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Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins with Almond Flour

I’ve never been much of a baker, however once I made the decision to avoid all processed foods entirely, I knew with that choice came the fact that I would have to start experimenting with baking if I wanted to enjoy any baked goods again. Thankfully, there are many lovely gluten-free bloggers that have done a lot of the experimenting part for me and I can play around with their recipes. See for me, the problem with baking is that you can’t wing it the way you can with cooking. If you change a measurement or try a different flour, you can’t taste it as you go and tweak it, you have to completely bake it and wait to see what happens, if it’s wrong there is no fixing it. You either have to suck it up and eat said ‘failed experiment’ or start over.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins with Almond Flour

Last week was the start of blueberry season locally and I came across this recipe while searching around. It sounded and looked so good, that I decided to just go for it and make a double batch. This way we can freeze one batch and take it with us on our road trip to Chicago this upcoming week.

I am so incredibly pleased with these muffins. I believe my exact words when I took the first bite were “HOLY F*CK THESE ARE AMAZING”. Seriously, not only are these the best gluten-free blueberry muffins I have ever had, these may be THE best blueberry muffins I have ever had. They plumped up perfectly, so light and airy. They have a delicious nutty flavor from the almond flour and the blueberries just burst in your mouth. This is the first time I have baked with the almond flour and I am very pleased with it. I can’t wait to try out more stuff.

Karina of Gluten-Free Goddess (who created this recipe), recently adopted being vegan on top of her already gluten-free diet, so her recipe used Ener-G Egg Replacer instead of eggs. Since we have been buying the beautiful organic free-range brown eggs direct from the farmer, we used those instead. If you are vegan, use Karina’s original recipe and make these muffins, you won’t regret it.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins with Almond Flour


Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins with Almond Flour

makes a baker’s dozen
adapted from Gluten Free Goddess

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.

Whisk together:

1 1/3 cups almond meal (I used Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour)
1 cup sorghum (or brown rice flour, if desired)
1/2 cup tapioca starch or potato starch (not potato flour!)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

Beat in:

1 1/3 cups organic light brown sugar
2 tablespoons light olive oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 organic free-range egg whites (depending on the size, you are looking to get 1/4 cup of liquid), beaten until frothy
1/2 cup warm water, more as needed, up to 3/4 cup
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Beat the batter until it is smooth, like a slightly thickened cake batter.

Add in:

1 pint fresh blueberries, washed and patted dry

Stir gently and briefly.

Plop the blueberry muffin batter into the twelve lined cups. You’ll probably have some xtra- for a baker’s dozen.

Bake in the center of a preheated oven for 23 to 25 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch. A wooden pick inserted into the center should emerge clean.

Cool the muffin pan on a wire rack for five minutes. Gently pop the muffins out to continue cooling on the rack (don’t cool them in the hot pan- they’ll get soggy).

If your muffins are soggy or slightly underdone– due to unforeseen oven temperature variations– place them back into the warm oven directly on the center rack for five minutes or so.

Wrap and freeze cooled muffins for future breakfast treats or road trips 😉

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins with Almond Flour

Thanks for this lovely recipe Karina, I am forever indebted to you.

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Penne with Pistachio Pesto, White Beans and Arugula
I am not super crazy about this photo, but it was late and I was hungry so I did my best.

OK, so it is fair to say my pasta addiction is probably very obvious by now. It has always been one of my favorites and it is definitely both my go-to quick dinner option and my favorite comfort food. When I learned of my gluten intolerance, the loss of pasta in my life is what scared me most, then I discovered Tinkyada’s rice pastas. They are so amazing!! They are light and tasty. I much prefer them to regular pasta, any day, though I really don’t have much choice. Mark actually really loves rice pasta and always mentions how much lighter it is in your ‘gut’.

We got home late from work last night and we were both very tired from a long day of printing and other projects, so while I was contemplating dinner, Mark pulled a Wegman’s pizza out of the freezer for himself. I had pulled this recipe from a recent issue of Cooking Light and had all of the ingredients for it on hand, since it seemed so easy and quick, I decided to make it. In the time it took the oven to preheat and for the frozen pizza to cook and cool, I had made this pasta dish, served it, photographed it and I was finishing up eating, just about the time Mark was sitting down to eat his pizza. Granted, I produced WAY more of a mess and tons more dishes, but I would say cooking from scratch and eating fresh foods wins again!!

The pesto had an amazing flavor to it from the pistachios and the arugula had that lovely peppery crisp that just added to the creaminess from the beans. I was a bit unsure on the beans, but I thought they were really nice and was glad I decided not to omit them. Admittedly, I don’t usually buy romano cheese, as I tend to go for parmigiano-reggiano every time, but the romano had a stronger taste that went perfectly with these flavors, a bit saltier and sharper. I will definitely be buying more of it for pasta dishes.

Penne with Pistachio Pesto, White Beans and Arugula
serves 4
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, July 2010

8 ounces uncooked organic brown rice penne pasta (any pasta will do)
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup roasted shelled pistachios
6 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped seeded tomato
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (15-ounce) can organic great northern beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups arugula
1/4 cup shredded fresh pecorino Romano cheese

Cook pasta according to package direction. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain.

Combine basil, nuts and garlic in a food process; process until finely chopped.

Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add basil mixture, cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in pasta, tomato, and next 3 ingredients (through beans); cook for 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, tossing to combine. Remove from heat. Add arugula to pan, and toss slightly to wilt.

Place about 1 1/4 cups pasta mixture in each of 4 bowls and top each serving with 1 tablespoon of cheese.

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Thai Basil Mojito

I wish I could take credit for the idea of this drink, but I can’t. My dad dreamt it up after tasting the thai basil I had growing in my garden. The thai basil has a subtle anise flavor and is very different from Italian basil. This was a refreshing summer drink, that was perfect for a hot day and grilling out.

Thai Basil Mojito
serves 1

1/2 lemon, cut into wedges
a small handful of fresh thai basil leaves
1/2 tablespoon organic pure cane sugar (or 2 oz of simple syrup)
2 oz white rum
ice cubes
club soda

Place the lemon wedges at the bottom of a tall glass along with the basil leaves. Add sugar or simple syrup and muddle the mixture. Stir in the rum and top with ice. Top off with club soda and garnish with a lemon wedge and couple thai basil leaves.

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Sun Dried Tomato, Mozzarella & Arugula Pizza (gluten-free)

I am a big fan of homemade pizza, my Mom always made it when we were kids, with homemade pizza dough and all. I love how much fun you could have with toppings. This pizza turned out perfectly, it had so many lovely subtle flavors and the arugula finished it off nicely with a little bite. I used the same pizza dough recipe from my Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Pizza, but I am going to include it again here so you don’t have to look it up. Since I made this recipe up on the fly and also was making a second non-gluten-free pizza for Mark, my measurements may not be exact, so feel free to just improvise and go with what you think on the toppings. The only thing I would like to find a way to change is, some of the sun-dried tomatoes started to really blacken up as the pizza baked, it seemed to only be the ones not covered by cheese, so maybe I just need to add more cheese next time (oh darn!).

I took one leftover piece of this pizza this morning, toasted it up in the toaster oven and topped it with one fried egg. Oh my gosh was that amazing. The perfect breakfast to start a very busy day.

Sun-Dried Tomato, Mozzarella, Fontina & Arugula Pizza (Gluten-Free)
serves 2-3

Gluten-free Pizza Crust

1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp quick-rising yeast
3/4 cup warm water (about 110° F)
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp fresh rosemary, basil or oregano (I went with basil and oregano)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease.

In a small bowl, combine warm water, sugar and yeast. Stir until just dissolved. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside in warm are for 10 minutes. Mixture will form a foam head of about 3/4″.

Using your food processor (which is how I did it and it worked surprisingly well), add all dry ingredients: flours, potato starch, xanthan gum and salt, directly into the processor bowl. Blend in the processor, about 1 minute. If using a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients, and whisk together until well combined.

In another small bowl, whisk olive oil, eggs, and vinegar until blended. Add egg mixture and yeast mixture to dry ingredients, mix until combined.

Blend dough in the food processor for 2-3 minutes. Dough will be sticky and soft, it doesn’t seem much like dough at all. Add in the herbs and gently pulse or mix to combine.

Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. Dip your hands in water or olive oil and shape the dough into a round shape about 1/4″ thick. Place in a warm, draft-free area and let rise 40 minutes. Dough should double in size.

Brush top with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of course salt.
This recipe can also be used to make gluten-free focaccia if you spread it to 1″ instead of 1/4″.

Toppings

1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs, I went with basil and oregano from my garden
2 ounces of sun-dried tomatoes, sliced very thin
1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella (I used organic)
1/2 cup of shredded fontina
red pepper flakes
2 cups of fresh baby arugula
fresh parmigiano-reggiano

Preheat the oven to 400° F

After you have brushed a bit of olive oil on the crust and sprinkled with a bit of salt (see above), sprinkle the minced garlic all over the crust. Next, evenly sprinkle the fresh herbs and sun-dried tomatoes all over the crust. Add both cheeses and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Bake the pizza. Place the baking sheet in the middle of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the crust is a golden brown and the cheese is melted. After you pull the pizza out, top the entire pizza with the baby arugula. Lightly grate fresh parmigiano-reggiano on top. Cut pizza into wedges, serve immediately.

Sun Dried Tomato, Mozzarella & Arugula Pizza (gluten-free)

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I have never been a huge fan of ice cream, until I tasted fresh homemade ice cream made from scratch with fresh ingredients. It is so insanely delicious and it has so much more flavor than the store-bought stuff. I had been talking about buying the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer for some time now and finally got around to it last week. I knew before I even bought the attachment what flavor my first batch was gonna be. Mint Chocolate Chunk! We have so much mint growing wild in our yard that I couldn’t wait to snip some off and bring it in to make fresh ice cream. If you can’t get your hands on fresh mint you can use mint extract, but there is no comparing to the fresh mint. So much so that I added chopped fresh mint back in at the end, since I love the little bits of flavor.

Making ice cream from scratch, cooking down and making the custard first definitely is a lot of work, but it is absolutely worth it and is so gratifying in the end. The only thing I wished is that I could have found some place locally to buy fresh milk and cream, instead I bought organic milk and cream from the grocery store. I have searched high and low to find somewhere locally to buy dairy (preferably pasture-fed), but with no results yet, so if you know of a place in the Western New York area, please share.

This ice cream really is to die for. So rich, a small scoop is all you need. I cannot wait to experiment with other flavors.

Mint Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream
yields 1 quart
adapted from Simply Recipes

3 cups of fresh mint leaves (not stems), rinsed, drained, packed
extra fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 cup organic whole milk
2 cups organic heavy cream (divided, 1 cup and 1 cup)
2/3 cup organic pure cane sugar
A pinch of salt
6 egg yolks (we prefer brown eggs from local, organic, free-range chickens)
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
6 ounces semisweet chocolate or dark chocolate, chopped fine, keep in the freezer until used

1. Put the mint leaves in a heavy saucepan with the 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of the cream. Heat until just steaming (do not let boil), remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes. Reheat the mixture until steaming, remove from heat and let stand for 15 more minutes.

2.While the mint is infusing in step 1, prepare the remaining cream over an ice bath. Pour the remaining 1 cup of cream into a medium size metal bowl, set in ice water (with lots of ice) over a larger bowl. Set a mesh strainer on top of the bowls. Set aside.

3. Strain the milk cream mixture into a separate bowl, pressing against the mint leaves with a rubber spatula in the sieve to get the most liquid out of them. Return the milk cream mixture to the saucepan. Add sugar and salt to the mixture. Heat until just steaming again, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.

4. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium-sized bowl. Slowly pour the heated milk cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so that the egg yolks are tempered by the warm mixture, but not cooked by it. Scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

5. Return the saucepan to the stove, stirring the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon so that you can run your finger across the coating and have the coating not run. This can take about 10 minutes.

6. Pour the custard through the strainer (from step 2) and stir into the cold cream to stop the cooking, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

7. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator (at least a couple of hours) or stir the mixture in the bowl placed over the ice bath until thoroughly chilled (20 minutes or so). Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

8. Once the ice cream has been made in the ice cream maker it should be pretty soft. Gently fold in the finely chopped chocolate and chopped fresh mint. Put in an airtight container and place in the freezer for at least an hour, preferably several hours. If it has been frozen for more than a day, you may need to let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften it before serving.

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The mojito is one of my go to summer cocktails. But, as with everything, I love all the variations on the classic. This is one of my favorites and considering we had grabbed some fresh picked strawberries while we were out in the country and my herbs are growing out of control in our yard, this was a no brainer.

I love the sweetness from the strawberries and the spiciness from the basil. It is perfectly light and refreshing, the perfect Springtime twist on an old classic.

Strawberry Basil Mojito
serves 1

5 strawberries, hulled
5 fresh basil leaves
1/2 tablespoon organic pure cane sugar (or 2 oz of simple syrup)
2 oz white rum
ice cubes
club soda

Slice the strawberries and place at the bottom of a tall glass along with the basil leaves. Add sugar or simple syrup and muddle the mixture. Stir in the rum and top with ice. Top off with club soda and garnish with strawberry slices and basil leaves.

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There is something about stuffed peppers that is always good, no matter what’s inside. I have been wanting to make quinoa stuffed peppers for sometime now and when I came up with the idea to add goat cheese, I figured I couldn’t go wrong. These peppers were so delicious and had the perfect balance of crunch and creaminess. The fresh mint from our herb garden, was the perfect compliment to the tangy goat cheese. These would be great as a entrée or as a side dish. We served these on the side with some fresh Italian sausage patties from Sojourner Farms that we picked up on Friday (which by the way, was better than any Italian sausage I have ever tasted).

Quinoa and Goat Cheese Stuffed Peppers
serves 4

4 organic bell peppers (green, red, orange or yellow, any will do)
3/4 cup cooked quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup baby bella mushrooms, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup frozen organic corn kernels
salt
freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 475º.

Cut off top of peppers and remove seeds. Set aside.

Rinse 1 cup of quinoa thoroughly. In a small saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water and 1 cup of quinoa to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat, let stand 5 minutes; fluff with a fork. (I refrigerated the leftover quinoa for a salad tomorrow after yoga.)

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chopped mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are tender; add corn and 1 tablespoon of fresh mint. Cook until heated.

In a large mixing bowl, add cooked quinoa, mushroom mixture, 4 ounces of goat cheese, remaining 1 tablespoon of fresh mint, salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine.

Arrange peppers in a small glass baking pan, brush skins with a small amount of olive oil. Stuff peppers with filling, top each pepper with the remaining crumbled goat cheese. Bake until peppers are slightly blackened and the filling top is golden and crispy, 30-35 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes,

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