Gluten-free Spinach Quiche

Simple, delicious and fun to try with GF ingredients, this was a hit at the latest class! Try it and let me know if you like it!

Spinach Quiche

Single Pie Crust from Allergy-free Desserts

5 T. cold water

2 c. Betsy’s Baking Mix (see below) or Bob’s Red Mill GF baking mix

1 t. salt

1 t. xanthan gum

2/3 c. organic palm fruit oil shortening, chilled (Substitute cold-pressed coconut oil or butter, depending on your filling.)

Measure the water into a liquid measuring cup and place it in the freezer just while you are measuring and mixing the other ingredients.

In a food processor, pulse together the baking mix, salt and xanthan gum. Add the shortening cut into small chunks and pulse to blend. There should be lumps the size of peas or slightly larger in the dough. It’s better to have larger chunks than smaller as it will blend together more when you add the water and it is very important not to over mix the dough.

Add the water and pulse just until dough begins to come together.

Dump the dough out onto waxed paper and form into a disk. Wrap tightly and chill for at least 30 minutes. If chilling 2 hours or more, remove dough from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before moving on.

Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a marble board, between two sheets of parchment paper or pastry cloth, or on the waxed paper, adding a little baking mix to the top as needed. Roll from the middle in one direction only and turn an eighth of a turn with each roll, until the dough is 1/8”thick and large enough to fit a 9” pie plate.

Remove the waxed paper and press the dough into the pie plate. If the dough cracks, just press it back together with your fingers. Crimp the edges and use according to your recipe’s instructions.

Store unbaked pie crust, tightly wrapped and frozen, for up to 2 months.


1 T. olive oil, plus extra to grease the pan

1 medium leek, washed and chopped into ½” pieces

4 oz. fresh spinach

6 medium or 4 large eggs

½ c. half and half (Sub ¼ c. milk and ¼ c. yogurt for a tangier taste)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 oz. Parrano or gruyere cheese, grated

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add leeks. Stir, then cover and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

While leeks cook, whisk together eggs, half-and-half and salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside.

When leeks are tender, add spinach and cover to wilt, 2-3 minutes. Mix together and pour into pie plate with crust already in it. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top, then pour in egg mixture to fill in all the cracks. Place in heated oven and bake for 30-45 minutes until set in the middle. When done, remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Betsy’s Baking Mix from Allergy-free Desserts

Makes enough for about three cakes

3 ¾ c. garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour

2 ¼ c. potato starch

1 ½ c. tapioca flour

Measure all of the flours into a large container that has an airtight lid. Stir very well with a wire whisk until evenly incorporated and no white spots remain. Then seal the container and shake vigorously for 1 minute.

Store the baking mix in a cool dry place for up to 3 months, making sure to whisk it each time before measuring.


June 5, 2011 at 5:29 pm Leave a comment

Exercise in its Many Forms

It has been proven, very likely with you as your own best test subject – if you don’t like the type of exercise you choose, you’re unlikely to follow through and continue to do it. That said, there are umpteen ways to get a dose of heart- and limb-healthy energy into your day, so you should be able to find something that makes you happy. Let’s talk!

Walking  is still one of the best forms of exercise. It’s easy on your body and you don’t need a gym membership to make it happen. It makes me a little crazy to think of all the people who get in their cars and drive to the gym to exercise when they could just walk out their door and have their workout in front of them. All you need is a decent pair of shoes, which you should have no matter what type of exercise you choose.

Cycling is even better for those with joint and muscle problems. If you are overweight, it’s even easier for your joints to handle cycling than walking. Of course, this requires the bicycle, but you can find pretty good equipment at bike swaps, garage sales and online. Buy something inexpensive to start and upgrade as soon as you know you’re going to stick with it.

Yoga has now been proven to lower blood pressure, help with weight loss, reduce stress (which causes a whole host of other health issues) and may calm an irregular heartbeat. ( for the article on this particular issue.) It’s great because it helps you get limber, makes you focus on your breathing to keep you aware and also requires very little investment. A yoga mat and comfortable clothes are all you need, although blocks and a strap are sometimes handy.

Tai Chi Chih is the beginning step for those interested in martial arts. It teaches you control and is gentle on your body, which makes it great for those who don’t intend to take up more vigorous forms of exercise. No equipment or special clothing necessary and you can do it indoors or out, depending on the season and the weather.

Swimming is a great summer activity. There are outdoor pools and, if you’re lucky, lakes to tempt you. It’s gentle on your body and the only “equipment” you need is a suit. With this exercise, you use your own body’s weight to firm and tone your muscles.

Hiking is like walking, but the irregular ground uses your muscles in a more complete way, making you more stable overall. Plus, hiking allows you to get away from city noise and pollution and truly reconnect with yourself, and maybe your dogs.

Jogging is a wonderful way to burn calories and get zen at the same time. I never believed it until I started jogging, but it truly puts you in a “zone” where you feel at peace and pretty darn happy. If you are feeling strong in your walking routine, you can start by adding in a minute or two of jogging for every five minutes of walking. This is called doing intervals and is a great workout as well. Eventually you will work your way up to running longer distances until you are comfortable with where you are. Try to find dirt or gravel paths to lessen the impact on your joints.

Trail Running is a blend of hiking and jogging, and would be my favorite form of exercise if I were in a little better shape. You get that magic blend of great workout, beautiful scenery, softer ground and the runner’s high. What more could you want?

Of course, there’s kick boxing, climbing, all kinds of martial arts and even dancing, so no matter what, you should be able to find something that makes you happy and keeps you going.

June 1, 2011 at 6:06 am 1 comment

Food of the Month: Raspberries

That sweet-tart burst of spring goodness found in raspberries is something I wait for all year. As soon as truly fresh berries appear in the grocery store, I’m there with bells on. Berries are on the pricier side and they are high in pesticide use, so I decided to grow my own, and nothing is easier to grow than raspberry canes.

Purchase raspberries at a garden center such as Rick’s or find a friend with runaways. Some varieties will produce two or more crops in a season. I favor these because I like to eat raspberries for as long as I can and freeze the rest.

Choose a location in full sun where you can get at the row from both sides to make it easier to harvest. Raspberries need a little room to spread since many types fruit on second year canes and that cane dies once spent. You need a space where you can leave them in place for a year and let the new canes move in to replace the spent canes. In the spring, once you see signs of life, you can prune out the dry, brown canes to leave room for the new growth and air flow through the patch.

Raspberries require little once established. To get them going, prepare your bed with 2-3 inches of rich compost, tilled in to 12″ or as deep as you can get it. Plant the canes before they have tons of leaves and keep them well-watered while they are establishing themselves. After two or three weeks, you should be able to start watering less, but make sure to keep them well-watered through their first summer.

After the first year, raspberries will be fairly xeric. Even with a winter as dry as we had, I only watered them two or three times and they have come back with a vengeance this spring. You will want to give them a little extra water once the canes start to bloom and set fruit to increase production.

Nutritionally, all berries are packed with life-affirming goodness. Raspberries are particularly high in vitamin C and manganese. According to the website World’s Healthiest Foods,

“As an antioxidant food containing ellagic acid, raspberries help prevent unwanted damage to cell membranes and other structures in the body by neutralizing free radicals. Ellagic acid is not the only well-researched phytonutrient component of raspberry, however. Raspberry’s flavonoid content is also well documented. Here the key substances are quercetin,   kaempferol, and the cyanidin-based molecules called  cyanidin-3-glucosylrutinoside and cyanidin-3-rutinoside. These flavonoid molecules are also classified as anthocyanins, and they belong to the group of substances that give raspberries their rich red color. Raspberries’ anthocyanins also give these delectable berries unique antioxidant properties, as well as some antimicrobial ones, including the ability to prevent overgrowth of certain bacteria and fungi in the body (for example, the yeastCandida albicans, which is a frequent culprit in vaginal infections and can be a contributing cause in irritable bowel syndrome).

Interesting to see what might be delicious and generally helpful to overall health at the same time.

Enjoy raspberries in salads, cold summer soups and light desserts. Following is one of my favorite recipes. For a cocktail party, make bite-sized meringues drizzled with the sauce.

Meringues with Raspberry-Cardamom Sauce

8 servings

Begin at least a day before you plan to serve the dessert and you can bake the meringues up to a week ahead.  Don’t make them on a humid day as moisture prevents meringues from drying properly and staying crisp.  Use a 3 ½-inch round cookie cutter or a 3 ½ inch round can/glass to trace the bases.


1-½ c. sugar

2 T. cornstarch

6 large egg whites, room temperature

¼ t. cream of tartar

Position 1 oven rack in bottom third of oven and the other in top third; preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using 3 ½-inch diameter cookie cutter as template, heavily trace 4 circles on each parchment sheet.  Turn parchment over so that marked side faces down, but shows through.

Whisk sugar and cornstarch in medium bowl to blend.  Using heavy-duty or handheld electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat whites in large bowl until foamy, about 1 minute.  Add cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.  Add sugar mixture, 1 T. at a time, beating until whites are very stiff and glossy, at least 4 minutes with heavy-duty mixer and 6-8 with handheld.  Scoop enough meringue into pastry bag fitted with medium star tip to fill ¾ full.  Pipe small dot of meringue under parchment in each corner of baking sheets.  Press parchment onto dots.

Starting in center of 1 marked circle, pipe meringue in continuous spiral to fill circle completely.  Pipe 1 meringue circle atop edge of base circle, forming standing rim.  Repeat, piping 2 more circles atop first, forming meringue cup.  Repeat with remaining circles, filling bag as needed.

Bake meringues 3 hours without opening oven door (sides of meringues may settle slightly).  Turn off oven; let meringues stand in closed oven overnight to dry completely.  (If making ahead, store airtight in single layer.)


¾ c. seedless raspberry jam

½ c. sugar

1/3 c. water

1 16-oz. package frozen unsweetened raspberries (do not thaw) or 2 packages of fresh raspberries

1 t. ground cardamom

Fresh mint, thinly sliced

Whisk jam, sugar and water in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves an jam melts.  Boil until sauce thickens and is reduced to generous ¾ cup, whisking often, about 7 minutes.  Add berries and cardamom; stir gently.  Remove from heat and let stand 1 hour.  Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Assembly (If you freeze the vacherins, the meringues will be tender and chewy rather than crisp.)

Place each meringue on a small plate. Spoon raspberry sauce over.  Garnish with mint to serve.

June 1, 2011 at 6:04 am Leave a comment

Where Is Summer?

Usually winter slides right into summer in Colorado. We might get a week or two with spring-like conditions, but it seems to go almost directly from cold to hot, do not pass “Go”, do not collect $200. This year, however, we’ve had a true spring. The temps have remained low, except for a couple of exceptional days; the sun has not been the dominating feature of the sky; and, over the past month, we’ve received more rain than one normally sees in six months.

Waiting-for-summer Bouquet

While those who are ready for the warm temps to arrive are a little grouchy, my spring vegetables are loving this weather! They are growing a little more slowly than usual, however I harvested my first lettuce last week and made a salad that included baby kale, sorrel and cilantro (volunteer). The leaves were so tender and succulent, it’s almost indescribable. You truly don’t need dressing when your vegetables are so fresh.

On my own grouchy side, the basil that I so carefully tended as sprouts since February got wind-nipped last week and are looking pretty sorry for themselves. (I’m pretty sorry for them too.) I’m hoping I can rescue them, but it’s possible that basil will be a last-minute seeding expedition instead of enjoying the mature plants I normally have.

If you are a beginning gardener in Colorado Springs’s normally challenging, and this year more than ever, conditions, take heart. You can plant some things now and expect a good harvest. Root vegetables (carrots, beets and more) are always a good bet. Just make sure to amend your soil with two to three inches of compost and the looser the better, so the roots can easily grow. There are bolt-resistant varieties of lettuces and spinach. While I would recommend a sunshade for them if the temps start to rise quickly, many grow pretty quickly, so you should be able to get a harvest before it’s too hot.

If you want to plant beans, squash and tomatoes, I would wait until it’s just a bit more consistently warm. I have my tomatoes out with protection in Walls o’ Water, a trademarked items that uses tubes of water in a teepee shape to create a mini terrarium, but I won’t plant my squash and beans until after Memorial Day this year. You want soil temps to be in the 50s to get good germination and growth for both of these.

The biggest thing is just to try what you like and don’t get discouraged. At least a packet of seeds costs very little, so if you have to replant, it’s not the end of the world. The results can be exciting and overwhelming, as evidenced by the more than 200 pounds of produce I harvested out of my city yard last year. Happy Gardening!

May 22, 2011 at 9:21 am Leave a comment

Fresh Eggs are Divine

Today is our day to get fresh eggs. They come from happy chickens who live east of the Springs and they are completely organic. They are fed some organic feed, which is good because a lot of feed is made from soy and that means GMOs if it’s not organic. The chickens get to be out in the sunshine, scratching in their yard. It’s a much happier arrangement than being crammed into a box with other chickens and barely enough room to move, let alone scratch (except each other).

The first delivery of eggs were the peewees from the hens who are just starting to lay. That happened in time for Easter and I know a bunch of happy families who dyed these tinier versions for their celebrations this year.

These fresh eggs also taste and look better. Store-bought eggs tend to have rather watery looking yolks that flow across the white when you crack it to make an over-easy, like they are tired. The eggs from my friend, however, have yolks that are bright orange (wakes you up)  and stand up firmly in their belief that they are the best darn eggs in the world. I’ve been making egg salad every week for a month now and it’s just delicious, not to mention the Sunday morning omelette. Mmmmm.

If you haven’t tried fresh eggs, you should. It’s well worth it and the easiest animal protein to digest. Several studies have now shown that cholesterol from eating eggs does not significantly contribute to serum cholesterol and plaque build-up in arteries, yet does offer tons of nutrients, protein and healthy fats so necessary for brain and muscle function.

The simple egg, as you crack it, the moon turns into the sun, and it’s obvious I’m getting tired as I wax poetic. Off to the next food adventure!

May 4, 2011 at 9:01 pm Leave a comment

Anticipating Tomatoes

The first fava bean plants poked through the soil this week during that amazing all-night rain party on Wednesday. My body and soul breathed a sigh of relief at the release that a thunderstorm brings. So this weekend, I am completely energized!

This afternoon I spent with my ex-neighbor, digging in aged chicken manure to the other half of her ex-garden plot. (Yes, my new neighbor is letting me garden it in exchange for veggies).  Susie and I were discussing layout for what was to come and it occurred to me, “It’s the middle of April – time to get the Walls o’ Water out and start warming the soil for the tomatoes.”

Yes, you really can plant earlier with some kind of set-up that keeps the warm-season plants warm. In fact, they are sort of like a terrarium, moist and warm inside, which tomatoes, peppers and eggplants just love. Best of all, you can build your own.

First, start saving plastic milk jugs and water bottles. When you have at least five or six, make a cage where you intend to plant the tomatoes. Place the  jugs, filled with water, on the inside perimeter of the cage. Wrap heavy-duty plastic around the outside of the cage, more than one layer if you have enough, and make sure that you can secure the top, yet open it easily. Binder clips and clothes pins often work well. Secure the top closed for now and let it sit for a week or two. This set-up will insulate the inside and help heat the ground up more quickly. The filled water jugs will help moderate our fluctuations in temperature.

By May 1, I will be out planting my tomato starts. I’m going to set out a small tomato in the middle of the “Walls” and keep an eye on the temperatures. If it’s going to be very sunny and warm during the day, I will open the top a little by folding back the edges, just to let some fresh air in and keep the little plants from frying. Then, in the evening, I’ll come along and close them back up again to keep them toasty during the still chilly nights.

It’s a boon to get a jump on the season and have tomatoes before everyone else. You should try it!

April 16, 2011 at 3:33 pm 2 comments

Nurture Non-edible Plants for Great Edibles

Yes, that’s right – it helps to have an integrated landscape. Some people call this permaculture and the principle is simple: If you integrate many different plants into your garden, mixing annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs and edibles, it does many things.

First, those beautiful flowers attract beneficial insects and help preserve the bee population along with other pollinators. Beneficials, like ladybugs, will more effectively reduce your aphid population than any amount of pesticide and they’re cute too.  All plants that give you fruit from a flower such as tomatoes, squash and beans, require pollinators to create that fruit. Plus, if you have a neighbor with a beehive, you can get the freshest honey with all of its nutrients intact, made from the pollen of your plants!

Next, you can landscape to use water more wisely and create a more interesting look. Installing swales will catch the water when it does rain. You can put in plants that like more water at the base of the swale and those that can take it drier on the top, maximizing your rainfall. Additionally, plant lots of groundcover which will act as living mulch and its roots will stabilize the soil so that it doesn’t run off when it rains.

There are a few notable perennial edibles:  fruit trees, berries, asparagus and rhubarb. Plant these and, once they are established, you will be rewarded with fresh food from early spring through the summer, depending on what varieties you choose to plant. Plus, they look really great in the landscape. Both rhubarb and asparagus die back, but when they are in full regalia, they are an architectural addition to any garden landscape.

Then there is the care of what you already have. Today, even with gale force winds, I was out cleaning up the dead plant matter from last year and getting things freshened up to thrive this spring. Now the yard looks fresh. Air and water can reach the plant roots. I’ve top-dressed with some aged chicken manure from a friend’s little chicken ranch. I’m ready to see what else I want to add to my palette. It’s still early enough that I was able to whack off the dead stems just above the new growth and not damage much. What did get a little shorn will fill in quickly now that longer, warmer days are coming.

Thinking in terms of the whole picture is a great way to landscape and enhance your edibles.

April 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm Leave a comment

Don’t Sweat the Cold

It’s springtime in Colorado. We occasionally get nights where it dips back into the 20s. It’s part of the Earth’s cycle of waking up, like when you yawn, stretch and then fall back onto the pillow to snooze for a few more minutes.

If you’re like me, you’ve already gotten excited and have been out preparing your beds and maybe even planting some cool-season seeds. I’ve already got peas, lettuces, kale, radicchio, chard, potatoes, onions, favas, beets and carrots planted.  Most of those should be just fine, but if it gets a little too cold for the beets and carrots, I can always replant. There are easy ways you can protect them if you want to extend your season.

The Beginnings of a Hoop Cover

Tonight is one of those nights where it’s going to get cold again – down to the low 20s, if the predictions are correct (which they have not been most of the winter). We also could see a little rain and snow. If you have planted your cold season veggies, they should be fine, but if you are concerned, it would not hurt to get out and cover them for the evening.

The cover should be made of some material that won’t get wet and  heavy, thereby crushing your seedlings. A tarp is a great choice. You could lay it directly over your seeds, but again, if you don’t want to crush them, some support would be helpful. I use small hoops and either binder clips or clothespins to attach the tarp to them, making sure that they are covered at the ends.

You should cover them when there’s no sun to fry them. For instance, this morning it’s sunny and in the 60s. I won’t go out and put the tarp over the seedlings until I’m sure the sun is gone for the day, or at the end of the day when it is not as intense.

If it’s going to be sunny the following day, I will uncover them before I go to work. If it’s going to be cloudy most or all of the day and remain cold, you can get away with leaving the tarp over them for the day.

Finally, this may actually mean that we are going to get some moisture. Snow is actually one of the best things for spring veggie seedlings. It provides a layer of insulation until the sun comes back and as it melts, your veggies get a more even application of moisture. I usually shake off snow that is on the tarp directly onto the beds as I uncover them.

Just a little time and effort gains such great reward. With only about 350 square feet of gardening space, I harvested over 200 pounds of vegetables last year and was harvesting root veggies and potatoes well into December. But that’s another season extending technique that can wait until fall to discuss. The Butternut Hunter is ready to get out in her yard for the day.

April 3, 2011 at 9:00 am 1 comment

Get Out and Plant!

The Butternut Hunter is ready for spring.

Technically I’m ready for summer and fall because I’m so looking forward to fresh garden produce again. This year, once again, I am expanding my garden. My neighbor has a plot that she’s not going to have time to put to good use, so I’m going to take it over and do a CSA of sorts for her – a basket of fresh veggies each week while they are out.

The best news: The neighbor who used to live next door is also interested in fresh veggies, but will be gone for significant blocks of time this summer, so she wants to help put everything in and all I have to do is tend it through the season. It’s so great to have help!

So, tomorrow we start amending that soil and getting it ready to plant so that we can have even more peas, lettuces, hearty greens and such in short order.

Even if you only have a few minutes, you can have a garden too. It can be as simple as gardening in a pot or a small 4×4 raised bed, but the seriously fresh taste of carrots, tomatoes, lettuces, whatever you like, will turn into a love affair once you start. It’s addictive and every year, I add more edibles to my yard.

This year is also the year of the fruit tree. I started a peach from one that sprouted in my compost. Looking for another one this year. Hoping to put in three apple trees and then maybe I’m done for a little while. The Butternut Hunter loves her yard.

March 20, 2011 at 9:11 am Leave a comment

The Sunchoke that Ate My Garden

Sunchokes are related to sunflowers and blossom as such.

The Mighty Sunchoke

I dug in the garden today, March 11, because it was close to 70 degrees here in Colorado Springs. Glorious to spread compost – there’s a worm party in my pile! I put a light layer of organic fertilizer in there as well.

As I’m moving down the row, I get to the place where the sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes) grow. I keep trying to quell them, but they insist on coming back every year.

As usual, I dug down and found a bigger patch than ever! After half an hour of digging and sifting, I probably pulled out 30 pounds of those suckers.

The sunchoke is a vegetable that provides a bit of a quandary, but I’ll get to that in a moment. First, the good news: Sunchokes look like a cross between ginger root and a potato. The flavor is potato-like, but a bit more earthy. It does not need to be peeled and can be eaten raw or cooked. They are delicious sliced and sauteed in a little bit of butter, but you can also boil and puree them with broth and spices or roast them in the oven.

The quandary comes in the form of gas, and I don’t mean petrol. Sunchokes can cause a digestive reaction that is uncomfortable for some, but not everyone, and it seems to depend on how they are cooked. My personal experience is that if I eat them once in a while, and cook them pretty well, there’s no issue. I assume there are no guarantees that everyone will react the same way.

So, now I have approximately 30 pounds of sunchokes ready to do something with. That’s, of course, way more than I will be able to use, so I’m going to try to pawn them off on my friends and garden centers.

One more bonus – sunchokes are in the sunflower family, so they get tall and get a really beautiful sunflower on top in the late summer. It’s an architectural plant that looks great in the garden, in the right spot, maybe as a windbreak for your more tender annual edibles.


March 11, 2011 at 5:49 pm Leave a comment

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