Monthly Archives: November 2012

Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

I celebrated Thanksgiving with Mark’s family this year. With only 6 of us at the table, it was a little more subdued than my family’s usual 20 person feast. Not that a small Thanksgiving is a bad thing. We watched a lot of football, played soccer with Reggie, Mark’s Family’s dog, and I went for a nice 5.5 mile run outside. Sadly, I had to work on Black Friday, but unlike everywhere else open, work was painfully slow.

This was also the first year I had a lactose-free meal… it was a little hard to accept that my 22nd Thanksgiving would not include butter, cheese or cream. What is Thanksgiving without those things?

It actually ended up being pretty dang good… I ate a ton of Brussels sprouts, cornbread stuffing made with veggie stock and acorn squash roasted in maple syrup. AND vegan pumpkin pie with gluten free crust! (Mark’s dad is gluten free).

The condensed milk was swapped with coconut milk and thickened with agar agar instead of eggs. Agar agar is basically ground up red algae and when heated and mixed with water it becomes a gelatinous substance. Oh the wonders of biology. I picked up some agar agar and the other necessary ingredients (vegetable shortening and tapioca flour) at the local coop, in bulk.

I also picked up King Arthur’s new gluten free multi-purpose flour… It was the best gluten free flour I’ve worked with and I was supporting local! As an added bonus, it doesn’t contain xanthan gum like some other gf flours… xanthan gum can cause upset stomachs in some people.

Source

The crust was kind of labor intensive, there are many crucial steps and some tips that I picked up from Simply Gluten Free.

  • make sure everything is cold… put ice in your water and put shortening in the freezer for 30 minutes before using it
  • use a food processor to incorporate the shortening.. it will make the crust flakier
  • skimp on the water… the dough should only stick together when pressed with your fingers
  • let the dough rest for 1/2 an hour before rolling… it lets the moisture distribute evenly
  • don’t try to roll the dough out…. extrude it by placing it between two floured sheets of wax paper.
  • use the highest quality ingredients you can afford… it really does make a difference, especially the flour

Since gluten-free baking is a tricky beast, I didn’t really stray from the original recipe. The dough had the consistency of shortbread cookie dough, and was pretty prone to cracking which can be frustrating to a perfectionist like me. I think next time I’d just buy a pre-made gluten free crust, but it was defiantly worth the experience. Plus, I wanted to use my festive little leaf cookie cutters before fall ends.

For the Crust,  from Simply Gluten Free

1/2 cup of organic vegetable shortening (I used spectrum brand)
2-4 tablespoons of water (I used 3)
1 1/4 cups of gluten free multi-purpose flour, such as King Arthur
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar

Follow the tips and directions here, a lot of the steps are crucial so follow it closely… it’s also a long process. Don’t start it at 9 pm like I did.

For the Pie, from the Blender, a William Sonoma Blog

1 15oz can of pumpkin puree
1/2 cup of maple syrup (look for kosher label to ensure its vegan, if need be)
1 can of coconut milk (14oz)
2 tablespoons of tapioca flour (found in bulk section)
2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon of salt
splash of vanilla extract
3/4 cup of water
2 teaspoon of agar agar powder, (not flakes or bars, found in bulk section)
 

Blend together the pumpkin, maple syrup, coconut milk, tapioca flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt and vanilla extract, in a large bowl and set aside.

In a sauce pot bring the 3/4 cup of water and agar agar to a boil, stirring constantly. Let simmer for 1 to 2 minutes then stir in the pumpkin mixture and return to a boil. Let thicken for 2 to 3 more minutes, stirring it constantly.

Pour the mixture into the prebaked pie shell. Refrigerate for 3 to 5 hours, until set and firm. Serve chilled or at room temp.

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Spice Drawer Organization

My schedule at work has changed, on Wednesdays I have to go in early, which means I get out at 3:00. This past Wednesday, I worked on a little project with my extra 2 and half hours of free afternoon. I reorganized my spice drawer.

I know, totally cool thing to do with your afternoon, but it looks awesome. We buy our spices in bulk at City Market Coop, which I love because I can buy as much or as little as I need. The one pitfall is that unless you bring your own containers, you have to use the little baggies provided. So needless to say, I had a whole draw full of unlabeled baggies of various spices… I often relied on the smell test to identify the difference between smoked paprika, cayenne and Cajun spice… all a crimson color. Not to mention it’s not good for the environment… all that plastic.

I bought a 12-pack of 4 oz mason jars and printed up some labels with a cute little font. With the labels placed on the lids, I can quickly pull open the drawer and identify my spice of choice. The sealed jars will also keep my spices fresher and more flavorful than the bags do. At some point in the future, I plan to purchase another set of jars to house my growing spice collection.

When a spice runs out, I can bring the jar to the coop, weigh it, record the tare weight (weight of the jar) and fill it up. At the register they can subtract the weight of the jar, so you’re just paying for the spice. Buying in bulk is so much cheaper than buying the pre-bottled stuff and there are more options available…

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Slow Cooker Vegetable Curry

The weekend before last, my dad threw my mom a surprise milestone birthday party. 75 people, fabulous food and an open bar… my dad sure pulled off a party, and my mom was completely surprised… what a good man!

Sadly, I couldn’t make it home for the Sunday afternoon bash, so I went home this past weekend for a long weekend. One perk of my job is that when the Federal Reserve is closed, I get the day off. And they like their holidays!

It was a gorgeous weekend. On Saturday, I went for a walk down along the water with my parents and the dog. It was great to feel that salty, sea breeze on my face; I’m a beach kid, what can I say. Later on, we had my cousins over for dinner. On Sunday, I went for a long hilly run, met my best friend for breakfast and then went for a hike up Bluffs Head with my parents.

Sunday night, I went to meet my cousins’ new puppy, Scout, he’s so cute. On Monday, I volunteered at the Branford Community Dining Room, the soup kitchen where I used to volunteer at though high school and my summers home from college. It was great to see the CDR Ladies! Then I headed back up to Vermont.

It was an awesome weekend home and just what I needed! I mean who wouldn’t want to hang out with their family and this sleepy puppy… 14 years young! Love that Dexter dog.

The other morning I made this curry recipe in my slow cooker. I just threw everything in, turned it on low and left it while I went to work. 5 minutes before we were ready to eat dinner, I added a few splashes of coconut milk and a few handfuls of chopped baby spinach and that was it! While I waited for the spinach to wilt, I cooked up some whole wheat couscous. It was pretty darn good and so easy!

Slow Cooker Vegetable Curry

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 cup baby carrots, sliced 1/4 in thick
2 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Serrano chili, minced fine
1 can of chickpeas
1 russet potato cubed, peel if you want, I didn’t
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup of vegetable stock
1 cup of water
3 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup light coconut milk
 

Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, add in onions and cook for 1 minute, then add in carrots and sauté for 4 more minutes. Add in curry powder through Serrano chili, and sauté for an additional minute. Transfer the mixture to your slow cooker and add in the remaining ingredients through the water. Stir and cover. Cook on low for 10 hours or high for 6, stirring occasionally. Five minutes before serving, stir in chopped spinach and coconut milk. Serve over rice, couscous, or your desired grain.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Buttercup Squash and Cranberries with Toasted Breadcrumbs

We were lucky enough in Vermont to escape the wrath of Hurricane Sandy; however, my heart goes out to all of those affected by the superstorm. Having grown up on the Connecticut shoreline, family members and friends have been in my thoughts constantly.  My parents fared well, but if you’ve met my dad, you know they were ready. Others in my hometown were not so lucky. The day after the storm, on my way to work, I saw a rainbow. I stopped to snap a pic and sent it to my mom, with the caption “a good omen.” Peoples support for one another this past week has been astounding, and has shown what the human spirit is truly capable of.
On another non-related note… Mark and I filed for domestic partnership and it was approved by the state of Vermont this week. Oh to be financially interdependent! How romantic!
 
Saturday night we met Mark’s parents for dinner at the Home Hill Inn.
It’s an old inn on the Connecticut river, with a restaurant that focuses on the use of local ingredients. Mark’s parents brought gifts: cheesy kielbasa for Mark and a stalk of brussels sprouts, from their garden, for me. Thanks for the dinner and gifts!
Naturally I had to find something to do with the brussels sprouts, so for lunch yesterday I had brussels sprouts with buttercup squash, cranberries and toasted breadcrumbs. Buttercup squash was new to me; I’ve been seeing it at the store and finally gave it a try. It’s a sweet, dry squash, with orange flesh and green skin. It tastes kind of like a sweet potato.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Buttercup Squash and Cranberries with Toasted Breadcrumbs 
 
1/2 lb of brussels sprouts
 
1 buttercup squash, peeled and cubed (you could sub any other winter squash
 
1/4 cup of cider vinegar
 
1 tablespoon of olive oil
 
1 tablespoon of mustard
 
2 teaspoons of maple syrup
 
Black pepper to taste
 
1/4 teaspoon dried garlic
 
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
 
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
 
3 tablespoons of whole wheat or gluten-free breadcrumbs
 
Cooking spray or oil for drizzling
 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine all ingredients through red pepper flakes, tossing to coat. Spread out evenly on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Once browned and cooked through, add cranberries and divide evenly between 4 ramekins. Divide bread crumbs evenly over the top of the ramekins and spray with a little cooking spray or drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Return to oven for 5 minutes, turning the broiler on for the last minute to brown the breadcrumbs. Remove from the oven and enjoy!

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