At the last family gathering I was totally surprised to hear how many of my family members actually read my posts here on Kitchen Apparel.  More than a few people told me I was crazy for making Ramp Salt, and then promptly asked me what the hell ramps were anyway.  I think when most bloggers start out they are worried that only their family is reading, but for me it was the complete opposite.  I have been pleasantly surprised to hear that many family members that I never thought would even click on my website, are actually reading (yes I'm talking about you Uncle Ron).  So where am I going with this...well, this bright yellow ice cream maker you see, was a Christmas gift from my brother and his wife (my favorite sister-in-law).  They actually bought it for me so that I could use it for posting recipes.  My brother was even awesome enough to pick out this book for me because he knows that I don't drink cows milk and I like to make vegan recipes.  I guess I shouldn't be so surprised that my family is so supportive of my weird domestic hobbies, but I will now be ever mindful and appreciative of their encouragement and love.    

    I also have a little bit of a confession to make today, "I, Sandra Kehoe, have never tasted nor cooked with rhubarb before".  I know, try not to judge me too harshly.  While working with my health coach, Irina Kachalenko I vowed to keep an open mind and try new things.  So this spring I got yet another chance to try a food that I always shied away from because it just seemed weird.  In my mind I have always thought, poisonous leaves on top of super long crazy hot pink stalks of vegetable matter. I'm not so sure I want to go near it let alone put it in my mouth.  So this year I put on my big girl pants and grabbed all the rhubarb at the farm stand counter.  I wonder if I looked a little desperate or maybe they just remembered me from my first trip when I cleaned out their whole stash of asparagus just minutes after they picked it (the crazy lady with two kids, I guess it's pretty hard to forget).  So to make a long story short, lets just say I have a new love for all things rhubarb.  I have been eating it on or with everything for the last few days and I can't get enough.  I really wanted to make an ice cream that was just purely rhubarb because I enjoy the tartness.  We have been having some hot sticky weather here in New Jersey so ice cream just seemed like the perfect treat in lieu of heating up the oven to make a pie.   

Rhubarb Ice Cream (Vegan)

3 cups coconut milk (full fat coconut milk or make your own coconut milk)
1 cup rhubarb syrup (recipe below)
1 cup rhubarb pulp (byproduct of making rhubarb syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon tapioca flour/starch
2 teaspoons beet juice (optional - to add color - I promise it won't taste at all like beets)

Simmer the 3 cups of coconut milk in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add 1 cup of rhubarb syrup and 1 cup of rhubarb pulp and gently whisk to combine.  Allow the milk to simmer for 2-3 minutes while gently whisking and then remove the pan from the heat.  Whisk in the vanilla, tapioca flour and beet juice.  Transfer the mixture into a glass bowl and place in the refrigerator to cool for at least 4-6 hours. (You can cover the bowl once the mixture cools down a bit).  At this point you need to process the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufactures instructions or until you know it is ready (mine took two batches at 15 minutes each).  Transfer the "soft" ice cream to a container and freeze until the ice cream is set.

NOTE:  I recommend eating your ice cream right as it is processing in the ice cream maker.  They conveniently designed ice cream makers with a hole in the top just for this purpose.  I'm serious, there is really no better way to enjoy homemade ice cream!  

Rhubarb Syrup

Adapted from this recipe by the Hungry Tigress

2 lbs of rhubarb, chopped
1 cup of water
sugar (I used unrefined cane sugar)

    Simmer the chopped rhubarb in 1 cup of water over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until all the rhubarb is disintegrated.  Stir occasionally to make sure the bottom doesn't burn.  Transfer the hot rhubarb into a jelly bag or cheesecloth over a bowl and hang it up to allow the juice to strain overnight.  (This is the perfect time to chill the base of your ice cream maker). 
    In the morning take the juice and place it back into a saucepan over medium heat. (I got 2 cups of juice).  Reserve the rhubarb pulp that is left in the cheesecloth for making the ice cream.  Add 1 cup of sugar to every 2 cups of rhubarb juice and stir until the sugar is all dissolved.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then remove it from the heat to cool.  The rhubarb ice cream will take 1 cup of the finished syrup.  Store the remaining cup in the refrigerator for other purposes.   

"It is through living that we discover ourselves, at the same time as we discover the world around us."  
                                                                                -Henri Cartier-Bresson

    Today we had perfect spring weather, 60's with a chilly breeze and a lingering dampness. The perfect time to open all the windows and fire up my oven, or to grab a nice book and a warm cozy blanket (well..maybe once my kids are in school I'll be able to do that).  I have been meaning to increase the recipes in my dessert section, which has been lacking anything new for a while now.  Did I feel guilted into making these chocolate cookies?...a little bit perhaps.  But now that I have these beautiful little gems tucked away, I am actually quite happy.  I will be snacking on these for the next few days, if I can manage to hide them from my oldest son, who is as much of a cookie monster as I am. 

    So let me address the issue of the Mesquite Flour.  This is a gluten-free flour made from dried and ground bean pods of the mesquite plant.  This flour, although expensive, is absolutely beautiful. If you were smelling it in a blind test you would probably swear you were smelling a mocha coffee hot chocolate mix.  Once I finally got my hands on this flour (which is a little hard to find) I knew that I had to pair it with chocolate.  Coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate so I was hoping this flour would have a similar effect.  You will obviously have to decide for yourself if these cookies are as wonderful as I think they are, but if cookies are not your thing, at least try to find some mesquite flour and give it a try in other baked goods or even a smoothie.    

Chocolate Walnut Mesquite Cookies (Gluten-Free)

makes 5 dozen cookies

1/2 cup of unsalted butter
1/2 cup natural unrefined cane sugar
1/2 cup dark muscovado sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup mesquite flour
1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa
1/4 cup tapioca starch/flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)

In a large bowl with a hand mixer or a stand mixer with paddle attachment beat the unsalted butter, cane sugar, muscovado sugar and vanilla until creamy.  Mix in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after adding each one.  In another large bowl whisk together the brown rice flour, mesquite flour, dutch processed cocoa, tapioca starch, salt and baking powder.  Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat on a low setting until all the flour is incorporated.  Mix the chopped walnuts and dark chocolate chips (if using) by hand with a wooden spoon.  Cover the bowl of dough and place it in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes. 

Preheat your oven to 350° F.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and shape it into 1-inch balls.  Place the balls on a cookie sheet and gently press them down with the bottom of a drinking glass or the palm of your hand (At this point you could also sprinkle them with a little bit of sugar but they really don't need it).  Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes.  Transfer finished cookies to a wire rack to cool. 

I always love it when bloggers show a shot of their food set up.  The particular shot that I got from this set up wasn't used because I liked the one I used above better.  I always try to take multiple shots from different angles and set ups so I have plenty of pictures to choose from.
    My skin is milky white, my cheeks are rosy red, my freckles increase in number daily and my hair curls just thinking about moisture.  I may only be a quarter Irish, but this fraction of my heritage is one I relate to more than others thanks to my appearance (And now thanks to a new last name from my half Irish husband).  Needless to say, in our family we avoid the sun like the plague, eat lots of potatoes, and can say in all honesty "Kiss me I'm Irish" on St. Patrick's Day. 

    One of the things I love about my family tree is that on a few branches I am able to trace my heritage back several generations, sometimes more.  My Great-Grandfather came to America from Ireland in 1925 on the SS Baltic when he was only 19 years old.  He made a new life for himself, found my Great-Grandmother and raised their family in Edgewater, NJ.  He helped to build roads along the cliffs of The Palisades during the depression, and eventually settled into a job as a postman.  Ironically enough, I hear from many family members that he was known for making everyone's favorite soda bread.    

    My recipe for Irish Soda Bread is actually not a descendant of his recipe, because what we currently know as "Irish Soda Bread" is actually not very traditional.  I normally call this bread a St. Patrick's Day Soda Bread because it has been more modernized with the use of eggs, butter and raisins (real traditional Irish Soda Bread is only made with flour, baking soda, salt, and soured milk).  The recipe below has also been modified to be Gluten-Free in keeping with our new lifestyle.  But, if any of my family is reading, fear not, my regular soda bread will most definitely be served alongside our corned beef and cabbage this weekend!  Happy St. Patrick's Day to all my fellow Irish-American's and to all the rest of you that get to be Irish for one day a year.   

St. Patrick's Day Soda Bread (Gluten-Free)

makes 1 small loaf

1 cup of raisins
2 cups Gluten-Free Soda Bread Flour Blend (Recipe below)

2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (I use Irish Kerrygold butter)
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 375° F
.  In a small saucepan place 1 cup of raisins and about 2 cups of water (enough to cover the raisins) and simmer for 5 minutes or until soft and plump.  Remove from the heat, drain the water and set aside.  In a large bowl whisk together the GF flour blend, sugar, xanthan gum, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar.  Using your fingers cut 2 tablespoons of butter into the flour mixture until it forms small crumbs.  Add the egg, buttermilk and slightly cooled raisins to the flour mixture and stir everything together with a fork until you can work it with your hand.  Gather the dough together (working it as minimally as possible, it can be a little crumbly looking).  Place the round of dough on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Score the bread with an "X" (I read once that this was supposedly to release the devil).  Bake the bread for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown and firm.  Remove the bread from the oven and brush on 2 tablespoons of melted butter.  Allow to cool before slicing and spreading on lots of butter!

Gluten-Free Soda Bread Flour Blend

makes 3 cups

1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
2/3 cup tapioca flour/starch
1/3 cup potato starch

Whisk all together.  Store extra in an airtight container.

Note:  Different flour blends are used for different types of baked goods when you are baking gluten-free.  This blend has worked great for me, and doesn't have any "beany" aftertaste that is found in some all purpose flour blends.  If you have a hard time finding the products listed above, try using your favorite brand of all purpose flour instead.
    This is part 2 of "what to make when you have too many ripe avocados."  There are many mornings when I am just not interested in eating something healthy for breakfast.  I'll start rummaging through my pantry looking for the first thing that is either made with chocolate or going to be fast and easy. Normal muffins are probably not the best healthy choice for breakfast, but this recipe is not for a normal muffin.  You can grab one of these on your way out the door, and not have to feel like you are making a bad choice for breakfast.

    I adapted this recipe from a very similar one that I saw in my recent issue of Living Without Magazine.  I'm going to admit, I have a food magazine addiction.  Right now my latest favorites include, Vegetarian Times, Living Without, Simply Gluten Free and EatingWell.  Just as I was contemplating this Avocado series, Living Without gets delivered to my door with a title on the cover "Avocados: The Miracle Ingredient."  Well isn't that just I decided to try some of the recipes. 

    The muffin recipe interested me the most so I started with that.  The ingredient list was a little strange and the picture made them look a little dense, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I swapped out a few things and added some others.  Muffins are actually quite easy to make and alter because as long as you follow the 2:1 ratio (2 cups flour to 1 cup milk) you can really tailor them to your liking.  I loved the idea of making them gluten-free (hence the Living Without part) but I'm not really fond of the premixed flour blends.  I love baking with coconut flour, but you have to be careful with it because it soaks up a lot of moisture.  To deal with this issue you need to increased the amount of liquid.  *If you don't normally have coconut flour and almond meal on hand you can certainly use 2 cups of gluten-free flour mix and keep the milk at 1 cup.*  You could also top your muffins with chocolate chips, walnuts or any other accompaniment that you like to use with chocolate.  

Chocolate Avocado Muffins (Gluten-Free and Vegan)

adapted from a recipe in Living Without Magazine - February/March 2013 Issue

makes 12 muffins

Wet Ingredients
6 tablespoons avocado oil (or your choice of oil)
1 1/2 cups milk (your choice - I've tried both almond milk and goats milk)

1/2 cup natural cane sugar (unrefined)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1 avocado peeled and mashed up (about 1/2 cup)

Dry Ingredients
1/2 cup coconut flour* (see note above)
1/2 cup almond meal* (see note above)
1 cup all purpose gluten-free flour mix* (see note above)
1/2 cup raw cacao powder

1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder

Preheat oven to 350
° F.  In a stand mixer with paddle attachment or a large bowl with a hand mixer on a low setting, mix all the wet ingredients together until smooth. In another bowl whisk together all the dry ingredients.  Add the dry ingredient mix to the wet mix and using your mixer on low speed blend everything together (be careful not to over-mix, stop mixing once it is combined)Divide the batter into a lined muffin pan or a greased muffin pan with 12 spaces (I like to use a ice cream scooper to help with this part).  Sprinkle on your topping of choice or leave them plain. (I topped mine with finely chopped almonds) Bake 20-25 minutes or until they pass the toothpick test. Set them to cool on the counter or cooling rack.
    Avocados drive me crazy!  To me they are a tad bit expensive for a food that is not guaranteed to be good when you open it.  You have to buy them in the store when they are hard as a rock, and if you leave them out to ripen too much, YUCK happens.  I always find myself with the same conundrum; buy one avocado (hard as a rock) or buy a whole bag of them that look a bit riper.  Normally I wind up getting the whole bag of 4-5 and for some wonderful, yet annoying reason they all tend to ripen at the same time.  Now what do I make with 4 ripe avocados that will get yucky if I leave them one more day.  This Choco-cado Mousse is one of my favorite ways to put those avocados to good use.

    This recipe comes from my exceptional Health Coach, Irina Kachalenko.   This is one of her recipes that I tried when I was first learning about food choices and healthy eating on her program.  This recipe actually has a cult following among her clients, so I asked if I could share this recipe on my blog.  You can find the recipe below or here on her website Vibrant, Healthy and Whole.  You should also check out some of her other tasty recipes, most of which are super easy to prepare.  If you are interested in loosing weight or gaining a better understanding of how to eat healthy she offers free breakthrough consultations as well.  I just have to say that hiring a health coach was the best thing I've ever done for myself.   

Decadent Choco-cado Mousse by Irina Kachalenko

makes 1 serving

1 very ripe avocado
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon raw honey
couple of drops real vanilla extract
1/2 ripe small banana (optional)

berries and extra honey for garnish

With a high power blender or food processor puree all ingredients together until smooth.  If the consistency is not smooth enough add some water in teaspoon increments until desired consistency is achieved.  Top with berries and a drizzle of honey.

Note:  You can add the 1/2 of a ripe banana for some extra sweetness but I find the recipe is wonderful without it.  Try experimenting with different types of honey and berries to find your perfect combination.  I agree with Irina that blackberries are the best.  I normally don't have fresh berries so I topped mine with frozen ones.  I also like to use Butter Bean Honey because it is super sweet and light.  
    "The Children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads" Clement C. Moore - A Visit from St. NicholasHave you ever wondered what a "sugar plum" actually was, besides a very slender woman in a tutu dancing to Tchaikovsky.  Probably one of the most iconized and well known traditions of Christmas, but not actually ever found on dessert tables or plates for Santa Clause.  I always thought a sugar plum was one of those red and green gummies coated in sugar, but it was always something I was interested in looking into.  After a Google search and a few different websites later, I found more information then I really wanted to know.  Some websites claimed that a "sugar plum" was a rendition of what you see above, and others disenchanted the whole idea, stating that it was a term used to describe any small hard candy.   In either instance a "sugar plum" is something sweet and it had to be something good enough for children to be dreaming about.  I don't know if they looked anything like what I have made here, but I do know that these would be a treat I would dream about.  My children on the other hand, are probably dreaming about M&Ms and gummy bears, but can you blame them!   

Sugar Plums

14 oz of mixed dried fruit (I used pears, peaches, apples, prunes, dates, cranberries and apricots)
8 oz of raw nuts (I used almonds and walnuts - about a 1/2 cup of each)
1 Tablespoon fresh orange zest
1/4 teaspoon whole cardamom seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom)
1/4 cup of buckwheat honey (or Agave for vegans)

pinch of salt

Sugar Powder
2 tablespoons pure cane sugar (unrefined)
2 tablespoons homemade RAW coconut powder

    In a food processor or high speed blender pulse the mixed dried fruit and raw nuts until they are finely chopped (see picture above).   In a spice/coffee grinder place the whole cardamom seeds and process until it is almost a fine powder.  If you can't find whole cardamom seeds or don't have a spice/coffee grinder then just use 1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom.  Place the fruit and nut mixture in a large bowl and add the ground cardamom, orange zest, buckwheat honey (or agave) and pinch of salt.  Use a rubber spatula to mix everything together until it is evenly combined.  Be prepared to get your hands a little sticky and roll out the mixture into 1/2-inch balls and place them on a tray or plate so they are not touching each other.
     After you roll out all the balls you could either let them sit out to dry overnight, or if you have no patience like me, roll them in the sugar powder now.  In the spice/coffee grinder (or small food processor), pulse the pure cane sugar and raw coconut flour (or finely shredded coconut) until it looks like a fine powder.  Roll each ball into the sugar powder and tap off the excess.  Store the finished sugar plums uncovered for a few nights, and then after that you can keep them in a sealed container.  If you dust them in the sugar powder early like I did, you might need to dust them a second time the next day, in which case you might need to make more sugar powder.  The flavor and texture of the sugar plums actually gets better as they sit for a day or two. 

Perhaps this is why children had to dream of sugar plums, because they had to watch their mother's making them, but couldn't eat them until the next day.
    These fragrant saffron buns are traditionally served on December 13th, in honor of St.Lucia Day.   This tradition is popular in Scandinavian countries including Sweden, which is where some of my ancestors hail from.  As a young woman I would dress in all white with a red sash around my waist, and a wreath of candles on my head.  I would wake up early on December 13th and serve these buns along with some milk or hot chocolate to my brother and sisters.  I looked forward to this small celebration every year, and these buns have become a nostalgic treat for me now that I am raising my own children.
    This year my oldest son became very interested when I started making them, and I figured it would be a fun task that he could help me with.  Making bread, though difficult, is actually great for kids to participate in.  My son helped mix the batter, kneed the dough, roll it out and place the little raisins in each of the swirls.  I can't help but hope that making these St. Lucia Buns with me will one day become a great memory that he will always look back on.
     I consider these a special treat that only comes once a year, so I didn't try to make them gluten-free or vegan.  Instead, I tried to make them a little more healthy by using white whole wheat flour and unrefined sugar.  Great served as a quick breakfast or even as dessert after dinner.  The smell of saffron buns baking in my oven will always be a warm reminder of my childhood, and now the promise of memories yet to be made.   

St. Lucia Saffron Buns

makes 12 saffron buns

1/3 cup of milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 water (heated to between 110-115° F)
1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup pure sugar cane (unrefined)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground saffron (or crushed-up saffron threads)
2 3/4 cups of white whole wheat flour (or regular all purpose flour)
1 teaspoon olive oil (or cooking oil)
egg wash - 1 egg whisked with a little water
48 raisins

    In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the milk and butter.  Once the butter is melted take it off the heat and set aside to cool.  In a large bowl put the warmed water and dry yeast and set the bowl aside for about 5 minutes or until the yeast is activated.  Check the milk and melted butter with a thermometer to make sure it is not above 115° F.  If the temperature is right, add it to the yeast along with the sugar, egg, salt, and saffron.  Whisk everything to combine.  Then, with a wooden spoon stir in 1 and 1/2 cups of the flour until smooth.  Add in the remaining flour a little at a time until you can form the dough into a ball (With the whole wheat flour I only used an additional 1/2 cup).  Place the dough on a floured surface and kneed the dough for about 5-10 minutes or until it is smooth and it springs back when you poke it.  Place the dough in a large bowl and coat it with the olive oil.  Place bowl in a warm place covered with a kitchen towel to rise for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.

    Punch down the risen dough and cut it into 12 equal pieces.  Cut each of the 12 pieces in half (now 24 pieces of dough).  Roll out each half into a long rope (6-8 inches) and cross two ropes in the middle.  Coil each of the ends of the rope toward the center in a circular clockwise pattern as seen below.
    Shape the rest of the dough the same way and place them with plenty of space between each other, on parchment lined cookie sheets.  Cover the buns with a kitchen towel and set them aside in a warm place to rise again for about 30-45 minutes or until they double in size again.  Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Whisk together an egg with about 1 tablespoon of water.  Brush the egg wash over each of the buns and place a raisin in each of the four corner swirls, and push them in.  (A great task for a small helper).  Bake the buns for about 15-20 minutes or until they are golden and browned slightly on the bottom.  Move the buns to a plate or wire rack to cool.  Enjoy!
    I'm sure you have heard of Gingerbread Men, but let me be the first to introduce you to Swedish Pepparkakor People (posting politically correct).  I am very proud of my Swedish heritage, and always remember hearing stories about my paternal great-grandparents who came over from Sweden.  It was fate's design that they both started working for the same employer after coming to America, and the sweet discovery of their love for each other is the stuff that movies are made of.  I remember as a child I loved hearing stories about my heritage and I wanted to learn about the places that my ancestors came from.  One Christmas my mother gave me a Swedish recipe book, and at the time I was most intrigued with these yummy looking cookies with a very funny name that I couldn't pronounce.  I later came to understand that Swedish Pepparkakor cookies are a traditional Christmas cookie that is very similar to the gingerbread cookie.  I never liked gingerbread cookies and I now know that my aversion is really toward molasses rather then the gingerbread cookie as a whole.  Pepparkakor cookies, however are made with similar spices but use maple syrup instead. 

    These spicy crisp cookies became one of my all time favorites to make at Christmas, and I have been making them every year since that first batch years ago.  This year, with my new gluten-free lifestyle, I decided to attempt changing this traditional classic.  The recipe you will find below is for a gluten-free cookie that is without a doubt, indistinguishable from the regular classic I have come to love over the years.  These have even become my oldest son's favorite cookie too, and if he knows there are some around they don't last very long.  In the corner of my eye I see little hands creeping up the side of my counter tops fishing around for a cookie and then quickly dashing away when he has caught one in his grasp.  If my son doesn't manage to eat the rest of these cookies I plan on setting out a few for Santa Clause this year.  If I'm lucky he'll leave a brand new food processor under the tree for me!

* The absolutely beautiful red and white Swedish Dalahäst linen kitchen hand towel featured above was handmade by lilleputt studio.

Swedish Pepparkakor People Cookies (Gluten-Free)

makes 6 dozen small cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup pure cane sugar (unrefined)
1 egg
2 tablespoons pure Maple Syrup
1 1/4 cups organic brown rice flour + extra for rolling out dough (bob's red mill brand)
2/3 cup 'sweet' white sorghum flour (bob's red mill brand)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg (optional)

    Preheat oven to 350° F.  In a electric mixer with a paddle attachment or a large bowl with hand mixer, blend the butter, sugar, egg and pure maple syrup until it is well combined and fluffy.  In a small bowl whisk together the brown rice flour, sweet sorghum flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, ground cardamom and ground nutmeg.  Slowly blend the flour mixture into the wet ingredients about a half cup at a time, making sure to mix well after each incorporation.  Gather the dough into 1 large ball (if you feel the dough is too wet then add a little more brown rice flour).  Wrap the large dough ball in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to firm up.  On a large clean surface, sprinkle down some brown rice flour and coat a rolling pin as well.  Using a quarter of the dough at a time, roll out the dough really thin, about 1/8 inch thick and use cookie cutters to cut out shapes.  Place cookies about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet.  Bake the cookies for about 6-8 minutes (watch them carefully because they can burn quite easily).  Transfer finished cookies to cool on a flat surface such as a piece of wax paper on a counter top or a large plate.  Store cookies in a sealed container.
    Thanksgiving for me is an easy holiday to prepare for.  It normally includes getting in our car and showing up to a house where a beautiful and delicious dinner has already been cooked and served.  Every year I look forward to this gigantic meal placed before me, because I understand the amount of preparation and work it took to get it there.  It will be a very long time, if ever, before the charge of a Thanksgiving dinner will be placed in my hands.  So in the meantime I always look forward to the chance to contribute a dessert to our yearly celebrations.  This recipe was my first challenge at making one of my favorite desserts gluten-free and healthy.  It turned out way better then I expected, and it instantly became my new favorite dessert.  This is why it will make an appearance at this year's banquet.  Crisps like this one are fun and easy to make.  You could make the dish the night before and on Thanksgiving just pop it in that already warm oven for a few minutes before serving. 
*All the flours and oats that I use in this recipe are Bob's Red Mill products.

Pear Apple Crisp (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

4 ripe bosc pears
2 sweet apples (macoun, honeycrip, or braeburn work well)
3 tablespoons gluten-free oat flour *
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (Grade B for vegans)
Juice from 1/2 a small lemon (I use a Meyer Lemon)
1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar

5 tablespoons gluten-free oat flour *
5 tablespoons quinoa flour *
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups gluten-free old fashioned oats *
1/2 tablespoon raw almond butter
1 tablespoon almond oil (or your choice of cooking oil)
3 tablespoon pure maple syrup (Grade B for vegans)
2/3 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350° F

For the filling:  Peel, core, and chop the apples and pears and put them into a large bowl.  Add oat flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt to the apples and pears and toss to coat them.  Whisk together the maple syrup, lemon, lemon zest, and balsamic vinegar.  Drizzle over the apples and pears and toss to coat.  Pour mixture into a pie plate or baking dish with high sides.  The mixture should fit comfortably in whatever you use with room to fit the topping on.

For Crisp:  Add all ingredients together in a bowl and use your fingers or a fork to mix until it clumps together and gets crumbly.  (It should be moist feeling, almost like a cookie dough)  Sprinkle on top of apple pear mixture and bake in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes.  The mixture should be bubbling and the topping should be browned. 

Serve your crisp warm out of the oven or reheat in a warm oven the next day for a few minutes before serving.
    This recipe may have a short ingredient list but it is not short on flavor.  A dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan dessert that is not only extremely healthy, but also fun to make and eat.  I have been newly introduced to chia seeds by my Health Coach, Irina Kachalenko.  After a blind taste test of one of her chia pudding recipes I was amazed to find out how tasty these little seeds are, and after purchasing a big bag of chia seeds later I became obsessed.  The texture of chia pudding is similar to tapioca, and when I first tasted it that's what I thought it was.  The idea to infuse the coconut milk with tea came to me after trying a new herbal tea from Tea Forte called Blueberry Merlot.  After pouring myself a cup of warm tea and inhaling the beautiful scent of blueberries and herbs, I heard my frozen blueberries calling to me from the freezer.  Picked during the peak of their flavor in the last summer months, I always freeze a few pints for occasions such as this (or opportunities to whirl around in a smoothie).  This recipe makes just enough for two people, or for one person to have dessert two nights in a row (like me).  I use white chia seeds because that is what I found in my grocery store, but it is more common to find the black and brown versions.  I get the lemon mint used in this recipe fresh from my AeroGarden, but if you can't find lemon mint in the store, regular mint will do just fine.  The same goes for the lemon, I prefer to use Meyer lemons but not every store will carry them.  When you are only using a few ingredients it goes along way if you use the freshest ingredients you can find.    

Tea Infused Chia Pudding

2 cups of light coconut milk (or regular coconut milk)
2 pkgs. (approx 4 g) blueberry tea - Tea Forte Blueberry Merlot
4 tablespoons White Chia Seeds

    Put the coconut milk into a saucepan and bring it to a gentle simmer over very low heat.  Add the tea packets and stir gently a few times.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the tea infuse for about 15 minutes.  Use a fine mesh tea strainer to separate out the tea from the coconut milk.  Pour the warm coconut milk into a cup or jar and add the 4 tablespoons of chia seeds.  Cover the cup or jar with a lid or cellophane wrap and place it in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 20-30 minutes.  The chia seeds need time to absorb liquid and plump up, so the longer you give them the better.   The next day serve your cold chia pudding topped with blueberry compote (recipe below).

Blueberry Compote

1 cup (150 g) organic fresh or frozen blueberries (if frozen just let them defrost first)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (Grade B for vegans)
1 teaspoon Meyer lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh lemon mint (or regular mint)

    Place blueberries, maple syrup, lemon juice and zest into a saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer over medium low heat.   Let the mixture simmer for 2-4 minutes and stir gently until it is has a thicker consistency (gently stir so most of the blueberries will keep their shape).  Once it has thickened up, take it off the heat and stir in the fresh mint.  A compote can be served warm or cold, so it is your preference.  If you make it the night before along with the chia pudding you can put both in the refrigerator and serve the next day.  If you can't wait and had already made the chia pudding a night before you could serve it warm.  I've tried it both ways and it was equally as good.  Enjoy!