tea treat

Advent Preparations: Allergy- AND Fast-friendly Banana Bread

Gluten Free, Egg-free, Dairy-Free Banana Bread

4 medium very ripe bananas, mashed

1 ½ cups gluten free flour mix (any variety with xanthan/guar gum already added)

½ cup red palm & coconut shortening (Such as Nutiva brand), melted

¾ cup brown sugar, lightly packed

½ cup coconut milk (not low fat)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt

Optional: up to 1 cup chopped dates, chocolate chips, or chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350•F. Grease a bread pan with coconut oil or shortening and set aside.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until well combined. Add in dates and nuts if desired, and stir to incorporate. Pour batter into the bread pan evenly. With wetted fingers, smooth the top of the batter slightly. Place pan in the oven and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour. Bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out free of gooey banana bread batter. (If you used chocolate chips, the toothpick might have chocolate on it. If so, get a clean toothpick and try another spot or two until you can tell if the batter has baked. If it’s still sticking, uncooked, to the toothpick, add 5 minutes to the cooking time and check again.) Remove bread and pan from oven. Let the bread stand in the pan to cool for 10 minutes before cutting it or turning it out on a plate. Serve warm or room temperature.

Read more about our Advent With Autism Guide on my main site!

Gluten-free Scones

My son and I both need gluten-free foods, so I adapted Sienna’s Southern Scone recipe from Tea & Crumples for the gluten-free crowd. I used Pamela’s Gluten-Free Artisan Flour Blend as the base flour, but you can try your favorite gluten-free flour blend. Make sure it already has added gums, or add your own.

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose gluten free flour
3 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
½ -1 teaspoon sea salt
½ Cup unbleached sugar (or coconut sugar)
3/4 Cup heavy cream, plus extra for coating
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
optional: 1 cup nuts, chocolate chips, or dried fruit

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a cast iron skillet with ghee or butter, and set it aside. Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugars. Cut butter into little pieces and press with hands into flour mixture until it is incorporated. It will resemble coarse bread crumbs. Add nuts/fruit/choc. chips if desired. Add eggs, vanilla, and heavy cream. Stir with fork just until dough forms. It will probably take less than ten turns. Dough might be a little sticky.

Press into well-seasoned, greased cast iron skillet. Form into a large, flat disk at least an inch thick. It’s okay if the dough touches the sides of the pan. Coat top with a little cream.  (I add a tablespoon of creamto the measuring cup that held the egg and use that mixture for the tops of the scones, so it’s sort of like an egg wash). With a knife, score the unbaked dough into 8-12 triangles, but do not separate the dough. Bake for 15 minutes.  Check and return to oven for additional time as needed, checking at 2 minute intervals. Done when light golden brown on top, or about 20 minutes cooking time.  Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from bake sheet.

Serve warm or room temperature with clotted cream and fruit preserves.

Variations:  for cinnamon pecan scones, add a teaspoon or so of cinnamon to dry ingredients. For cashew scones, remove granulated sugar and use an entire cup of brown sugar instead. For strawberry scones, add a little cardamom.

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I made a batch of these scones this morning, and these are the only ones left! I don’t think they’ll last the evening.

Enjoy! This weekend, Tea & Crumples ebooks are on sale for only $2.99 on Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and Kindle. Make these scones, and enjoy with a good read!

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Shopping through the links does not change your cost, but I might receive a small amount of money for referrring you. Thank you!*

 

 

Gluten Free Vasilopita with Traditional Spices

 

the author of Tea & Crumples shares her  gluten free Vasilopita recipe

Happy New Year! Joyous Feast of St. Basil from Summer Kinard!

 

Every new year, Orthodox Christians, especially Greek Orthodox Christians, celebrate the feast of St. Basil the Great on January 1. The traditional cake that is shared that day and throughout the month of January is called a Vasilopita, or Basil Cake.

The recipes for wheat flour vary from a sweet yeast bread to a cakier texture.

I knew that I didn’t want to attempt a gluten free yeast bread, since the flours and gums for that sort of recipe would detract from the earthy warmth of a good Vasilopita. Instead, I heavily adapted a favorite gluten free cake recipe to make a nutty, rich cake that highlights the traditional mahlab and mastika spices.

Notes on the ingredients:

Because I have hazelnut flour on hand for holiday baking, this recipe calls for some, but a mixture of almond meal and coconut flour would also work. I’m allergic to cinnamon, of all things, so I have not included any here. I would not have added it anyhow, as I wanted the mahlab and mastika to stand out.

Before you get started, you’ll need to refrigerate the mastika, which comes in little pellets. It’s a tree resin, and preparation requires pounding it to a powder. It’s much easier to get the right consistency when the resin is cold. If you usually set your eggs out an hour before baking, go ahead and refrigerate the mastika at that time if you’ve forgotten.

Mahlab is made by grinding small seeds that come from a certain type of cherry. I have a special grinder set aside for grinding spices that has a removable, washable grinding chamber. I don’t recommend using a grinder that is also used for coffee, but do what you have to do. Vasilopita goes great with coffee, so it probably won’t hurt if you get coffee oil in your cake. I used more mahlab than you would in a wheat Vasilopita because of the nut flours. Adjust according to taste. It adds a sort of vanilla cherry flavor.

summer kinard gluten free vasilopita ingredients displayed ready to cook.

The assembled ingredients, except the butter, which was melting just then.

 

Gluten Free Traditional Vasilopita by Summer Kinard

Ingredients:

1 1/3 Cups almond flour (blanched almond meal)

2/3 Cup hazelnut meal

1/3 Cup coconut flour

2/3 Cup lightly packed brown sugar or coconut sugar

1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder (Rumford brand)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 Tablespoons ground mahlab

1-1.5 teaspoons mastika powder

1/4 sea salt

pinch cardamom

1/2 Cup milk or cream (or almond milk)

1/2 Cup melted butter (or olive/coconut oil)

3 eggs (pastured eggs are the best)

slivered almonds for garnish

simple icing for garnish, optional

Coin washed and wrapped tightly in aluminum foil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Set out cream or milk and eggs to come to room temperature. Butter an 8 inch round pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Prepare the mahlab and mastika. Grind the mahlab seeds for around 45 seconds until they are semi fine. Place a couple of teaspoons of mastika pellets in a zipper plastic bag or waxed paper sandwich bag. On a sturdy surface (I used a porch rail), pound several times with the flat side of a meat mallet until the mastika is a fine powder.

In a mixing bowl, add dry ingredients and stir together well with a wooden spoon or a whisk. Set aside.

In a large measuring cup, melt the butter. Add the cream to the melted butter and stir well. Break eggs into the measuring cup and stir to combine.

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and turn several times until well combined and evenly moist. Add the coin to the batter and stir well to conceal.

Pour or scoop the batter into the prepared pan, using the spoon to evenly distribute and slightly smooth the batter.

Bake in oven for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Top will be golden brown.

Cool in pan till cake pulls a little away from the sides, or at least ten minutes. Run a toothpick or thin knife around the edge, and turn the Vasilopita out onto a plate. Flip it again so that you may decorate the rounded top.

Using almond slivers, make a tiny Greek cross or two, along with the year. (A Greek cross has four equal sides.) If you would like to garnish with a simple icing, combine 2-3 tablespoons liquid (milk, maple syrup, honey water, fruit juice–I like freshly squeezed satsuma juice) with 1/2-1 cup powdered sugar. You may also sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

This Vasilopita is quite rich and will serve 12 generously or up to 20 smaller pieces.

There was still half left after cutting for 10 people and the sacred pieces!

 

Cutting the Vasilopita

When you cut the Vasilopita, first make the sign of the Cross on the top while praying aloud, “In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the a Holy Spirit, Amen.”

The first slice goes to our Lord Jesus. (Many people save this slice in foil to dry in their iconostasis for the year. I recommend caution with this practice due to the high moisture level of this cake. If you wish to save it, set it aside on your stove or other well ventilated place for a few days so it can dry out before going in foil.)

The second slice goes to the Holy Theotokos.

The third, to St. Basil and the children.

Next comes the householder, followed by those present from oldest to youngest. If there is a special guest, you may honor them by bumping them in rank to anywhere after St. Basil.

The Coin

The coin reminds us of a miracle. Once, the people in St. Basil’s area were beseiged by invaders. They each brought their riches to the church to pay a ransom to end the seige, but their generous giving so impressed their opponent that he left without collecting. (An alternative story is that the Emperor collected an exorbitant tax, which St. Basil persuaded him to give back in repentance.) Whatever the precedent, the miracle was the same: St. Basil prayed and was given insight as to how to return the riches to their proper owners. All of the treasures were baked into one giant pita. When it was sliced and distributed after church the next day, each person found that his or her own treasures were in their slice!

Usually the coin is seen as a sign of extra blessing in the new year. If the coin is in one of the pieces dedicated to Jesus, the Theotokos, or Basil, it should be given to the poor or put in the offering at church.

If you like holy cake and fiction, you’ll love The Salvation of Jeffrey Lapin! (Click title for affiliate link.)

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of Tea & Crumples! (Click title for affiliate link.)
“This uplifting story will warm your heart and renew your faith.” – Texas TEA & TRAVEL magazine (click magazine title for full review).
“Any Christian who enjoys well-written stories about faith, friendship, hardship, and miracles will be drawn into the community created at the tea shop. Tea & Crumples would fit perfectly into any church library or bookstore and would make a beautiful book club book for a women’s group at church.” The Orthodox Mama (<–Click for full review)

Christmas with Tea & Crumples

TEA (1)

A couple of weeks ago, I led a dozen or so kids in making homemade hot cocoa packets {recipe here} for their families. One of the joys of a good tea kettle is that the water makes instant cocoa as easily as tea. I took advantage of some of the leftover mix and sat down with a steaming mug of chocolate to give thanks.

I am grateful for the cooler weather that draws us closer around the tea table. I’m grateful for beeswax candles. I’m grateful that a book from my heart was published and has been well received by readers and reviewers alike. (See Texas TEA & TRAVEL’s Praise Here!) I’m thankful for stories that come and set a spell when I’m quiet.

I’m grateful for family and friends to sing and laugh with. I’m grateful to have a Christmas card list that outstrips my Christmas card budget this year. For the quiet communion of ink on paper. For the ability to write a smile into a note and stamp it.

I’m thankful for you, too. Thank you for sharing this journey of laughter, simplicity, love, and tea at the heart of it.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

tea (2)

Tea & Crumples* is available through your favorite local bookstore or online retailers. The Orthodox Mama calls it a “perfect book club book.”

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Dye-Free Pink Frosting – For a Pretty Tea Time

I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving break – or your weekend if you’re not in the US. We celebrated casually with just two favorite foods: homemade chicken pot pie and vanilla cake with pink cream cheese frosting.

naturally dyed cake frosting recipe

Perfectly pink cake with dye-free maraschino cherries on the side. The frosting was made with beet root powder in place of artificial dyes. Learn how on Tea and Crumples.

We’ve known for a long while that my oldest child is sensitive to artificial food dyes, but his reaction has gotten more extreme recently. I tried using the tubes of natural food dyes*, but at $20 a set at my local store, they were cost prohibitive. They also oxidized quickly after opening. I was resigned to only feed my children chocolate frosting for a little color.

Then, while shopping for lentils last week, I happened across a jar of bulk beet powder at my local Whole Foods. Here was the not so secret ingredient in natural red food dyes! At only $1.91/oz, it was affordable, too. I loaded up with about 4 tablespoons, which was so light that the cashier couldn’t even get it to register. I had read around the internet about using beet powder for dye. The basic process is simple: 1/4 teaspoon beet powder to 1 teaspoon water, mix, strain through a coffee filter, and use normally.

But there are obstacles! Beet powder is pH sensitive, temperature sensitive, and air sensitive. It also doesn’t dye as vividly as artificial petroleum-based colors, so you need more. Fortunately, I knew that I was making cream cheese frosting. It’s slightly tangy, so I could add a drop of vinegar to my dye without affecting taste. Here’s what I came up with to frost our ordinary vanilla cake for Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy!

Naturally Dyed Pink Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 teaspoon beet root powder*

2 teaspoons water

1 drop white vinegar

1 8oz packet organic cream cheese

1 stick (8oz) unsalted pastured butter

4 cups organic powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Soften butter and cream cheese at room temperature. Cream together for 2 minutes on medium low in stand mixer. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing till well blended in between. With last cup of sugar, add two teaspoons of vanilla extract. Mix well. In a cup, combine beet powder and water. Stir well, then strain into new cup with coffee filter. Add vinegar. Add the food coloring to the icing. Mix till well blended on medium speed. Makes about 5 cups of light pink frosting.

Pin now for when you need it! Beet powder colored pink frosting on Tea & Crumples blog.

Pin now for when you need it! Beet powder colored pink frosting on Tea & Crumples blog.

Do you have a favorite dye-free hack? Share or link in comments!

*Amazon affiliate links to the natural food coloring and beet powder.