Monthly Archives: September 2013

Fall Equinox Favorites: (Gluten/Sugar/Nut Free) Pesto and Watermelon Granita

rosesHappy Fall Equinox, everyone! Our weather is absolutely spectacular and we are enjoying a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. SensitiveHusband and I are stretching out the summer feeling by being outside and making some fresh foods that freeze well. These roses are from my garden – they smell like honey and look pretty and delicate.

pestoOne of the summer foods that we have been consistently eating is pesto. We like fresh pesto as a replacement for mayonnaise or mustard on a sandwich, and it’s also great on a cracker or carrot stick. Pesto is really quick to make although the first time I felt like making it I did not have any pine nuts, a common ingredient, on hand. So I found inspiration from the Farmers’ Almanac – and used chickpeas instead! Here is my interpretation of a summer favorite that can easily be frozen and savored throughout the cooler months.

Nut-Free Pesto (or Pistou) Ingredients:
1 cup fresh basil, washed
1/4 cup chickpeas, rinsed
1/3 cup grated cheese (I like Parmesan and Pecorino Romano)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
pinch of kosher salt
juice from 1/4 lemon

To prepare, place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until desired consistency. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week or freeze for later use.

granitaAnother way to prolong the summer foods is by making a granita, which is similar to a frozen ice. The results for this next recipe is from you and everyone who shared an opinion to the poll question: What is your favorite summertime food? The results were close, although watermelon won out with 27% of the votes. I found a recipe for a watermelon granita from Ellie Krieger, and instead of using cane sugar I used agave nectar. This is a nice way to sweeten watermelon that is not quite as flavorful as it was during the height of the summer, and you can keep it frozen for awhile and enjoy as the temperatures turn cooler. The first time I made the granita, I thought the flavor of the mint was overwhelming so the recipe below tones down the amount used.

Watermelon Granita Ingredients:
4 cups seeded, cubed watermelon
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/8-1/4 cup mint, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup agave nectar

To prepare, puree watermelon in a food processor. Strain puree through a sieve and strain out solids, forcing liquid out with a wooden spoon. Discard solids. Combine the watermelon puree, lime juice, mint and agave nectar in a 9 by 13-inch metal pan. Place mixture in the freezer, scraping thoroughly with a fork every 30 minutes for about 2 1/2 hours, or until the granita resembles coarse crystals. Scrape 1 last time and spoon into parfait glasses or bowls. Top with a mint sprig.

Since it is the Fall Equinox and the season for apples and pears, it is time for a new poll! What is your favorite way to enjoy apples and pears? Do you like to eat them straight from the tree, or do you prefer to indulge in a pie or other dessert? Please vote for your favorite treat by clicking on my home page, choosing your answer, and clicking ‘vote.’

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Sugar and Gluten Free PB&J Cookies

PB&J CookiesHappy Labor Day weekend everyone! The U.S. Census has posted a range of statistics to celebrate the holiday. For instance, in 2012 the largest occupation was retail salesperson; while in 1910 the largest occupation was farmer. The first observance of Labor Day was in 1882 when about 10,000 workers gathered in New York City for a parade. That celebration inspired similar events across the U.S., and by 1894 more than half the states were observing a “workingmen’s holiday” on one day or another. Later that year, President Grover Cleveland signed the bill making the first Monday in September “Labor Day.”

I hope that you are enjoying the long weekend. It’s always nice to have an extra day to relax and to enjoy a range of activities, which for me includes baking. For some of you it may mean back to school, which in my case includes memories of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Perhaps my thoughts around this time of year inspired me to try a version of Jack Deen’s Peanut Butter & Jelly Thumbprint Cookies that I noticed in the September 2, 2013 edition of People Magazine.

I removed the two types of sugar and substituted with coconut palm sugar and honey. I used my cane sugar free brand of strawberry jam, and also tried some with chocolate chips, as the middle garnish. I hope you like this sugar free version of a very tasty cookie.

Ingredients:
1 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
3 tbs honey
1 large egg
1tsp vanilla extract
strawberry jam* (or chocolate chips^)

*St. Dalfour is a great brand of jam without cane sugar
^Endangered Species makes chocolate bars that are gluten and refined sugar free that you can cut into chunks

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat peanut butter, sugar, honey, egg, and vanilla extract at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Spoon heaping tablespoonfuls of batter on a parchment paper-ined baking sheet. Flatten dough with a fork. Make a 1/2 inch indentation in the center of each cookie using your thumb. Spoon 1/2 tsp jam (or chocolate chips) into each thumbprint.
3. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden. Makes 12 cookies.