 hours in the car and not salivate thinking about all of the sweets I had just seen.

One final gluten-free friendly restaurant recommendation, if you find yourself in Brooklyn, is Caracas, a Venezuelan Arepas bar in Williamsburg that I have fallen in love with. We’ve been there a handful of times this year. Caracas is very knowledgable about gluten intolerances and arepas are naturally gluten-free, so I can indulge guilt-free, enjoying each and every bite with confidence. In addition to arepas, they also have a bunch of other traditional authentic Venezuelan treats like empanadas, tostones, etc and they have a wonderful cocktail menu, the dark and stormy is my favorite!

As usual, I am always happy for a trip to the city, to get that rush of inspiration, the surge of creativity and just an overall feeling of being alive. There really is nothing like it. I love the people, the food and the hustle. Of course, I also love coming home to my own kitchen, my healthy food and my own bed. I definitely realize for as much as I like the pace of New York, I also really appreciate the serene quiet of my life and more importantly I love having a kitchen that allows me to create huge meals. I think if I were to ever move to NYC, sucking it up and having a tiny kitchen may be the biggest sacrifice and toughest challenge for me. When we got home Saturday afternoon, we just made do with what we had in the pantry and then I woke up yesterday morning and headed to the grocery store to stock up for the week. Last night I made a big pot of my tortilla soup and a new version of my apple crisp. I cannot wait to share both of those recipes with you guys. I plan to make lots of other fun dishes this week, but I also need to start thinking about my Thanksgiving menu for next week. I am working on a plan for what I am going to serve and hopefully making a few dishes ahead of time, so I can share them with you all.

I wanted to ask you guys if there are any dishes that you wanted recipes for before your Thanksgiving? If it is your first gluten-free holiday, it can seem a bit overwhelming and I’d like to help however I can. There are hundreds or probably thousands of recipes online for anything you can think of for your Thanksgiving dinner, made gluten-free. Is there something specific you are looking for? Need some suggestions for healthy dessert options or a way to make your mom’s famous stuffing gluten-free? My mom’s stuffing is the one things I was devastated about no longer being able to eat. It actually saddened me. I have managed to be able to enjoy it every single Thanksgiving since I found out I was gluten intolerant, so believe me when I say, if there is a dish you love I am sure it is possible to make it gluten-free!

What are your favorite Thanksgiving dishes? What is the one dish that you cannot go without on Thanksgiving? Do you try to make your Thanksgiving healthy or do you allow yourself a day of indulging on all the things you never have?

Here are a few of my favorite fall dishes that would be great for any Thanksgiving feast. Look for more this week and next and please let me know if there are any other recipes that you’d like to see.

Arugula, Fennel and Orange Salad
Arugula, Fennel and Orange Salad


Gluten-free Vegan Apple Cobbler
Gluten-free Vegan Apple Cobbler


Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Bread with Crystallized Ginger and Walnuts
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Bread with Crystallized Ginger and Walnuts

Apple Spice Cake

Gluten-Free Apple Spice Cake


Chewy Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Gluten-Free)
Chewy Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Gluten-Free)


Spicy Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Pine Nuts
Spicy Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Pine Nuts


Rosemary Roasted Butternut Squash

Rosemary Roasted Butternut Squash

Flourless Carrot Cake
Flourless Carrot Cake


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Gluten-Free Cheddar and Green Onion Cornbread

Sautéed Brussel Sprouts with Toasted Walnuts and Cranberries

Sautéed Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Walnuts and Dried Currants

Cilantro Lime Sweet Potatoes with Honey
Cilantro Lime Sweet Potatoes with Honey


Tofu, Wild Rice and Hazelnut Stuffed Acorn Squash

Tofu, Wild Rice and Hazelnut Stuffed Acorn Squash


Homemade Chai Tea Concentrate

Ingredients for Homemade Chai Tea Concentrate

Spices for Homemade Chai Tea Concentrate

I have seen quite a few recipes floating around on blogs and on Pinterest for homemade chai concentrate. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? It’s so easy and you can customize your own recipe to exactly what you are looking for in your chai. I like mine spicy, with a strong tea flavor and with a subtle sweetness. I find the packaged concentrates from the grocery store to really lack flavor and many times they are just too sweet for me.

I looked around at tons of different recipes and ultimately settled on this recipe. I have made it three times now to get it exactly how I wanted it. The first time I added my coconut sugar and honey in at the end, which resulted in a cloudy concentrate. It tasted perfectly delicious but it bothered me that it was cloudy. I made it a second time using date sugar and honey at the start, the sweetness was so nice but the date sugar I had was a bit clumpy, which annoyed me. The final time I used coconut sugar again but added it at the start, this time I skipped the honey. I saw a few recipes without pepper at all and some with just a tad bit of ground pepper. I really love the spiciness from the pepper so I added in whole peppercorns. I also really love the addition of orange zest and nutmeg in my chai. I love that there are no rules when making your own chai concentrate. Use this or any other recipes as a guide, but tweak the recipe and ingredients to your preference. Have fun with it.

You can serve your chai warm as a hot latte or cold as an iced latte. Either way, I go with a 1 to 1 mixture on the chai concentrate to a non-dairy milk. I prefer almond milk personally, but you could use regular milk or any other non-dairy milk. If you like it less strong, use less tea bags, or mix 1 part concentrate to 3 parts milk instead of 1 or 2. Play around. If you are like me, after you make this once and take the first sip, you will be sure to always have a batch in the fridge.

This concentrate would make a lovely holiday gift in a mason jar with a cute tag, some ribbon or twine, etc. Another great gift idea would be to pre-mix all of the spices and place them with the tea bags into a cute little cheesecloth pouch for an adorable chai concentrate mix packet, so your recipient can make their concentrate whenever they wish, adding or taking away any spices of their choosing. You would just want to substitute dried ginger for fresh and skip the orange zest. And of course provide the recipient with the following instructions ::: To make your chai concentrate, place 4 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 cup coconut, date or raw cane sugar in a medium sized sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and place the cheesecloth pouch in. Simmer for 20 minutes, remove the pouch, then stir in 1 tablespoon of honey (optional). Allow to cool before pouring it in an air tight container or jar and placing in the fridge to cool. Keeps up to 7 days. For a latte, hot or cold, mix one part concentrate to one part milk of your choice, warm up or serve over ice. :::

PS – I am loving the comments about using the concentrate in other things like baked goods or making a syrup from it. SO brilliant, I didn’t even think of that. Great ideas!

Homemade Chai Tea Concentrate

Homemade Chai Concentrate
Yields: 1 batch of concentrate, approximately 4 cups
adapted to suit my personal taste from many different recipes – this one and this one mostly.

4 1/2 cups water
8 bags black tea – I used orange pekoe
2 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, split in half (or 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract added at the very end)
1/2 cup coconut sugar, date sugar or raw cane sugar (you can add more or less depending on how sweet you like your chai)
1 – 3-inch section of fresh ginger, cut into pieces
10 whole cloves
8 cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 whole star anise pods
1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon raw honey (optional, leave off to make vegan, if you want it to be sweeter without the honey, add a bit more sugar in at the beginning)

1 small square section of cheesecloth, approximately 6″ square (if you don’t want to mess with cheesecloth, make sure you have a good strainer you can use at the end)
kitchen twine

Prepare the teabags by removing any tags if there are any and tying them all together. Prepare the spices, vanilla bean and orange zest by laying them in your cheesecloth, I leave my cinnamon sticks out to make the little pouch of spices a bit more compact. Tie the cheesecloth pouch shut with a small piece of kitchen twine. If you leave the cinnamon sticks out, just tie them together with kitchen twine.

*If you don’t wish to use cheesecloth, you will just add all of your spices directly to the pan when the time comes and strain them out after.

Add the water and sugar to a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil over a medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and put in the tea bags, cheesecloth pouch and cinnamon sticks. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat strain the concentrate through a sieve or just remove the tea bags, cheesecloth pouch and cinnamon sticks. At this point if you want a bit more sweetness you can add a tablespoon of honey, stir to dissolve. I don’t always do this, but it is a really nice touch. Additionally, if you didn’t use a whole vanilla bean, add your vanilla extract now. Stir to combine.

Allow the mixture to cool before pouring it into an airtight jar or container. This amount fits perfectly into a 1-quart mason jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

** To serve, mix 1 part concentrate with 1 part milk of your choice. I personally love unsweeteened almond milk (you can even make your own). Heat for a warm beverage or serve over ice for a cold drink.

Ice Chai Latte made from Homemade Chai Tea Concentrate

Arugula, Fennel and Orange Salad

Once the fall really sets in, I already start missing my green veggies. I know we are blessed with squash and root vegetables aplenty throughout the winter, but I really start missing all the beautiful local green stuff from the peak of the summertime. I love that at this point that we are still able to get our hands on arugula, kale, spinach and other leafy greens, but I know soon those will be hard to come by. So, I try to get in as much as possible. I grabbed the fennel, arugula and red onion at the farmers market this past weekend along with some potatoes, bok choy, peppers, beets, carrots and as many other vegetables as I could get my hands on. Gotta get it all in now.

I absolutely love salads, any type really. I rarely meet a salad I don’t love. This cool-weather winter salad has so much vibrant flavor. The peppery crisp from the arugula, the subtle hint of anise from fennel and the tangy sweetness of the oranges all come together perfectly. If I had some in the pantry, I would have topped this salad with some toasted walnut pieces.

What is your favorite fall/winter salad?

Arugula, Fennel and Orange Salad
serves 4

Vinaigrette
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon wholegrain or stoneground mustard, no salt added
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
juice from half an orange (or lemon) – approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salad
5 cups baby arugula, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
1 1/2 oranges, peeled, white pith removed and cut into segments (use the remaining half for the vinaigrette)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

In a small bowl combine all dressing ingredients and whisk to thoroughly combine, set aside.

Place the arugula in the bottom of a large serving bowl, scatter the orange segments, fennel slices and onions over the arugula; drizzle the dressing over the salad to serve, toss gently. Serve.

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