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This recipe was inspired by my friend, Laura Hahn, a gluten-free food blogger at Guilt Free Foodie Cutie and winner of NBC’s Next Local TV Chef.  She invited me to help her cook and staff the gluten-free table at the March of Dimes Chef’s Tasting Gala with 500 attendees being held at the Please Touch Museum.  With less than a week to spare, and GF baguettes and brownies from Sweet Christine’s Bakery in Kennett Square, PA coming our way, we devised a plan.  (To read more about this adventure, check out my article.)

Laura and I divided and conquered.  Being obsessed with fall foods and wanting to resurrect my Halloween pumpkin, the idea for my spread was born.   I was going to make the Winter Squash Ricotta Spread finished with pomegranate seeds, and she made the White Bean Spread finished with an Arugula Pistachio Pesto.  The choice for ricotta came about, because Laura convinced me it would make the spread go farther than cream cheese.  So I began my Google search for a mouth-watering recipe including pumpkin and ricotta, and to my dismay, came up empty-handed.  How could that be possible?!!  There seemed to be no such thing as the spread I had been turning over in my head.

And that my friends, is how the recipe was born . . . a pinch of this, a pinch of that . . . and the use of my favorite ingredient . . . MOLASSES!!  To read more about health benefits of blackstrap molasses, click here.


Gluten-Free Winter Squash Ricotta Spread Recipe

You’ll have to bear with me on this one, because I made this recipe hoping to feed 500 people.  It made 4 quarts of spread.  I played around with it using only 2 cups of squash, but it might not be totally perfect. Feel free to adjust the amounts of spices and cheese you use, and feel free to tell me what you did.  All I can say is that Laura went home that night and told me she ate a whole pint by herself, so it must have been pretty good.

Serving Size: about 1 quart

Ingredients:

– 2 cups pumpkin or winter squash (canned or roasted) (I used 1 cup pumpkin and 1 cup butternut squash)
– 1 TBSP ricotta cheese (or to taste)
– 1 TBSP black strap molasses
– 1 tsp ginger
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1/8 tsp cloves
– 1/8 tsp salt
– 1 tsp vanilla extract (gf)
– 1 tsp powdered sugar

Directions:

1. Halve and seed your squash.

2. Roast squash flesh side down in the oven at around 400*F for about 1 hour.  For details on roasting squash, click here.

3.  Let roasted squash cool for about 20 minutes skin side down and then scoop out the flesh.

4.  Put 2 cups of the squash in a bowl, and using an immersion blender, puree it.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, stick it in your food processor to get it smooth and uniform – no clumps.

5.  Add in the rest of the ingredients and blend again.

6.  Spoon onto your favorite baguette, and top with pomegranate seeds or even a cranberry sauce.

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A few days ago a New York Times (NYT) staff writer by the name of Catherine Saint Louis  published an interesting article in the Dining & Wine section of the NYT called Removing ‘Sacrifice’ from ‘Gluten-Free’.

She talks all about her dining experience with her friends, always having to qualify her cooking with the statement “it’s gluten-free” as if to offer some condolence to the fact that it an imposter to its gluten counterpart.  I have said that more times than I have hands to count on, and watched people turn up their noses in refusal of the gluten-free food, all because it’s gluten-free.

However, a few weeks ago . . .

Laura & Me at Tasting Table

I got an exciting call from my friend, Laura Hahn, with Guilt Free Foodie Cutie.  She was going to have a gluten-free table (at a full of gluten event).  The table would beshow-casing Sweet Christine’s GF baguettes and brownies at the March of Dimes Chef’s Tasting Gala taking place at the Please Touch Museum three days later.  We decided it would be best to partner up and make spreads for the baguettes and a topping for the brownies.

In two days, we had everything planned and were cooking till the minute we ran out the door.  Rushing to meet Laura, I arrived at the same time as she did.  We loaded her stuff into my car, and while shoving it in the back, I notice that my car started to venture forward into the street, gaining some momentum.  In high heals, I started chasing after my car, jumped into the driver’s seat, and tried to assess the situation before the situation assessed me; luckily I didn’t have to get very far.  In all the excitement, I had forgotten to put the car in park!!!  Um, can we say, “Ding-Dong?!!”  That had never happened before.  I guess there’s always a first for everything.

With the minor situation behind us, we reached the loading dock, and hauled our stuff through the underground maze like tunnels.  Once we reached the table, we began decorating it, slicing bread, cutting brownies, and adding the spreads.  Laura had made a Tuscan White Bean Dip finished with an Arugula Pistachio Pesto.  I had made a Winter Squash Ricotta Spread topped with pomegranate seeds.  I was hoping to find a recipe for my latest and greatest idea, but it appeared that a recipe didn’t exist, so I began to create my own with my latest favorite ingredient.  Can you guess?!!  MOLASSES!  (For the health benefits of molasses, click here.)  If you want to read this mouth-watering recipe, click here.

Spreads, brownies, & Ingredient Cards

We had a FANTASTIC night, meeting such fun and interesting people!  As we watched the faces of those sampling our foods, we saw faces of relaxation, delight, and euphoria.  They came back for seconds and thirds.  We waited in anticipation for them to express that it was gluten-free, and yet people could not believe their pallets or their ears.  Though some said they could texturally feel the difference, there was no taste difference at all.  The truth was that we were proud to announce that our food gluten-free, because it was AWESOME!!

Unlike Saint Louis who only had one guest say he couldn’t believe that it was gluten-free, the majority of our samplers couldn’t believe it.  With lots of practice and patience in the kitchen, I truly believe that my gluten-free food is often superior to its gluten counterpart, but maybe that’s because I’m making everything from scratch, which seems to be a lost art.  Though 20 years ago it was hard to find a gluten-free product, and 10 years ago the gluten-free products tasted like stale jail food, today’s gluten-free products are excellent; however, it does take a bit of trial and error to know which ones to use.  Saint Louis did not choose all the brands that I would have chosen, so of course my first thought to her dinner party was that I would have chosen a different flour and a different pasta.  I would have indeed made my cheesecake with a nut crust and not have used any flour.  There are also excellent gluten-free graham crackers to make a crust with, too . . . however, the more we try the more we learn.

Three Tips for Making Gluten-Free Food Better than the Original

Some people have the misconception that “gluten-free” means “taste-free.”  Here are 3 tips to make your gluten-free dishes delicious:

1. Choose the Best Tasting Brand

To read more, click here . . .

This article can also be found on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’s Celiac Central: Bits and Bites Page

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