Homemade Sauerkraut for 2016

In the Lehigh Valley and many other places in the USA there is a tradition of pork and sauerkraut for New Years Day dinner for good luck in the new year. I don’t know about that although I am making just that for lunch on Friday. But what I do now know is how to make my own kraut. A few post ago I wrote about kefir which is full of fantastic probiotics. A promise was made to give you a post about another food full of probiotics.

Well…this is it! How to make homemade sauerkraut. Guessing that you are cringing at the very thought of it but honestly it is quite a simple project and the taste is strangely addictive. I like to eat a couple forkfuls every day for increased gut health, a concern for those of us with celiac disease. In the past I was not a huge fan of store sauerkraut but homemade is a different animal. It is zingy on the tongue and I really just enjoy it. Knowing it is so good for me is the icing on the cake. You may say why bother but the truth is that store kraut is pasteurized and all the good probiotics are cooked right out of it. Buying raw kraut is a bit hard to find and quite pricy. Being a DIY sort of gal I enjoy that sort of fun and wanted to give it a try. Call me hooked!

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Ready to eat!

Angie’s Sauerkraut.

1 large head of cabbage
3 tbsp. fine sea salt (Mortons will do as well I imagine)

Directions: remove the outer layer of leaves and cut in half. Use your coarse blade on a food processor or a slicer and chop it up. Not too fine. In my first batch I did half by hand and half in my Kitchen Aid shredder. I found the machine chopped cabbage was too fine although quite edible. Better to have it a tad coarse is my feeling but entirely up to you. I use a big sharp chef’s knife and hand chop quarters of cabbage into thin shreds and cut again once or twice across to shorten the strands. Do remember to cut out the core; too hard for making into kraut.

As you get a pile chopped load it into a big wide mouth jar. I have a tall glass canister I use for kraut production. You need a glass or ceramic jar. No metal. I wouldn’t suggest plastic either. You can buy a special sauerkraut maker jar with a fancy lid that vents the jar. Or you can go low tech and put a layer of olive oil on top the loaded jar to keep the air off the kraut. As you load it sprinkle each big clump with the salt. Fill it to the top using up the salt. I press down after adding each clump of shreds. The salt will cause the cabbage to release water. Fill the jar as full as possible. I like to use an empty glass canning jar to press down the cabbage.  In a few hours it will have released enough liquid to cover the cabbage. You can’t allow the cabbage to be above the liquid. Put a lid on top to keep dust out. Do not refrigerate; the process won’t work well if it is chilled before four weeks passes.

Now comes the hard part. The waiting…30 whole days, it should be edible after about 20 but it tastes more krauty after 30, actually I like it best by about 40 days. So be strong and wait until the thirty days is up. It will be a touch sour and take some getting used to but I really love the crunchy flavor which is missing in that pasteurized stuff you buy in the grocery store.

I include a link to a webpage on how to make kraut: http://www.vegetable-gardening-online.com/making-sauerkraut.html

And just for extra help: a webpage to use in trouble shooting your kraut and to reassure you that you are doing it right as well as giving some great ideas for how to make sauerkraut at home. http://www.foodrenegade.com/3-biggest-fermenting-mistakes-youre-already-making/

If you are a DIY sort, this will be a fun winter project. It is too close to New Years Day so if you want sauerkraut with your pork you should toddle off to the grocery store and buy a bag or a can. I am doing that because I don’t have enough kraut on hand for the making of that time honored New Years Day recipe. Enjoy and Happy New Years to all my readers.

Kiffles, Kifles, GF Kiffles!

Kiffles are a local favorite when it comes to cookies, particularly Christmas cookies. The Kiffle Kitchen outside of Bath, PA has made their reputation on their outstanding kiffles, now sold on line! I used to enjoy them but never took the time to make them in the past. Now that I can’t eat gluten anymore I thought, why not bake some gf kiffles? They are a sort of local Ukrainian specialty so finding them in a cookbook and also gf was a challenge. Luckily, early this year I purchased “Gluten-Free Baking Classics The Heirloom Collection” by Annalise G. Roberts. It was published in 2014 and I bought it brand spanking new – not one miss in anything I have baked from it so far. Page 170 had the answer to my search; Rugelach, Kifles, and Kolaki.

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I got my courage up and made a batch of kiffles (the preferred local spelling) on Christmas Eve afternoon. I just did jam filled, apricot and raspberry. The cream cheese dough in formed into two discs and chilled before rolling out between wax paper sheets into an 8 inch square. I did find myself chilling the rolled out dough a bit to keep it from getting too soft as I filled and formed the kiffles. Not too cold but chilly. After rolling and a slight chill, cut each big square into 16 two inch squares and put a tsp. of best quality jam on each; fold together so the filling peeps out both ends and chill some more on the baking sheet. I brushed them with heavy cream and sprinkled a touch of granulated sugar on before they hit the hot oven. The cute packets of dough and jam bake up lightly browned and delicate.  The apricot filling did bubble out somewhat but they were still tasty. Success was felt when my mom ate a few that evening. Her smile told me how yummy they were.  christmas baking 2015 025christmas baking 2015 026christmas baking 2015 027christmas baking 2015 028

Next time I will make them with the nut and cinnamon filling that is very traditional around the Lehigh Valley. I also hear that stores sell special kiffle filling meant just for these cookies. Gonna look for it; hopefully gluten free and therefore safe for me to enjoy.

So if you are gluten free and crave kiffles; this cookbook by Annalise Roberts is the place to find a workable recipe. She has never failed me yet with her desserts and I thank my lucky stars her cookbooks are on my shelf to guide me through holiday, parties and everyday meals. I don’t mean to sound like a salesperson for her but I can’t say enough great things about this new cookbook and her prior best seller Baking Classics – my copy of that is well worn and I couldn’t exist without it. This kiffle recipe is way too involved to type out for you and I think that if you are serious about baking gf you need to check it out and get your own copy, real soon!

Note: I did a search on line for a gluten free kiffle recipe and didn’t really find one; lots of other cookies but these are quite a specialty and not made by most home cooks except in areas where they are popular and what you can buy is definitely not gluten free. Let me know if you can provide any other kiffle recipes but I am very happy with the results and can heartily recommend to you for your own gf holiday baking. Enjoy!

Moravian Spice Cookies for Christmas Celebrating

We all long for things familiar, things remembered from our childhood. Especially when it comes to cookies. In my family the holidays were framed by a huge array of fancy cookies, no chocolate chips or peanut butters for my relatives but we had spritz, springerly, butter horns, almond crescents, Russian tea cakes, candy cane cookies, and sugar cookies rolled, cut into Christmas shapes like trees, bells, stars or reindeer and sprinkled with fancy colored sugars. So going gluten free meant finding ways to re-create the special cookies I loved. My first effort was the Russian tea cakes and the results were heartrendingly delicious. Last year I made spritz cookies and they were a big hit. This year I have a new cookbook by Annalise Roberts, “The Heirloom Collection” and so far nothing has disappointed. If you like to bake gf it is a must purchase, not just for cookies but tarts and lots of other tasty treats.

Today I bring you her Moravian Spice Cookies. I chose them for many reasons – the memories of spicy cookies being foremost. I am blogging this recipe for a friend who avoids chocolate as well as gluten: makes it hard to find great cookies. I think you will love this cookie for its flavor and crisp texture. I live not far from Bethlehem which is the home base for the Moravian Church.  You can buy these cookies in the Moravian Book Shop but not gluten free.  So now those who can’t eat gluten can have them to enjoy this holiday season.  xmas cookies 007xmas cookies 005

You can cut them out in shapes but I found I liked to mostly make diamonds using a sharp knife. I did do some hearts and ornament shapes but it was tough going to get them off the wax paper and onto the baking sheet without distorting their original shape. You can take her advice and chill them further to facilitate the moving process.  I do love them any shape they are!


Moravian Spice Cookies

1 1/4 cup brown rice blend (recipe below)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
¾ tsp. xanthan gum
¼ tsp. salt
3 tbsp. butter or vegetable shortening (room temp)
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses

Directions: First combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl; mix well.
Beat shortening, brown sugar and molasses in your big mixer bowl until smooth, add flour mixture and blend until well combined. Shape dough into two disks, chill about 30 minutes, lay between two sheets of wax paper, roll into a very thin (1/8 inch thick) sheet. Cut into 2 inch or less shapes, move with spatula onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. If they are sticky and hard to lift up return the sheet to the freezer for a few minutes until they are stiff enough to move. Bake at 325 degrees for 8-11 minutes. Make sure they are fully baked or they won’t be crisp. Leave on the cookie sheet a minute before moving to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight cookie jar or tin.

Spicy and crisp. Great with a cup of coffee or tea! Annalise says you can reduce the spices for less zing; 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, ¾ tsp. ginger and ½ or less of cloves.
Brown Rice Flour Mix (same as King Arthur GF flour)
2 c brown rice flour
2/3 c potato starch
1/3 c tapioca flour

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Some times you want those fancy, full of stuff kinda cookies and that is fine but occasionally a simple but delicious cookie is the way to go, like shortbread. Dainty crisp shortbread cookies are great with a cup of tea or coffee. I hadn’t tried them gluten free until last holiday season. I wonder why it took so long!

I baked my lemon cookies using Meyer lemon peel but you can use whatever lemons you buy at the grocery store. Mine were sprinkled with a touch of green colored sugar. Top yours as you wish or leave them plain.

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No forming needed. You glop the soft dough onto a long piece of plastic wrap, close it and roll on the table to shape. Chill well and cut the dough into slices, onto the baking sheet and into the oven. Your basic refridgerator cookie but so crisp and buttery – goes great with tea or coffee.  Simple to make and they are perfect for many festive occasions. I can’t wait to try some other variations on these shortbread cookies.

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
½ lemon extract
1 tsp. lemon zest
¾ cup brown rice flour mix; recipe below
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
¼ tsp. xanthan gum
1/8 tsp. salt

Beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, add the vanilla, lemon extract, and zest and mix.

Mix flour, xanthan gum in small bowl; add to butter/sugar mix. Mix until a soft dough is formed.

Place lumps of dough in a line along a big sheet of plastic wrap; from it into a 1 ¼ inch log of dough. Twist ends shut, smooth into a round long by rolling it on the table top. Chill it at least an hour; until firm.

Heat oven to 350 degrees, racks to center of oven. Lightly spray 2 baking sheets with cooking spray.

Slice into ½ inch rounds. Place 1 ½ inch apart on sheet, sprinkle with colored or plain sugar. Chill in fridge 15 minutes. Bake 12-14 minutes until lightly golden. Mine all took 14-15 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet 2-3 minutes so they solidify; transfer to a cookie cooling rack. Store in airtight cookie jar once cooled.

My recipe says the dough can be kept in the fridge for a week or in freezer for up to two months. It made about 32 cookies. They went fast!

They are delicate; if left out in the air unsealed they will get soggy and loose their crisp, delicate texture.

To make them plain leave out the lemon extract and zest and add another ½ tsp. vanilla.

Flour Mix (same as King Arthur GF blend)
2 c brown rice flour
2/3 c potato starch
1/3 c tapioca flour

This recipe is out of Annalise G. Robert’s great cookbook: Gluten Free Baking Classics, second edition.

This is a reposting of a recipe I shared December 2014.

Russion Teacake Cookies

These miniature snowball cookies were the foundation of the Christmas cookie baking when I was a kid. They were always made every year, sometimes a second batch had to be baked as we ate the whole first one before the big day! You can use pecans but I rarely do. Some people call them Mexican Wedding Cookies but we called them Russian Teacakes. For me it is not Christmas without these cookies so I was extremely pleased to find a great gluten free recipe.

They are easy to make with not too many ingredients. Be careful lifting them off the pan as they are delicate until fully cooled. The texture and subtle flavor of this GF version is actually superior to the wheat flour recipe of my childhood. They are delightful with a cup of tea or coffee. My family clamors for extras to take home!

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If you like them really sweet sprinkle on extra powdered sugar, less of it makes them perfect for those who are not used to too much sweetness. No one will ever know they are GF and you will get complements on their flavor and texture. This recipe is from Annalise Roberts’ fabulous Glutin-Free Baking Classics with minor changes by me. Enjoy: they are rather addictive cookies!

Russian Teacakes

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
6 tbsp. powdered (confectioners) sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups brown rice mix (recipe below)
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup walnuts or pecans chopped fine
Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling

Beat butter and powdered sugar in large bowl of stand mixer until light and creamy. Add vanilla, beat in. Add flour and gum, mix in until well blended, stir in walnuts until distributed. Chill dough for an hour.

Form into 1 inch balls. Roll in confectioners sugar, place on cookie sheet lightly sprayed with Pam (not the bakers version that has flour). Place about 1 ½ inches apart. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned on top and bottom. If you make them on the large size they will need to bake an extra minute or two. Cool on pan for 5 min and then sprinkle with more powdered sugar before placing on wire rack to cool. Store well wrapped: in airtight container, in fridge for a week or two or freezer for up to 30 days. You could store unbaked dough in fridge for up to three days.
Brown Rice Flour Mix base mix
2 c brown rice flour
2/3 c potato starch
1/3 c tapioca flour

Note: First posted December 2014 – on this blog.

Kefir: Do Your Tummy a Favor

This post is for my friends who want to have a healthier gut. I know, I know, that doesn’t sound like a barrel of fun or like a tasty food such as I usually blog about but I really have to say it can be both of those things. A number of months ago I was reading about ways to make your gut healthier. FYI: this is especially important if you have celiac disease as the digestive system is all messed up by it. A lot of people with celiac take probiotics on a daily basis. So do other folks with a variety of digestive disorders. Probiotics help keep beneficial flora and fauna in your gut. Most folks are purchasing expensive probiotics pills plus they have to keep the pills refrigerated and to remember to take them daily. Some seem more effective than others and you are relying on that company to give you what they claim is in their product. Too many negatives for me.

So, I decided to go another route. There are actually several ways to improve the health of your gut. Besides the aforementioned probiotic pills, you can eat a number of foods with beneficial elements for your gut. One that is easy and really healthy is kefir. I make kefir every few weeks; it is a fermented dairy beverage. Think yogurt and buttermilk get married and kefir is their cute baby! It is thick and sour. I like it with some juice added. Don’t be scared if it curdles a bit when you add juice; still tastes great!

To make it I got some dehydrated kefir at a health foods store; Fry’s Better Foods to be exact. I hear you can even make kefir with coconut, almond or soy milk.

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Just poured into the glass jug.  Now ready to ferment!

How? Easy peasy: I heat a quart of milk near to boiling, 2 percent works great but you could make it luxurious with whole milk. Let it cool to about 75 degrees, scoop out a cup of milk and mix that well with the packet of dry kefir. Pour back in and stir to blend. Pour it into a glass pitcher, put a covering of plastic wrap on top and let it stand on the counter top for an entire day. Yes, a full day unrefridgerated. It will not look much different until the last couple of hours when the milk mysteriously begins to thicken. Put it in the fridge after 24 hours and chill well. Drink some every day. It makes a nice filling afternoon snack.

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The great thing about kefir is that the probiotics in it stay in your gut for a long time. Most if not all probiotics in foods, for example: yogurt, disappear from your gut within a day. Not so for kefir; that’s really great for your digestive health. Some say it is a valuable tool in avoiding leaky gut. I say it tastes great, feels good in my tummy and if you make it yourself it is not that expensive. A box of the freeze dried stuff costs about $8-9 and makes several quarts. Just a quart of milk and you are in business. You can buy it in most grocery stores; between $3 and $7 a quart. As you know I tend to be a do-it-yourself kinda gal so I started making my own kefir a few months ago.

I made some yesterday. It doesn’t take much more then 4-5 active minutes to make it; rest is time for the milk to cool to the right temperature and a day for it to culture. It is worth every bit of effort for the good it will do for your tummy. Do your gut a favor, make some kefir…seriously.

Next week I will give you one more way to help your gut stay healthy in this season of overeating and excess.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Okay, I have to confess something. I am a terrible cake baker, when I am under pressure, that is. I call it the birthday cake curse. Really. I actually felt it necessary to take a personal vow like 11-12 years ago to make no more scratch birthday cakes as they always get screwed up. Any number of cakes that didn’t rise properly or cracked as it baked or broke as I tried to get them out of the pan. I could go on and on. The curse continues!

Now I am gluten free and there are very limited and/or expensive options as to making gf cakes. The store mixes only make one layer so for a two layer cake it will cost about $8 not counting the ingredients added to the mix or an icing. Perhaps I should mention that I enjoy baking and it is a challenge I accept in my new gluten free life. So I persevered on this cake issue and several birthday cakes have been created since going gf and all were totally yummy. A few glitches but on the whole, I am pleased with my new gf birthday cake record. When I baked my grandson’s cake it wasn’t perfect looking but it sure was tasty. When it came out of my oven the layers sank some in the center. Re-reading her instructions at the start of the cake chapter I discovered that she does not recommend using a Kitchen Aid mixer; it is too powerful and always over beats gluten free cakes. Now I know. I just flipped one layer over and used it as the bottom. I put extra cream cheese icing in the middle. The top was level and the flavors were out of this world. Aidens 2014 birthday party 006

This is at least the fourth time I have baked this cake for a birthday and so it is time to share it…again: I posted this last November but it is so good it is definitely worth a second share. It is from my go to cookbook; Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts. Get a copy if you haven’t already. This cake is incredibly yummy, no one will ever feel cheated by the gf nature of it. And it isn’t that difficult to make, just don’t use that big powerful mixer! I like that it is make with low fat milk and canola oil; less fatty than many cake recipes. I used half the vanilla in the cake and it tastes perfect. I also measure the oil and milk and remove that tablespoon from each before mixing; she does it after mixing. I think oil and milk are hard to blend so I do it first.

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I iced the cake with a frosting from the “Chocolate Cake Mix Doctor”; vanilla cream cheese frosting and the contrast is perfection with this decadent chocolate layer cake. This icing spreads easily and the cream cheese makes it smooth and less sweet with a tangy undertone; it is addictive. It’s a perfect combo for a birthday celebration once you poke a few candles on top.  Or any kind of celebration, it is that good that I need no other recipe for a chocolate layer cake.

This cake gets its deep chocolate flavor from two sources, unsweetened chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder. You will need a fair amount of sugar to make it sweet enough. And you will need some of that brown rice flour mix I often use. The recipe for that is below. Enjoy this addictive all occasion cake!

Chocolate Fudge Birthday Cake

4 oz unsweetened chocolate chopped up
1 ¾ cup brown rice flour mix
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. xanthan gum
½ cup canola oil
1 ½ cup low fat milk
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Line two nine inch cake pans with parchment paper; spray the inside of the pan lightly with cooking spray. Do not use dark pans; light ones are far better for this cake. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, oven rack in the middle.

Melt chocolate, stir often. I used the melting feature on my microwave and did a lot of stirring until the last bits were liquid. You can do it in a double boiler if you are into that sort of thing. I went for the easy way.

Put all dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well to combine.

Measure oil and milk, remove 1 tbsp. from each and discard. Mix together.

Beat sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Do not use your Kitchen Aid; use a portable mixer as it has less power and won’t mess up the batter like that big mixer will. Beat until light and fluffy. Blend in melted chocolate and vanilla, blend well. Add the dry and wet ingredients alternating half at a time, low speed on mixer. Mix at medium speed for one minute.

Pour into the prepared pans and bake immediately. Any delay is not going to help so have the oven ready to go. Bake 30-35 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes, run knife around edge, tip out onto a cooling rack. Flip upright so the top of the cake is on the top. Let cool completely before icing. You could make cupcakes out of it but no 8 inch pan; I tried that once and it overran the pan in a crazy “I love Lucy” manner!

Brown Rice Flour Mix (same as King Arthur GF Flour)
2 c brown rice flour
2/3 c potato starch
1/3 c tapioca flour

Best Ever Cream cheese Icing

1 8 oz package light cream cheese, room temp
1 8 oz stick salted butter, room temperature
3 ¾ cups powdered sugar, sieved
2 tsp. real vanilla extract.

Blend the cream cheese and butter in the mixer (yes I used my Kitchen Aid for this recipe!) Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, blending on low speed. Do not skip the sieving. Add the vanilla and blend a bit more. This recipe will frost one 9 inch layer cake perfectly.