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Entries in Gluten-Free (5)


Vanilla Poppy Seed Beet Cakes

Beets are my new secret ingredient. Lots of people say their secret ingredient is love. Well, mine is beets. I love beets, so I suppose it amounts to the same thing? Maybe?

I had my first beet dessert success with these gluten-free chocolate cupcakes, Rinny's Race Cakes. They were so good, people kept requesting I make them over and over again. The beets keep the cake moist. Super moist. Like so moist, I've stored them in my freezer for weeks (probably longer than I should) and they are still moist. Can you beet that? 

All puns aside, I wanted to make a vanilla version. I'm a chocolate girl, but John, he likes vanilla. But before you go calling vanilla boring, these cakes are anything but. Using golden beets, you can lock in that same cake moisture, while poppy seeds and salted pistachios give them a nice texture contrast. The salt from the pistachios also creates a nice contrast with the sweet coconut cream. The result is a true masterpiece. Great for breakfast, brunch, snacks and, well....pretty much all the time. Which is when I've been eating them anyway.

What You Need:

For the Cake:

1-½ cups almond meal

1 cup brown rice flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1-1/2 cups turbinado sugar or coconut sugar

4 small golden beets, roasted

3 eggs

½ cup almond milk

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used Colavita)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tbsp poppy seeds

1/2 cup salted pistachios, coarsely chopped

For the Frosting:

See my Coconut Cream recipe here.


First, roast the golden beets:

Preheat your oven to 400°F degrees.

Slice the beets in half and wrap them in aluminum foil.

Place the wrapped beets in the oven and roast for 30 minutes, or until soft when pierced through the center with a knife.

Remove the beets from the oven, allow to cool and then peel the skins off. Chop them into cubes.

Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees.

Place the cooled, chopped beets in a blender with the almond milk and puree until very smooth - so smooth you could drink it.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, brown rice flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, turbinado sugar and poppy seeds. Mix all these dry ingredients together.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, olive oil and vanilla extract.

Add the puréed beets to the egg mixture and mix to combine. Pour the wet beet mixture into the mixing bowl with all of the dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Prepare a cupcake tin by lining with cupcake paper or greasing with non-stick baking spray.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan (I used a mini bundt cake pan) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean.

Allow the cupcakes to cool.

Top them!

Drizzle some coconut cream frosting onto the tops of the cakes and sprinkle with the chopped pecans.

If you're not eating these right away (GASP!), you can store them (unfrosted) in the freezer, covered for 2 weeks.


Oh You Sweet Tater, You Are, You Are!

Another day, another adventure. In eating and in living.

Here we are in the beginning of August, and what do I have to show for it? Quite a lot, actually. There's a lot I haven't been telling you. I'm sorry. It's not personal. It's not you. It's me.

But let's reconcile. Kiss and make up? I'll fill you in on the details, and hopefully win you back with this recipe for Sweet Potato Tarts. They're gluten and dairy free. And totally delicious.

Did the words gluten-free just freak you out a bit? I hope so, they freak me out. Truth is, I've been experimenting with some gluten-free cooking. Readers of this blog know that I do a lot of physical activity, triathlon training and whatnot.

All this exercise has made me a bit sensitive to certain foods. It's also made me a VERY cheap date. One beer and I'm a very happy person. VERY happy. Just sayin'.

Anyway, I've started my own line of endurance snacks - Ciao Cycling Snacks. They're endurance snacks straight from your Italian Grandma's kitchen. If you'd like more info, you can check out the website here.

They will make you feel like this:

And that is how you want to feel, people, with a bike or without.

And speaking of bikes, as you may know I fractured my hip in a biking accident at the end of April. It's been a downer, as I haven't been able to run...that is, until a few weeks ago.

But the running...well, it's HARD. For this past NYC Triathlon, I wasn't in the running shape I wanted to be in. 

This was disappointing to me to say the least. But, I changed my goal for the race. I decided to run happy. Meaning, I would smile the ENTIRE 6.2 miles. I must take a moment to shout out to my teammate and friend Tommy who ran with me the whole time, ensuring that I neither went too fast (I have a broken hip, people!) nor stopped smiling. Thank you, Tommy.

Here is the evidence:

In addition to happy running, there are a few food-related things that are making me happy. Including:

Awesome tacos on the Upper West Side at Oaxaca. If you happen to go on a day when the Korean taco (pictured on the left) is a special, you are in luck.

The Classic Bibimbop on the Good Fork brunch menu. Ground beef, sticky rice, pickled carrots, some other pickled things...and a fried EGG. Bam. I travelled all the way to Red Hook for this. On the ferry. With Ikea goers. And I would do it again. So there.

Joe Coffee's cold brewed latte. With soy milk. And hot pink. Get the large. You'll be zooming the rest of the day.

And....finally, the Sweet Tater Tarts. These started with the graham crackers, featured here. I then used these to create a fantastically moist and flavorful crust. Let's go:

For the Crust
What You Need:

1 1/2 cup walnuts

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (just pulse some graham crackers in a food processor)

1 large egg (optional, you can do without it if you are vegan)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

What To Do:

Coarsely chop walnuts and graham crackers in a food processor until the mixture looks like fine crumbs.

Add the egg and melted butter to the crumb mixture and pulse to combine. The mixture should start to hold together in clumps.

Place a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan on a baking sheet. Crumble the mixture over the surface of the tart pan and press to form the crust. Alternately, you can use four small tart tins with removable bottoms (that's what I used).

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, until set.

For the Filling:
What You Need:

1 1/2 large sweet potatoes, baked until soft.

1/2 cup almond milk

1 tablespoon coconut sugar (you can use regular sugar if you must)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

What To Do:

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend!! Like you mean it. Spoon the resulting magical mixture into your tins or large pie dish. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes, until set.

For the Coconut Cream
What You Need:

1 can of full fat coconut milk (the kind that comes in a can)

2 tablespoons of confectioner's sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

What To Do:

Chill a large mixing bowl and the can of coconut cream in the freezer for 15 minutes.

After chilling, open the can coconut milk and spoon out JUST the top later of extra thick and rich and luxurious coconut cream into the chilled bowl.

Add the sugar and vanilla and whip on high speed with a hand-held mixer until it starts to firm up. You won't get stiff peaks of cream like you would with heavy cream. But after about 5-7 minutes of mixing it will start to hold together and get very thick. You can even place the resulting cream in the freezer after whipping to keep it extra chilled and thick.

When you are ready to serve, spoon the cream onto the tart and serve! Feel free to dust the top with a little cacao powder or maple sugar crystals.


It's About the Process – Gluten Free Graham Crackers

I'm writing today about process. In cooking and in life.

Whoa. This is a heavy topic for a Friday, yes? Not really.

A few things have gotten away from me this year. I've been very focused on end results. And in doing so, I've been forgetting the most enjoyable part – the process of getting there (or not getting there, as the case may be).

So, I've been taking more detours and trying to focus on the step-by-step process, regardless of where I am going. 

I've been doing this in the kitchen too. Often, I get very caught up in presenting to you the whole shebang. Eight million photos of the in-depth process of pizza making! 

You don't always need this. And I don't always have time to do it. So I'm going to give you something simple today. It's the first of a many-part series. I'll eventually get to the other steps, but I'm going to take a moment to celebrate this first one: Graham Crackers.

These grahams are also gluten-free. Why? I felt like it, that's why. I know gluten is a hot-button ingredient these days. It may also be a hot-button issue for me. I'm in the process of finding out. So while I await some blood-work, I decided to embrace some experimental baking in the form of these crackers.

They are delicious. They're not exactly like regular graham crackers. I used molasses to stick everything together and sweeten, so they are a bit firmer than a regular crumbly graham. I might like these better.

See what happens when you deviate from the path? Happy accidents. Here's a recipe for Happy Accident Gluten Free Graham Crackers:

What You Need:

3/4 cup almond flour

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch (yes cornstarch is gluten free! You can also use arrowroot powder)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons molasses (you might need a bit more, you can be the judge)

What You Do:

1. In a food processor combine almond flour, cornstarch, salt and molasses.

2. Blend until everything starts to stick together. You may need to add more molasses. Go ahead - a little at a time.

3. Form the dough into a ball and roll it out between two pieces of parchment paper to ¼ inch thick.

4. Cut dough into rectangles (however large you like your crackers).

5. Score rectangles into 4 equal parts and poke holes in the surface – make a fun pattern!

6. Bake at 350° for 6-9 minutes.

7. Cool completely, then serve!


Hoboken Farms and a Special Baked Pasta Recipe

A few weeks ago, I attended the Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center in NYC. This was such an insane collection of food entrepreneurs (both old and new), that went into sensory overload just trying to absorb it all...not to mention all the samples.

While I was there, I visited the Hoboken Farms booth. I had heard of Hoboken Farms before, but had not tried their product. At the show I was able to do that and talk with the founder, Brad Finkel.

Brad was incredibily enthusiastic about his brand and product, as he should be. The Big Red Sauce he was sampling was fantastic. He sent me on my way with an entire jar of it, and chatted with me over the phone about his brand, product and recipes.

First, a note on the Big Red Sauce: this is the sauce that your grandma made. That is, if your grandma was my grandma who spent all Sunday afternoon in the kitchen over a steaming pot of tomatoes simmered to a perfect reduction of sweetness and tanginess, with a touch of olive-oiliness and peppery punch. 

This is a difficult sauce to bottle. How do you bottle time? Or effort? Or grandmas? No comment on the last, but Hoboken Farms has figured it out. Their sauce comes out of the jar just as if it was poured directly from that giant pot on the stove. Instant Sunday afternoon.

Hoboken Farms commitment to quality goes way back to 1992. A time before hipster foodies. In 1992, John and I were drowning each other with Super Soaker 100's to the musical stylings of Heavy D (R.I.P.) and Kris Kros. I had not yet learned to pluck my eyebrows. John had not learned how to match his Jams shorts with his Bart Simpson t-shirts. But we had learned about good red sauce, from both our mom and our grandmother.

So had Brad. He learned cooking at his grandmother's knee, and in 1992 started to make his own mozzarella and sell it at local farm markets. Brad admits that he didn't know what a farm market was at this time. But he found eager customers there, and in one half hour, 50 pounds of his fresh mozzarella and 50 fresh loaves of bread sold out. He kept going and kept selling out.

Now, he has expanded to 30 farm markets (see locations here), a sandwich shop in Summit, NJ, the Juice Bar at NJ Equinox locations, and a Big Red Marinara Sauce that is sold in Whole Foods and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Through the farm markets, he maintains of loyal base of customers that keep returning. "The babies are growing up, having babies and shopping with us," says Brad proudly. The community extends online where menu offerings, events and recipes are shared. 

Brad shared one such recipe with me, which I vowed to create and share on this blog. It's a Baked Pasta recipe that he makes for his son, who is gluten intolerant. Gluten-free pasta is used in place of regular pasta. You can see the original recipe here, but I've also recreated it below to the best of my ability.

Side note: I ate this BEFORE and AFTER one of my recent races. Before, I ate it piping hot, taking my time to savor each melted cheese flavor blending with the tangy Big Red Sauce. After, I ate the cold leftovers with my bare hands like a raccoon in the trash. Both servings were excellent.

Here's how you can do the same:

What you need:

1 jar Hoboken Farms Big Red Marinara Sauce

1 lb Gluten-free pasta (I used a ziti cut, but you can use whatever you like)

1/2 lb fresh mozzarella cheese

1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

sea salt

What To Do:

Boil a large pot of water over medium-high heat on your stove top. When the water is boiling, season with a healthy pinch of sea salt. 

Throw in your gluten-free pasta and cook just under the recommended cooking time. The pasta will later be baked with sauce and will continue to absorb moisture, so to avoid "pasta mush" (a real and terrifying phenomenon), under cook your pasta slightly.

Drain the pasta.

In a baking dish, sprinkle in half of the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. Pour some Big Red sauce over the cheese. Add the pasta to the dish, and the remaining Big Red sauce. Top with the rest of the cheeses, and a few sprinkles of red pepper. 

Bake at 450' till golden brown (about 7 minutes).

I made mine in small ramekin for portion control and/or cute antipasto servings!

Eat hot, cold, with utensils or without...


Will Travel For Food - Rockaway Park Edition

As long as these warm, sunny days of summer persist, I will be taking my food adventures out-of-doors as much as possible. I will travel to the far reaches of the universe – like Queens! – in order to bring you outdoor eats reviews.

Last week during my "staycation" I travelled to Rockaway Park in Queens with a friend to test the waters, not of the ocean but of the food vendor scene on the boardwalk. There are a host of eating opportunities right on the boardwalk, around 96th Street.

My first stop was a cluster that included Babycakes, Motorboat & The Big Banana, and a smoothie stand (name unknown, but it was right next to Ode to the Elephants).

First, I sampled a mini Cookie Crumble donut from Babycakes. Babycakes makes gluten-free Vegan treats in many forms, but I am always attracted to donuts. Particularly mini ones. The dough on this one was very satisfying, as it was more like cake in consistency. Dense and squishy, with a "yellow" vanilla flavor, it was perfectly balanced by the crumble topping, juuuust enough frosting and a delicate accent of chips.

You can check out Babycakes full menu here.

My companion procured the above fantastic fried fish sandwich from Motorboat and the Big Banana. The ridiculousness of the name of this institution has not escaped me, but neither did a few bites of this sandwich. Packed with flavor and nestled between a lightly toasted potato bun, various cabbages and decorated with a tangy tartar, this "sangwich" was exceptionally light and fresh. The fish fry was noteworthy: light, slightly salty and crispy.

For Motorboat's location, see Yelp's listing here.

At the unnamed smoothie stand, I ordered up a Tropical Smoothie. Blended with papaya, banana and soy milk, this concoction was ever-so-slightly sweet and amazingly light. No heavy post-smoothie regret here. Am i the only one that experiences that?

Brought to you by the guys behind Roberta's and the Meat Hook, Rippers offers hamburgers and fries, but also freshly squeezed juices. I opted for a cucumber and mint that I downed with surprising speed. Easy, breezy. And I'd go back for another.

Rippers at Rockaway Park

We then veered off the board-walked path to an adjacent Rockaway Taco location (Rockaway Taco does have a boardwalk stall, but the word on the street was that the tacos were better at this location).

Upon arriving, I was immediately transported to Venice. California, that is. Beach combers ambled up to a cobbled-together, white-washed shanty with surf boards and chalk board menus to order their tacos. The place seemed to have sprouted from the ground, nurtured by the salty sea breezes and a sprinkling of cilantro.

I ordered a Delux Fish Taco (delux = guac) and a side of Fried Plantains.

There was nothing complicated about this taco. The fish was simply battered and fried, yielding a light and crispy white filet. The fresh cabbage was accented by radish slivers for a bitter crunch. And the guacamole was smooth, buttery and flavored with just the right amount of cilantro. I added a touch of salsa verde from the condiment bar, and I was in fried fish taco heaven.

And now for the Fried Plantains. I happen to love plantains. Put them on a menu and I will be compelled to order them. Like bananas, but better, when plantains are fried they accomplish the ultimate in texture contrasts: a gushy center of sweet mushiness with a crispy and even chewy caramel crust. Rockaway Taco's plantains were just that, with a little cheese crumble on top for a bit of savory balance.

Rockaway Taco

After all this food, we were getting sleepy. Obviously caffeine was needed, and Blue Bottle Coffee happens to have a Rockaway Park Boardwalk location. I have to admit, I was looking forward to visiting their stall all day. Since my recent trip to their Williamsburg shop, I haven't been able to stop thinking about their Iced New Orleans Coffee.

This was exactly what I ordered and it was as good the second time around as it was the first. Thank goodness for you, Blue Bottle.

Blue Bottle Coffee

Finally, as a graphic designer, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the excellent signage we found while scouring the place for edible treats.

I passed this first one over to my triathlon team, just to remind them of potential hazards:

The hand-drawn sign played a prominent role at Rippers:

And while your mind is being blown, be careful not to choke:

As we biked out to Rockaway Park from Brooklyn – a leisurely 1 3/4 hour ride, we opted for the A train on the way home. For those lacking a bike, have no fear, the A train is a capable and amiable steed. With lots of room for bikes, should you decide you can't even imagine riding yours home after all those tacos, coffee, smoothies and mini donuts. And there might have been a burger in there too. Just sayin'.