Thursday, May 28, 2015

Stuffed Grape Leaves (gluten free, dairy free, vegan)

I'm always searching for something that I can eat as a snack throughout the day and I easily get bored eating the same thing (don't we all).  So when I saw a jar of grape leaves in the grocery store I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. Okay, well, not exactly, seeing as how I have never actually made stuffed grape leaves before but I had a vision.  The internet is filled with recipes for stuffed grape leaves so I got a general idea and then came up with my own version.

There was one common thing I noticed in my recipe search. They all required the rice to be al dente when making the filling.  I don't know about you but my experience with rice is that if I don't cook it exactly according to the packaging directions something ultimately goes wrong.  So, I played it safe and cooked it how I always do (by the book!) and I did not notice anything odd with the end results. I think it might even be a little easier this way too.

I would recommend something to drizzle on top like my Lemon Vinaigrette. It kicks things up a notch!

Please note: Always check labels and manufacturing processes to ensure there is no evidence of any food allergens you may be sensitive to. 

Stuffed Grape Leaves (gluten free, dairy free, vegan):
1 cup uncooked rice
1/2 onion, diced
2 Tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
2 cups vegetable stock (can also use water or chicken stock)
1/4 cup ground almonds
1 lemon
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 jar grape leaves

On medium heat, sautee the onion, olive oil and a dash of salt for a couple minutes until the onion becomes translucent.  Then add the vegetable stock and rice.  Let it come to a boil then reduce to simmer, cover and cook according to the rice packaging directions.

While the rice is cooking prepare a clean surface for filling the grape leaves.  Juice the lemon and strain it. Once the rice is cooked remove from the heat and add the dill, mint, almonds and lemon juice. Mix together and add salt to taste. Set aside and let cool.

Prepare a pot for steaming with a steamer basket inside and a lid. Or use a  metal colander that fits inside a larger pot. If you do not have pots for steaming, you can simmer instead.

Gently separate the small grape leaves from the large ones.You will need about 25 leaves of each size (I double wrap to prevent filling from escaping).  Lay out one small grape leaf, shiny side down. Add one spoonful of rice filling to the center of the leaf.  Wrap the filling as if you are wrapping a present starting with the stem ends first. Then lay out one large grape leaf, shiny side down and place the stuffed grape leaf in the center with the seam facing down. Wrap again. Place the stuffed grape leaf in the bottom of the steamer seam-side down (or in pot with a small amount of water/stock and olive oil). Repeat this process until you run out of rice filling (or grape leaves...whichever comes first!).  Cover and steam (or simmer on low) for about 30 minutes.  Let cool to the touch, then drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and enjoy!  Better yet, whip up some Lemon Vinaigrette to go with!

Makes about 25 stuffed grape leaves.

Questions? Comments? Recipe ideas?  I'd love to hear from you!

Lemon Vinaigrette (gluten free, dairy free, vegan)

This recipe is an ode to one of my most favorite restaurants that I used to go to when I lived in California.

Sol Food Restaurant started out as a tiny little spot on the corner of Fourth and Lincoln in downtown San Rafael.  From the day it opened there was constantly a line out the door. At first sight one would think it was because the restaurant was so small but once you had the food, you knew the real reason.

Now the restaurant has taken over a new spot just a couple blocks away from their old one and they have an additional location just a few towns over.  Even though there are now two locations, there is still usually a line out the door!  It's THAT good! AND they have several gluten free and dairy free options!

The food is actually quite simple fare, but the flavor is not.  You are truly eating wholesome authentic Puerto Rican comfort food.  My favorite dish is the "Pollo Al Horno".  It's chicken thighs marinated in oregano and garlic, fried garlic plantains, beans and rice with green olives and potatoes with a fresh picked organic mixed green salad with lemon vinaigrette dressing. Salivating yet? I sure am. And don't get me started on the ambience either. You'll think you are IN Puerto Rico! If you don't believe me check out their website for a virtual visit.  The bongo drum will get you going.

I'm in the process of trying to reinvent my own version of my favorite dish in order to survive here on the east coast. I will, of course, post it once I have. In the mean time I can relish in the memory of Sol Food by making my lemon vinaigrette dressing.

Please note: Always check labels and manufacturing processes to ensure there is no evidence of any food allergens you may be sensitive to. 

Lemon Vinaigrette (gluten free, dairy free, vegan):
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 2 medium lemons)
1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/8 teaspoon salt

In a small blender combine the lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt and vegetable oil.  Puree on high for about 20 seconds.  Voila!  If you do not have a blender handy combine all the ingredients except the oil in a small mixing bowl.  Slowly pour the oil into the mix while whisking vigorously.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Strawberry Shortcake (gluten free, dairy free, vegan)

This recipe was a bit more difficult than I had anticipated.  How hard can strawberry shortcake be to make? Well, if you're making it gluten free and dairy free, it can be tricky. And if you have a four year old who loves strawberries this can make it almost impossible.

My son devours so much fruit we call him The Fruit Bat. The first day I brought home two pounds of those beautiful red berries and by day two there was only a handful left.  By the end of the week I had gone through four pounds of strawberries!  Even still, this was not the most difficult part. It was the cake. The cake needed to be juuuuust right. Not too hard like a scone but not too spongy like an angel food cake. Luckily, my third attempt hit the jackpot.

My favorite part? The coconut whipped cream. I could eat that stuff all day! No, really I could.

Strawberry Shortcake (gluten free, dairy free, vegan):
Coconut Whipped Cream Recipe
16 ounces fresh strawberries
1 large lemon (for both the juice and making zest)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (from the lemon listed above)
1/3 cup (62g) vegetable shortening (I use Spectrum brand palm shortening)
1/2 cup (80g) white rice flour (I use Authentic Foods brand)
1/2 cup (60g) tapioca flour
1/3 cup (65g) cane sugar (use organic for vegan) plus more for strawberries
2 Tablespoons (24g) potato starch (not potato flour)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely ground flax meal
2 Tablespoons applesauce
1/2 cup (130g) coconut milk (I use Native Forest brand)

Makes six cakes. This is all done by hand so no mixing machines needed!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a standard cookie sheet with parchment paper or grease and dust with flour.

For the strawberry mix, wash the strawberries, cut the tops off and slice into bite size pieces, then put into a bowl. Zest the lemon in a separate small bowl and set aside.  Once zested, cut the lemon in half and then squeeze the juice into another bowl. Pour the lemon juice through a strainer on top of the strawberries.  Also add about two tablespoons (or more) of cane sugar to the strawberries and mix together.  Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

In a large bowl combine the white rice flour, tapioca flour, cane sugar, potato starch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground flax meal and lemon zest.  Whisk together so it is completely combined.

In a separate bowl mix together the applesauce with the coconut milk.

Using a fork or knife "cut" the shortening into the flour mix to create a crumb mix.  If using a fork and your shortening is soft, hold the fork sideways and cut through the mix like a knife as opposed to mashing.  Then add the coconut milk/applesauce mixture and mix together until you have a thick lumpy batter.

With a scooper or large spoon, scoop out six mounds onto the cookie sheet.  If you have English muffin rings place one around each mound. This will give them a more uniform look.

Bake in the oven on middle rack for 8-10 minutes. Then check with a toothpick to ensure they are done (no batter should stick to the toothpick). If done remove from oven and let cool for about 20 minutes. If not done bake for another 2 minutes and check again.

Once cooled, layer your cake with the whipped cream and strawberries.  There's really no wrong way to do it although my husband tells me that the juice from the strawberries is very important as it soaks into the cake ever so nicely.  I say just eat and enjoy!

Questions or comments?  Please reply in the comments section below.  I'd love to hear from you!

Coconut Whipped Cream (gluten free, dairy free, vegan)

I just had to give this recipe it's own post because it is soooooo good it deserves it.  This is a super easy recipe especially for such a creamy delicacy!  The hardest part is having to wait to chill the can of coconut milk so there is some planning involved.  The brand of coconut milk I use is absolutely the best (believe me I've tried the others).  I use Native Forest brand, not the light version either.  You want as much fat as possible.

This needs to be chilled in the back of your refrigerator anywhere from three to seven days depending on the type of climate you live in (hotter climates longer, colder climates, shorter).  All the fat needs to separate from the liquid.

Please note: Always check labels and manufacturing processes to ensure there is no evidence of any food allergens you may be sensitive to. 

Coconut Whipped Cream (gluten free, dairy free, vegan) 
1  can (13.5 ounces) Native Forest brand coconut milk (full fat)
3 Tablespoons powdered sugar (use organic for vegan)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional)

Strain the liquid from the can of coconut milk.  In chilled stand mixer with the whisk attachment, add the remaining fat from the can of coconut milk and vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl sift the powdered sugar with the xanthan gum. Then add to the coconut milk and vanilla extract mix.  Whisk on medium until the powdered sugar has incorporated into the coconut milk,  stopping to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula. Then mix on high for another twenty seconds or so.  Place in refrigerator to chill for about ten minutes or more before using. Once chilled scoop out and top your favorite desserts.

Let me know if you try this recipe in the comments section below.  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Easy Peasy Pesto! (gluten free, dairy free, vegan)

When I first stopped eating dairy I was at a total loss.  I thought cheese and I would be together forever, enveloped in casseroles, stretching inside lasagna, crumbled on top of salads.... but alas, my gut kept telling me no more.  I won't lie.  It was a hard transition.  It's still not always easy even now, but I've learned to move on.  Especially now that I've discovered I don't even need cheese in many recipes like with this pesto recipe.  That's right. I've said it out loud.  I DON'T NEED YOU ANYMORE, CHEESE!

This pesto recipe is super easy and simple.  All you need is about 5 ingredients and a blender.  If you don't have a blender, no worries. You  can still combine all the ingredients, it will just not be a pureed version of it, but it will still taste like pesto.

This can easily be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or so.  Although, it only lasts about a week in my house because I use it all up.  I just cant' get enough of the stuff!

Please note: Always check labels and manufacturing processes to ensure there is no evidence of any food allergens you may be sensitive to. 

Pesto (gluten free, dairy free, vegan):
2 oz basil, washed and de-stemmed
1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup walnut pieces (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil

In a blender combine the basil, garlic, salt, walnuts and olive oil.  Puree on high until it is a smooth mixture. Add more salt to taste.

If you do not have a blender, finely chop the basil (and garlic too if you do not have a garlic press). Crush the walnut pieces with a mortar and pestle, coffee grinder, or a knife.  In a small bowl mix the basil, garlic, salt, walnuts and olive oil.  Add more salt to taste.

Add pesto to pastas, wraps, chicken, you name it!  Pesto is great on pizza too! Check out my pizza recipe for details.

Have you tried this recipe?  Do you have one of your own?  I'd love to hear from you!  Just add your two cents in the comments section below.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Orange Creamsicles (Vegan)

I came across this recipe on one of the many facebook groups that I belong to and as soon as I saw it I wanted to make it!  As a kid there was something special about orange creamsicles that made everything right in the world.  I think because there really is no other taste quite like it.  I mean, orange and cream? Who thought of that one?  Genius I tell ya. And I just so happened to have a popsicle maker that was given to me by a good friend of mine (thanks Bryan). So now I am able to put it to good use.

This modified recipe comes from the Super Healthy Kids Blog. I love recipes that only have a handful of ingredients and no cooking or baking is involved.  It is truly sweet and simple.

Please note: Always check labels and manufacturing processes to ensure there is no evidence of any food allergens you may be sensitive to. 

Orange "Creamsicles":
1 cup coconut milk (Native Forest brand)
1/4 banana (optional)
2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel and section the oranges and put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes combine the oranges, banana, coconut milk and vanilla bean paste (or extract) in a blender and puree. Fill up popsicle maker, ice cube trays with toothpicks (cover with plastic wrap then poke through with toothpicks), or just fill a tupperware container and then freeze it for a couple of hours or more. 

Enjoy a nice cool treat!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Chocolate Cupcakes (vegan)

So in honor of Mother's Day I thought I'd post an additional recipe this week just in case anyone out there wanted to bake up something sweet for their gluten free, dairy free and/or vegan mom (or for yourself even....I won't tell anyone).

This chocolate cake is my all time favorite cake.  I don't know if it's the pure cocoa powder that I use or the creamy decadent frosting that makes it so special.  Or it could be that I just LOVE chocolate. The best part (at least in my opinion) about this cake is that it's really not that bad for you healthwise.  I use brown rice and quinoa flours and I really try not to overuse sugar in whatever form. So not only is it deliciously decadent but it's guilt free too!  It doesn't get any better than that for a Mother's Day treat!

There are specific brands of ingredients mentioned below that I find are the absolute best (and must haves) for gluten and dairy free baking.  Other brands may result in a different taste, texture and density. I shop for most of my ingredients on since these are not commonly found in local stores.

CHOCOLATE CAKE: (gluten free, dairy free, vegan)
1 cup (115g) tapioca flour
1/3 cup (30g) quinoa flour
3/4 cup (50g) pure cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon (95g) brown rice flour (Authentic Foods brand)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 Tablespoons (94g) vegetable shortening, melted (Earth Balance brand)
3/4 cup (125g) light brown sugar
1 cup (225g) applesauce
3/4 cup (150g) maple syrup
1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon (85g) coconut milk (Native Forest brand)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Makes 18 cupcakes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two twelve count cupcake tins with 18 cupcake liners. 

Melt the vegetable shortening in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Using a stand mixer or hand held mixer combine the melted vegetable shortening, light brown sugar, applesauce, maple syrup, coconut milk and apple cider vinegar. In a separate bowl combine and whisk the tapioca flour, quinoa flour, cocoa powder (sifted first), brown rice flour, salt, baking soda, xanthan gum and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two parts.  Mix on low until all the dry ingredients have been combined with the wet, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix on high for 30 seconds or until all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Evenly scoop batter into lined cupcake tins. An ice cream scoop works for this.

Place in the oven on middle rack and bake for 16-18 minutes. Then test the centers of the cupcakes with a dry toothpick.  If it comes out clean they are done, if not then bake for another 2 minutes.  Repeat this until the toothpick comes out clean. Once baked remove the cupcakes from the tins and place onto a cooling rack.

Once cooled frost and enjoy!

For the vanilla frosting recipe and for instructions on how to bake a double layer round cake see my red velvet recipe

CHOCOLATE FROSTING: (gluten free, dairy free, vegan)
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon (105g) vegetable shortening (Spectrum brand palm shortening)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup + 1/3 cup (75g) pure cocoa powder
1/2 cup (108g) coconut milk (Native Forest brand)
3 cups + 1 Tablespoon (315g) powdered sugar, sifted (use organic for vegan)

Combine the salt and coconut milk in a small bowl and set aside. Sift the powdered sugar using a sifter or with the blunt end of a butter knife through a strainer. Do the same for the cocoa powder and mix with the powdered sugar.  Place all of the vegetable shortening in a large mixing bowl. Using a stand mixer or hand held mixer (or the old fashioned way--by hand), mix on low and slowly add half of the wet ingredients.  Then slowly add the combined cocoa powder and sugar one scoop at a time. Expect a mess as the cocoa powder and sugar tend to take flight! Use the cover guard if using a Kitchenaid mixer. Continue to slowly add all the ingredients while mixing on low, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Mix on low until the frosting is smooth. 

Questions? Comments?  I'd love to hear from you...

Monday, May 4, 2015

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Homemade Pizza Crust (vegan)

I love pizza.  But who doesn't right? It's actually considered the world's most popular food and for those of us who can't eat gluten this can be very depressing. Especially when we discover that most gluten free pizza crusts lack the flavor and texture that traditional glutenous crusts have. Well, this crust is definitely not lacking in flavor or that nice chewy texture and reminds me of when my mom used to make homemade pizza for my sisters and I pre anti-gluten days.

If you don't have one already, I highly recommend getting a stand mixer.   This dough requires some hefty kneading that really only a stand mixer can do.  One of those artisan Kitchenaid mixers works wonders. However, I have kneaded this by hand and it is still possible to make this crust.
I recommend using certain brands of flour which I believe produce the best results as far as taste and texture. One in particular is Zocalo Peru organic sweet potato flour.  The sweet potato flour is my secret ingredient in this recipe. It gives the crust a nice chew and retains moisture well. There are other brands of sweet potato flour out there but I have not tried them so let me know if you do! I am always interested in hearing what other folks use in their recipes.

For a regular thin crust pizza I use a 13 inch round pizza pan. You can also use a standard cookie sheet.  It takes up about 3/4 of the sheet depending on how thin you want it.   I have tried a pizza stone in the past but was not successful. The pizza ended up sticking to it. But I am no expert in pizza stones so....

Please note: Always check labels and manufacturing processes to ensure there is no evidence of any food allergens you may be sensitive to. 

 Homemade Pizza Crust: (gluten free, dairy free, vegan)
3/4 cup (90g) tapioca flour
3/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon (98g) brown rice flour (Authentic Foods brand)
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons (84g) white rice flour (Authentic Foods brand)
1/4 cup (32g) sweet potato flour (Zocalo Peru organic brand)
2 Tablespoons (25g) cane sugar*
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 1/4 teaspoons or 1 packet rapid rise instant yeast (Fleischmann's)
2 Tablespoons canola/vegetable oil plus extra
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup warm water
1-2 Tablespoons corn meal for dusting
1 teaspoon gluten free flour of choice for dusting

*You can substitute the cane sugar with maple syrup for a less refined source. Just reduce the amount of water you add.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Grease a 13 inch round pizza pan or standard cookie sheet and dust with flour and corn meal. 

Combine the yeast, apple cider vinegar, oil and water in a bowl and set aside to allow the yeast to hydrate.  In a large mixing bowl combine the tapioca flour, brown rice flour, white rice flour, sweet potato flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and xanthan gum. 

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix on low (use the paddle attachment for Kitchenaid mixers then once combined, switch to the dough hook to knead). Once the dry ingredients have combined with the wet, scrape down the sides and mix on low for three minutes.

After three minutes lightly oil hands and start to shape the dough into a flat disc. Lay the dough onto the prepared pizza pan and flatten from the middle out using the palm of your hand.  You can also use a rolling pin.  Leave the edges thick for the crust.  Loosely cover the dough with wax paper and place in the oven to rise for 25 minutes. Turn off the oven while it is rising. 

After 25 minutes remove the dough from the oven and place it on the stove top or draft free counter top still covered. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Once the oven comes to temperature remove the wax paper from the dough, spritz the edges with water (optional-prevents cracking), and place the dough on the bottom rack.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Then remove from the oven and let cool for about ten minutes. Once cooled coat the edges with oil (I like to use olive oil for this). Now it's ready for toppings. Once toppings are added place back into the oven on the middle rack and bake for about 10-12 minutes. For a crisp crust bake directly on oven rack.

Recipe for Pizza Toppings:
2 1/2 ounces precooked breakfast sausage (omit for vegan)
3-4 ounces Daiya brand imitation mozzarella shreds
4 Tablespoons tomato sauce or dairy free pesto 
6 ounces spinach, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil

In a bowl, mix the garlic, spinach, olive oil and salt. Evenly spread a thin layer of tomato sauce or dairy free pesto onto the pizza crust. Then add the spinach mix, sausage and Daiya "cheese".  Bake in the oven on the middle rack for 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees. 

For those of you with a discerning eye, you may have noticed that the upper left side of the pizza in this picture has browned a bit.  Well, unfortunately I have to share my pizza so I usually make one portion of it with dairy for my son and husband. Regular dairy cheese will brown whereas the Daiya imitation cheese does not. Mystery solved!