May 31, 2007

Agave Ice Cream with Saguaro Syrup

I've been working on replacing sugar in many of the recipes that my family enjoys. My home made ice cream is one of their favorites, so I wanted to see what would happen if I replaced the sugar with agave syrup.

When I added the agave syrup to the cream and egg mixture, the thickness of the liquid disappeared. Once it was blended in the ice cream maker, the mixture didn't whip up as high and fluffy as ice cream with sugar. It froze into a texture that was like ice milk and scooped nicely.

How did it taste? The ice cream had sweet fruity overtones and a hint of vanilla. We didn't miss the flavor or texture that sugar gives at all. My family thought this was a nice ice cream and one to keep around.

My husband and I tried topping our ice cream off with some saguaro syrup. The saguaro syrup (bahidaj) was a wonderful treat I got from my family for Mother's Day. They bought it from Native Seeds/SEARCH. Saguaro syrup is made from the fruit of the saguaro cactus. The Tohono O'odham tribe have been harvesting saguaro fruits for centuries. You can read more about they make saguaro syrup from this Tucson Weekly article.


1 1/2 cups half and half
1 cup whipping cream
1 Tb vanilla
3 eggs
1/3 cup + 1 Tb agave syrup

Beat the three eggs in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the whipping cream and half and half then blend. Add the vanilla and agave syrup. You may need to scrape some of the agave syrup away from the bottom of the bowl.

Process the mixture according to your ice cream maker or ice cream attachment. For the Kitchen Aid ice cream attachment, process the mixture for 25 minutes. Transfer to a freezer safe container and allow it to chill for 3-4 hours before serving.


May 26, 2007

Chia Seeds & Chia Seed Gel

I used Chia Seeds, which are naturally gluten free, to make the gelling agent in my Lemon Chia Seed Bread (see the previous post). The bread held together beautifully. Being a very curious person by nature, I had to see exactly how much the chia seeds would gel.

So, I ran a small experiment with to see exactly how well they gelled. I used 1 tsp of chia seeds and 4 tsp of water. Then I let the seeds sit for 30 minutes. The seeds produced a nice gel that holds together when you try to tilt it off the spoon.

I let it sit for about an hour in the refrigerator to see if it would harden, but it didn't. It remained a nice soft gel.

Ohhh...the possibilities...

May 24, 2007

A New Gluten-Free Challenge

As I was building the Ship's Pantry part of my blog, I was amazed at the wide variety of foods that are gluten-free. The Earth has provided us with an incredible abundance of foods that are available to us for healthy eating.

When I first began blogging, I wanted to explore flour possibilities beyond the basic gluten free blend. There had to be flavor and nutrition in other flour possibilities. Since that time, I've cooked a lot and explored flours and combinations. I've found foods my family loves and replaced processed foods containing wheat to those that are healthier, gluten free and homemade.

When I first began this journey two years ago, my doctor told me that I should eat the way my ancestor's ate. To go beyond my grandparents and okra dredged in cornmeal and fried in bacon grease. To find out where my ancestors who immigrated to America came from or where in America did those ancestors who already lived here were located. My exploration of the task my doctor set for me has been challenging, as it is for many Americans researching their genealogy. It has brought us into contact with relatives that I didn't know and my parent's hadn't spoken to for years. For my husband it has been a revelation about his Cherokee heritage and his membership in a tribe he didn't know existed. For me
as my ancestor's moved around the south or went east from tribal lands seeking prosperity their connection to their Chicasaw and Seminole family was lost due to distance and hard times. Our journey has been wonderful and sad for the loss of family ties and for our native heritage.

Our search for family history has brought about some changes in how we eat at home. Our Native American heritage highlighted for my doctor my family's need to continue changing our food choices. To focus on those foods that regulate blood sugar in an effort to keep diabetes from developing as it has in so many members of our extended family. For Native Americans, diabetes is the number one health problem. As my cooking is changing at home so will the foods that I share on my blog.

My new challenge will be to incorporate a greater variety of foods into our diet. To explore the range of possibilities for food that is not only gluten-free, but connected to our past and the bounty of the Earth.

May 21, 2007

Lemon Chia Seed Bread - Gluten Free

Early in the morning having a slice of a flavorful quick bread and a hot cup of coffee is like a warm hug. I find quick breads to be wonderful comfort foods as they bring back memories of happy times. Lately my husband and I have really enjoyed having a quick bread for breakfast, but we've been wanting a little more variety. I also wanted to use some of my other ingredients to see how they would work out. This is where the idea for Gluten Free Lemon Chia Seed Bread was born.

The ingredients that I wanted to use from my pantry were chia seeds and agave syrup. I have a bag of Chia Seed that I bought from Native Seeds/SEARCH. Chia Seeds are versatile in that they can provide gelling, fiber and Omega-3 oils. I wanted to see if I could substitute chia seed for another binding agent (kudzu powder, agar agar, xanthan gum). Agave syrup can replace sugar in a recipe, plus it is low on the Glycemic Index. It has the added benefit of being metabolized slower by the body. Agave syrup can replace sugar at 3/4 cup to 1 cup of sugar.

I started with my recipe for Lemon Poppy Seed Bread. Then I made my modifications and started my baking tests. The results were beautiful and the aroma...heavenly.


1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup oat flour (Cream Hill Estates)
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup arrowroot starch
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup milk
2 Tb lemon juice
2 Tb chia seed
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup agave syrup
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp grated lemon peel

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, place the milk, lemon juice and chia seed. Allow the mixture to sit as this will give the chia seed a chance to begin gelling.

In a medium sized bowl, place the first six (dry) ingredients and blend.

3. In a mixing bowl put in your softened butter, agave syrup and blend. Add the eggs and grated lemon peel and blend again. Next add the chia seed mixture and blend. Then slowly add the dry ingredients to the bowl. Mix until just blended taking care not to over mix.

4. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes. Then remove the bread and cover with aluminum foil. Return the loaf to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes or until a pick comes out clean. Allow to cool before serving.

What did my family think of Lemon Chia Seed Bread? My son, who is not a fan of lemons, didn't care for the bread at all. My daughter thought it was okay, but she'd rather eat a slice of fresh lemon than eat lemon bread. My husband and I thought it was wonderful. It was moist, flavorful and healthy too. The chia seed gel held the bread together beautifully and it wasn't crumbly. The agave syrup gave the bread a more complex fruity flavor. We thoroughly enjoyed it. This one is a keeper.

What about my test results for substituting chia seeds for another binding agent? Yes, you can use chia seed gel to replace another binder, such as kudzu powder or xanthan gum. The Lemon Chia Seed Bread has a nice texture and stays together when you hold it.

May 19, 2007

Mint Chocolate Cookies - Gluten Free

When I ordered our Girl Scout cookies, I bought some Do-Si-Dos and Thin Mints - both are family favorites. My husband's favorite cookies are the Do-Si-Dos, a lovely peanut butter sandwich cookie. I took on the challenge of making this cookie in a gluten free version in April. Now it's time to tackle my favorite Girl Scout cookie - the Thin Mint. I used to like to eat this cookie fresh from the box or frozen, either way they were delicious.

Inspired by Heidi at 101 Cookbooks and a recipe that I found at, I set out to work up a gluten free version of the Thin Mint. After deciding on what ingredients I would use for my attempt, I headed off to Whole Foods to pick up the things I didn't have on hand. Then I began to work...


Chocolate Wafer Cookie

1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup oat flour (Cream Hill Estates)
1/4 cup arrowroot flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup cane sugar
12 Tb butter
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 tsp kuzu/kudzu powder, crushed
1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract or oil
1 tsp vanilla

Chocolate Topping

6 to 7 ounces dark chocolate or semisweet chocolate morsels
1/2 tsp peppermint extract or oil

1. Making the Cookie Dough: Cover a cookie sheet or another flat working surface with a sheet of parchment paper. Then in a medium mixing bowl, place the flours, cocoa, salt, sugar and blend. In small bowl or mortar and pestle crush the kudzu powder until fine crumbs. In another bowl beat the egg and add the kudzu powder, then blend together. In a large mixing bowl, place the butter and beat until creamy. Stir the egg and kudzu mixture, then add to the butter. Then add the peppermint extract, vanilla and blend. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Once the mixture makes a ball, remove the dough from the bowl and place on the parchment paper.

2. Rolling out the Dough: Slowly mold the dough into a ball. Then ease the dough across the parchment paper until it begins to make a log. Roll out until the dough is about two inches in diameter.

3. Chilling the Dough: Once the dough is rolled out, wrap it in the parchment paper. Place the wrapped dough in the refrigerator for at least two hours before slicing.

4. Slicing the Dough: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Then remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it and place on a cutting surface. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/4 inch slices off the log and place on the parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Place the slices about one inch apart.

5. Cooking the Dough: Cook for 15 minutes or until the tops and edges appear dry. Allow them to cool before removing from the cookie sheet.

6. Making the Chocolate Topping: Place several cups of water in the bottom of a double boiler and bring to a simmer. Place the top of the double boiler on and place the chocolate in it. Stir the chocolate and once melted add the peppermint extract. Blend together. Turn off the heat.

7. Glazing the Cookies: You can glaze the cookies in chocolate or cover them in chocolate. To glaze the cookies: dip a fork or spatula into the chocolate and wave it back and forth across the cookies. To cover the cookies: place a cookie in the chocolate and then turn it over. Once it is covered, pick it up with tongs and allow some of the excess chocolate to drip off. Then place on the parchment paper to cool.

8. Cooling the Cookies: Allow the cookies to dry on the counter overnight. Once dry you can place some in the freezer for a frosty treat.

How did they turn out? Beautifully. When they are first made the cookies have a dark and intense chocolate flavor with a hint of peppermint. By the next day the cookies have mellowed and are milder in flavor. I froze one of the cookies that we dipped in chocolate and it reminded me of a frozen Thin Mint. My daughter thought the cookies were too intense. My son thought they didn't quite taste like a Thin Mint, but they were really good. My husband agreed with him and added that my cookies had a more intense chocolate flavor. He preferred the dipped cookies to those that were glazed with chocolate. We all agreed that the frozen cookies tasted the most like Thin Mints.

This one is a keeper.

May 11, 2007

Sweet Potato Biscuits - Gluten Free

We have been enjoying the lovely Virginia weather for the last few days. Springtime here is beautiful, full of blooming trees and azaleas. Our hotel is nestled in a copse of old trees and the property is liberally sprinkled with blooming trees. The walkways are lined with azaleas, pansies and tulips. Morning is a wonderful time to enjoy a cup of coffee and a biscuit while admiring the scenery. Today, we enjoyed a warm gluten free sweet potato biscuits, juice and coffee.

Since the sweet potato is a staple at our house, I try to use it in as many different ways as I can. My inspiration my biscuits came from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse of the Food Network. I began by choosing my flours and selecting which binder I would use.


3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup Cream Hill Estates oat flour
1/4 cup + 1 Tb arrowroot starch
1/4 cup + 1 Tb sweet rice flour
1 Tb almond meal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp Turbinado sugar
12 Tb cold butter
1 cup mashed baked sweet potato
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 tsp kudzu powder, dissolved in the whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and set out silicone baking cups on a cookie sheet.

In a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and blend. Add the butter to the dry mixture and cut it in until the mixture looks like crumbs. Then add the sweet potato and pecans. Last slowly add the whipping cream and kudzu mixture and blend. Using a spoon, scoop balls of dough into the silicone baking cups. Place in the oven and bake for 25 to 28 minutes or until golden brown.

The biscuits turned out beautifully, warm and buttery with a slight taste of sweet potato. My family enjoyed these biscuits for breakfast and thought they tasted great. They tasted wonderful with maple butter too.

May 5, 2007

Applewood Smoked Ham Scones with Maple Butter - Gluten Free

At our house Saturday mornings are our special family time. My husband and I started this tradition when we were first married. We would sleep in and then cook a traditional breakfast meal together. Then we would spend the rest of the morning talking, catching up and planning our weekend together. Once we had children, we continued our Saturday morning family time tradition and it is now their favorite part of the weekend. Since becoming gluten-free, our breakfasts haven't included any or our favorite classic breakfast breads, something my husband and I have really missed.

One of my favorite scone recipes was a Country Ham Scone recipe, originally published in a Southern Living Christmas Book. This recipe was made so many times, the page in the book looks wrinkly and worn. I wanted to add this scone back into our Saturday morning breakfast menus, so I began to work on modifying this recipe so that it was gluten free. The final version of this recipe is wonderfully buttery with sweet ham and pepper.

Scone Recipe

1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup arrowroot
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 Tb cane sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
6 Tb cold butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Ham, finely chopped*
1 cup whipping cream
2 tsp kudzu (kuzu) powder, dissolved in the whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line an 8 x 8 inch pan with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl place the first 9 ingredients and blend. Then add the butter pieces and cut the butter into the flour mixture. Work until the blend is crumbly. Add the ham and blend. Add the whipping cream and kudzu powder mixture and blend until the mixture is moistened. Using your hands kneed the mixture in the bowl until it is blended together. Place the dough into the pan and press it out. Next score the top of the dough with a knife into 8 wedges, taking care not to cut all the way through the dough.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 24 minutes or until golden brown. Allow it to cool before serving with Maple Butter.

Maple Butter Recipe

1/2 cup softened butter
2 Tb maple syrup
Optional: 2 Tb chopped peans

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and then add the maple syrup. Blend. Serve with the Applewood Smoked Ham Scones.

How did they go over? My husband and I really enjoyed these scones. My daughter wasn't crazy about the flavor of the scone. My son thought they should have more ham than bread, but they didn't taste too bad.

6/11/07 Note: Niman Ranch Customer Service says that all their products are gluten-free with the exception of the St. Louis pre-cooked ribs.