Monthly Archives

October 2009

Gluten-free Cranberry-Pear Crumble Pie

October 22, 2009

Rainy days and nights. We seem to be having a lot of rainy days in Central Iowa and lately all I’ve wanted to do when it’s raining is to sit inside and hole up under a pile of blankets. I’ve found my happy place. Rainy night and howling wind, I’m hiding under the covers while watching Gossip Girl, drinking coffee, and blogging about pie. Gluten-free Cranberry-Pear Crumble Pie at that.

Disclaimer: I have very little practical knowledge of gluten-free anything. The number of times I have attempted to bake anything gluten free could be counted on one finger. Since so many people have been following a gluten-free diet lately for various health reasons, I figured I would jump on board…at least every once in a while.

If I could, I would give you the recipe for this pie, but since I was just throwing and tossing a bit of this and a bit of that into the filling, I’m afraid I don’t have one. It amounted to something like 5 sliced pears, 1 cup dried cranberries, 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 3 tablespoons of gluten-free flour, and 2 tablespoons of butter dotted on top of the filling. The crumble on top was 1/4 cup gluten-free flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons butter blended with a pastry cutter or fork until crumbly.

But the filling really isn’t the most difficult part when it comes to gluten-free baking. My nemesis? The crust! I picked up a package of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Baking Mix, but I know there are a lot of other gluten-free flours suitable for baking. I followed a basic butter pastry recipe, but substituted my new flour.

The pie baked at 375F for around 40 minutes, or until the pears felt crisp-tender. During the last 10 minutes of baking, I covered the top of the pie with foil to prevent the crust from over-browning. After letting it cool, it was time for the taste test…..

Not bad. Not bad at all. Actually, it was pretty good! The pear-cranberry combination was delicious, as was the crumble on top. The crust was noticeably different in texture and taste. It was a bit more challenging to work with, because it pulled apart easier, and was a bit more cracker-like once baked. Heather Morgan Shott, Senior Food Editor of Better Homes and Gardens online, lives gluten-free and told me the secret to gluten-free pastry is Xanthan Gum, and after looking at a few websites, it seems as if a teaspoon is all it takes to help the pastry roll out better withouth falling apart.

Do any of you follow a gluten-free diet or have you ever done any gluten-free baking?

Happy cooking!

Fruit and Nut Breakfast Muffins

October 19, 2009

Whew! After a crazy two weeks of papers, tests, and general craziness there was nothing more I wanted to do than mentally check out of school mode and into creative baking mode. Nothing even remotely related to school was allowed this past weekend, just baking and more baking. Of course, man (or woman) can not survive on decadent sweets alone.

For that reason, I give you Fruit and Nut Breakfast Muffins. Truly healthy, hearty, and utterly satisfying in every sense of the word. The whole wheat flour and fruit make these treats dense and give them a texture that’s part scone, part cakey muffin. I all but eliminated sugar in the batter, used all whole-wheat flour, tossed in some rolled oats, and cut down the oil to only 1/4 cup. The fruit in these muffins? Dates! One of Mother Nature’s most delicious, fruity gifts. Because of the natural sugar in the dates, I figured cutting the added sugar wouldn’t be a problem.

These muffins are best when straight from the oven with a bit of butter, but are also great the next day re-heated with a touch of peanut butter. Well, I say peanut butter because I think it tastes great on everything, but maybe fruit preserves would be a bit more appropriate for most people. 🙂

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/4 cups fat-free or 2% milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 package dates, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped pecans

*Preheat oven to 350F.
*Mix together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, rolled oats, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
*With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat in egg, milk, and oil until well combined.
*Stir in dates and pecans. Spoon batter into greased muffin tins, 2/3 full.
*Bake muffins at 350 for 10 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Happy cooking!


Too Good to Be True Banana Ice Ceam

October 14, 2009

I’m constantly stuck between a rock and a hard place, where my health-nut side battles it out with my sweet tooth’s love of ice cream. There are many sweets I could do without, but when it comes to ice cream, I’m hopeless. Something about the cool, creamy goodness draws me in, no matter the season. But even low-fat and reduced-sugar varieties of ice cream can hardly be considered healthy, so alas, ice cream remains a treat rather than a dietary staple. Until now…..

For those of you in the same boat as me, I give you reason to rejoice and eat ice cream without guilt. I can’t begin to claim any part in the discovery of this brilliant idea, the credit goes to Kath of Kath Eats Real Food, who found it from yet another blogger. When I first read about this Banana Ice Cream, I thought there was no way it actually worked. The idea seemed so simple, and I was too curious not to give it a try. If I could make ice cream out of only bananas and nothing else, it was worth the risk of a kitchen disaster just to find out!

The ingredient list isn’t even worth writing down it’s so simple. Freeze 2-4 bananas for at least 1 day before you plan on making this ice cream; however, if you want to keep bananas on hand in the freezer for a couple weeks at a time, that’s fine too and a great way to take advantage of leftover bananas before they go bad.

Chop the bananas into large pieces, and place in a food processor for 4 minutes. About half way through, scrape down the sides, then let the processor do its magic. The bananas go from being, well, bananas to sweet, creamy goodness in just 4 minutes. I added just a touch of vanilla extract to mine, but it’s by no means necessary.

That’s it! I can hardly believe that frozen bananas in a food processor turn into soft-serve ice cream in four minutes with no added ingredients. Since my first experiment with this banana soft serve, I’ve topped it with a bit of caramel for a dessert, and also eaten a bit for breakfast with a quarter cup of low-fat granola. It’s a perfect way to satisfy your sweet-tooth in one of the healthiest ways possible. Funny thing is, I’m not a huge banana person, and you don’t need to be to enjoy this dessert. Banana flavor is present, without being overwhelming, and the vanilla extract takes away a bit of the banana flavor.

Got to run! Off to class. Happy food-processing!



Broccoli Pesto

October 9, 2009

Alice in Wonderland. I think the Disney character that best personifies me at this point would be Alice in Wonderland, falling, tumbling into a rabbit’s hole and disappearing from the world. Substitute the rabbit’s hole for work, classrooms, and the small nook where my desk and computer live and there you have it, my reasons for disappearing from the known world, as well as the blogging world.

Lately, my cooking has been more utilitarian and droll than exciting and adventurous, living on healthy, quick staples like whole grain bread, Greek yogurt, Lara bars, and whatever vegetables I can toss on a roasting pan at the end of a day (usually broccoli or zucchini.) While I may spend this upcoming weekend plowing through papers and test preparation, mini apple pies are also scheduled in as a stress-relieving study break. In the meantime, Broccoli Pesto got me back to the blog. I felt it absolutely necessary to share this recipe that’s as quick as it is healthy.

I’m not even sure this counts as a recipe. It was more of a throwing and tossing affair, a bit of this and a bit of that, but here is what it amounted to. After zapping a cup of broccoli in the microwave for 4 minutes, I tossed it into the food processor, along with an ounce of cheese (I used shaved Parmesan, but any cheese will work), a quarter teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of Italian seasoning and a drizzle of olive oil (maybe a half teaspoon). I pulsed the ingredients 6-8 times until the mixture was spreadable but still had a bit of texture.

Although I am calling it ‘pesto’ this mixture is really more of a sandwich in itself, spread generously on top of toasted whole grain bread with a few additional slices of shaved cheese. It made enough for me to spread two slices of bread, plus a bit extra, and was a super yummy way to get in a full serving of veggies, and that is never easy when there’s a time crunch!

I’ve got to run. Teachers seem to like homework deadlines on Fridays, especially Friday afternoons! So much to do, so little time. Happy eating!