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Monday, May 31, 2010

Things to do with peaches (and other in-season fruit...)

Harvest. Something I love. And something is always in harvest. Right now, in AZ its peaches at the peach picking farm about 45 minutes away. We go and pick peaches then come home and make wonderful things!

The strange (but awesome) thing about fruit is that when it is at its best, it is at its cheapest! How often are things that are the best the most affordable? It doesn’t usually work that way…but with fruit it does. Call it good old market economy and supply and demand (gotta love that!).

So when the local season's fruit is on sale—buy-buy-buy! You would be so surprised at the two jars of jam you can get from a 49-cent per pound, pound of fruit. And think about it, those jars of jam would have cost at least $2.99 or more each! So there is a cost savings! Plus its fresh, and you made it.
So each year I make peach things, (in July we get cherries, and I make cherry jam for the year!).
Here is what I do with the peaches:

  • Dry them and use it in homemade trail mix or a mix in for my oatmeal.
    Dried, they are sweeter and last forever. Added to hot oatmeal, they re-hydrate, just like those little weird fake peach thingies in the store-bought instant oatmeal packs—only better. To dry: remove pit and slice thin, lay on parchment paper on cookie sheets and place in your low oven (150-170 degrees) and dry for several hours. Check them every hour. Or just dry them in your food dehydrator.
  • Puree the peaches
    I remove the pits, then skin and all goes into a blender. This puree then gets packed into Ziplocs and goes in the freezer. Place 1 cup in each bag, then when you want to make a smoothie—pull it out of the freezer, peel away the bag and it goes into the blender with yogurt and a banana and you have a luscious peach smoothie.
  • Canned peachesRemove the pit, then half them or slice them. Pack them into large glass jars. Then make your syrup. 2 cups hot tap water and 1 cup sugar. Stir to dissolve. Add 1 tbs white vinegar, then pour syrup over peaches in the can. Lid, let cool then place in your fridge. They keep for a long time. Use the peachy syrup later drizzled over ice cream, pancakes or in your tea.
  • SorbetIn a blender, add 5-7 pitted, chopped peaches, 1 cup sugar and 1.5 cups warm water. Puree. Place this in your ice cream freezer. Sorbet!
  • JamSee my recipe for farmstyle jam.

Back in the day, when harvests were once a year, this is how people enjoyed things more than just those 6 weeks of the year! You can do this will all fruit that is on sale during its peak.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The story of a true Gluten Free Chow...

Gluten free chow--the name--came about because I make gluten free food (aka-chow as some call it in the slang version) but also because we own two dogs that are Chow-Chows. So for us it was kind of a play on words.
"The Chows"--more children then pets in our home--are treated quite well. Spoiled? Naw--well...maybe.  To us they are "the girls" to my parents, they are "the Grand-Chows"...need I say more? My justification?They do help around the house alot gardners (aka--digging holes in the garden, 'pruning' my radishes by eating the radish tops, and trimming my sunflowers back by eating the leaves) they are a huge help!

Ok--so I do make their own dog treats. I know, I know...but it isnt really that excessive, is it? I started making them a few years ago when the dog food scare happened and I simply did not trust any company or anything store bought for the chows. I did settle on this food, after calling the company and learning they grow their own wheat and make it all in the USA Three Dog Bakery (I highly recommend their dog food and treats by the way).
So back to making my own dog treats. Well, we deduced after a particulrly bad allergy season last year that just didn't go away for our one chow, that she maybe had a wheat allergy. So I switched her to a wheat free food from Three Dog, and I began making their dog treats gluten free. Turns out it made such a difference in her allergies and itching, that our one chow is truely gluten-free--hence--a Gluten Free Chow.
Does blogging imitate real life? I guess sometimes it can!
Make these for your doggies, they are 100% natural, and all good ingredients, after all its just people ingredients.

Homemade Dog Treats

Use an inexpensive gluten free flour, or mix of flours. Like potato and rice flour.
I buy Bob's Red Mill at Costco--the huge bag is only $5.99. I consider this to be inexpensive enough for this recipe.

Ginger is good for dog tummies and digestion, cinnamon is great for their blood and can keep allergies at bay, along with the honey! Add oats for fiber if you want to.
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups gluten free flour mix (see note above)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 cup oats (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, on low speed, combine molasses, honey, water, oil, cinnamon and ginger. Beat until combined on low speed. Add to the bowl the GF flour, and baking soda. Combine. Add the oats if using. Combine again with a few turns of the paddle.
Scrape the bowl checking sides and bottom. Mixture will be stiff.

On a lightly GF floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick. To create the little ‘bite-sized pieces’ what I do is roll it into a piece of parchment paper, score it with a pizza cutter into little sized squares…this scores it BEFORE baking it. When it cools, they snap apart.

Place the parchment sheets on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until it becomes crisp, but not dark brown.They crisp even more once cooled.

Notes about the treats:
  • For dogs with sensitive teeth, puppies or older dogs--bake the treats only 15 minutes. They will remain softer to chew.
  • Cool on a rack COMPLETELY, then they just snap apart at your score lines. Store completely cooled treats in a jar or zip lock baggies. Keeps indefinitely. Freezes wonderfully.
  • Dough can also be frozen, then defrosted and baked.
  • At Christmas, I roll the dough and cut out bone shapes with a cookie cutter and these are bagged as gifts to friends and neighbor dogs.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Farmstyle jam...

We have friends in Texas with land. Not like a stamp sized piece of earth in the city with brick fences or walls. They have 5-acres. Land. This land has trees, and grass, and woods, and...well--lots of places of discovery. While walking the property with our friends, I look up and discover they have Mulberry trees! Lots of them! What a joyous discovery to find that on one's own land is a bounty of harvest for something you can eat and sustain yourself with!

So we picked mulberries and made jam. But the recipe below can be used with any fruit you love, like those 99-cent packs of blackberries that go on sale, or strawberries, or anything!
I call this 'farm-style' jam. There are no packs of gelatin, no thermometers, nothing like that. So you have to be flexible with your results. Some jams will be thick and other will be 'softer' but all--delicious!
This makes about 2 small jars. Which is just enough for a few weeks time, then make some all over again!

  • 4 cups of fresh fruit, we used Mulberries
  • 3 small apples, peeled, then grated on a cheese grater (apples have natural pectin, and add body plus help it to jam best)
  • 1 cup of water
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup sugar (use white, or raw, or honey, or a blend of all)
Place all ingredients on a non-metal saucepan with a lid. Cover and cook on medium as the fruit begins to soften. As its cooking, smash and mash the fruit (this process is about 10- 15 minutes of cooking). When all the fruit is broken down and softened and mashed, raise the heat to medium high and let the pot bubble and cook with the lid on. Be very careful not to let it burn! Place a spoon in the freezer for testing the jam. After it cooks for about another 10 minutes, you should see that it is thickening up. Dip your frozen spoon in, and the jam should begin to appear thick right away as it cools on the spoon. When it does, its ready. It thickens more when it cools. Remove from heat and using a canning funnel, or a spoon (being very careful--its HOT) spoon the jam into clean glass jars. Lid and let cool on counter. When cool store in fridge.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Herbal 'fruit-punch"...

Some of you may know this as the traditional latino or hispanic drink of Jamaica (pronounced high-may-kuh). It is a delicious herbal infusion of the hibiscus flower. It has vitamin C and flavanoids. Plus–its delicious. Think––all natural version of 'gatorade' or the powered packet fruit punch. Its flavor is just that, fruit punch, yet slightly tart, and super refreshing. It is usually made sweetened, which brings out its complexity of flavors.
While visting friends in Texas, we came across a bag of the flowers at the grocery, so I decided to make them some.
Make big batches of this for you and the kids, its tastes like those sugary juice drinks, with a LOT less sugar that you control, and no high-fructose anything, and its herbal and healthy.

Here is how I make it.

Herbal Fruit Punch (Jamaica)
  • 2 cups of hibiscus leaves
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 2/3 cup agave nectar (use honey, or a mix of both)
  • Ice
  • Large glass pitcher
  • Water

In a large glass measure, pour the boiling water over the leaves and let steep for about 8 minutes or so. In the glass pitcher, place the agave or honey. Using a strainer, pour the steeped liquid into the pitcher, straining out the leaves. Stir to dissolve. Fill the pitcher half way with ice or about 4 cups of ice. Then top it off with about another 3-4 cups of water.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Honey-soaked figs...

Get to know your neighbors, and what they grow. These figs, are from my neighbor. There are so many each year, that I dry them and have them for an entire year's use!

I have a wonderful street of neighbors. On this street alone there are pink grapefruits, lemons, the aforementioned figs, kumquats, pink peppercorns, and we have a tangerine tree. Come the seasons due, and we all share our harvests. It creates such a wonderful sense of community when you share in each others bounty. I find that others are always willing to share, since there is always more than they can use. We swap pink grapefruits for tangerines– I receive figs, then return jars of fig jam and bags of dried figs. Its a wonderful experience!
These fig treats are delicious. First, figs are so full of nutrition, so these sweet treats are very intentional. Second, honey is a delicious gift from nature, sweet like candy yet so nutritious in its own right. And if you use local honey (as you should--seek it out, its easier to find than you might think) if you use local, it is a great help keeping some seasonal allergies at bay.

Eat these in a variety of ways:
  • Pop them one by one
  • Eat with a piece of blue cheese, or sharp white cheddar
  • Heat 5 or 6 in the microwave until soft and smear them on gluten free toast with cream cheese
  • Eat them with Greek, or plain yogurt with cinnamon (drizzle the syrup over top)
Speaking of the syrup:
  • Use it in tea (amazing), hot or iced
  • Add it to seltzer water for a sweet fig soda-pop
  • Drizzle over yogurt or over ice cream
  • Drizzle over pancakes or waffles
You can see the theme is unlimited possibilities. By the way, use this honey method with any fruit; dried cherries, dried apricots, even raisins.
Here is how its done...

Honey Soaked Figs
  • 2 cups dried figs, cut in half (store-bought is fine, or dry your own)
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 cup hot tap water
Pack the figs into a jar big enough to hold them and the liquid. Stir together the lemon juice and honey into the hot water till dissolved. Pour over the figs. Let sit until cool enough to refrigerate. Let sit overnight in the fridge, then they will be ready to use!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tuscan Tomato Stew...

When winter and life gives us lots of lemons around Christmas time and into and early months of the year, we make lots of things; lemonade, limoncello, lemon curd….I could go on.
Well, much like that, when my aunt and uncle’s tomato bush offers up prolific bounties of cherry tomatoes, I make lots of things, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato-grapefruit chutney, and this; Tuscan Tomato stew.
This dish is rustic, earthy, and simple. Few ingredients, albeit really good ones, make this a fast weeknight, or weekend dinner. With a short glass of a spritzy Orangina (my favorite of all time), it just might make you think you are sitting somewhere in Tuscany at a table in a small village…ok, it did for me anyway.
This dish is rich, yet hearty and light all at the same time. This dish meets all needs…fantastic as a vegetarian dish, with a toasted and crunchy gluten free bread like Glutino  (one of the best brands out there)…to sop the ‘stewey-sauce”. This is equally as fabulous topped with a piece of grilled pork, chicken or a mild white fish. Here is how it’s done.
  • 1.5 to 2 cups whole cherry tomatoes
  • 3 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 to 1.5 cups of mixed, pitted olives (get them at the self-serve olive bar if your store has one, get ones without pits, and buy a variety. The ones packed in oil are great, as the oils add to the flavor of the dish).
  • ¼ cup of fresh chopped herbs (use what you have and what you love. I used sage, thyme, rosemary, basil and oregano).
  • Salt and pepper
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add all the ingredients except the fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper. If your olives did not have oil, add 2 tbs of olive oil to the pan. Cover and cook until the tomatoes begin to soften enough when pressed with a fork gently, they burst and smash. Smash all the tomatoes with the back of a fork. Lower the heat to medium and simmer. Simmer until the liquid begins to cook down and thicken some, about 3 minutes. Turn off heat, add herbs, and serve.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Gluten free chocolate creme sandwhich cookies...

Let's call these "square-e-os". Yes, the chocolate crème sandwich cookie of your youth (and pre-gluten free adult hood too, I presume). Well, this is it—just gluten free. A delightfully thin, and satisfyingly crisp, rich chocolate wafer, filled with a thick, creamy, and sweet buttercrème filling (I think its better than the real-o one.)
Now, I am typically a fan of the oh-so-perfect, symmetrical, out of a magazine look of a fabulous cookie, and often, I bake that way because I love how those things look. But I left these cookies square and quite rustic because; I believe when taking the time to make gluten free food, sometimes there are steps that need to be cut in order to make them more accessible, and less time consuming to make. Rolling and cutting round little round shapes for these, while beautiful, was something I felt could be sacrificed in the name of getting-to-eat-the-cookies-faster.

I made these first a few weeks ago to try them out, and made them again today to blog about. So, my husband today, was oblivious to the world with his head in his work, I barely--and usually didn’t--even get the obligatory "Yes dear" as I chattered away while I baked. He didn’t even know what I was baking today. Then amazingly, as I head out the back double French doors to the garden, my hands full of plates of cookies, and my camera, he appears suddenly, toddling behind me less than a foot, with a happy and inquisitive look on his face..."Oooh, cookies?....are those for us?" It's amazing what food does.
So he awaits patiently, as always, while I photograph the goodies and then we can indulge. So as we are sitting enjoying the rich little treats, we get inspired! How is this for inspiration?—looking over at the herb patch we think, “How about a mint leaf inside the cookie?” So, I walked over, plucked two little peppermint leaves from the plant, and tucked them inside. It was amazing! Transformed in a second into chocolate-mint crème cookies. I suggest you make these with a mint leaf tucked inside. This little touch will take these once rustic from the back porch impromptu treats, to something you could serve at an elegant dinner or brunch. Maybe elegant and picture perfect doesn’t have to be little round cookies after all. Enjoy.


 Cookies Wafers
  • 8 tablespoons (1stick) butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons Tom Sawyer gluten free flour (or your GF flour blend)
  • More GF flour for rolling out
Classic Buttercreme
  • 2 sticks butter, soft
  • 2 tbs ice-water
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
For Buttercream
Blend butter and sugar in a mixer. Add almond extract, then drizzle in cold water until the right consistency. Mix on high till fluffy. Set aside.

Cookie Directions

Heat the oven to 350°. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg, and continue mixing until well combined. Add in cocoa powder and flour. Mix until combined, scraping down sides of bowl. Divide dough in half. Taking two sheets of parchment paper, generously flour the sticky dough and roll it out into a thin sheet between the two pieces of parchment. Roll to 1/8-inch thin. Peel back top layer of the parchment. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into squares, about 1.5x1.5 inches, leaving them in place. Transfer the parchment with dough to a cookie sheet. repeat steps for 2nd batch of dough.
Bake the cookies until you can smell them, about 12 minutes. As soon as they come out, while still hot, using the pizza cutter, retrace your cuts into the hot soft dough. The cookies crisp as they cool. Let them cool on the sheet. When completely cool, spread the buttercreme inbetween two squares.