July 2010

UPDATE: See the NEWER version of this recipe on my Gluten-Free site, Gluten-Free Dreaming, HERE!



One of my favorite parts of summer is the time when all the blackberry bushes start to ripen, around the end of July. When I was younger we had several bushes in our backyard, and they would always be ready for picking right when we got home from yearly camping trips. Last year I of course had to make a pie with the fresh berries, and it was super-easy because I could use pre-made pie crusts. But this year, being gluten-free and all, things were a little more difficult. I tried searching the internet for a simple gluten-free recipe, but everything either had odd ingredients or was endlessly complicated. I basically try to make everything the same, but just minus a few certain ingredients, like flour and dairy.

Therefore I used my tried and true The Cook Book Berry Pie recipe, with a few changes. *

Gluten-Free Blackberry Pie


For the bottom crust:41F3Y1ZK9XL._SS500_

– 1 1/8 cups all purpose gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s mixture of several flours)

– 1/2 tsp salt

– 1/3 cup Earth balance buttery spread (vegan, gluten-free sticks)

3-4 tablespoons cold water

For the crumb topping:

– 1/2 cup all earth_balance_sticks_vegan_store_vivagranolapurpose gluten-free flour

– 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

– 3 tablespoons buttery spread

– 1/2 cup GF oatmeal

For the fruit filling:

– 5 cups blackberries (fresh or frozen)

– 3/4 to 1 cup sugar (I used half sugar, half Splenda)

– 1/3 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour

– 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel/zest


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. To prepare crust (double recipe for two crusts, though gluten-free dough can be difficult and hard to get a perfect top crust with, hence the crumb topping): Using a food processor (or pasty blender) add flour, butter, and salt, pulse until mixture resembles cornmeal with a few big pieces. With processor running, quickly add the 3 tbsp cold water through feed tube, stop processor when all water in added; scrape sides. Process with two pulses, remove  and shape into a ball. Place in fridge until filling is ready. ** You may need to add extra water with gluten free dough, when I made it I accidentally used 6 tbsp and it came out good.

3. For crumb topping: Stir or use food processor to combine flour, oatmeal, and sugar, cut in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs. Set aside.

4. For the filling: In large bowl stir together berries (if just washed try to soak up excess water with paper towel), sugar, and thickener (flour). Add lemon peel. GENTLY toss berries until coated.

5. Roll out bottom crust on a well-floured board and transfer to pie-pan; gluten-free dough can be hard to work with, you may have to press it into the pan with a floured hand.  Pour filling into pie shell, cover top with crumb topping.

6. Bake for 25 minutes covered with foil at 375, remove foil and cook for another 25-30 min, until filling bubbles and crust is golden. Filling may be not very firm, but will set up. Cool on a wire rack or in fridge before cutting/eating.



This pie turned out pretty perfect, and I meant to take a picture of the full product, but as you can see, it didn’t last very long….

This pie can also be made with 5 cups of any other berry, with slightly different quantities for the filling:



Berry Filling      berries     sugar   thickener (flour)
Blueberries       5 cups 2/3 to 3/4 c     3 tbsp
Raspberries       5    3/4 to 1 c     1/3 cup
Mixed Berries       5 1/2 to 2/3 c     1/3 c
2 c blueberries, 2 c halved strawberries,
1 c black/raspberries



If you have leftover berries, freeze them for later by first washing, laying them out on paper towels to dry, patting dry with paper towels, and then storing in an air-tight container.

There’s not too much crust in this recipe, so I’m going to pretend that’s it’s pretty healthy…and I think it is regardless, with all those antioxidants. Enjoy!

* Basic recipe courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens The Cook Book, Limited Edition.



Contiki Group, European Highlights, June 2010

Way  back in January, when we booked our tour to Europe, I had some reservations about traveling with a big (50) group of people. I didn’t know if we would all get along, or if the whole trip would be full of a bunch of booze-cruisers. I was also worried about the whole nature of a tour group; it’s never fun to stand out as “tourists” where ever you go. But regardless, we booked, and off we went.

And it was AWESOME.

But I’ve decided to give out some friendly advice to those who might decide to travel with Contiki in the future, because it isn’t for everyone, but it can also rock for many folks.

So, disclaimer:


If you don’t like people, do not travel with a group. (This goes without saying, but anyway.) You will spend a lot of time with people. However, if you are like me, and enjoy people but not all the time, you will be alright, because there is plenty of time to be alone and/or go do things with a small group of people. In fact, much of your sightseeing will be done this way .


If you think people who drink are pathetic losers, do not travel with Contiki. This is not to say that you have to drink on tour, but there will be  drinking. There will be hung-over people on the bus, and occasional vomiting (which I never had to really see, which made it funnier than anything else). But if you can’t stand people who drink, then don’t go! Having a drink or so in the evening is a lovely way to get to know people, and relax after a long day of traveling. Also; Contiki is HUGE in Australia (70% on tour were from down under), and Aussies hold their drink, or at least they try very hard to. And practice a lot. (hence big beer). Plus: Beer halls. 


If you are a seriously devout religious person, you may not like Contiki. There will be swearing, inappropriate jokes, random sexual  incidents, songs about sex/drugs/rock ‘n roll,  pot-smoking in Amsterdam, hookers in random places, and may/may not be a guy on the bus who enjoys running around naked. It’s not like there’s burning of the cross or any terrible atheist conversations, but…this trip is for grown-ups, who aren’t so squeamish. However, there were a few more conservative folks on the trip, who loved it. And there are lots of fabulous churches, so….?


Yay God!

If you hate buses, and riding on them for hours…  well that’s pretty much how you get around Europe. Europe is BIG. Sorry! But there are fun times to be found on the bus. Crampy legs, but also excitement.


If you must sit in the lap of luxury…. you’ll have to pay more money. Now I’m not cheap, but paying more for the same sleep kinds sucks. That being said, Contiki (on Budget tours anyway) takes you to nice places to stay (mostly cabins that feel like little houses and have bathrooms) and feeds you about half the time. They shock you with the worst cabins in Paris, (right) but things get progressively better from then on. Sleeping bags are cool when you’re in Europe, as most things are.


If you like planning, and can’t stand other people planning things for you, you will be in Hell. This happens to be my main reason why I did go, so… Let’s just say, it’s simpler to plan a trip to one places than 30, including different countries over thousands of miles in which you don’t speak the native language. That being said, having someone take care of the details is super lovely, especially when you are confused by public transit alone. But you can plan whole days of FREE time in most cities.

image WTF, Paris

If you must travel with 5 suitcases full of outfits “just in case” you are also screwed. One suitcase , per person, is allowed on the bus people. But this does make it easier a) to travel the airways and b) to not lose your luggage. It’s much easier to keep track of one suitcase. And there will be outfit repeats. Yep. 


Same dress, different country

There are many things I could say here, but most important of all, I firmly believe that I did not miss any important part of Europe, or “traveling” because we went with a group. If anything, this experience was better because of the people we were with.

37584_448937738178_734173178_6119449_2390993_n Aw, group love

[Also: if you are a couple, there were other couples to hang out with, and also non-couple people to hang with when you got sick of/fed up with/cranky with your own partner. Which, over a long trip, will happen.]

Next Post: Top Things I wish I had known/done before, and Things I’m glad I did.

My desk is in a state. A state of not having a proper place to live. A state of being halfway through an attempt to create a “concise” scrapbook of my Europe trip while also being overwhelmed with obligatory reading.

This is my stack. DSCN6675



Oh dear. You will see how I try to comfort myself by placing certain fun little chotchkies around the desk, such as my friend the black sheep, perching upon my beloved Terry Eagleton and pile of Latin books. (And I also disagree with you , Urban Dictionary, who claim that chotchkies are “A small piece of worthless crap, a decorative knick knack with little or no purpose.” They clearly have a purpose, duh.)

Perhaps, “as they say,” clutter breeds productivity? But, how excited am I to have several books based on medieval monster theory on my desk?



So this is an interesting combination:

I write like
Margaret Atwood

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I write like
Charles Dickens

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

…but I have to say, I’m intrigued by what a book by both of them would look like.

Now I don’t know how “scientific” the “statisitical analysis” done by  I Write Like (website) is, but it’s fun to think about, no?

I promise to be back soon, with renewed vigor. But I offer up this small smattering of images to explain my absence and distraction:












More to come soon? Indeed.