French Apple Tart….Ooh La La!

Tasty, crisp, ripe apples are pouring into the farmer’s markets and orchard stores right now.  This French apple tart is an old favorite of mine, been making it for years.  I once worked at an office where they would request it whenever we had an office function or party!  I have no idea where I got the original recipe from so I can’t give credit for it, I lost my copy and had to replicate the measurements a number of years ago. Plus, I had to change it a bit in the last time or two to make it gluten free but it tastes just as good as before.  The cinnamon and lemon topping are what makes it so delish.

french apple tart

It should be made with an apple variety that keeps its shape; Granny Smith is the best choice in that regard.  Don’t use one that goes all squishy like Empire or Macintosh.  You only need 3 large apples.

I use my GF tart shell crust which is from Annalise Roberts’ great cookbook; Gluten-Free Baking Classics.  It is very easy; hand pressed into your tart pan.  I would say that this is a cookie crust; sweet and short; very yummy.

It should give you about 6-8 slices of tart. Lesser amount of slices if your family is piggy, the full eight slices if they are not big dessert eaters. I rarely have any of this tart left over for more than 24 hours.  It is very popular with everyone.  I like it for how easy it is to make, how handsome it looks and that I can throw it together quickly with only 3 apples and a lemon.

Crust

1 cup brown rice flour mix; recipe below

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. xanthan gum

5 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, in 5 chunks

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix the dry ingredients in a stand mixer, cut in the butter by mixing it at a med low speed until crumbly.  Add vanilla and mix well.  If it is really dry looking add a tbsp. of water.  Press into the bottom and up the sides of your tart shell as evenly as you can make it.

For this recipe I use a large 10 inch tart pan.  Mine is ceramic so it doesn’t have a removable bottom.   Bake it at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Filling

3 large Granny Smith apples; peeled and sliced – not thick or too thin

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tbsp. GF flour

Lay the apple slices in concentric circles in the tart pan over the crust.  Put them really close to each other so there isn’t a lot of space without apples on it.  Mix the sugar and flour and sprinkle over the apples.  Cover loosely with foil and bake 25-30 minutes until the apples are soft if pricked with a fork.  Do not bake until they collapse; the slices should still hold their shape.

While the tart is finishing up its baking time make the topping.

Topping

In a small heavy sauce pan place:

2 tbsp. sugar and 1 tbsp. cornstarch and mix them.

Add all the other ingredients:

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. lemon zest (grate the zest and then juice the lemon)

½ cup water

½ tsp. cinnamon

Cook over medium heat, stirring it constantly with a small whisk or a spoon, until it boils and seems thickened and is no longer opaque.  This should take less then five minutes.  Remove from heat and pour the hot gloppy topping carefully over the hot apple tart taking your time so you cover the entire surface of the apples.  If you like lots of cinnamon you could increase that up to a tsp. of cinnamon in the filling.

Let cool to at least lukewarm before serving.

This tart is perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.  Don’t put it on top or it will not look so nice because of the French cinnamon topping won’t like to share its space with the chilly ice cream!

Brown Rice Flour Mix (for the crust)

2 c brown rice flour; be sure it is finely ground

2/3 c potato starch – Not potato flour!

1/3 c tapioca flour

Gluten Free, Low Carb Barbecue Feast

It can be a challenge making a party meal for family when I can’t eat gluten.  It got a bit more challenging this weekend when I made a meal for family including my brother. He recently had to go on a low carb diet for medical reasons, he is already slim and exercises a lot.  But, now he has to cut way back on carbs.  So no burgers with buns, no rolls, no big fat birthday cake for my mom. What to make? What kind of cake could we all eat?

I decided to go with this menu: deviled eggs to start, then grilled marinated chicken thighs, my version of doctored baked beans, old school potato salad and a veggie/fruit jello salad followed by a fruity pavlova for dessert.

pavlova

The deviled eggs are always popular; I gave my recipe early this spring for them and no one ever gets tired of them.  I made half with gherkins in them and half plain.  All gone in a matter of minute.

The potato salad is a family tradition; I used my sister Karen’s version because it tastes better than anyone else makes. I knew my mom would be pleased and my brother who probably doesn’t eat such treats except when he visits me.  I used Light Hellman’s Mayonnaise and light sour cream in my creamy dressing on the golden potato slices.  The seasonings are celery seeds, cider vinegar and some dill pickle juice!  I went light on the dressing for the sake of my brother and his wife who doesn’t eat much of any fat.  I added some chopped celery and a touch of chopped onion.  Yumm!

Our family loves the baked beans;  made quick and easy with a can of good quality old fashioned baked beans, Bush’s works perfectly but don’t use Campbells; they are just not as good a bean.  I often use the Giant name brand and they work great.

baked beans

For fun I put my Perfection Jello Salad in a copper lobster mold.  This was for the delight of my 2.8 year old grandson. He knows what a lobster is and loved it when the orange and golden mold was carried out on a large oval platter. My salad is created from lemon jello spiked with a touch of cider vinegar and full of well drained crushed pineapple and shredded carrots.  It was pretty and pretty tasty. I thought someone took a picture of it but no such luck.

pavlova

Dessert was a big pavlova meringue which I have posted the recipe to here recently.  This picture is from Sunday’s meal. I topped mine with slices of ripe kiwi, ripe local peaches and fresh raspberries as I was low on peaches and didn’t have time to run to Bechdolts Orchard for more….  Everyone devoured their slice and it was accorded five stars by my sister-in-law who doesn’t even eat cake normally.  It is fairly low in carbs and you get bites of ripe fresh fruit and tasty real whipped cream on the tender meringue. I put some candles on top and we sang happy birthday in the back yard as the sun set.  Perfect birthday barbecue….

Here is an approximation of my baked bean recipe: I never measure but I will do my best to replicate the proportions.

Mom’s Baked Beans (about 6 servings)

Ingredients:

4 slices of raw bacon cut into ½ inch chunks

One big can Bush’s original baked beans; 32 ounces I think

1 medium onion, chopped

About 1/3 to ½ cup of catsup

1-2 tbsp. yellow mustard

3-4 tbsp. cider vinegar

2-3 tbsp. light brown sugar

Fry the bacon in a large frying pan. I like cast iron best for this recipe but most any pan will do.  Once it is about ¾ done to your liking (4 to 6 minutes) add the chopped onion.  Cook 4-6 minutes until it is softening.  Open the beans and drain off any excess liquid especially any separated thinner liquid. Pour in the pan on top of the onions and bacon.  Dump in the rest of the ingredients and stir well.  Heat to a low bubble, turn down and allow it to cook slowly for 10 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently so the beans don’t stick and burn.  Taste it and adjust by adding more of any of the four condiments. I like it sweet and tart at the same time. I suggest you start with the lower amounts of condiments especially the sugar and vinegar and see how it is after cooking 5 minutes; add more to taste.  It is great warm but equally yummy left over cold for lunch the next day.

I sometimes make it in the dead of winter for a cold weather inside picnic.  Sure you can make the really slow cooked beans in a crock but this is addictively tangy and every member of my family adores it. My mom always made these beans and I finally got brave enough to just dump and create my own version which I must say is remarkably like Mom’s.

All in all it was a pretty good family meal, not too complicated as I could make the jello salad in advance and the meringue the day before. The potato salad and the beans could also be made in advance. You would never guess by the menu that this was a gluten free meal or a low carb one; just good old school yummy-ness on our plates!

Ridiculously Yummy Bacon Cheese Tomato Sandwich

Tomato time is right now.  I love a home grown tomato, sliced with vinaigrette, or with a dab of light mayo on it.  I love them inn a sandwich, a salad, Italian pasta dishes or as the major component of a tomato soup. 

There is a family recipe that is only made in the days of ripe local tomatoes.  It is never ever worth making with a winter or green house tomato.  Old varieties like Brandywine work great but any ripe tomato freshly picked and not chilled ever will work just fine.  Use whatever kind of tomato you like.

 tomato sandwich done

This sandwich is a man pleaser with bacon and cheese in it.  We call it the broiled tomato stacker or the BCT (Bacon Cheese and Tomato) You can call it fabulous and addictive!  It has the triple whammy of bacon, cheddar cheese, and juicy summer tomatoes.  Prepare to dive in and enjoy.

There are only five ingredients. I make it with GF bread but you can use any bread of your choice. Do not use cheap or light cheese; I like Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar but any good sharp cheddar will work.  I never met a bacon lover who didn’t fall instantly for this sandwich.

Angie’s BCT Stacker

This recipe for 2 open face sandwiches as I tend to eat less bread GF and you can really taste the components without that second slice.  If you want a top slice just double the bread. I used slices of zucchini yeast bread I made myself, recipe from Nicole Hunn, who authors the very popular Gluten Free on a Shoestring blog.  It holds together well and has a great yeasty savory flavor.  It is very easy to make and versatile.

Ingredients:

One big fat ripe tomato

2 slices GF bread

2 tsp. light mayonnaise

4 to 6 thin slices of sharp cheddar cheese

2 slices raw bacon cut in half.

Directions:

Fry the bacon until crispy, place on paper towels to drain

Set your broiler to high to heat. 

Use a knife to spread the mayo on the two slices of bread.  If you want a top slice I would leave that one un-spread and broil it briefly to brown one side.  Place the mayo bread slices on a metal broiler sheet. 

Slice your tomato into slices that are about 1/3 inch thick with a serrated knife; not thin slices and cover the entire tops of the bread with it. I often cut a tomato in half or quarters to piece it so every centimeter is covered with juicy ripe tomato.  Top with 2 slices of cheddar cheese, I cut them about ¼ inch thick.  I use 3 slices of cheese if the bread slice is large.  You want coverage over most of the tomato.  It will spread some when it melts. 

tomato sandwich unbroiled

Put the broiler pan in the broiler and broil 2-3 minutes until the cheese is melted but not burnt.  Try not to overdo it as the cheese can run right off the tomatoes.   Remove from oven and place on a plate.  Top with the bacon slices.  If you broiled a top slice of bread put it on now.  Eat while hot but don’t burn your mouth on that melty gooey cheese!

tomato sandwich close up 

Yes, this recipe is not for a dieter and I imagine it is full of calories but also maximum flavor.  I make it a lot during tomato season and reason that I never eat it any other time of the year so I don’t worry about the fat or calories I am chowing down in this flavor feast.  Just make one and you will be hooked. I can’t wait to eat one for lunch tomorrow!

Peachy Keen Peach Cobbler

Peaches; peachy keen, peaches and cream, peach ice cream and peach cobbler.  Well, this post will be on peach cobbler and it is is peachy keen!  Still, I often make it with blueberries.  I am guessing most any fruit might work; blackberries, raspberries, cherries, plums, nectarines and apricots come to mind.

peach raspberry cobbler

This recipe is modified from one in Bette Hagman’s book, “More from the Gluten-Free Gourmet” and is based on a flour mix that will give you 4 cups of the dry ingredients for the topping.  One cup of dry mix plus the other ingredients will make an 8×8 pan of cobbler topping.  I bet two cups will make a big 9×13 pan of peach cobbler.

I have made it over a camp fire a few times, delish and not that difficult either.  But that will be a separate post as there are some tricks to campfire baking.

I have tried a number of cobbler recipes but nothing has tasted better than this one so I will stick to what works great for me.  If you use nectarines there is no peeling involved which makes it extra easy to throw together. I need to make a cherry cobbler but cherry season has passed.  Oh well, there are frozen cherries at the grocery store……

Mix this up and store in an airtight container in the freezer.

I always get the fruit cooking before putting the topping together so the fruit is hot and ready for the topping and can go right into the oven.  I used fat ripe peaches I bought at the Saucon Valley Fruit Stand for the first peach cobbler of the season and then some very flavorful ones from Bechdolt’s Farm Stand which made outstanding peachy cobbler.

Dry Cobbler Mix (store in freezer, makes enough for 4 cobblers)

2 ¼ cups white rice flour

½ cup potato starch

½ cup tapioca flour

1 tsp. baking soda

4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp. xanthan gum

1/3 cup sugar

Cobbler Topping

1 cup dry baking mix

2 eggs

2 tbsp melted butter or canola oil

1/3 cup milk/buttermilk (scant)

1/4 tsp. vanilla

Mix the wet ingredients and then add to the dry mix in a big bowl. Mix very briefly, just until combined.  I suggest adding the last tablespoon of wet stuff only if it seems to need it; better to have it thick than thin in consistency.

Fruit Filling

4 cups sliced ripe peeled peaches, nectarines, blueberries

½ tsp. almond extract

1/3-2/3 cup sugar depending on how sweet you want it

1 tbsp. minute tapioca

2 tbsp. GF flour

1./4 tsp cinnamon

peach cobbler in saucepan

Directions:

Mix the fruit and almond extract in a sauce pan. Stir together the tapioca, sugar, cinnamon and flour and mix into the fruit.  Cook on the stove top, medium heat, for 3-5 minutes until it is thickened and hot.  Pour into a buttered 8 inch square pan, top with big blops of the cobbler topping.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  The top should be light brown and spring back when you poke it with your finger.  If it looks damp or squishy bake it 5 more minutes.

peach cobbler in pan

Let cool 7 or 8 minutes before serving as it will burn your mouth right out of the oven!  Some people love it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Cobbler is perfect just on its own.

Between you and me, I recently made this cobbler with 4 fat peaches and a handful of fancy frozen raspberries as I felt there wasn’t quite enough peach slices. It tasted amazing!  The zing of the raspberries and the ripe peachy flavor mingle with the tender cobbler crust in an incredible blend that must be tasted and enjoyed ASAP! It is great with just ripe August peaches, just made one of those today.

Strawberry Basil Yogurt, a Great Snack

Greek yogurt is the new power dairy snack, favored by teachers, moms, office workers and many others seeking a portable tasty yet healthy snack.  I eat it too.  But sometimes I want a more basic, yet above average, yogurt.  My secret for great yogurt is one brand; Stonyfield Organic.  I buy the large 32 ounce container.  I usually get the plain, one percent low fat yogurt.  Organic milk makes creamy flavorful yogurt, far superior to any made with non-organic milk.  Occasionally I treat myself to Stonyfield’s whole milk yogurt. This is thick, creamy and oh so delicious.  The top layer is like cream yogurt; crazy yummy!  I eat a dish of this yogurt with fresh jam, all that jam that I don’t eat on toast anymore.  I know, whole milk! But sometimes you have to enjoy the best that life can give you and frankly experts say that non-fat yogurt is less healthy than yogurt with some fat.  Go on, live wild and try this fabulous organic yogurt.

Update; 11/21/14: a new article about the dangers of highly sweetened and additive filled yogurts specifically says the best choices are organic whole milk yogurts: http://www.cornucopia.org/yogurt.  I was right on the money with my recommendation of Stonyfields yogurt and my use of homemade jams and granola to flavor it up.  Much better for you and your kids!  Tastier too actually.

strawberry and stonyfield yogurt

You can also enjoy this yogurt with honey drizzled on top.  Sprinkled with my homemade granola it is very healthy, filling, and delightful tasting.

Late this past June I made some strawberry basil jam.  The other day I got the excellent idea to put it on top of my organic yogurt.  It was amazing tasting, the creamy mild yogurt stirred together with that fragrant fruity jam. Oh my goodness, a whole world away from commercially flavored fruit yogurts.

yogurt and strawberry basil jam

So here is my strawberry basil freezer jam recipe.  My friend Josh had purchased some and raved about the flavor.  I decided to make my own.  Well, it is great on toast and extremely yummy on your yogurt! It is not too much basil flavor, the strawberry predominates but you do get a taste of it when ever you encounter a bit of basil leaf.  I actually only made half a jam recipe as that was all the strawberries I had available that day.  I used the liquid Surejell, half the package.

strawberry basil jam 1

Strawberry Basil Freezer Jam 

yield: 5 cups

INGREDIENTS:

about 1 pound of fresh ripe strawberries (2 cups crushed strawberries)

4 cups granulated sugar

one 1.75 ounce package of fruit pectin (I used liquid Sure Jell)

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves, really fine!

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, mash strawberries using a potato masher. Measure out two cups and return to bowl. If there are extras, you can eat those. But you want to pretty exact with this recipe.

To the 2 cups of mashed strawberries, stir in 4 cups of granulated sugar. Mix well to combine and moisten all the sugar and then let stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine fruit pectin and 3/4 cup water. Bring to a boil on high heat, stirring constantly. When it boils, set a timer for one minute. Continue to stir constantly and then remove from heat when it has boiled for one minute.

Stir pectin and water mixture into the fruit and sugar mixture. Stir constantly for about 3-4 minutes or until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture is no longer grainy.

Pour mixture into freezer containers with tight fitting lids (jars work great). Let jam stand at room temperature for 8 hours before moving to the fridge or freezer. If you freeze it, thaw it in the fridge when you’re ready to use.

Summer Tomatoes Stuffed with Lemony Quinoa Salad

Tomatoes stuffed with salad, I know: very old school but I made a modern take on it the other week for company.  A gluten free version I might add! Everyone raved about the fresh flavor of the dish.  So I am posting it here so you can try it; one caveat; only use local tomatoes.  Do NOT make this with those pale imitation supermarket tomatoes. It is not possible to create something tasty if you start with bad ingredients and those plastic flavored “tomatoes” just will not work.

You can serve the filling as a side salad and I will give those directions after the tomato version. I served the salad style at a picnic last week and my sister Karen had seconds. She was not a big quinoa fan until she ate that salad!

Tomatoes Stuffed with Quinoa Salad

Makes four servings.

Ingredients:

½ cup raw quinoa, plain pale yellow type (not red or black)

1 cup water

½ a veggie  bullion cube

4 medium to large tomatoes

2/3-3/4 cup small dice burpless or European cucumber

½ cup small dice zucchini

1/3 cup small dice red onion

2 tbsp. fresh mint or parsley, diced finely

1 lemon

3 tbsp.  EVOL (extra virgin olive oil)

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste.

Directions

Put the quinoa in the water.  If it doesn’t say rinsed you should put it in a strainer and rinse it for a minute to get off any coating which can be bitter.  Add the half bullion cube, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature before continuing.

Using a sharp paring knife cut the top off of each tomato, reserve it for a lid.  Scoop out the tomato guts using a spoon. I like to use a serrated edged grapefruit spoon but almost any spoon will work.   You can use the insides for something else; in a soup, a salad or a stew?  I turn the hollowed out tomatoes upside down to drain briefly to be sure I got all the wet stuff out.

Place the cooled quinoa In a mixing bowl.  Top it with the finely chopped veggies.  You can use less veggies than I suggested; up to you. I like lots of veggies.  Make sure they are cut very small though.  Sprinkle the fresh herbs on top; even fresh chives chopped fine or basil will work great.   Use a zester or a very fine grater and get as much zest off the lemon (wash the lemon first); you can zest right into the quinoa mixing bowl.  In a small mixing bowl put the juice of that same lemon, the EVOL and red wine vinegar.  If you have more than 3 tbsp of lemon juice add a bit more EVOL and whisk to combine; add in up to ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp freshly grated black pepper.  Pour ¾ of it over the quinoa and veggies and stir to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning and add the rest of the dressing if it is needed.  Use a large spoon to fill the hollowed out tomatoes.  Top each one with the reserved lids.  I put mine finished tomatoes on a platter and refrigerated for a few minutes so I could make the rest of the meal; no more than 1 hour.  You can serve each on a bed of lettuce or just by itself.   stuffed tomato

This is a great side dish or, if you have a vegetarian visiting, it is a substantial main dish choice as quinoa has a lot of complete protein in it. I served it with some zucchini yeast bread and some gnudi dumplings as a delicious meal for my vegetarian god daughter.

The salad filling can be served all on its own as a salad; I added a bunch of cherry tomatoes halved to it and it was ready to go.  So simple but the combination of fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, red wine vinegar and EVOL makes a great salad dressing.  If your filling seems wet; you added too much dressing.  Add more tomatoes and diced zuke and cuke.  Do not cook the zucchini – if it is fresh and tender it is fantastic raw in a salad.  If you can’t get one of those European cucumbers use a small regular one and peel the skin off it before dicing. If the seeds are large do not use the center with the seeds.  Your salad will not be as pretty if there are sloppy cucumber seeds in it.   I do cut the veggies larger for a salad; diced is fine.  But I suggest you keep the red onion bits very fine.  And start with a fresh red onion. Onion does not keep well; gets bitter so peel a new onion to make your salad if you want the best tasting results.

quinoa salad 8-14

Quinoa salad will keep a few days in the fridge, if it lasts that long! Try it with different fresh herbs. I would never make this in the dead of winter as it just won’t taste the same without the fresh summer veggies.  I try to eat seasonally and this is definitely a summer treat!

Blueberry Sheet Cake for a Picnic

This summery cake is very easy and totally delish.  It is blueberry season, this cake give you the best of all worlds, sweet berries and tender bites of cakey goodness.

blueberry sheet cake

This was the second time I made it. I have used two different flour blends, both worked. One is Better Batter and the other one is the brown rice mix I often use; see at the end of this recipe. Either works but I have to say I prefer the Better Batter for this recipe a little more than the brown rice.

As to the fruit, I bet you could use frozen blueberries or replace the blueberries with raspberries or blackberries.  Enjoy this summer treat with some friends or your family, it makes about 8 generous square servings or ten small ones.  I served it at a family picnic this past week, I was the only GF person there and everyone clamored for seconds!

Gluten-free Blueberry Sheet Cake

Ingredients; For the Cake:

  • 2 cups plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose, gluten-free flour blend
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (only if your flour blend doesn’t already have this!)
  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup of blueberries

For the Topping:
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup blueberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish with butter or gluten-free cooking spray.

  1. Mix 2 cups of flour, baking powder, sea salt and xanthan gum in a medium bowl with a whisk and set aside.
  2. Beat the butter with the brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat until smooth.
  3. Beat in half of the flour mixture until smooth, add the milk and almond extract and the rest of the flour and beat until evenly incorporated.
  4. Toss 2/3 cup of the blueberries with the remaining teaspoon of flour and gently fold into the batter. Spread into the prepared baking dish.
  5. Mix the topping ingredients together and distribute evenly over the top of the batter. I like to press the berries in a bit so they are not just resting on top of the dough.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Let cool at least 10 or 15 minutes before serving.

8 servings

Brown Rice Flour Mix  – mix them all in a big jar or bag
1 c. brown rice flour

1/3 c potato starch

3 tbsp.  tapioca flour