Raspberry-Oat Bars {gluten-free}

We’ve been enjoying these raspberry oat bars a lot the last few months. They helped get us through Winter’s dearth of fresh fruit. They are arguably the perfect balance between health food and decadent dessert, with a not-too-rich pecan shortbread base that doubles as a streusel topping and a thick layer of raspberry preserves in between.

GLUTEN-FREE RASPBERRY OAT BARS
Adapted from Karen Demasco’s The Craft of Baking *

The first time I made these bars, the cookie base came out a little thicker than I prefer.  So, I’ve since scaled the dough portion of the recipe back by a quarter, which also creates a slightly higher ratio of preserves to dough. Just the way I like it.

Also, my first batch was a little salty.  I read later that Demasco uses a particular brand of kosher salt in her baking.  So, if using table salt or sea salt, it is necessary to decrease the salt by close to half, which I’ve noted below.

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (for vegans: Spectrum organic shortening or Earth Balance margarine)
3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour (for GF: 1/3 C. sorghum flour, 1/3 C. + 1 Tbl. brown rice flour, 3 Tbl. potato starch and 3 Tbl. tapioca flour, 1/8 tsp. xanthan gum)
1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal (for GF: use gluten-free oats)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup good quality raspberry preserves **

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil an 8 inch square, metal baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  • Melt butter in saucepan or glass bowl in microwave.
  • Toast pecans on baking sheet in oven 5 minutes, cool.
  • In a large bowl mix together the flour, xanthan gum, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt and baking soda.  Stir in the gluten-free oats and chopped pecans. Pour in the melted butter and mix until well combined.
  • Press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom the oiled pan, until firmly and evenly packed.
  • Spread the raspberry preserves over the dough (an offset spatula like pictured above is perfect for this step). Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of dough evenly over the preserves.
  • Bake until golden brown about 40 minutes.  Allow to cool to room temperature.
  • For easier cutting, transfer the cooled pan to the freezer for 20 minutes to harden. Remove bars from freezer, then from pan and cut into 2″ squares.

** I made these once with Smucker’s strawberry jam and the results were very disappointing.  The jam layer turned a funny brown color and became very wet.  I suspect it was either the high fructose corn syrup in Smucker’s, or the fact that I substituted strawberry for raspberry, but either way, from now on I’ll stick to a true, high quality raspberry preserve WITHOUT high fructose corn syrup.  You tend to get what you pay for with a pricier preserve.

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Plum Crumble with Crystallized Ginger {gluten-free, vegan}

We attended a very popular music festival last weekend.  There were bands galore.  Surprisingly, I had even heard of many of them and I am notoriously out-of-the-music-loop.  However, despite the amount of fun I was supposed to be having, I couldn’t help but wish, every few minutes or so, that I was back home, snuggled up under the soft light of a lamp, finishing Anna Karenina, with a cup of tea and a few warm bites of this crumble.

Try the crumble and then perhaps in a small way you can empathize with my feelings of dissent.

The tart plum skins, when left intact, melt into the rest of the dish to create a warm, strikingly crimson-colored pudding. Finely-diced candied ginger lends a soft hum of spice, all of this beneath a crumbly, almost-cookie top.

PLUM CRUMBLE WITH CRYSTALLIZED GINGER
Adapted from Marian Burros

I scaled back the amount of crystalized ginger to my tastes from 2 heaping tablespoons to 1 1/2 tablespoons. If you quite like ginger go all the way; otherwise, I would recommend the moderate approach.

Look for firm plums, not too ripe, but not rock hard, either. Also, the recipe calls for Italian prune plums. They are rather small and oval. The first time I made this I was able to find exactly that variety. However, since then, I’ve simply substituted a more everyday type easily found in stores, the round ones with skin almost as dark as an eggplant. The results were just as good.

Prep the plums:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons brown or white rice flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 scant tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
12 purple Italian or prune plums, cut in half and pitted, or 6 regular dark purple plums, quartered and pitted

For the crumbly top:
1/3 cup sorghum flour (or brown rice flour)
1/3 cup white rice flour
3 tablespoons potato starch
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted clarified butter, melted (or butter, or Spectrum organic shortening)

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the plums, beginning with the brown sugar through the ground ginger. Add the sliced plums to the bowl and using your hands, stir to coat. Place the plums in an ungreased 9″ pie pan or 8″ square baking dish. Sprinkle the candied ginger over the plums. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl mix the remaining dry ingredients for the crumble topping. Pour in the melted oil and using your fingers mix and shape to form little crumbs and clumps. Scatter handfuls over the plums so that they are thoroughly coated and covered.
  • Bake 35 to 45 minutes, or longer, until the top is a nice golden brown and the plum filling is tender.

Low and Slow Pulled Pork {gluten-free}

I am almost ashamed at how often I make this.

It is a fact. You can’t beat fall-off-the-bone pulled pork. Not only does it taste mighty fine, and can effortlessly feed a crowd, but the preparation is borderline slothful. You take a dirt-cheap hunk of sinewy meat, slather it in a blend of spices, and then plop it in a pot with a splash of liquid. The oven does all the tedious work while you go drink Rosé on the deck, or something very important like that.

Your unmerited reward: unctuous, tender chunks of meat, moistened in a subtly spiced pool of pan juices.

A few words on fat: while a thick layer of adipose tissue isn’t probably desired on your bottom, I assure it is mandatory on a pork butt. Whatever you do, don’t go diet mode and start cutting it off to save calories. You’ll end up with a tough and bone-dry slab of meat.

One last note, this is truly the meal that keeps on feeding. Once cooked, I divvy up my bounty into several zip-top bags, toss them into the freezer and then have any number of easy dinners available on a whim. Here are a few ideas: fajitas, barbecue, tamales, pozole, zuppa di fagioli, etc.

SLOW ROASTED PORK
Adapted from this recipe, originally published in the late and great magazine, Cottage Living (R.I.P.)

1  tablespoon chili powder
1  tablespoon ground paprika
1  tablespoon sea salt
1  tablespoon freshly ground pepper
1  tablespoon brown sugar
1  (6-pound) or 2 (3-pound) pieces Boston butt or pork shoulder
1  cup apple juice or orange juice
1/2  cup water

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Combine first five ingredients in a small bowl; rub spice mixture all over pork.
  • Place pork fatty side up in a large Dutch oven. Pour juice and water around meat. Cover with oven safe lid or aluminum foil; roast for 5 hours or until meat is fork-tender. Uncover and cook an additional 30 minutes until skin is crispy and cracks.
  • Remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes before shredding with two forks. Once pan juices have cooled the fat will begin to pool, skim off some of this fat. Serve and store meat with some of the cooking liquid to keep things moist.

*** Slow Cooker Alternative ***
I passed this recipe on to my friend Susan ages ago and she likes to make it in her crock-pot, as follows: place spice-rubbed pork shoulder fat-side up in crock-pot, pour juice and water around meat, cook 10 hours on LOW.

 

Confetti Kale Slaw {gluten-free, vegan}

We whip this up all the time and scarf it down almost as quickly.  This kale slaw also makes a great addition to any Tex-Mex spread like enchiladas, fajitas, tamales, etc.

CONFETTI KALE SLAW

Kale is a tricky dark, leafy green to eat raw because it can be quite bitter and tough.  That’s where the avocado and lemon juice come in.  By massaging the guacamole-like dressing into the kale, the heat from your hands along with the lemon juice break down the tough, bitter leaves, resulting in a much more mellow flavor.  The avocado adds creaminess and you punctuate the newly tender green with sweet bell pepper and the warmth of a little onion. All these ingredients work together to make a pleasantly tangy, creamy, sweet and spicy salad.

Serves 6-8 as a side

  • 2 bunches of kale, chopped into thin 1/4″ x 1″ strips
  • 2-3 ripe avocados
  • juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced

In a large bowl mash up the avocados with the lemon juice, olive oil and a little salt and pepper until you achieve the consistency of a somewhat smooth guacamole.

Add the chopped kale and massage into the avocado spread, continue working in the avocado until the salad has shrunk by about half and the kale is flexible.

Add the bell peppers and onion, mixing thoroughly with your hands. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. I usually end up adding more lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

You can serve immediately. We like to let ours sit in the fridge a few hours and allow the flavors marry.

Blueberry Cardamom Breakfast Cake {gluten-free, vegan}

This cake is a year-round staple for us.  It is full of whole grains, dotted with plump blueberries and sweetened just right for a breakfast dish. My favorite part is the crunchy raw sugar top, and of course, the spicy warmth of the cardamom.

BLUEBERRY CARDAMOM BREAKFAST CAKE
When it comes to vegan baking, especially cakes, I always err on the side of a dryer batter than a wetter one. A cake with too much moisture results in a sunken gooey mess which is impossible to salvage.

I love the rumpled irregular surface of this cake. It looks so old-fashioned and rustic, the lumps only add to its charm.

Dry ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour (for GF use – 3/4 cup millet flour, 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1/2 cup sorghum flour (or more brown rice flour), 1/2 cup tapioca starch, 1 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Wet ingredients:

  • 1/2 mashed ripe banana (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup butter or ghee, at room temperature (for vegans substitute – coconut oil, Spectrum organic shortening or vegan margarine)
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup warm water or milk of choice (rice, almond, cow)

Additions:

  • 10 ounces fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon or more raw or turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil a 9″ round cake pan.

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. In a stand mixer combine the wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until combined.

Fold in thawed and drained blueberries. Scrape batter (which will be quite thick) into the oiled pan. Sprinkle top of cake evenly with 1 tablespoon raw or turbinado sugar.

Bake 50 – 60 minutes until firm to the touch and a tooth pick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cover the cake with aluminum foil if it begins to brown too quickly (40 minute mark for me).

* If you’re not gluten free omit the xanthan gum and substitute 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour for the gluten free flours, but I would highly recommend at least keeping the millet flour, because it really lends a unique and complimentary flavor.  If you go that route you only need 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour.