February 26, 2007

Chocolate Chestnut Biscotti - Gluten-Free

The challenge I set for myself was to create a decadent gluten-free chocolate chestnut biscotti that was reminiscent of the ones I used to eat. Plus, I needed a recipe that didn't contain xanthan gum...which I have had to eliminate from my gluten free diet.

Back during the days when I could eat gluten, one of the things I really enjoyed was dipping crispy biscotti into a hot cup of coffee with cream. The flavors would melt in your mouth and the indulgence was divine. My husband and I would to go to a local coffee shop and indulge in coffee and biscotti while we sat outside and watch people go by.

Some of my local favorites came from Whole Foods. They sold a wonderful intense chocolate variety and an almond biscotti with the most heavenly aroma. The biscotti were divine. When I went shopping, I'd buy a small bag and let the kid's nibble on pieces while we went around the store.

Since becoming gluten free I've missed my little indulgences. There aren't many local places that sell baked goods that aren't made of wheat much less gluten free.

I've been working on a biscotti recipe that was crunchy and deliciously chocolate. They are softer when finished, however they will crisp up as the chocolate on the bottom dries.


3 Tb Cocoa
6 Tb Butter, softened
1/2 cup Cane Sugar
1/2 cup Turbinado sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup Chestnut Flour
1/2 cup Brown Rice Flour
1/2 cup Sweet Rice Flour
1/2 cup Almond Meal
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp Kuzu/Kudzu Powder
2.5 oz dark chocolate
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped almonds or 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In your machine mixing bowl, beat two eggs and add kudzu powder. Allow the mixture to sit and the kudzu dissolve. In another bowl, place the cocoa, sugar, flours, almond meal and salt and blend. Add the butter to the mixing bowl and blend. Then slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl while blending. Add your choice of optional ingredients and blend.

Divide the dough in two and make two oblong loaves on the parchment paper. Take a small sheet of aluminum foil and cut into 3 inch wide strips. Connect the strips until they will go around the loaves of biscotti dough and fold the end onto the side of the ring so it will stay in place. The foil bands keep the dough from spreading during baking.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the dough to cool for 5 minutes. Transfer the loaf to a cutting surface and using a sharp knife cut diagonal slices off the loaf. Each slice should be about 1 inch wide. Arrange the cut slices on the cookie tray and return them to the oven for 10 minutes.

Place the dark chocolate in the top bowl of a double boiler that has simmering water in it. Once the chocolate is melted, dip the bottom of the biscotti into the chocolate. Lay the cookie back on the cookie sheet so the chocolate can dry. If you like a thicker layer of chocolate on your biscotti, simply repeat this step.

The biscotti were beautiful and smelled like dark chocolate brownies. It's the kind of smell that has everyone in the house hovering around the oven wondering what you are making and when can they eat it. We ate our first cookies before the chocolate had finished drying and they were a warm blast of dark chocolate. Everyone agreed that they had a wonderful flavor.

The biscotti were so good that the next morning my husband and I decided to start the day with dessert and have breakfast second. The chocolate had completely dried and the cookies were nice and crisp. They were scrumptious with a fresh cup of coffee. Outside it was a frigid 16 degrees so we passed on watching the world go by and watched each other instead. A wonderful way to start the day.

February 19, 2007

Black Bean Cakes - Gluten Free With A Variety of Lime Cilantro Toppings

As a family we made a New Year's Resolution to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into our daily eating. We also resolved to eat at least one vegetarian meal per week. This is a challenge for some of our small family, because they already get experimental gluten-free meals. However, they have agreed to do this for the good of our health and for the planet.

I had been looking for family pleasing recipes when I found one for Black Bean Cakes that I wanted to try out. This recipe had the makings of something my crew would really enjoy as it contained black beans and cornmeal. The original recipe came from Gourmet Magazine and was used on Sarah Moulton's Food Network show with her recipe for a Spicy Cilantro Sauce.

I adapted the Black Bean Cake recipe so that it was gluten and nightshade plant free. I will list those ingredients as optional in the recipe.

Black Bean Cake Recipe

2 Tb butter
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sweet yellow corn
2/3 cup brown rice flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup cream, milk or vegetable broth
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Sea salt & black pepper to taste
Optional: 1/2 cup bell pepper, finely chopped
Oil for frying black bean cakes in skillet

In a skillet, melt the butter and saute the onion and garlic until soft. In a large mixing bowl, pour in about 1/3 of the black beans and mash with a fork or potato masher. Then add the other ingredients and blend. Place sheets of parchment paper on the counter and by spoonfuls place the black bean mixture on the paper. Pat the spoonfuls into small patties. In a large skillet, pour in your oil for frying until there is enough to cover the bottom of the pan and is about 1/8" to 1/4" up the side of the skillet. Heat the oil. Using a spatula, place 4 to 5 black bean cakes in the skillet to cook. Make sure there is room around the cakes. Cook until golden brown. Place the cooked cakes on a paper towel to drain. Continue cooking the cakes in batches until the are all done.

Spicy Cilantro Sauce

1 cup cilantro, minced
1/3 cup oil
3 Tb gluten free Tamari sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp ground cumin
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste
Optional: 1/2 jalapeno chile, minced

Mix the ingredients together. Make sure to stir before serving.

Three of my taste testers loved the Black Bean Cakes. My daughter didn't like them, mainly because of the cilantro. When we added the sauce, we all agreed that the sauce was rather unpleasantly oily. The overall flavor of the the oily sauce with the fried cakes was just too much.

We vowed to experiment with sauces on our left overs. We tried three other sauces, a Lime Cilantro Topping with Coconut Milk, Lime Cilantro Topping with Red Wine Vinegar & Olive Oil, and last was the Lime Cilantro Topping with Red Wine Vinegar & Olive Oil with Green Salsa. Each of these toppings have the same base, but the liquids are different.

Lime Cilantro Topping Base Recipe

1/2 cup cilantro, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice 1 lime
1/4 tsp ground cumin
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Lime Cilantro Topping with Coconut Milk: Add 3 Tb Coconut Milk, adjust for taste.

Lime Cilantro Topping with Red Wine Vinegar & Olive Oil: Add 1 Tb Red Wine Vinegar, 2 Tb Olive Oil. Adjust to taste.

Lime Cilantro Topping with Red Wine Vinegar, Olive Oil & Green Salsa: Take the above recipe and add about 1/4 cup green salsa, start with a little less and adjust for taste.

My son wouldn't participate in the new sauce test tasting, although he kept eating the cakes. My daughter chose to eat taquitos instead. So the tasting results are from my husband and myself. The Coconut Milk Topping my husband didn't care for, although I thought it had a nice mild flavor. However, it didn't enhance the flavor of the bean cakes. Next was the Red Wine Vinegar & Olive Oil Topping, which we both thought was better than the Coconut Milk Topping although it was still missing something. We got the idea to add green salsa to the Red Wine Vinegar & Olive Oil Topping and that was a great mix. It complemented the black bean cakes beautifully and wasn't oily.

February 17, 2007

Mexican Tortilla Casserole - Gluten Free

My Mexican Tortilla Casserole is flexible gluten-free dinner. You can change ingredients based on what you have in your pantry and make it your own. It's an easy gluten free meal for you and your family.

When I was a teenager, one of my jobs was helping my Dad do the grocery shopping and cooking dinner on grocery night. When we got home from the grocery store, I would start unloading the grocery bags and he would start up either pizza or a creation we called a tortilla casserole or Mexican lasagne. Once he got dinner into the oven or into the electric skillet, we would begin washing all the produce. My Mom and brother would set the table and do the dishes.

A Mexican Lasagne was an everything but the kitchen sink type of dish. Every tortilla bake had a standard set of ingredients, such as corn tortillas, meat, cheese and salsa. Then the variable ingredients would be things like: beans, red or green salsa, jalapenos, black olives, corn, onions, tomatoes, etc. My Dad liked to wipe out those little bits of leftovers in the refrigerator with this dish.

I make my Mexican casserole in a rectangular baking dish, but you can easily put this into a pie pan for a different presentation.


1 package Corn Tortillas
1 to 2 jars of Salsa - Red or Green
10 to 16 oz. Grated Cheese - Cheddar or Monterey Jack

Optional Item Ideas:

Meat - Chicken, Beef, Bison
Beans - Black or Pinto
Fresh Diced Tomatoes
Sliced Black Olives
Sliced Jalapenos
Diced Onions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease your choice of baking dish.

The tortilla bake is built in layers. Spread a thin layer of salsa over the bottom of your baking dish and place corn tortillas in on top of the salsa making sure to cover the bottom. Spread another thin layer of salsa on top and sprinkle grated cheese over the salsa. Next sprinkle your choice of ingredients, such as - chicken, black beans and onions. Pour salsa over the top of your ingredients and put down another layer of corn tortillas. Continue building the dish in this manner until you have filled your baking dish. The top should be a corn tortilla covered with salsa and other ingredients that will make a nice presentation when you serve it, such as - cheese, olives, onions or diced tomatoes.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve with sour cream or guacamole.

I haven't made this dish very much since the kids have gotten a little older. I've tended to stick to meals that I can keep simple for the kids and spice up the same ingredients for the adults. So, I was pleasantly surprised that my children really enjoyed it. My husband and I both enjoyed the dish. Next time I make a Mexican Lasagne, I'll divide the ingredients and make two versions, one mild and one spicy.

February 11, 2007

Blueberry Mesquite Cornbread Muffins - Gluten Free

The gluten-free blueberry muffin idea was born at Trader Joe's while looking at a package of Wild Blueberries from Canada. I remembered that blueberries and cornbread are great together. My shopping companions made sure that the blueberries made it into the cart and off we headed to the checkout line.

I started with my basic cornbread recipe (December 1, 2006 post) and started by dividing the recipe in half. Then I substituted mesquite flour for the sweet rice flour and almond meal. I added 1/3 cup of blueberries to the recipe and topped the muffins with more blueberries and Turbinado sugar. They turned out beautifully. Tasting them was so sad...they were bland and the blueberries didn't taste like blueberries. The basic muffin didn't taste like cornbread at all. Overall, they had a bland generic berry flavor.

Back to the planning stages for this recipe. I began by adjusting the amounts of mesquite and arrowroot flours, then added back the sweet rice flour. I was ready to try again. I mixed, baked and tasted the second batch. Wow, they tasted like mesquite cornbread and better yet the flavor of the blueberries stood out.


1 cup + 1 Tb yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup + 2 Tb brown rice flour
1/4 cup arrowroot flour
1/4 cup mesquite flour
2 Tb sweet rice flour
1/4 cup Turbinado sugar
1 cup of milk
1 1/2 tsp kudzu powder, dissolve in the milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 Tb vegetable shortening

1/4 to 1/3 cup of blueberries
1/4 cup Turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cups.

For mesquite cornbread muffins:
In a mixing bowl combine all the dry ingredients and blend. In another mixing bowl (I used my stand mixer for this), place the vegetable shortening and began blending. Add the egg and milk, continue blending. Add the dry ingredients to the stand mixer bowl. Blend quickly, taking care not to blend too much. Spoon mix into the paper cups. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

For blueberry muffins:
Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. Then top the muffins with blueberries and lightly press down. Sprinkle Turbinado sugar over the tops. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

They turned out beautifully and have a lovely aroma. They taste great. The flavors of mesquite and cornbread come through and the blueberries add a delightful sweet flavor. They hold together very well and don't fall apart when you bite into them.

Where are my judges? This morning I lost out to fried rings of gluten and sugar. Otherwise, known as the doughnut. I'll keep trying and let you know what they say...