Monday, July 21, 2014

How to Keep Blueberries From Sinking in Muffins

It is blueberry season! Stock up on those delicious gems now, while they are inexpensive and plentiful! I am so lucky to be able to pick blueberries at my CSA. This year, I also have the opportunity to picks lots of blueberries from a friend's bushes:

Lucky me!!

One of my favorite things to do with blueberries is preserve them. You will find my recipe for Blueberry Honey Jam in The Allergy-Free Pantry. In the meantime, I've made some blueberry muffins with the recipe from Learning to Bake Allergen-Free.

One common complaint about muffins is that the blueberries sink to the bottom creating a gooey mess and sticking to the pan. Today, I am sharing two tricks to avoid that mishap.

Solution #1: Coat the blueberries with flour before stirring them into the batter. Use any gluten-free flour to coat them, preferably whatever blend you use for the batter. Use only a tiny amount (about one teaspoon will coat 3/4 cup of blueberries). Extra flour could throw the recipe out of whack.

Solution #2: Place some of the blueberries by hand. Gently press them into the batter after you have distributed it in the cups of the muffin tin.

This is highly recommended if you plan to photograph the muffins after they have baked; you will be able to see blueberries oozing on top!

The same tricks apply to any fruit added to batter!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Crave Right Cookies – Product Review

Crave Right, a small gluten-free, vegan cookie company in the Northeast, sent me some samples of their cookies to try. Their cookies are all gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, and corn-free. They do contain sesame (one of the primary ingredients used).

Crave Right bills their cookies as a natural source of protein and fiber, and low glycemic. For example, the chocolate chip cookies have 4 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, and just 7 grams of sugar per serving. One serving is two cookies, with just 150 grams. These might just be the healthiest cookies I have ever seen.

The cookies are also grain-free – no flours (not even gluten-free flours) or starches are used in the making of these cookies. The package says “Crave one, eat two,” but I have to say, I wasn’t craving at all after eating one of these cookies – a testament to the low glycemic claim.

The cookies come in three flavors – chocolate chip, sesame, and chocolate chunk.

I love that they are individually wrapped, making them a great option for on-the-go families with food allergies.

I found the cookies to be considerably less sweet than the usual cookie; I would classify then more as protein bars than cookies. They are more of an on-the-go healthy snack than a treat. Those who are not allergic to sesame or other seeds may find these a great option to add to their pantry.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Sneak Peek into The Allergy-Free Pantry: Dill Pickles Recipe

I love my weekly trips to the farm. I never know what will be harvested each week, and so my CSA share is always a surprise. Last week I was delighted to find pickling cucumbers and brought home three pounds!

So what’s a girl to do with a bounty of pickling cucumbers? Make pickles, of course.

But it’s only July, and The Allergy-Free Pantry – with the best Dill Pickle recipe, ever, doesn’t come out until September when we will have moved onto to squash and potatoes. One of the best ways to save money is to take advantage of produce in season. The time to make those pickles is now! And so I am sharing a sneak peek into The Allergy-Free Pantry. Enjoy!

Dill Pickles

Pickles can be aged in the refrigerator (these are known as refrigerator pickles) or processed in a water bath and preserved for up to a year. Either way, you will need to sterilize glass jars and use two-part sealing lids. Pickling requires hot packing with brine; use vinegar with at least 5 percent acidity (check the label). Use pickling cucumbers to make sure the pickles will snap when you bite into them.

Makes 3 pints (1440 ml)
Use three 1-pint (16-ounce/480 ml) jars

1½ cups (360 ml) apple cider vinegar (5 percent acidity)
1½ cups (360 ml) water
2 tablespoons kosher or pickling salt
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
6 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
7 to 8 medium pickling cucumbers, ends removed, cut into spears

1. Start boiling the jars and preparing the lids (see note below). The jars need to boil for a full 10 minutes. You will need to boil the jars even if you aren’t canning.
2. Combine the vinegar, water, salt, garlic, peppercorns, and dill in a medium non-reactive saucepan, and bring the mixture to a boil.
3. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered.
4. Remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, drain the water from them, and fill them with the cucumbers. Do not overpack the jars; leave at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of space from the top of the pickles to the top of the jar.
5. Pour the brine over the cucumbers, leaving ½ inch (13 mm) of headspace. Make sure the cucumbers are completely covered with brine. Place the lids on the jars and secure them with rings.
6. If you are making refrigerator pickles, let the filled jars cool and then refrigerate them. Let the pickles age for 1 week before eating (they need time to pickle) and use them within 3 months.
7. Otherwise, you can extend the shelf life of the pickles by processing them in a water bath for 10 minutes (see note below); use them within a year.

* The Allergy-Free Pantry includes details on how to prepare the jars and process a water bath or refer to a complete text on Canning (e.g. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving).

Recipe from The Allergy-Free Pantry: Make Your Own Staples, Snacks, and More without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts, copyright © Colette Martin, 2014. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available September 9, 2014 wherever books are sold.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Final Cover

As I write this blog post, I am hesitant to use the word "final," because nothing is final with book publishing until the book goes to print. And even then (because it's all digital), it can be changed in future printings. Nevertheless, here is the final cover for The Allergy-Free Pantry:

You may have seen earlier versions on amazon (which will be updated soon) and even on my website, but I'm loving this version. Less than three months before I'll have the book in my hands, and you can too, by pre-ordering it now!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Loving Garlic Scapes! (with Recipes)

One of my summer joys is my weekly trip to the farm to pick up my CSA share. While some CSA’s have designated items for each shareholder, I fell fortunate that my CSA allows us to select the items we want to take home each.

I discovered garlic scapes a few years at the CSA, and look forward to them every year – they are one of the items I always select, if I have an option to. Other “must bring home” items include lettuce and scallions. Seriously, it’s impossible to have too much!

So, what is a garlic scape? It’s the flowering stem of a garlic plant. While the garlic grows underground, the scapes shoot up through the soil, giving us greens that can be harvested in late spring/early summer (whereas the garlic bulbs will be much later in the season). Not surprisingly, they taste garlicky! But not too garlicky. Like most greens, they can be eaten raw or cooked.

One of my favorite uses for garlic scapes is to make pesto:

Garlic Scape Pesto

About 15 garlic scapes, ends trimmed
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons shelled hemp seeds
½ to ¾ cup olive oil

Place all the scapes, salt, lemon juice, hemp seeds, and ½ cup of olive in a food processor. Blend on low speed until everything is chopped and well mixed. Add up to ¼ cup more oil, until desired consistency is reached. (Add even more oil if you are using this as a pasta sauce or dipping sauce.)

The shelled hemp seeds replace pine nuts (usually found in traditional pesto) giving it a slightly nutty taste and some protein.

Now, what to do with the garlic scape pesto? How about making a chicken salad?

Garlic Scape Pesto Chicken Salad

2 grilled chicken breasts, diced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
½ cup Garlic Scape Pesto (see above)

Mix all of the ingredients together and refrigerate.

And here are some more ideas on how to use that yummy Garlic Scape Pesto:
  • Use it as a pasta sauce
  • Top off a pizza (instead of tomato sauce)
  • Use it as a dipping sauce for gluten-free bread
  • Use it as a sandwich spread
Or just use your imagination! If you have an idea for how to use garlic scapes, please share!