Southwestern Sweet Potato Soup

Let’s see what’s happened since I last posted. Our ninth wedding anniversary was last Wednesday. Yep. We’ve been married for nine years (the Hubs likes to say he’d get less for murder) and this month marks eight years that I’ve been living in Canada.

For our anniversary, I made the Hubs and the little one a ground beef and Italian sausage lasagna and the Hubs made me a vegan, gluten-free chocolate cake. My meat-loving husband doesn’t get to eat meat too much so I figured I’d make him something sinful and full of meat. As far as the cake goes, THAT was all chocolately sinful goodness. I think over the weekend I had three slices of it just for lunch.

The rest of the week I can’t really remember what happened. I do remember recycling recipes for those last days though. So I didn’t have anything too interesting to post about. This week the Hubs is out in Nova Scotia so it’s just me and the little one. I’ve tried to pick easy recipes and some are recycled so I might not post as often this week. Next week we’re going to Canmore for vacation. The both of us could really do with a vacation. I’ll post while we’re there and tell y’all about places I/we eat, even though we’ve booked a long-stay hotel room that’s basically like an apartment. We’ll be staying at Copperstone Resort. We stayed there last year when my Mom came up to visit and we liked it. It’s not in town but that’s ok.

So, about last night’s recipe. I made Southwestern Sweet Potato Soup from Chef Michael Smith’s cookbook The Best of Chef At Home: Essential Recipes For Today’s Kitchen. He’s an American chef living in the Maritimes in Canada (Prince Edward Island I think). I have to give a shout out to a fellow American when I can!

I didn’t think that I would be able to go into details about the recipe but I guess it’s been a while since the book was published so it’s now online. Now I can really go in to detail about it. Yay!

The recipe starts out by suggesting you preheat your oven. If you’re like me, I had no idea why and I scanned the recipe like five times to figure out why. It wasn’t until about five minutes ago that I found out why: to heat up the tortillas. I didn’t use any tortillas. I used tortilla chips to crush and put on top of the soup.

If you want to veganize the recipe, you can use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. He also says to grate two large sweet potatoes. I had little ones so I used four of those. I started to grate them but if I grated all of them, I would’ve been there all night. Sweet potatoes aren’t the easiest of vegetables to grate. So half way through the second sweet potato, I ended up cutting them up into small cubes so they’d cook faster.

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You’ll sauté your onions and garlic cloves. He says to start with the onions and then throw in the garlic because garlic burns faster. We all know garlic burns faster, but for me it never clicked until last night. I’ll make sure to do this every time I cook from here on out.

When your onions and garlic are done cooking, throw in the sweet potatoes, broth, pepper (if you’re using it), cinnamon, cumin, and salt. Now, I don’t know about you but I never thought of using cinnamon for a southwestern dish. It just doesn’t seem to go, right? You usually think of spices like cumin or paprika or chili powder. However, the cinnamon works. Don’t ask me how. It just works. Trust me.

I think I let my pot simmer for about 30 minutes to make sure the sweet potatoes were done. Then you get your immersion blender and go to town.

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I had to add quite a bit of salt even though the recipe says a “sprinkle or two of salt.” Do yours to taste. I love my salt. I also didn’t use sour cream or any of the garnish. I was pushing it for time and I forgot to add vegan sour cream to my weekly shopping list. Oops! Instead, I just crushed a handful of tortilla chips on top as a garnish.

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That’s the little one’s bowl. I added a few more tortilla chips on the side to scoop up any soup. The little one ate almost all of his and the Hubs liked it. I was iffy on it because of the cinnamon, but they both liked it. I let the little one do a taste test and he kept saying “MORE!” so I knew it had to be good. And it was!

The soup was quick and easy to make and it was perfect for yesterday. It just felt like a soup day. The sun was warm but the air has a hint of fall in it. I love fall, but that’s for another post.

If you want soup that’s no fuss (you can kick back on the couch while it simmers), then this is your dish. If you have the time to grate the sweet potatoes, then by all means do it. If you don’t have time (like I did) or don’t have the patience (like I do), then chop them up into cubes.

Enjoy!!

Tomato, Basil, and Garlic Cashew Cream Pasta

Last night’s supper was quick, refreshing, easy, light, and perfect for a hot summer’s night. It involved some fresh tomatoes from the garden, cashews, and pasta. What’s not to love with that combination? Ok, maybe a glass of wine would be nice to add.

I found this recipe on One Green Planet, but it’s originally from The Friendly Fig. One of the great things about this recipe is that the cashew nuts don’t have to soak for four hours. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I forget to soak my cashews for four hours when I have a recipe that involves the long period of soaking. Then I have to cook another recipe I had planned for later in the week and then soak the cashews for the next day. This recipe says you only need to let them soak for 10-15 minutes! What’s the next best thing you ask? I made this dish in 20 minutes!! Yep. You read right. I was done in 20 minutes.

I started out by soaking the cashew nuts, and then I washed my lovely tomatoes. I used two from the garden, two from the store, and a handful of grape tomatoes.

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I diced up the four big tomatoes but left the grape tomatoes intact for a bit of contrast, and because I felt like it. Actually, I was too lazy to dice those little bitty tomatoes.

You sauté the tomatoes and minced garlic together, taking care not to burn the garlic. Then toss the cashews into a food processor with lemon juice, a garlic clove, and some salt and pepper. The recipe didn’t call for any water and I thought that was a bit odd because most recipes that call for processing cashews usually call for water to help it along.

I didn’t add any at first and found that my mixture didn’t want to blend too well. So in the end, I did add some water.

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Once it’s at your desired consistency, toss it in with the tomatoes and garlic. Mix it all up and let it simmer so all of the flavors can mingle with each other, and so you can get your pasta going. Also, you might want to add in some basil (if you have any on hand).

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This dish was fantastic in its simplicity. It was super easy to make, and super fast. If you want to make it even faster, you can use canned diced tomatoes, but I’d probably drain it first. The Hubs went back for seconds and the little one ate every single bite. It’s even excellent for lunch the next day!

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If you don’t have a whole lot of time to make dinner during the week, or if you just don’t feel like making what you have picked out, this recipe is perfect. You can use canned diced tomatoes, any kind of pasta of your liking, and you can even throw in some other spices and herbs!

I’m Back and with A Roasted Tomato Herb Quiche!

Well, did y’all miss me? I certainly miss you! It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? It’s been about two months and A LOT has happened in that timeframe! I wasn’t even sure if I could remember the password to my blog! I don’t think I even cracked open the laptop. Well, that’s a lie. I did an update with Chrome and got fed up because it took two days to do. Then, I was doing some research for my Mom who is getting married in Charleston, S.C. next April!! Like I said A LOT has happened!

First, the in-laws from Scotland came for a visit, then the Hubs’ Uncle and Aunt from Toronto joined us for Father’s Day, then we had a week to ourselves after they all left, and then my Mom came with her finance.

I decided to cook a lot of vegan food for my mother-in-law. She has certain foods that don’t agree with her and I have foods that don’t agree with me, so it was a challenge but I did it. I dare say most of the stuff I made she liked! I was happy to cook for her and show her the different dishes you can make while eating a plant-based diet. I think my mother-in-law maintained her weight the three weeks while they were here.

My Mom, on the other hand, liked a few of the vegan dishes I made. Other than that, she cooked Korean food and didn’t think I was getting enough protein because I’m not eating meat. So, I had fish while she was here to keep her happy. If any of y’all out there have a VERY strong-willed Mother, you do what she says…even if you’re 35 years old.

After all of the visits, I’ve been trying to get my stomach back to normal. For the longest time I was snacking on tortilla chips and  other junk every night. Then I was getting to the point where I wasn’t feeling too great and had to do a detox. I’m finally back to normal and have lost the two pounds I gained while everyone was here. OH! I also found out that dried apricots DO NOT make my stomach happy. Holy that was an episode to endure and one I don’t care to experience again! I had dried apricots before and they didn’t agree with me then, but I wanted to make sure and I am now definitely sure.

So, it’s back to normal now. We’re all back to our old routines except I haven’t been running in two months. Our fridge has finally been cleaned of the last remnants of the visitors. Although, I do have a tiny bit of my Mom’s kimchi left. I need to ask her how she made it so I can make some myself.

Last night, we had a roasted tomato and herb quiche even though it was like 100 degrees out. I exaggerate. It was about 28C out, which is 82F. You folks back home in the South might chuckle, but that’s hot for Alberta standards. Besides, there’s no humidity for the heat to cut through so the sun feels hotter.

So, I made the quiche in a hot kitchen last night anyways. The recipe from One Green Planet (which is actually from Sprouts & Chocolate) was done in three steps. First you have to roast the tomatoes, second you bake the crust, and then you bake the quiche.

You slice some tomatoes and bake them at 400 for about 20 minutes. I used one tomato from my little tomato garden that the little one picked.

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While those were roasting, you can go ahead and work on the crust. You put some oats, flax seed egg, walnuts (or pine nuts), and olive oil in a food processor and whiz it up. I actually had to add some water to make the mixture form a kind of dough. The recipe does say you might have to add some.

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You pour the mixture into a pan of your choice and press it on the bottom and then up the sides. This part took me a while to do and I don’t think my crust was even on the bottom. But you know what? That’s ok. In my opinion, the uneven crust makes it genuinely homemade. You know? In the photo below, you can see it wasn’t even going up the sides either.

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When you’re done, you poke a few holes in the bottom with a fork and then pop it in the oven for 14-16 minutes at 375. I think I let mine sit in there for the full 16 minutes.

While the crust is baking and your tomatoes are cooling, you get to work on the filling. Remember the last post I did about cleaning leeks? I gave some tips on how to clean a leek. I’m glad I found that information out because if I didn’t know, I would have totally missed all of the dirt from last night’s leek.

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Once you’ve chopped up your clean leek, go ahead and mince the five garlic cloves and put it in a small dish. I suggest mincing the cloves ahead of time because once you start cooking your leek, you won’t have time to mince one clove after another and clean the garlic press after each clove. I learned that the hard way and had to take the pan off the eye so I wouldn’t burn anything. I also only used four cloves. I just couldn’t handle that much garlic.

Then you get your tofu. The recipe starts out by saying you should drain, slice, and press out the water from your tofu first. I didn’t do that but that doesn’t mean you have to do what I did. It just all depends on what you’re comfortable with. I sliced my tofu into four blocks and then pressed each block with a kitchen towel to get the water out. I wasn’t concerned with maintaining the shape because you’re just going to throw it in the food processor anyway.

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After I pressed the water out, I crumbled the tofu into the food processor with lemon juice. The recipe calls for nutritional yeast but I didn’t use it because unfortunately I can’t have it (cue sad face).

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To me, it’s just aesthetically pleasing to see tofu like this: right after going through a round with the food processor and it’s all completely smooth.

I scooped it all out and put it in a bowl, and then mixed in the basil, chives, salt, and pepper.

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When everything is mixed together, scoop it into your crust and top it with the roasted tomatoes. Pop it in the oven at 375 for 35-40 minutes. I let mine bake for 35 minutes because I was cutting it close with time.

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You’re supposed to top it with some basil, but I forgot and used all of the basil for the filling. That’s ok though. This quiche is really good. We all sat out on the deck and had supper last night. The little one loved his with ketchup, because he loves ketchup with everything. Then we all had some chocolate coconut ice cream from So Delicious! This was the perfect dinner to end a wonderful, hot, and sunny weekend. Y’all have to try it!

Cornmeal Pancakes With Gingered Plum Compote

When I saw this recipe in the My New Roots cookbook, I knew immediately I wanted to make it. I just had to wait until there were plums available in the grocery store.

According to Wikipedia, compote is:

A dessert originating from medieval Europe, made of whole or pieces of fruit in sugar syrup. Whole fruits are cooked in water with sugar and spices. The syrup may be seasoned with vanilla, lemon or orange peel, cinnamon sticks or powder, cloves, other spices, ground almonds, grated coconut, candied fruit, or raisins. The compote is served either warm or cold.

I’ve never had compote, at least not that I can remember, so I was looking forward to making this on my own and the little one likes plums.

You actually have to make the batter the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight. I had the Hubs make up the batter for me while I went for a run. So when you’re ready to cook, you just add a bit of milk (or nut milk) to soften it up and then get to cooking.

The compote was easy. Then again I didn’t know what to expect because I’ve never had it nor have I ever cooked it. I will tell you that you’re supposed to start out with 12 plums, but the little one had a few so I think I ended up with 9. There are 10 in the photo but one was off.

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You slice up the fruit and add it with a few other things. One ingredient in the compote is cardamom. I didn’t have ground cardamom, so I opened up some green cardamom that I had and ground those seeds.

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Sorry about the focus in the above photo, but I was trying to get a close up of the little seeds. When I opened up a pod, there were at least 6 little bitty seeds inside. I opened a few pods and then ground the seeds up.

According to the Flavor Thesaurus:

Open a jar of cardamom pods and you might be reminded of a vapor rub or sinus-clearing stick. Like bay leaves and rosemary, cardamom contains clear notes of camphor and eucalyptus. As a member of the ginger family, it also has a citrus floral quality; depending on their country of origin, cardamoms are likely to be stronger in eucalyptus or floral-citrus flavors. Whichever dominates, those fresh notes are good for cutting through fattiness, especially with ingredients that let the spice’s complexity of flavor shine–e.g., cream, chocolate, nuts or buttery rice.

When I smelled the cardamom, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what the scent reminded me of. But now that I just read that entry, it did remind me a bit of Vicks VapoRub.

This is the compote almost done

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I let the little one do a taste test, but he loved it so much I had to give him a small bowl of it before I even started on the pancakes!

The pancakes were simple. You just spoon a bit of the batter into a pan and cook. Then serve the pancakes with the compote on top.

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I think the Hubs and I each had three pancakes and the little one had 1.5. There was plenty of compote leftover so the Hubs and little one had french toast with the compote for breakfast the next day.

This dish was easy, quick, and SUPER tasty. I think the only problem I encountered was that there wasn’t enough batter. The pancakes and compote were that good that everyone wanted more! Next time, I’ll double up on the batter and make sure I have 12 plums for the compote. I highly recommend that y’all make this recipe. It’s just too good to pass up!!

Oyster Mushroom Bisque

Happy Monday everyone! Sorry for not posting over the weekend. I was busy trying to clean things up before the in-laws arrive on Thursday. I finally got to trim back my roses that are out front. I’m thinking about digging up two of them. They’re not doing too well and one of them had a whole bunch of worms on it!! I’m thinking about planting hygrangeas in their place, but I’m going to wait until my father-in-law arrives so he can help me.

One day towards the end of last week, we had oyster mushroom bisque from the My New Roots cookbook. But it wasn’t oyster mushrooms. I used cremini mushrooms because that’s all what my grocery store had. So, here is my adaptation.

This soup was easy and really quick to make. Bisque is often made with cream…that’s why the soup is creamy. In Sarah Britton’s version, she uses a vegan option to make the soup creamy. I won’t tell you what it is. You’ll have to get her cookbook and try it yourself.

One ingredient in this soup is thyme. Mushrooms and thyme are on my no-no list. I haven’t had a chance to try to reintroduce either yet so I thought, “I’m just going to do two at one time.”

I love thyme…the fresh stuff. I think the plant is just so delicate and pretty. It’s really pretty and dainty looking when it has those little bitty purple flowers.

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Here’s a quote from the Flavor Thesaurus:

Common thyme is the type you brush past on the mountain trails and coastal paths of the Mediterranean; strong, with a sweet, herbaceous warmth that can tip into smokiness or a medicinal quality. For me, thyme is the essence of the word herbal–almost neutrally so–and forms the backbone of a bouquet garni or herbes de Provence. Its bittersweet, aromatic flavor flourishes in slow-cooked tomato sauces, braised meat dishes and bean stews. It also brings a tantalizing hint of lush pasture to dairy, and increasingly turns up in sweet dishes.

You chop up your mushrooms and cook it for a bit with some other vegetables and the thyme.

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While those are cooking, you put some vegetable broth in a blender along with the “secret ingredient,” and blend. This forms the creamy part of the soup.

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Once that is smooth and creamy to your liking, pour it into the pot with the vegetables. Let it cook for a bit and then add everything back in the blender. Then BLEND! After mine was blended, I poured it back into the pot to warm up a bit more. IMG_4668

Once you feel it’s warm enough, if you added it back to the pot, laddle some in a bowl and drizzle some olive oil on top with a bit of pepper.

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OMG this soup was DIVINE! It was REALLY good and SUPER quick to make. The little one finished all of his and said “MORE!” So, he ended up having 1.5 bowls of this soup. I LOVED it!! However, I don’t know if it was the mushrooms or the thyme, but I ended up feeling sick later that evening followed by the obligatory headache that usually follows these sick episodes. Usually I’ll say no dish is worth feeling like this but this one I’ll say feeling sick was totally worth it.

Italian Bean Balls and Spaghetti Squash

Last night we had Italian bean balls and spaghetti squash from Oh She Glows. I can go into details with this one because the recipe is online. This one is different from another bean balls recipe I made. I think the other one I tried called for navy beans or cannellini beans, but this one called for red kidney beans.

This is my adaptation of Angela Liddon’s recipe.

First, you start off by roasting your spaghetti squash. You put your oven up to 400F, slice your squash, scoop out all the seeds, place it in a pan flesh side up, drizzle olive oil on it, and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Let the squash roast for about 45 minutes.

I worked on the bean balls while the squash was roasting. I didn’t roast my walnuts simply because I didn’t have time. I started supper a bit late last night, and the little one becomes a little monster if he’s not eating by 5:15. I did use the walnuts, they just weren’t toasted.

I used Bob’s Red Mill wheat free oats for my bean balls.

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You grind them up into a flour in your food processor. Then you’ll mix it in with some grated carrot, parsley, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and walnuts. I didn’t add parsley or the sun-dried tomatoes to mine. Parsley doesn’t agree with me and I probably should’ve added the sun-dried tomatoes. I haven’t used them in a while because they’re packed in oil with spices that I couldn’t have while I was doing my elimination diet. Even now, I’m not too sure if parsley is used in the oil, so it was safer for me to just leave it out.

Next, put your kidney beans into the food processor and grind them up into a chunky paste. Then mix the beans in with the oat mixture.

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And now, introducing the flax-seed egg. Oh how I’ve missed you! I couldn’t have flax seeds because they were on my no-no list, but I’m glad that I can now have them because I love using them as an egg substitute.

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Make your flax-seed egg and let it sit for a few seconds. Mix it in with your bean ball mixture and add the remaining herbs and spices.

She says to roll them into tightly packed balls about the size of a golf ball, and it should yield 18-20 balls. I did that but I ended up with 10 balls, but that was ok.

IMG_4660Let them bake at 350 for 20 minutes. She does say to flip them and bake them again for another 20 minutes, but I didn’t have time. By the time the required 20 minutes came, it was approaching 5:30 and the little one kept coming into the kitchen. So, I served them after baking about 25 minutes.

The little one had his with quinoa pasta. I let him pour the pasta in a pot and put the salt in. He loved that. However, the Hubs and I had ours with spaghetti squash.

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I sprinkled nutritional yeast on mine and the little ones dishes. The dinner was lovely and the little one said “more!” when he finished his first bowl. Because the balls had beans (protein), I was full for the evening. I’m gonna make this dish again. I might even make it for the in-laws!

Savory Spring Hand Pies

Well hello there! It’s been a while hasn’t it? I’m sorry. I promise I’ll be better. So, to make up for it I have two posts for you today. GASP!! So here it goes with post #1.

The other day, we had savory spring hand pies from My New Roots. I can’t go into too much detail because it’s from her cookbook. I’ll tell you about my version of her recipe.

She does call for spelt flour, which she uses a lot. This is an excerpt about spelt from her cookbook:

Spelt, a grain with a five-thousand-year-old history is experiencing a resurgence in popularity due to its wonderful taste, versatility, and nutritional content. Spelt does contain gluten, but gluten-sensitive people can tolerate spelt better than any other grain, as its gluten structure breaks down more easily than the gluten found in hybridized wheat (however, those with celiac disease must avoid spelt). It works just as well as standard wheat flour, and it offers higher amounts of protein and fiber and a broader spectrum of nutrients. Spelt also has special carbohydrates called mucopolysaccharides, which play an important role in stimulating the immune system.

So there you go. I think in a previous post I stated wrong about people with celiac disease being able to tolerate this flour. I can’t handle gluten or wheat, and I’ve been curious about spelt but I’m too chicken to try it.

So, for this recipe I used an all-purpose gluten-free flour. I’ve never cooked with this flour before so I had no idea how it would react to anything. This is the flour I used. The consistency of the flour reminded me of cornstarch.

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You make a dough and let it sit for a bit. Here’s my dough ball.

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While that was sitting for a while, I went to work on the filling. Part of the filling calls for caraway seeds. I’ve never worked with them before. IMG_4647

They remind me of how fennel seeds look, but there’s a VERY different scent. They have a light licorice scent that reminds me of a very light spearmint. It almost smells like chewing gum! The side of the bottle says:

Caraway Seeds have a dill and licorice like flavor that is great in rye bread, cakes, and cookies. Perfect with cabbage, carrots, spinach, beets, and turnips. Add to coleslaw and potato salad or homemade biscuits.

My trusty Flavor Thesaurus didn’t have an entry for them, but my Cook’s Wisdom did:

Caraway seed is a member of the parsley family. It has a strong, pungent taste that is closely identified with rye bread. Caraway seed is used in many other breads throughout northern and central Europe and is added to rich meat and poultry dishes and casseroles. It is almost always used whole.

Either way, I liked them. I can’t remember what rye bread tastes like, but if I can use caraway seeds again, I’ll be happy to.

I got to work on the rest of the filling and the caraway seeds made the kitchen smell lovely!

IMG_4648I let it cool and went to work on my dough. I had to divide it into six little balls.

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There was no need to flour the surface because they weren’t sticky at all. If you get the cookbook and look at the recipe, you’ll see why. I divided them up and squeezed and squeezed trying to work the dough a bit more. Working with the gluten-free flour was a bit hard. When I thought I had worked the dough enough, I tried to roll them out but it just wasn’t working.

IMG_4650You can see how it’s not holding together all that well. It’s because there’s no gluten to glue things together. There is xantham gum in this flour, before you ask. Oh well. I worked with what I had and I was determined to make it work.

However, the dough just didn’t want to cooperate. It was breaking in places and just wasn’t all that pliable. I did try to salvage it and made them work though. You can see from the following photos how the dough was.

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You put the filling in and fold it over and seal it with a fork on the edges. I left two pies as vegan for me, but I put ham in four for the Hubs and little one.

You let them bake for a while, “or until lightly golden.” Mine didn’t come out golden at all. They came out looking exactly like how I put them in…white. So, I let them sit in the oven for five extra minutes and took them out.

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I think that extra five minutes did them in because the edges were CRISPY!! When the Hubs and I ate the edges, it sounded like we were eating rocks. Naturally we didn’t give the edges to the little one. He gladly ate up the inside of the pies with some ketchup though. The pies were a bit dry. However, this won’t stop me from trying to make it again. I’ll just have to experiment with another gluten-free flour blend.

If you decide to make this recipe, it does taste good.