autumn + a simple apple crumble

What autumn means to me, so far this year:

  • dahlias that thrive from the union of cool, misty mornings and sun-dappled afternoons;
  • becoming a soccer mom;
  • taking Nina to her first college football game, a real nail-biter that was a blur of pompoms and cacophony of cheering;
  • apples, ergo the quest to perfect baked apple cider doughnuts;
  • and this lovely apple crumble.

What a lovely start to my favorite season.

15204444736_1cef593ca1_o-001 15390223868_a2fa68ce1e_o

IMG_0407 IMG_0376

15553701296_95f5123639_o 15437162851_7e32d37a63_k IMG_0415

Apple crumble with muscovado and rye

§ § §

I’ve been on a dark rye + muscovado kick lately, and when my neighbors gifted me several pounds of apples, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. This recipe is a marriage of an apple crumble filling from Nigel Slater, and a rye crumble topping from Kim Boyce. A mixture of apple varieties is best in my opinion, so that some bits are tart, some are sweet, some melt into a slush and some remain slightly firm. The thing about Slater’s recipe I love most is that the apples are tossed with sugar then quickly browned before baking, giving the finished dish undertones of toffee or caramel. I think this tastes best without the addition of any spices, although I wouldn’t object to tucking a couple of bruised sage leaves into the dish just before baking. Another grain that pairs well with muscovado sugar is buckwheat, which also happens to be gluten free.

§ § §

Filling:
2 1/2 to 3 pounds apples, preferably a mix of tart and sweet
Juice from half a lemon
1/3 cup muscovado sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons coconut oil, used in two teaspoon increments

Crumble:
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup dark rye flour (or buckwheat to make this gluten free)
1/3 cup almond meal
6 tablespoons turbinado sugar
Large pinch of fine grain sea salt
3 to 5 tablespoons melted coconut oil

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 F / 180 C. Lightly oil a 1.5 quart casserole dish and set aside.

Peel, core, and chop the apples into 3/4-inch chunks. In a large bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice and sugar; stir to combine.

In a heavy bottomed pot, melt two teaspoons of the coconut oil. When the oil is nice and hot, arrange a layer of the apples on the bottom of the pan. Resist the urge to nudge the apple pieces around; the goal here is for them to begin to caramelize. After three to four minutes the apples will begin to brown in spots; transfer them to the casserole dish. Repeat the process until all of the apples have had their turn in the pot. If there are any sticky bits in the pot, add a splash of water, loosen them up, and add them to the casserole dish.

To make the crumble, combine all of the dry ingredients (everything except the coconut oil) in a food processor and pulse a few times until the oats are coarsely ground. Transfer to a bowl and add three tablespoons of the melted coconut oil. Using your hands, stir to combine, squeezing as you stir to create small crumbly bits. If the mixture falls apart when squeezed, add another tablespoon of coconut oil. You want the crumble topping to have a dusty texture, similar to breadcrumbs.

Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the apples. Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is crisp and golden brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Prep time: 30 minutes | Cook time: 30 minutes

Grain-based Italian meatballs

I’ve been waiting a long time to share this recipe with you – one month and three days shy of an entire year, to be exact.

grain-based Italian meatballs(1)tossed with a rich marinara and best-quality gluten free spaghetti

I’m a very impatient person – it’s felt like an e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y.

I think it’s worth it, though, and not just because I’m excited about these grain-based meatballs. You see, my dear friend Kathy just also happens to be a fantastic cookbook author – and she lets me test and develop recipes for her – and this particular recipe is on page 17 of her latest book, Vegan Slow Cooking – For Two – or Just For You.

deciphered for the massesAren’t you glad I didn’t just scan my original notes and make you try to decipher them?

Did I mention this is her third book? You should visit her site to see what she’s been up to, and to check out the other recipes being shared on this tour. Psst – I’m also giving away a copy of this book! Details in the recipe notes…

grain-based Italian meatballs(2)meatballs always taste better with a hunk of focaccia bread

Back to these meatballs. They are vegan, gluten free, made out of wholesome pantry staples, and free of any binders. They come together in less than 10 minutes, bake in 20, and work just as well as links. I prefer meatballs, though, so that’s what I’m sharing with you today.

meatballs in the makingmeatballs in-the-making
grain-based Italian meatballs-preready for the oven
grain-based Italian meatballs-postleftovers, for a repeat meal in 24 hours // the only reason I saved any was to show you how well they hold up // we always gobble these up in one night
grain-based Italian meatballs Day 2gently simmered for 5 minutes on day 2 // I think they held their shape nicely

Grain-based Italian meatballs

§ § §

These don’t have any binders – no ground flax or chia, no psyllium husk, no xanthan or guar gum. Why? Because when I create something new, I always start as simply as possible, and then go from there. I have no idea how they would do if fried, because I don’t like to fry things. I have no idea how they freeze, because I don’t like to freeze this sort of thing. But they’re damned good straight out of the oven. Want to win a copy of this book? Leave me a comment between now and midnight on Sunday, 29 September 2013, and a winner will be randomly selected. Fair Winds Press is letting me give away a print or digital copy, winner’s choice.

§ § §

1/2 cup cooked brown lentils, drained
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup cold, cooked long grain brown rice
1/2 cup cold, cooked quinoa
3/4 cup almond meal (not flour)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes

Preheat oven to 350 F / 180 C and place a rack in the center position. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or oil lightly.

In a food processor, puree the first nine ingredients (lentils through black pepper) into a paste. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

In the same food processor (no need to wash between steps), combine the grains, almond meal and nutritional yeast. Pulse until coarsely ground but not pureed.

Add the rice mixture to the lentil mixture and stir until everything is completely incorporated. It will have the texture of veggie loaf. Wet your hands and shape into links or meatballs. Space evenly on the try at least 1 inch apart.

If making links: Bake for 10 minutes, flip over, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Turn the oven off, leave the tray inside for 10 more minutes, and then remove the tray and allow to cool at room temperature to firm up.

If making meatballs: Bake for 10 minutes, flip over, bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the tray and allow to cool at room temperature to firm up.

Links are great for slicing into coins and reheat nicely in a dry or lightly oiled skillet. They can be layered in a dish a few minutes before serving, but won’t hold up if baked in something like a lasagne. If I’m making a baked pasta dish, I like to nestle them in the top just before the final broil – drizzled with a bit of additional sauce and sprinkled with gluten free breadcrumbs, they heat through but don’t fall apart.

Meatballs (or whole links) hold their shape well and can be gently simmered in a sauce for up to 5 minutes. They also reheat well, as long as you refrigerate any unused meatballs in a covered dish without sauce; the moisture will make them disintegrate.

Yield: 15 – 30 links or meatballs, depending on size; I usually end up with 20 medium-sized meatballs

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes

These muffins keep stealing my pear butter

You know that pear butter I made a week or two ago? It’s gone, baby, gone.

{Film note/Aside: We had an Affleck mini film festival over the weekend. It’s Southie accents run amok at our place right now. You’re so, so lucky I don’t have the patience to type things the way I’ve been pronouncing them. And I’m so, so lucky my husband puts up with my attempt to work ‘cah’ or ‘Hahvuhd’ into every other sentence. Even though the word Harvard probably isn’t spoken once in either Gone Baby Gone or The Town. Also, every time I say ‘cah’ we get off on a “Stop the cah, Cole. Stop the cah!” tangent. If my daughter doesn’t turn out schizophrenic, it will be a small miracle.}

Where were we?

muffins.meet.ganacheSpeckled muffins, about to receive a crumb coating of bittersweet ganache/mousse/whatever.

My favorite thing about being gluten free is the inherent multi-graininess of it all. As I’ve become familiar with different grains, I’ve learned which ones pair best with each other, with stone fruits, with chocolate, or with absolutely nothing at all. Kamut, I’m talking to you. 

multigraininessKamut free.

These muffins are the perfect blend of almond and corn and sorghum and oats, rounded out with turbinado sugar, dark chocolate and sage-infused pear butter.

gf.multigrain.perfection.muffins

appeasing.the.gargoyleWe always offer this fella a bite. He’s super impressed with the crumb of these muffins.

Multi-grain pear & chocolate chunk muffins

§ § §

Any fruit purée or butter will work for these, but in my house it’s almost always pear butter. Pumpkin is a very close second. Adapted a zillion times over from this recipe, which Celine adapted from here after I sent her some pear butter.

§ § §

2/3 Cup sweet sorghum flour
2/3 Cup almond meal
2/3 Cup potato starch
1/3 Cup steel cut oats
1/2 Cup cornmeal
1 Cup almond milk
1/4 Cup sunflower oil
1/2 Cup turbinado sugar
1 Cup pear butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 small (1.5-2 oz) dark chocolate bar, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 F / 190 C with a rack positioned in the center. Line 16 standard muffin cups with paper liners, or lightly coat with non-stick cooking spray without paper liners, for 14 standard muffins.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sorghum flour, almond meal, potato starch, steel cut oats and cornmeal.

In a medium bowl, combine milk, oil, sugar, pear butter, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, salt and apple cider vinegar.

Stir wet ingredients into dry. Fold in chocolate.

Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer onto a wire rack to cool.

Yield: 14 muffins

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 22-24 minutes

Rule breaker // Super fluffy gluten free buckwheat pear pancakes

You know how most book lovers have certain things they just will not tolerate? At least one of these things usually makes its way onto a bibliophile’s Do Not Do list: Dog-earing corners; placing down an open book with its spine facing up instead of using a bookmark; using inappropriate items to mark your place; writing in a book.

For me, not writing in books was a steadfast rule. For thirty-odd years, I wouldn’t so much as pencil my name inside the cover of a book. All of that changed when I found out I was allergic to wheat, and suddenly realized that almost none of my favorite recipes were wheat/gluten free. I attempted rewriting every single recipe out in my own hand. But then – well, have you seen my handwriting?

editsMost of my favorite cookbooks now look like this.

Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain is one of my favorite cookbooks of all time, and definitely my favorite one to bake from. I bought it while I was still figuring out whether my issues were with wheat or all things gluten, and as a result I got into the habit of adapting most of this books’s recipes to be gluten free. (And vegan.)

buckwheat.pear.pancakes buckwheat.pear.pcakes.crossectionlots of height and a tender crumb, all done without gluten, xanthan gum or powdered egg replacer

Buckwheat cornmeal pear pancakes

§ § §

I think these taste best if you use vegan butter in the batter, but they also taste pretty good if you use coconut oil. They hold their height and crumb after they’ve cooled, and reheat well the next day. You can eat them folded up taco-style around a few strips of tempeh bacon, or stacked up and drizzled with maple syrup. Most of the time, I serve them with whatever fruit didn’t make it into our morning smoothie.

§ § §

Coconut oil or vegan butter, for the pan

Dry mix:
1/3 Cup buckwheat flour
1/3 Cup fine grain cornmeal
1/3 Cup potato starch
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
1/4 Teaspoon kosher salt

Wet mix:
1 Tablespoon unsalted vegan butter or coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 Cup soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon flaxseed, ground (grind after measuring)
1 Tablespoon very hot water
1 medium pear, ripe but firm, peeled

Sift the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Whisk the melted butter, soy milk, and apple cider vinegar until thoroughly combined. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the whole peeled pear into the batter; the juice should also fall into the bowl. Gently fold the grated pear into the batter. The batter should be slightly thick, with flecks of pear throughout.

Heat a 10-inch cast-iron pan or griddle over medium heat until water sizzles when splashed onto the pan. Rub the pan generously with butter or coconut oil, to ensure crisp, buttery edges. Working quickly, dollop 1/4 Cup mounds of batter onto the pan, 2 or 3 at a time. Once bubbles have begun to form on the top side of the pancake, flip it over and cook until the bottom is dark golden-brown, about 5 minutes total. Wipe the pan with a cloth as needed before griddling additional batches. If the pan is too hot or not hot enough, adjust the flame accordingly. Repeat until all of the batter is gone.

Be sure to ‘test’ the first one out of the griddle; they disappear fast.

Yield: 6-7 pancakes

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 10-15 minutes

And now for something completely different

Despite the onset of autumn, everywhere I look I’m still seeing green.  My tomato plants are producing more right now than they did all summer long.

My fig tree finally started fruiting last month, and my kitchen garden has turned into a forest.

It’s not entirely unusual; but at the same time, my plants are producing longer and larger yields than in years past.  If I think about it too long, it’s a little unnerving.  I have row covers and cloches ready for the eventual cold snap.  I’m trying to convince all of our outdoor fauna that it will be getting colder.

For now, we’re just enjoying the greenness of everything.

I wonder if the same thing is happening elsewhere.  Specifically, wherever avocado harvests are taking place.  They’ve been on sale for the past six weeks or so, and the novelty of being able to buy affordable (!) organic avocados has yet to wear off.  Which means I’m buying them twice a week on my scheduled market runs.  In an effort to justify buying those knobbly, brown speckled beauties in such quantity, I decided to incorporate them into my family’s favorite muffin recipe.

Avocado Banana Chocolate Chunk Muffins

Dry ingredients:
3/4 cup sorghum or brown rice flour
1/2 cup quinoa or millet flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grained sea salt

Slurry:
2 tablespoons chia or flax seeds, ground to a powder (measure before grinding)
3 tablespoons boiling water

Wet ingredients:
2 medium-sized, ripe bananas
1 medium or large ripe avocado
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup softened coconut oil, or sunflower or olive oil (plus extra if using to coat pan)

Very important final ingredient:
1 small dark chocolate bar (1.5-1.75 oz), coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 F / 190 C. Prepare muffin tray(s) with liners or a light coating of oil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.  In a large bowl, mash up wet ingredients: bananas, avocado (a potato masher + the elbow grease of a small child get the job done best), syrup, and oil.

Put the ground chia or flax seeds into a small bowl, add the boiling water, and whisk vigorously.  Your slurry will thicken instantly.  Add the slurry to the wet ingredients and stir to combine thoroughly.  Add the dry ingredients and stir just until all flour is absorbed. Take a taste!  That’s right, go on now.  No fear of salmonella happening on my watch.  Sweeten a bit more if you’d like (we all have our own preferences).  And most importantly – fold in the chocolate.

Portion the batter into muffin tray(s) 3/4 of the way full, and bake: 25 minutes for regular sized / 15 minutes for minis, or until the tops are starting to brown.

If you don’t have an avocado, use two more small or medium bananas and your muffins will look like this:

Yield: 15 regular or 40 mini muffins

And then there was cake

I mentioned in my previous post that we camped for three days at Stone Mountain. Most of our camping trips fall within the long weekend, three to four day range:  long enough to explore an area, especially when we live a couple of hours’ drive from several similar sites, and only half a day from the ocean; and short enough that I don’t feel guilty ditching my marathon training runs.

The part that many people tell me is a challenge for them when camping – food – is something we have fun with. The longer we plan to camp, the more creative we get. There are portable foods: granola; spring rolls; baked cubes of tofu and polenta. There are the foods that keep well in a big chest cooler: cold brewed coffee; little pots of yoghurt studded with chunks of frozen fruit; jars of plant milk; more jars of tabbouleh, Nicoise potato salad, lentil pilaf. And of course, things to be cooked over coals, on skewers or a small cast iron skillet: jars of just-add-milk pancake mix; foil packs of root vegetables; Dandies marshmallows; Field Roast sausages and tofu dogs.  We have it down to a science.

The one thing I couldn’t figure out how to pack for this trip? My husband’s birthday cake.

Once we returned home, my daughter and I whipped up two nine-inch rounds of our go-to multigrain chocolate cake, crumb-coated them with espresso-spiked frosting, lit some candles and declared it a party.

Multigrain chocolate cake

This recipe has been around for ages, referred to as wacky, war, and depression-era cake. Traditionally made with all purpose flour, I prefer to make it with a blend. The buckwheat and oat flours have a sweet, milky flavor, and the rye gives it a nice malty undertone.  For frosting, I use whatever vegan buttercream recipe is in the nearest cookbook (or pops up first in Google). This recipe yields one cake – double (or triple!) if you plan to make a layer cake.

3/4 C spelt flour (whole or white, your choice)
1/4 C rye flour
1/4 C buckwheat flour
1/4 C oat flour
1 C raw/turbinado sugar
3 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine grain salt
1 C water
1 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 C mild-tasting oil (sunflower, safflower, canola…)
1 tsp almond or vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 / 175 C degrees and position a rack to the center position.  Lightly oil and dust the bottom of your cake pan if you’ll be eating it out of the pan; line with parchment if you’ll be transferring it to a serving plate and/or using it in a layer cake.

Sift all of the dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center and add the wet ingredients.  Stir to combine, pour into your cake pan, and bake 25 minutes, or until the middle is set and the cake is beginning to pull away from the edge of the pan.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.  Tastes best after a few hours when the flavors have had a chance to meld.

Yield: 1 9-inch round or 8×8 inch square cake

Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 30 minutes