Thursday, October 9, 2014

Apple Brown Betty (and a Lesson about Life): Gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free

Substitutions.  Replacements.  Ersatz.  Words that mean the world to those with food allergies if you think about it.

The moment you are diagnosed with an allergy or food intolerance, your life becomes a world of substitutions and trying to recreate dishes as close to the original as possible.  Sometimes those replacements are close, sometimes even better (which I honestly believe my gluten free banana bread is better than the original gluten containing one) and sometimes sub-par.  And you keep trying because you have to.

Such is the way of the world, but I have had a major rethink the last little bit when it comes to food.  It all started when I stumbled across a blog called The 1940's Experiment.  I was immediately impressed with the woman's resolve to follow a UK rationing diet to lose weight and became intrigued with the way the women during WWII had to rethink how recipes were done to compensate for the lack of things like eggs, dairy and a lot of other things.  So, I started ordering books and absorbing everything I could on the home front living in both the US and the UK during the war years.

And honestly?  I started to feel like a lazy slug of a woman.

Here I was sitting in my nice comfy house with gas heat complaining about having to do laundry in my nice electrically run washer and dryer while the books I was reading was telling you how to hand wash everything, make sure you took baths in five inches or less of water to conserve energy and when you had any spare moment to be sure you were darning any weak areas in clothes before they developed holes, canning and preserving any food you could get your hands on and working, in many cases, on top of it all.  I was complaining about the price of food, but at least I HAD food options to choose from.  I can't imagine running to the market each day to wait in line for hours to see what kinds of foods you could get that were available on the ration that day.  Really made me rethink my entire life a bit.

The results of this excessive reading were many.  One, I now make darned sure I don't waste ANYTHING if I can help it, let it be clothing or food.  I thought I was frugal it was NOTHING compared to how I am now.  I plan meals around what I need to use and what I can find cheap at the store and find it a challenge to deal with the food I can get, instead of wishing that I could afford a better cut of lamb instead of marked down lamb shanks.  I do make sure I get my kids the foods they'll eat because I don't want a war on my hands, but we've definitely been eating healthier around here as a result of this research and I'm hoping it's also saving us money in the long run as we are eating cheaper.

So, be prepared for recipes on the blog that are simpler in construction (if I can help it...sometimes different mixes of flours are just needed in gluten free baking to make things taste good, sorry to say),  better for you (nutrition was stressed a LOT during the war years to make sure everyone was not suffering health-wise with the rationing) and taste good.  I have tweaked the original recipes I found to make them allergy friendly for our needs around here, but honestly it is really easy to tweak recipes when there isn't many ingredients to the recipes to begin with.  Warning though, portions back in the day were smaller than today (which in my mind is a great benefit to the recipes), so be prepared for it.

So, here's the first recipe I made.  Apple Brown Betty.  This recipe calls for gluten free bread crumbs.  If you have it, home made bread tastes MUCH better in this recipe as the crumbs tend to be moister, but if all you have is Udi's or some other store bought bread, it'll do in a pinch.  I've been saving the end pieces of Udi's loaves (my daughter is a toast fiend and will ONLY eat Udi's) to make bread crumbs with as a LOT of wartime recipes use things like bread crumbs in the recipes.  Remember, waste not want not.

Apple Brown Betty (Gluten, dairy, refined sugar free)


  • 2 Cups still moist gluten free bread crumbs (white bread works best here)
  • 3 large apples, peeled and sliced thin (separate out of the apples into three piles)
  • 1/4 cup palm sugar (use blond for this if you have it)
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp. to 1 TBS butter, butter alternative or coconut oil, melted (I used Earth Balance Butter Spread once and used coconut oil another time, both turned out well)
  • Whipped coconut cream or whipped cream (if you can do dairy), definitely a great addition

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish or casserole.  Combine bread crumbs, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and set aside (if your palm sugar is really dry, as mine tends to be, use a tiny bit of the orange juice to make the palm sugar the consistency of brown sugar before mixing in with the other stops the sugar from settling to the bottom of the bowl of bread crumbs).

Arrange 1/3 of the apples (see, this is why I said to split the apples into three piles) in the bottom of your baking dish.  Top with 1/3 of the bread crumb mixture (2/3 of a cup if you want to do it the precise way).  Repeat with another layer.  Add remaining apples and then drizzle orange juice over the top.  Combine the remaining crumb mixture with the melted butter (or alternative) and sprinkle evenly over the top (Note:  If you forget to mix the oil and the bread crumbs on the last step...which I might or might not have done when tired one night, just drizzle the oil evenly over the bread crumbs after you spread them.  It does work just fine).

Bake until apples are tender, 40 to 45 minutes.  Cool 15 to 20 minutes then serve warm with cream, if desired.  You can also chill this and reheat it for breakfast.  It makes AWESOME left overs!
Serves four.


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