Monthly Archives: December 2011

Pumpkin Pie Success! (and a chocolate cupcake)

Once again for the holidays, I tried to make a pie crust and pumpkin pie. This time I was confident enough to go out on my own and tweak the recipes. Thanksgiving’s pie was good, but not amazing. I strive for amazing.

My rule has always been to follow the recipe the first time, then change it the way you want after that. So, this time the crust came out better and thanks to a little mistake, the pumpkin pie filling was fabulous!

Using Gluten Free Pantry’s pie crust mix and following the directions, this time I added a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of vanilla to kick up the flavor of the crust. Also, I mixed the dough with my hands, not using a machine and that left chunks of butter (about the size of small marbles) scattered in the dough. Break the dough into two pieces and refrigerate. Now, this is the important part...refrigerate at least 24 hours. The first time, we only let it sit for one hour and had to push it into the pie plate like a giant piece of Playdough. This time, after more than 24 hours of cooling in the fridge, the dough was much more firm and I was able to roll it out between two sheets of plastic wrap and place it into the greased pie plate. Press in any spots that rip. There are still a few small bits of butter left in the dough, but leave them. I wanted to sprinkle some sugar on the dough before baking it to give it a layer of crunch, but I forgot. Next time…

Bake the crust for 12 minutes in a 350 degree oven before filling it. (Can’t remember what the package says, that was just what I decided to do. I threw away the box before checking that part.)

Preparing the filling is easy. Just use the recipe on the side of the organic pumpkin can. (Not pumpkin pie filling, yuk!) But instead of evaporated milk, I used a can of sweetened condensed milk. Didn’t realize my mistake until it was mixed in, so we went with it and crossed our fingers. Added cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, sugar and eggs (and a tsp of vanilla). Pour into cooled crust and bake 10 minutes at 450 and turn the oven down to 350 and bake another 30 minutes.

There is no photo, the pie when that fast after dinner. Everyone devoured the pie and the crust, raving about how it was hard to tell that it was gluten-free. Always glad to hear that from the gluten eaters in the group. Little tweaks can sometimes be your best friend, dear chef!

I’ve added a photo above of the beautiful cupcakes my daughter made for the day. Gluten-free chocolate cupcakes with peppermint buttercream frosting and a white-chocolate/peppermint bark on top. Sweet! She’s getting to be the real baker, and may even be better than me now since she’s gotten so creative. So proud! Recipe to follow as soon as she gives it to me.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under chocolate, Christmas, crust, cupcake, gluten free, peppermint, pumpkin pie, vegetarian

Dear Martha

Recently, there was an article printed in The Daily Mail, UK edition, with a few quotes from Martha and her newest book. She was discussing dinner guests using cell phones and those with allergies or food preferences. I’m posting my letter to her in the assumption that this reporting is correct. If it is not, then I apologize up front and you are welcome to come by and chat, Martha. But if it’s true, what I say below comes from the heart.

Dear Martha:
I’m sure you have many friends, and I’m sure your dinner parties are elegant, as we’ve seen on TV. But I also know the reputation you’ve gotten over the years and I was always there to try and soften it. “If she were a man,” I would say to those who bashed you, “would they be so hard on her? No.” Well, I think I’m going to have to take it all back based on your newest book and interview.

Now, I do agree with you on your stance about cell phones at dinner parties. Unless one has a babysitter or child at home who may need you, there is no need to carry a cell phone at a party. And if it rings (and it should be on silent with only a vibration) then a quick look to see if it’s the aforementioned babysitter/teen at home and put it on ignore if it’s not. There is no reason ever to text or take a call when you are at someone else’s home, especially if that someone worked hard all day cooking, cleaning, and decorating in order to spend time with you and others in her/his home.

But when it comes to allergies and food preferences, I’m in the other camp. “Oh my God! Don’t ask! My rule is do not ask about dietary restrictions,” she says, clearly averse to making an extra effort for certain guests. This quote from the article reveals how selfish you are being when holding these parties. Are they about spending time with friends or showing off your cooking skills? It should be both! Why can’t you accommodate the very people you are hoping to please in your home?

I have always tried to accommodate people with allergies or strong preference when they are in my home. For instance, I know my niece and husband do not like mushrooms. I am always aware and leave them out of my dishes when I know there is a dinner party and they will be eating the food. I would rather find another way to be creative than have them skip something just because I thought it was an inconvenience. It’s about spending time with people, not just showing off.

At the same time, I do not expect anyone to cater to my needs. I am perfectly happy to bring my own food (I’m sure you would hate that, Martha. I won’t even go there) or just have a salad or the side dish. But I would never, ever, assume that someone I personally invited to my home should go without a meal. “You have to be semi-prepared,” she says of picky eaters. “But don’t fret about it. Everybody can miss a meal.” Seriously? You would be fine with someone coming to your home and eating nothing because you weren’t prepared with even a small bite for them? I certainly don’t want to be catered to, but I would also be pretty darn insulted if they had absolutely nothing, not even lettuce or fruit.

And finally, the big question. Do you do all the cooking for your dinner parties? I think not. What would be so hard about just asking one of the chefs in your restaurant-style kitchen to whip up something for the celiac/diabetic/peanut allergy/etc. eater who was invited to your party? Why not show them what a thoughtful, caring hostess you are and put to bed all that talk about you being a you-know-what?

Merry Christmas, Martha. If you want any help in preparing meals with thought, compassion and creativity, feel free to give me a ring.

Leave a comment

Filed under allergies, celiac, cooking, dinner party, gluten free, Martha Stewart

Here’s how to have a gluten-free book club tea party

It was my month to choose a book and host book club in November. Not only do I love reading, but I also love hosting parties. The book I chose was Remarkable Creatures, by Tracy Chevalier. And since the book is based on the lives of spinster women searching for fossils on the coast of England in the early 1800s, (yes, it really is), I chose a tea-party theme with seashells and dinosaurs thrown in for fun.

Tea Party with sea glass, shells and dinosaurs
Tea is served

First let me note that I am the only GF eater in the group. It’s been my mission to prove to them all that GF cooking is just as good and that the wheat is not missed. Top that with the fact that we’re vegetarians and there isn’t any meat at our house and I’ve got a real challenge, but I’m always up for a challenge, Dear Chef.

The dinosaur is there for a reason, trust me.

I decided on making two veggie tarts, (basically quiche without the crust). The first was made with carmelized leeks, browned mushrooms, mozzarella and goat cheese. Carmelize one onion and two leeks, then add mushrooms and brown them with the onions. When they’re done, place them on the bottom of a tart pan and spread out evenly. Cover with a layer of shredded mozzarella and about 3 TBS of shredded Parmesan. Sprinkle with chopped fresh thyme and parsley. In a separate bowl, mix together about 4 egg whites and 3 eggs. Add about 1/4 cup of goat cheese and whisk it all together with a pinch of salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried mustard and nutmeg. Pour evenly over the tart and bake in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes. Don’t let it get too brown. Slice when cool and enjoy. I’m always apprehensive about using goat cheese since even though I love it, I have found that people either love it or hate it. But this was first plate to be empty, so I suppose this wasn’t anything to worry about.

Another dinosaur, representing the fossils in the book.

The second tart was onion, spinach, asparagus and Swiss cheese. Start with the onions in a bit of olive oil and butter (as above) and cook till brown and sweet. Add about 2 cups of fresh spinach and cook until wilted. Turn the heat on low and cook for about 10 minutes until the liquid has cooked out of the spinach. Add 1/2 tsp fresh garlic, pinch of salt and pepper. spread evenly into a pie/tart pan. Cover with 1 1/2 cups of shredded Swiss cheese. Take asparagus and arrange in a patter on top of the cheese. In a separate bowl, beat together 4 egg whites, 3 eggs, 1/4 cup half and half, salt, pepper, pinch of both nutmeg and dried mustard. Chop about 1 TBS fresh parsley and add to the mixture. Beat and then pour evenly and gently over the veggie/cheese mixture. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes, but don’t let it get too brown. Slice when cool.

Thanks to Udi’s for the fabulous bread used to make the cucumber sandwiches and the egg salad sandwiches. They were the first to go and not one was left on the plate. Daughter and I kept eating them while making them, we love them that much. Simple to make, really. For the cucumber sandwiches, just cut the crusts off the bread, then spread with cream cheese and layer with strips of cucumber (use a veggie peeler for strips) and slice. Sprinkle with a little salt and a bit of chopped fresh parsley. For the egg salad I used chopped egg, mayo, apples, celery, salt/pepper and chopped parsley. I didn’t cut the crusts off of these and they were yummy .

In keeping with the fossil-hunting theme, Daughter actually made a wonderful GF coffee cake and placed a small dinosaur in one of the pieces while plating the cake. (Fossil hunting in the dirt? Too much of a stretch?) The cake was gone quickly, and worked perfectly with the tea after dinner.


And believe it or not, I found the perfect wine in the spirit of the fossil-hunting theme of the evening. Thanks Trader Joe’s.

I was depending on Trader Joe’s for their lovely shell-shaped chocolates to round out the decor. And wouldn’t you know it, they don’t have them yet for the holiday season. What’s a girl to do? Ask her teen to make some chocolate, that’s what. Darling daughter actually melted white and dark chocolate and poured it into molds to give us our shell chocolate. What a doll! The night was rounded out with cheese/pesto/sun-dried tomato torte with rice crackers, caramels with sea salt and a lovely salad of spring lettuce, roasted beets and candied pecans in a balsamic dressing.

I’m sad the night is over, but I can’t wait for next month. Try reading the book and see what it inspires you to cook. Enjoy!

2 Comments

Filed under asparagus, cake, cheese, chocolate, cucumber sandwiches, eggs, gluten free, leeks, quiche, sandwich, spinach, tart, vegetarian