Tag Archives: dairy free

Not Too Sweet

Hilary and Missy knitting

The women in my knitting group have something in common besides knitting. They all follow a gluten free diet. Which makes me the odd duck of the group, wheat eater that I am. So once a month I try to come up with a yummy GF recipe. Not that our endless cups of tea, comradery, and gentle clicking of needles needs much sweetening, but it’s an excuse to explore new recipes. Besides my friends are a willing group of guinea pigs taste testers.

If you’ve read this blog before you know the idea behind it are the stories of how I came across/found/or was given each recipe. A large part of the fun is about the route I took to get the recipe. A map as it were, between biting into something delicious and where I was before I even knew I wanted to bite into that morsel of food in the first place. This tracing of a recipe back to its source is intriguing for me – especially when it comes to the interweb and folks I’ve never met.

Occaionally Eggs gluten free chocolate cookies

Vanilla and Bean chocolate cookies

Here’s the “map” for these cookies. I first saw them on Alexandra’s Occasionally Eggs Instagram feed (top chocolate heart photo). They looked so good I wanted to reach through my phone screen and grab a few cookies to munch on right then and there. Alexandra mentioned she’d found the recipe on Traci’s blog/Instagram feed Vanilla and Bean (bottom chocolate heart photo). Alexandra had adapted the recipe using gluten free “flour” and coconut sugar in place of brown sugar and all-purpose flour. I was already loving the synergy of these chocolate cookie hearts across Instagram, and since I had some of the ingredients in my pantry, when knitting night was approaching earlier this month I made a batch. And let me tell you they were a hit.Snowy chairGluten free chocolate cookies with powdered sugar

Snowy deck

Snowy powdered sugar on vegan gluten free chocolate cookies

A few days after my first batch, March did what it so often does in New England – it snowed. A lot. Seeing the patterns the snow made on our deck, and also on my favorite wooden chair, made me re-think the shape of the cookies, at least for now. These days I cut strips, then when they’ve cooled I dust them with powdered sugar. They remind me of the snowy slats of my deck. And guess what –tomorrow we’re supposed to get another 5 – 11″ of snow!

Chocolate cookie dough - a bit different from the usual cookie dough

Before you head off to the kitchen I need to be straight up with you – this is an unique recipe. The first thing it tells you to do is to hydrate the sugar. I’d run across recipes where you let the flour rest, batters which needed to be chilled, but never in the 40+ years of baking I’ve done have I run across a recipe for hydrating sugar. Of course now that I’ve said that I’ll get comments telling me about dozens of recipes that call for sugar hydration, because after all what do I know? The dough (GF or regular) has an odd consistency when you initially make it, especially when compared to other cookie doughs. The all-purpose flour version has the consistency of brownie batter (right photo), while the gluten free version (left photo) feels more like chocolate play-do when you first mix everything together. You’ve been forewarned and so won’t be tempted to “add a little bit more flour.” Follow the recipe and you’ll be fine.

GF vegan chocolate cookies

Another note – due to the moistness of the dough you’ll be tempted to sprinkle a lot of additional flour, which ever kind you use, onto your rolling pin and counter. Don’t. See photo above where I used a bit of GF flour to keep the dough from sticking – it made it too dry. Instead put the dough between two sheet of plastic wrap and roll out, flipping every so often and peeling the plastic wrap off the surface of the dough. Once you’ve rolled it thin and cut out your cookies you’ll want to refridgerate it some more to firm back up prior to baking.

One of the knitters thought these cookies seemed to be a yummy gluten-free, vegan version of those chocolatey Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers used for Zebra Cake or Peppermint Zebra Cake. A variation to try the next time I buy heavy cream.

Intensely Chocolate Wafer Cookies

1/2 cup coconut or light brown sugar

3 Tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons coconut oil, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup cocoa (I like Valrhona)

3/4 cup gluten-free flour (I used cup4cup) or all-purpose flour

1/2 Tablespoon corn starch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Powdered sugar for decorating (optional)

In a medium sized bowl mix the coconut or brown sugar with the melted coconut oil, vanilla and water. Sift the GF or all-purpose flour , cocoa, corn starch and salt over the sugar mixture and stir until incorporated. As I mentioned above the mixture will be rather soft/loose. Do not add additional flour. Wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate 2 hours or more.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Move the racks in your oven so they’re spaced in thirds.

Place the dough between two large pieces of plastic wrap and gently roll into 1/4″ thickness. Cut into desired shapes and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. If the dough is very soft pop the cookie sheet into the fridge for 14-20 minutes to firm up again. Continue re-rolling the remaining dough unless it’s too soft, in which case wrap and refriderate it again.

Bake cookies 20-22 minutes, switching the cookie sheet from top to bottom at the mid way point as well as rotating it 180º. It is hard to determine when these cookies are done since they are so dark you can’t see when they brown on the edges. I like them crispy so I tend to bake them a wee bit longer. If you don’t want them crunchy you can bake slightly less. The size and shape you cut the dough into may also affect baking times.

Cool on a cookie rack and store in air tight containers. To serve sprinkle with powdered sugar.

After showering cookies with powdered sugar


Chocolate heart cookies courtesy of OccasionallyEggs
Chocolate heart cookies and rolled dough courtesy of Vanilla and Bean
All others photos Cynthia Allen


Filed under 50 Recipes

Vegan Pumpkin Date Nut Balls

Sometimes you never know what will suit. You can make all the educated guesses you want, but people will surprise you with their likes and dislikes.

So it was interesting for me to note which foods went first at the church coffee hour Shawn and I hosted a few weeks ago. In the blink of an eye two dozen of Rick Ellis’s deviled eggs disappeared, which made me glad, since they had been the last thing I prepared the night before and I almost didn’t make them thinking I had plenty of food (which I did, but then you have the question when is enough enough?). Inspired by Julia Child, the hard-boiled eggs first have their yolks pressed through a chinoise sieve so that the yolks transform into yellow yolk clouds. Next some room-temperature butter blended into the yolk clouds (along with a spoonful of dijon, mayonnaise, a squirt of fresh lemon juice, and a dash of cayenne) which combines to make these the most etherial deviled eggs that will ever pass your lips. Tired and cranky as I was the night before I was glad to have made the effort when I saw what a hit they were.Gluten Free Pumpkin Date Nut BallsThe next platter of food to vanish was Isabelle’s Vegan Pumpkin Date Nut Balls. It almost doesn’t feel like a recipe to me since they don’t go in the oven or get cooked, but they were a smash hit and people were popping them into their mouths as if they were candy. Continue reading


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Swedish Meatballs – 60s Soul Food

A few days ago it was my birthday and I went around humming, “It’s my birthday and I’ll cook if I want to” to Leslie Gore’s tune It’s My Party. Seriously, my family had been repeatedly asking me for several days what I wanted to eat for dinner on my birthday. I realized it wasn’t important what we ate, or frankly who cooked it,  just that we all ate together. Okay, there was one small exception – somebody besides me had to make the cake. After all a gal can have somebody else bake the cake because hey – it’s her birthday (and you’re welcome because now you have both Leslie Gore and the Beatles singing in your head).

Frost on the window during the polar vortex

I admit I’ve been in need of something safe, sure, and warm of late. In addition to the mini polar vortex we’ve been experiencing around Western Massachusetts, these past weeks have seen some epic fails in my kitchen. Just before New Year’s Day I’d hoped to post a hot chocolate recipe with homemade marshmallows. The only problem was that no only did the hot chocolate recipe end up with a funky aftertaste of chalk (definitely not what I was going for) but I somehow botched up not one, but two batches of marshmallows. Really two!! How can you wreck marshmallows? Apparently there are so many ways.

frozen pine branch

To celebrate edging into my mid 50s, and to take my mind off my culinary mess-ups, I decided to go back in time and make one of my favorite dishes – Swedish Meatballs. I love Swedish meatballs. I loved them when my Mom used to make them for us in her electric frying pan with gobs of butter and sour cream, they’re my guilty pleasure whenever I swing into an Ikea store, and clearly from this old photo they’re something I used to try my hand at when I first started cooking dinner for my family back in the early 70s.

Swedish meatballs circa 1973

The kids took their turn in the kitchen first and made me a gluten-free, vegan chocolate raspberry birthday cake (not that I am GF or V, but they did it because well, they could and turned out it was awesome!!). Then I got my turn in front of the stove and tweaked the classic Ikea Swedish meatball dinner in celebration of birthday #54.

Platter of homemade Swedish meatballs Not having easy access to lingonberries I grabbed a bag of Massachusetts cranberries and made this sauce, leaving out the cinnamon and dropping the sugar to 1/3 cup. I subbed sweet potatoes for regular potatoes and boiled and mashed as per usual.

cranberries in sieve

My last adjustment was to the meatballs themselves. I morphed a Joy of Cooking recipe with one that my Mom used to use from Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two Cook Book. The biggest changes were that while I, the birthday girl, am not dairy free many of my family members avoid cow dairy. So these Swedish meatballs are dairy free. There was some discussion at dinner around the fact that you probably couldn’t label cow meat dairy free since cows are mammals, which on a metaphorical sense I understand, but from a food sensitivity view-point I don’t know that I fully agree with. Regardless, these Swedish meatballs were the perfect Proustian blend of one of my Mom’s early forays into foreign foods, their Ikea incarnation, and the way my family eats today.

Dairy free Swedish meatballs

Swedish Meatballs

1 small onion minced

1 Tablespoon oil

2 pounds ground beef

2 eggs

2/3 cup bread crumbs (I used Panko)

3/4 cup water

1/2-1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

5 Tablespoons minced parsley, divided

Oil for frying

Preheat the oven to 225ºF. Sauté the onion in the Tablespoon of oil a few minutes until it starts to become translucent. Scrape it all into a large bowl, then add the water, bead crumbs, eggs and spices, mixing all together. Next add the beef and 3 Tablespoons of the parsley and beat by hand for 3-4 minutes. The water, in combination with the thorough mixing, is what helps make these meatballs less dense than most meatballs.

Heat a 1/4 – 1/2 inch of oil in a heavy fry pan to medium high. Roll the meatball mixture into small balls, about the size of walnuts and then cook in the oil until they are well browned on all sides. Depending on the size of your pan and the number of meatballs you have sizzling at any one time this can take from 6-9 minutes. As the meatballs are browned transfer them onto a jelly roll pan in your oven. They need to cook a little more, but you don’t want to dry them out. Cooks tip: any meatballs that fall apart in the fry pan are for the cook to taste test.

Browning Swedish meatballs Once the meatballs are all browned and in the oven make the gravy. I made mine from the pan drippings, but I found there were too many burned bits so in future I would just make the gravy separately. Also this is where I went the dairy free route. If you or your family don’t need to be dairy free use all butter for the oil and margarine and regular sour cream. Also I always have homemade chicken stock on hand so I used that, but if you’d like you can use canned low sodium beef broth.

Swedish Meatball Gravy

4 Tablespoons oil

4 Tablespoons margarine

1/2 cup flour

3 1/2 – 4 cups rich homemade chicken stock

6-8 Tablespoons sour cream substitute (I used Toffutti®)

1-2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Salt & white pepper to taste

This gravy is a basic roux sauce. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the oil and margarine. Add in the flour and cook a few minutes stirring constantly with a whisk. Turn the heat to medium low and gradually stir in the stock and worcestershire sauce (you’re still whisking like a bandit). Vary the amount of stock to change the thickness of your gravy. You may want to turn the heat up a bit to get the mixture to boil since it is only when the mixture has reached the point where it bubbles along the edges of the saucepan that you know how thick your gravy will be when you’re done. I just don’t keep it at the higher heat since your chances of burning it are greater. Whisk in the sour cream substitute and then taste for salt and pepper.

Swedish meatball gravy

Once the gravy is made I pop the meatballs in for a few minutes so they’re thoroughly coated with the creamy sauce. Serve on a platter with the remaining parsley sprinkled on top.

Homemade rift on Ikea Swedish meatballs

Then after dinner, if you are the birthday gal, you can enjoy your cake and the re-lighting candles your teenagers placed on top. Note they were kind enough not to put 54 candles on the cake and they ultimately relented and gave me a cup of water so I could put out the candles which relit themselves several times. All in all a very warm and delicious celebration.

GF and Vegan Chocolate birthday cake with raspberries


Filed under 50 Recipes