Vegan Baking Cheat Sheet

Baking gluten-free and vegan translates to one simple truth that is hard to teach. Because it can only be learned by experience. This one simple truth?

Unlearn everything you think you know- or thought you understood- about baking.

All those mandatory Home Economics classes about kneading bread dough for ten minutes to improve elasticity or leavening a cake with beaten egg whites won't help your inner Betty Crocker to bloom if you're gluten-free and vegan. In fact, clinging to old notions about what works- and what doesn't- might lead you down a rather prickly circuitous path to ruin. Not to mention, your personal Culinary Museum of Failure. But don't let this bare bones truth inhibit you.

In fact, let it free you.

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Soccer Snacks

It was our week to bring snacks to soccer. You'll never guess what we brought...
soccer coach bailey

Let me just say...I HATE DRAWING PENTAGONS!!! Ugh!

soccer cookies team

These cookies were probably the most difficult ones I've made in a while....I am apparently polygon-challenged. They're not my favorite, either, but the kids liked them. I think everyone enjoys seeing their name on something, don't you?
soccer coach carmelinda

Looking for more sports-related cookies? Try these:

Gluten-Free Pizza Flatbread with Roasted Vegetables

Gluten free pizza flatbread recipe
An easy gluten-free pizza flatbread topped with roasted veggies.

I've been offering up picnic food recipes this week because we're eating easy picnic style here in the final countdown phase of leaving for our summer adventure in Los Angeles. Only four remaining stacks of books to box, a tilting fence of wet paintings to frame, and the all important decision of which t-shirts, pots and kitchen power tools to pack stand in the way of our coffee fueled departure early next week.

I am reminded of the opening scene of A Walk on the Moon where Pearl and Lilian Kantrowitz are cramming the family car with colanders and tablecloths and onions and potato peelers. Kitchen stuff for their summer cabin in the Catskills. Such a production this is. Planning ahead for gluten-free snacks on the road (chocolate cupcakes are a must, and popcorn) and an easy microwavable supper for the hotel in Arizona (I'm thinking I'll freeze some of my favorite Mac and Cheese). We still don't have a rental lined up. And the storms knocked out our Internet this week. I'm lucky to be on at all tonight.

So yours truly has been running out of steam by cocktail hour, whipped not only by the attention-to-detail process of organizing two lives and shedding old stuff, but by the monsoon season thunderstorms growling across the Chama River in the afternoons, sending wind and rain and howling coyotes up the mesa. And knocking out our web access.

So forgive me if I have not responded to a comment or a question. I haven't been on-line much. Or participated on Twitter. I've been a total social network slacker stranded out here in the wilds. Cooking up flatbreads and Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies between rinsing out empty shampoo bottles. Thinking of you.

Hoping you're having a wonderful week!

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Edible Image Cookies

terri 40 5
I realized when posting Terri's birthday cookies that I've never posted about her 40th birthday cookies.

Now, I hope Terri won't mind me stating her age, since she looks younger every time I see her.
{In a few years, I'll be making "29" cookies for her. I know, you'll want to hate her, but she's really nice, so you can't.}

So, I had this idea to use a drawing of Terri and have it printed on icing sheets for her cookies.
terri 40 art
First, you need a really talented relative that you can guilt into making the drawing. (Thank you, Maura.)

Then, format the picture to the size you want it to be on the cookies. If you're lucky enough to own an icing printer (oh, how I would LOVE an icing printer!), print them off. If not, do what I did and take the file to your local bakery supply store for printing.

When you are ready to make the cookies, trim the pictures to the right size. Outline and fill the cookies as normal.

While the icing is still wet, peel off the backing of the picture and place onto the icing.
terris 40 drying
Now, here's what I learned the HARD WAY...add a day to the drying time. The icing sheet traps the moisture in the royal icing. It really needs 2 days to dry totally.

I made them the night before, started to bag them up and hop in the car to drive to the party, and OH, NO! The cookies were still wet. I cranked down the AC, turned the fans on high and prayed for the best.
terri 40 1
Well, by the end of the evening, some of the cookie icing was stuck to the interior of the cookie bags. It's the thought that counts, right? :)

If you like these cookies, check out more cookies I made using my cousin Maura's fabulous artwork!!!
Cookies from Art

I had to try it...

english muffin basket
Ever since making homemade English muffins, I've had visions of pink ♥-shaped muffins dancing in my head.

Well...they didn't exactly turn out like the muffins of my dreams, but they are still good.
english muffin hearts cut
english muffin hearts

Here's what I learned:
  1. Gel/Paste food coloring does not "knead in." I ended up with marbleized dough...good if you are going for the 60's psychedelic look.
  2. Heart-shaped dough doesn't necessarily stay heart-shaped. Anyone for English muffin amoebas?
  3. Most important, my neighbor makes a killer strawberry jam!!! (And it is the prettiest shade of red!)
english muffin jam
I think I'm sticking to the original from now on. :)
{If only I can get my hands on some more jam. Hmmmm...}

Disposable Pastry Bags...Works For Me Wednesday

You know from a previous WFMW that I love squeeze bottles for flooding cookies (filling in the outlines). But here's what I use for piping outlines and adding details...
Disposable Pastry Bags!

Why are these great? No washing! You may have seen these...
...but they require washing and drying after each use. Messy and aggravating!

Some recommend using baggies for a piping bag. I don't. I think they are hard to control, not all that sturdy, and the tip has to be cut off just right.

Disposable decorating bags work for me.
icing bag prep 1
Insert a coupler, cut off the end (most say to cut it further up the coupler, I like to cut off less of the bag, that way there's less of a chance of leakage),
icing bag preps 2
...add a tip and secure with the coupler ring. Now, if you want to change tip sizes, just unscrew the ring, change the tip and re-secure.
{Here's a great link with more details on how to use a pastry/decorating bag.}

Disposable bags are sold at bakery supply stores, craft stores and even WalMart. I buy mine in the box of 100 at Michaels. I cringed the fist time I saw the price, $19.99. I always wait for my 40% off Michaels coupon from the Sunday paper. With the coupon, the bags come to about 12¢ each. (OK...even at full price, they are only 20¢ each, but I feel better using a coupon.:)

Be sure to hop on over to We Are THAT Family for more WFMW tips! I learn something new every week. Here are a few of my previous entries:

Easy Champagne Vinegar Red Potato Salad

Mayo free potato salad with champagne vinegar is delicious, vegan and gluten free
No mayo in this classic potato salad. Nope. Nada. Zip.

For those of you looking for a mayo-free potato salad recipe, here's an easy, tasty picnic style salad seasoned with Champagne vinegar and tarragon. I plan on making potato salad several times this week. Picnic food- that's perfect for packing. Sorry for the alliteration. I blame excitement. Life is getting interesting again. We're living sans furniture now- except for a bed, desk and rug. The casita feels empty in a good way. Clean and spacious. Inviting possibility.

Let's hope potential buyers feel the same way.

As for me, I'll be at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market a week from Wednesday (expect pictures). We don't know where we're staying yet. But if Craig's List is any indication, choices will be numerous. Until then?

Dinner will be picnic style.

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A cookie full of posies...

My girlfriend Terri is having a birthday today...and her sweet mom ordered cookies for her! :)

She ordered these:
pink cakes and daisies
But then emailed and told me to do whatever I wanted.

I still wanted to make the pink birthday cakes...they are some of my favorites, but I thought I'd play around with the design a little.
pink birthday collage
These on the right, with the big flowers, turned out to be my favorites. The flowers are pretty "high profile," so I'm a little worried about how they will ship.
pink birthday posies side
Maybe Terri will let us know. (Don't worry, I sent extras in case of breakage!)

Here are a few of Terri's pink birthday cookie mix all together...
pink birthday terri's mix 2
pink birthday terri's mix

Terri.....I hope you have a wonderful birthday!!! I miss you! I'll be sure to drink a Bass Ale in your honor tonight! :)

Vegan Pasta Pie with Mushrooms, Garlic and Tomatoes

My vegan version of a savory pasta pie- 
no eggs, dairy or tofu. Seriously.

This savory pie recipe reminds me of a roasted vegetable frittata. Or my Roasted Vegetable Noodle Kugel, even. I invented it because I was craving a simple one-dish pie for supper- something easy and light and bordering on picnic food- with guaranteed leftovers. Because- and I tell you this with all the happy feet gyrations of a gypsy heart locked inside a hot flashing nest-eschewing body- we're boxing books again- we're storing art and family pictures and files and (most of) our movie collection. We're selling our furniture, consigning everything from roomy chairs and Mexican tables to Kilim pillows and punched tin mirrors. A truck arrives today to haul the lot to Santa Fe.

Even though the house has not sold.

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The Write Stuff

pencils all in a row
My son is taking some standardized tests this week....he LOVES taking these tests (I always did, too). The test facility asked the parents to bring snacks for the kids to share and to bring #2 pencils, so we did!

I didn't have a pencil cutter. I did have a "bachelorette party" cookie cutter...if you know what I mean...that would have worked with some slight modification. ;)

But since this was a daytime project and I didn't want to risk my son stumbling into the kitchen while I was performing surgery, I used my pick-up truck cutter instead.

Just a few chops with my handy-dandy bench scraper...voila! Pencils!
pencil cutter collage

Here's the progression into cookie pencils....
pencil collage

To make the cookies:
  • Using yellow royal icing, outline the main pencil shape with a #2 or #3 tip. (AmeriColor Egg Yellow mixed with AmeriColor Gold)pencils food coloring
  • With a #2 tip, outline the pencil tip in beige. (AmeriColor Copper)
  • Thin the yellow and beige icings (reserving some yellow) with water to make the flood icing the consistency of syrup.
  • Cover with a damp dishtowel and let sit several minutes.
  • Run a silicone spatula through the icing to pop any large air bubbles and transfer to squeeze bottles.
  • Fill in outlines.
  • With grey icing, use a #3 tip to add the pencil detail in 2 or 3 lines. (AmeriColor Super Black)
  • With pink icing, outline the eraser with a #2 tip. (AmeriColor Deep Pink mixed with AmeriColor Chocolate Brown)
  • Thin the pink icing with water to make the consistency of syrup.
  • Cover with a damp dishtowel and let sit several minutes.
  • Run a silicone spatula through the icing to pop any large air bubbles and transfer to squeeze bottle.
  • Fill in outline.
  • With a #2 tip, add the pencil detail stripes in yellow.
  • Using a #1 tip, add the "no. 2" and lead in black. (AmeriColor Super Black)
pencils no. 2 close

These would make a great teacher gift! For one more sweet teacher gift idea, click here!

My Ice Cream Maker...Works For Me Wednesday

Why I let this wedding gift sit unused for 6 years, I'll never know. This baby works for me!!! If you have an ice cream maker sitting in a box in the back of your cabinet, now is the time to break it out! If you don't have one, well, you might need one! :)
Homemade ice cream was like a revelation to me. It's a little like homemade bread; once you taste homemade, you never want to to back.

And, it's EASY!!! The kids can help, the mix-ins are limitless...and even the mistakes taste good!

Two of my favorite ice cream books are Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book and The Ultimate Ice Cream Book. Both are great resources and have more recipes than you could ever make. (The Ultimate Ice Cream Book has a recipe for chocolate sorbet that is fat-free...not that we care about those things...and utterly decadent!)

coconut cake and ice cream
My favorite ice cream EVER is Jerry's Chocolate from the Ben & Jerry's book. (This is the ice cream I served with the coconut cake a few posts back.)

Here we made it and added cookie dough chunks.
chocolate cookie dough ice cream

chocolate cookie dough after

It's not all about chocolate, though...don't forget Key Lime Pie ice cream!
key lime
Keep the ice cream freezer canister in the freezer and you'll always be ready to whip up a batch. (I line mine with a piece of plastic wrap to prevent it picking up other smells from the freezer.)

What your favorite ice cream flavor?

Be sure to check out all of the Works For Me Wednesday tips and idea at We Are THAT Family. Here are some oldies, but goodies from me:

When life hands you vegetables, make cake!

When our family joined a CSA this year, I never pictured myself baking a cake from our shares.

beet cake

But, in our box this week…BEETS!

{For the rest of the story, please visit my post over at Blissfully Delish! See you there!}

Proud to be a Blissfully Domestic Contributor


Have you heard of Blissfully Domestic? It's an online magazine devoted to "real life." Here's a snippet from the website of what Blissfully Domestic is all about:

"We are 100% written and managed by real women; women who write as we bounce babies on our knees, women who spend lots of time in the carpool line, women who need coffee and women who are tired of traditional magazines written by 23 year olds fresh out of college."

Don't you love it? I am so happy to announce that I'm going to be contributing to the food channel of Blissfully Domestic, called "Blissfully Delish." Yay!!!
Proud to be a Blissfully Domestic Contributor
My first post will be on the site tomorrow...I'll let you know when. I hope you'll come on over and join me! There's something there for everyone!

Gluten-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Gluten free strawberry rhubarb crisp makes an easy dessert
Gluten-free strawberry rhubarb crisp with a tangy twist.

When I was a little girl my favorite way to eat rhubarb was to snap off a stick in the back yard, run into the kitchen and dip the end into the sugar bowl, repeating the dipping process as needed to coat each tart and chewy bite with granular sweetness. In a post-Seinfeld world I risk being labeled a dreaded double dipper. And I admit up front, it's true.

I double dipped and triple dipped and lived to tell the tale.

Beyond childhood I never bothered much with rhubarb, except for tasting the occasional strawberry rhubarb crisp at someone else's family picnic. I was never much a fan of it cooked. Stewing and baking seemed to rob it of its charms, mocking my memory of those sugar coated crisp and sour stalks. The mush in the bottom of all those Pyrex baking pans was a sorry excuse for rhubarb, I thought. So recreating a rhubarb crisp recipe for living gluten-free was never glowing brightly on my cooking radar screen. It was never even the faintest of blips. I've been blogging for four rhubarb seasons now and haven't felt inspired to develop a recipe. Until now.

Why now, I've no idea. Perhaps it's because we're stuck out here in the desert, with nary a garden or bursting rhubarb patch in sight. Just rolling hills of crusty earth studded with brittle pinon and juniper trees, the oddball cholla, or tuft of tenacious sage. The words green and leafy don't exactly come to mind when you walk the dirt road to the arroyo.

So when I spotted a few lonely stalks of rhubarb in a basket at Whole Foods in Santa Fe- ruby red and sexy in their glistening rhubarb goodness- I thought, Why not attempt a strawberry rhubarb crisp recipe?

And because I'd asked myself out loud my husband said, You do realize you just asked three stalks of rhubarb if you should make them into a crisp?

Well, yeah, I shrugged back. I talk to my fruit.

Don't you?

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Teacher gifts: homemade, kid-decorated and delicious!

Let me give you an idea for teachers' gifts this year. I worked in a school for a few years and I can tell you....teachers have closets and cabinets full of candles and coffee mugs. I know, I gave a lot of them.

When my son was in the first grade, we he made these cookies for his teacher. I helped. :)
jack's teacher cookies
I made just a simple round cookie. Outlined it and then flooded it with white (royal) icing. (I added a decorative edge piping.) The cookies dried overnight, then I let me son loose with the food coloring pens.

  1. Let the cookies dry overnight. This is a MUST! The cookies will look dry in a few hours. Trust me, they're not.
  2. Make extras. Food coloring pens take a light touch...this is a difficult concept for kids (or maybe just mine?). The markers will poke into the icing making a hole if pushed. Not a big deal, but if you like things "perfect," have extras. :)
  3. I use AmeriColor Gourmet Writers. They come in a pack with about 10 colors and the tips are a little thinner than others. But, other brands of food coloring pens are widely available at craft and grocery stores.
We just bagged and tied these and put them in a basket. I think 2 or 3 cookies in a gift bag would be perfect for a music or PE teacher, also.
jack's teacher cookies basket
These were a HUGE hit with his teacher. She was showing them to all of the other teachers in the area. My son was pretty proud of his handiwork, too.

Here are a few more "thank-you" cookie ideas:

Snappy Crunchy Coleslaw (No Mayo!)

Slaw with no mayo
A tasty slaw recipe without a drop of mayo.

Here's a crisp and crunchy slaw recipe without a drop of mayo. That's what I'm craving. How about you? Stop by and share your favorite spring side dish recipe in comments.

From the archives: By April I'm itchy with anticipation. By May I'm storing sweaters and mittens. Winter is behind us. Spring is officially here. Days are longer, inch by inch. If not for juniper allergies I might even be out walking, testing out my new cocoa suede sneakers- albeit gently, Dear Reader, treading softly down our bumpy dirt road, shiny new walking cane in hand.

The craving for comfort food is fading. Slow cooked stews, Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie, and bowls piled high with embarrassingly hefty mounds of gluten-free pasta are feeling a tad, well, bottom heavy. Thick. You know, like the more-than-an-inch pie roll I've acquired around my waist. My great grandmother Josefa would be kvelling, She no longer eats like a bird! (Yeah, well, that's obvious.)

And while I believe the Sweet Husband when he tells me he likes me with more meat on my bones- and who am I to complain about (finally!) absorbing food and calories after years of celiac malabsorption- your intrepid expanding goddess is simply hankering for lighter fare.

Something to perk up the taste buds.

Something with snap and crunch. Something fresh and green that makes you feel virtuous and light and happy to be alive with summer on its way.

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