Fantastic (Gluten Free) Pie Crust

Just made this pie crust for Thanksgiving; used it for a single crust pumpkin pie, and a two crust peach pie. It was so fantastic my mother preferred it to her white flour pie crust.

Fantastic (Gluten Free) Pie Crust
(adapted from a recipe by Jo Ella Sellers)

In a medium size bowl, whisk together:

 

Cut in until the size of beans:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup beef tallow, duck fat, or lard

 

Beat the egg using a fork, then add with the vinegar and ice water:

Stir into the flour mixture, forming a ball. You may kneed this a bit, since this dough can stand handling. Wrap the dough in seran and refrigerate for 1 hour or more to chill. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, which will each be a pie crust. Roll with a little sweet rice flour between two pieces of seran. It is easier if you have a small rolling pin. Remove the top layer of seran, invert into the pie plate, then remove the remaining seran. Crimp edges, and bake as the pie recipe directs. (I did not prebake before pouring in the pumpkin pie filling and baking.)

For a baked crust, prick the pastry with a fork on the sides and bottom. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 for 10 minutes, or until slightly browned. Cool before filling.

Makes enough pastry for two 9 inch pie shells, or one two crust pie.

Baking Sucess: Date Nut Bread

Mmm . . . my family’s traditional holiday bread, in a gluten free, cane sugar free version. It’s just as yummy as the original.

Date Nut Bread

1 and 1/2 cups dates (pieces rolled in oat flour)
2 and 1/4 cups boiling water
1 TBS soda
Cover dates and soda with boiling water; set 30 minutes.

1 and 1/2 cups tapioca flour
1 and 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1 and 1/2 cups sorgum flour
1 TBS xanthan gum
Whisk flours and xanthan together with a wire whisk.

3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup xylitol (if you don’t have xylitol, you can substitute another 1/4 cup maple syrup)
3 TBS butter
2 pastured eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp fine sea salt
Cream sweeteners, butter, eggs, vanilla and salt. Add part of date mixture, then alternate between flour and date mixture until it is all incorporated.

Then add:
1 cup chopped walnuts, preferably soaked and dried

Pour into well greased loaf pans. Bake at 300 degrees. For smaller pans (mini) bake about 1 hour, and larger (normal loaf size) pans about 1 hour 20 minutes. After removing pans from oven, allow to set about 5 minutes before turning onto a baking rack to cool. When cool, wrap in food wrap, and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. It is delicious served with either cream cheese or butter.

This batch was my remake. Want to read about my first batch, and see what happens if you bake the larger pans for only an hour? See Baking Failure: Holiday Bread. It’s not pretty. 🙂

Baking Fail: Holiday Bread

It’s so disappointing; after all the work of sourcing the best ingredients, converting a family recipe to gluten and sugar free, measuring, stirring, the anticipation while it bakes . . . and it fails.

Actually, I failed. Failed to fully read the instructions, the little added-on-note at the bottom of the card which said bake large pans longer.

Here is my Date Nut Bread:

I thought it was baked all the way through when I took it out, but realized my error when it began to fall in the middle.

And let me tell you, once you’re at this point, you can’t go back. I tried putting the loaves back in the oven, and when that wasn’t baking the gooey top, I tried broiling them. Nope; darker tops but still gooey on the inside.

At this point, we are eating the sides, bottoms, and ends of the loaves. It’s delicious, but not pretty. To have bread worthy of taking to the family Thanksgiving weekend, I’ll try again. And this time I’ll follow the instructions.

Do you have a memorable baking or cooking fail?

How To Soak and Dry Nuts

I’m drying a few batches of walnuts in preparation for holiday baking. Here’s my method:

Put 4 cups walnuts into a glass bowl. I’m doing 2 batches here.

Add a heaping tsp. of sea salt to the nuts.

Cover with purified water. Let sit for 24 hours on the countertop. This allows the nuts to soak up the salt water, which breaks down the phytic acid in them.

After the nuts have soaked 24 hours, drain off the water, and transfer them to baking pans. I try not to use aluminum cookware, so I use my glass pans.

Place in an oven at about 120 degrees, to allow the enzymes to stay intact. My oven only goes down to 170, so I use the warming drawer under my oven.

Leave in there for about 2 days, stirring every 12 hours or so. When done, they will be crispy all the way through. Store in a sealed container. Use them in baking (which kills the enzymes, but there is still the benefit of having the phytic acid removed). They are also delicious on salads, or as a small snack.

How To Soak Grains

Q:

I’m planning to make the High Protein Waffles, but I’ve never soaked grains before, and I am unclear on the process. I looked around a little on the internet, and it wasn’t much clearer. Did you separate your own whey from milk, or buy whey powder and reconstitute it, or would you suggest I just use yogurt? I haven’t even purchased the whey (or yogurt) yet, so if you have some direction on that, I’d appreciate it!

~Debra , via Facebook

A:

Soaking grains is pretty straight forward, although I know it can seem daunting at first since this practice has been all but abandoned in modern cooking. To soak my oats, I measure them into a glass bowl; you’ll want one large enough that there is some space left for the whey or yogurt. You can see my whey here in the picture.

Pour the liquid/yogurt on top of the oats and begin to incorporate with a small spoon.

Stir the wet and dry together until there aren’t any dry oats left.

Then smash them down firmly in the bowl with the back of the spoon. There shouldn’t be any pooling wet areas.

Cover with a dish towel and place on the countertop, or another warmish clean place, for 12-24 hours.

At the end of this time, you’ll notice that the oats seem to have dried out some, and are stuck into a clump which will need a little bit of breaking up before putting into the blender.

If you double or triple the recipe, you can soak all the oats together and then evenly divide them the next day after soaking. Since they are stuck together in a chunk, it’s not to hard to cut them evenly. However, I recommend only making one batch at a time (unless you have a really strong blender) as doubling the batch makes it difficult to completely blend the oats into the eggs and cottage cheese mixture.

Whey and yogurt can both be used in this recipe. If you use yogurt you’ll need to use a little more than if using whey, since it is thicker and won’t mix with the oats as freely. I often use whey just because I have it on hand when it has separated from the kefir I make continually on my countertop. If the whey hasn’t separated, I use the kefir or a plain yogurt, which is probably what you should do at this point.

Here’s a picture of oats soaked in yogurt.

These soaking agents are actually souring the oats, and the waffles will have a pleasant sourdough flavor. I think kefir makes them more sour than yogurt, but it is pretty inconsequential. The acids and bacteria in the whey/yogurt are the agents that are eating away at the sugars in the oats, and dismantling some of the anti-nutrients like phytic acid. Therefore, whey powder (protein powder) reconstituted would not work for this purpose, as it no longer has these active cultures at work.

On purchasing the yogurt: get plain, and make sure it has active cultures in it. I like the European Style Whole Milk Yogurt from Traders Joes, and while you’re there, their Small Curd Cottage Cheese seems to be a good choice (for the waffle recipe) since the side of the carton makes it sound like the cows live in a resort. 🙂
Make sure your waffle iron is fully heated before pouring in the batter. I was in a hurry when I made these a few weeks ago, and I ended up with a mess in waffle maker! :-/

The waffles freeze well after cooling, and can then be toasted for a quick snack later.

Crayon on The Upholstery

So what kind of crazy woman would have a white sofa with 4 young children in the home?

Um, that would be me.

My Living Room

It was after reading 5 things to consider before you choose white slipcovers at The Inspired Room that I decided to go with white. Actually, I love my white couches, because the white slipcovers can be stripped off and washed as need be.

Unfortunately, this week that need was because the 2 year old took black crayon to the loveseat. Sorry for the bad lighting, but you can see the marks in the photo.

The Crayola website has some suggestions for removing crayon: WD40 is what they recommended for getting crayon out of fabric. Hmm…don’t love bring that into my house, but the basic idea is that it’s an oil to disolve the crayon. So I used Citra-Solv all purpose spray.

Sprayed it on, scrubbed with a dry terry rag, repeat, washed in the machine with hot water, laundry soap and oxygen bleach. Clean again!

Mineral Makeup Review

Mineral makeups have become very popular in the last 5 years, because they feel so lightweight, and can offer good coverage. They are often touted as natural, but you should still read the fine print and remember that they are not all created equal.

For 6 tips on how to choose a mineral makeup, read this post.

Here are some mineral makeups I’ve tried:

Bare Escentuals This is the brand that is probably the most well known, and the first one I tried.

Pros: I loved switching from liquid foundation to powder, and liked that I could get a set with foundation, bronzer, and brushes. It is convenient that this brand is available at places like Sephora, Ulta and Nordstom, and nice that there is an instruction DVD included.

Cons: If you are allergic to animals or have very sensitive skin, these brushes are not for you. The mineral veil has parabens, and the foundation has bismuth oxychloride which tends to look shiny by the end of the day (and build up in the brush). The powder is fine enough to give good coverage, but I’ve found an even better one.

Honeybee Gardens

I haven’t tried their foundation, but their eyeshadow was a disappointment. Too much glitter and not enough color, even in a dark shade. (Love their mascara, though!)

Me Me Cosmetics This is a local company that I found at my Farmer’s Market. . . they had just introduced mineral makeup, and I went for it. You’re not likely to come across them, but I thought you might benefit from my experience.

Cons: the powder was not nearly fine enough, so the coverage was not good. And the color wasn’t the best match. I realized that great mineral powder isn’t going to be made by someone selling at a farmers market.

Aubrey Organics

Since this seems to be such a “pure” brand, I was hopeful when they came out with a powder foundation. But it was a disaster.

Cons: The powder isn’t actually minerals, it’s like fine silk powder. . . feels not quite as fine as the mineral powder, and doesn’t stay on all day. Also, it can not be wetted like the minerals can to create a concealer; it balls up and is really gross when wet. Also, it is colored with cinnamon powder, so you have to get used to smelling like cinnamon and the color options are limited.

alima Pure I found this makeup online, and visited a local shop which sells it to test colors. I’ve also ordered eyeshadow from their website.

Pros: I love this makeup! It is the finest powder I’ve found, so it looks great and covers well. They have 60 colors to choose from, including very fair shades. Although the jar has less in it that Bare Escentuals mineral makeup, it has lasted me longer.

They are straight minerals; full disclosure and no bad ingredients. The eyeshadows are just right: glimer without glitter, if you know what I mean. They have perks, like credits for returning jars, and a facebook page with contests and sales.

Cons: since they have few stores which carry their line, most women will have to order online, which is not an easy way to choose a foundation. However, they have samples for $1.50, so trying before you invest isn’t too hard. With as happy as I am with this makeup, I’d say it’s worth it.

How To Pick A Mineral Makeup

Mineral makeups have become very popular in the last 5 years, because they feel so lightweight, and can offer good coverage. They are often touted as natural, but you should still read the fine print and remember that they are not all created equal.

photo credit: alima pure

Here are some things to remember when you choose a foundation.

1. Color Matching
It’s true: you do need your foundation to match your true skin tone, or you could look muddy, orange, or pink. You’ll have to try it on, in daylight. That means either at a shop, or online order of samples. If you tan greatly in the summer, a shade or two darker is an option, or mixing in a little  powder.

2. Ingredients
Not all “natural” mineral makeups are good for you; you certainly don’t want parabens in them-those preservatives which mimic estrogens in the body and have been found in 87% of breast tumors. Also, bismuth oxychloride, talc, dyes, and fragrances can cause irritation (and may be toxic). The first on that list, bismuth oxychloride, is a common ingredient in mineral makeup, and it serves as a “filler” so the product can be made more cheaply than by using straight minerals. It gives the “pearly” look (rather than matte), and can tend to look shiny by the end of the day.

3. Brushes Do Matter
The shape of brush does have an impact on how the makeup goes on, and brushes should be cleaned often to avoid buildup. (I was told weekly, but I don’t do it that often. Water and mild soap, then air dry.) If you have sensitive skin, and/or animal allergies, find a brush with synthetic bristles: often good makeup can irritate because the person is allergic to the brush!

4. Powder Size: Coverage
A very fine powder will give amazing coverage: better than liquid foundation, yet will feel like you’re wearing nothing. You should be able to feel and see the fine powder on the back of your hand when testing colors. Then test it around your eyes: if it makes the wrinkles look deeper, then it isn’t fine enough. And, when a powder is fine enough, it should look great without a “mineral veil” or other finishing powder on top.

However, a product that boasts “nano” size particles should be avoided; there is some concern and ongoing research as to whether this minute particle size is safe in applications other than medicinal (colloidal silver). And there are good makeups out there that aren’t nano.

5. What’s the deal with Sunscreen?
Many mineral makeups have zinc in their ingredients, and this acts as a reflective sunscreen. Don’t worry this is the good kind of sunscreen (you can read about the bad ones in this post on Chemical Sunscreens). However, you need to apply the makeup fully on your whole face if you are relying on this for sunscreen.

6. Dry Skin
Some women don’t like mineral makeup because their skin is already dry, so they don’t like adding powder. I have fairly dry skin, and I do like mineral powder, but I use a good (all natural) face lotion to moisturize before putting on makeup. I must let the lotion dry first, though, or I can get streaks.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post about the minerals I’ve tried, and the great one I’m using now that meets all the criteria above.

Chemical Sunscreens

Sunscreen is good for you (Titanium oxide and Zinc oxide, or just a hat), but many chemical sunscreens aren’t. This article titled The Chemical Sunscreen Health Disaster is a real eye opener to the dangers of chemical sunscreens.

The three main concerns are:

1. They are powerful free radical generators
Many of these chemicals are used in labs for cancer research: they just expose them to light and they burst into free radicals spinning around, ready to attack cells. Not the kind of thing I want sinking into my skin.

2. They often have strong estrogenic activity
As with so many chemicals, they can tweek our hormone balance.

3. They are synthetic chemicals that are alien to the human body and accumulate in body fat stores. Enough said.

Chemical Sunscreens Include:

Benzophenones (dixoybenzone, oxybenzone)

PABA and PABA esters (ethyl dihydroxy propyl PAB,  glyceryl PABA, p-aminobenzoic acid, padimate-O or octyl dimethyl PABA)

Cinnamates (cinoxate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamate, octocrylene, octyl methoxycinnamate)

Salicylates (ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, octyl salicylate)

Digalloyl trioleate

Menthyl anthranilate

Avobenzone [butyl-methyoxydibenzoylmethane; Parsol 1789] – This is the only chemical sunscreen currently allowed by the European Community. However, its safety is still questionable since it easily penetrates the skin and is a strong free radical generator.

Apfel Struessel Kuchen

What better way to end a full German meal than Apfel Struessel Kuchen? I made a gluten-free version of this classic today, and it was delicious. My [non-gluten-free] husband was in heaven.

Here’s what I did (original recipe from my sister-in-law, Kirsten):

Apfelkuchen Sehr Fein
1 stick plus 1 TBS Butter
1/2 plus 1/8 cup Sugar
3 eggs
1 and 3/4 cups My Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (if you eat gluten, then 1 and 3/4 cups white flour, and delete the xanthan gum)
1 shy tsp. Xanthan Gum
1/2 vial of Bittermandel flavoring (this is a potent flavoring from Germany; substitute 2 tsp. almond flavoring)
2 tsp. Baking Powder
2.5 Granny Smith apples – peeled and cut into chunks (less than inch cubed)
Cream butter and sugar in one bowl, and whisk dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Then add the dry ingredients, flavoring, and eggs to butter and sugar and mix all together. Add the apples to the dough; it will seem that there is barely enough dough to cover the apples. Smooth into a greased 9 x 12 pan, and add streussel on top.

Streussel

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
3 Tbsp butter
Mix together with mixer first and then kneed with your hands ~ you may need to add more butter or flour to get the right consistency to form the streussel. Clump with hands and strew onto the cake, leaving small clumps.
Bake about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool before serving.