Posts Tagged agave syrup

Cornbread; Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Agave Sweetened

    March 15 was the day of the 2011 Soup Supper annual fund raiser for The Caring Place. Every year the best restaurants in Georgetown contribute gallons of their specialty soups and TCP volunteers donate cornbread and desserts. Aside from baking we also put on aprons and serve our guests who come to enjoy the meal.

    There is also a silent auction featuring some of the very nicest things from the in-house Fabulous Finds resale store. Clothing from the boutique is modeled to show off the incredible quality that can be found in that department.

    Once again I baked gluten-free cornbread. Last year I made one batch of scratch cornbread and one batch from a mix. The scratch gluten-free version was no doubt the favorite. So this year I baked two double batches of scratch cornbread.

    I made a test batch a few weeks ago just to be sure I would not mess up a lot of expensive ingredients and I am glad that I did. I found that the cornmeal remaining from last year, carefully stored in the freezer, had developed an ‘off’ taste. So every year that I make this I will be sure to buy a fresh bag of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cornmeal.

Cornbread; Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Agave Sweetened

Cornbread; Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Agave Sweetened

    Astigmatism makes cutting straight lines a challenge so I got out my ancient, trusty forms ruler from data processing days. Yes, the little sticker has my name on it. Back-in-the-day Don and I had his-and-her forms rulers; definitely a geeky household here.

Cornbread Measured with Forms Ruler

Cornbread Measured with Forms Ruler

    It is wonderful how many people turn out to support this organization. By the time I gathered my few remaining wits together we were winding down, most of the cornbread was gone, but I did manage to snap a photo of Amanda. She was charming and cheerful throughout the evening and the time passed very quickly.

Amanda Serving Cornbread

Amanda Serving Cornbread

    We were wearing the yellow construction ‘hard’ hats to call attention to the fact that work has already started on the new food pantry facility at The Caring Place. Donation boxes on the tables were another subtle reminder.

    Those of us who work in the pantry are delighted that this construction has begun. We are also anticipating a better warehouse area for managing the storage of food and more efficient stocking of the pantry.



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Pumpkin Muffins – Finally!!

    Gluten-free pumpkin bread is a recipe that I have been working on ever since gluten awareness because it is such a family favorite. The recipe has wandered down many culinary alleys (some of them dark) with various flours, binders, sweeteners and never quite making it. Finally there is this recipe. It is receiving favorable comments from people accustomed to these experiments and some who have tasted them and just enjoyed them as pumpkin muffins without qualification.
    What has been really interesting is that the beginning versions that followed the original recipe exactly, except for flour, have been totally unsatisfactory. It was only after the versions using vegan binders did the texture start to become more satisfactory. This is something for future experimentation.
    My only disclaimer at this point is due to the fact that while the recipe has been in development it has only been baked in silicon cupcake forms. That allows for tasting fresh and warm, tasting the day after baking, and finally tasting after freezing and barely re-warming in the microwave plus having sample sizes ready-to-eat. So I have not tried loaf pans yet and do not know what baking-without-gluten issues may lay there – fair warning!

1.5 tbsp ground chia seed
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup agave nectar
1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
½ cup + 1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tbsp vanilla

1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cups quinoa flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 tsp xanthan
1/2 tsp fruit pectin
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves
½ tsp sea salt
2 tbsp water (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare for 20-24 cupcake size muffins or perhaps 12 large muffins.

In a large bowl:
Combine the ground chia with the applesauce. Add the agave nectar and pumpkin puree and stir until combined. I have previously added some drops of stevia to make them sweeter but they are very well received without it. Set aside for about 30 minutes or so to allow the chia to absorb some moisture. Add coconut oil and vanilla just before combining with the dry ingredients as coconut oil has a tendency to congeal at room temperature.

In a medium bowl:
Sift the flours, xanthan, pectin, baking powder, baking soda, spices and sea salt. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir just until combined. If the batter is really stiff stir in one tablespoon of water at a time until the batter is a scoopable texture (dense and puffy).

Fill your prepared bake ware to the 2/3 level. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Test for doneness with a tester or with a very thin knife.

Allow the muffins to cool in pan on a wire rack. Turn out after 10 minutes so they don’t get sweaty. After they have cooled wrap individual servings and store in an air-tight container on the counter for 3 days or keep in the freezer.

These have a very cake-like texture and I have also frosted them with a cashew cream frosting and served them as cupcakes.

Gretchen (Mom)

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Dark Chocolate No-Guilt Fudge

    The recipe for Chocolatey Fudge from Ricki at Diet, Dessert and Dogs was intimidating. It sounded easy and yes, so yummy, but could it really be that easy? 

    I read and re-read the recipe and thought about my blender. Sometimes my wimpy old blender and I don’t get along but I am reluctant to learn a new machine along with a new recipe. Rita has a food processor stored here in my cupboard and next time I will definitely use it. You need a machine with ‘muscle’ for this recipe. The blender whined and groaned and started sending out smoke signals before we called truce. So this first batch has little bits of beans that are visible although not enough to stop any of my dedicated testers. And if you truly love deep, dark chocolate this will give you a chocolate fix without the sugar hangover. It looks like fudge, it tastes like fudge, and it IS fudge.

   You need to read Ricki’s version before you decide which way you would rather make it. She crumbles the unsweetened chocolate and adds it at the end. This version has it all melted in and fudgy smooth all the way through – almost the same ingredients but a different technique.

This Fudge Is Really Good!

This Fudge Is Really Good!

1 ounce (30 g) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp (45 ml) coconut oil, soft at room temperature

1-3/4 cups (420 ml) cooked, drained and rinsed black beans (canned beans work best)
1/4 cup (60 ml) natural smooth almond butter, room temperature or slightly warmer
1/2 cup (60 g) cocoa powder
2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp (30 ml) yacon syrup, agave nectar or vegetable glycerin
15-25 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to taste
pinch fine sea salt

    Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and set aside.

    Place chocolate in a small microwavable bowl and spoon the coconut oil over it. Heat this in the microwave for one minute. Test the chocolate with a thin knife. The coconut oil should be hot and the chocolate just soft and melted but still holding its shape. This might take several iterations of heating and testing. Do – not – overheat!

    Add all of the remaining ingredients to the processor and pour the coconut oil/chocolate mixture on top and blend until very smooth. Use a spatula to help push down and incorporate all of the ingredients if necessary. The mixture will be thick. If the almond butter is the least bit chilly the coconut oil and chocolate can suddenly harden and seize.

    Transfer fudge mixture to the loaf pan and press down to compress it and push out any air bubbles. I sprinkled a packet of Truvia over the top to give it a ‘sugary’ finish but the loaf just dissolved the crystals and it disappeared overnight.

    Allow the fudge to set up in the refrigerator for an hour, then cover the top with more plastic and refrigerate until very firm, 2 hours or up to overnight. Slice into squares. Because it contains no sugar to act as a preservative it needs to be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Gretchen (Mom)

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Fig-Lemon Walnut-Streusel Cake

    The SOS Kitchen Challenge is going on and I am not going to make the cut this month. There has been too much going on and did I mention that Central Texas fruit trees have me swamped in frozen and cooked, pureed fruit? So if you love peppermint you need to check in with Ricki at Diet, Dessert and Dogs  and/or Kim at Affairs of Living for fabulous MINT recipes, mint being the challenge ingredient for August.
    During the next few months I will be looking at ways to create gluten-free recipes using mostly staples found on the shelves at The Caring Place food pantry. The organization is in the process of stepping up to the next level in service and has formed a focus group to look at useful options. I will be looking at making gluten-free easier for people who do not have the luxury of time to experiment.
    So right now I am finishing up a few experiments that have been rattling around in my head. This afternoon it was using puree I had prepared from fresh figs. Rita was laughing at me as I sniffed the batter and tried to decide what flavor options to emphasize and how to do it. She giggled and accused me of ‘huffing spices’.
    And I was so engrossed I forgot to take pictures along the way. Happily this is not just good cake it is REALLY GOOD. We are planning on having some more of it for breakfast in the morning.

Looks Good, Smells Good, Tastes Good!

Looks Good, Smells Good, Tastes Good!

Fresh Fig Puree:
About 4 cups of fresh figs, cut in halves or quarters depending on size
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons agave syrup (to help draw the natural juice from the figs)
Place the figs, water, and syrup in a 1 quart saucepan that has a heavy bottom and a tight fitting lid. Place the pan on the stove and turn the heat on low. Be patient while the heat begins to ‘melt’ the figs and draw out their juice. The lid on my pan was glass so I could watch the steam gather and begin to baste the fruit. The figs should cook until tender but don’t boil them to pieces either. Stir occasionally so all of the pieces are evenly cooked. The flavor is delicate and you want to keep as much as possible.
    Remove the pan from the stove to cool when the fruit is done. When it has cooled somewhat then transfer the mixture into your blender jar. Push the button that says ‘puree’ and watch carefully. You may need to scrape down the sides for an even texture. This should not take more than a minute or so. Small bits of pulp are a good thing. Take a tiny taste – if it is not ‘fruity sweet’ then add a few drops of stevia to help it out. This should give you the amount of puree needed for the cake. A little more or less is OK. If the cake has more moisture then it will just bake a little longer.
Note: this can be stored in the refrigerator for several days before putting into the cake.

Wet Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups fig puree (about)
1/2 cup agave syrup
1 teaspoon ground chia seed
1/2 teaspoon fruit pectin
1/4 cup coconut oil (your choice of liquid cooking oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon lemon oil (found with essential oils and not with extracts)

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups quinoa flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
2 tablespoons coconut flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Walnut-Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup quinoa flour
3 small packets Truvia sweetener
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup margarine (Earth Balance)(coconut oil probably OK)
3/4 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts (or your favorite nuts)
2 tablespoons agave syrup

    1. Pour the fig puree into a bowl. Sprinkle the chia seed across the surface and stir in quickly so it doesn’t have a chance to clump. Do the same with the pectin. Stir in the coconut oil, vanilla, and lemon oil and set the mixture aside.
    2. Sift the dry ingredients into your mixing bowl, stir with a whisk, and set aside.
    3. Prepare the streusel topping by mixing the flour, Truvia granules, and spices together. Cut in the margarine (or cold coconut butter) with a pastry blender. Add the chopped nuts. Lightly stir in the syrup with a fork. Then set this aside.
    4. Turn the oven on to 350*F. Lightly oil or spray 2 9” square pans and set aside.

    Stir the fig mixture quickly into the flour mixture. Divide the batter into the prepared pans and spread out evenly to the corners. Then carefully sprinkle the streusel mixture on top and press gently into the surface of the batter.

Remembering All of the Alterations

Remembering All of the Alterations

    Bake for about 25 minutes. If it still seems a little too moist then turn off the oven and let it remain for 2-3 more minutes in the residual heat.

Some thoughts about this recipe:
Most of the ingredients are nutritional superstars. This treat can be dessert or a meal. The flour ingredients are exactly the same as the Rhubarb-Date Pecan-Crumble recipe. The changes were the base puree and the spices and flavoring. I plan to experiment with different fruits and even mixing fruit and veggie, for instance banana or white squash with lemon and encourage others to play with it also. The ingredients that give this cake texture and post-baking stability are 1) chia seed stands in for an egg and 2) the fruit pectin combines with the acid in the fruit and the sugar in the agave to form the gel that produces jams and jellies.

Gretchen (Mom) and Rita

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Rhubarb-Date Pecan-Crumble Cake

This recipe is submitted to the SOS Kitchen Challenge hosted by Ricki at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs and Kim at Affairs of Living
    The choice of rhubarb for the June SOS Kitchen Challenge was – well, challenging. First, I have never tasted rhubarb. And possibly because I have never purchased rhubarb I have never noticed any at the farmer’s market or grocery stores. After reading the descriptions and warnings I went off looking for a huge bundle of poisonous green leaves hiding red rhubarb stalks. This is what turned up after searching several stores:

Rhubarb from the Grocery Store

Rhubarb from the Grocery Store

    This was a surprise, although a good one – the poisonous leaves were already eliminated and I refuse to speculate on that. After a thorough washing it was time to dice. I had a recipe for an applesauce coffee cake that was my baseline for this attempt and dicing the rhubarb into 1/2” – 3/4” pieces was the first step. But what’s with all the string? This is way stringier than my beloved celery.

Not Sure About All That String

Not Sure About All That String

    Most of the string was stripped off during the dicing process while I worried about whether losing it would affect the color. That turned out to be the least of the issues. (It was great to discover that rhubarb does not stain the counters and surroundings like beets.)

Somewhat Under Control

Somewhat Under Control

    So into the saucepan it went; along with some chopped dates to sweeten it up, a bit of water and agave syrup for the cake. It simmered gently until the rhubarb was coming apart.

    I had failed to note that the original recipe included tofu and my system can’t handle that. So then began the mental scramble that usually results when substitutions are necessary. There were also flour modifications in keeping with my whole ‘no-grass-plants-allowed’ mindset right now. It became an all-out juggling act.

Putting It All Together

Putting It All Together

    Plus my square pans are all 8” so several cupcakes took up the extra batter and crumble topping. The crumble topping is messy and umm, crumbly. Maybe next time a layer of batter, crumble for filling, and the batter on top, kind of like the once popular sock-it-to-me cake.

Fresh Out of the Oven

Fresh Out of the Oven

Wet Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped, 1/2”-3/4” bits
3.5 ounces pitted dates, chopped
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup agave syrup
1 teaspoon ground chia seed
1/2 teaspoon fruit pectin
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups quinoa flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
2 tablespoons coconut flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup milk, optional (Almond Breeze)

Pecan-Crumble Topping:
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup margarine (Earth Balance)
3/4 cup chopped pecans (use your favorite nuts or crispy cereal for crunch)
(I thought about crumbling a rice cake but already had too much going on)

Put the rhubarb, dates, water, and syrup in a saucepan and simmer slowly for about 10 minutes. The rhubarb should be very soft by then. Remove the pan from the stove and allow to cool. Stir in the chia seed, pectin, coconut oil, and vanilla and set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients into your mixing bowl and set aside.

Prepare the crumble topping by mixing the flour and cinnamon together. Cut in the margarine (or cold coconut butter) with a pastry blender. Lightly stir in the syrup with a fork. Then add in the nuts.

Turn the oven on to 350*F.  Lightly oil or spray a 9” square pan and set aside.

The rhubarb mixture should be fairly cool by now.  Stir it quickly into the flour mixture.  If the batter is really thick then add the 1/4 cup of milk.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread out evenly to the corners.  Then carefully spoon the crumble mixture on top and spread evenly also while pressing gently into the surface of the batter.

Bake for about 35 minutes.  If it still seems a little too moist then turn off the oven and let it remain to bake for 5-10 more minutes in the residual heat of the oven.

Allow the cake to cool thoroughly.  As with many of these stronger flours it will be better the longer it cools.  It is really best if you can make it a day ahead.

Mom (Gretchen)

Postscript: The Sit ‘N Stitch ladies were at Barb’s house today and I brought this over for taste testing.  This little cake went over very well.  So the question is: if people appreciate the taste of nutritious food then why doesn’t the food industry provide it?  It could be done . . . .

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His & Hers Pizzas

    Don and I both love pizza.  He has always been the pizza chef in this household.  For many years I would just scrape off and eat the toppings and sauce while leaving the crust.  And sometimes I succumbed to temptation and ate the crust; even after peeling it off.  Much education later I finally realized how destructive gluten was to my system.  It wasn’t just a couple of days of discomfort; there was lasting damage from small exposures.

    We tried to find a gluten-free pizza crust that both of us could/would eat.  That was Pizza Crust I.  Somehow I could not justify a double pizza crust that required a half dozen eggs.  We moved on to equal but separate pizzas.  He makes a crust, I make a crust.  Then he adds toppings, bakes the pizzas, and dinner is served.

    My gluten-free pizza crust is now on version V.  Eggs were eliminated and replaced by chia seed.  Yeast was eliminated and replaced by baking powder.  In this version all vestiges of the grass family (of the genus Poaceae) were eliminated and that includes any form of cane sugar – sugar cane is after all, a grass plant.  The small amount of sugar was replaced by agave syrup.  It helps with browning as well as flavor; sugar is not solely to make the yeast happy.  I have included several columns of my ‘pizza crust spreadsheet’ to illustrate the gradual recipe changes.  The changes made in each version are bolded.

Pizza Crust V – Gluten-free, Casein Free, Egg-free, Poaceae-free
Pizza Crust V - Gluten-free, Casein Free, Egg-free, Poaceae-free

Measure out the dry ingredients and whisk together until thoroughly blended.  Make a well in the flour for adding the wet ingredients.  Stir the water, olive oil and agave syrup into the flour mixture and work it with a spoon until all of the flour is absorbed.  It should form a sticky ball of dough that begins to hold together.

Dump the dough on a bread board or clean counter top and knead it with your hands for about a minute.  Spray or oil a 12” pizza pan.  Flatten the dough and place it on the pan.  Press all around until the crust is as even as possible.  Form a raised rim around the edge of the crust to help contain the toppings.  This step is so much like working with clay in art class.  If there are cracks just pinch it back together and try again.  Gluten free dough will not toughen up from handling it.   Sometimes a it helps to oil a spoon and use the back to push the dough around and form an edge to contain the toppings.

Bake the crust for 6-7 minutes at 425* F.  Remove it from the oven.  Add sauce, grilled onions, mushrooms, olives and optional other ingredients.  Cheese may be added if dairy is not a problem.  Bake an additional 10-15 minutes until the edges are brown and the toppings are hot.  A crust made with buckwheat flour is significantly darker than other versions.  It may looked burnt in the picture but it is really just perfect with a firm base and a crispy edge.

His & Hers Pizzas

His & Hers Pizzas

When Don puts the pizzas together there is ground turkey and cheese in the toppings.  I am working on one with a pesto base and lots of sautéed veggies for toppings.  Summer produce is looking good for that kind of experimenting.


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Sweet Potato Pie ‘Cheesecake’

    After the inglorious wrestling match last week with the almond ‘feta cheese’, and BTW, the result was pretty tasty – it was just the blistered thumbs that haunted me. The ‘cheese’ did have a very strong almond flavor that seemed to diminish after a couple of days. But it was tangy and tasty enough that I bought more almonds. While putting them away I noticed that the previous almonds were smaller, dark, and dry looking. This new purchase is light-colored and fatter.  The ‘cheese’ is definitely worth another try. 

   Dreams of a rich nut-based pumpkin pie have been swirling in my head. In the meantime I had raw cashews and sweet potatoes on hand. Well, why not? I soaked the cashews for a good long time and loved the fact that they come without skins! Also I have an adorable 5-inch springform pan that was in need of a good recipe. It worked out very well. But as you can tell from the ingredients that although everything is on the ‘healthy, good for you list’, this is a pretty rich dessert. I plan to try it again using eight small individual-serving-size ceramic ramekins. I picture those topped with a spoonful of chopped nuts that are glazed with a tiny bit of agave and cinnamon. 

   When using sweet potatoes as a baking ingredient a soft smooth puree works best for these recipes. I achieve this by boiling a few whole, well-scrubbed sweet potatoes until a knife slides in easily. I pour off the water (sometimes saving this orange colored liquid in a jar for other uses) and leave the potatoes to cool in the pot with the lid on. That way they steam in the residual heat. When they are cool they go through a ricer, sometimes called a food press, the kind used for making your own baby food. And sometimes they wait in the refrigerator overnight before being pureed. 

   The ingredients that are noted ‘slightly warm’ were passed briefly through the microwave. You want them to blend and almost melt together. 

Sweet Potato Pie ‘Cheesecake’ Ingredients:
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 24 hours (1 1/3 cups expanded)
2 Tbsp agave syrup
1 tsp pure Mexican vanilla
2 Tbsp coconut oil, slightly warm
2/3 cup sweet potato puree, slightly warm
16 drops liquid stevia sweetener
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground allspice
1 Tbsp tapioca starch or arrowroot starch 

Grease your baking pan/ramkins with coconut oil. The ‘batter’ is prepared in a blender. 

Drain the water from the cashews. If they have been refrigerated then warm them in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Dump them into the blender jar. Add the agave syrup and the vanilla. Start the blender and begin to break down the cashews, pulsing and pausing to scrape down the sides as needed. 

When the nuts are in very small pieces then add the warm coconut oil, sweet potato puree, stevia, and sea salt. Dial up the blender speed and begin to puree the mixture; again pulsing and pausing to scrape down the sides as needed. 

Finally add the allspice and tapioca starch to the blender jar and finish pureeing for a few minutes until the mixture is smooth, thick, and fluffy. Pour and scrape the mixture into your baking pan. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon. 

A 5-inch Springform Pan

A 5-inch Springform Pan


Turn the oven temperature to 350*F (180C) and place the pan in the oven. Set the timer for 30 minutes. The air in the batter will expand and the mixture will rise somewhat during baking similar to a standard cheesecake. The dessert will be cooked when a very thin knife slips easily in and comes out clean. If there is wet, uncooked mixture on the knife then put it back for about 10 more minutes. Then turn off the oven and leave it in the oven to cool for an hour. Remove from the oven. When the pan is no longer warm you may place it in the refrigerator to chill. 

It Really Looks Like a 'Cheesecake'!!

It Really Looks Like a 'Cheesecake'!!


It unmolded neatly onto a plate just like you would expect from a cheesecake. How sweet is that? 


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