gluten-free Tag

Hey! The blog has been really quiet for ages (years!), I know. But we’re back in Slovakia for a few weeks, so we thought we’d share some thoughts and pictures from the old homestead. We’ll try out some recipes as well.

yogurt granola parfe 4

One of the first things we noticed was how much the food culture here has improved. Score! I used to tease Valerian because he always reads the supermarket circulars that come in the mail (which go straight to recycling in California). But they’re actually worth a look these days; while the pictures of raw chicken are still a feature, there are so many new products! There’s chia seeds, hummus, fancy cheese, and yes, that’s Ben & Jerry’s!

Circulars

Really, though, we’ve come for nostalgia: utopenci, Mila, kifli/rožok, lángos, yogurt and all the candy. There’s even a retro version of the local beer, isn’t it cute?

Pheasant by bowl

When we moved to our house in Slovakia, we were so excited to have a huge garden. We went a little crazy planting trees, which were still skinny saplings when we left. No longer! We have a jungle out there.

IMG_20160620_224321

The plums were sadly shut out by a late frost, but the cherries are loaded–we have a long-suffering old tree in the front of the yard, and back in the orchard, we have several varieties of both sweet and tart/cooking cherries. Apples and Asian apple-pears are on their way, and possibly even before we leave there will be peaches ready to eat.

Valerian created a “berry alley,” which is now overgrown into more of a patch, with plenty of raspberries, some struggling gooseberries, and rampaging currants both black and red.

yogurt grnola parfe 5

Years ago when I visited a Swedish friend at her home near Stockholm, she served an amazing dinner and afterwards, took us out to her back yard where she had a thicket of red currant bushes at the edge of a lake. We filled a bowl in the late twilight of the far north, and then brought the berries back in where my friend crushed them with a little sugar and served them over vanilla ice cream. It was a simple and splendid way to finish the evening.

yogurt granola parfe 2

We do love our European yogurt, so I was inspired to layer up some parfaits to celebrate our summer return. Easy and festive! Maybe you’ve had red currant sauce at Ikea, or tried black currant jam; if you see some in the produce section, snap up a pint and try this recipe (or just substitute another berry). If you can’t find currants, raspberries or blueberries are just as delicious, and probably need less sugar.

Granola and currant yogurt parfaits
Serves 4
Crispy granola, creamy yogurt, and sweet-tart currants make a satisfying breakfast or, with a drizzle of honey, a festive dessert
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
For the granola
  1. 2 cups oats
  2. 1 cup slivered almonds
  3. 1 1/2 cups puffed rice
  4. 1/2 tsp. salt
  5. 1/3 cup olive oil
  6. 1/3 cup honey
For the parfaits
  1. 2 cups red or black currants, or a mixture (about a pint), or another berry
  2. 2 tsp. granulated sugar or to taste
  3. 4 cups plain or vanilla yogurt
First, make the granola
  1. Preheat the oven to 325° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then stir in oil and honey. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Spread the mixture in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, stir gently, then bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before stirring to get nice chunks of granola.
While the granola bakes, prepare the currants
  1. In a medium bowl, gently crush the currants with the back of a spoon. Stir in the sugar.
Create the parfaits
  1. When the granola is cool, layer the yogurt and currants in four jars or glasses. Top with the granola (you'll likely have leftovers). Top with additional honey, if you like a sweeter treat!
Notes
  1. Granola adapted from Megan Gordon, A Sweet Spoonful
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/
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While I was growing up eating Jell-O pudding cups,* halfway across the world Valerian was snacking on miláčik. Now, miláčik means “darling” or “dear” in Slovak, so if you run a search on it, you’ll get a rather surprising selection of results, particularly pet photos.

Last time he was back in the Old Country, Valerian noticed that miláčik is basically sweetened, flavored sour cream, and so when he returned to California, he decided to whip us up a batch himself. It’s not quite as firm as the kind you buy in the store, which sometimes is called tvarohový miláčik because it’s made with tvaroh, the local cheese that’s similar to ricotta. Valerian’s recipe here couldn’t be simpler, though, and while the vanilla bean gives you those authentic little speckles, just bump up the amount of good quality vanilla extract if that’s what you have. Sour cream makes a perfect consistency to top or fill crepes, or, honestly, just slurping it up all on its own. Good thing I’m wearing these elastic-waist pants.

Sour Cream Desert
This creamy delight falls somewhere between a pudding and a sauce. If vanilla seems, well, too vanilla, sift in a tablespoon of cocoa powder and make a chocolate version instead. Could you use yogurt instead of sour cream? Sure, but then you'll have flavored yogurt.
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 16 oz. container sour cream
  2. ¼ cup brown sugar
  3. 1 vanilla bean
  4. ½ tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and their surrounding paste.
  2. Whisk together the sour cream, sugar, and vanillas in a medium bowl.
  3. Serve in small bowls, as a topping or filling for crepes or pound cake.
Notes
  1. Your kids will fall in love with this. It is easy to make so let them do the work.
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/

Here in California, you could easily assemble a meal from prepacked components almost every night of the week. There are pre-formed hamburger patties, sure to please our six-year-old; par-baked loaves of artisanal bread, even packages of coleslaw with squeezable pouches of dressing to toss together. While we haven’t used too many of these shortcuts, knowing they’re out there is reassuring. Sure it’s cheaper to buy a bunch of green beans and top and tail them yourself, but sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day and you can throw together some pretty impressive meals in a short time using pre-prepared ingredients.

Case in point: this salad. Trader Joe’s sells steamed beets and pre-cut butternut squash right next to its bags of salad mix. A little farther down the aisle are the cheeses, I grabbed smoked mozzarella because the kids love it. Nab some bread (oh, and maybe some of the chocolate-covered almonds, them’s healthy fats) and head home to your new favorite salad.

Arugula salad with roasted squash and beets
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 3 medium beets
  2. 1 medium (1-2 lb.) butternut squash, or one package of pre-cut squash
  3. 1 tsp olive oil
  4. 4 ounces (115 grams) smoked mozzarella cheese, diced
  5. 6 ounces (170 grams) arugula, three or four big handfuls
  6. salt and pepper
For the dressing
  1. 1 Tbs + 1 tsp good-quality olive oil
  2. 1 Tbs + 1 tsp whole-grain Dijon mustard
  3. ½ clove garlic, crushed
  4. 2 tsp maple syrup
  5. 2 Tbs red wine vinegar
  6. salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Prepare a pot with a steamer insert. Remove the tops and scrub the beets so they’re nice and clean, then chop them into about ½-inch cubes, and steam for 10-12 minutes or until they are just beginning to get tender (stick a fork one in to check).
  2. Preheat the oven to 400° F (200° C) and lightly coat/spray a baking sheet with vegetable oil. While the beets are cooking, prepare your squash: if you have a whole squash, cut off the “neck”, peel it and dice it into ½-inch cubes. (You can also peel and cut up the bulbous part and clean out the seeds, but I usually save that for another time.) If you’re using pre-cut squash, just make sure the pieces are all about the same size as the beets. Toss with the teaspoon of olive oil to coat, and spread on the prepared baking sheet.
  3. When the beets have steamed, put them on the baking sheet with the squash. They’ll color the squash where they touch, but I consider that a feature, not a bug. Sprinkle everything with salt and pepper, and slide into the oven to bake for about 20 minutes, tossing once halfway through.
  4. While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the dressing: whisk together the mustard and oil, and stir in the garlic. Add the maple syrup, and then the vinegar, tasting to see that the proportions are as you like. Add salt as needed.
  5. Rinse and dry the arugula.
  6. When the vegetables are tender and starting to brown, take them out of the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes.
  7. In the biggest bowl you have, toss the vegetables, arugula, and mozzarella with the dressing and serve.
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/

This isn’t my first waltz with gluten-free baking, but almost. I made some gluten-free cupcakes for a birthday party this summer, and let’s just say that even before I burned them they weren’t exactly winners. It’s a pretty different ball game, this gluten-free stuff. (What, how long do you expect me to sustain a single metaphor?)

We have friends who can’t have gluten, which has given me a bit of a push towards trying some of the rapidly-multiplying gluten-free recipes out there. And really, we have dinners that don’t include gluten fairly often without even trying. But baking, not so much. There are so many interesting flours available right now, though, that it’s fun to incorporate them even where health concerns aren’t an issue. They have interesting flavors and textures of their own that may not be exactly like the usual wheat flour-based ones, but are delicious in their own right.

I realize that if you are a Central European reader, you may not have access to as many of these ingredients, at least not easily. But even before we moved, I was amazed to see that bigger “bio” stores were stocking a much wider range of grains, flours and other staples than I’d seen before, not to mention the number of packaged gluten-free products. So take a look around, you may strike it rich – it’s a good time to be gluten free!

This particular recipe is adapted from an applesauce cake on the Healthy Seasonal Recipes blog. My ears pricked up at the words “snack cake”, because, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of all kinds of muffins, quick breads and their ilk. This one didn’t disappoint – it’s not too sweet, moist, and has an almost puddingy texture. What with autumn arriving, I thought the apple original might lend itself to a pumpkin version, so I set about tweaking the recipe for an October weekend, swapping pumpkin for apple, using maple syrup rather than honey, adding some cornmeal, and to reassure the kids that it really is cake, some mini chocolate chips. The result: excellent. Just what’s called for on an afternoon where the wind is picking up, the clouds are moving in, and you’re ready for a cozy and easy baking project. To return to my original metaphor, you’ll want to add it to your dance card.

Gluten-free pumpkin chocolate chip cake
Adapted from Healthy Seasonal Recipes

The chocolate chips here are optional, but awfully nice. Mini ones work best, since the cake has a fine crumb that might not hold together so well with larger chunks of chocolate. Make sure you use a more fine-ground cornmeal, polenta for example is too gritty in this context.

Ingredients

Makes about 8-10 generous slices of cake

  • 2 cups cooked pumpkin, canned or fresh
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1½ cups brown rice flour
  • ½ cup fine-ground cornmeal
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • generous ½ cup mini chocolate chips

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C and grease a Bundt pan.
  • In a blender or tall measuring cup, combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, maple syrup, and brown sugar. Use an immersion blender or, you know, a blender to thoroughly combine.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together rice flour, cornmeal, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt.
  • Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until combined; stir in chocolate chips.
  • Scrape into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched.
  • Cool in the pan for five minutes before turning cake out onto a rack to cool. Allow it to cool completely (or as long as you can wait) before slicing.

 

Gluten free cake
There is not a mistake in the title – yes, it is Valeria. Valeria was my grandmother, who I never met, but I was named after her. Everybody in the family remembers her as an amazing cook and queen of Hungarian recipes.  During the war (WWII), she ran a small workers’ kitchen, and her cooking is still remembered by those who outlived her. The problem with my grandmother’s recipes is that she wrote them for herself. She did not write a lot about how to prepare this cake,  at which temperature to cook it, how long to cook it, what kind of cake pan to use. I tried to check online and asked some friends but when I mentioned the ingredients, they said “no flour? you must be missing a page!”. So I looked into early twentieth and late nineteenth-century cookbooks, and there it was. Potato torte,  at least 4-5 versions. Mr. Kugler (a Hungarian pastry celebrity from the early twentieth century) explains a lot about the cake, but my questions were still unanswered.  It seems that since then this recipe has been forgotten. So we had to experiment and bring it back. The main difference between my grandmother’s and Mr. Kuglers recipe is that my grandmother wrote it during or right after war, so she used a limited range of ingredients.  Her version of the cake is great not only for people with gluten intolerance but for people watching their fat intake and for people who watch their wallets. A great cake for hard economical times.

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