The Best Peach Pie/Crumble/Cobbler You Have Ever Had (P.S. It also happens to be gluten-free and vegan)

image_4Hands down this is the best Peach…thing…I have ever had, and possibly one of the best desserts I have ever made. I need to decide on a name for this. Peach Crumble? Peach Cobbler? Peach Crumble Pie? Peach Pie? Hm. I’m going to go with (drum roll please) Peach Crumble Pie. Done!

We had quite the harvest of peaches recently and no one was more surprised than me. We have had a number of problems with our peach trees to date: a gross leaf curl/fungus thing that I truly thought was going to kill them; little hard peaches that never seem to ripen; animals/birds eating them; and some kind of gross bug which makes them look like they have weeping sores (that last one is the grossest so far). I have considered ripping the trees out, which to people who know me is shocking, and I have gone on several rants about how stupid it was for the previous owners to even plant peach trees because Portland just is not the right climate. So I may have a little (tasty) egg on my face. Of course, it also may be the perfect storm of unusual circumstances that led to this year’s peach harvest. Things like a weirdly early and overly hot season and the trees also being in the sweet spot of their three year cycle for producing fruit. I may never see this again (and one of the three trees still has that weeping sore problem). So I felt like I needed to make the most of this harvest.

Since peaches really don’t store well at all, and since I didn’t feel like cleaning my house Sunday morning was a very cool one, I decided I would finally try the recipe for making Ginger Peach Jam from my trusty and good old reliable canning book: Put Em Up! The recipe was ridiculously simple (Peaches, Bottled Lemon Juice, Sugar, Fresh Ginger, Pamona’s Universal Pectin & Calcium Water). And since I am starting to really get the hang of this canning thing it seemed almost too easy. The most time consuming part of it all was peeling the peaches. I ended up with 10 half-pint jars of jam. It is soooooo good. Mike was savoring it this morning on his [gf] toast.

Here is a picture of one of the jars. I love this stubby little jar. Kinda cute.

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But on to the Peach Crumble Pie! After dinner Mike still felt hungry and we deemed that “room for dessert.” Since we had a few peaches left over (some on hand and then a few more we picked from the trees) we decided to make some type of cobbler, pie, or crisp (so many words for such similar things!). I knew we would not be making a traditional pie crust because the truth is that I simply don’t think that a really good gluten-free vegan pie crust exists. I’ve tried so many mixes, so many recipes, and have experimented so many times on my own, but in the end the most I can say is that at times they have been passable (and most of the time horrendous). That just isn’t good enough for me. I’ll eventually get back to that quest, but in the meantime we had these peaches… We looked at a bunch of recipes online and a bunch of recipes in our cookbooks. In the end we came up with something that is very (VERY) loosely based on everything we read. I’ve gotten pretty good at the art of substitutions and understanding the texture, heaviness, and oiliness of various flours and sugars. I also don’t like things that are super icky sweet so we significantly reduced the amount of sugar that all the recipes called for. We did take note of the overall mass of things and that was very helpful. I also chose to go super simple on the spices (just using nutmeg) so that we didn’t mask the flavor of the peaches themselves. The miracle is that this is the first time we made this, it is a totally new recipe made up by us (Mike helped!), and we wouldn’t change a thing. It is really, really rare for me to taste a first attempt and not think to myself, “I would add less vegan butter next time, or less sugar, or less…[whatever].” It was perfect right out of the gate. We quickly wrote everything down, while it was still fresh in our minds, so that we could make it exactly the same again, and again, and again. I also think that this recipe would work with apples, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, etc. It was so damned good! I am getting a little bit wordy here (and maybe a little obnoxious) so I’ll stop now and get to the recipe.

Peach Crumble Pie / Vegan and Gluten Free

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Use vegan butter – we always use Organic Earth Balance – and generously butter a pie plate.

For the “filling:”

  • Approx 2 lbs peaches, peeled and sliced
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch

Nothing fancy you need to do here. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside until you are ready to assemble your pie.

For the crumble / top “crust:”

  • 1/4 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsp vegan butter (again, we used Organic Earth Balance), cut into smaller chunks
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free vegan cinnamon raisin granola (we used Bakery on Main’s product. and I really encourage you to try this because we really think this made a huge difference in how delicious this turned out. If you can’t handle raisins at least find another one that has the cinnamon flavor to it.)
Put everything except the granola in the food processor. Pulse the mixture in a food processor so that little butter chunks are roughly evenly distributed. Be careful not to over process this which will break the vegan butter down and make things oily (and weird…I have no better term than this..things just get weird if you over mix/whip the vegan butter). Add the gluten-free vegan cinnamon raisin granola and pulse a few more times to break it up a little and distribute it through the mixture.
Give the filling a final stir or two and then pour it into the buttered pie plate. Take the crumble topping and sprinkle it as evenly as possible over the entire top of the pie (no big chunks). Place the pie plate on a cookie sheet – we used our pizza pan – to catch any drips in case the filling bubbles over (ours did). Bake in the preheated over for 45-55 minutes. As with all fruit pies let this one cool a bit before you serve/eat some to avoid burning your mouth.
I will make this for us again and try it with different fruits or berries. I know I will also bring this to dinners and pot-lucks too. If you don’t tell them people really will not know they are eating something vegan and gluten-free, and that is the best kind of vegan gluten-free anything.
Here are some extra pics from the Peach-A-Palooza.
Four pounds of peaches is what you need for the jam.
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The pie filling before the crumble top-crust is added.
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A horribly blurry picture of the pie before it goes into the oven.
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Two of my babies. I’m a proud peach mama.
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Hot(ish) Peppers and Cutworms

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I recently harvested some hot-ish peppers from my garden. Jalapeño peppers we use often. I bought a rather established plant from the local nursery out here so no surprise the plant has begun producing. But the Greek pepperoncini I got as a tiny little starter and about three or four weeks into it a cutworm sabotaged it. I propped it up with a stake and hoped for the best, but secretly I thought it was a goner. So I’m thrilled to see it producing now! But…what to do with them? I haven’t quite figured that out yet. Vinegar will likely be involved.

Drying Herbs

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We are having a blistering heat wave here in Portland. It is an extremely unusual time for it. Of course we had a friend visiting for the worst of it so Portland kind of let me down in that respect. With good friends though none of that matters. The best day was the day we stayed in, so thank you, heat, for that.

With this heat I had to be really diligent about watering things. And of course I was dumb and planted new things anyway. So far everything, new and old, seems to be holding up well. I have been eyeing my herbs though. I hate losing herbs simply because I got lazy about them, but truthfully everything else comes first.

Today though, I thought about how much better my own herbs would be in the winter, not to mention the money I’d save, and I decided to get out there and clip some things. The parsley I prefer fresh so those will go in the fridge for using soon. The chives I might freeze in olive oil and then keep in the freezer. The thyme and oregano though I plan to hang dry.

The key to drying herbs is, after washing them, make sure they are completely dry before hanging them in a well ventilated place. I tie them firmly to allow for shrinkage as they dry but I don’t tie them so tight that I pull moisture from them and mold builds up. You could take the time to clear the tying area of leaves but I’m lazy that seems wasteful.

Then those bright happy bunches will look kind of sad when they finally dry.

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But they will be packed full of flavor when you add them to your savory fall and winter soups, stews, pot pies, empanadas…

Canned/Pickled Beets!

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I finally took the time to can/pickle my beet harvest. I was so ridiculously excited to watch all nine half-pint jars pop after they were taken out of the water bath. And I was tickled that none of my harvest went to waste. The recipe I used intrigued me because instead of sugar, honey was called for. The pickling brine contains: apple cider vinegar 5% acidity, honey, cinnamon sticks, whole allspice, whole black peppercorns, some water, and a little bit of salt. It took about three hours from start to finish and was a total blast. I can’t wait to make jam from those three pounds of fresh strawberries I harvested and froze a short while back.

Peeling and slicing the boiled beets.

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The beets added to the hot pickling brine.

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My clean workspace which was soon stained with bright beet juice.

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All nine popped! Such a pretty color :)

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Stuffed Mushrooms (GF and Dairy Free)

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We have decided to try to eat vegan once a week (more if possible) so last night for dinner I made a mess of stuffed mushrooms for dinner.

Stuffed mushrooms typically have breadcrumbs in them and there are a lot of ways to handle this if you are gluten free. I’ve taken corn-flakes and thrown them into a food processor. This works amazingly well. Sometimes I try a product off the shelf and up until this latest product I haven’t been all that impressed.

Ian’s brand Gluten Free Panko Breadcrumbs are wonderful. Here is the best thing I can say about any gluten free product. You won’t notice a difference from the gluten filled equivalent. This gluten free thing gets easier and easier as it becomes more mainstream. Things have changed dramatically on the grocery shelves and in restaurant-land in the four years I’ve been learning about all of this. It reminds me of when major coffee chains began carrying dairy alternatives nationwide (2000? 2001?). So this is one more welcome change.

Here is roughly how I made these. I say roughly because I really didn’t measure anything so I am guess-timating here.

about a dozen large mushrooms with stems intact (gently remove stems by twisting them out and leaving caps intact – chop stems finely)

1 celery stalk finely diced.

2-3 tablespoons of finely diced onion

about 4 parsley stems with leaves (separate the stems from the leaves and chop each finely – don’t mix them in with each other)

about 4 tablespoons of olive oil

about 1 tablespoon of drained capers

about 1 heaping tablespoon on finely chopped fresh thyme

black pepper to taste

about a 1/4 cup of Ian’s gluten free panko breadcrumbs (or breadcrumbs of choice – cornflakes thrown in a food processor will work in a pinch)

about 1/4 cup of low sodium vegetable broth

Heat oven to 400. In a baking dish (I used a pie plate) drop in about 2 tablespoons of oil. use a mushroom cap to spread the oil around the baking dish. Put the rest of the caps in the dish and move around to coat them. You could do all of this in a separate bowl but I hate doing dishes so this is how I do it. You want to thinly coat each mushroom cap and have the dish itself be thinly coated in olive oil. After everything is oiled make sure your mushroom caps are cap side down (so the little well is facing up ready to be filled). Place the caps – for now without a filling – in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. While the caps are roasting…

In a large non-stick skillet add the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and heat the pan well. When the pan/oil is good and hot toss in the finely chopped mushroom stems and let them sit – stirring very sparingly – until they start to brown. Then add the finely diced celery, onion, and parsley stems and sautee until the onion is softened and starting to appear translucent. Add the capers, the thyme, and breadcrumbs and sautee constantly. This will go very fast and the mixture will quickly look very dry. This is when you will begin adding the broth. You want to add enough broth that the breadcrumbs are moist, but not mushy/soggy so go easy on the broth and add it slowly (you may end up adding less than a 1/4 or maybe slightly more). Once the desired consistency is met turn off the heat stir in the parsley leaves and add pepper to taste. I don’t add salt to this recipe because we are not huge fans of salt in our food and I feel that the capers are just enough salt for this dish. But taste the stuffing at this point and adjust things to your taste.

After the fifteen minutes are up for the first roasting of the mushroom caps take them out of the oven and set them down on a heat-proof surface. With a spoon fill each cap with the stuffing mixture until it is evenly distributed. I had a little more than I needed but I ended up just eating those two spoonfuls (yum). Place the pan back in the oven and roast for 10 more minutes. Serve them piping hot from the oven immediately.

These are so good and they don’t contain things that you often find in stuffed mushrooms – thinks like cheese, garlic, or bacon. You really won’t miss them. The fresh thyme (from my garden!) really adds this wonderful flavor, and the texture of the celery and onion along with the saltiness of the capers and the freshness of the parsley (also from my garden!) makes this a nice late-spring dish. In Oregon we are still having cool nights so turning the oven on is not something we need to avoid yet.

Unplanned Food Preservation Day

001Oh, y’all. Oh, my. Food preservation can become a full time job. I am almost dreading tomato season…

We asked for some help last weekend with heavy weeding and some clean-up/fixing of the last ugly spot in our yard which is the side yard by the composter that leads out to the area we store our trash can, recycle bin, and city compost bin. It is a horrible spot we haven’t devoted a lot of time to, and it is also a very muddy area of the house because the neighbor’s gutters are basically draining over to our side of things in that spot. We had a path there that was never great to begin with because of tree-root issues and a lot of mud slung itself over everything. Add in that it is a favorite spot for the dogs to dig holes, and that the previous owners had bolted a set of open shelves to the side of the house and it finally rotted and basically broke and fell apart, but somehow still clung tenaciously and somewhat drunkenly to the siding, and you had one hideous disaster of a side yard. Well! Heidi and Laurel (all of our yard helpers are women – girl power!) made short work of it. There is a pile of debris which will be hauled off soon, the path has been pulled up in spots and some pea-gravel has been raked smooth (update! dogs already dug two holes but it still looks better than it ever has), the ground has been leveled off significantly, and the weeds have been ruthlessly yanked out. The other thing they did was trim our Concord grape vines so you don’t get smacked in the face as you walk by. I asked them not to put the vines in the compost bin because I wanted to harvest the leaves so I could make dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) with them later. I clipped a bunch of leaves and brought them into the house…but then realized I would have to deal with them sooner rather than later because leaves really don’t store well for any length of time. They just dry out and become brittle, brown, and unusable. So I ended up spending a lot of time cleaning, blanching, and trimming them so that I could get them in the freezer. It ended up kicking off a food preservation afternoon and I’m not going to lie. I was pretty exhausted afterwards.

After dealing with the 110 grape leaves* I decided to harvest my escarole because it was starting to reach a point where it was going to spoil out there. So I harvested, cleaned, chopped, blanched, and froze that. Then I spent time harvesting strawberries, by far the least labor intensive thing of the day. I washed and hulled them, then froze them on a tray. Once they were frozen solid I slipped them into a plastic bag. Since I plan to use the berries in some kind of canning project (jam or preserves) I was careful to measure exactly how many pounds I had before freezing them. I was very excited to have two pounds on my hands! One more pound and I’ll be in jam/preserve making business. Next up (soon) will be to harvest beets and purple snow peas. I’ve already decided to preserve the beets, however we will be eating the greens right away. Turns out greens preservation is not my favorite thing. The snow peas… I’m not sure. We might eat them quickly, but I might freeze them for a stir fry later. Depends on what life throws our way…

Blanching grape leaves.

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Trimming grape leaves.

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110 Grape leaves blanched, blotted dry, stems trimmed, and stacked in neat piles by size.

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Harvested escarole.

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Blanching chopped escarole.

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Drying escarole.

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Neat little bags of escarole ready to go into the freezer which will eventually make its way into some soup this winter.

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Weighing strawberries. Two pounds!

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Laying out (washed and hulled) strawberries on a pizza pan to freeze. After the berries freeze transfer them to a freezer bag and label.

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And of course I need to give credit to my trusty kitchen helpers!

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* Sorry no pictures of how I froze the grape leaves! After blanching and trimming the grape leaves I separated them by size. Then I rolled them up tight;y, like a cigar, in stacks of about a dozen. Then I wrap each “cigar” tightly in plastic wrap. I then place the plastic wrapped “cigars” into a freezer bag, push out as much air as I can before sealing it, label it, and finally tuck it into the freezer. There is nothing like using fresh grape leaves for dolmas. They are so much more tender and tasty than the ones you buy that are packed in brine. It was a huge pain in the butt to do, but it is so very worth it! At some point in the future I will post my dolmas recipe which is very simple (olive oil, onion, fresh dill, lemon juice, and a bit of salt) and also gluten free, and vegan.

First time canning solo! Radish Relish.

image_5Monday was our relaxation day this weekend. I decided it was a good day to take a deep breath and do some canning. I’ve canned things before (once I made strawberry rhubarb jam with a friend and last year for my birthday my sister signed us up for a quick canning course at Sur La Table in California), but I’ve never done it by myself. This year I decided I was really going to try to preserve as much as I could from our garden and that means home canning. I have been nervous about doing it on my own, but my first harvest-able crop was at risk of spoiling because I have been putting it off due to nerves. So I took a deep breath and just did it. I am happy to report it seems to have been a success. All seven jars of the radish relish that I made popped and I was ridiculously thrilled. The relish contains: 2 pounds or grated radishes, 2 inches of fresh grated ginger, 1 cup of onions, 2 cups of white distilled vinegar 5% acidity, 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 tblsp kosher salt, 1 tblsp yellow mustard seed, 1tblsp cumin seed, and 1 tblsp coriander seed. It was really such a thrill to hear and see those pretty little jars filled with pinkish goodness “pop” and I can’t wait to taste this on a grilled hot dog or sausage. The recipe, and instructions for canning, came from the book “Put ‘Em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling,” by Sherri Brooks Vinton.

Weighing radishes on my new scale – 2 pounds exactly!

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The relish boiling on the stove.

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The set up on the stove – the relish boiling next to the canning pot.

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Ladling the relish into jars using the canning funnel.

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Putting the lids on the jars – the final steps before putting the jars in the boiling water to process (thanks Mike, for taking this one!).

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All seven popped and cooling on the counter.

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