Tag Archives | gluten-free

Cookbooks: The Perfect Blend by Tess Masters

The third book by Tess Masters, The Perfect Blend combines colorful produce, health-promoting boosters, and your countertop blender to create appealing, flavorful food.

I first met Tess Masters back in early 2013, when we were both guests on a Driscoll’s berries press trip. She was already The Blender Girl by then, but was just starting on her cookbook writing path. In the years since that first meeting, she’s written and published three cookbooks, the third of which came out just last week.

Called The Perfect Blend, this beautifully photographed book features 100 vegan and gluten-free recipes that all make good use of your countertop blender (don’t worry, it’s not just a book of soups and smoothies. There’s plenty here to crunch and chew).

I always like inviting a couple of vegetable-focused books into my library at the start of the new year. I never hew particularly close to any one eating modality, but I always appreciate being reminded that there is a rainbow of produce out there and that there are so many ways to make it interesting and delicious.

I’ve tucked nearly half a pad of sticky notes into this book by now, marking things like Kale Caesar (page 13), Cheezy Broccoli Soup (page 45), Sweet Potato & Macadamia Magic (page 97), and Thai Slaw (page 129). I do love a creamy soup made hearty and lasting with the addition of soaked and pureed nuts (I sometimes make this cauliflower soup and replace the cheese with cashew creme. So good!).

I also appreciate the chapter dedicated to promoting probiotics. Tess includes a salad dressed with a vinaigrette that includes fermented tofu, and offers her recipe for a finely shredded ferment that includes cabbage, leeks, carrots, apples, and parsley. I plan on picking up the necessary ingredients today and giving it a try.

My bottom line with this book is that it has inspired me to lever myself out of my regularly traveled cooking ruts and has me inviting more vegetables, seeds, and nuts into my kitchen. I’m looking forward to bringing a handful of the recipes to life. If you’re looking for a book to do something similar for you, I highly suggest you page through it next time you’re in a book store!

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Homemade Chickpea Flatbread

These homemade chickpea flatbread rounds are gluten-free, low carb, and high in protein. They’re also easy to make and quite delicious.

Finished rounds of homemade chickpea flatbread on a plate.

On Saturday, my cousin hosted a family gathering. It was a lovely evening with a generous spread of food. When it was all over, Scott and I had a large grocery bag full of leftovers to bring home. After two nights of salads topped with cold cuts, marinated vegetables, and cubes of cheese, we needed a change. And so I made chickpea flatbread.

Faced with a fridge full of sandwich makings, most people would just reach for a loaf of bread. However, we’ve been trying to cut back on carbs lately. This homemade chickpea flatbread, while not without some carbs, is a really great, high protein alternative to regular sandwich bread.

Cooking homemade chickpea flatbread in a cast iron skillet.

For those of you familiar with socca (and in fact, I adapted my version from the socca recipe in Clotilde Dusolier‘s The French Market Cookbook), this recipe will seem familiar to you. It’s a simple batter made of chickpea flour, water, salt, cumin, and a little olive oil. However, instead of pouring a large amount of batter into a skillet and transferring it to the oven to cook the way you do when you make socca, I treat it like crepe batter.

I heat a large cast iron skillet, grease it with a little refined coconut oil (it’s the highest smoke point oil I regularly keep around), and the pour a large serving spoon’s worth of batter into the pan. I use the back of the spoon to spread it out as thin as I can make it. They cook on the first side for two or three minutes, and then another minute or two on the reverse. A flexible fish spatula is my favorite tool for flipping.

Homemade chickpea flatbread wrapped around eggplant dip and vegetables.

I find that it’s a lot like making pancakes. The first one sticks and looks terrible, but as you get a feel for the pan and that day’s batter, they get easier. The end result are thin, flexible flatbread rounds that you can use for sandwiches or as a bread to dip in soup.

Tonight, Scott made himself a pair of deli meat wraps, while I stuffed mine with roasted eggplant dip and an assortment of veggies. They’re satisfying and delicious, particularly if you haven’t had a good loaf of sourdough in a while.

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Maple Sweetened Banana Oat Cake

banana maple cake

I have been struggling with banana management lately. All summer long, Scott and I moved through bananas at a good clip and so they became a fixture on the grocery list. Then fall arrived and without conscious intention, we stopped eating them in an expedient manner. And so, every week or ten days, I was looking at the fruit basket and realizing that there are three or four bananas that had gone unpleasantly brown and needed to be salvaged in some way (this granola was one of my attempts to handle the overripeness).

While I’m currently abstaining from any banana purchases in attempt to stem the tide, a couple weeks back I was the semi-proud owner of three wilted bananas. My sister and her touring partner Rebecca were staying with us at the time, so I thought a slightly sweet, homemade treat for my sweet houseguests would be a good way to use up that sad fruit.

cut banana cake

Both Raina and Becca are gluten-free eaters, so my normal banana bread would not do. And so, in a wave of pure genius, I adapted my mom’s old applesauce oat cake to work (as long as you use gluten-free oats, it’s safe for the gluten-avoiders). I cut the recipe in half, swapped mashed bananas for the applesauce, and left off any frosting (in an attempt to keep things not too sweet).

Friends, we ripped through that cake. Between Raina, Becca, and I, we demolished it in just under 24 hours (Scott didn’t get so much as a crumb). It gets sweetness from bananas, raisins, and just a drizzle of real maple syrup (please do use the real stuff). It’s both sturdy and wonderfully buttery tasting. And I will be making it again.

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Hachiya Persimmon Oatcakes

hachiya persimmon

I’m having a bit of a fling with persimmons this winter. First, there was the chutney included in this pretty project. Next came that red leaf and fuyu persimmon salad (I ate it again today). Today, I took very ripe hachiya persimmons and made a batch of hearty, not-too-sweet oatcakes.

persimmon pulp

When I bought this pair of hachiya persimmons, my plan was to make a batch of cookies. I have a recipe from my grandma Bunny’s little file box that I’ve long intended to make (she died when I was 15 and cooking her dishes brings her back a little). But when I pulled the card out to see what I’d need, I realized that I wanted something just a little more virtuous than a cookie made with two sticks of butter and lots of white sugar.

making oat flour

And so, I took the recipe and started rewriting. I cut the butter in half (who needs two sticks when you’ve got all that luscious persimmon pulp to lend moisture?). I used a little coconut palm sugar to sweeten (if your pantry doesn’t run to such things, use sucanat or brown sugar). I added some toasted pecans for protein and crunch. And I used a combination of rolled oats and oat flour for backbone (make your own oat flour in your food processor or blender. Takes 90 seconds and keeps things simple).

coconut palm sugar

Unlike the salad I wrote about last week, this recipe uses the pointy-ended persimmons. This variety is incredibly astringent when firm, but when ripe, becomes super sweet and perfect for baking. I let mine soften on the counter for more than a week, until they felt soft, heavy and a little like a full-to-bursting water balloon. To use them, you simply cut off the stem end and scoop out the flesh with a spoon.

persimmon oatcakes

The finished oatcake is tender and moist, but still manages to hold its shape nicely. I used a 1/4 cup disher to portion the dough into little mounds, but you can also grab a couple soup spoons and scoop the old-fashioned way. These guys are nice toasted for breakfast, tucked into packed lunches or gobbled in front of a computer with a cup of tea as a late afternoon snack.

A couple notes:

  • If you don’t have easy access to persimmons, you could also make these with a cup of mashed banana.
  • If you use gluten-free oats, these oatcakes become gluten-free. A nice feature these days.
  • If pecans are too pricey, use toasted walnuts. Or skip the nuts entirely. Sometimes I substitute toasted millet for nuts in baked goods, when I want some crunch but I know someone in my eating audience is allergic.
  • Because these oatcakes are quite moist, they should be tucked into an airtight container and kept in the fridge or freezer within a day or so of baking.

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Weddings, Winners and Chocolate Cake


I spent most of last week out in Carmel Valley, helping get ready for my sister’s wedding. I baked cakes, cooked meals for crowds, snuggled with my nephew and picked Meyer lemons from the tree in the backyard.

I had every intention of finding time to post here while I was away, but I was unprepared for just how full the whole experience would be (it didn’t help that I had the stresses of weather delays, missed flights and wayward baggage). My best laid plans went right out the window when I realized that it was far more important for me to soak up all the family time I could instead of gluing myself to my laptop screen. I am so glad I did, too.

Raina and Emmett

The wedding was beautiful and my sister, her kind man and their sweet babe deserved every moment of the love that was heaped upon them from the gathered crowd of friends and family. After a short service under a rustic, flower-laden chuppah, there was food, music and dancing.

Dinner was catered by the taqueria that Andrew has been eating at his entire life, supplemented by vast plates of kale salad. For dessert, there were cookies from a local bakery, as well as the flourless chocolate cakes that I made (I also cooked up a batch of raspberry jam to serve with it. Nothing complements chocolate like raspberries).

flourless chocolate cake

Three years ago (today!), when Scott and I got married, I also baked in the days before the wedding. I knew that the best way to have delicious cake (and not pay a fortune for it) was to make it myself. My mother thought I was insane, but I’ve never regretting spending that time whisking and baking. I was so happy to be able to do the same for Raina.

I made eight flourless chocolate cakes (though only seven made it to the ceremony, one was eaten to crumbs two nights before) in a borrowed kitchen. I packed two springform pans, parchment paper and a hand mixer into my suitcase (which just added to the stress over the missing luggage) and bought the ingredients as a local Safeway when I arrived. With my mom’s help, we managed six cakes on Thursday and squeezed in the last two on Friday.

They are dense, rich, deeply chocolate-y and just the thing to serve at a wedding where you want to celebrate the sweetness of life. You’ll find the recipe after the jump!

Mike, Mo, Raina, Emmett and Bill

I love this picture. It’s my dad and his two brothers (on either side), posing with Raina and Emmett.

Scott and I got back to Philly on Sunday night and I’ve spent the last few days trying to catch up with email and meet deadlines. I’m working on an article for Table Matters about root vegetable soups right now, and so I spent most of today roasting, simmering and pureeing. I’ve been writing some nice little pieces for them of late, if you haven’t clicked over recently and read about versatile baking mixesfruit butters and home-flavored salts.

Giveaway Update

Thanks for all your entries to the My Berlin Kitchen giveaway! The winner is commenter #490. She said, “My favorite food memory would have to be Thursday night dinners I used to throw for friends when we were in college…we’d eat, watch Seinfeld, and just have a good time. I think it was experimenting with cooking in those days that made me feel secure in the kitchen.” What a lovely memory, Courtney!

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