Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Butternut Squash Seed Butter

Are you one who slices open a winter squash, scoops out the seeds, and throws them away? I was, but not anymore! I’ve been on a “use everything” kick lately, and so I was determined to find a use for those seeds.

Did you know that the seeds of a squash (or a pumpkin) are very high in fiber and protein? They also contain calcium and vitamins. Lots of good reasons to use them!


The first step is to save the seeds. Depending on your squash, the seeds may be well entangled in the fibers found in the center of the squash. Separate them as best you can, and then soak them in salted water for a few hours. That will help loosen the fibers from the seeds and allow you to separate them all. Dry them on a paper towel. Let them dry overnight.

An added benefit to this do-it-yourself method? There’s no risk of cross contact with another food you might be allergic to due to “shared equipment.”

Once the seeds are dry you will want to roast them for 12-15 minutes in a 350-degree oven. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Super easy! Once roasted, you can eat the seeds just as you would any other roasted seed or nut. Add them to cereal, trail mix, or simply eat them by the handful.

The method I used to make Butternut Squash Seed Butter is the same as I use to make Sunflower Seed Butter. These seeds are dryer than sunflower seeds and won’t release as much natural oil – that means you need to add it.

Butternut Squash Seed Butter

Makes about ½ cup

2/3 cup Roasted Butternut Squash Seeds
¼ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
2 teaspoons organic cane sugar
2+ tablespoons sunflower seed oil (or an oil that is safe for you)

Use a small food processor to grind the seeds. Add salt and sugar and process some more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl between each processing step. Add the oil, ½ tablespoon at a time, and process some more until the desired creaminess is reached.


The final result will be both nuttier and less creamy than the typical sunflower seed butter, but still delicious and very good for you!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bob’s Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook Review

Here’s a new book that you won’t want to miss! I received a complimentary review copy of Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook: 281 Delicious Whole-Grain Recipes by Camilla V. Saulsbury, (Robert Rose, 2015), which was just recently released.


I will begin by noting that you don’t have to be a user of Bob’s Red Mill products to get a lot of use out of this cookbook. Yes, you can purchase all of the grains and other gluten-free products used in the recipes from Bob’s Red Mill, but if you avoid Bob’s Red Mill products (most likely due to tree nut allergies), you can of course use whatever brand works for you.

All of the recipes in the cookbook are gluten-free. Most are dairy-free or could be adapted to be dairy-free. The baking recipes often use eggs – again, many of these could be adapted. Some recipes use nuts, but most could be made without nuts.

I use cookbooks for inspiration and I found a great deal of inspiration here. What I love about the book is that the recipes don’t try to be “sugar-free” or use lots of fake stuff in place of natural sugars, but the recipes use healthy whole grains – and lots of them!

Millet was one of the first gluten-free grains that my family embraced, so it’s fitting that I can share this recipe from the book:

Baked Millet, Apple and Raisin Breakfast ‘Cupcakes'

Part muffin, part cereal and 100% delicious, these portable millet “cupcakes” are the new definition of fast food.

Makes 12 cupcakes
12-cup muffin pan, greased


1 ½ cups unsweetened apple juice
2 large tart-sweet apples (such as Gala, Braeburn or Golden Delicious), peeled and shredded
1 cup millet
3⁄4 cup raisins or other chopped dried fruit
1⁄4 tsp fine sea salt
2 tbsp warmed virgin coconut oil

1. In a medium saucepan, bring apple juice to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in apples, millet, raisins, salt and coconut oil; cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
3. Divide millet mixture equally among prepared muffin cups.
4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until tops are pale golden and slightly puffed. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then transfer to the rack to cool completely.

Tips

An equal amount of olive oil or melted unsalted butter can be used in place of the coconut oil.
An equal amount of amaranth or quinoa, rinsed, can be used in place of the millet.

Storage Tip
Store the cooled “cupcakes” in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before serving.

Credit line: Recipe and photos courtesy of Bob’s Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook by Camilla V Saulsbury, 2015 © Robert Rose. Reprinted with publisher permission.

A final note
: I would be remiss if I didn’t note that in reviewing the book I came across some incorrect information on gluten-free product labeling laws. I have shared that with the publisher and they have assured me that future printings will be corrected. In the meantime, if you want to understand gluten-free labeling under the FALCPA, see my posts here and here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

An Update on Shortening -- Earth Balance Product Review

My favorite, go-to shortening for baking has long been Earth Balance Natural Shortening. This is the shortening I use for creating recipes, and I even wrote the product name into many of the recipes in Learning to Bake Allergen-Free. This product has now been renamed "Vegan Shortening," but contains the same ingredients as the previously named "Natural Shortening" and still comes in a green and pale yellow box, in stick form.

The problem with Earth Balance Vegan Shortening -- for some with food allergies -- is that is contains soybean oil. (If you are allergic to soy, your doctor may or may not direct you to also avoid soy fats e.g., soybean oil and soy lecithin.) Those avoiding soybean oil must choose another option when a recipe calls for shortening. The Earth Balance product available (until recently) to meet that need was the Soy Free Buttery Spread. This product is not as stiff as shortening, making it less than optimal when a recipe really needs shortening because it gets weepy and blends too easily. If you are cutting shortening into flour (e.g., for pie crust) or creaming shortening with sugar (e.g., in the cookie recipe used here) you want to choose the most solid shortening you can (while still avoiding your allergens).

Enter Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Sticks. I stumbled upon these recently in my local health food store. They were all out of the vegan shortening so I picked up a package of these buttery sticks to try. Here's a comparison of what the soy free buttery sticks look like (on the right) compared to the vegan shortening (on the left). The soy free sticks have a deeper color but they did hold their own after sitting at room temperature for a few minutes:


Unlike the vegan shortening, the soy-free sticks do contain some pea protein, making them a little bit softer than the vegan shortening but stronger than the soy free buttery spread. Nevertheless, I wanted to give the product a really good test as a shortening to see how it would perform. I decided to do a controlled test by making the same Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies I posted a couple weeks ago, and changed just one ingredient -- I subbed the soy free buttery sticks for the vegan shortening.

I am really pleased with the results:


The cookies spread while baking (more so than when made with the vegan shortening) but not in an unruly way. The taste was virtually indistinguishable, but the texture was a bit softer.


My overall assessment of this product is quite favorable. I would still choose the vegan shortening, if you can, but the soy free buttery sticks are a great second choice!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour - Product Review

I always feel like a very lucky girl when I receive new products to try, and this new flour blend from Bob's Red Mill was no exception. Until now, the Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flour blend that was available was based on bean flours (making it unique in the market). This new flour blend ditches the beans, making it similar in profile to most of the gluten-free flour blends you can find on the market. I received a free sample of Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour to try.

Here's the scoop on the ingredients: The flour blend combines sweet white rice, brown rice, and sorghum flours with potato starch and tapioca starch. Xanthan gum is included. As with most Bob's Red Mill products, this is produced in a certified gluten-free facility. It contains no dairy or eggs, but is manufactured in a facility that also processes tree nuts and soy.

While the package claims the flour can be used as a 1 for 1 replacement for wheat flour (hence the name), I would not recommend using it that way. The flour weighs 148 grams per cup, making it a full 24 grams per cup heavier than wheat flour. As always, I recommend weighing your flour (using something like this Primo Digital Kitchen Scale.

Now for the real test -- how does the flour perform in baking?


I made some Cherry Chocolate Chunk muffins using the recipe found here.


The muffins browned nicely (something that is difficult to achieve with a rice-based blend), and the flour blend performed okay. Nevertheless, I found the flour to be on the heavy side, with a gumminess to it (and hence it won't make my top flour blends list). If you want to give it a try, I suggest sticking to muffins, cakes, or cookies.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Allergen-Free Version of King Arthur Flour’s Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

When I King Arthur Flour announced their 2015 Recipe of the Year for Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies, I immediately put it on my list to create an allergen-free version.

My recipe is half of the King Arthur Flour version – any more than that and I’d be eating way too many cookies. But feel free to make the larger batch if it suits your needs. The key changes here are the use of gluten-free flours (and oatmeal), along with the corresponding additions (noted below), and use of a flaxseed egg instead of the traditional egg.


Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies (inspired by King Arthur Flour’s recipe of 2015)

Ingredients:

½ cup (8 tablespoons) shortening, at room temperature (I used Earth Balance Natural Shortening)
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 flaxseed egg (instead of the egg and egg yolk)
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
124 grams King Arthur Flour gluten free whole grain flour blend (instead of 1 cup of All Purpose Flour - please weigh the flour!)
½ cup old-fashioned gluten-free oats
½ teaspoon xanthan gum (added)
2 teaspoons baking powder (I doubled to account for no eggs and no gluten and left out the baking soda)
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (the original recipe called for 1 ½ cups – 3 cups for the full recipe. That’s a whole lot of chocolate chips, even for me, so I reduced it.)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Beat together the shortening and sugars until grainy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically. Note that this recipe uses the invaluable technique of “creaming” whereby the sugar granules are coated with fat. Don’t skip this step! Add the flaxseed egg and vanilla and beat them into the sugar mixture.

Whisk together the flour, oats, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt, and add it to the mixing bowl. Mix until everything is thoroughly blended. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand. I was tempted to refrigerate the batter for an hour before scooping the cookies, but I found that it really wasn't required.

I used a #40 scoop to make “regular” size cookies. Use a larger scoop if you are preparing these for a special event or bake sale.


Scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving space in between.

Bake the cookies for 15 minutes (add a minute if you like your cookies crunchy). Note that they won’t be as golden as cookies made with wheat, but they are delicious!


These cookies are moist, gooey when warm, and very chocolatey. Do you think it’s okay to serve them for breakfast?