An Organic Gluten, Corn and GMO-Free Brunch with Caitlin Shetterly

One of the initial goals of Sunday brunch around my house was not only to let someone (who, me?) sleep in, but also to make it so that lunch could either be light or late, and there’d be some time in the middle of the day to lounge, sit at the table and have “family drawing time,” or  have an active adventure outdoors.


The challenge has been figuring out how to do that as a family that doesn’t eat corn or gluten. When I was first told by a doctor that I had to take GMO corn out of my diet due to a sensitivity he believed I had developed (and later was advised by my general doctor to also remove gluten) I was unsure how I’d ever make another satisfying meal! Let alone breakfast or brunch, both of which I think of as such carb-reliant meals.

Eventually, though, over the years, I began to cobble together recipes that kept me healthy. And, as my oldest son and husband also stopped eating corn and gluten, too, these recipes took care of them, as well.

For my recipes, I used as templates all the gluten-filled, corn-laden foods of my past and tried to make substitutes that would not lead to finished products that tasted like cardboard.  It took me a while, and there were certainly some cardboard-tasting brunches we had to endure in the interim. But, eventually, I came up with pancakes, bagels, frittatas, quiches, pies and more that I could parlay into a brunch to serve to just about anyone—not only the this-free or that-free sufferers among us. In fact, most often, people who visit have no idea they are eating gluten- or corn-free. To me that is a measure of success.

As the years went on, when not entertaining, we developed some patterns around the recipes we’ve came to love. For example, practically every Saturday night I make a pumpkin pancake batter and put it in the fridge for my husband, Dan, to start making the cakes the next morning while I catch a few extra zzzs (I am often up very early for a nursing session with our youngest child.)

Once Dan’s got our kids satisfied with a snack of some yogurt with Maine blueberries (which we buy in bulk from a local farm every August and freeze to use all winter long,) and has brewed himself a nice cup of very black tea, he’ll tune the iPod to Jason Isbell or Ray Lamontagne and will start cooking up the light, fluffy, spicy and gooey pancakes we’ve all come to anticipate. By the time the pancakes are ready, Dan is usually ready for brunch and I’m just darn hungry from all that sleeping.

For this recipe, I like to use my own frozen pumpkin if I have it, (my favorite kind is called a “winter luxury.”. In the fall I just take some small, sweet pumpkins, halve them, scoop out the seeds, and then steam them upside down in a pan of water on a low heat in the oven (225 degrees) for a few hours or until the skin is easily pierceable with a fork. I then scoop out the sweet flesh and freeze it in canning jars to use for cakes, pies, soups, breads and muffins all winter long. (In a pinch I’ll use the Farmers Market brand of boxed organic pumpkin.) 

Cait’s Overnight Pumpkin Pancake Batter

  • 2 cups cooked, soft pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup milk of choice (buttermilk will add more zing and leavening to your pancake, rice milk creates a very light pancake, soy gives it a bit more heft and regular milk or cream--if you really want to indulge--makes them more velvety.)
  • 1 cup flour of choice
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • Nice generous dash of nutmeg
  • Two nice generous dashes of cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp of cream of tartar and ½ tsp of baking soda (I stopped using mixed baking powder when I stopped eating corn because almost every brand has corn starch in it. I have found, though, that reducing baking powder to it’s elements makes for better baking in fact!)

Mix the pumpkin, chia and eggs and whisk together till fluffy. Add in milk. Mix. Then add in the flour, spices, vanilla bean, salt and cream of tartar and baking soda. Depending on what kind of flour you’ve used (brown rice, whole wheat, teff…) you may need to adjust the flour and milk a bit in the morning, depending on how that four absorbs the liquid. My recipe here is for brown rice flour. Let sit overnight and then spoon into a medium hot pan sizzling with butter or olive oil.

We like butter, yogurt and maple syrup on top of ours. 

When I know we need a bit more than pancakes because we have guests or it’s a holiday or we just need to make it longer into the day and I don’t want lunch to be an ordeal, I’ll make a frittata to round out the meal and make it feel more sumptuous and special. The lovely thing about a frittata is that it’s one of the most forgiving things you can possibly make; there’s almost no way to mess it up. And a frittata is a great way to rid the fridge of perishable leftovers, like half-finished jars of olives or the second half of a pepper.

The basic recipe is:

  • 6 eggs, scrambled till fluffy.
  • 2 leeks or ½ onion chopped.
  • Any and all fresh herbs hanging around
  • Salt and pepper
  • Other veggies you might have on hand like half a pepper, a handful of mushrooms, tomatoes.
  • Cheese you like.
  • Maybe some sausages, too.
  • Hot pepper flakes, good quality olive oil, optional.

I always start my frittata by sautéeing onions –or leeks (my favorite)--and a good handful of as many herbs as I have around in a cast iron skillet with some olive oil and salt and pepper. I like fresh thyme, a tiny bit of rosemary (careful, it can take over the flavors—so I mean literally 2 or 3 leaves diced into the rest of your herbs), parsley, cilantro, oregano, and savory. If I have them, I love to throw some mushrooms in to brown with the onions (and sometimes I chop up a sausage or two, too). After those are nicely browned, I almost always add a green vegetable like kale or spinach, and I cook them just a few moments until they are dark green (FYI you need about 3x as much kale or spinach as you’d think because both cook down to nothing—I use about 4-5 big kale leaves). I then whisk up six eggs and add them to the hot pan, over the other ingredients. I like to add a few dollops around the pan of some lovely goat cheese or ricotta, sometimes a few freshly sliced late August tomatoes and then a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan and a few red pepper flakes on top of those. I drizzle a little good quality olive oil on top and put the whole thing in a hot oven at 375 until the eggs set. This is a wonderful addition to the pancakes when feeding a hungry crew and is a real crowd pleaser.

There’s one more brunch item I will add if I need a bigger spread or if I have a house full of family for the holidays and I want the food to last long enough so that at least a few of us will have read a good portion of the Times. On these occasions, I’ll cook up one of my favorite inventions: homemade bagels.

I came up with this recipe one Fathers Day when it was raining so hard it looked like night outside and I wanted to make Dan something special and unexpected. They were so good that I thought they were a fluke, brought by some rainmaker’s magic. Luckily I had written the recipe down (something I am guilty of often forgetting to do, much to my family’s annoyance.) Then, I tried them again the next year and they were great. Dan says he never wants another Father’s Day without them.

I like to serve these with some cream cheese into which I’ve mixed chopped fresh herbs—chives, chive flowers to make it pretty, parsley, savory, thyme, cilantro, and a plate of sliced cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes, onions and smoked wild salmon. I also put out two small bowls of lemon wedges and capers.  

On Father’s Day, I make some very soft, mild scrambled eggs to go with the bagels and we sit down to eat with steaming cups of coffee. 

Gluten & Corn Free Bagels

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To start, I get two pots of salted water boiling. I then get two cookie sheets prepped with a smattering of coarse sea salt thrown over their surfaces (most bagels have corn meal on the bottom of them, but I’ve found this works just as well—just don’t over do it, or the bagels may taste too salty.)

The bagel dough recipe:

  • 1/3 cup water with 1/3 cup cream, warm. 
  • add 2 tbs yeast and one tablespoon of sugar. 
  • let sit till foamy.
  • then add in 1 big tbs chia seeds. let sit longer to gel a bit--5-10 mins.
  • add in 2 whipped eggs.
  • then 1 cup tapioca starch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons corn free xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp nice salt
  • 2 cups mix of brown and white rice flour
  • and 1/2 tsp of cider vinegar.

Should be a soft batter. Make into soft, springy balls and then press down into rounds on a cutting board dusted with tapioca starch and brown rice flour.  Then cut out the centers with a jar top.

Slide each bagel carefully into the water to boil. Boil in water until they rise to the top....maybe 2-3 minutes or so. Don't let them fall apart! Take each out with slotted spatula and place on the cookie sheets, top with seed mixture you like (I do caraway, sesame and poppy) and place on cookie sheet and pop in oven. Cook at 375 until brown and toasty, about 20 minutes. Serve these warm! (On Fathers Day, I let Dan sleep in—as he surely deserves it. So that the bagels will be warm and fresh, I wait until Sleeping Beauty gets up and I then mix these up while he drinks coffee and hangs with the kids…)

When they come out of the oven, we rush to a set table and devour them!