Gingered Beet and Berry Salad

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gingered beet and berry salad photo by vsimon

This is intense.

Intense flavor- sweet and spicy. A cool salad with a hit of hot ginger.

Intense color- red beets and red raspberries.

Intense texture- crunchy grated raw roots.

Intense nutrition- click on each ingredient in the recipe below for in depth information from The World’s Healthiest Foods website.

Garden fresh.

Beets, beets, beets. I ask myself, “What new can we do with the beets, just pulled from the garden?” 

Blue cheese, goat cheese, roasted. Been there, done that. And I have to say, I loved all of it, but I don’t have any cheese today and it is much too hot to turn the oven on for an hour.

And we have so many raspberries. There is a chunk of ginger root in the fridge. OK, let’s see what we can do with these.

Don’t have fresh ginger root?

I respectfully say, “Get some.”

Just a few fragrant gratings perk up anything it is added to, sweet or savory. It isn’t expensive and lasts a long time. A chunk of fresh ginger root in the veggie drawer of the fridge is as useful as jars of pickles in the pantry.  And it is amazingly healthful.

Ginger root grows with finger like projections. At the store, you can break off as much as you need. If you are a ginger virgin, start with a knob just an inch or two long.

Gingered Beet and Berry Salad

serves 4

4 small beets, 1-1/2 to 2” in diameter

1 cup raspberries

2 tablespoons honey

4 crossways slices of ginger root,  each 1/4” thick

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Hold onto the stems of the beets and using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin from the beets.

Grate beets using a box or plane grater, into a small bowl.

Or use a mini food processor. Transfer beets to a small mixing bowl.

I have shaved them using a ribbon microplane. This works too, and you get a softer texture. I prefer more crunch.

In a mini food processor, puree 1/2 cup of berries, honey and ginger root together. Note: this is a lot of ginger. You can start with half as much as the recipe calls for if you are a bit timid.

Add raspberry ginger mixture to grated beets. Mix thoroughly. Chill until ready to serve.

Right before serving, garnish with the remaining whole berries and walnuts.

What is your favorite beet recipe?

What do you do with fresh ginger root?

8-3-2010 This recipe is included in the July Grow Your Own #43 recipe round up at Kitchen Gadget Girl Cooks. Check out what yummy things people around the world are growing and cooking.

Sorghum Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies

What is an easy way to convert a popular wheat flour recipe to gluten free? And ensure it is successful, with a soft texture, and even whole grain?


sorghum, peanut butter, chocolate chip blondies photo by vsimon

Three steps to convert a baked treat to gluten free.

  1. Substitute whole grain sorghum flour for the wheat flour, measure for measure.
  2. Add xanthan. Start with 1 teaspoon per 1 cup flour.
  3. Add some water to batter if it seems too stiff. Xanthan needs water to hydrate it. There was no water in the original recipe. I started with a tablespoon, that didn’t seem like enough. I added another and it looked good. Bingo, it cooked up perfectly.

Texture, yeah! It is good!

Not dry, not crumbly, not gooey, not slimy.

These bars are light textured, yet they compress to a pleasant chewiness when you bite into them.

It is fun to serve them with extra chopped peanuts and chocolate chips. (These are not included in the ingredients below.)

This blondie is soft and holds together well. So you can press the edge of the bar into the extra tasty bits on the plate and they stick.  Interactive food, I like that.


If there are any bars left over, they last several days without getting dry. Be sure to cover them tightly though.

You can also double the recipe and freeze some for later. Bake in two 8×8 inch pans, or one 9×13 inch pan. When I double the recipe I use 3 whole eggs, instead of 2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites. It is just easier.

Additional changes

I added chopped peanuts to the original recipe for more crunch and flavor. And reduced the total sugar, switching to dark brown sugar instead of white sugar. These are still plenty sweet for me.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies

Adapted from Cooking Light

Yield 16 servings

Ingredients Metric measures
1 cup sorghum flour 135 gm
1 teaspoon xanthan 4 gm
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips 45 gm
¼ cup chopped peanuts 30 gm
1/4 teaspoon baking soda 2 gm
1/8 teaspoon salt pinch
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar 180 gm
1/4 cup peanut butter 65 gm
1 tablespoon vegetable oil 15 ml
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 5 ml
1 large egg 50 gm
1 large egg white 25 gm
2 tablespoons water 30 ml

Preheat oven to 350°.

Oil the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan (do not coat sides of pan).

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife.

Combine flour, xanthan, chocolate chips, soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine sugar and remaining ingredients in a bigger bowl; stir until well-blended. Add flour mixture, mixing thoroughly.

Spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean.

Cool on a wire rack. Cut into 16 squares.

Allergic to peanuts?

I have not tried tree nut or seed butters in the recipe, but I think they would work. Please let us know if you try them and how you like the result.

X is for Xanthan

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stenciled-xanthan-stars photo by vsimon

Texture is the biggest challenge in gluten free baking. Gluten free bakery has evolved from gritty, crumbly, and dry, to nearly indistinguishable from the glutinous original. You can thank xanthan for that.

Xanthan creates structure in the batter that traps gases from yeast, baking soda, or baking powder. The batter can rise, so a muffin is taller and easier to chew than a hockey puck. Yeast bread rises over the edge of the pan and becomes a work of art.

Xanthan also improves the “crumb” of your baked treat. You get a tender product that does not crumble on your fork, and in your lap, before you can get that bite into your mouth.

Xanthan is sold as an off-white powder that is surprisingly expensive per ounce. But it is powerful stuff; small amounts make a big difference in the final texture. And it is shelf stable. So you may only need to replace that $10 bag of xanthan every few years. I consider it a good investment in happy eating.

Mixing xanthan and water is a bit like oil and water. It does not work. Only in this case, xanthan absorbs water so quickly that it will form slippery little clumps, with dry powder on the insides when you try to mix it directly with any liquid.

For best results, thoroughly mix xanthan into the dry ingredients in a recipe. That way each powdery bit can absorb its own liquid without lumps.

Maybe you have a favorite gluten filled recipe you want to convert to gluten free. Here are some guidelines on when to add xanthan.

When do I need it?

No need

Flat things like pancakes. Crusty things like waffles. Crumbly things like the toppings on fruit crisps. Or little things like small cookies.


Size matters. If the item is taller than an inch, or bigger than 3 or 4 inches in diameter. Examples include muffins, cakes, big cookies, or quick breads.

Other ingredients matter too. If there are many eggs in the recipe, as in angel food cake, they can give the necessary structure and you might not need xanthan.

Lots of flax seed meal can make xanthan unnecessary too. See vegan millet muffins for xanthan free recipe.

Fruit and vegetable purees like banana or pumpkin might add enough structure so you do not need xanthan.

And using whole grain gluten free flours in place of highly refined starches may reduce the amount of xanthan needed. Some whole grain gluten free flours have protein contents similar to wheat. This helps with the desired texture.

For sure

Yeast breads. Don’t you love an artisan looking loaf of bread? And you might even want to make a sandwich. A simple sandwich must be the ultimate gluten free luxury. You need bread that is structurally sound and tall enough to slice. Xanthan will save the day here.

Pizza crust. The best pizza is hand held. You need xanthan for a sturdy crust.


tart-cherry-pie-slice photo by vsimon

Piecrust. Again, structural strength is important. Xanthan makes the dough stretchy enough to roll out. You may still need help from two pieces of parchment paper, but it can be done. You want a clean cut of the finished piecrust without excessive crumbling. And a slice that will come out in once piece. Well, maybe not the first slice. But wheat piecrusts sometimes have the same problem.

Crackers. It is a rare person who makes their own crackers. But if you do, you will need xanthan. It really is just like rolling out very thin pie dough.

How much do I need?

It depends on what you are making. This is just a general starting point. If the finished item is too crumbly, add more xanthan to the next batch. If it is too gummy or leaves a slimy feel on the tongue, use less.

Per cup of flour

½ to 1 teaspoon in muffins and cakes and quick breads

1 teaspoon in yeast breads, piecrusts and crackers

Metric measure: 1 teaspoon xanthan equals 4 grams.

Why not guar gum?

Good question. Guar serves the same purpose as xanthan and is less expensive. Some recipes may use larger amounts of guar, though still small. But some people note that they react to guar. Since xanthan is inexpensive over the long term, xanthan won out.

I would love to hear your comments on xanthan or other alternatives.

11-30-09 This post was submmitted to the December edition of the Gluten Free Lifestyle Blog Carnival. Hosted by Kim Hopkins, The Food Allergy Coach. Product reviews, tasty recipes and useful tips are included.  Thanks Kim!