Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Recipes 2008

2008 Gluten-Free and Wheat-Free
Pumpkin Recipes Summary


Just in time for Halloween, here's a consolidated summary of some of the gluten-free and wheat-free pumpkin-featuring recipes that I have made available on this blog and on our online gluten-free recipes library. These gluten-free recipes include everything from main-courses to side dishes to desserts, with pumpkin as the Celiac-safe ingredient of inspiration for each creation - all in time for Halloween or Thanksgiving.

I also have some NEW recipes coming soon that feature pumpkin as well, and I should have them online over the coming days and weeks here too. But, this list will certainly get you thinking of Halloween and pumpin-themed dishes, if you are not already.
Note: the hyperlinks (underscored text) within the text below link to the page(s) with the actual recipes. I didn't repeat the full recipe text for each of these here, since it is just a click away already.
Being no surprise that I am a huge fan of home-baked gluten-free desserts, whether there is a nearby Holiday to provide an excuse to bake some extra treats or not, I will begin with dessert recipes.

Dessert Recipes

Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Pumpkin Roll
A perennial favorite this time of year is the Gluten-Free Pumpkin Roll recipe. This particular pumpkin roll has that flavorful pumpkin spice-cake rolled around a layer of sweetened cream cheese filling. The whole creation is dusted with a bit of powdered sugar, and served chilled. What a fantastic way to enjoy that pumpkin!



Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Pumpkin Crème Brulée
I certainly enjoy one of the ultimate rich desserts - Crème Brulée! And in this case it is an incredible Crème Brulée featuring Pumpkin accents. I sure hope your diet allows you to still enjoy the dairy richness of this recipe, as it is just wonderful, and not only for Thanksgiving or Halloween. This gluten-free Gluten-Free Pumpkin Crème Brulée Recipe features a full-cream Crème Brulée that has a subtle, yet flavorful, pumpkin flavor throughout the rich custard. Creme Brulee can optionally be topped with a caramelized sugar layer if you prefer the traditional burnt-sugar top.



Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Pumpkin Bundt Cake
Here is a quick and easy pumpkin-accent cake that will fit the season well: Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Pumpkin Bundt Cake recipe. A nice blend of spices - clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger (and even a bit of cocoa!) - give this cake much of the same overall flavor as a pumpkin pie would enjoy. And, it is quick and simple to prepare.


Main Courses and Side-Dishes
Are pancakes a main course?

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pancakes
I don't know about you, but for me, Pancakes do count as a main course on more than a few occasions. So, here is one type of Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Pancake Recipe that I enjoy on occasion. I say "one type" because I tend to regularly vary the ingredients, especially the flours that I use, on a rather ad-hoc basis.

Some days I'll use some Millet flour, other days will include Sorghum, and still others the Teff and Buckwheat (which IS safe for Celiac sufferers in its pure form - it is NOT a wheat, though it sounds like it). I also have a tendency to throw a few chocolate chips into the mix and turn the whole pancake into a giant cookie of sorts :)



Pumpkin as Pasta
I wrote a blog about using pumpkin as a "pasta" of sorts. As such, this dish works well as both a main course or a side dish - take your pick. Quite often, it is a wonderful low-calorie and healthy feature item for my dinner. It is simple to prepare, mild in flavor (primarily taking on the flavor of whatever pasta sauce you choose), and starts using pumpkin in its most basic form, without the usual pumpkin-pie spices many are accustomed to. This recipe relies on the basic baked-pumpkin recipe.


Standard Baked Pumpkin Recipe
I wrote this gluten-free blog entry a while back, about how to prepare a small pumpkin-pie type pumpkin as a baked pumpkin for eating as you would any other baked squash. It is quite simple to take a pumpkin, "gut it", place it in the oven, and produce a healthy and satisfying dish (or foundation for other recipes). And, speaking of a foundation for other recipes, I'll move on to another recipe which features this baked pumpkin...



Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Pumpkin Risotto
And now, for a wonderful pumpkin-accent side dish for the season, do not forget the Gluten-Free Pumpkin Risotto Recipe. It has a mild, pleasant flavor, with just a hint of cinnamon to go along with the very subtle pumpkin undertones. It relies on the baked pumpkin recipe again, though you could probably just as easily use canned pumpkin if you choose.


Happy Halloween and Pumpkin Eating
These recipes should make for some great Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Recipes as well, so keep them close at hand for any of those leftover pumpkins you may have sitting around in next month. As in prior years, I have already cooked my pile of pumpkins and have frozen their cooked pulp for later. And, just in time... my 2007 bounty JUST ran out a few weeks before the new pumpkin season started here in Ohio.

Happy Halloween everyone, and happy pumpkin eating too!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gluten-Free Snack Bars Roundup


You have probably noticed the proliferation of gluten-free snack bars that have hit the market in the past year. The current selection goes well beyond the days of when the Larabar was nearly the only gluten-free snack bar on the market, and there is an incredible variety of formulations available now that target particular sub-sectors of the gluten-free diet market.

I snapped a picture of some of the latest incarnations of these diet / snack bars above (there are many more), which each have their own particular features (the features vary by bar, so read the label and make sure you find the one that fits your particular needs the best):
  • Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free (an obvious requirement!)
  • organic ingredients
  • low GI (Glycemic Index)
  • Nutrition Bars with various "Super Foods" in them - typically antioxidants, immune-boosters, and vitamins and minerals
  • High-Protein bars - typically achieving their high-protein status with one or both of whey protein and/or soy protein isolates
  • Vegan, dairy-free
  • Allergen-Free (free of all common allergens)
  • Wonderful Flavor Combinations
As you will notice in that picure above, there are all sorts of different approaches to gluten-free treats now. My personal favorite of recent is the Kind Brand Sesame bar with chocolate drizzle. Excellent! Some of the other "Kind" brand bar varieties are quite enjoyable too, like the various fruit-nut bars. Kind has a nice selection of bars available now, and at last count I think it was 6 or more.

The Think Green, Think Thin, Think Organic, etc... serve their purpose too. The Think Thin type is all about high-protein (soy generally) and low GI impact, and as such I would not qualify these bars as a "gluten-free dessert" (which, I would consider some of the other sweeter varieties of snack bars on the market - especially the ones with chocolate and other dessert-like qualities). The "Think..." brand offerings have expanded rapidly, and there seem to be dozens of different ones to choose from.

The ever-popular LaraBar has now grown into a brand offering a huge selection of flavor combinations (though, they all still feature that Date-based formula, so an appreciation of Dates will sure help if you want to try these). The newer "Jocalat" varieties bring cocoa into what I regard as their "base formula", which makes them much more appealing to me (I love cocoa and chocolate). Again, there are quite a few flavors to choose from.

I didn't care for the original Larabars anywhere near as much as I do the new Jocalat varieties. The cocoa (in each of these new formulas) takes the edge off the overwhelming date-flavor the originals had. These new ones are quite nice. I personally LOVE the chocolate-mint one, and the chocolate and chocolate-coffee types are rather tasty too.

The only Jocolat variety I complete detested was the chocolate-orange (it tasted so strongly of orange peel or oil that I could not deal with it... I might as well been chewing on an orange rind). I like the flavors of chocolate and orange, but only when orange is used in a subtle manner. Perhaps they will update the formula if sales are slow for that variety - if so, I would try it again, otherwise I will never eat the chocolate-orange variety unless I am starving. :)

So, things have certainly changed for the better with the rather wide-ranging selection of gluten-free diet snack bars on the market. These treats are great for keeping handy when out on the road, or at a lengthy meeting, or otherwise away from easy access to your normal gluten-free diet items.

These bars give me a quick and easy SAFE (gluten-free) source of calories if I am finding myself hungry and stuck somewhere that otherwise only offers questionable (or definitely off limits) food options due to obvious gluten exposure possibilities. The bars fit easily in that cup-holder in my car, or in a jacket pocket or shorts pocket (note: I don't carry around any types that would *melt* in a pocket).

As for where to locate these gluten-free snack bars. I have found that I can get most of them at either Whole Foods or mail order via Amazon.com's grocery section, and other grocers carry some too. Amazon didn't have all the varieties, but for the varieties Amazon carries, their prices were rather decent. NOTE: Amazon has items they themselves sell and stock - which are usually a great deal and even include Free Super Saver shipping many times - but they also have many other vendors that sell items via Amazon.com that may not be such a good deal and will cost you shipping most of the time; so, if ordering from Amazon, take time to look around on there and make sure you get a good deal which most often applies to items "shipped and sold by Amazon.com" or such.

Happy snacking everyone!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Miniature Watermelon - Tiny but Tasty


I had to include the above picture just to give a sense for scale when I discuss the miniature watermelon that we raised in our gluten-free garden this year. On the left is a honeydew melon that we also grew, and trust me, it is not even as large as many of the ones I see at the grocery store - perhaps commercial growers have the advantage of being in a State where the growing season is longer.

But, regardless, the two melons to the right of the honeydew are actually "watermelon", or so they were supposed to be according to the seeds we selected and purchased online. Nothing in the watermelon-seed advertisement or description said anything about size, which as you can see = TINY. We anxiously watched these fruit grow, and as they took off quickly I had high hopes... first they reached golf-ball size... then baseball... then maybe just about softball size...then... nothing more! I couldn't believe it.

So, we finally picked one after the stem indicated that it was ripe (the stem will start turning yellow and/or brown). And, here's what the fruit looked like inside:


Yes, it rather appears to be a watermelon. And, it sure did have a lot of seeds. Whatever variety or species this thing is, it is definitely different. I expect is still offers the usual healthy qualities of watermelon: fiber, lycopene, Vitamin-C, etc. Now, how about taste?

Well, it actually tastes just like any "normal" watermelon I have had. It was quite nice in fact. And, aside from the proliferation and abundance of seeds for such a tiny watermelon, this miniature fruit had one neat thing going for it: you could eat the center all the way out to within an 1/8" of the "rind", since the lighter-colored rind-region still tasted fine and was still of a nice texture too.

So, given the yield these "watermelon" plants produced this year - i.e., a few of these Miniature Watermelons per vine - and given the space the vines take up in the garden, I think we will forgo the small watermelon next year and plant more honeydew melon in their place (those were the star performer this year - outperforming the mini-watermelon and the cantaloupe plants too).

My wife and I like to joke about how these tiny watermelon, if you could purchase them in the store, would be some type of "rare" or "select" or "specialty" variety that would cost $20.00/each because of this. he he he. If you have seen the exotic fruits in the markets priced a bit ridiculous, you will know the source of our amusement. It is sorta like how "heirloom" tomatoes are $5.00/pound or something, and they grow just as easily as any others from our experience. Well, enough of the miniature watermelon discussion for now - I could have eaten 4 of them in the time it took to type this Gluten-Free Blog entry :)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Fresh Peppermint and Recipe Ideas


I love the flavor of mint: peppermint, spearmint, tea mint... it's all good. In addition to tasting great, it sure does look spectacular this time of year when it is in full bloom! And, the bees absolutely love the stuff too, which is great for attracting those ever-necessary pollinators to our garden area, and it also makes a great addition to simply enhance the biodiversity of our yard in general.

In addition to using peppermint in very simple gluten-free recipes, like peppermint tea from scratch, I like to incorporate mint, as an accent flavor, into a variety of recipes - particularly dessert recipes.

There are a few easy ways to go about incorporating fresh mint into recipes. First, you can brew unsweetened mint tea using the mint, and then use that resulting tea as a 1:1 substitution for water in some recipes (if you have a recipe that already uses water, this is a very simple substitution) - or, use it in perhaps a more diluted ratio depending on your personal preference. Next, you can always just mince, chop, or finely shred the fresh mint and measure it into a recipe; or perhaps you will prefer completely drying the mint and then grinding or powdering it for a very fine texture that is less detectable in recipes. And, sure, you could use the purified mint-oils, but extracting the oil is a bit too much trouble for me personally, as I would just purchase it that way if I needed it.

Now, if you too like the flavor of mint coupled with chocolate (as I do!), one of my favorite things to do is mix mint into things like decadent chocolate tortes and create a "French Mint" type torte. I have a chocolate (well, mocha to be exact) torte recipe in my book that lends itself to such modification, by simply substituting the brewed mint-tea for brewed coffee. The result of a mint-substitution here is quite nice, as it makes for a simple variation for anyone that may not enjoy mocha / coffee (I also perform substitutions using orange peel and berry-flavors in that recipe too, with or without coffee.)
Note: The recipe I am referring to is on page 100 - here's a link to the gluten-free mocha tart picture from the book that uses a sponge-cake base, though the picture is rather annoyingly watermarked in that online version. :)
Some of the gluten-free chocolate cake recipes or brownie recipes allow for nice chocolate-mint variations too. Depending on the recipe, I may simply add finely minced fresh mint with no other alterations required; others take a bit more work, but usually it is rather easy coming up with a winning flavor combo. I'm sure you can experiment and discover some favorite gluten-free recipes of your own that feature fresh mint.

You are certainly not limited to combining mint with chocolate, as there are quite a few other combinations that work well and produce a nice refreshing flavor. I have enjoyed mint with berry flavors quite a bit if kept subtle, and mint with other fruits too. And, though my focus has been desserts here, mint also comes into play nicely in some tasty Asian dishes. All I know is that the fresh-mint season is coming to a close soon, and it is time to use some of this season's crop while it is here and I can enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Gluten-Free UFO Sighting!


Oh my! What is it?? I recently spotted this UFO hovering in my back yard recently, and it sure looks ominous! lol

After floating around in front of me for a moment, the unidentified flying object started to become clear in my vision (and in the camera's focus),...


And, finally, after the former UFO came in for a landing on my deck railing, I quickly discovered that UFO's can be edible! :)


OK, so I have lost it for the day it seems... but, whenever my wife asks me if I want a White Squash for dinner, I always in turn refer to them as UFO's because of their unique flying-saucer / disc-like shape.

If you have not had one of these white squash before, I highly recommend them. These gluten-free diet treats are wonderful in all sorts of recipes, as their mild flavor (even milder than a zucchini) and nice texture go well with all sorts of other gluten-free ingredients of choice. E.g., we love to fry them up with some Caramelized Onions and Garlic.

Basically, we just cut the squash into one-inch cubes or so, and fry them up or otherwise add them to whatever recipe we need them in. They are also great when prepared in recipes featuring tomatoes too. We will use them as we would eggplant or zucchini, and/or in combination with the same. I like them with a bit of Tamari too, or prepared with Chinese or Thai style sauces. You get the idea: highly versatile veggie!

In addition, these gluten-free vegetables produced a lot per each vine we planted. We placed tomato-rings around a couple plants, and the squash grew mostly vertical when confined in this way, which made for easy harvesting - as the UFO's were quite easy to spot suspended from the vines (and, their nearly-white color stands out from the surrounding foliage nicely).

Hopefully you happen to encounter these wonderful squash somewhere, whether in your garden, at a local farmers' market, or your favorite grocery store. They are definitely worth trying.