Category Archives: Fare

Especially coconut

Delicious Flame (Grapes)

I had  finished my chores and eaten lunch, and decided to go outside to Effieland and pick some more Flame grapes while proprietress Effie napped inside.

I picked a pound and five ounces in a couple of minutes, and it took another 10 minutes or so to rinse and stem the grapes. Effie slept through the whole project, completely incurious.

Flames are now my favorite variety of grape. They are sweet with zing, and festively colorful.

Earwigs tend to like grapes as well. Earwigs are also my least favorite bug. With fair consistency, one will emerge from the grapes while I am rinsing them and race creepily along my hand. One did this as I rinsed the grapes I picked today. I flicked the slithery creature into the drain and provided  a hot-water escort to hasten its journey.

Flame grapes



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Salvaged: The recipe for disaster

I rarely bake cookies. I normally prefer to avoid gratuitous carbs, but when moved to taunt my pre-diabetic metabolism, ice cream is the usual standby. That said, after making bread today, I felt like making chocolate cookies, so I searched online for a gluten-free recipe.

Most of the chocolate cookie recipes that came up were much too complicated to hold my attention. My cooking threshold is about 10 minutes; then I set my kitchen timer to alert me when the moment of rescue is at hand.

I finally found a simple recipe touting six minutes of preparation time and another six for baking. The ingredients weren’t exactly what I had on hand, but I’ve gone through life with the axiom that all such things are interchangeable.

The recipe contained no flour, though it did call for a cup of cocoa powder, which I always have on hand (we use it on ice cream). Egg whites were the recipe’s key to crisp, meringue-like cookies. They’re in there, but my cookies turned out soft, which was fine.

The recipe called for confectioner’s sugar. I only have raw sugar. No problem; I simply used less. Of course, I thought the crystals would melt like granulated sugar. They don’t, but they do remain sweet and crunchy. The other thing distinguishing confectioner’s from raw sugar is corn starch. Absent gluten, I figured xanthan gum would be a fair equivalent as a binder. In fact, a teaspoon of xanthan gum brought my dough to a consistency approximating grout. Baking for seven minutes nevertheless resulted in competently cohering soft cookies. Still, I was amazed at how sticky the dough was, and how long it took to get it off the spoon and onto the cookie sheet.

The experiment was hardly a write-off, and it’s not unlikely I’ll make these particular cookies again. I have some good reasons: I prefer soft cookies to meringue; I like the crunch of raw sugar; and, most important of all, my husband pronounced these cookies wonderful. And, they go well with ice cream.

I’m not including the recipe I modified and used, because I only meant this post to be an adventure story, not a publishable recipe. The truly adventurous will find their own–and likely far better–chocolate cookie recipe!

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Multi-Flour Bouquet: A Gluten-Free Pound Cake

This cake is gluten-free and slightly lower in carbohydrates than a traditional wheat-flour recipe because the coconut flour is all fiber and fat with no carbs; the same applies to the coconut milk. Coconut flour binds–I mean, really binds–so it lends a wonderful flavor and replaces the guar or xanthan gum normally necessary to replace gluten.

¾ cup buckwheat flour
¾ cup sorghum flour
¼ cup coconut flour
2 teasp. baking soda
1 cup butter
¾ cup sugar
4 eggs
2 teasp. vanilla
¼ cup coconut milk

In larger (of 2) bowl, beat butter smooth. Add sugar, eggs, vanilla, & coconut milk one at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. In smaller bowl, combine flours and baking soda. Mix and add to wet ingredients; beat until smooth. Spread into 9” greased pan and bake at 350° for 45 min. or until done.

Variation: You can add a chocolate feature to this recipe. Add 1/4 cup of unsweetened baking cocoa (lots of antioxidants and no carbs) and increase the coconut milk to 1/3 to 1/2 cup.

Personal Rating: Honestly incredibly delicious.

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Gluten-Free Cocoa-Banana Cake

My original quest was to figure out a recipe for a buckwheat version of banana bread. I didn’t want to take the time to look at myriads of banana bread recipes on the Internet and simply substitute buckwheat for wheat flour. I don’t own a cookbook. When cookbooks enter my life, my generous, re-gifting nature is at once revealed. I favor simplicity, and I like easy formulas that work. My gluten intolerance, and the fact of having a couple of overripe bananas and a supply of buckwheat flour (buckwheat is gluten-free) on hand provided the motivation.

The pleasant surprise was that my banana bread was more like cake: light and fluffy. Should you wish to make this banana cake with wheat flour, I’d suggest using a fine-milled pastry flour.

Here is my recipe:
2 cups buckwheat flour
2 overripe bananas
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened or sweetened)
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup any type of milk (I use coconut milk)

Mash bananas; mix all ingredients together into a thick batter. Use a non-stick spatula to transfer batter to a greased 9” baking pan, loaf pan, or equivalent, and bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until done.

I think it’s pretty yummy. 🙂

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I made some biscuits. . .

For no particular or at least identifiable reason Saturday evening, I wanted to make some buckwheat biscuits. Probably the thought of having buckwheat biscuits Sunday morning was behind the motive. Underlying the specific thought of buckwheat biscuits in particular was the fact that buckwheat flour was the only sort of flour we had in the house. Gluten-free flour comes in a lot of stupidly expensive boutique varieties, but I just buy bulk buckwheat flour at Rosauer’s, an otherwise fairly stupidly expensive boutique supermarket where I hate to shop, largely because it is apparent that their parking lot was designed by a group of starving auto body shop entrepreneurs.

Buckwheat, by the way, is a dicot, not a grass, and so unrelated to wheat, but fairly closely allied to rhubarb.

I had no idea how to make biscuits and I have no cookbooks because I don’t like them, so I looked up a recipe for buckwheat biscuits online. The first four promising-looking entries were nothing but link farms with no recipes. But eventually I landed on an honest person’s recipe for actual buckwheat biscuits.

The recipe called for 2 cups of “featherlight flour mix,” which is probably a blend of gluten-free flours that typically include potato, corn, and/or tapioca starch to bind the ingredients in place of gluten. I didn’t have any featherlight, so I substituted buckwheat flour, which has no binding agent at all. After all, I wasn’t making the biscuits to sell at Starbucks or something.

The recipe called for 1 teaspoon of guar gum or 3/4 teaspoon xanthum gum. I had guar gum! I had six bags of it. In went a teaspoon of guar gum that had waited two years to find its purpose in life. I am not a hoarder of guar gum. I have an entire case of guar gum for the same reason I have 100 coconut mango oolong teabags: Amazon Free Super Saver Shipping. Sometimes you buy a little more of something than you need. Sometimes you buy something you hadn’t thought of needing at all, in order to get something else you do need shipped free. Free shipping can be a powerful motivator; I suspect it is the bedrock of the Amazon empire.

The recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Check.

The recipe called for 1 tablespoon of baking powder. I didn’t have any of that, but I had a 10-pound bag of baking soda, which is not attributable to Free Super Saver Shipping, but to its usefulness for multiple household purposes. It’s locally available, it lasts forever, and we have room for it. So I used a tablespoon of that instead. The biscuits rose sufficiently and the soda didn’t mar the taste perceptibly.

The recipe called for 1/2 cup of shortening. I used butter because I had it.

The recipe called for 2/3-3/4 of a cup of milk or milk substitute. I used 2/3 of a cup of coconut milk because I had it.

The recipe called for the dry ingredients to be whisked in a medium bowl until well blended. Then it dictated that the shortening be cut in with a pastry cutter or two knives, after which I was given to understand that the mix should look like coarse crumbs. Okay, whoa. First, I only have a large mixing bowl, designed in Italy and manufactured in New Zealand. So I used that. Second, I was more interested in cutting some of these nonsensical little steps involving pastry cutters and knives, so I combined the ingredients with a silicone blade-like tool that I have, and my hands, until the ingredients were well blended.

The recipe then said to add the milk a little at a time and mix until it all formed a ball. I knew from experience that this instruction was reasonable, so I followed it without significant deviation. Then I formed a ball of tractable dough with my flour-dusted hands. My husband opened the pantry door for me and took the flour back out so that I wouldn’t have to do these things with my well buttered hands. Ordinarily, there is nothing too clinically obsessive in putting things away before you are quite finished with them.

Finally, I divided the dough into 12 small balls. I didn’t have a cookie sheet, but my ungreased 9×12 Corning baking dish worked fine. I flattened the little balls somewhat and consigned them to my pre-heated 425° oven. 14 minutes later, just as the recipe said, my biscuits were done.

We had them with breakfast and with lunch. They were sliceable and also crumbly in the way biscuits ought to be. They were tasty with butter or tahini and raspberry jam. A well-conceived impulse, all in all.

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First fruits: homegrown popcorn

The small red cobs of corn are called “red popcorn,” homegrown especially for popping. The popped kernels are small, with a nutty popcorn flavor, and my husband grew a small patch this year as a novelty. It will take a lot of cobs to make a bowl of popcorn! Popcorn is my chiefest consolation for gluten intolerance. 🙂

The small bunch of sweet black grapes are the first fruits of our pinot noir vine. So far, only our jewel-colored harvest and the cooler mornings mark the transition between the sizzling summer I have so enjoyed, and fall.

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Oregano–and a bean recipe

I wish I could transmit the sweet strength of our garden oregano’s fragrance. My husband dried the sprigs and lightly crushed the leaves by hand. The green matter is leaves; the purple is oregano flowers, which have on equally piquant redolence and flavor.

When I cook beans for my husband (I seem to be intolerant at this point to all legumes, of which I miss beans the most), I cook them in water to which I add a teaspoon each of salt, cumin, and oregano.

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Tolerable Brownies

This is a very basic brownie recipe that could be adapted to accommodate most allergies/food intolerances. The particular concerns this variant addresses are gluten intolerance and volatile glucose issues. Unsweetened but not bitter, these brownies are probably not the sort you present to your new neighbors, unless you wish to establish a distancing trend. But if you are challenged, as I am, to find grain-based foods you can eat, they are the best thing in the world, and very easy to make.

Tolerable Brownies

2 c. buckwheat flour
1-1/2 c. water
1/4 c. canola oil |
1 square unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
2 teaspoons guar gum

Combine and thoroughly mix all ingredients; bake in oiled baking dish (I use a Corning Ware large square casserole to bake and store the brownies covered in the refrigerator) at 375 deg. for 25 minutes. Cool and cut. Makes 16 brownies, with approximately 15 gm of carbohydrates each. My husband likes these, and he can safely eat almost everything. For me, they’re the best brownies in the world, because I can have them. Welcome to my world.

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Appreciating squash

Squash is an autumn icon, a primordially fundamental food that is aesthetic and delicious. A big plus favoring squash in my case is that my malcontent metabolism permits me to eat squash. Happily, I like squash, and so does my husband. And growing squash adds another happy dimension as well: it meanders pleasantly around in the garden and up the fence espalier-style, sprawling across the ground, giving no nod to the notion of orderly rows. I even like the harvest-signaling sight of frost-blackened leaves and vines, the uninjured fruit of which continues to ripen in the sun.

I like zucchini, but I prefer the winter varieties of squash: butternut, acorn, and spaghetti. Since we began harvesting our zucchini in July, up through our final harvest of winter varieties today, our garden has provided daily squash portions. God has been kind. With the zucchini I was able to freeze and the squash we harvested today, we should be good for another month or two. After that, we will be obliged to face premium-priced squash grown in South America.

Squash is extremely easy to prepare, and I’m always surprised that people imagine it is difficult. In the past week, two of my friends and a cashier at Albertson’s have asked me how I cook squash, so I extrapolate from this the notion that everyone in the world must want to know how I cook squash. And so, behold, my intricate method:

To Cook a Squash

For zucchini: Slice longitudinally into wedges. Place in a microwavable dish of sufficient size (I use a ceramic pie pan) with about 2 inches of water. Microwave on high 5-6 minutes. Drain and serve.

For butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash: Trim stems and cut squash in half longitudinally. Remove seeds. Place face down (shell up) in a microwavable dish of sufficient size with about 2 inches of water. Microwave on high 13-15 minutes. In the case of spaghetti squash, you should be able to stick a fork into the skin and the skin should fall away intact from the squash fibers fairly easily, creating a neat mound of delicious spaghetti-like fibers. Sprinkle liberally with Parmesan cheese and, as with other winter squash, lots of butter.

I think squash would be my favorite vegetable even if I possessed a versatile metabolism.

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The joy and consolation of turnips

Turnips are the preeminent fulfillment of my quest for gluten-free, legume-free, low carbohydrate, filling food. They are as versatile as potatoes and much more nutritious, as well as much lower in carbohydrates. Today, we got out our Lehman’s apple peeler, and my husband peeled about 4 pounds of turnips within a few minutes while I sliced some with a knife, and he used the peeler to spiral-cut the rest, which I then summarily cut in quarters to make little crescents.

I was lavishly happy in my kitchen with piles of neatly sliced turnips, and a baking pan, a large skillet, a sauce pan, and a casserole dish at hand. My friend Judy had sent me the suggestion of making french fry-like roasted turnip slices. I spread olive oil in the baking pan, covered the surface with turnip slices, and sprinkled them with salt, pepper, and oregano. I had to bake them for almost 50 minutes at 425°, but they were very good, and I ate them with some eggs. My husband’s observation that they were just like hash browns gave me the idea of simply making hash brown turnips that I could microwave for future meals. That was easy: I put a pile of sliced turnips in a large skillet, added a fair amount of olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano, and fried them until most of them were golden brown. For someone who’s been unable to eat potatoes for several years because they elevate my blood glucose precariously, the hash brown turnips were trove from heaven.

While my turnip slices were were baking, I boiled a portion of sliced turnips until they were tender, and drained them. These were the basis of the turnip casserole recipe I developed, thinking there must be such a thing as a turnip soufflé. I actually found a recipe on the Internet for a turnip puff, but it used bread crumbs, an unacceptable commodity on grounds of gluten and carbohydrate content. So I modified the recipe using Parmesan cheese, and it worked beautifully.

Turnip Casserole

2 cups cooked, mashed turnips, cooled
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
2 eggs, separated

Combine turnips, Parmesan cheese, butter, seasonings, and egg yolks; mix with electric mixer until smooth. Beat egg whites until stiff; fold into turnip mixture. Pour turnip mixture into buttered 2-quart casserole. Bake at 350° for 40-50 minutes, until a knife blade inserted comes up dry.
Serves 4 to 6.

Afterword: my husband has planted two rows of Golden Globe turnips in our vegetable garden. The 55-day countdown commences….

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