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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.

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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.

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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

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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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Gluten-free Vegan Apple Cobbler

First off, I know the name makes this dessert sound so far off from the traditional cobblers that we all know and love. How can a cobbler be good without flour or butter? I am sure you are thinking this tastes like a healthy hippie dessert, made from sticks and dirt. WRONG. You really would never know that the gluten or the dairy is missing in this one. It is full of flavor and is so deliciously satisfying. My husband, Mark, is a southern boy who loves his cobbler. He actually gets angry at crisps and how “stupid they are” (in his words). Whenever we head down south, he seeks out cobbler on every trip. He loved this cobbler, he kept telling me he couldn’t believe it was gluten-free! He of course served a big ‘ol scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of it, but I can’t really blame him.

I honestly was playing around with this recipe thinking it would likely not work on the first try and I would have to try it again and again to get it right, so I am pretty shocked that it not only worked, but it was absolutely delicious. I plan to make it again in a smaller pan next time, so both the apple filling and the cobbler topping are a bit thicker, but that is just a personal preference. When I loaded the apples into the pan it looks like so much, but as it cooked down it definitely sunk in a bit, so maybe the answer is more apples. I liked that the cobbler topping got a bit brown and crisp and I love how beautiful it looked as it baked and sunk in around the apples pieces. The spices were perfect, the topping was crisp and perfectly doughy and the sweetness level was exactly where it needed to be. Obviously everyone’s personal sweet tooth is a little different plus the sweetness of the apples may affect how sweet the filling is, so taste your apple filling before you put the topping on, you may find that you want more sugar. I personally don’t like excruciatingly sweet desserts. Plus, since it isn’t disgustingly sweet it would also make a delicious breakfast, if you are into that sorta thing.

Speaking of sweet, feel free to play around with sweetener options too, I had wanted to use coconut sugar, but I finished off what I had in the pantry on the pumpkin bread. You could also play around with using honey or maple syrup as the sweetener in the apple filling. Just remember if you use a liquid sweetener in the cobbler topping, to adjust your flours accordingly. Also, if you aren’t vegan and you absolutely need to have butter in your cobbler, you could certainly substitute butter for the palm oil shortening. I just really wanted to try making this without butter. I am so excited that this cobbler came together and it’s so incredibly delicious, plus low in sugar (just a half cup in the whole recipe), no butter and gluten-free. I am so proud of this!

Gluten-free Vegan Apple Cobbler

Gluten-free Vegan Apple Cobbler

 

Gluten-free Vegan Apple Cobbler
serves 6

Apple Cobbler Filling
2 1/2 pounds (or more) peeled apples – I used a mix of Crispin’ and Honeycrisp apples
1/4 cup organic raw cane sugar or coconut sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cobbler topping
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup organic raw cane sugar or coconut sugar (plus a little bit more to sprinkle on top)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground (plus a little bit more to sprinkle on top)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
1/4 cup unsweetened organic almond milk, you may need less
4 tablespoons chilled organic palm oil shortening (you can use unsalted butter here instead, if you wish)

Preheat the oven to 375º F.

Make the cobbler topping first. Combine almond flour, sorghum flour and tapioca start with the salt, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut the pieces of shortening into the flour mixture until it comes together, it should be like coarse sand. Pour in the almond milk, a little at a time, continuing to stir until it all just starts to come together. You may not need all of the almond milk, so don’t add it in too quickly. It will feel a bit sticky, don’t worry.

Form the dough into a ball using your hands and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place it into the fridge while you peel the apples. Once the apples are peeled, core them and cut them into thin slices or small cubes, place them in your baking pan and drizzle them with the lemon juice and set them aside. (I used a 11″ x 7″ pan, but I think next time I would use my 8″ x 8″ pan.)

Take the dough out of the fridge, it should be a bit firmer now and roll it out between two pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Don’t press too hard, just enough to flatten it out into a square the size of the pan. Place the rolled out square onto a baking sheet and place it into freezer, let it chill while you finish preparing the apple filling.

Add the sugar, spices and vanilla to the apples, toss gently to combine everything. Check on your dough, if it seems nice and firm and chilled, pull it out and gently lay it over the top of the apples, it is definitely a tricky maneuver but you can do it. I just peeled the parchment paper off of one side and flipped that size down on top of the apples, then I carefully peeled the other parchment sheet off the top. If any of the dough rips or peels off, hangs over, etc – you can just easily fix it up with your hands. The dough is really forgiving and it definitely doesn’t have to be perfect. If all else fails and your cobbler topping is being a jerk, or it’s too sticky, just spoon it on top biscuit style, it will still be totally delicious.

Sprinkle another teaspoon or so of sugar on top of the cobbler as well as a little sprinkle of cinnamon. Place the pan in the oven and bake the cobbler for 35-40 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the topping is brown and firm. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve.

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Apple Spice Cake

This afternoon when I took a break from work to have lunch, I was struggling to figure out what to make since our fridge is looking a bit bare. We are leaving Monday morning to go to Birmingham for a job we are working on, so we are nearing the end of the planned meals and the groceries I bought earlier in the week. As I sat thinking for a minute, it came to me, I made a chickpea, kale, sun-dried tomato salad with goat cheese and a homemade multi-grain mustard vinaigrette, on the side I toasted up one of those delicious gluten-free multi-grain rolls I had made earlier in the week and topped it with a tad bit of garlic butter and small sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano. As I was “whipping” this all up, Mark sat down to eat his lunch, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and he started laughing at me and my creation. First he told me how jealous he was of my lunch and that he wished he had waited to see what I came up with. Then, he asked ‘what is your first memory of really loving good food. Like, at what age do you remember thinking, THIS is really good food?’

It was such a good question, I really had to think about it. I didn’t really have one solid memory, I just always remember loving good home-cooked food. Besides the traditional and super delicious Greek foods my dad and his family always made for holidays and the like, my parents cooked dinner every single night for us. My dad did the majority of the cooking, my mom most of the baking, but my mom had some really classic and comforting dishes, that I still think very fondly of now as an adult. One of my favorite memories growing up, that I always think of, was when my mom would make her homemade tomato sauce, totally from scratch, and the whole house would fill with the amazing smell of her sauce. I love my mom’s sauce so much. I used to come into the kitchen quite often while it would simmer away and grab the spoon and take a huge taste. I would sometimes grab a bowl from the cupboard and just ladle a ton of the sauce into it, maybe a meatball or two and just spoon it into my mouth like soup. It was so good. She never bought the jarred spaghetti sauce crap. It was that way for almost everything my family made. There was a major emphasis on homemade food. I am sure that is a large part of where I got my love of food and cooking from.

I asked Mark what he remembers and he told me about him being really young and biting into a really good ham sandwich and think “woah, this ham sandwich is REALLY really good” – haha. I can totally see a young, adorable little Mark all excited about his ham sandwich, likely served with some southern style sweet tea or orange soda on the side.

Can you remember the first time you really realized your love for good, home cooked food? Were you a kid? Or did you not really realize your love of food until you were an adult?

I made this cake yesterday morning. I was going to my sister’s apartment for a party in the evening and she asked everyone to bring a snack and something to drink. Since I knew there would be tons of savory snack options and wine, I decided I wanted to bring a healthy fall inspired dessert and some spiced rum and apple cider. At first I thought about making my gluten-free apple crisp (well really it’s my Mom’s recipe), but then I thought up the idea of an apple cake made with some of that great almond flour that I am obsessed with and just a tad bit of honey and dates as the sweetener. Look at me, all confident after my cookie recipe last week. I baked a cake, guys! My own cake with my own recipe.

The cake turned out great, I honestly have to say I was a little surprised, I had visions of the entire thing sinking in, or just being totally tasteless. It was the right amount of moist, which I honestly was a bit worried about, it seemed like so many wet ingredients to me. The spices all sang in perfect harmony with the apples and the dates and the small amount of honey surprisingly made it the perfect amount of sweet. I honestly hate super sweet cake, I think that is one of the reasons I don’t care for most cakes.

I cut into the cake to take photos to post the recipe here on the blog, but I didn’t taste it before I brought it to my sister’s. It seemed kinda tacky to show up with a whole cake, with one piece missing. So I served it up and crossed my fingers! Every one that tried it, loved it and some even asked for the recipe! Yay – success! This cake is gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free, it is also easily made vegan by substituting maple syrup for the honey.

Apple Spice Cake

Apple Spice Cake
 Serves 8-10

2 cups blanched almond flour (meal) – I like Honeyville
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup apple cider (unsweetened) (you could also try unsweetened apple sauce)
1/4 cup grape seed oil
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (cow’s milks or other non-dairy milk should work as well)
1/2 cup honey (use maple syrup to make vegan)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 peeled and chopped medium-sized apples, reserve half (or more) of one peeled apple to slice thinly for the top of the cake (I used two very large Crispin apples that we picked last weekend at Blackman Homestead Farm)
8 or so Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped

Optional add ins:
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or other nut
1/2 cup raisins or craneberries

Topping:
1 tablespoon brown sugar or raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Grease and lightly flour (I used sweet rice flour) a 9″ springform pan.

In a large mixing bowl, add the almond flour, chickpea flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, baking soda, all the spices and the salt. Whisk together well so it’s all evenly mixed.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together well the apple cider, grape seed oil, almond milk, honey, lemon juice and vanilla. Add the apple pieces and the finely chopped dates. Mix well to incorporate.

Pour the wet ingredients into dry and stir by hand to combine. Be sure it is well mixed and there are no flour lumps.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared springform pan and top with the remaining apple slices in a circular pattern . Use as many or as few slices as you’d like. (I actually wish I had used a few more apple slices, but I was afraid to overdo it.) Mix together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and sprinkle the mixture on top of the cake.

Bake the cake for about 60-70 minutes or until a tester or a very thin knife inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for about 15-20 minutes, or longer before removing the ring on the springform pan, you may need to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a think spatula or knife. Slice with a sharp knife and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

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Sweet Potato & Black Bean Patties

I have really fallen in love with vegetarian patties, burgers, croquettes, etc. It is such a fun change of pace for dinner and as long as you don’t deep fry them in an ungodly amount of oil, they still satisfy that urge for crispy fried stuff while still being healthy. Honestly, I am not one for fried foods, never really have been – though sometimes it is hard to walk away from good crappy french fries. They are my weakness, I will admit it. Whenever I make these types of patties I cook them in just a tablespoon or two of really good extra-virgin olive oil, so they get crisp on the outside but they are still healthy and you get the wonderful benefits and flavors of olive oil. None of that deep-frying in gross oils that don’t have any health or nutritional value. These particular patties are great because they are not only gluten-free but they are also vegan. There aren’t any weird ingredients, replacements or gums. If you aren’t gluten-free, feel free to use regular breadcrumbs and your favorite all-purpose flour. That’s it.

These sweet potato and black bean patties might be my new favorite of the bunch. They have a delicious crispy crunch on the outside and are so perfectly tender and soft on the inside. They are so full of flavor and made a perfect dinner by serving two of them on top of some baby arugula.  I just top them with a spoonful of fresh pico de gallo and cilantro. A delicious creamy and spicy yogurt sauce or sour cream would also be delicious. I only cooked up 4 of them for us for dinner the first night and then refrigerated the rest of the patties. They are so easy to just pull of out the fridge and heat up quickly for lunches. If you wanted these to be a smaller bite for an appetizer or snack, just make the patties a bit smaller, so they can be easily picked up with one hand, instead of requiring a fork and plate.

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Patties

(Makes about 15 patties – more or less depending on how big you make your patties)

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2-inch chunks (this was about 3 medium-sized potatoes for me)
1 cup cooked organic black beans, divided into two 1/2 cup servings
½ cup gluten-free breadcrumbs*
3 tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose flour* plus more if you need it (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chile powder (I used ground smoked chipotle powder)
1 large garlic clove, minced
4 green onions, both white and green parts, finely chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, roughly chopped
2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more if you need it

A small handful of fresh cilantro plus fresh pico de gallo for serving.

Fill a medium saucepan with water, add the sweet potato chunks and cover. Cook over a medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes until very tender. Drain in a colander until very dry.

Once dry, place sweet potato chunks in a large mixing bowl with 1/2 cup of the black beans and mash with a potato masher to break up the big bits. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of beans, salt and pepper, breadcrumbs, flour, garlic, cilantro and green onions, and mix with your hands to form a smooth batter. Make sure that the breadcrumbs and flour are mixed throughout and there are not huge chunks of potato. If the mixture is too wet, add more flour. It should be quite sticky though.

In a non-stick skillet, heat two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over a medium-high heat. Form round, flat patties about 3-inches in diameter (this is about three tablespoons of batter per patty). Cook four or more at a time for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer finished patties to a paper towel-lined plate to cool slightly. Add more oil as needed to continue cooking the remaining patties. If you wish to save the rest to cook later, form the patties and place on a plate covered in plastic wrap. They can stay in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Pull them out from your fridge and cook as mentioned above.

Serve the patties topped with some fresh chopped cilantro and a spoonful of fresh pico de gallo (or whatever favorite fresh salsa you have on hand). You could also top with a creamy chipotle yogurt sauce or whatever other toppings you wish.

* regular breadcrumbs and all-purpose flour will work just fine if you aren’t gluten intolerant.

Here are a couple of my other favorite patty, burger and croquette recipes:

Gluten-Free Lentil Burgers
Gluten-Free Lentil Burgers

White Bean and Chive Patties
White Bean and Chive Patties

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Quinoa Croquettes with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

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Wild Rice and Spinach Patties

Chickpea Croquettes (Gluten-Free) with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce
Chickpea Croquettes (Gluten-Free) with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

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