Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tangram Birds: Playing With Chocolate Rollout Gluten Free Cookies

Our kids went to a rural Vermont elementary school in a funky building on Route 9 in southern Vermont. Many of the facilities at that time were constructed with parent volunteers, and there wasn't a lot of fancy equipment and state-of-the-art classrooms. To this day, I think their elementary school was unique for turning out lovely, caring, and highly imaginative human beings. At recess, the kids build tree forts in the woods. In the classroom, creativity ruled, and they were encouraged to write every day and engaged in peer-to-peer and project-based learning. One day, they came home with five tangram puzzles for homework with a note encouraging parents to join them in this activity.
Tangrams are a Chinese puzzle that includes two large right triangles, a medium sized right triangle, two small right triangles, a small square, and a parallelogram. What is most amazing about them is that they can be arranged in ways to make over 6500 figures. Not only do they teach visual-spatial relationships, but in this case, they did something even more important--they engaged the parents in the child's learning process. Want a wonderful baking and learning experience for your kids? Make these Rollout GF Chocolate Cookies (recipe below) tangrams using this template:

and start making up your own edible flock of birds: roosters, geese, vultures, cranes, herons and the like. I'll be making sets of these for The Blue Project, a free family event in Brattleboro on April 11 to help raise autism awareness in our community. LOTS and LOTS of fun!!!

Chocolate Rollout Cookies
½ cup (70g) tapioca starch
1 cup (120g) light buckwheat flour
¼ cup (30g) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons (70g) butter
3 tablespoons (36g) palm shortening
1 cup (200g) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg yolk

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the tapioca, light buckwheat flour, cocoa, and salt.  Set aside.
3. In a separate large bowl, use a hand mixer to cream the butter, palm shortening, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk until fully blended.
4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until the dough comes together and the flour is fully incorporated.
5. Gather the dough into several balls to work with. Roll out a ball of the dough at a time between two pieces of plastic wrap to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Remove the top piece of plastic and cut out desired shapes. Carefully transfer the cookies to the baking sheet by inverting the bottom sheet of plastic or by using a tin, flexible metal spatula. (For Tangram Cookies, use a tangram template and a ruler to measure and cut out the individual tangram shapes.)
6. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes. The cookies will set as they cool so allow them to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before attempting to transfer them to a cooling rack.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Grapefruit Muffins

Every year the Brattleboro Music Center sells citrus fruits as a winter fundraiser. Every year, we order a case of organic grapefruit. I’m one of those people who loves grapefruit and peels and eats them by the slice. But I always seem to forget how many grapefruit really come in a case. And, as with any fresh fruit, their size and sweetness varies with the year and time of season. This year, I got a pretty puckery bunch. I’ve been slowly eating them and giving some to friends, but have been on a quest for ways to incorporate them in meals. Grapefruit is great just broiled with a little sprinkling of brown sugar, and it pairs extremely well with avocados in a salad, but I’ve found my new favorite use in these Grapefruit Muffins. These are not cakey, but very much muffins. They are moist with a sunny yellow color and texture kind of like corn muffins--perfect to brighten up a breakfast platter on a dark winter morning. Although baked, they very much retain the taste of a fresh grapefruit. If you want a more subtle grapefruit-ness, use the zest of only ½ grapefruit.

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (105g) light buckwheat
¾ cup (105g) tapioca starch
¼ cup (30g) coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt (such as Fage)
½ cup sugar
½ cup honey
4 large eggs
Zest of one grapefruit
1/3 cup grapefruit juice
1/2 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 400°F and grease a 12-muffin tin plus a small loaf pan or ramekin.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the buckwheat flour, tapioca starch, coconut flour, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
Using a hand mixer, blend together the yogurt, sugar, honey, eggs, grapefruit zest, and grapefruit juice. Beat in the dry ingredients. By hand stir in the oil until well-combined.
Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling them to about ½ inch from the top. Spoon the remainder into the loaf pan or ramekin.
Bake for 20 minutes until tops are lightly browned and the tops spring back when pressed. Allow to cool for ten minutes before removing the muffins and transferring them to a cooling rack.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Just in Time for St. Patrick's Day: Chocolate Chai Bourbon Truffles

Raw pumpkin seeds make these truffles mighty festive.

About 80% of Vermont’s roads are dirt and gravel. They make for a lovely way of life and a great place to bike and walk most of the year. But in mud season the roads we have bumped and slid over all winter turn to gnarly, deeply rutted mud. Some seasons it has been so bad that cars have been known to sink in so far that the driver gets stuck and is so deeply embedded that he or she can’t get their car door open. Mud season in Vermont usually comes around the time of St. Patrick’s Day. It is literally a bittersweet time since the weather that produces impossible to navigate mud also brings maple syrup season. What better way to celebrate St.Patrick’s Day than with these green studded truffles sweetened with just Vermont maple syrup and dates. They are vegan, nut-free, and a snap to whip up.


1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
10 medjool dates, pitted
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons coconut oil
¾ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/8 cup bourbon
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon finely ground fresh black pepper


1. In a food processor, pulse the pumpkin seeds until finely chopped and set aside in a separate bowl.
2. Hand chop the crystallized ginger and set aside.
3. In the food processor, combine the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes on high.
4. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the truffle mixture to thicken somewhat.
5. Using a damp teaspoon, scoop out about 1-inch diameter balls of the truffle mixture, drop them in the pumpkin seeds, and roll them around until covered. Dampen the spoon as necessary to prevent sticking. Place the truffles on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for 1 hour or until set.


Recently, I had the occasion to review Inspiralized by Ali Maffucci. For those on a gluten fee diet, there is comfort in knowing that the entire cookbook is written without the use of any flours, so it is chockfull of naturally gluten free recipes.

I really expected to love this book. I am a huge Spiralizer fan and have bought seven Spiralizers from Amazon, the first for myself and the other six as gifts. I am not a reader of the author’s blog and, in fact, did not know about it. My Spiralizer usage and experimentation comes from trying to spiralize every fruit and vegetable I can think of and use the results in my day-to-day cooking.

There are a few inspired recipes in Inspiralized, such as the Butternut Chips used in nachos and the Sweet Potato Waffles, but for the most part, the recipes are more about making vegetable-laden meals, salads, and sides with vegetables in interesting shapes. I think Inspiralized may be great for the new cook, one who needs an interesting dinner or salad idea, or someone who needs to follow recipes to the letter. But for the experienced cook, I think the book is more about technique. I liked the concept of ricing vegetables, and I hadn’t yet thought of spiralizing broccoli stems (although the author states that the vegetable should ideally be 1-1/2 inch in diameter and the stems of the organic broccoli I buy or grow typically aren’t that thick.) There are many cool things that can be done with dehydrated, spiralized vegetables and fruits, and I would have liked to have seen some of these. Also, combining spiralizing with fermenting would have been an interesting topic, such as making the ideal carrot matchsticks for kimchi.

I don’t quite get the recipes for making faux rolls and muffins--bread-like products. Spiralizing a white potato seems to me not a whole lot different than using a gluten free non-grain like quinoa, which would be a lot better for you. On the other hand, the presentation may wow dinner guests. In recipes like these, this seemed more like a diet cookbook, which I wasn’t expecting. I’m of the belief that high quality butter and cream are not only good for you but increase satiety and go wonderfully with spiralized vegetables and fruits.

A final point is that the author recommends cooking her spiralized vegetables far longer than I do. I’m not sure how they don’t become mushy and lose their integrity.

I received a copy of this cookbook from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair review.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Have Food Shows Become Food Deserts?

For most of the past week, we were travelling and participating as a vendor at the largest natural foods show in the world. Yesterday, after returning to Vermont, I had to go to the grocery store to replenish our refrigerator and pantry. Honestly, I probably bought twice the amount of vegetables, fruit, and greens I usually do because I was starved for produce. You see, the largest natural foods show in the world has become, in my mind, a food desert—one huge, one million square foot convenience store. How could this be? The USDA defines food deserts as “urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.”  These neighborhoods don’t have traditional supermarkets and grocery stores and are typically served by fast food establishments and convenience stores.  Why am I calling the show a “food desert” when in fact there were mountains of free food and samples?

There were over 2500 vendors, and if you take away those exhibiting health and beauty aids, supplements, pet foods, and packaging, over three-quarters of the vendors were promoting chips, desserts, cookies, crackers, snacks, and snack bars--789 of them, by my account. We were there exhibiting our new pita bread, as well as several flavors of our pizzas and baguettes. Attendees would stumble by our booth and say “OMG, real food!” while simultaneously reaching for a slice. And, we’re talking pizza here, not exactly a high nutrient meal. Over the last 8 years I have been attending regional and national natural foods shows, I have seen a trend towards more and more snacks, and most of them are highly-processed even though they might contain high anti-oxidant ingredients or the latest nutrient-dense foods like chia, coconut, hemp, quinoa, and even cricket flour.

To be fair, the organizers of the show report that 38% of products exhibited claimed to be organic, and 35% were gluten-free. But the organizers themselves also point to an increased trend towards snacks, or what they call “snackification,” as well as convenience items. The result is a lot of quick-fix, highly-processed health food.  I didn’t go to the show expecting aisles of produce or hand-crafted cheeses, but it felt like you had to walk miles of the exhibit floor to find real food.  I guess that is the state of the natural food world today, mostly because it is what consumers are looking for. Honestly, it is kind of disheartening.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Veggie Burgers! Red and Black Bean Burgers on a Vermont Country Roll

Sometimes you just want a veggie burger.  Sometimes, like here in Vermont where it has not been above freezing for two months, you’re desperate to make something on the grill. I found my recipe in mother and daughter, Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams’ new cookbook Soul Food Love. When I first received the book, I thought I would scan through the recipes and find something that I could adapt to gluten free. Imagine my surprise when I learned that just about everything in the book is gluten free. Out of all the recipes, only three, Pepper Coins, Moorish Pizza, and Crepe Stack use any ingredient that contains gluten. It is a simple matter to substitute gluten free bread products in the first two recipes. For the Crepe Stack, we’ve got you covered in my new cookbook Against The Grain for light buckwheat crepes. But you simply have to try assembling the crepes using the mother and daughter's recipe for a healthy mint custard based on Greek yogurt.

Back to the Red and Black Bean Burgers. I followed the recipe just as written, but when I realized I only had smoked paprika instead of regular paprika, I added that as well as two teaspoons of Liquid Smoke. When I went to form the patties, I was stunned by how well they held together and how delicious (and legit) they looked.

It was then that I decided to deviate from the recipe, which calls for cooking the burgers on the stovetop with two tablespoons of oil. Stepping through snow on the front porch, I fired up the grill to medium-hot (about 400 degrees Farenheit.) I lightly brushed both the grill and the sides of the burgers with olive oil, and taking a guess based upon the recipe, grilled them for 6 minutes on each side. Just look at that burger!

It is quite a testament to the recipe that the burgers held up beautifully for grilling. And compared to commercial veggie burgers, of which there are very few that are gluten free, there is no comparison. This was a moist, kind of southwestern-tasting burger (probably because of my additions of smoked paprika and liquid smoke, but I loved the flavor.) I served the burgers on one of our dairy-free Vermont Country Rolls on a bed of arugula and topped with a sauce I made from one part Green Mountain Gringo Salsa to one part sour cream.  In a word, outstanding! Soul Food Love is worth that recipe alone, and those burgers will be a staple in this household for meatless dinners and vegetarian dinner guests.

I received Soul Food Love through Blogging for Books for reviewing purposes.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Mary Margaret’s Crab Cakes With Basil Aoili

Every family has a recipe lore. Someone, whether it be a mother, grandmother, aunt, brother, or uncle is known for a recipe that is passed down from generation to generation. It can be an old-world pastry, an authentic Italian tomato sauce, or the world’s best sour pickles. In our family, it is a delicacy; it is Mary Margaret’s crab cakes. Mary Margaret was Tom’s mother. She wasn’t an especially great cook, but she knew a winner of a recipe when she saw it, and she was unparalleled when it came to hosting dinner parties.  This is a woman who was determined to have 50 couples celebrate her 50th anniversary in her home using her own china, silver, and crystal. She spent her entire life scouring antique shops and estate sales to make this happen, and she lived long enough to host that 50th anniversary dinner party. Sadly, she died all too young at age 76. There is no one who would have more into the recent publication of my cookbook than Mary Margaret. Honestly, she would have struggled with the notion of gluten free. She would have been astonished to learn that her son had celiac disease, but in retrospect, we know that she, too, most certainly had celiac disease. These crab cakes are an adaptation of her most memorable, knock-out recipe using Against The Grain Original Baguettes.

(based on a Ladies Home Journal, 1986 recipe)
Makes 8 crab cakes or 4 servings

Crab Cakes:
1 Large egg plus 1 egg yolk
4 teaspoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
4 drops Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons baby leeks (or green onions,) finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
½ Against The Grain Original Baguette, finely diced
½ pound lump crabmeat
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup arugula (optional for serving)

Basil Aoili:
½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
½ cup mayonnaise (such as Hain Safflower Mayonnaise)
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 clove fresh garlic, very finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
2-3 drops Tabasco sauce

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, lemon juice, Tabasco sauce, salt, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper.
3. Whisk in the parsley and leeks. Add the chopped baguette and crabmeat and toss until fully moistened and the baguettes absorb some of the liquid.

4. Shape the mixture into 8 equal patties (the mixture will be crumbly) on the baking sheet. Drizzle each crab cake with approximately one teaspoon of butter. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

5. Preheat the oven to 475°F and place the oven rack in its top-most position. Bake the crab cakes for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve on a bed of arugula with basil aioli.