Dairy, Desserts, Garden and Greenhouse, Gluten-free

Rhubarb Sour Cream Custard Pie

A recipe for Rhubarb Cream Pie was floating around Facebook a few weeks ago, and I shared it to my timeline. It reminded me of the Sour Cream Apple Pie recipe I was given years ago by my good friend, Wes Reid. Sour Cream Apple Pie has been a family favorite for many years, and if I were to forego making it for every holiday get-together, I would be in serious trouble.

A couple of weeks ago, I had rhubarb in the garden ready to pick, so I decided to try to adapt the Sour Cream ApplePie recipe, subbing in rhubarb and sour cream and a streusel topping, and see what happened. Oh, my goodness gracious, it might be even better than the Sour Cream Apple Pie. Dennis and I only got to eat one piece each before we had to catch the red-eye flight out to Denver, so my friend and neighbor, Yolanda, took it home with her when she came to water my plants. She said it was really good, too. With all that rhubarb in the garden, I thought I’d be making the pie again before I posted the recipe, so I didn’t take a picture of it.  But trust me, if you like rhubarb, and even if you think you don’t, you’ll want to try this recipe.

So here it is, and you’ll only find the recipe here, my friends: Rhubarb Sour Cream Custard Pie.  It can be made with gluten-free flours and lower-glycemic sweeteners as well.  You’ll need an unbaked pie crust to put it in. My recipe for gluten-free pie crust is linked at the end of the post.  Or use your favorite pastry crust recipe, or really streamline your pie baking and buy a crust.  I did it myself during the busy  years!

Custard Filling:
1 1/2 cups fresh rhubarb, diced
2 tablespoons flour*1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs (beaten)
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream**

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients except rhubarb. Put rhubarb in unbaked 9” pie shell and pour mixture over the rhubarb. Bake in 400 degree oven for 15 min., then reduce heat to 350 and bake for additional 30 min.

While custard is baking, mix the topping:

Streusel Topping:

1/3 cup sugar***

1/3 cup flour*

1 tsp. cinnamon

¼ cup softened butter

Mix well and sprinkle over pie at end of first cooking period. Return to oven at 400-425 degrees and bake for ten minutes to form streusel crust on top of custard. Cool completely before cutting. Store in fridge.

Notes:

*I used brown rice flour in the custard filling and in the topping. It worked just fine to thicken up the custard and to crisp the streusel topping. If you are gluten-free, brown rice flour is a pretty good substitute for wheat flour for all kinds of applications. (Maybe I need to write a post about that!)

**I used homemade sour cream when I made this pie. Follow the link for the directions for making homemade sour cream.

***I also used coconut palm sugar this time instead of white sugar in the streusel topping because I wanted to see how it would taste and work in that application. It was fine. I did not use coconut palm sugar in the custard filling because rhubarb is so tart, I was afraid the coconut palm sugar would not be sweet enough. When I get home and can experiment some more, I’ll try it in the custard filling also, just to see. Sugar is sugar, whether you use more or less, but if I can use organic and less, I will, and I got a smoking deal on organic coconut palm sugar at Grocery Outlet not too long ago, so I have plenty with which to experiment.

The Sour Cream Apple Pie recipe is on my Thanksgiving post, so I’ll link it for you here in case you want to try that pie as well. Also linked is my gluten-free pie crust recipe, made with gluten-free flour from WinCo’s bulk foods section, which I have recently learned is probably from Bob’s Red Mill. I have been using bagged Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free baking flour here in Denver, and it is identical to what I buy in bulk at WinCo. although twice the price.  Buy bulk if you can.

Happy pie baking! Use that rhubarb while it’s fresh. It’s good for you.

7/28/15:  I finally remembered to get a picture of this pie for this post, but before I could, a piece was already gone!  Yeah, it’s that good.

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Gluten-free, Recipes

Grain-free Granola and Hot “Cereal”

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I’m new to the grain- and gluten-free world.  I’m not a celiac, but I wanted to cut carbs, lose weight, and feel better.  So I’ve given the grain- and gluten-free diet a chance.  I’ve been eating this way for over six months now, and I must say, I feel better.  I haven’t lost much weight, but my digestive system is very happy with the new regime, and if I do eat grains (which happens occasionally), I feel uncomfortable, especially when I’ve eaten wheat.

You know how it goes when you’ve been cooking for a long time.  Well, maybe you don’t, so I’ll tell you. You might start with a recipe, but you just can’t resist tweaking it.  I was fortunate to learn the basics as a child, in 4-H classes taught by Mrs. Arlene Bennett, where I learned the science behind leavening, and the reason why measuring for baking is important, which cooking methods are appropriate for various cuts of meat, and which herbs and spices are complimentary and which conflict with each other.  I’ve loved playing with my food ever since.  The grain- and gluten-free diet has given me a whole new arena of creativity, and I’m just getting started.

I love granola.  I used to make it for my kids, but it was really, really sweet.  (I found that old recipe not long ago, and my goodness, the amount of brown sugar and honey in it was appalling!)  One of the things that often happens as you get older is that your sweet tooth starts to turn sour.  Overly sweet things don’t appeal anymore.  Most granola is so sweet, I can’t bear it.  A few years ago, my good friend, Karen, gave me a recipe for traditional, oat-based granola, and it wasn’t too sweet.  I made gallons of this stuff, and I still make it for my husband.  But when I stopped eating grain, there went the granola.  So I set about finding and tweaking recipes for grain-free granola.  Here’s my version, and I think it’s pretty darn good.  In addition, you can turn it into a hot cereal lickety-split.

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Grain-free, Gluten-Free Granola

1 cup raw nut pieces (walnuts, cashews, pecans, whatever you like other than almonds)

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, shelled

1 cup sliced almonds

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

¼ cup whole flaxseeds or sesame seeds

1 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut

½ cup chia seeds

1 tablespoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon kosher or sea salt

2 tablespoons olive oil, grapeseed oil, or melted coconut oil

1-2 tablespoons agave nectar, honey, or real maple syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients together.  (If using coconut oil, don’t worry if it clumps when you add it to the nuts and seeds. It will melt in the oven.)  Transfer to baking/cookie sheet, spread in a thin layer.  Use two sheets if necessary to get a thin layer.  Bake in preheated oven at 340 degrees, stirring after 5 minutes and 10 minutes, continue baking until golden brown, 12-15 minutes.

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Cool completely.  Then, if desired, add:  1-2 cups dried chopped fruit (apricots and cherries are really good, or raisins, or dried cranberries).  To minimize carbs, make sure fruit has no added sugar.  (Be aware that cranberries are soaked in a sugar syrup before dehydrating, and they can add a significant amount of sugar to whatever you put them in.)

This makes about 6 cups of granola, or about 12 servings.  Store it in an airtight container.  Serve with your choice of milk or eat as trail mix out of hand.  Or, stayed tuned for a hot “cereal” version.

Notes:  The nut and seed mixture is not very sweet, but it’s plenty sweet enough for me!  In trying to keep the carb count low, you have to keep the sugars down as well. Dried fruit adds some sweetness but also carbohydrates.  If the mixture isn’t sweet enough for your taste, add 1-2 tablespoons more of your desired sweetener before baking.

*As an even lower carb variation, try replacing some or all of the honey or other sweetener with the same amount of applesauce mixed with the oil, and a few drops of liquid stevia.  For my last batch, I used 2 tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce, 1 tablespoon of honey, and 6 drops of liquid stevia.  This mixture was a little wetter than usual, and it took 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven to brown and crisp up.  It was a little sweeter than usual as well.  Next time, I’ll try the same amount of applesauce and stevia and cut down on or eliminate the honey.

This “granola” is high-protein, low-carb, a good source of fiber from the nuts, seeds, and coconut, and full of Omega-3 oils from the flaxseed and chia seeds.  It’s actually much better for you than granola made with oats.

Since going grain-free, I’ve learned to make bread, muffins, tortillas, chips, crackers, pie crust, and now, “granola.”  But when winter hit, I was really missing hot cereal. You know, Cream of Wheat, Malt-o-Meal, Ralston Farina, oatmeal.  I wanted porridge, to use a lovely, old-fashioned word.  I set out to find some way of creating that creamy, grainy, comforting goodness without grains, and I think I have.  And it is ridiculously easy.

Grain-free, Gluten-free Hot “Cereal”

Place 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk in a cereal bowl or microwaveable glass measuring cup and heat in microwave (or if you hate mics, heat it in a pan on the stove) until foamy.  In blender or food processor, finely grind ½ to ¾ of a cup of grain-free granola (above).  (Use the lesser amount of milk for the lesser amount of ground granola. You can always add more milk if desired.)  You want a fairly fine texture, but don’t over-process, or your granola will start to turn to butter as the grinding releases those healthful natural oils in the nuts and seeds.  I use the little food processor that attaches to my stick blender, and it works perfectly for one serving.

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It looks like Grape Nuts cereal when it’s ground, but it tastes better!  (And I always liked Grape Nuts.)

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Either pour the ground granola into the bowl containing the hot milk, or put the ground granola into a bowl and pour the hot milk over it.  Let it sit for about a minute.  If it’s not thick enough, you can cook it a little longer in the microwave, for 30 seconds to a minute (don’t let it boil over!) and then let sit for a minute.  The porridge thickens a bit as it cools.  There should be no need to add sugar or any other flavor to the porridge because it already has cinnamon, vanilla, and coconut in it, as well as whatever you used for sweetener, and the dried fruit.  I think it’s delicious, and a healthful replacement for ground grain hot cereals.

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I love the fact that I can get a two-for-one deal out of one preparation:  hot “cereal” from grain-free granola.  That’s a pretty sweet deal.

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Gluten-free, Recipes, Side dishes

Conversions III: Gluten-free Cornbread Stuffing

I’m gearing up for Thanksgiving.  I bet you are, too.  I like tweaking recipes, but there are some recipes I don’t mess with.  I should rephrase that:  I am not allowed to change certain treasured family recipes, like my cornbread stuffing.  Both of my children (but especially my daughter, Amy), are adamant that the meal must stay pretty much the same as it was when they were kids.  Frankly, the only reason I’m changing my stuffing recipe is that I’ve changed.  I am no longer eating wheat, and that means I had to find an alternative to my beloved cornbread stuffing.  I’ll still make the traditional bread and cornbread stuffing for the family, but alongside, I’ll make this conversion to gluten-free for me.

The recipe starts with a gluten-free cornbread.  I use an inexpensive gluten-free all-purpose baking flour that I get in the bulk foods section at WinCo.

Gluten-free Cornbread

1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour blend

1 cup cornmeal

1 tablespoon coconut flour

1/3 cup sugar (I use organic coconut palm–you can use whatever you like)

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

4 eggs

1/3 cup safflower oil

1/3 cup milk

Mix dry ingredients.  Mix wet ingredients, mix into dry.  Grease an 8-inch cast iron skillet. Pour batter into skillet and bake for 20-25 min. at 425 degrees.  (You may also bake the batter in a greased, 8 or 9 inch square pan—bake 20 min.—or in 12 greased muffin cups, fill half-full, bake 15 min.)  Remove and cool five minutes, remove cornbread from skillet by inverting over a plate.

Using a cast iron skillet to bake cornbread is a tradition in my family.  The advantage is that you get a really crispy crust on the bottom and sides, and this is delicious when you’re eating the cornbread as is (or with apple butter or honey, two of my favorites), as well as working beautifully in the stuffing.  That brown, crisp crust gives the stuffing more texture and flavor.  So if you have an iron skillet, grease it up and bake with it.

Another tradition in my family is to have beans and cornbread the night before a big feast day.  This works out nicely because I have leftover cornbread for the stuffing, as long as I make enough (or don’t let anybody have seconds)!

Gluten-free Cornbread Stuffing (Serves 4-6)

2 cups gluten free bread (Elana’s Pantry Paleo Bread) cut in ½ in. cubes and dried in oven on low heat

2 cups gluten free cornbread, crumbled

3/4 cup butter

1 medium onion, chopped

4 medium stalks celery, chopped

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning OR 1 ½ teaspoons dried, crumbled sage, ½ teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1-2 cups chicken stock

Melt butter in saucepan, add chopped onion and celery, cook until tender.  Mix bread cubes and cornbread cubes in large bowl.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and herbs, mix.  Mix butter and vegetables into breads, folding carefully to keep cubes from losing their shape.  Carefully fold eggs into bread mixture.  Add enough chicken stock to moisten stuffing mixture.  Don’t let the mixture turn into a paste.  Mix gently to keep bread cubes intact.

The stuffing may be inserted into the cavity of a chicken or turkey or baked in a greased, uncovered casserole dish alongside the bird at 325-350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until top is browned and crusty.  (Yeah, I know.  Everybody’s scared of cooking stuffing inside the turkey.  All I can say is I’ve been doing it almost 50 years, and nobody has ever gotten sick.  But follow your own inclinations on this one.)

I’ve used this recipe for years with wheat-based bread cubes and cornbread made from half wheat flour and half cornmeal. Here’s a picture of last year’s Thanksgiving turkey with the same stuffing made with wheat bread cubes and traditional cornbread.

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I apologize that there are no pictures of the gluten-free stuffing, but honestly, it looks just like what’s in the picture above.  Unfortunately, I got distracted by football and didn’t get any pictures while I was making the gluten-free stuffing.  Our team lost–another distraction–and as consolation, we ate up the test batch (stuffed into a pair of Cornish game hens) before I could get pictures of it.  Maybe that’s the best testimonial of all.

I’m so happy that I don’t have to give up my treasured cornbread stuffing this year because I’m no longer eating wheat.  I can make the kids happy and satisfy myself at the same time.  Dennis doesn’t care either way; he’s like Mikey.  He’ll eat anything.

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Gluten-free, Main dishes, Recipes

Gluten-free Eggplant Lasagna (with meat)

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Some months ago, I decided to cut gluten and most grains from my diet.  This has meant learning to cook in new ways and with new recipes, and learning to adapt beloved ones, like lasagna.

I love pasta, and I miss it.  It’s really about the only thing I haven’t yet figured out how to make from gluten-free flours.  I hope I’ll have the time to work on that this winter.  A few months ago, when the longing for Italian food got too strong, I went on the hunt for something to fill that craving.  I found a recipe for eggplant lasagna, but the eggplant was there to substitute for the meat, not the pasta.  I wondered:  could oven-roasted eggplant take the place of the pasta in lasagna?  Conveniently, I had eggplants in my greenhouse, so I was able to give the idea a try.  And it’s delicious.  I was surprised that I didn’t miss the pasta at all.  The flavor of the lasagna is authentic, and it fulfills all my cravings for Italian food, without wheat.  Cutting out the pasta cuts down significantly on calories and carbohydrates as well.  This is a protein-rich dish that also contains a lot of vegetables, so while I usually serve it with a salad or another vegetable, we have been known to heat up a square and eat it by itself with no loss of satisfaction.

You can use any ground meat you like in this recipe.  I have used ground beef, turkey, Italian sausage, and ground venison.  You can mix ground meats, and frankly, mixing a little Italian sausage with any other meat is going to add extra flavor and succulence to your lasagna because it adds fat.  You can control the fat in the recipe by using leaner or richer meats, and lower or higher fat cheeses.  For the pictures for this post, I used bear sausage and ground turkey, because that’s what I had on hand.  I also used shredded, low-fat mozzarella out of my freezer. I buy cheese on sale, shred it in the food processor, mix a teaspoon or two of cornstarch into it, and freeze it flat in Ziploc bags.  The cornstarch keeps the cheese from sticking together, so I can use as much or as little as I want from a bag while it is still frozen.

I also make my own ricotta for lasagna because it is easy, and so flavorful, and so much cheaper.  I make ricotta whenever I have milk about to sour or already gone bad, so I’m minimizing waste.  Sour milk makes great cheese.  After the whey has drained away from the cheese, I put the ricotta in the freezer, so again, it’s handy when I want to make a pan of lasagna.  The whey can be saved and used in baking, particularly breads and cakes, instead of water.  You can make your own ricotta out of any kind of milk, from low-fat to full-fat, or even out of half-and-half, if your coffee creamer has gone sour.  But of course, you can buy ricotta cheese if you don’t wish to make homemade.

I’ve always made my own marinara sauce for lasagna, but you don’t have to.  You can buy jarred marinara or spaghetti sauce from the store.  If you do that, I strongly suggest that you add herbs to it to perk up the flavor.  However, marinara is easy, cheap, and quick to make, as you’ll see from the recipe below, so I hope you’ll give it a try and see how much better it is than pre-made, store-bought sauce.  I’m starting with the marinara sauce, because it can be cooking down while the eggplant is roasting.

Easy Marinara Sauce

You can start homemade marinara with either canned tomatoes or tomato sauce (or with fresh tomatoes, if you have the time).  Making the red sauce with canned tomatoes takes a little longer than starting with tomato sauce, but it cooks down while the eggplant is roasting.

1 28 oz. can of whole or diced tomatoes or 2 cups of canned tomato sauce

¼ cup red wine (optional)

1 T. fresh basil, chopped, or 1 t. dry basil, crumbled (more or less according to your taste)

1 t. fresh organo, chopped, or ½ t. dry oregano, crushed (more or less according to your taste)

1 clove garlic, crushed and chopped

½ cup. onion, diced

1-2 tsp. sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

If using whole or diced tomatoes, whirl the contents of the can (or quart jar, if you can your own tomatoes) in blender until smooth.  Place in large pot, add wine, herbs, garlic, onion, sugar and ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper (more or less to your taste) and cook on med. high heat until reduced by half.  Watch out—it spits as it reduces!  If you are starting with tomato sauce, just add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until onions are translucent.  You can add more wine, more sugar, more herbs, more of anything you particularly like.  You can use basil alone if you don’t like oregano, or vice versa.  You can add a tablespoon of fresh, chopped Italian parsley if you have it.  I use a larger quantity of herbs than I’ve specified in the recipe because I love the flavor of herbs, but these amounts are a good place to start.  Play around with the sauce until it suits your taste.  You want to end up with about 2 cups of marinara sauce, so don’t over-reduce.

That’s it!  That’s marinara sauce.  You can make it more complicated, roasting the garlic and adding shredded carrots and other ingredients, or you can buy it in the jar, but what’s the point, when this is so easy?  It is delicious and can form the basis for many an Italian dish that calls for a red sauce.  Now, on to the lasagna.

Roasted Eggplant Lasagna

2 large eggplants

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Cut tops off eggplant and slice lengthwise into ¼ to ½ in. slices.  Keep them uniform in thickness.  Brush olive oil onto cookie sheet and lay out eggplant slices in one layer; brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until very tender.  Turn eggplant over half-way through cooking time.

While the eggplant is roasting (and your sauce is cooking down, if you made sauce), it’s time to season and brown the meat.

1 ½ lbs. ground meat (Italian sausage, turkey, venison, beef, bison—whatever you like or have on hand)

Salt and pepper

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 red or green bell pepper, chopped (optional)

2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (optional)

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 cups marinara or red sauce (see recipe above) or jarred spaghetti or marinara sauce

2 cups ricotta cheese

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

3 beaten eggs

Season ground meat with salt and pepper and garlic powder; brown and drain.    Add onion, mushrooms, and bell pepper; cook until onions are translucent; add chopped garlic, cook for one minute.  Set aside.

Mix eggs with ricotta and ½ cup of parmesan cheese, season with ½ to 1 teasp. salt and ¼ teasp. pepper.  Reserve ½ cup of parmesan for top of lasagna.  (As always with my recipes, start with the smaller amount of salt and add more to your taste.  Salt is a highly individual seasoning.)

Place a couple of spoonfuls of marinara sauce into the bottom of an 8×12 or 9×13 pan and spread it around.  (This keeps the eggplant from sticking to the pan.)  Place one layer of roasted eggplant slices on top of sauce.  Stir the meat mixture into the rest of the marinara.  Spread half of marinara/meat mixture on top of eggplant slices.  Top with half of ricotta/egg mixture.  Spread half of shredded mozzarella on top of ricotta mixture.  Top with another layer of eggplant, layer of meat mixture, layer of ricotta mixture, and mozzarella.  Sprinkle reserved parmesan cheese on top. (I always seem to overfill my 8 X12 glass pan, so I put it on a cookie sheet to keep any potential spillage off the bottom of the oven.)

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Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until dish is bubbling and cheese is browned.

If you can keep your hands off it that long, cool slightly before serving, about 10-15 minutes.  This allows the dish to set up a bit and makes it easier to cut into squares for serving.

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This gluten-and-grain-free lasagna satisfies my every craving for Italian food.  I don’t miss the pasta, and neither has anyone I’ve served it to, including my dear foodie friend, DeAnna, and my son, Joel.  Joel said, “Mom, I’ve never had lasagna like that, but it’s killer!  It’s lighter without the pasta.  I don’t miss it at all.”  If you try it, I bet you won’t either.

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