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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Gluten free crackers...

I have a passion for traditional methods and techniques for food. I like to study how things were done in previous times without mass production and manufacturing methods. Gluten free crackers can be very expensive, so one day, I wanted to create something that was simple to make in large quantities, that was easy enough to do on a regular basis for something so basic as a cracker.
I created these crackers. With the interest in making these in an artisan style, they lend themselves to a rustic preparation. These are made in a traditional, unleavened fashion, what I call an ancient method. Dough like this would have been flattened and baked on a hot rock or stone to make crackers just like this a long time ago. I call these Jerusalem crackers because they are fashioned in a old-world way.
They are delicious. I know, many may think "a homemade cracker is simply not worth the work" these are, you really must try them, if just once.
It makes a large quantity, and as a pantry staple, would probably only need to be made every two or three weeks to stock up.
You do need one piece of special equipment; a pasta roller. It really makes short work of these crackers. Using a rolling pin makes much more work of it.

Jerusalem Cracker
2 cups Tom Sawyer Gluten Free flour
1 tbs sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 tbs butter, chilled and cubed small
2/3 cup plus 2 tbs milk

Add ins: (use any one of these to add in and add flavor, or mix them up to create!) Use 2 tbs of the add in.
  • Grated parmesan
  • Fresh herbs
  • Poppy and sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Minced scallion
  • Sun dried tomato
  • Minced dried fig or date
Preheat oven to 425-degrees. You will use ungreased cookie sheets. Use the whisk attachment in your mixer. In the bowl combine flour, salt, sugar, pepper, and add in. Turn on lowest setting and add butter. Let it cut in the butter until it is a course meal consistency.
Drizzle in the milk. Scrape the sides and bottom to ensure all dry parts are captured. Add liquid until the dough comes together. Make sure to get all the dry at the bottom of the bowl. Add more liquid 1 tsp at a time until it comes together. Using a pasta roller, roll sheets at #7, then at #4 thickness (until very, very thin).
Place them on the ungreased cookie sheets. Sprinkle tops with salt and lightly press into cracker. Bake for 4 minutes. They brown FAST! (do not leave them unattended). Check them and turn, and bake another 2 minutes.
They come out toasty, and lightly browned and crisp!

Merry Christmas and King's Cake...

This is King's Cake. Not the New Orleans king's cake, but our Savior and King's Cake. I created this cake as a very special birthday cake for Jesus's birthday celebration on Christmas Day. I cannot say that she is the most handsome cake, rather– rustic, earthy, simple, all come to mind when looking at the cake. But in our home Christmas is about our King, and His birthday celebration.
It is a special cake, a true labor in time and love. It has a lot of ingredients, all that take prep time, also, it bakes for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. This cake is worth the time to make, because that is what gifts are about, time and effort and thoughtfullness. I created it based on ingredients that would have been around in the time of Jesus; fruits that were dried, some from during the year leading up to December– figs, dates, apricots, almonds and honey...and then the spices. Spices were akin to gold and treasure during Jesus' time...spices were gifts to kings in that day. To include them in a cake then might have been like using money to stuff your mattress, simply foolish. However, I include these riches of spices in this cake because it is a gift for our King on His birthday.
When I was talking to a friend about it last year, and describing it, he said, "So you have made Jesus a fruit cake?..." We laughed, because in essence, that is what it is like...but not the Christmas-tin, jellied-candied kind. It is exceptionally delicious. Truly. Really.
So we make this King's Cake birthday cake each year in our home to celebrate Jesus' birthday.
I encourage you to create new traditions of these sorts of things. Things that have meaning and purpose.
This cake is gluten free. Now, it does have butter and sugar, but it is healthful because of all the great dried fruit, molasses and other healthful ingredients. It keeps for a long, long time in the fridge, and is amazing for breakfast when eating leftovers of it.

Kings Cake
• 12 ounces dried soft dates, chopped
• 8 ounces dried figs, chopped
• 4 ounces dried apricots, chopped
• 6 ounces unsalted butter, cubed
• ¼ cup molasses
• ¼ cup brown sugar
• ¼ cup honey
• 2 oranges, zested and juiced
• 2 lemons zested and juiced
• 2 teaspoon Kings Cake spice (see below)
• 3 eggs, beaten
• 5 1/4 ounces Tom Sawyer Gluten Free flour (or your gluten free flour blend)
• 2 1/2 ounces ground almonds (in a food processor)
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Kings Cake spice
I use whole spices on some of these and grind by hand in a motar and pestle...use ground to save yourself time if you like.
• 1/4 tsp cumin
• 1/4 tsp coriander seed
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 6 threads crushed saffron
• pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 300-degrees F. Line a 6-inch removable bottomed spring form pan with a layer of parchment cut to size. GF flour the sides, or also line with a strip of parchment.
Place the chopped dried fruits, butter, sugar, honey, molasses, orange and lemon zest and juice, King’s spice and into a large wide saucepan. Heat the mixture until it reaches a gentle simmer, stirring the mixture as the butter melts. Let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes to cool.
After 30 minutes, the mixture will have enough to add the eggs, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and baking soda. Mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula until the ingredients have combined.
Carefully spoon and pour the cake mixture into the lined pan. Transfer the cake tin to the oven and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the top of the cake is firm. Insert a knife into the cake it should be moist but not wet batter.
Place the cake on a cooling rack. Once the cake has cooled, remove it from the pan.
I leave  the cake unadorned, most likely as it would have been for Jesus’ birthday. But a nice finish is a dusting of powdered sugar.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gluten free green corn salsa...

In our home this time of year, we have a tradition of making Christmas Tamales. We fill them with red chile pork, and green chile corn. One year, a friend helping us make them mentioned that she thought the green chile tamale filling would make a delicious salsa. She was right.

This is healthy and delicious. It has mild to no heat, just a little 'warmth'. It is very flavorful, and fresh tasting.

2 cans of regular corn, drained
1 can of diced green chile, with liquid
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp. black pepper
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp. Aleppo pepper (or chili powder)
Juice of one lime (and zest if you like pronounced lime flavor)

Mix all ingredients togther.

Here is how I use it when not filling tamales with it:
  • Use it as a dip with chips
  • Add 3 tbs to a green salad as salad mix-in
  • Saute with white fish and use as a warm salsa topping
  • Fill shredded meat or shrimp and this into a taco shell
  • Add it to my Arepa dough (previous post)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gluten free tangerine scones...

I love these scones. I made these for guests last week. I cannot say enough about them. They are the lightest, most tender and moist scones you will ever have, gluten free or not!
I make these with my favorite flavor, tangerine. But these will easily become any kind of scone you like; blueberry, cranberry, chocolate chip, lemon, anything!
Based on Fannie Farmer's cream scones, these are really wonderful. They travel well, and they also behave well reheated as a gluten free item. They can be made as much as two days ahead and then put into the fridge...then just baked off warm just before enjoying them, so you have a warm fresh scone to enjoy.
We serve these with fig jam and lemon or tangerine curd in our house. Serve with your favorite spread.

Gluten free scones
2 cups Tom Sawyer Gluten Free flour
4 tbs sugar, plus more for sprinkling tops
1 tbs baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
8 tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Zest of one tangerine, plus its juice
½ cup half and half (or buttermilk can be used)
½ cup milk (or buttermilk can be used)


Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking pan with parchment paper, or use a nonstick pan.
In a mixer using the whisk attachment, mix together flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add cut up butter until it resembles course meal.
Whisk zest and juice into liquids (half and half and milk). Drizzle into flour mixture with mixer on low until dough comes together. Dough should be sticky. Add 1 tbs more of liquid to get it to a sticky consistency of too dry. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and using floured hands, shape into a square 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick.
Cut into equal squares, then cut squares in half into triangles. It makes about 9-12 scones. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with sugar. Bake until slightly golden brown, 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer scones from baking sheet to wire racks to cool.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Reuse cards for gift tags...

Every year right before Thanksgiving, I receive birthday cards. I always love getting sentiments and birthday wishes from all, but then feel remorse in putting those beuatiful cards into the recycle bin after a few weeks. So a few years ago, I decided a great reuse of them before they go to recycle is to cut the pretty cards into small squares and shapes and use them as gift tags.
Punch a hole in the corner with a hole punch then tag your gifts!
I also reuse the current year's Christmas cards I receive. After New Year's, they too get cut into next year's Christmas tags.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pickled peppers for Christmas...

Here in Arizona, we like things hot! I enjoy making these as Christmas gifts because they are unique and amazingly colorful.
Pickled jalapeños have so many uses! Even if you think you do not like hot things, you really can use them in many dishes.
Get a good selection of peppers at an ethnic grocery. In my town, there are many hispanic groceries. If you cannot source jalapeños , use an italian sweet pepper, or mini-bell peppers.

Pickled Jalapeño Peppers
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 whole clove of garlic per jar
  • 6 or more glass jars. Pack into ½ pint jars (you will need about 4-6 peppers per jar)
  • 30 or so fresh jalapeños 
  • 10-15 baby carrots
  • Small onion, sliced in thin wedges
  • 4 tbs pickling spice (optional)
Make the brine: bring vinegar, water, salt, and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Boil 1-2 minutes.
Meanwhile divide and pack the peppers, carrots, onions, spices, and garlic between all the jars. You should be able to fit about 4 to 6 peppers in each jar. If your peppers are too big, use larger jars, or halve them to fit.
Using a canning funnel, or a large measure with a spout, carefully pour hot brine mixture over peppers in the jars filling to within ½ from the top. Carefully lid the hot jars.
Let cool on counter overnight. The peppers should stay in the refrigerator for at least a day to pickle. These peppers, if unopened will last a year in the fridge.

Label these and give as gifts at Christmas. They are a very affordable homemade gift. But you should include a label on how to use it. Here are some of my favorite ways.
  • Some will eat this straight out of the jar
  • Add one pepper and 2 tbs of the brine in the jar to 1 large can of tomato puree and blend in the blender for an instant taco sauce
  • Add 1 tbs of the brine to a glass of tomato juice to add a zing
  • Mince a pepper and add it to any stir fry for a little warmth
  • Add one pepper into the roasting pan with roasted potatoes or root vegetables
  • Puree in the food processor with softened cream cheese and sour cream for a pepper dip
  • Slice them and put them on sandwiches
  • Add 1 tbs of brine to anything you want to add a little warmth and tangy flavor too. It really brightens a dish!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


There are two things I love about December, that it is the month of our Lord in which we get to celebrate His birthday–Christmas, and that it is when tangerines come ripe on the trees.
I love tangerines, I have a tree of our very own that bears wonderful tangerines. (You can see them in the picture in the right column of this page.)
Tha Satsuma Tangerine, (aka Satsuma Mandarins) is the very best variety. They have that distinctive tangerine flavor, very different from the "cutie" little ones in the grocery. Those really are very close to being simply a mini orange.
Treat yourself to a true variety of tangerine this month, it is very worth it.
When using tangerine's, and all citrus, always first zest the peel. Use this zest in everything and anything. Citrus zest has shown in studies to be very powerful against cancers, so do not waste the zest when eating a piece of citrus. You can zest it, and place it in a baggie in the fridge for use in so many recipes and dishes both savory and sweet.

Below are a few of my favorite tangerine recipes and ideas.

Tangerine Balsamic Vinaigrette:
In a blender add–
Zest of 3-4 tangerines
¼ cup tangerine juice (from zested fruit), and un-juiced segments of one tangerine, peeled
4 tbs balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Honey (if needed)

Blend on medium until emulsified and blended. Taste for tartness, adjust with 1 tsp. of honey at a time to tame tartness if needed.

More ideas:
  • Add zest to your favorite muffin recipe (1 tbs per recipe)
  • Add zest to cream cheese with 1 tbs sugar and the tangerine's juices and whip to combine, serve with bagels or scones
  • Use segments in a salad
  • Freeze segment and use as ice cubes in iced tea or in Perrier or Sprite sodas
  • Eat two a day while they are in season!

Gluten free pizza dough...

This recipe is so easy, there is no reason to not eat plenty of pizza as a gluten-freer. Pizza dough from scratch does not usualy conjur up images of getting food on the table fast, or something as quick as 'ordering in'. But I have timed this...and from start to bringing a hot pizza to the table finish: 46 minutes. The same time it would take to look up the place that delivers pizza (although we all know it wouldn't be gluten free), call, order, wait...wait...then the doorbell.
If you have a well stocked pantry, then gluten free scratch baking is really quite simple.
Plus, this one makes my list of multi-taskers, as it can become several other things (I will list after the recipe).

The base for this recipe comes from Tom Sawyer's site and his famous GF flour (that you all know I use). I have changed it a tid-bit.

Gluten Free Pizza Crust

2 tsp sugar
¼ + 3 tbs warm water
1 pkg rapid dry yeast (or 7 grams by weight measure if you buy the big bag of yeast from Bob's Red Mill like me)
1 ¾ cup Tom Sawyer Gluten Free Flour
1 tsp Italian seasoning (optional)
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder

2 tbs olive oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vinegar

Mix sugar with the warm water and yeast and let sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. (Make sure yeast is at about 100-105-degrees, hot tap water).
Mix the gluten free flour,Italian seasoning, salt, and baking powder.
Then in a seperate bowl blend the oil, eggs, and vinegar, then add that to the yeast mixture.
Pour the wet mixture into the dry and mix with a fork. The dough should be very wet and sticky. Gluten free yeast dough must be very wet and moist in order to rise. It will not be like a standard pizza dough. Because climates vary, if your dough is not very wet and sticky, add more water, 1 tbs at a time until it is. Put this in a spot to rise while you prep the rest of your toppings.

For toppings, use whatever you love. I enjoy spreading with tomato paste, in lieu of sauce on my pizzas for a super intense tomato essence, and it prevents the 'cheese slide' that occurs from too wet of a sauce.
But it is the ultimate in creativy, the pizza crust in a blank slate. In the picture shown, I spread it with pesto, mozzarella, and fresh cut tomato. Then when it came out of the oven, I topped it with arugula and drizzled it with a balsamic vinaigrette.

So back to the crust. In the time it has taken for you to slice, chop, or grate your toppings, it will have puffed. It does not rise like standard dough...but it becomes airy.

To prep the dough for topping, oil the bottom of a 13-inch 9give or take) pizza pan. Then using oiled or floured fingers, gently press the dough out into a circle. Top it as desired, then bake in a 400-degree oven until the crust is cooked and crisp and toppings melted.

This crust freezes great. After it has puffed and risen, wrap in 2-layers of plastic wrap and freeze.
Also make these out of it:
  • Flatbread-roll out into thin 6-inch rounds and cook on a dry skillet on top of the stove
  • Garlic sticks-roll into a rectangle, cut into strips, top with butter, garlic, and parmesean for bread sticks  

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gluten Free Christmas Cinnamon Rolls....

These are worth a special morning, a treat to make when you have some time. The recipe is based on the 'chipa', a traditional cheese bread from Paraguay and surrounding countries. I had my first chipa when visiting Argentina. Naturally gluten free, they are made from tapioca flour. When right from the oven, they are warm, and chewy. They are pretty easy to make. They are however, one of those GF recipes that must be eaten when made, and do not save or reheat well. It still makes my list of multi-users however, because it can be a savory cheese chipa (its original purpose) or recreated into this warm gooey cinnamon bun. It is an unusual dough, so do not be alarmed at its texture.
And be prepared to eat them all when you make them, so invite friends, or have a special saturday morning. This recipe should make about 1-dozen or so.

Cinnamon Buns

4 eggs
1 cup of buttermilk or milk*
17.5 ounces of Tapioca flour (Bob's Red Mill is widely available)
½ tsp salt
   *Plus extra if needed

Cinnamon topping
1/3 stick butter, melted
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Melt all three together until blended, set aside.

Sugar glaze
1 cup of powdered sugar
1 tbs milk, plus more if needed
½ tsp vanilla
Mix sugar and vanilla. Add milk, and mix until it is the desired drizzle consistency. Add more milk if too thick, more sugar if to thin.

Pre-heat oven to 325F. Beat eggs in a bowl, with the milk and the salt. Add tapioca flour and mix until all dissolved. The dough should be wet and the consistency of cake batter or waffle batter. Because climates vary and there is variance on how much liquid flour will take in, keep adding milk 2 tbs at a time until the right consistency.
Fill muffin cups ½ way, as these expand. Use a non-stick pan—the cinnamon gets sticky. Or grease a standard pan. Spoon 1-2 tsp of the cinnamon mixture over the batter.
Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. The tops will look dry and they will have puffed.
Remove from oven and remove from tin as soon as you can. Drizzle while warm with the glaze. They are sticky and messy, but that is the point!

Green Greetings...

I love the Christmas season for a lot of reasons, one is getting all those cards in the mail with pictures of those whom you talk to or see only once a year, in their Christmas card.
This year in our home, we chose to be more Green and send eCards. There is no envelope or card to recycle, and there is a significant cost savings, no cards to print or stamps to buy. This allowed us to send to many, many more than we would have otherwise.
There are some great eCards sites, and many have add a photo options, so that you can upload that yearly image to send to your friends and family. The colors of Christmas are red and green, this year, I focused on green :O)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gluten Free Christmas Cookies

My apologies for the delay in postings this week, so much to do for Christmas! This shortbread recipe is a conversion from a cookie I was known for in my pre-gluten free days. It is a fantastic GF base that can become anything else, that is why I love it.The ones shown are my mother's favorite, with mini-chocolate chips.
Now, for those purists, no– it is not a 'true' shortbread with the addition of the egg, but the egg is necessary as a binding agent. But you will recognize their texture as a sandy-crumbly rich shortbread.

GF Shortbread Cookies
Cream together:
1 cup butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
1 egg
3/4 cup confectioners sugar OR brown sugar OR white sugar (any sugar will do)
Beat these in a mixer until combined.
Then add:
2 cups Tom Sawyer Gluten Free flour (or your GF flour blend)
¼ tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. GF Baking powder

To flavor, add any of the following to the batter:
½ tsp. Almond extract, or
1 tsp GF vanilla, or
2 tsp lemon juice

Roll out ¼ inch thick. Cut as desired with cookie cutters. OR, drop on the tray in balls, and use a juice glass bottom pressed in sugar to press the cookies flat (that is the method used shown in the picture.) Bake at 350° until delicately brown (20-25 minutes).

You know I love GF recipes to be able to be many things in different forms, and I mentioned I love this recipe because it becomes so many things, here are some ways to use the multi-tasking GF recipe.

Variations for the use of the dough:
  • Press into a pie tin as a GF crust on a pie
  • Use as the base for bar cookies in your favorite bar cookie recipe
  • Use as a cheesecake crust
  • Crumble the dough over fruit and bake for a fruit crumble
Variations of the cookie:
  1. Traditional shortbread wedges-bake in an 8-inch pie tin, score into wedges and prick with a fork.
  2. Sprinkle cookie tops with dried cranberries and candied ginger.

  3. Citrus–add 1 tbs of zest to the batter.

  4. Chocolate filled-spread Nutella spread in between two for sandwich cookies.

  5. Pecan crusted-press crushed pecans onto cookie before baking.

  6. Galettes-fill a thumbprint in center with jam before baking.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving leftovers...

New life for Thanksgiving stuffing leftovers. If you did have a gluten free Thanksgiving and enjoyed stuffing, you either had a very expensive dish, or if you made your own bread for stuffing, a time invested dish.
Either way, I did not want my stuffing to go to waste, and there was more than I could enjoy as a straight stuffing leftover.
My mother used to make this breakfast bake I loved. It had bread, cheese, eggs, sausage, and green chilies. I loved it, but stopped making it when gluten free bread was too expensive. This dish is the perfect use for leftover stuffing.

My stuffing already had sausage, bacon, and mushroom in it, as many do. If yours didn't, add diced turkey or ham to this.

For a casserole dish (9x13x2) full of stuffing you need: (ratio it down for less stuffing)
  • About 8-10 eggs
  • 1.5 cups of milk
  • 1 small can green chilies, diced
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the eggs and milk with a whisk until blended. Pour the custard mixture over your bread. It should fill the pan to just below the bread, you should see pools of custard in the dish. If your mixture does not make enough, just whip a few more eggs and some milk.
Add to the top the green chilies and then sprinkle with cheese. Season the top with salt and pepper.
Let the dish sit for about 20-minutes for the bread to soak up the custard. Then bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for about an hour. The custard will be set in center when done.
The result is the cheesy, crunchy goodness– perfect for dinner, or breakfast!