This spring, I tried to get out of my safe-recipe rut (you know, when you just keep making the same old stuff that is good, and allergy-friendly, but you could do it blindfolded by now?) by seeking out new recipes to convert. I could browse food magazines for hours, and I hit upon a zucchini bread recipe and a cookie cake recipe that each had very little egg in the originals. At the time, I gave a quick mention on the blog and promised a recipe. Finally delivering (this is about my normal timeline for such things these days)!
I've been changing a lot of my diet to wheat-free/yeast-free products this month. Oddly, that gave me the push I needed to really wrap up my collection of quick breads (with all-purpose wheat flours). Knowing that I have to tackle more kitchen experiments with alternative flours was the kick in the pants to get me to write down my traditional (for us: still egg-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and seed-free) versions.
This zucchini bread is light and moist on its own, but a spread of homemade jam wouldn't hurt a bit!
I was inspired to make and actually finish this recipe by my allergy shot nurses. I rely on them a lot to keep me healthy, and I tend to show my love and appreciation for others through food. They were a great help in settling on a strawberry bread recipe, and I got particularly good feedback about this mild zucchini bread, too.
Click on the image below to open or pin the zucchini bread recipe!
Just a few days after my standard jam making (with Sure-Jell pectin), I gave Pomona's Pectin a try with the leftover berries. The difference was really remarkable. Check it out:
Instead of following the Sure-Jell directions for a single-berry jam, I decided to combine our picked, washed, and frozen blueberries and cherries this summer. My Sure-Jell adapted recipe set up nicely and made at least 5 pints of spreadable jam. I'd heard so many good things about Pomona's, though, that I had to give it a go.
The Pomona's pectin box touts lower (and different kinds of) sugar, a variety of batch sizes, instructions to adapt to different fruits, and more. It comes with a packet of pectin just like Sure-Jell, but it also has a packet of calcium powder. I followed the directions for freezer jam for each type. They differed all around---in method, setting, taste, texture, storage, and maybe even cost.
Taste and texture
Have you ever made jam? What pectin do you like, and will you ever experiment with another method?
You know something that is naturally gluten free? Not to mention free from milk products, eggs, nuts, tree nuts, seeds, soy, corn, fish, and all of those other persnickity food allergens? JAM. Specifically, fresh berry freezer jam. Doesn't even need a vehicle, just a spoon (or a surreptitious finger).
It turns out, a lot of people have never made jam before. They picture boiling canning jars, bacteria worries, hours in the kitchen. But it doesn't have to be so! I started making jams a number of years ago, exactly the way that my mom always did for me when I was young. I didn't know at the time that she followed the Sure-Jell freezer recipe every single year after her outing for strawberry picking.
I'm not one to leave well enough alone, though, so I started exploring other berries, and other jam methods, after only a year or two of my own strawberry jams. Recently, I've tried the cooked method. No one here liked it as much. That fresh-from-the-fields taste of a freezer jam done well just can't be beat.
Strawberry season has come and gone here (as has our jam supply from that). This year, we added blueberry picking into the summer, and I measured and froze washed berries in the hopes of making a midsummer berry jam. Today was that day! Or at least the first of the days. I ended up with enough blueberries, and a stash of pitted cherries, to make another round of jam after this one sets. Again, not content to stick with what works, I'm going to give Pomona's Universal Pectin a try on the next batch. Its instructions seem just as easy and more flexible than other options, and expert canners rave about it.
I'm posting my "recipe" for this thick and yummy cherry blueberry jam because I had to wing it on the berry and sugar quantities. If you've ever used Sure-Jell, Certo, or other jam-making pectins, you'll know that winging it is highly discouraged. But I set myself to some math calculations, crossed my fingers and toes, and got lucky.
Here it is inline (aiming for a pretty printable added in later), with some notes inside and at the bottom for this version specifically and for jam making in general. I'm not an expert at canning anything, but that just shows how easy this freezer spread really is. Enjoy! :)
2 cups mashed (between 3 and 4 cups whole) blueberries (I use a potato masher and a large Pyrex measuring cup)
1 cup chopped pitted sweet cherries (I use the same measuring cup, and I use kitchen shears instead of a knife and block)
2 tsp lemon juice (I use a bottled version, and it isn't required for these berries but does help the pectin activate; I use it more often when I'm using thawed fruit I picked at least a month earlier)
5-1/2 cups sugar (don't be alarmed; it comes out to about 2 tsp per serving, which is how much some people use in their tea or coffee anyway)
1 box Sure-Jell original pectin (not the low-sugar version; currently, original is a yellow box and low-sugar is a pink box)
3/4 cup water (this mixes with the pectin, and I like to have it ready ahead of time)
Items to have on hand
a 4-cup liquid measuring cup (note that my liquid cup measures equal to a solid cup; test yours or scoop your prepared fruit with a solid cup instead)
a 1-cup liquid measuring cup
a small saucepan
a very large mixing bowl---the largest you own
a large spatula for the berries
a small spatula for the pectin
washed and dried containers (I don't have consistent pint jars here; I have some of them in addition to some 3-cup jars, some 1-cup BPA-free plastic freezer containers, and an odd assortment of other glass containers that I use as small gifts after they're filled)
Follow the Sure-Jell directions (and estimated final quantity/container preparation) exactly, but use the different ingredient quantities listed above.
I like to start with preparing the berries (add them into the large bowl). Then, I set the pectin into the saucepan and measure the water (setting it aside). At this point, I also set my timer for 1 minute so that it's ready to go when I turn it on. Now, I'm ready to add the sugar.
About 7 minutes into the 10-minute sugar set, I start the water and pectin to high heat.
As the mixture starts to boil, do not stop stirring! Turn on your timer at the rolling boil stage and don't let it linger long past that 1-minute mark.
I have rarely stirred the pectin and berry mixtures for 3 full minutes, but it won't hurt to do so.
Fill the containers as directed.
Cool all of the filled containers loosely covered on the counter overnight. Then, stack your jars into the freezer for using and gifting all year long, whenever you are missing summer flavors.
Blueberries (and cherries) are sometimes made without any pectin at all, because their natural pectin content can thicken them pretty well. That means my Sure-Jell version is already nice and thick even though it's just been a few hours. So, I'm off now to take my smallest jar, still slightly warm, and scoop it over my (finally) successful wheat-free dairy-free egg-free nut-free chocolate brownies waiting for me. Don't worry, that recipe is coming very soon, too!
Check out the round 2 update, made with Pomona's, and my comparison with it against the first (Sure-Jell) go.
If you’ve read any of these blog posts or come to my place for food, you’ll know that I rarely follow recipes even for baking and that I often try out random combinations on visitors and on my family. Sometimes this fails miserably, mostly it’s at least tolerable, and sometimes the results are just wonderful and worth keeping.
Now that I’m look for ways to replace poultry in my dinners without adding on more of the same red meat and pork options, I’ll finally start writing down and posting some recipes for regular meals, not just treats and snacks. Like my earliest baking posts, I’m short on photos and, frankly, short on directions so far, too. But it’s a start!
This week, I stuck with beef, but a variant: lean ground veal. I used pasta as a vehicle, to stay in my comfort zone, and made a quick ragu that was hearty but also light enough for early summer.
If you’d like to give it a try, here’s a quick how-to:
1-2 pounds ground veal
4 raw carrots, peeled, sliced, and diced
1/2 yellow onion, peeled, sliced, and diced
extra-virgin olive oil (for sauteing)
fresh garlic to taste (I used 1 clove)
fresh thyme to taste (I used 3 sprigs)
red pepper flakes to taste
1 pound boxed dried pasta (I used macaroni to capture the ragu), cooked al dente and drained/ready to use.
1/2 can tomato paste, diluted with water until able to stir easily
*optional: salt or seasoned salt to taste (or replace with pecorino cheese at the end if you aren't a dairy-free household)
In a medium saucepan, saute the onions and carrots on medium heat in the olive oil until softened but not brown.
Add the garlic and saute only briefly. Then move all ingredients to the side of the pan.
Add the veal to the pan and stir to break up large pieces. Slowly incorporate the onion, garlic, and carrots into the veal.
Sprinkle the mixture with the thyme and stir to incorporate.
Add the tomato paste (I used just enough to lightly coat the veal, not enough to make a heavy ragu.) and red pepper flakes. Turn the heat to medium-low and stir until warmed.
Add the cooked pasta to the veal mixture and coat the pasta with the ragu. Serve with extra red pepper flakes and some fresh basil.
I’d like to add more fish and veggie/bean options down the road, but I think baby steps are called for right now. Next week, I’m trying loose sweet Italian sausage (lower fat for heart health than in casings, especially if you drain the cooked meat) in cannelloni shells. My thinking is that I can make enough to have leftovers for me on the days that my family eats chicken. If I have to eat pasta more days a week, I’m sure that I can suffer through it! ?
It's been 3 weeks, but I am still baking anything and everything with strawberries from my picking bonanza. My family, our neighbors, and even the allergy office staff have been supportive taste testers for me, and I think we finally have a new recipe to come back to over the years: a strawberry quick bread that isn't overly sweet and makes enough to share.
Like other quick breads, this one relies on baking soda and powder instead of yeast, and it bakes without kneading or proofing in under an hour. The recipe makes two full-size (9x5 or 8x5) loaves; if you cut it in half, it's a great way to use up the very last bit of mashed strawberry on hand after jam is done.
This recipe is our third try. The first relied only on lemon curd for the sweetness and liquid, but the texture wasn't quite right. The second was a best-guess version I settled on without any guides except my long-time love of veggie (like pumpkin or zucchini) quick breads. That attempt was shareable, but I find the aftertaste too bitter for my liking---that's a reflection of the baking powder---and too dry to enjoy without a spread. I kept all of my second-try ingredients, but I increased the applesauce and reduced the baking powder. Quick breads, especially ones with acidic fruits, are forgiving for egg-free bakers: they naturally react with small amounts of chemical leaveners to rise. Our final version still had a nice crackly dome even after I cut the baking powder in half.
For our low-key, at-home Memorial Day, we'll slice the strawberry bread and top it with some fresh blueberries and some SoDelicious coconut nondairy whipped topping for a red, white, and blue dessert. I hope that you have a wonderful long weekend with family, friends, and good food! If you try the recipe, don't forget to let me know here, or on Instagram, too.
Some school-year weeks, you just dream of summertime. This week started out like that: rainy and windy, I was ready to sit by the pool and not get kids off to bus stops. Then Wednesday was (another) early release, and I remembered how challenging it can be to meet work deadlines when school’s out. Grass is greener, I suppose.
One good thing about early release, though, especially when it’s on a sunny day after some blustery weather, is that it forces me to stop and make some treats for the kids to have during their extra free time. This week, I tried an old recipe I had worked on and dropped for awhile: key lime blondie bars, a nice reminder that summer isn’t here yet but is on its way.
My brownie and blondie recipes, completed and in progress, all use an 8x8 square pan, and they all have a decent rise during baking. I noticed that my family-archives original suggested a 9x13 cake pan, though, and wondered what would happen if I used that, or how I could switch one recipe between the two. It turns out that some people have done a lot of calculations to make those switches possible. I’m a bit of a math geek, but I am not known for being precise in the kitchen, or for patience. I love that this resource is available (with pictures!), but I admit to just scanning it and pocketing it away for later.
This time, I decided to just use the recipe on hand (with a bit of flour averaging) and see what happened. I had few notes on how it turned out in a square pan, so the attempt was really a fresh start all around, anyway. I was discouraged when I had to really spread the batter thin to reach those 13-inch corners. I kept the 350-degree cooking temperature but reduced the cooking time by 8 minutes to accommodate the thinner layer.
The bars, after they completely cooled, were sliceable and easy to dust with powdered sugar for a quick topping. And the larger pan made this a treat that definitely could feed a crowd. I think the recipe as it stands still needs some experimenting: maybe some more water to reduce crumble, maybe back off on the cornstarch (or tapioca starch, which I tried this time) to reduce gumminess.
Or maybe I’ll take a closer look at those math conversions; I think a proportional increase in everything might be just what the recipe needs to make it a little bit cakier---for those fancy people who like to eat bars with forks instead of fingers (we don’t do that around here, though).
If you try the recipe as it stands, leave some comments about what you liked and what you might change. Baking with food allergies is part science, part art, and most recipes are never truly complete.
Hi, I'm Nicole.
ABOUT THE BLOG
An apothecary is a person or a place. Either one implies healing and relates to pharmacy in its truest sense, as a source of treatment and advice.
This blog is my way of uniting my pharmacy training with my efforts to provide a healthy and safe lifestyle for my family. In true apothecary form, I research and prescribe alternative ingredients that work just right in each specific recipe, and I would like to share the results with anyone who needs help making their own family’s kitchen allergy safe and heart healthy.
Nicole Van Hoey's books on Goodreads
Bakery Bites: Breads and Treats Without Dairy, Eggs, Nuts, Seeds, or Soy
ratings: 1 (avg rating 5.00)
Kitchen Adventures With Multiple Food Allergies: A Recipe Collection for Celebrations Without Dairy, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Seeds, or Soy