Category Archives: Wheat-Free Corn-Free Dairy-Free Desserts

Thanksgiving Dinner Without a Plan

I’m telling you, it’s been a long summer with lots of travel, work, and other activities keeping me quite busy. So I’ve been looking forward to winding down a bit at Thanksgiving. It means I’ve made all my deadlines, I can rest for four days, and I can cook. And this is the first year I didn’t plan a menu.

What?! A planner without a plan? That’s right. And it sure is liberating. I’m no Martha Stewart, but usually I ponder Thanksgiving dinner for at least a week or so before the event. It’s my favorite holiday because of all the cooking involved. But this year, I decided to wing it.

For one thing, I could count on what’s available in the house because I knew there were a few chickens from our CSA, Mud Lake Farms, in the freezer. Plus, Bill and I just picked up our pork and lamb from Lubbers Farm. Except for our mixed quarter of beef, we are set with our meat for the year. And, I’ve been consistently cruising the Holland Farmers Market for things like squash, root vegetables, leeks, and apples–stowing them away in the garage and basement. So I knew I could throw something together from our stash. The only special trip I made (okay, I guess there has been some planning going on behind the scenes) was to The Berry Bunch, the organic cranberry farm where I picked up fresh cranberries last Thanksgiving, too.

So what was on the menu? Well, for two people, you don’t need much. Usually, I like having a large sampling of side dishes but this year it’s all about simplifying. We started off with goat and sheep cheese with flax chips, Bosc pear, and Prosecco for appetizers.

I decided upon a chicken from Mud Lake Farm, which I roasted according to Bon Appetit’s Lemon-Herb Roast Chicken (a favorite at our house!).

The only substitutions I had to make to accommodate Bill’s allergies to wheat, corn, and cow-dairy were olive oil instead of butter for the rub, and oat flour instead of all-purpose flour in the gravy.

We also tried the Potato-Celery Root Mash recipe from the December issue of Bon Appetit. I omitted the sour cream and substituted chopped shallots for horseradish, since I didn’t have any. Oh, and no butter, of course! I used olive oil instead.

We also had roasted butternut squash with leeks and sage and Red Harvest Quinoa from Betty Crocker Whole Grains. For the quinoa, I substituted Pecorino sheep’s cheese instead of Parmesan and threw in some walnuts in lieu of pine nuts since I didn’t have pine nuts on hand.

For dessert? Apple-Cranberry Crisp. You can check out my improvisations to the recipe in my previous blog post.

Was it simple? Yes. I started cooking at 3:00 and we were eating dinner by 7:00. Basic, wholesome, traditional autumn fare. Thank you, farmers, for making it so easy for us to eat good, fresh, local food.

Apple-Cranberry Crisp

Because I’m lucky enough to get fresh, local, organic cranberries in Holland, Michigan this time of year, I was looking for a recipe to use them in besides cranberry sauce. Bill suggested apple-cranberry crisp. And, wouldn’t you know it, there are tons of recipes on the web. I ended up choosing this one from

I just altered a few things, such as using oat flour for all-purpose flour, safflower oil for butter, Jonathan apples for Granny Smith (since that’s what I had on hand), and walnuts for pecans (Bill’s preference in nuts).

I started with fresh local fruit: apples from the Holland Farmers Market and cranberries from The Berry Bunch.

First I mixed together the filling, then the topping.

Then I put the filling in a baking dish with the topping on top, of course.

Then I baked it at 375 F for 40 minutes.

Voila! If you have dairy allergies, try serving it with Soy Dream French Vanilla Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert. Maybe I’m just getting used to it, but I think it tastes pretty good!

Wheat-Free, Dairy-Free Rhubarb Crisp

I never make anything with rhubarb because most of the recipes I come across are desserts, and Bill and I really don’t eat many desserts. But rhubarb fascinates me–the color, the texture, and the fact that it’s one of the few bright red crops available right now in Michigan.

So this year I decided to make something with rhubarb.

I recently posted a vintage Rhubarb Upside Down Cake recipe from My Mother’s Recipe Box, but I’m not much of a baker, and that would have taken a lot of work to adapt the recipe for Bill’s wheat, dairy, and corn allergies. And, while I love the strawberry-rhubarb combination, strawberries aren’t available quite yet here. So I set out looking for a simple Rhubarb Crisp recipe and was happy to find one on Visser Farms’ blog. The Visser family has been a mainstay at the Holland Farmers Market for as long as I’ve been going. It’s possible they’re one of the original vendors.

Their recipe for Rhubarb Crisp is originally from the Practical Produce Cookbook. I’ve adapted the recipe to make it Bill-friendly, substituting wheat flour with oat flour and using safflower oil instead of butter. And I divided the ingredients by three since I only had two cups of rhubarb.

Wheat-Free, Dairy-Free Rhubarb Crisp

2 cups diced rhubarb

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons oat flour

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup oatmeal

1/4 cup oat flour

1/3 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup safflower oil

Combine rhubarb with sugar and 2 tablespoons oat flour; place in a 8×8 cake pan or baking dish.

Combine the remaining ingredients and sprinkle over rhubarb.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

My Blueberry Muffin Experiment

As I’ve said before, I’m not much of a baker. But I have this stash of last summer’s blueberries in my freezer and have been trying to think of creative ways to use them. They are good in smoothies, but the skins don’t disintegrate well. (If you’re a texture girl like me, you probably don’t like blueberry skins in your teeth.) And, speaking of texture, frozen blueberries aren’t my favorite mixed with yoghurt either. (Fresh berries offer a completely different experience!)

Several of my friends suggested I make blueberry muffins. But that means measuring. Oy! I finally gave in, however, and made some last night. If I had been a true baker, I probably would have had paper muffin cups on hand. That would have made the process much easier! (Note to self for the next batch.)

My friend Lois sent me a recipe, which she says came from Fannie Farmer. So I looked up the recipe for “Muffins, Berry” in my own Fannie Farmer cookbook and found it.

The dilemma, as usual, was how to make it Bill-friendly. I followed some of my usual substitution rules: When a recipe calls for milk, use rice milk. When it calls for flour, use half brown rice and half oat flour. And when it calls for butter, use palm oil.

Another friend asked me recently, “What’s a good substitute for eggs?” I don’t have a good answer but I found a website called Kids with Food Allergies that had some good ideas. Fortunately, Fannie says you can actually omit the egg from this recipe! (If you try it, let me know how it turns out.)

Here’s the recipe I followed, with adaptations for people with wheat and dairy allergies.

Fannie Farmer’s Blueberry Muffins, Adapted for Food Allergies
2 cups flour (1 cup brown rice flour plus 1 cup oat flour)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup rice milk
1/4 cup melted palm oil
1 cup frozen blueberries
Sugar to sprinkle on top

Preheat the oven to 375. Grease a muffin pan with palm oil. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the flour over the blueberries.

In a large bowl, mix the remaining flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

In a small bowl, mix the egg, rice milk, and melted palm oil.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid mixture, stirring only enough to dampen the flour.

Lightly fold in the blueberries.

Spoon batter into muffin pans, filling each cup about two-thirds full. Sprinkle each muffin with sugar.

Bake for about 20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.


How Ice Cream Gave Me Warm Fuzzies

This was going to be a blog post about how I made ice cream one day. Actually, it still is about ice cream–and something a little deeper.

It all started because my friend Tammy wasn’t able to use her one-gallon share of raw milk from Lubbers Farm and she knows I like it, plus it’s the only cow dairy product that Bill can stomach. (It turns out, many people with cow dairy allergies can handle raw milk.)

I love raw milk but you can only get it the old-fashioned way: whole milk with cream on top. There’s nothing better than shaking up a bottle of milk and cream, then pouring this rich, fatty, delight into a cup of dark, strong coffee. And a few months later, add on another five pounds.

Since Bill’s not a big milk consumer even though he can handle the raw milk, and I was concerned about consuming too much fat, we opted out of a committing to our own milk share. (For my coffee, I buy local, organic, pasteurized 2% fat milk from Hilhof Dairy.)

Where do the warm fuzzies come into play? I’m getting there….

Another friend of Tammy’s was going to be sharing the gallon of milk with me. Still, half a gallon is a lot to use, and I wasn’t sure if I could finish it before it spoiled. So I asked my friend Lois for suggestions on how to make the best use of this gift. Turns out, she has an electric ice cream maker! (I think I only made homemade ice cream once and it was back in the day when we had to crank it in a bucket full of rock salt.)

Next came the challenge of picking up the milk. Pick-up day was Monday and the farm is about 30 miles from where we live. In the end, Tammy’s friend picked up the milk, which I then picked up from her front porch. We got two quarts.

Do you see what’s happening here? Four people–who happen to be women–had their hands in our ice cream, so to speak (not counting the farmer who milked the cow): Tammy, the milk share owner who offered the gift; Tammy’s friend who shared and transported it; Lois, who loaned me the ice cream maker; and me, the ice cream maker.

So here’s the warm fuzzy part. It’s really touching how people within a community help each other out for even the smallest needs. Food, of course, is not trite. But Tammy did not want to waste the milk, and I didn’t want to see it wasted either. Everyone had a role in getting the milk from the cow into the form of ice cream that now sits happily in our freezer, for Bill and me to enjoy when we crave it.

I think this is how communities should operate today, instead of wondering where our food was sourced and not having a hand in getting it to our own kitchen tables.

As for the ice cream, a fifth person had a hand in its making: Bill. We spent an evening after dinner reading the instructions for Lois’ ice cream maker, mixing the ingredients for vanilla ice cream, and watching a blend of raw milk, cream, eggs, sugar, and vanilla freeze its way into a dessert Bill can enjoy.

Pizza for Dessert

Last Sunday, Bill and I made Wheat-Free Lavash Pizza with Sausage for dinner. Then we had pizza for dessert!

Dessert means different things to different people, of course. I don’t have as much of a sweet tooth as I do a salt craving, so I’m pretty easily satisfied with a small chunk of dark chocolate once in awhile after dinner. I know some people who like fruit for dessert, or even fruit and cheese.

That’s why I classify Bosc Pear and Carmelized Onion Pizza as dessert. With the sugar in the carmelized onions, the pizza has a touch of sweetness. And the pears and nuts go well with the onions and cheese.

Bosc Pear and Carmelized Onion Pizza

1/2 large red onion, sliced

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 Sami’s Bakery Millet & Flax Lavash flatbread

1 Bosc pear, cored and sliced

2 ounces Kasseri cheese, grated, or other sheep’s cheese if you have a cow dairy allergy

1 tablespoon chopped walnuts, or pine nuts

Serves 1 to 2.

To carmelize onions, saute onions them in olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper until tender.

Add balsamic vinegar and stir until blended with onions. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, brown the bottom side of a lavash flatbread on a griddle.

Preheat broiler on low heat.

Place lavash on a baking sheet. Add onions an arrange pear slices on top.

Add grated cheese.

Add nuts, drizzle with olive oil, and broil on low for approximately 2 minutes (keeping an eye on it, as oven temps vary), rotating pan after the first minute.

Cut into quarters and serve, either for lunch, dinner, appetizers, or dessert!

When Plums and Blackberries Are in Season

I happened to cruise through this month’s issue of Bon Appetit just before I went to the Holland Farmers’ Market on Saturday. What caught my eye was a dessert called Vanilla-Scented Plums and Blackberries. It’s so simple and a perfect way to take advantage of what’s in season, at least here in West Michigan.

And there at the market, I found exactly what I needed: Santa Rosa plums and fresh blackberries.

So that’s what I made for tonight’s dessert when our friends Waltraud, Jo, and Isa came for dinner.

Generally, I don’t have a vanilla bean on hand but I picked one up at G. B. Russo’s Friday afternoon. I found the easiest way to cut the bean and scrape out the seeds is with a tomato knife.

Once you cut up the plums and mix them with blackberries, sugar, and the vanilla, you just leave the mixture at room temperature for an hour until it gets juicy.

Then you can put it in the fridge to chill until you’re ready to serve dessert. Bon Appetit recommends an accompaniment of sorbet or angel food cake. We tried it with Palazzolo’s mango sorbetto, wild berry sorbetto, and Breyer’s vanilla ice cream. All of them are good choices!

Chef Christine Ferris: Working from Imagination to Please the Palate

When I arrived at the kitchen of Christine Ferris Catering, I knew I was at the right place by the Visser Farms crates used as plant stands for potted rosemary and parsley in the south window. They’d been absorbing the sunlight all winter long, and donating their herbal fragrances to Chris’ culinary creations.

Visser Farms is one of the major vendors at the Holland Farmers’ Market—the one that told me at the end of the season last year that they could supply produce all through the winter if we so desired. Chris Ferris got the word, too. That’s the beauty of a local food network—local farmers, local chefs, and locavores—helping each other out in the supply-and-demand dynamics that surround one of my favorite activities: eating.

The first time I sampled Chris’ culinary art was at my friend Sue’s wedding. I was so impressed with the amount of fresh, organic, and local food she sourced. It was a delicious meal and beautifully presented.

So, when Bill and I got married in 2008, we asked Chris to cater our event. On top of the fresh, organic, locavore angle, we challenged her to find recipes that would accommodate Bill’s dairy (cow), corn, and wheat allergies. We figured if he’s the groom, he should be able to eat anything on the buffet. Mission accomplished: Bill was able to eat everything, and many of our guests complimented the meal as well.

The icing on the cake was that there was no icing on the cake. Instead, we requested that Chris make Bill’s wheat-free, corn-free, dairy-free chocolate cake recipe. And, of course, she improved it. It was her idea to bake it in a spring-form pan, which is how I’ve been making it ever since.

Chris is a culinary artist. While her food sources are important to eaters like me—focused on happy food—it’s the way she prepares the food that brings out the artist in the chef. For example, while I was visiting she decided to make a cherry ginger coriander marinade for the duck breast she would be serving that night.

The idea for the ingredients was inspired by the memory of a Pinot Noir that she had tasted in California recently. Inspired by a memory of taste! That’s like a musician who hears a melody and plays by ear. Chris’ approach to cooking is an artistic one, beyond what can be learned or experienced in culinary school.
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Brownies for Almost Anyone

If you’re allergic to wheat, dairy, and/or corn, like my husband, Bill, I’ve got the brownie recipe for you.

It’s from Southern Living magazine, but I’ve adapted the recipe to accommodate his allergies.  One substitution I made was organic vegetable shortening (100% palm oil) for the butter.

And I used a blend of oat flour and brown rice flour (2/3 oat, 1/3 rice) instead of all-purpose flour.

Here’s the original recipe. (Note: I don’t have an 8″ aluminum pan so I used a baking dish. I also didn’t see the point in lining the dish with foil so I omitted that step.)

So Good Brownies

Makes 16 servings.

4  (1-oz.) unsweetened chocolate baking squares
3/4  cup  butter
1 1/2  cups  granulated sugar
1/2  cup  firmly packed brown sugar
3  large eggs
1  cup  all-purpose flour
1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
1/8  teaspoon  salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch pan with aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over sides; lightly grease foil. (The foil is optional, in my opinion.)

Microwave chocolate squares and butter (or palm oil shortening) in a large microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals.

Whisk in granulated and brown sugars.

Add eggs, one at a time, whisking just until blended after each addition. Whisk in flour (using oat and brown rice flours for wheat allergies), vanilla, and salt.

Pour mixture into prepared pan.

Bake at 350° for 40 to 44 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs.  (Baking time was more like 50 minutes for me, but that could be from variations in the oven, the flours I used, and/or the baking dish.)

Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour). Lift brownies from pan, using foil sides as handles. Gently remove foil, and cut brownies into 16 squares.

Chocolate Chip Cookies for Bill

This is a tough time of year for people with gluten and dairy allergies, what with all the sweets hanging around at the workplace and at holiday parties.

Since I do some baking for the holidays–such as the Zucchini Bread I send to my siblings and the cookies I bake for Hospice–I like to make something that Bill can eat, too.

I found this recipe for Wheat-Free Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from It’s easy and it’s yummy. I’m just as happy eating these cookies as I would be eating ones with butter in them. (In fact, too happy, which is another reason I don’t usually bake: If there’s a cookie in the house, I’ll eat it!)
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