About Emily Smith Pearce

I'm the author of _Isabel and_the_Miracle_Baby_, a middle grade novel, and _Slowpoke_, an early reader.

Making Ricotta Gnocchi

Handmade Gnocchi

Something about this winter (is it over? can I put it in past tense now?) made me eager to try all sorts of things from scratch. I think it was all the snow/ ice days and delayed entry school days.

Once I found a recipe for gluten-free gnocchi, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Turns out making gnocchi isn’t that hard, and assuming you have a high enough threshold for mess and imperfection (lucky me! I have both!), it’s a great project to do with the kids.

It’s a little like making snakes with play dough, with just a slightly higher level of skill needed. Making gnocchi is way easier than rolling your own pasta (which is fun but exhausting), so I think we’ll have to do it again soon.

Gnocchi

I’d intended to use the quinoa-ricotta gnocchi recipe from Aran Goyoaga‘s Small Plates and Sweet Treats, but there seemed to be an error in the recipe, so I found this recipe through a Google search. If you don’t have to worry about gluten, the link recipe can be g-free or not, and I’m sure there are lots of other ricotta gnocchi recipes out there waiting for you.

A few notes on this particular recipe. One, I decided to double it, which worked fine. I froze some of the raw gnocchi to cook and eat later. Two, the raw dough tasted…um, not good would be putting it mildly. We were all worried the end result would be inedible. Strangely enough, though, when it was cooked, the gnocchi was delicious. We enjoyed it with our standard favorite tomato pasta sauce (we double a Williams-Sonoma recipe similar to this one and freeze half, so we had it on hand).

This whole process was a big hit with the kids. They found it a little tricky to roll out the snakes, as it takes a very light touch, but with a little help, they were more than happy to be my little gnocchi factory for the afternoon.

Btw, we also recently made gluten-free hand-rolled pasta. It was a frustrating process, with lots of setbacks, but I will say the recipe (from this book) was downright fantastic, better than our last attempt, and I doubt you’d know it was gluten-free if I didn’t tell you. At one point I thought, this is so hard I’ll never make it again. But then, I tasted it. If you’re going to go to the trouble, try this recipe. I ate it with Mark Bittman’s recipe for parsley pesto, which was delicious.

Gluten-Free Pasta from Scratch

Just finished Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. Very funny, especially for writer types.

Hand Painted Floral Trunk

Painted Trunk

I’ve been meaning to share this for ages and keep forgetting. I had the loveliest sense of deja-vu when I laid eyes on this trunk last summer at my friend’s house. At first I thought—cool trunk!—and then I laughed. Years ago I’d painted the flowers on it as a gift to my friend and had forgotten all about it.

I can’t remember why exactly, but while I was painting the flowers, I decided to add decoupage, including stamps from that year. Boy do they seem old now (37 cent lick-‘em kind!!), but I like the way they give the piece a date and a context.

Floral Trunk

If you’re interested in seeing some more of my artwork, click here or here.

Currently reading: Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. Very funny epistolary novel about the academic life.

Also still plugging away at revisions. Beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Gluten-Free Baking Round Up

Gluten Free Bread

If you’re not gluten-free, you may want to skip this one, but I’ve been baking a lot of different GF breads lately and thought it would be worth sharing the results.

First off, let me say, I was a real skeptic when it came to making gluten free yeast breads in particular. Even the best GF breads on the grocery shelf are so mediocre that I’d pretty much given up bread entirely. There IS a local bakery that does GF loaves once a week, and they’re excellent, but I was doubtful I could bake anything at home that would come close.

I’m happy to say I stand corrected! It’s totally worth making GF bread at home because it’s more than ten times better than the stuff you can buy off the shelf. Another nice thing is that since there’s no gluten (sorry I can’t give you the chemistry lesson on this) you don’t have to knead the bread, which means a little less mess and work.

It’s true that GF breads have loooong ingredient lists. That kept me away for a long time. Once I’ve figured out our favorite recipes, I plan to make up some dry ingredient mixes so  getting started isn’t so tedious.

Here are the GF breads I’ve been trying at home:

Gluten Free Sandwich Bread

American Test Kitchen’s GF Sandwich Bread, from The How Can It Be Gluten-Free Cookbook (this is also the one pictured at the top of the post)

This recipe was the reason I bought the book. When the ATK folks talked about it on…was it The Splendid Table? I was impressed with how much research they’d done and the many variations they’d tried. Still, when I saw the picture in the book, the texture looked impossibly light and good-looking. Could it really work that well? I’m happy to say that yes, this bread is absolutely excellent, and I doubt if I served it to you you’d have any idea it’s gluten-free. My seven-year-old says it tastes like “Earth Fare” bread, by which he means, it tastes like regular gluten bread that comes from the local grocer’s fresh bakery. Definitely worth making. Recipe here. The book is centered around a DIY GF flour blend that you use in most recipes.

Pamela’s Ultimate Baking and Pancake Mix Bread Machine Bread (sorry, not pictured)

A neighbor friend told me about this mix (available locally at Earth Fare) and how it can actually be used in the bread machine. I’d never heard of making GF bread in the bread machine and in fact was on the verge of giving ours away when she told me this. The mix isn’t cheap, but then, it’s still cheaper than pre-packaged bread, and you can use it for muffins, pancakes, and the like, too.

I thought it turned out very well. It didn’t rise much at all, but my neighbor tells me this is normal. The texture was a little bit denser than the ATK version, but it was still quite good, and the flavor was good, too. Definitely worth using if you want to use your bread machine.

GF Crusty Boule from Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

Crusty Gluten Free Bread

This bread is my favorite. It’s nice and crusty, the closest thing to a European rustic-style loaf, and I’m like, “Where have you been all my life?” Really wonderful flavor and texture. It’s so good that I sometimes take a bite and wonder how it’s even possible without gluten. It looks and feels like a white loaf but does have whole grains in it. I can’t wait to try their new cookbook, which is all gluten-free.

An added plus is that you make the recipe in a quadruple batch, so you have a nice output for your effort. My little guy likes to form the loose loaves on parchment paper. Here’s the recipe for you.

GF Chocolate Banana Bread

Gluten Free Banana Bread

This one, a quick bread, not a yeast bread, is from Small Plates and Sweet Treats, which I discovered randomly on a trip to the library. The author also blogs at Cannelle et Vanille. She’s originally from the Basque region of Spain but has lived in the US for some time and was once a pastry chef. I ended up buying the book because it was so inspiring, not to mention gorgeous. The recipes are not on the simple side—they take a bit of planning—but her ideas are so fresh to me, many inspired by the foods of her childhood. And her attitude toward gluten-free cooking is downright joyful—-kind of like, “Yay! I get to try new things!” instead of “What a bummer, let’s see if I can try to recreate everything I used to eat.”

Anyway I really liked this banana bread. It has a nice touch of earthiness from whole grain and nut flours, and my little guy just loves it. Sorry—doesn’t look like the author has posted the recipe online, but here is a similar recipe of hers that’s for banana chocolate cupcakes. One note—I halved the sugar, and it was plenty sweet. I did try another bread in the book (seeded bread) which, sadly, didn’t rise, but I’m thinking that was a problem with my yeast.

Besides cookbooks, lately I’ve been reading Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, also a couple of new-to-me blogs: Refashionista (hilarious adventures in making over horrific thrift store finds) and Toxic Beauty Rehab (natural beauty products).

Fleece Neck Warmer

DIY neck warmer

This was a quick and dirty project, made with a remnant of stretchy lightweight Malden Mills fleece. I’d gotten it years ago from their factory outlet in Massachusetts, used some of it for baby things, and then set it aside indefinitely.

I was about to pass the fleece on when I realized it was perfect for making a new neck warmer. I just used an existing neck warmer as a guide for sizing.

To make the double-layered tube (with 1-way stretch fabric), sew the first seam with the stretchy grain parallel to the seam. When you turn it to sew the second seam, the stretch will be going horizontally around the neck (which you need) instead of vertically. It’s counter-intuitive, but take it from me, since I had to redo it once. It took forevvvvver to pick out that seam. I used a small zigzag stitch and topstitched the edges.

I had hoped to make some leggings out of the fleece, too, but then, after some research, realized leggings would require a 2-way stretch. Bummer.

Anyway, I’ve been doing lots of gluten-free baking, so I’ll have to share some more of that soon. Gluten-free bread-making always seems to involve a little magic. I’m amazed at how well things have turned out.

Many thanks to my little model here. Obviously, the neck warmer is a bit big for her, but you get the idea. For more of my sewing projects, click here.

Almond Meal and Banana Muffins

Flourless Almond Banana Muffins

I was looking for a muffin recipe with a little more stick-to-your-ribsyness, a little less white flour and found this one on Pinterest, thanks to Amanda of Running with Spoons. The muffins are made with a little oatmeal (I used GF), almond meal, almond butter, and bananas.

One slight issue: the recipe is for 9 muffins, and I really wanted 12. So I added a little more this and that to extend the batter. An extra banana, an extra egg, a couple spoonfuls of plain yogurt, a little extra almond butter and almond meal. I also added 1/2 tsp baking powder in the hopes that I could get a little higher rise. Plus a little splash of water when my blender was having trouble mixing everything up. I didn’t have the ground flax seed on hand, but I’m sure that would be a nice addition.

3 out of 4 of us really liked these muffins. They are kind of a cross between banana bread and snicker doodles, with a very tender, moist texture. Taster number 4 found them a little too “banana-y” but then, they ARE banana muffins and I DID add an extra banana. I wonder about using applesauce instead for some of the banana. Hmmmm…

These were very easy, and I felt happy about getting some protein and fiber in while still serving something yummy.

The muffins did rise nicely when they were in the oven, but once they started to cool, the tops deflated. They’re not dense or heavy in any way, though, so in the end their relative flatness didn’t bother me.

These are a definite repeat, though I may continue tinkering with the ingredients. For more of my cooking and eating adventures (including lots of gluten free stuff), click here.

Dress Shirt Quilt in Progress

Dress Shirt quilt

Here’s just a little peek at the quilt I’ve been working on for lo these many months. The quilt top is basically finished now, so I’m working on the back and making plans for quilting it.

It’s made up of my husband’s dress shirts that were on their way to Goodwill. Hope I can show you more soon.

Here is an earlier post about it, and if you want to see more patchwork projects, click here. I just realized I haven’t even blogged about another quilt I’m making. I’ll have to remedy that.

Hope you’re having a good Monday. American friends in the Northeast: stay warm and safe!

Berry Muffins with Millet (Gluten-Free)

Cherry muffin

I’m dipping my toe a little more into gluten-free baking because my seven-year-old is really missing baked goods. I found this recipe in The How Can It Be Gluten-Free Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen. Sorry, I haven’t found an online link to this recipe, so you’ll have to take a look at the book—-maybe try it from the library first.

We all enjoyed the muffins, gluties and nons, though I do have a few notes.

At the last minute, I ran out of my GF flour blend (thought I had plenty) and needed something to fill out the last 1/4 to 1/3 cup. I grabbed my Trader Joe’s gluten free oats, leveled off the last measuring cup with them, and forged ahead. I also substituted coconut oil for the butter (all three times I’ve made them) and that worked fine.

The amount of millet is not that much, but it gives a nice little crunch.

The first batch was too sweet by more than half for me. I don’t like sweets all that much, so this is a personal taste thing, but I will tell you that when I cut the sugar from 3/4 cup to a scant 1/3 cup, my children didn’t even notice. I was much happier with that level of sweetness.

The first batch was with cherries and almond extract, following the recipe, but the kids didn’t care for the almond flavor. If I was just making them for myself, I’d probably cut the almond extract a teensy bit since even I have to admit it was a little strong. In the 2nd and 3rd batches, I used blueberries and a little vanilla instead.

I kept making the second and third batches with the little bit of oatmeal and continued to get good results. These are great first thing out of the oven. They’re also good the next day though will be a little drier. I wouldn’t let them stick around longer than that (not that you’ll be able to) as I think they will just continue to get pretty stale.

One thing I did to make the later batches easier was to pre-assemble the dry ingredients. Since GF recipes often have a lot of ingredients, I think I’ll start doing this on a regular basis to make the whole baking thing a little less daunting.

There have been some criticisms about this book being too “white bread” and dairy heavy. It’s true, and I do wish there was more of an emphasis on whole grains. However, sometimes we DO want some white-bread-type recipes, and I totally appreciate the extensive research ATK has done. The texture we’ve gotten with their recipes is really impressive.

I heard that the authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day have recently come out with a gluten-free book, and I can’t wait to try it. Back before we had figured out our gluten problems, I’d made the “five minutes a day” bread several times with fantastic results. It’s crusty like a good German bread. Anyway, I’m betting their new book has some yummy recipes, hopefully some with whole grains.

Click here for more cooking and food posts. Happy weekend, everyone!