My Favorite Ginger-Molasses Cookie Recipe (Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

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Last month I started craving ginger-molasses cookies and couldn’t stop thinking about them. And when that happens, there’s no stopping me. I have no problem with follow through–I am going to bake those cookies. After looking at lots of recipes online, I came up with my own version.

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When Alan saw them, he said they looked perfect, but the biggest compliment followed his first bite when he said they tasted just like “the real thing”. For all of the gluten free and dairy free bakers out there, you know that is the ultimate goal: to make it as good as the real thing.

So, here is the recipe:

Ginger-Molasses Cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups Gluten Free Flour Blend of choice (with xanthan gum in the mix)

1/2 cup almond flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 cup Organic Cane Sugar 

6 tablespoons grapeseed, sunflower, or other vegetable oil, or Palm and Coconut Shortening

1 large egg

3 tablespoons sugar for rolling

 

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flours, baking soda, salt and spices and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix together sugar, oil, molasses, and egg. (Save the 3 Tablespoons of sugar for rolling.)
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until combined.
  5. Dough should be firm enough to form into balls, roll in sugar, flatten slightly with palm of hand, and place on baking sheets. If not, you can refrigerate dough for an hour or two.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool completely before moving. (They will be very soft when they come out of the oven and will fall apart if you try to move them!)
  8. Store in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze for up to two months.

What is your favorite cookie recipe for fall? Please share in the comments!

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Easy Marinara Sauce Recipe

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I grew up in an Italian-American family where it was considered a sacrilege if one ate canned pasta sauce. Ever. In fact, I never ate canned sauce unless I happened to be at a friend’s house. My mom, who is not Italian, diligently learned how to make amazing “gravy” as we all called it, from Italian women in my dad’s family and friend group. This gravy always included meatballs and often, sausage. She didn’t make marinara sauce very often, which is a quick meat-free sauce, and when she did, it often seemed over-acidic to me.

 

When I decided to follow a vegetarian diet nearly five years ago, I knew I needed to find a good marinara sauce recipe; one that was rich, garlicky and had just the right balance of acidity and mellow mouthfeel. I bought Chloe Coscarelli’s cookbook, Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen, and liked her marinara sauce recipe. I’ve tweaked it a bit and here is what I make once a week to use on pasta and homemade pizza.

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As I almost always do with recipes, I give you an amount range for a few ingredients. For example, if the tomatoes you are using are sweet and not too acidic, you might not need all the sugar or milk. You also might prefer a less garlicky sauce, so use less garlic. Cooking has a lot to do with personal taste, so adjust it to your liking.

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Easy Marinara Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 cup of water, approximately
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons unsweetened non-dairy milk, such as almond (optional)
  • 2-4 tablespoons fresh parsley or basil, chopped (optional)

In a thick-bottomed pot on medium heat, heat the olive oil, add garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds until it turns golden, stirring and watching it carefully to prevent burning.

Add water and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any garlic that might be sticking.

Add tomatoes and the salt through milk, and bring to a simmer, stirring gently to combine. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and remove from heat.

Adjust seasonings. Add fresh herbs if desired.

Notes and Options:

This lasts for about a week to ten days in the fridge.

It can also be frozen and thawed for a later time.

Feel free to add dried fennel, basil, thyme, or other dried herbs you prefer.

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In Search of Soup (Recipe)

Happy International Women’s Day! This post won’t directly relate to this celebration of women; it’s about soup. However, soup is nurturing, soothing, and kind to us, and maybe a bit like a mother, grandmother, good friend, or Mother Earth. 

I don’t know what has been my problem this last fall and winter, but I just didn’t feel like making or eating soup. The idea would pop up occasionally, but I couldn’t get inspired enough to make a soup that I really wanted. This is so unusual for me; my kids could tell you how they ate soup two or three times a week fall through spring as they grew up. Maybe that’s it: I burned out.

Anyway, this week, I think I finally turned a corner. The weather here in Interlaken, NY, is still snowy and cold. The Spring birds might be singing, but Winter is stubbornly holding on.

My daughter has nightly rehearsals for the musical Shrek at school and I’m trying to ensure she gets something nutritious in her before she goes back to school each night for four hours.

Today, as I was thinking about what to make, I remembered a soup recipe I was given last year from a young man I worked with last year at a cafe in Trumansburg. His version was sweet potato and kale, which was delicious, but today, I decided I wanted to swap in spinach. So I did.

Here’s the recipe, simple and comforting. I give you a range of amounts, because it’s really ok to make more or less. This is a very flexible recipe, as are most soups, so make as much or as little as you’d like.

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Sweet Potato-Spinach Soup (serves 4 or more)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3-4 sweet potatoes (I used yams), peeled and cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 6-10 cups water
  • 1-2 bouillon cubes
  • 1/4-1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3-4 handfuls baby spinach ( or a bunch of kale, stemmed and chopped)
  • salt to taste

In a soup pot, heat oil, add onion and garlic and saute for a couple of minutes. Add sweet potatoes, and saute a few more minutes, stirring often. Add water, nutritional yeast, bouillon and red pepper, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Cook until sweet potatoes are soft enough to eat, and add spinach. Adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Feel free to add rice or noodles if desired.

 

 

Baked Oatmeal for a Cheery Morning (Recipe)

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I was first introduced to baked oatmeal many years ago by my Mennonite in-laws and I’m forever grateful. It was a revelation! A breakfast unlike any I’d ever had: in between a soft, custard-like cake and a bowl of oatmeal. Only it stuck to my ribs longer because it contained eggs, butter, milk, and sugar.

If you know me at all, you know I can’t eat dairy, so I altered a recipe I found in a Cooking Light magazine. This is what I fed to my two kids several times a month and they gobbled it up happily. They would even eat it left-over the next morning. Recently, I made it for Alan, who’d never tasted Baked Oatmeal before, and he liked it enough that he ate it left-over the next morning as well.

 

So here it is:

If you’re feeding more than two or three, I’d double the recipe and put it in a 9×13 baking dish.

Baked Oatmeal

  • 2 cups rolled oats (mine are gluten free)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups milk ( I use dairy free milk, such as almond or cashew milk)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter (I use coconut oil, vegan butter, etc.)
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350. In large bowl of a stand mixer, combine milk, applesauce, melted butter or coconut oil, and egg. Mix well. Add in the rolled oats, brown sugar, and baking powder. Mix until combined. Pour mixture into a greased 8×8 baking pan. Bake 20-22 minutes. Serve warm.

Wasn’t that simple? I hope you like it as much as we all do!

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My Favorite Gluten Free Bread Recipe

 

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In January, I marked five years of eating gluten free. Food restrictions are challenging, can cause stress (what am I going to eat) and friction with family or friends (a little bit won’t hurt you will it?), but, if looked at through a positive lens, can take you on a lifelong adventure of learning and experimentation.

Hands down, the thing I miss most from my old life is real bread. Fresh, artisan loaves of ciabatta, focaccia, boule, baguette made with local, organic flour in a bakery right down the road…OK I’ll stop torturing myself now. One of my early purchases was Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a DayLet’s be honest, nothing will ever quite taste like bread full of wheat and gluten yumminess, but the breads I’ve made with this cookbook definitely satisfy my cravings. The deal with the “five minutes” is that you mix up the flour blend and then make the dough and store it in the fridge. Then any time you want bread, it takes five minutes to shape the dough, let it rise, and bake it. I love refrigerator doughs! So, if you’re gluten free, I recommend you get a copy of this book.

My favorite sandwich/toast bread, however, was given to me by a good friend back in 2014. And this is the recipe I will share with you here.

 

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I tried these without parchment paper this time.

Ellie’s Gluten Free/Rice Free Multigrain Bread

Dry Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup millet flour
  • 1 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/2 blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 cup brown teff flour
  • 1/4 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons xanthan gum
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Wet Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Yeast Mixture:

  • 1 1/4 cups hot water (110-115 degrees F)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

 

Instructions:

  1. Combine dry ingredients, mixing until evenly blended.
  2. In separate mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, molasses and vinegar.
  3. In small bowl, combine honey and hot water. Sprinkle in yeast and stir to combine. Allow to proof for 7 minutes.
  4. When yeast is bubbling, add wet ingredients to dry while mixing on low speed (about 30 seconds), stopping to scrape bowl to ensure even mixing.
  5. Add in yeast mixture and mix on medium for 2-3 minutes or until dough is smooth, making sure to scrape bowl occasionally.
  6. Pour dough into a parchment lined, well-greased, metal 9×5 bread pan. Cover with cloth or plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Remove cloth when bread has risen enough to almost touch it. Allow to rise another 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  8. Bake 35-40 minutes, until firm all through.
  9. Remove loaf from pan and allow to cool on wire rack.
  10. Cool completely before slicing.

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Great crumb, real-deal bread texture!
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These loaves got a little overdone as I was rehearsing music for our Sunday show…

 

 

 

The Quest for Health and Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

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I’m getting ready to celebrate five years of gluten-free living this January 1st. That’s something I wish I wasn’t celebrating because it’s a pain in the neck to live this way, except that I’m much healthier because of it.

My tale of digestion woes stretches back to early childhood when I developed a strong aversion to cheese. My mother thought I was just being picky, but it wasn’t only the smell of cheese I wanted to avoid, it was the way it made me feel: sick to my stomach.

Eventually, Mom just made me pasta and marinara sauce while the rest of the family had lasagna or manicotti. She left the parmigiana off my chicken on Christmas Eve and I picked most of it off my pizza.

As I got older, we figured out that butter caused my stomach to be upset too. On popcorn, in baked goods, etc. Then in my mid-teens, milk and ice cream started in. I was in denial. I hadn’t heard the term lactose intolerant at that time and the first doctor I went to asked if I could be pregnant and then mis-diagnosed me with IBS. What a joke! But after I switched to soy milk and found Lactaid at the grocery store, my symptoms eased a bit. I thought I’d be able to have the occasional ice cream treat, but I was wrong. I had to keep upping the dose of Lactaid and sometimes it still wouldn’t work. So I adopted a dairy free life for the most part. Every once in a while, I’d still cheat and have a bit of ice cream or a baked good with butter or cream and then I would pay for days afterward: nausea, gas, bloating, diarrhea. It was lovely. At twenty-seven I finally told myself dairy and I were not meant to be and enough was enough.

Dairy was the first component. The second was gluten. Since I was a kid, I noticed I’d get heartburn after I consumed baked goods and sometimes nausea as well. But what I never wanted to associate with my diet were my headaches. Often they were migraines, but not always, I had headaches between 2-5 times per week with some becoming so debilitating I would lie on the sofa with the curtains drawn just waiting for the day to end so my pain might lessen. When my kids were little, it was difficult to keep their noisiness to a minimum so I could rest. This was my life and I wished it were different.

Since I read all the time, I tried to find information about headaches and what might lessen their frequency and intensity. After much research and deliberation, I decided to give up gluten at the beginning of 2013. That was such a hard decision! I LOVE bread. But I knew I at least needed to try to improve my quality of life. People thought I was crazy or just on some fad diet, but I assured them this wasn’t about weight loss or wanting to eat on trend.

The first few weeks were like any other new diet plan–super hard! I didn’t know how to substitute anything, so right away I began searching the web for gluten free blogs, magazines, cookbooks, etc. I tried prepared flour blends and made my own. I tried several brands of pasta and bread. And I baked and cooked and baked some more. So many recipes were flops, but some were great.

One of my favorite blogs then and now is Sarah Bakes Gluten Free. If you need a birthday cake, some cupcakes, a batch of cookies, pudding, popsicles, etc., Sarah has you covered. She has her own flour blend that is easy to mix up, but her recipes will work with other gluten free flour blends as well. It’s a solid bunch of recipes you can rely on and I highly recommend her.

I’ve also made recipes from the Gluten Free Goddess blog. There’s a chocolate gingerbread recipe that’s to die for, as well as a peanut butter chocolate chip ice cream recipe that has a coconut milk base. Yum!

One very American recipe that up till now I haven’t been able to find is a great gluten free chocolate chip cookie. Until this week! I purchased two of Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain cookbooks. She has a Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe made with almond and coconut flours. I made them Sunday just to see what all the fuss was about. Oh my goodness. Deliciousness! No heartburn, no sugar crashes, no overpowering brown rice flour or sorghum flour aftertaste. Just a really good, actually healthy cookie that I am thrilled about. Here is the link to her Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe. (The only thing I’ll do differently next time is use half the salt.) They’re still amazing though, just the way they are.

 

I’d love to hear about your own health journey!

 

Pie Happy

“Mother took the pie out of the oven and it hissed fragrant apple, maple, cinnamon steam through the knife cuts in the top crust. She was making her world beautiful. She was making her world delicious. It could be done, and if anyone could do it, she could.”
J.J. Brown, Death and the Dream

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The day before Thanksgiving, I baked a grain-free pecan pie from Gluten Free and More Magazine and I told you I would share photos if it came out right. Well, I’m happy to report that it came out beautifully and it tasted scrumptious even four days after Thanksgiving when I finally got around to trying it.

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The crust came together easily, with few ingredients and pressed into the pie plate without crumbling. It cracked, but was moist and it was easy to repair and crimp the edges.

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The filling just mixed up in a bowl and then was poured into the crust and baked.

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I am going to use this pie crust recipe for all sweet pies from now on. Apple is next on my list, and raspberry after that.

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“America has developed a pie tradition unequivocally and unapologetically at the sweet end of the scale, and at no time is this better demonstrated than at Thanksgiving.”
Janet Clarkson, Pie: A Global History

 

What did you bake this Thanksgiving?