Homemade Granola: Your Way

titleI mentioned in my last meal-plan post that I was planning to make a batch of granola for my breakfasts this week.  Granola is one of those items where I almost always have the ingredients on hand, without even trying, as it’s super flexible and made entirely of pantry staples.  It is also one of those items that I forgot how much I enjoy it until it in right in front of me, on the spoon, on it’s way to my mouth.  I love granola!  I prefer it over yogurt or treated like cereal, in a bowl with milk, but when you make it at home, you control how large/small the clusters of granola are, so you can keep the clusters large and take the granola on the go, dry, for a crunchy snack.

dry ingredients

I also was thinking (though I’m sure that I am not the first), that it wouldn’t be to hard to swing granola’s flavors into a savory-sweet option too.  Curry, rosemary, spicy–it would make an awesome topping to salads or a “savory” yogurt (I’ll admit, I still haven’t tried those…and I’m a little hesitant) or even as an accompaniment to a cheese board!

wet mix

As I said, granola is super-customizable, but it is also very easy.  Just think of it as a ratio!  My basic ratio is: for every 1 cup of (gluten-free) oats, I have 1/3 cup (total) of mix-ins, 2 tablespoons of fat and 2 tablespoons of liquid sweetener.  I like to bump up my omega’s too, so I bargain for 2 teaspoons apiece of chia seed and flax seed.  With the variety of mix-ins, fats, sweeteners, and spices, the granola possibilities really are endless!  Here are some ideas for each:

baked

My granola looks extra dark because of the molasses–it’s not burnt!

Customizable Granola!

Be sure to use oats that are certified and labeled “gluten-free”–otherwise you risk cross-contamination.  Combine up to two different fats and two different sweeteners (just be sure the total volume remains the same) for extra depth of flavor!

1 cup GF rolled oats, plus:

Fats (2 TBSP per 1 c oats):

  • melted butter
  • melted coconut oil
  • olive oil
  • avocado oil
  • safflower oil
  • 1/2 nut butter + 1/2 fat choice above

Liquid Sweeteners(2 TBSP per 1 c oats):

  • maple syrup
  • molasses
  • Lyle’s golden syrup
  • honey
  • agave nectar

Mix-ins(1/3 c total per 1 c oats):

  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, brazil nuts, macadamias…)
  • Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, squash, sesame, poppy seeds, millet…)
  • Dried fruits (cranberries, raisins, blueberries, chopped apricots, cherries, figs, goji berries…)
  • Other (dried shredded/flaked coconut, chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, crystallized ginger…)

Plus 2 tsp chia seeds and 2 tsp ground flaxseed and about 1/2 tsp each of spices (cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove, nutmeg, chili, etc), with a pinch of salt and a dash of extract (vanilla, cinnamon, lemon, etc) with 1 cup of rolled gluten-free oats.

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My batch that is in the photos above a larger triple batch.  I just multiplied it all (roughly) by three!

jars 2

Pantry Clear-out Coconut-Almond Granola

Serves: 10-12 | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 25-30 minutes

  • 3 c rolled oats, raw
  • 1/3 c. pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 c. sliced almonds
  • 1/3 c. shredded coconut
  • 2 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 6 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 3 Tbsp. Lyle’s golden syrup
  • 3 Tbsp. molasses
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • big pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Lightly spray with cooking oil.  Add the oats, mix-ins, spices, and other dry ingredients to a large bowl.  Mix until combined.  Stir together the melted butter, golden syrup, molasses, vanilla extract, and salt until combined.  It may take a minute or two for the fat to mix into the liquid sweeteners.  Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir until all of the dry ingredients are coated.  Spread into a thin layer on the lined baking sheet and baked for 25-30 minutes.  Remove the granola from oven and allow to cool completely on the pan without disturbance.  This will allow the granola to stick to together.  Gently lift an edge of the granola–it will begin to break into pieces.  Stir and crumble until clusters reach desired size.  Store is a tightly closed container at room temperature for up to 10 days.

yogurt


Turkey-Broccoli Quiche (Thanksgiving Leftovers)

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Happy post-Thanksgiving, everyone!  Things got away from me in this past week or two.  Everything at work and school is starting to gear up.  We have three weeks until our performances and I have three/four weeks until my finals for my classes this semester.  Both of which include papers, on top of one final exam and one oral presentation.  I am desperately trying to make serious headway on both papers during my free time this weekend, but it will also be my only chance to decorate for Christmas and prep my food gifts (no telling what those will be, yet!).  I’m planning to make the dough for three different Christmas cookies tomorrow, which I will shape into cookies and pop in the freezer.  I know all three freeze beautifully and this will make things so much easier as the month goes on!  I might even make up a batch of my Cranberry Chutney, which is the ultimate sign that the Christmas season is here!

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We powered through our fundraiser for work last weekend, which went splendidly!  However, I felt my throat get a little sore throughout the day and by Monday I was knocked flat with some kind of winter muck.  A scratchy, painful throat that made my whole mouth hurt, some crazy body aches, super fatigued.  Ugh.  Thankfully, an afternoon of sleep, lots of soup, and a few eucalyptus & epsom salt baths got me back up on my feet to finish out this week and still get through my prep for Thanksgiving.  I still don’t know what it was, but I am hoping I avoided catching my coworker’s bronchitis and, instead, just picked up a bug off one of our students.  My asthma and allergies make me very prone to bronchitis and pneumonia, but this hasn’t really moved down into my chest as bronchitis normally would, so I do think I got lucky and it’s just a bad cold!

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Anyways, on to more pleasant topics!  Thanksgiving at M’s mum’s house ended up having 18 people and was, all-in-all, stress-free.  We had a few sticky moments when politics and other controversies came up (it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it, huh?) and trying to get the massive 21 lb turkey in the oven in time, but otherwise, it was lovely.  About half of those 18 people had already sign-up to bring a dish, so I focused on desserts (pumpkin pie, vanilla bean cheesecake, cranberry curd tarts, and a praline sauce) and ended up putting together the green bean casserole since M ran out of prep time.  But everything else was taken care of!  It was nice to loosen the reins a little bit!  Shockingly, with all of those people and all of that food, there wasn’t too much in way of leftover.  I managed to snag a few slices of dessert, cranberry sauce, and a solid 3 cups of turkey–some of which went into this quiche and the rest will go into a double batch of Turkey Pot Pie Soup tomorrow night.  I’m not too sad about our lack of leftovers.  We have a ton of veggies in the fridge from our Produce Delivery box, so I’m planning to do a lot of simple, plant-based meals to reset ourselves after this weekends indulgences.  Plus my crisper box is completely overflowing and this is the only way to deal with it!

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This quiche is, hands-down, my favorite quiche that I have ever eaten.  My mother made it often when we were younger, but I was only reintroduced to it after I graduated and we tried making it gluten-free.  I love quiche because it take so few ingredients to make a solid dish with many servings (with just M and I in the house, this will last us a few days worth in lunches, too).  But I usually don’t go through the fuss of making pie crust (often, I just thinly slice potatoes, layer them in a greased pan, and cook them until brown and crispy before adding in the quiche filling).  So this lovely mix of turkey, cheese, bacon, and broccoli, all wrapped up in a flaky, buttery crust, is extra special.  That last bite with more crust from the side as well as the bottom is just total bliss.  Every time I make this, I wish I had grabbed even more turkey leftovers, so I could stash them in the freezer.  I never seem to remember, so I will just have to do my best to enjoy this quiche now, before waiting another whole year to make it again!

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Turkey Broccoli Quiche

  • – 1 gluten-free pie crust
  • – 3/4 c. chopped broccoli
  • – 1 c. chopped, cooked turkey
  • – 1/2 c. shredded baby swiss cheese
  • – 1/4 of a medium onion, finely chopped
  • – 6 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • – 1 Tbsp. butter
  • – 3 extra-large eggs
  • – 1 1/4 c. half-and-half (or: 1/2 c. heavy cream + 3/4 c. milk)
  • – 1 tsp groud thyme
  • – salt & pepper to taste

Roll out the pie crust and spread into a 9-inch pie pan.  Crimp the edges and place the pan in the fridge while you preheat the oven and prep the filling.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, add the broccoli and onion and sauté until tender, when the broccoli is bright green and the onion has softened.  Sprinkle turkey, bacon, and half of the cheese into pie crust.  Pour vegetables over top, spread evenly.  Top with the remainder of the cheese.  Whisk the eggs, half-and-half, and spices in bowl until thoroughly mixed.  Pour eggs over other ingredients in pie shell.  Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees F and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, until a knife inserted at the center comes out clean.

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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (gluten-free)

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November.  Oh November.

I am the first person to agree with L.M. Montgomery: October entices me with the promises of sweater weather and changing leaves, of apples and pumpkins and all the activities heralding my favorite season.  I love the Fall.  November, however, always seems to show the first signs of the long gray winter, peeking out between the colorful foliage.  Drizzling rain, a biting cold wind, and bare branches begin to remind us that we are in for the long haul of winter.  I do love the idea of winter, too.  I like snow and I especially like the thought of piles of blankets, bright fireplaces and stoves, and the sense of not having to go anywhere.  Unfortunately, most of winter I do have to go somewhere, and wherever that somewhere might be is definitely going to be through the cold and ice.  Even so, I am trying to treat November fairly.  Most of the time, it is just as glorious as October.  Plus, it contains Thanksgiving.  Definitely a good month.

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In the meantime, I am halfway through my first class of grad school.  I just signed up for two classes for next semester (as full of a course load as I will ever take alongside my full-time job).  I am really happy to be back in the classroom environment!  It’s also been wonderful to be learning things that I can actively compare to my company, so I have a real-life example for all the theory and concepts.  I have been working to get my hustle back–I have settled into a very routine life that allowed for more apathy than I liked.  Fortunately, all of these assignments have been the kick that I needed to find a better balance.  Isn’t it funny that the more we have to do, (usually) the better we are at actually getting it all done?  This was the last piece to push myself back into a state of productivity, though I still have to chant a few girlpower! mantras before I can tackle vacuuming… Another result of my class is that I discovered that I read faster and with much more focus while on the treadmill, instead of lying on my couch!  Studying and exercising?  Possibly my greatest multi-tasking achievement.

Unfortunately, I’ve been knocked off track a little, by catching an awful cold last week.  After a few miserable days, most of my symptoms have cleared up, though I still have a fair amount of chest congestion.  Given my history of allergies and asthma, this is exactly where I expected the cold to settle.  But I am definitely tired of coughing and wheezing.  It also saps just enough of my energy, that I haven’t been able to get up and move in the mornings.  I was looking for to daylight savings time to bring back some early morning light for my workout ventures, but my cold has mostly kept me couchbound.  My reading for school has suffered as well (perhaps the only downfall of that multi-tasking achievement).  Dealing with the cold symptoms over the weekend made the thought of early morning breakfast-making seem a gargantuan task.  And the idea of warm muffins, already-made when I woke up during the week, was all too appealing.  So I pulled overripe bananas from my freezer and set to work on this ultra-comforting recipe.

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Banana chocolate chip muffins were one of our staples in my childhood.  This simple recipe used up overripe bananas, a common occurrence in our house.  And the hearty addition of whole wheat flour balanced the fruit’s natural sweetness and bumped these muffins ahead in the race of healthy recipes.  And they tasted amazing!  I’m certain those were all pluses for my mother.  She made these muffins pretty often, and most of our friends ate a few over the course of our school years.  In fact, one of our childhood friends had a notorious hatred for bananas.  We always carefully avoided telling Z what was in these muffins and he ate them happily.  His mother got this recipe from my mother and continue to make the muffins for him until he finally saw her making the batter when he was a teenager.  Now he won’t eat them!

This is one of those recipes that so clearly recalls my childhood, I knew I needed to make it gluten-free.  Thankfully, it was a pretty simple accomplishment!  The banana keeps the muffins soft and lightly sweet and eliminates the need for any xanthan gum or guar gum as binders.  In order to emulate the heartiness from the whole wheat flour, I’ve used brown rice and sorghum flour, along with a touch of buckwheat flour to darken the batter as I remember the whole wheat flour doing in the original recipe.

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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Serves: 12-15 | Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes

  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. mashed, ripe bananas (about 2)
  • 3 Tbsp milk
  • 2/3 c. + 2 Tbsp. brown rice flour*
  • 3 Tbsp. buckwheat flour*
  • 1/3 c. sweet white sorghum flour*
  • 1/3 c. +2 Tbsp. tapioca starch*
  • 3 Tbsp. sweet rice flour*
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. chocolate chips
  • optional: 1 c. chopped walnuts

*Or, you can use 2 cups (280 g) of a gluten-free All-Purpose/”Cup for Cup” substitute

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a muffin tin with paper liners and llightly oil the liners liners.  Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Once uniformly mixed, add the egg and mix until the egg is just incorporated.  In a separate bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt).  In a small bowl, combine mashed bananas with milk.  With the mixer on low, add the dry mixture to the egg-butter-sugar mix.  Mix on low until combined.  Add in the banana-milk mixture and mix until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts, if using.  Scoop into greased liners, at least three quarters full.  The batter will rise a moderate amount during baking.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  Allow muffins to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely.


Pumpkin-Coconut Custard

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Hello, hello!  Long time, no see.  I know, that’s all my fault of course. I have been distracted by a couple of projects this month, not the least of which is preparing for yet another showcase weekend swiftly approaching in mid-December.   I am 99% certain that all of the set is sketched out.  Since we are using foam board to create replaceable-facing style of set, it is possible that I missed one of the 48 piece of foam board that I am using to create the set.  I will find out soon enough–I’ve started piecing it all together and hope to get to painting next week.  I’m also on sound duty, though two of the shows are a little too intensive for me to go at creating them alone.  I’ll have to take advantage of M’s expertise there.  I’m thinking every small-company, multiple-hat-wearing theater administrator should have an audio engineer for a boyfriend.  They are exceedingly useful!

This week has been a little bit of an extra battle.  Every showcase for, at least, the last year-and-a-half of my two-ish years of stage managing our showcases, inevitably, I break on in hives on my face.  Typically, I get them in the last week or two and I am left with an itchy face all weekend.  This season, they’ve come early, at four weeks out from performance.  Worse, the temperature dropped at the same time, hovering in the thirties.  I’ve worn no make-up all week.  I picked up some hydrocortisone cream, but that actually made it worse.  I woke up red and stinging.  So, I’ve been reduced to dabbing tea tree oil and aloe vera, as that seems to be all that my skin can withstand while it is so cold and dry outside.  I’d nearly gotten rid of the hive, just to have them flair up again.  I am hoping some rest during the holiday break will be enough stress-relief to clear them all up.

Punc is also really disliking the cold, so at least I have company in my misery.  As a notorious seat-stealer, but anti-cuddler, Punc has thrown all of her rules out the window for the winter.  She sneaks up onto our bed in the early morning and wriggles up into the warm spot in between the two of us.  Whenever either of us sits down, she is quick to climb up beside us, making enough contact to start stealing body heat.  I’ve been thinking about getting her another coat, since she is looking pitiful so much more often these days.  The only one we have right now is a big, bulky coat that makes her look like a cosmonaut.  It works wonderfully for walks, but is a little inhibiting to wear around the house.  All in all, I don’t think I will have a puppy who is fully happy again until Spring.

M and I have finally figured out Thanksgiving.  We knew we would be sticking close to home, due to his work schedule, but we will be having dinner with his mum and whomever else we can get to join us.  I’ll be bringing my Knock-off Pepperidge Farms Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing.  I will be following that recipe, plus adding 3/4 c. each of whole cranberries and roughly-chopped, peeled chestnuts.  I tried this combo last Thanksgiving and it was fantastic!  Tart cranberries and soft, cozy chestnuts contrast perfectly against the herby cornbread backdrop.  I’ll also be using my Favorite Gluten-Free Pie Crust to make an apple pie and a pumpkin pie (unless I decide to make pumpkin cheesecake, or even this custard!).  M requested I make Popovers, which I think are the perfect roll for Thanksgiving: light and airy.  Who wants to fill up on rolls with the decadence of an entire Thanskgiving feast on the table?  Popovers are a nice compliment, without feeling so heavy.  It’ll be nice to have a low-key Thanksgiving Day.  I don’t even know if I will be going out for Black Friday shopping.  I may find something that I just have to purchase, but at the moment, I can’t think of anything.  This is also my very first paid holiday, which is pretty exciting!  I even managed to pay off one of my student loans in this first month on full-time salary!  Hurray!  I’m still working on creating my first true budget, now that I can plan with a steady income, but I’m getting there.  Baby steps, right?

Anyways, amidst all these projects, I decided to try eating semi-paleo (no grains, no dairy, no legumes) for a week.  This is a pretty huge challenge, though I tried not to think about it.  I pretty much subsist on yogurt and cheese.  So, as you might expect…I lasted 3 days.  I know that it wasn’t long enough to truly reset, but I didn’t notice any difference either way.  Eating a big bowl of cheesy pasta when I finally broke had no adverse effects.  Sure, it wasn’t a true test, but I was mostly seeing if I could actually manage to eat grain-free and dairy-free.  Obviously not.  I also found myself consuming a lot more sweeteners, which probably is not acceptable on paleo.  I am also sure that the only way that I survived was making this Coconut-Pumpkin Custard on day #1.  It soon became dessert and breakfast, and is a dish I will certainly make again.

This dish is pretty plain to look at, but the smooth coconut paired with the sweet flavor of lightly-spiced pumpkin is a match made in heaven!

Pumpkin-Coconut Custard

  • 2 c. pureed pumpkin*
  • 1 14 oz can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

*Canned is fine, but I used scratch-made pumpkin puree (1 sugar/pie pumpkin split in half and roasted at 425 degrees F for 40 minutes. Scoop out the seeds and discard.  Cool pumpkin, then scoop the flesh out of the pumpkin skin and puree until smooth in a food processor) because I had a sugar pumpkin on hand.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch (for a thinner custard) or a 9 x 9 inch (for a thicker custard) casserole dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, maple syrup, and sugar.  Stir in coconut milk until thoroughly combine.  Then add pumpkin puree, all spices, and vanilla extract.  Mix well.  Pour in greased dish and bake for 35-45 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the custard jiggles slightly, but is not liquid at the center of the dish.

Serve warm or cold, by itself or with whipped coconut cream, or with ice cream.

Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.


Lox & Cream Cheese Quiche with an “Everything Bagel” Crust

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If I am not careful, I become a very “all or nothing” type of person.  I think it is an outlook that is lauded and encouraged in today’s society–unfortunately more for worse than for better.  “Perfect” lives are carefully staged on every form of social media and interaction.  Because those with the prettiest house, the best relationships, the greatest jobs will automatically gain some mythical, vague status that will actually turn their lives perfect.  Alongside perfectionism, we have glorified busy.  Stay busy, follow your hobbies, go out, try new things, have adventures, and make sure everyone knows just how much you have achieved on how little sleep.  I’ve had my time spent striving for perfectionism and for “busy”, and I’ve found I do better disregarding both.  When I try to be “perfect”, in whatever way, I am left scrambling and climbing towards an unreachable peak.  When I let go of perfect, I can be happy with what I have achieved already–I can take a break on my little cliff halfway up Perfectionism Mountain, and enjoy the view from where I stand.  When I stop romanticizing “busy” as a gloat-worthy state of being, I can finally slow down and rest.  I can watch three episodes of Chopped (one of which I have already seen) and not beat myself up about it.  I have a clearer head when I do return to the tasks at hand after a break.

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I try to remind myself of all this.  All to easily, I fall back into the race for perfection and the competition of busyness.  In a sense, I am still glorifying both “perfect” and “busy”.  I blog here, its own selfish and entitled act to think that what I place on the internet is worth reading.  I make endless schedules, down to the half-hour, to fill my days with exercise and creating and cleaning and reading around my work day.  All too often, my schedule lies have forgotten with my neglected blog and I’m left with residual guilt that I failed.  This guilt and these tasks are both things that I put on myself.  No one is making me write or share or cook or read.  Just me, and the thought that “I can do better”.  Perhaps I can, and perhaps, probably, I will be bettered by writing, creating, and reading in a clean house with a healthy mind and body.  But with the guilt and this all-or-nothing attitude, I am too often overwhelmed.  When I am overwhelmed, nothing is achieved.  So I try, as often as I can remember, to focus on the baby steps.  My mantra has become something I have recently realized that I yearn for: balance. I long to move, to stretch and bend and twist, to combat sitting at a desk for eight hours a day.  I actually want to run, to the utter bewilderment of my sophomore-in-high-school, last-semester-of-gym-ever self (whether or not I can run is another question entirely).  I want vegetables by the truckload after getting burgers for lunch and then trying that new pizza place for dinner.  I want to rewatch this episode, even when I don’t, because the alternative is watching something new and I have been actively engaged all day and I need to shut off my brain.  I want sleep, but only eight-to-nine hours after a reasonably active day, because I’ve finally realized that any more just makes me sluggish.  I want to neglect the vacuuming and meal prep to instead do nothing, after six days at work.  Until the time when I crave something creamy or I choose sleep over yoga and my life leans back the other way again.  Balance.  Maybe, what I really want is to listen to my body more.

So I’m trying to be gentler with myself.  I try to forget about perfect and remember that it is all okay, because perfect is exhausting and disheartening. Balance is better.

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Balance, these past weeks has meant making time for make-ahead meals.  I know it will be a huge help to my psyche to know that I am prepared to make dinner with minimal thinking at the end of a long day.   I am adjusting to a new work schedule, and M is working on a project that has him working late (and, usually, whenever I am not working).  Thankfully he knows me well enough to understand that I will fail (if I try at all) to stay up to wait for him.  I am not much of a night owl.  These past weeks have been a few mumbled sentences in the morning to establish when someone is home to let out the dog, and a lot of notes left on the kitchen counter.  Weeks like these are when I pull out my secret weapons: slow cooker recipes, quick handheld foods made in huge batches, and quiche.  I’ve been thinking of writing a defense for quiche.  It is one of the most under-utilized dishes.  With a crust, 3 eggs, about a cup of milk, a handful of toppings–a collection that would hardly feed two for breakfast as individual parts, these magic ingredients mix together to created at least eight slices of creamy, comforting goodness.  If that’s not cheap enough for you, its easy enough to thinly slice a potato.  Line a greased pie pan with that and you’ve got a pretty solid quiche minus the expense of butter and flour for a traditional crust.  It’s a dish that is delicious served cold, hot, or room temperature, and easily portable if you have a lunch box and an ice pack.  Quiche is awesome.

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This quiche, however, was not one made with “cheap eats” in mind.  Instead, I wanted to add some fun to this dish that would be feeding us for the next 3-4 days.  Someone mentioned mixing a bit of smoked salmon into scrambled eggs and then the light bulb went off.  M and I love bagels with lox: chewy bagels (preferably a tasty Everything Bagel), thick swaths of cream cheese topped with savory smoked salmon, red onions, tomato, capers, and a squeeze of lemon.  Why not put all of this in a quiche?  I mixed the traditional spices of an everything bagel into my crust, and mixed the traditional toppings into the egg filling.  Voila!

This quiche is an interesting way to mix things up.  The crust, salty and garlicky, makes this amazing!

lox quiche slice

Lox & Cream Cheese Quiche with “Everything Bagel” Crust

For the Crust:

Basically a 1/2 batch of my Gluten-Free Pie Crust

  • 1/2 c. sweet rice flour
  • 1/4 c. tapioca starch
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp. potato starch
  • 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp. granulated onion
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 2 tsp. sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. poppy seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • optional: 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1/4 c. vegetable shortening (I used EarthBalance)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 Tbsp. cold water

For the Filling:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 c. milk (whole or 2% is best)
  • 1/2 c. cream
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. dill
  • 1/4 c. tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 small red onion, finely diced
  • 4 green onions, finely chopped (green portion only), divided
  • 1 Tbsp. capers
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 3 oz. lox/smoked salmon, roughly chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
  • 2 oz. cream cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix all dry ingredients (sweet rice flour through pepper/caraway seeds) of crust in a medium bowl.  Cube or grate the butter and shortening into the dry mix.  Mix well, rubbing the fat into the dry mix until the mixture is coarser than corn meal.  Mix egg and vinegar together, add to bowl. Stir egg mixture into dry mix.  Add 1 tablespoon of water and mix until dough comes together.  If still dry and crumbling, add additional tablespoon of water.  Press into 9 inch pie pan.  Chill for 30 minutes.  (Alternately, if your would prefer a “prettier” crust, chill dough for 15 minutes, roll out on wax or parchment paper, and transfer to pie pan.  Trim edges.  Chill for 20 minutes).  Par-bake pie crust for 15 minutes.

Make the filling while the dough chills and par-bakes.  Mix eggs, milk, cream, kosher salt, and dill.  When crust has par-baked, remove crust from over.  Sprinkle tomatoes, then red onion, half of the green onions, capers, and lemon zest into pie shell.  Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese.  Salt and pepper the vegetables.  Sprinkle bits of cream cheese and slivers of salmon over vegetables.  Pour egg mixture over fillings.  Sprinkle remaining green onions, parmesan cheese, and additional dill on top.

Bake the quiche for about 30 minutes, until the middle ‘jiggles’ but the top is beginning to brown.  If the crust starts to burn, gently wrap the crust edges with aluminum foil.  Allow to cool completely.  Serve slight warm or at room temperature.  Refrigerate, wrapped in saran wrap, for up to 5 days.


Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble Bars (and an unexpected nomination)

straw rhubarb title

Did you know that I am a finalist for “Best Mom Blogger” in Washington Family Magazine’s 2014 “Best For Families” Awards?  Yeah, that took me by surprise, too.  While I am honored to be in the ranks alongside The Bloggess, The Pioneer Woman, Honest Toddler, and Momastery (the winner)…as you may or may not have noticed, I am not a mom.  Nor do I plan on becoming one anytime soon.  No babies, thank you very much.

The WFM’s “Best For Families” Awards span a huge amount of categories, covering all facets of family life.  My company is eligible for several of these categories, and have won the awards in the past (and we won this year, hurray!)  However, gathering the votes is based primarily on a huge write-in paper ballot (as the WFM’s online ballot is notoriously finicky).  We often make these paper ballots available to our friends, family, and customers if they would like to fill one out.  And my mother did just that.  And her friends did just that.  And (possibly) my friends did just that.  Since a certain percentage of these ballots must be filled out to make the ballot valid, we are often spent picking one another brains–“Has anyone gone to an allergist?”  “Anybody know a good tutoring service?”–to fill in enough categories.  This reason is why my boss and other members of our staff have been nominated for several odd categories: “Best Interior Designer”, “Best Electrician”, “Local Hero”, “Person You Wish Would Run For Preseident”.  Blanks needed filling, and people got a little silly.  I suppose now it is my turn.  As the only blogger some of my acquaintances know, presumably the “Mom” part of the category was ignored..  (Thanks, Mom.)  To wind down this story, if, by some coincidence, you have found your way here through the WFM’s BFF Awards, I am sorry to disappoint you on the lack of “Mom” status.  I can offer you delicious gluten-free food, but no commiseration or celebration of life’s joys with little ones.  Wait!  I have a dog…does that count?

straw rhubarb bars pan side

Finalist-status aside, M and I are on the road again, taking a meandering route down to North Carolina for his nephew’s birthday.  We’ll spend a few days at the beach on our way down.  This will be our last chance to get away before our work schedules return full swing.  It’ll be nice to meander and take our time as we go down the coast.  If the weather holds, we will try to get out to kayak!  I went kayaking for the first time on our cruise in January and loved it!  M has been kayaking since he was young, so it would be great to have a chance to go out again.  M’s nephew is having a water party.  With five year olds as the main attendees, I expect a lot of chaotic fun!  North Carolina also means a visit to Saxapahaw, our favorite tiny strip of town.  After coffee, we will poke around the general store to see if we can find any fun local products.  This time, finally, we will be prepared with a cooler for transport back home.  Last trip, I was a little concerned for the local steaks that we found.  They had been frozen, so they just barely made it home while still cold…

straw rhubarb bars cut

Many, many weeks ago, before camp, I mentioned some rhubarb bars.  They are made with the same base crust and crumble as my Caramel-Oat Cookie Bars, with the gooey caramel replaced with soft, sweet strawberry-rhubarb fruit filling.  You might be able to snap up the last stalks of rhubarb before the season ends, but you can also replace it with more strawberries, or another kind of fruit.  Without the tangy rhubarb to balance the sweetness, you may find you want to exclude the sugar in the filling as well. These are perfect when served warm with a spoonful or two of vanilla ice cream!

straw rhubarb bars topview

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble Bars

Serves: 15-24 (depending on cut size) | Prep Time: 15 min. | Cook time: 30 min.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and prepare the base according to recipe directions.  For easy removal, line the pan with a sheet of parchment paper, and allow the edges to lay up the sides of the pan.

While the cookie base is cooking, combine the diced fruit and sprinkle with remaining ingredients.   Stir to combine and let mixture sit until the bar base is removed from the oven.  Allow the base to cool for five minutes, then spread the fruit mixture evenly over the base.  Sprinkle with reserved crumble topping.

Return to oven and bake for 20 minutes, until fruit is bubbling and the crumble is golden.  Allow to cool for about 15 minutes, then slice into bars.  Allow to cool completely.  Bars can be stored in a tightly-sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week.


A Popover by any other name…is a Yorkshire Pudding

popover pizza crust

Yorkshire Pudding in a cast iron skillet.

All of this sunshine, rain, fresh air and renewal had me on a roll.  Spring performances had finished, and I was happily tidying up all of the neglected tasks in my life as we began to prepare for summer camps until food poisoning knocked me flat on Wednesday night.  This was the first time I’ve had food poisoning, and I have to say, what really kept me entirely incapacitated was all of the joint pain.  Yuck!  It was terrible!  Luckily, M is the best person to be taking care of anyone sick, and I managed to get to work on Friday (slowly and carefully, but in sympathetic company since my boss got the same bout of food poisoning) and today I almost feel normal.  The majority of joint pain is gone, and, while I’m not yet up for heavy foods, I can eat again.

mini york pud plated 2

Miniature Toad-In-The-Holes made in muffin pans and topped with onion gravy.

My saving grace was actually my well-used and well-loved Popover recipe.  It is the quickest, easiest way to tasty bread– exactly what I needed on Friday night when I had some appetite, but couldn’t handle much more than soft, plain bread.  Lately, I’ve been treating this Popover batter like Yorkshire Pudding, because, as far as I can tell, they are just about the same.  Yorkshire Puddings are baked in pans greased with bacon grease or meat drippings, and popovers are baked in small buttered cups.  Otherwise (especially when both are converted to gluten-free) I would venture to stay that these two eggy breads are one and the same.  I’ve been meaning to try adding sweeter additions to the popover batter, but in the meantime, savory Yorkshire pudding is becoming my go-to for a quick, tasty dinner.  Add gravy, meat, and veg and you have a delicious comfort meal in no time.  I’ve even cooked the batter in a cast-iron skillet and topped it like pizza crust on days when I have not pre made dough, and can’t be bother with more than a 30-minute bake time.

popover pizza topped

Yorkshire Pudding with pizza toppings.

I do not change anything to my original Popover recipe, except that I pour the entire batter in a baking pan (usually 8″ x 8″ or 9″ x 9″) or my 12″ cast iron skillet.  I cook according to my usual recipe, but I start checking about 5 minutes earlier.  Sometimes, it can take 10-15 minutes longer for cook time.  You are looking for a crispy , golden brown top.  Pierce and peek inside (be careful of steam!) and the inside should be soft, but not gooey.

york pud plate top

Toad-In-The-Hole: sausages baked in a Yorkshire Pudding…

If you really want an easy dinner, fry up some sausages and place the fully-cooked sausage links in the uncooked batter.  The batter will cook up around the sausages and make “Toad In The Hole”.  I’ve also done this with sautéed mushrooms.  While the batter bakes, make up a gravy in the pan where you cooked the sausages.  Add a vegetable or two, and dinner is done!  It is also fantastic for breakfast as leftovers, but also quick enough to whip up fresh for breakfast on a day off (with or without the gravy).

york pud top full

…and topped with gravy.

The versatility of this batter has really earned it a place in my heart and often on my table.  Keep an eye out for some sweeter twists on this Popover batter in the future!

york pud plain

A half-batch of Yorkshire Pudding batter baked in a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

Yorkshire Pudding

Servings: 6-8 | Prep Time: 5-10 minutes | Cook time: 25-45 minutes*

  • – 1 c. milk
  • -4 eggs
  • -1/3 c. tapioca starch/flour
  • -2/3 c. white rice flour
  • Pinch xanthan gum
  • -Dash salt 
  • Up to 1/2 tsp. dried herbs of choice (thyme, rosemary, garlic, etc), optional
  • Bacon grease, pan drippings, or oil
  • Optional: 6 cooked sausage links or 1 1/2 c. sautéed mushrooms for “Toad in the Hole”

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place a 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ pan or 12″ skillet in the oven to preheat.  Keep the pan warm until you are ready to pour in the batter.  In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until well blended.  Add tapioca starch/flour, white rice flour, xanthan gum, herbs (if using), and salt.  Whisk until combined and smooth.  Carefully remove hot pan from oven.  Grease with drippings or oil.  Pour batter into hot pan.  If making Toad in the Hole, lay sausages or mushrooms into batter. Place pan in preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then turn the temperature down to 375 degrees for the final 15+ minutes.  It may be my old, finicky oven, or knowing my mother’s tried-and-true recipe also necessitates a temperature change, but this is the trick that works best for me.

*Start checking between 25-30 minutes, but if using a smaller pan (thicker batter) or adding sausages/mushrooms, the cooking time may be long–up to 45 minutes.


A Quick Pumpkin Smoothie

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My breakfasts are pretty routine, but certainly driven by the season.  Summer=cold breakfast, winter=hot breakfast.  Fall and spring get a little muddled. While eggs of some kind are always an option (I think I ordered eggs and fries 90% of the times that we visited the after-9pm eatery on campus during my college years–no meal is better at 1am), but eggs do take a little bit more cook time.  This is mostly due to the fact that we do not own a toaster.  Since we freeze our GF bread, thawing and toasting is pretty much a requirement.  Also, the last thing I want to do is start off my morning with multiple dirty pans.  So eggs require shifts: toast, then bacon or sausage if we want, then eggs in the same pan; and these shifts take just a minute or two more than I can spare on most days.  Oatmeal can easily be changed up with different add-ins, keeping breakfast interesting.  I don’t often have cold cereal in the house, but if we have it, it works on the fly.  Though I almost always prefer a hot breakfast, I can sometimes manage a cold one if it is served alongside hot coffee.  I need something hot to eat/drink in the mornings, even in the blazing summer.  When I can manage a cold breakfast, yogurt and smoothies are my favorite.  I can occasionally pack some spinach into my smoothies, but my poor, little 5-year-old magic bullet blender has certainly seen better days.  Of late, I’m usually left with diced spinach in some fruit goop.  Not especially appetizing.  I have had great success with avocado and cucumber smoothies, but I haven’t taken the time to snap a photo.  Lately though, if I am looking for some vegetable matter blended into breakfast, it is coming in squash and sweet potato form.  I’ve already baked both into muffins.  When I can put the same with some milk, spices, grains, nuts, and seeds, and have it taste eerily like a dessert: game on.  This smoothie, just like every other pumpkin smoothie on the web, taste like pumpkin pie.  But, this has the award for being one of the only smoothies containing oats or nuts that I have found palatable.  I’m not big on graininess that usually accompanies these ingredients as they enter the smoothie realm.  Here, both ingredients contribute the “crust” flavor, and, when well-blended, boost the thick, creamy texture of this drink.

photo 1

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie 

Serves: 1 | Prep: 2-3 minutes | Cook: —

  • 1/2 c. pureed pumpkin, frozen*
  • 3/4 c. milk or yogurt (non-dairy is fine)**
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed
  • 1-2 tsp. chia seeds
  • 1-3 tsp honey, agave, sugar, maple syrup or molasses (my favorites here), to taste
  • 1-2 Tbsp. chopped pecans, optional
  • 2-4 Tbsp. GF rolled or instant oats, uncooked
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ginger, ground
  • dash turmeric***
  • dash salt
  • ice cubes*

*A frozen element creates that frothy delicious texture I’m looking for in smoothie.  If the pumpkin is frozen, you will not need the ice cubes.  Vice versa, add the ice if you pumpkin is refrigerated or at room temperature.

**Using yogurt will create a much thicker smoothie.  You may have to add some liquid (water or milk) to thin to your desired consistency.

***I am working on sneaking more turmeric into my diet in every possible way–so whenever a recipe calls for ginger, I add a dash or two of turmeric as well.

Add ingredients to blender in order listed.  Blend well, pulsing several times then blending for 1-3 minutes until smooth.  If intolerant to oats, replace with additional half Tablespoon of flax seed and additional teaspoon chia seed.   Blend well, then allow smoothie to rest for 5 minutes, then blend again for 30 seconds.  The flax seed and chia seeds will help to thicken the smoothie without oats.


photo 3


A Weekend, A Wedding, and Chocolate “Surprise” Muffins

muffin title
We had a whirlwind weekend in NC full of laughs, though not much relaxation–at least in terms of catching up on sleep.  We did, however, catch up with many friends, partake in piles of wedding crafts, and (at least on my part) eat our weight in Carolina barbecue and sweet tea.  I actually had a bit of a sugar crash on the first day, since I’m rarely imbibing anything beyond coffee, hot tea, water, and cider these days.  One too many glasses of sweet tea, perhaps.  On Friday, we spent the day preparing for the wedding, and I slipped off to get mani-pedis with the bridal party ladies in the afternoon.  The salon was fairly busy, but spacious enough that even though we waited for almost an hour before nail preparations began, we spent that hour in the massage pedicure chairs.  Fine by me!  Take your time, sir, and let me adjust this kneading cycle up to my shoulders…  We were all saved when M’s mum arrived late Friday night.  While the rest of us were slowly turning punchy, she immediately went into event planner mode, and was the fresh set of eyes that we needed.  She and I, exempt from wedding party duties on Saturday, were tasked with transferring everything over to the venue and doing the final venue check before the wedding party’s arrival.

muffinstopshot

(This basket is made out of chopsticks! Pretty fun, isn’t it?)

After a quick stop back at the hotel to change, it was time for the main event.  I can honestly say that this was one of the most enjoyable weddings that I’ve attended.  There was lovely attention to detail throughout the beautiful venue, and the blend of hand-crafted and rented decorations came together seamlessly.  The bride and groom had clearly done their research, and several elements of the ceremony and reception were new to me.  They had a ring-warming, where the rings were passed in a small bottle through the hands of the attendees, to allow for blessings, prayers, and good wishes before the rings were exchanged.  They also filled a bottle with different colors of sand–while I had seen this before, it was the perfect opportunity to incorporate their son into the ceremony.  He had his own color to add in with his mother and father’s.   The bride and groom’s young son also provided some beautiful (when he carefully got up from his seat mid-ceremony to pick the fallen leaves off Mommy’s train) and hysterical (wrestling with his cousin on the dance floor) moments throughout the day.  He was impeccably behaved, a trooper through the whole long party (especially considering he missed his nap).  M and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  I had such a good time that my phone stayed in my purse the whole time, and M’s hardly touched his, either.  So, unfortunately, I don’t have any photos from the wedding.  M’s mum snapped a few of us, though I will have to track those down from her.  We really should get better at taking pictures together!

muffinshalfside2

On Sunday, we took our time getting home.  After breakfast with the entire bridal party, we headed over to show M’s mum Saxapahaw, since we knew she would love it even more than we did.  The old mill and warehouses have been converted into a Performance Venue, complete with Coffee Shop by day-Bar by night refreshments,  a small outdoor amphitheater space, and gallery.  The short row of establishments continues: a charter school, a rental/sales company for the apartments built in the converted warehouse, and a general store.  The general store is a lovely little place full of local/organic vegetables, fruit, meat and dairy products, locally made soaps and lotions and crafts, and tons of hard to find products: specialty beers, gluten-free brands, homeopathic remedies.  It also has a short-order kitchen and seating area that dishes up specialty sandwiches and breakfast items–most of which can be made gluten-free.  The duck fat homefries first tempted us into ordering (anyone else mildly obsessed with the Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives where Guy Fieri visits the beer place serving duck-fat fries topped with pulled duck meat and duck jus?  Or is it just me?).  But M caught sight of a special: “Coconut Milk Braised Pork Shoulder Sandwich with rice wine cucumbers, manchego cheese, basil, sriracha & soy sauce”.   A not below the menu said all sandwiches could be made with gluten-free bread, but we faltered at the soy sauce.  Just as he was settling on the roast beef sandwich that I was ordering, we saw the bottle of soy sauce on the counter.  The cooks were using Organic, Gluten-free Tamari as the soy sauce for everyone.  I can hardly express my gratitude when restaurants take these precautions as well as proving that “gluten-free” doesn’t have to mean a loss in flavor.  A few more questions settled the issue–the sandwich was definitely gluten-free….  Oh man, you guys!  This was sandwich heaven.  My roast beef, while delicious, absolutely paled in comparison.  A slow braised in coconut milk infused the barest touch of creaminess and flavor into the pork, melting in your mouth amidst the crisp bite of lightly-pickled cucumbers and red onions, rounded out by the traditional flavors in the herbs, tamari, and sriracha.  It was unbelieveable!  I went back up to the specials board to snap a picture, so I would have the base of ingredients for recreating this sandwich, and it was already sold out!  M must have snatched up the last of the pork.  Lucky, lucky man.  The homefries were quite tasty as well.

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Too good to stop and wait for photo set-ups!

We purchased some local steaks, local beef stock, real fermented pickles (!), and (to M’s delight) a pound of local, European-style butter.  I am so glad I remembered to bring a small cooler with us.  The meat and stock were frozen solid, enough to keep it all cold for our drive back home.  I broke out the stock the next day to make a riff on pho, while the butter emerges at nearly every breakfast.  That weekend was the last of the sunshine–we have had pouring rain all week.  M and I celebrated our anniversary yesterday, but that will come in another post as my very first attempt at a restaurant review!

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I first tested this muffin recipe a few weeks ago and immediately fell in love with the deep chocolate flavor paired with the knowledge that a healthy dose of vegetables were included.  I made it again right before we left, and this batch truly powered me through the weekend.  A muffin and my homemade granola made a meal out of the motel’s grab-and-go breakfast bar, where there wasn’t much beyond yogurt for us to eat amidst the cinnamon rolls, biscuits, and gravy.  I brought them over to the bride’s house for morning wedding preparations, where the muffins were kid-tested and -approved by the four year old of the house.  A variety of fruit and vegetable combinations replace the oil in this recipe (and are the “surprise” part), while whole grains, flax, and the option of nut flours round out these little chocolate powerhouses.  While I use a combo of eggs and flax seed, the eggs can certainly be replaced to make this muffins vegan.

muffinside

Chocolate “Surprise” Muffins

Serves: about 12 | Prep: 20 minutes | Cook: 25 minutes

  • 1/2 c. almond meal (can replace with additional 1/3 c. of buckwheat flour for nut-free)
  • 1/3 c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c. mashed pumpkin or mashed sweet potato or applesauce
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed
  • 2 “flax eggs” (1 Tbsp ground flax seed+3 Tbsp boiling water per egg)*
  • 2 eggs*
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. grated carrots or grated sweet potato or grated zucchini
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips (Milk, Dark, White…optional)
  • 1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

*Can replace eggs with flax eggs for a total of 4 “flax eggs” OR can replace “flax eggs” for a total of 4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Mix up flax eggs and allow to gel.  Set paper liners in muffin tin and spray liners lightly with cooking oil to grease.

In a large bowl, combine almond meal, buckwheat flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and cocoa powder until thoroughly mixed.  In a small bowl, stir together mashed pumpkin/sweet potato/applesauce with water, additional flax, eggs, flax egg mixture, vanilla, and grated vegetable.  Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients.  Stir in optional mix ins.  Scoop batter into lined muffin tin and bake for 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out mostly clean (a few clinging crumbs are okay).

Allow muffins to cool completely on baking rack.  Store, tightly sealed, on the counter for up to two days or in freezer for several months.  Thaw or warm before eating.


A Journey of Taste and a Simple Peach & Marscarpone Tart

Grain-free

One of my mother’s favorite tales to tell is the phase when E and I were quite young and we wanted waffles and (canned) green beans for breakfast every day.  Usually, this story was told during my later childhood and teenage years when I abandoned the green beans for a pickier palate.  While E, S, and I were not anywhere close to the picky eaters in parent’s horror stories, by the time the three of us were in elementary school, food choices were limited.  Carrots, corn, and fried potatoes (definitely not mashed) made regular appearances at dinner, plus the occasional salad with the tomatoes left on the plate and a few celery slices if I was feeling generous.  Cucumber if I was forced. Gravy was definitely not on my plate for many years, and that also knocked off any sort of stew as well.  Tuna out of a can was accepted, but only in a tuna salad sandwich, tuna mac & cheese, or tuna fish on toast.  Macaroni and cheese, while we’re on the subject, was something I could only eat fresh off the stove, refusing to wait until my family came to the table–any sort of thickening of the sauce as the dish cooled made it unpalatable.  Most meats were okay, depending on their preparation, and all three of us devoured fruit.  At restaurants, the pickiness returned full force.  When my sister and I were young, we often felt ill after eating away from home.  For a while, we thought it was lactose intolerance, but it was never truly consistent.  To this day, we are not entirely sure, but I suspect that it was mostly a nervous stomach, but perhaps even a reaction to gluten early on.  I don’t remember feeling unwell after eating gluten-filled food at home (be it homemade, or take-out).  E has always reacted worse than I did, and even now, doesn’t seem to respond as I have to a gluten-free diet.  But whatever the reason, this meant that E and I almost exclusively ate chicken tenders with honey mustard at every restaurant we frequented.

peach prep 2

In high school, for whatever reason, I made myself try and begin to enjoy shrimp (only in the form of cold shrimp cocktail or alfredo pasta) and tomato basil soup (the first soup I ever remember eating).  When I finally ate the chili mac that my mother made for dinner, I realized that chili was actually tasty.  One night I decide to add a single sliver of pepper and onion from my fajitas to the chicken, cheese, and sour cream in my tortilla.  Trying new foods in my teenaged years was the start a long slow process of exploring food that I still continue today.  College, in particular, worked its wonders.  I distinctly remember that day in my freshman year, when, unenthused with the dining halls choices, I picked a baked sweet potato.  It was the first sweet potato I have ever tried…and it was delicious!  In my junior year, I finally returned to green beans–fresh, instead of from a can–and managed to enjoy the green vegetable with a squeeze of lime juice and cracked black pepper.  I discovered pomegranates, figs, persimmons, asparagus, beets, goat cheese, broccoli, spinach, fennel, and lamb, just to name a few.

peach mini top

Many other foods fell into my range of “delicious and acceptable” over the years of college, and even now, I’m continuing to try new things.  It helps that M will try anything and everything.  His willingness instills a much needed dose of bravery in me.  With M, I’ve tried oxtail, curries, oysters, paté, crab, chestnuts, banana peppers, several types of fish, and many others.  As I found cooking and baking to be such a joy, reading and researching through cookbooks and blogs has inspired me to try even more foods, and use the ones I am familiar with in whole new ways.  Now, I am excited to purchase my first tomatillos, even if I am not quite sure, at that moment, what I will be doing with them.  I am eagerly continuing my quest to find a preparation and flavoring for cooked greens that will make me like them as much as M (he is happily eating his and my portion of the ‘failures’ along the way).  I am saving the seeds I spoon out of squash to roast the next day, craving freshly steamed artichokes, and cooking beans and lentils from scratch.  I’m making the list of foods I’ve yet to try (jicama, eggplant, swiss chard…) and figuring out just how to try them.  I’m making zucchini lasagna. I am mixing butternut squash into flour and eggs to make my own gnocchi on a Thursday night, while planning when I can attempt making bone broth from scratch.  I even let my macaroni and cheese cool and thicken as I stir in tuna and peas on the nights when I am especially lazy with dinner.

peach full top

Last night, M and I went out to dinner with his mum, as a late celebration of my birthday.  She was tied loosely to a community event, so we chose the indian restaurant in the plaza where her group was performing.  I didn’t have anything as daring as you might expect to have inspired this post–the lamb kebab and the seafood sampler–but I reminisced about the first time I had ever eaten indian food (M all but forced food court butter chicken into my hands one rehearsal when he found out I hadn’t eaten dinner–it was delicious, though it might have been the hunger talking).  When M admitted that he ate just about anything, even as a child, he made me think about how little I actually ate, and, subsequently, how far I’ve come.  I still have a ways to go, especially with some strange palate and texture preferences, but I’d like to think I’m making progress.  I can, on occasion, drink soup out of a cup or thermos, nowadays (is it weird for anyone else to drink something savory, instead of using a spoon?  This is the same reason that I can’t stomach bloody marys–if somewhere served them in a little bowl, I think I’d do just fine).  As much as I am learning new techniques and recipes in the kitchen; I am learning even more about the actual foods that make up those recipes.

peach tart top

Today I am sharing a recipe that is far from revolutionary and, ironically, is made with ingredients that I would have readily eaten as a child.  But, it is slightly updated to be entirely grain-free and significantly less sweet than my high-school self would have expected.  Peaches are everywhere this summer, like every other summer, and I am sure that, by now, every food blog has some recipe for peaches with pastry.  This recipe was thrown together one morning a week after seeing Shauna post an instagram photo of the birthday tart her friend made for her.  Peaches, blueberries, and marscarpone, resting lightly on a crumbly tart shell.  It looked delicious.  So I thought about the tart as I bought peaches and marscapone, and I thought about it more over the next few days, until I had the morning off.  M and I were preparing to visit my mother’s house, then go to Ikea (for my first visit ever!) to look for a new mattress and bedframe.  And the peaches were ripe, and the little note on the marscarpone was needling at me (“marscarpone is a delicate sweet cheese, blah blah, enjoyed as soon as possible after purchase, blah blah blah”).   Since I hadn’t yet worked out how to bake the tart with the peaches without turning the marscarpone into a puddle that doomed my tart crust…I decided to make a breakfast tart and leave the fruit uncooked.  I didn’t want anything too sweet, but I did want the added benefit of a little more protein than the marscarpone could provide.  And I had coconut flour in the back of my fridge and almond flour in my pantry.  With a few more ingredients, I pressed a crumbly crust into my tart pans and baked it off while I sliced my peaches.  After a layer of marscarpone and a spread of fruit, this tart became a perfect light breakfast.  I even took a little into a mini-tart pan to bring Mom breakfast!  Also, the lovely printed tea towels in these photos are a birthday present from E and A.  Isn’t the heart print the perfect background for this tart? They got me a stack of linen-type thin towels in all sorts of fun, vintage-type prints.  I love these thin towels for covering rising bread, rolling summer rolls, and–obviously–photographing dishes, and have been at a total loss with the thick kitchen towels that I have at the new house.  Now I have plenty (though I couldn’t resist grabbing one more at Ikea).

peach slice

Peach & Marscarpone Coconut Tart

Serves: 6-8 | Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook time: 10 minutes

For the Tart Crust:

Adapted from Elana’s Pantry

  • 1 3/4 c. almond flour
  • 1/4 c. coconut flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. shredded coconut
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut butter
  • 2Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • up to 3 Tbsp. sugar (optional)

For the Filling

  • 8 oz. marscarpone cheese
  • 2-3 medium peaches
  • 1 tsp cinnamon + 1 tsp sugar (optional)

Set the marscarpone on the counter to come to room temperature/slightly soften.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt together coconut butter and coconut oil in ramekin.  Cool. Combine almond flour, coconut flour, salt, cinnamon, and shredded coconut in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed.  Add beaten egg and coconut oil/butter mixture and mix well with spoon or hands until the dough is crumbly, but sticks together when pressed between fingers.  Press dough into a tart pan.  Prick bottom with fork in a few place.  Bake tart crust for 10 minutes, until lightly browned.

While crust is baking, thinly slice peaches.  Remove crust from oven, allow to cool for a few minutes.  Spread marscarpone gently over crust (it’ll be a little crumbly) before completely cool.  If using cinnamon-sugar, sprinkle over marscarpone before spreading peaches over top.  Serve cold or room temperature for a barely-sweet breakfast or dessert.

peach slice peek