There’s a Gluten-free Backpacking trip in my future!

I have had so much food pass through my kitchen that I failed to photo or blog about, lol…. but it’s okay. Catch up time? Why sure, that sounds fun!

All of November came and went, I made a super cute cake for my son’s birthday…. he turned 11. Surprise, surprise….. the cake was gluten-free and vegan! And the boys hardly touched it….. apparently 11yo boys prefer burning calories at parties rather than consuming them…. they spent HOURS chasing each other around the house with nerf guns.
DSC_1191Thanksgiving came and went…. we ate at my parents, so I just prepared a few things for myself and the rest of them ate what they could! I did however get one last freakishly late in the season score from my garden! (And then it snowed the next day.) And I made my mom a fun cake for her birthday….
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Then into December we got to have some fun. I hosted dinner…. and while I definitely did not have time to take fun photos, we did a 7 course meal…. stuffed mushrooms using a dairy-free cream cheese, onion, pepper…. a little daiya on top. lots of cranberries were used in the making of the meal… but this cranberry sorbet was my favorite!

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Then after Christmas had past… my daughter turned THIRTEEN!! I am officially the parent of a teenager.

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And then…. moving into February….. we decided to play with natural food coloring and used boiled beet water for these yummy cookies to send into my first graders class party.
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And since sometimes the sweets get all the attention my youngest and I had a fun day making chips! We made sweet potato and beet chips and loved every delicious bite. And these weren’t the “healthy” oven baked chips…. no…. fully fried in a wok full of peanut oil. Sometimes…. you just gotta fry something.

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And now that we’re all caught up to the present…. let me fill you in! We are planning a backpacking trip with the four kids the end of this month (March) and I am in the process of making, dehydrating, and packaging food for the 6 of us for 9 days. The kitchen has been a mess for days….. more to come on that. But here’s a fun preview…. tofu jerky!! I was kinda worried it wouldn’t have a good texture, but it turned out so good that I need to share the full recipe soon.

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So, that’s what I got…. October-March highlights.

Cheers!

Kale Powder

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So….. who doesn’t know that Kale has been coined one of the healthiest vegetables around? I think everyone by now should be familiar with all the benefits of Kale. BUT, not everyone enjoys eating it like a salad… and really… it offers more to one’s body if it’s been cooked first.

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I grow Kale in my garden and truthfully it’s one of the easiest things to do…. plant the seeds early in the spring, they grow, you break off leaves and eat them, they put up more leaves…. and this process continues well into Fall. Continual harvest. At first, everyone is excited about eating Kale fresh…. we use those first big leaves like a wrap for tofu salad…. then our big leafy green salads…. then by August the apetite for more kale has briskly dwindled.

So, that’s when I start making Kale powder…. 1 tsp of this magic green powder is equivalent to 1 cup of leaves, otherwise known as a serving. So, for a family of 6, I can toss in 2TBLS to any soup, chili, rice, sauce, etc and we get more than our fair share of Kaleness.

It’s extra easy, we like easy…. pick, de-stem, dehydrate, blitz, cook.

DSC_1097  DSC_1099Pick the leaves far down on the stem where the leaves stop. Make sure to leave a few leaves on each plant so it can feed itself.

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After picking the fresh leaves, de-stem them. Fold them towards eachother in their natural direction and just tear off the stem. Place the leaves on a dehydrator tray, and compost the stems.

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Load up your dehydrator as full as you can get it. I have a 9 tray dehydrator, but due to the bulkiness of the plants, I usually only get 4-5 trays. Dehydrate around 120* for 3-4 hours.

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Once the leaves are done, load them up into a blender…. you can squish them in to fit. Then blitz away on high speed until a nice powder is formed. You may have to manually remove any left over stems that didn’t feel like cooperating.
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Voila! Kale powder…. add it to virtually anything to boost nutritional content.

Harvesting Dill Seed.

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One of the easiest things to add to a veggie garden is some dill. And it is useful almost all of the summer! Plant the seeds as early as you can… and once it’s almost 12″ high, you can start to snip off some of the leaves (dill weed) to use in cooking…. the plant will continue to grow and grow until it’s about 3 feet…. then it flowers. Once those flowers die back, you are left with the “seed” (which is technically it’s fruit).

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Dill seed is primarily for use in cooking…. but it can also be used like a tea to help with upset tummies. (It used to be used for colicky babies!) And if you grew some cucumbers…  dill seed makes excellent pickles!

Sometimes, unveiling the mystery is all it takes to motivate someone to “do it themselves” so here goes…. and possibly you will never need to purchase dill seed again!

DSC_1037Basically to harvest the seeds, you watch the flowers…. once they turn from a bright greenish yellow to a brown and all the seeds on a stalk appear to be “uniform” in their appearance, snip it off (carefully, or they’ll drop in your garden and self-propagate and you’ll have dill where you don’t necessarily want it the following year).

Then, I snip off each individual long stem, grab at the base, and gently twist my thumb and pointer finger til all the seeds drop into a bowl. Once I have all the seeds, I let them set out for a day or two in the bowl to ensure they are dry, then add them to a container! Very, very easy.

To make use of the rest of the plant as dill weed…. simply snip, dehydrate, and slide your fingers down the thick stems and voila…. that’s it! Such a beautiful, useful, aromatic plant! I love dill.

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Vegan Cheesemaking

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This is a pepper jack cheese wheel from a recipe in the non-dairy evolution cookbook. I have discovered that my 6″ cake pan works well as a cheese mold, hahaha…. duel purpose! I grew the peppers that I used in there this summer, so I felt extra proud. The Vegan cheeses aren’t like real cheese…. but…. the taste is similar, and I can cut these into cubes and skewer them with cherry tomatoes and other veggies…. or grapes, and it will work well for lunches, or just putting a slice on a cracker! (usually a homemade gluten-free one) The option to have a variety of cheese is liberating. But when it comes to vegan cheese….. less is definitely more.

In my pre-dairy-free days (that seems like a lot of hyphens…), I experimented with all sorts of things…. I made yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, butter from cream that I scooped off of chilled raw milk, mozzarella, and ricotta cheese…. I think that’s it… the raw milk was my last attempt to see if maybe it was just the quality of milk that was causing problems for me.

Because I had done all those things I felt especially “cramped” when I initially began my new life dairy-free. Until I discovered that I could make any of the milks by myself easy enough! (Although, silk soymilk remains our family favorite.) But, that got the ball rolling for me…. and now…. I have made dairy-free yogurt (which I haven’t been super successful with, but have cultures from cultures for health and a new recipe I intend to try out this week.), sour cream, cream cheese, butter, buttermilk, mozzarella, parmesan, cheddar, a cashew soft cheddar, and pepperjack…. plus whipped cream from coconut milk, various ice creams (coconut milk bases are our favorites, and all sorts of milks….. and in order to make some of these I had to make quinoa rejuvelac, which was surprisingly simple.

Now, when I think about it, leading a dairy-free life as a DIY kitcheneer…. there are actually WAY more options of things to try!

One cookbook in particular that I have used a bit is The Non-dairy Evolution Cookbook. While the cookbook and the chef are most definitely not gluten-free, it IS vegan and so becomes very handy for things like dairy and egg replacement ideas. Mayo, dressing, cheese, butter, eggless egg dishes, etc… and discovering all sorts of cheese has been so fun!! Mostly the only recipes he has in there that involve gluten based items are not the ones required to make staples. It’s really, really easy to make most of these cheeses…. you do need to order a few items before you get started, unless you happen to have a store near by that sells lactic acid and kappa carrageenan…. but once you have them, you can get started and play with it for a LONG time to come. (Initially I wanted to make every kind of cheese all at once, but pulled my own reins back when I realized I had plenty of time to play and could pace myself.) And if you are a little leary of carrageenan, fear not, the majority of the recipes do not use it. Pretty much just the block and wheel cheeses because they can be grated and melted… and the carrageenan is mostly for meltability. (and they do melt…. better than daiya.)

From that particular cookbook, I have learned that I much prefer the cultured cheddar to the “block and cheese” cheddar…. and I haven’t tried the tofu based cheese yet, I needed to pick up agar agar and it took me a few weeks to get to it. And the mayo recipe he has is about as close as it gets. I mean, really…. it is good. And his ranch dressing recipe is practically spot on. We tried out quite a few bottles of dressing (store bought) and most of them were not there…. and I was getting a little depressed.

Anyway…. food for thought……. The kitchen is a playground!

Raw Sugar can become brown sugar and powdered sugar in less than 5 minutes.

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Did you know….. while standing in the aisle of sugars scratching your head figuring out which kind to buy…. that regardless of what you end up bringing home, you can use it to create your own “powdered” sugar and “brown” sugar in a matter of minutes?

It really helps to know these things if you are in the midst of a baking escapade and suddenly run out.

I feel slightly overwhelmed in the world of sugar options…. so I buy washed raw sugar and call it a day. One day I’m sure information will begin filtering options down a bit…. but for now…. raw sugar just feels like a safe bet. I don’t use cane sugar in EVERYTHING…. a lot of things get sorghum syrup, maple syrup, fruit juice, etc etc….. but I bake and make EVERYTHING for our family of 6, and well, sugar happens.

But, being able to grab a few of the same bag and come home and turn it into three products feels…… simple. I like simple.

So, here’s what I do. Brace yourself….. I open the first bag and pour it into it’s canister. I then open the next bag and pour it into my high powdered blender…. turn it on high for 3 mins or so and voila…. powdered sugar. (Now, granted, it’s not as perfect and smooth as the bag stuff, but it WILL make some yummy frosting and it will make chocolate for me…. and that’s about all I need it for.) Pour that into the “powdered sugar” canister. Now, I simply take two cups out of the first canister and toss that into the blender…. add 2-3 TBLS of some yummy sorghum syrup and pulse until mixed in. Aaaand I have brown sugar. (molasses works too, but I kind of have a love affair with sorghum since it gives me my favorite flour.)

All done. Three pretty sugars. (The brown sugar is practically like a candy by itself.)

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Birthday Cake! (Gluten-free, Vegan)

I have made this cake…. oh…. 4 times this summer? Yes. I have. And I can tell you…. it works. YOU can bake a gluten-free AND vegan layered birthday cake. AND you can frost it! How cool is that? I have had friends, family, neighbors….. all try this cake and join us in various celebrations and have yet to have anyone say, “Yes, I can totally tell this is gluten free.” In fact…. all these people who are not on a crazy diet like me…. think it tastes just like cake, and they like it. I can tell….. but I’ve also baked a lot of cakes, lol. But it works, serves it’s purpose, and doesn’t make me sick…. so I will keep on baking this cake!
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So, the recipe is HERE from this wonderful lady….  I make a few changes…. mostly because I like to have quite a few flour varieties…. so I do 1/2 cup Sorghum, 1/2 brown rice, 1/2 cup sweet rice. (In place of the 1 1/2 cups brown rice.) and in place of applesauce…. I use 1 large banana. And then I also toss in about 1-2 TBLS of ground flax for good measure.

I prepare my pans with crisco (not the best stuff in the world…. but it serves it’s purpose for lining cake pans.) and then flour the pans with rice flour. (make sure to tap all the way around so every bit of that crisco is covered and every interior surface is covered. Then…. after I bake, let it cool for about 10mins…. then flip out the cake onto a cooling rack. I have yet to have one NOT come out cleanly or break on me, they’ve all cooperated. Then, after about 30mins, I move my cooling rack to the freezer to speed the process…. I am usually on a time restriction and need to get frosting.

For frosting….. let’s just make this easy on everyone. I can look up a frosting recipe in any book or anywhere and adapt it. And so can you. Use Earthbalance in place of butter. Crisco if you absolutely feel it’s necessary for shortening…. like it’s 90* in your house or something….. and if it’s maybe not 90* but 80*…. I add in a little coconut oil to make sure my frosting doesn’t melt off. Any milk it calls for, I use soy or almond…. maybe even coconut. That’s it. Just get the consistency right. I usually add a pinch of salt to my frostings to cut the sweetness a bit…. but I mean…. it’s one of the easier things to do. 😉

Now…. go bake a birthday cake!!!

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