Currently viewing the tag: "gluten free"

vanilla-bourbon cake
A man who writes a story is forced to put into it the best of his knowledge and the best of his feeling. The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty. A writer lives in awe of words for they can be cruel or kind, and they can change their meanings right in front of you. They pick up flavors and odors like butter in a refrigerator. Of course, there are dishonest writers who go on for a little while, but not for long, not for long…

A writer out of loneliness is trying to communicate like a distant star sending signals. He isn’t telling, or teaching, or ordering. Rather, he seeks to establish a relationship with meaning, of feeling, of observing. We are lonesome animals. We spend all our lives trying to be less lonesome. And one of our ancient methods is to tell a story, begging the listener to say, and to feel, ‘Yes, that’s the way it is, or at least that’s the way I feel it. You’re not as alone as you thought.’ To finish is sadness to a writer, a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done. But it isn’t really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done.’ John Steinbeck
vanilla-bourbon cake
I love John Steinbeck

I’m excited to share a recipe from Alanna Taylor-Tobin‘s new cookbook. It’s a gluten-free cookbook, so that makes this cake gluten-free as well. Made with a combination of sweet rice, oat, and millet flours, this vanilla cake base has a neutral taste, but more texture than all-purpose flour. I thought it was great. I’ve been impressed with everything I’ve made so far from the book: the buckwheat double chocolate cookies were so.good. with a hint of orange and intense chocolate flavor, and the vanilla chiffon cake was perfect for snacking. I made it with corn flour instead of millet, and loved the flavor of the vanilla and corn together. Even if you are not eating totally gluten-free, this book is full of inspiration.

(Unrelated, but awesome: Emile Henry has a great giveaway going on right over here. You can win an Emile Henry Bread Cloche, a Duralex USA glass bowl, a Rosle USA Kitchen Scale, a Lekue Baking Mat, a Shun Sora Bread Knife, and a bag of King Arthur All Purpose Flour all in one big package. So many good things. I have the bread cloche and use it all the time at home.)
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vanilla lavender cupcakes
‘And if, as we work, we can transmit life into our work,
life, still more life, rushes into us to compensate, to be ready,
and we ripple with life through the days.

Even if it is a woman making an apple dumpling, or a man a stool,
if life goes into the pudding, good is the pudding
good is the stool,
content is the woman, with fresh life rippling in to her,
content is the man.

Give, and it shall be given unto you
is still the truth about life.
But giving life is not so easy.
It doesn’t mean handing it out to some mean fool, or
letting the living dead eat you up.
It means kindling the life-quality where it was not,
even if it’s only in the whiteness of a washed pocket-
handkerchief.’
-DH Lawrence, We Are Transmitters-
vanilla lavender cupcakes

Vanilla Lavender Cupcakes

Chickpea Flour Does It All
This past week, I took seven whole days off from my cookbook. I haven’t done that since October 1, 2014, which feels very overwhelming upon typing. Over the past year and half I’ve taken a weekend or two as a break from my work, and days here and there when my littles have been sick (and they were sick so much this year!), but otherwise have been in my kitchen testing and retesting while my kids are at school and then again in the evenings after they are tucked neatly into bed. I’ve been hunched over my computer into the wee hours, trying to find better words for head notes and consistent language for recipes, double checking measurements and panicking over mistakes. As I tumble into bed my notes for the day are set within arm’s reach on my nightstand, to pick up immediately upon awakening to start the cycle all over again (or, in the event that my house burns down in the midnight hours I can grab them before jumping out of a bedroom window while clutching my two children. One of many anxious scenarios I’ve come up with; just ask my husband about all of those).

This past week, however, I watched too much TV upstairs in bed, during the day. I started rereading Harry Potter. I went out to breakfast. I took long walks. I went on a date with my husband. I went to the lake with my kids. I snuggled on the couch in between them while reading books and watching movies and didn’t once think of oven timers about to go off, or dough that needed to be prepped for the next day, or cakes that needed to be stacked and frosted.

I don’t write all of that to try and come off as some kind of cookbook martyr. I’m surely not one. But when I get a cookbook in the mail, or pick one up off a bookstore shelf, I am very aware of the time and energy that went into making all those bound pages. It makes me excited to share new ones here, which is what I am doing again, today. Lindsay Love, of Dolly and Oatmeal, just put out her first cookbook, Chickpea Flour Does it All, which is where these vanilla lavender cupcakes come from. The book highlights chickpea flour (which I’ve worked with here and here), and is focused on gluten-free and dairy-free recipes. It’s a lovely collection.
vanilla lavender cupcakes

These cupcakes are also another baking recipe for the Pulse Pledge. The United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulse, and I’ve taken the Pulse Pledge, committing to eat pulses once a week for the next year. Pulses are beans, chickpeas, lentils and dry peas; leguminous crops that are good for your health and good for the environment. I’ll be posting recipes involving them periodically this year, incorporating pulses not only in my savory cooking, but baking recipes as well. I’d love for you to join me! If the Pulse Pledge sounds interesting to you, you can read more about it here. It’s a 10 week commitment, and it doesn’t require elaborate baking: a serving of hummus and a bowl of soup are good ways to take them in, too.

This post was sponsored by USA Pulses & Pulse Canada. All opinions are my own.

***PS- I’m on snapchat? I’m not very good at it yet. But if you want to follow along you can find me under sarahkieffer.***

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chocolate chip cookies (wheat free) | the vanilla bean blog
It is nap time. The little ones are quiet, and I am hoping they are asleep. I sit down to breathe, to take time to be still. Almost simultaneously it comes – the near audible whisper, a voice from within, from above. It is time for chocolate. I feel amused when I hear the call, but still give in to my afternoon addiction. My feet find the floor and my hands the highest cupboard. There it lays, nestled behind looming bottles of olive oil and vermouth, out of sight to a quick observer. I stand on tip-toe, grabbing for the shiny silver tinfoil. Two pieces of dark bittersweet break into my hands; the brown-black squares stand out against my pale freckled skin. I seat myself again, quietly biting into the segments.

There, finally, is the silence I was searching for; precious moments are spiritualized as the chocolate washes over me. I reach back into my memory, and the past is quickly present as the chocolate calls out to the sweet. My husband and I are still; his arms wrapped around me. Some call it afterglow, but I see black cocoa blooming in steaming coffee, waiting to cool slightly before being whisked completely smooth. My mind finds another moment, and there is an old wooden church pew, well-worn with sincere hearts. I sit quietly in its comfort, resting in the torn pink cushions, and my questions are silenced for one flitting moment. I recall my first bite of chocolate pudding cake: the velvety silk silences me instantly.

But as quickly as the sweet came it is gone, my hands are empty as the squares sink inside me. I am not satisfied; I remember there are more pieces, whispering to me again from the cupboard. I try to ignore them, but the bitter flavor is now center stage, and its aftertaste lingering. My mind is  racing while my husband sleeps, and I am longing for what I can’t put words to, trying to keep doors inside me safely locked. I am seated in the pew again, but now I am lamenting and questioning: a dear friend left this earth too soon, her body unable to keep her here any longer. There are no answers, just clanging voices calling out to the sky.

But my chocolate-inspired daze is cut short. My daughter is calling to me. I walk the stairs to her room, open the door and lean in close to her face. She recognizes the scent on my breath, and to her it only brings to mind scenes of sweetness. Her innocent eyes ask me the question, and we smile at each other as I gather her in my arms. We climb down the stairs and settle in on the couch. I break off two more pieces and we eat them together.
chocolate chip cookies (wheat free) | the vanilla bean blog
(Whatever we’ve lost
I think we’re gonna let it go
Let it fall
Like snow

‘Cause rain and leaves
And snow and tears and stars
And that’s not all my friend
They all fall with confidence and grace
So let it fall,

let it fall.

over the rhine)

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chocolate buckwheat cakes

It’s the summer of fun! For reasons before mentioned, I am lining up guest posts for this summer. Up next is Laura from The First Mess. Laura is the real deal; her words inspire and challenge me with each post and her photographs are always stunning.

“…a fruit for Immortals, of the kind you eat in auspicious dreams. Its fragrance and flavour stay with me long after the fruit is gone; they seem to have refreshed me for eternity.”
-Sophie Brissaud for Fool Magazine #2

In this passage, Brissaud is actually talking about a very rare peach varietal in rural China. While I haven’t tried this particular fruit, I share that same affinity for the orchard’s blushing gems in an overall sense. To say that I anticipate those first apricots would be putting it mildly. Their delicate skins blush just a bit when they’re ready, and the flavour varies from honey-ish and mild to musky and very sweet. Before we’re even fully aware of it, the trees are swaying heavily with the weight of peaches nectarines and plums. Trickles of juice down our chins and fuzzy tickles on our noses put us into the moment.

And all of the truly good things seem to have this effect. We know that there is nothing quite like a ripe peach from the tree in the summertime. Its essence can be recalled at will and you are all the better for having consumed it, maybe while hunched over a kitchen sink in the fading light of the evening just before supper.

Sarah’s work and approach here are kind of like that peach to me. Her photographs, sentiments and creative efforts stay with me when I’m away from the screen and offer a centered glance at the world that is reassuring in its inherent greatness. She inspires me to move forward and do what I do without second guessing.

So in the spirit of that, here’s a recipe that’s pretty true to how I cook and live. It’s a wholesome and vibe-y chocolate cake treat that you could certainly serve to any and all of the people in your life; not just the gluten free and vegan hippie dips. There’s a nod to the season at hand, with some juicy fruit pieces smushed into the tops. There’s some little flecks of interesting bits (cardamom! coconut sugar! buckwheat!). More importantly, it’s a minimal fuss, one bowl kind of number. Fast tracking to cake is always ideal.

To the summer of fun + the memories we will make in its warm glow. When we retrace them in the quiet cold of winter, these moments will make us new again.
chocolate buckwheat cakes
chocolate buckwheat cakes
chocolate buckwheat cakes
chocolate buckwheat cakes

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Strawberries & Cream Amaretti Cookies (gluten free)
It’s the summer of fun! For reasons before mentioned, I am lining up guest posts for this summer. Up next is Izy from Top With Cinnamon. I’ve been enamored with Izy’s photographs for awhile now, and when I found out she was 17 years old, I was even more impressed. I wish I would have had this much ambition (and had been this cool) in high school. This woman is going places.

Hi guys! I’m so happy to be guest posting here on Sarah’s gorgeous blog, which I’ve been a fan of for such a long time. From the beautiful writing and photography to her Instagram feed and inspiring Pinterest boards, Sarah is one of my favourite bloggers around, especially as here on Vanilla Bean there’s no shortage of baked goods!

I am a baker at heart, so it’s always hard for me when the summer hits, full force, with the enveloping heat and humidity. It makes it hard to bear standing around in a kitchen for an hour, whilst an oven blazes by your side. But what is a baker to do? I try to stick to recipes where the baking is a minimal part of the recipe. Cookies tend to do the trick as the baking time is usually only around 10 minutes. Now, we all know gooey chocolate chip cookies will always be amazing, but I don’t really want to be stuffing my face with warm cookies when it’s hot out. I want a cookie that’s best at room temperature, or maybe even cold from the refrigerator. This opens up a whole new level of cookie creation, people.

Here in London, the Tennis Season is upon us. Queen’s first, and soon the well known Wimbledon Tennis will start. Now you may be wondering why I’m talking about tennis when I was just talking about cookies, but stick with me on this one!

During Wimbledon matches, the classic pairing of strawberries and cream is served to the spectators. It’s refreshing, cool and summery-sweet. I took inspiration from this and translated it to cookie form! I piped vanilla whipped cream into a chewy, thumb-printed amaretti cookie, and topped it with a sliced strawberry. I also drizzled some white chocolate onto some of them, kind of overkill, but it looks nice (haha).
Strawberries & Cream Amaretti Cookies (gluten free)
Strawberries & Cream Amaretti Cookies (gluten free)
Strawberries & Cream Amaretti Cookies (gluten free)

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raspberry + chocolate bundt cake | the vanilla bean blog

I spent part of the afternoon in front of my bedroom window, staring at the snow. There’s a storm here, a full on white-wash. Down and down it came; powdery slashes in the sky that covered all spaces. I spent the morning cursing at it, but it’s beauty slowly won me over. It was all so wonderful, so silent and still. I found myself wishing it could cloak the earth; cover this week and all its horror and grief. Imagine a world where people belonged to each other! If this blanket of  pure white could put out all fires and wash away all hurt!  But the moment passed as quickly as it came. I have been through too many winters; I’ve seen the snow become dirty and gray in it’s time. And blankets may keep us covered, but they lull us to sleep, to dream and forget…

My daughter found me there, on the floor by my window. She laughed at me, her voice piercing the silence. “How silly,’ she said, ‘to stare at the snow.’ It was cold in that room,  too cold and quiet for her little heart. But before she left she crawled into my lap, wrapping her arms around my neck. Her smiling eyes met mine, they reassured me that we belong to one another.

(Now to get off that floor, head out that door, and be hands and feet in cities, on streets…)
raspberry + chocolate bundt cake | the vanilla bean blog

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” – Mother Teresa
*****
Hang my head low, so low | Don’t see me only as I am but | see me how I long to be | Shining like a flowering tree | under a gray Pennsylvania sky | Look for me as you go by | Hang my head low, so low | Every burden shall be lifted | Every stone upon your back slide into the sea | It’s me for you and you for me  {Look For Me As  You Go By – The Innocence Mission}

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It’s muffins again. I know, I know, I’ve been obsessive. But, they’ve sort of become my go-to snack (no white sugar! or flour!) and I’ve been experimenting with new flavor combinations as friends line up for hand outs. Also, I’ve been having lots of trouble with my original adaption – the more things I add to the base, the more these pretties seem to sink. After much tweaking and snacking I think I’ve figured out a few fool-proof versions for you.

I also have some exciting news – my little site has had a total makeover thanks to the lovely ladies from Wooden Spoons Kitchen. It will be down this weekend while everything switches over, and then back up again Monday morning. I can’t wait to show you!


It’s Monday, and it’s these muffins, again. But just a bit different. {I can’t help it, they are so terribly good, and this is my most favorite combination yet.} I whipped these up one day last week on the fly; a dear friend was stopping by, and she needed a treat without gluten. There was a blood orange in my fridge, and a bar of chocolate in my pantry. The cacao nibs made their way in as well {they hate to be left out of anything, as you might have gathered}, and one incredibly tasty muffin was born.
And perhaps it may have been breakfast all week long.
I didn’t plan for it to be a blog post, but I shared these pretties with a few people and a recipe was demanded. I’m also banking on your groggy, tired, Monday eyes to overlook pictures from my phone; they will just have to do. But! really! you want to make these as soon as possible. Your hungry Monday tummy will thank you.

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I think I might be breaking some blog rules. These muffins are very similar to the ones I just posted, and I’m posting about muffins twice this week. Also, I have nothing witty to say about them, except that I find these muffins amazingly wonderful – no dairy, white flour, or sugar, but yet still incredibly tasty. It’s the treat I want to start this New Year with. So, Happy New Year dear friends and readers! Let’s shake things up a bit.

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