Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hearty Quinoa Zucchini Muffins (vegan)

No, I haven't given up on baking with zucchini yet... it bakes so well and is so delicious. My baby also wants to eat every thing I put in my mouth so I decided that I needed to make a scrumptious treat to feed me and my babe. Why not whip up some lovely muffins, eh?
So hearty. Like porridge in a cute cake cup.

So fresh. A veggie filled treat.

You can't go wrong with this vegan muffins....perfectly moist and tasty in every way. I remember a millet muffin I made a while back and thought that some cooked quinoa and some fresh zucchini may be a good match for a muffin. To be honest, I just love baking. And baking with what I have available in my kitchen is what I do best. Sometimes it turns out and sometimes it doesn't, but with fresh food and ingredients, you can't go wrong. Nutrient dense foods to feed the mind, body and soul.
Just watch that vegan butter melt into the steamy goodness of baked zucchini and quinoa. Hmmm, you will be looking for excuses to eat more than one. I promise.
Hearty Quinoa Zucchini Muffin Recipe (vegan)
Dry Ingredients:
2 cups of pre-cooked (leftover) quinoa
1/2 cup of brown rice flour
1/2 cup of millet flour
1 cup of tapioca flour
2 TB of flaxmeal
2 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1/2 ts. of ground stevia powder
1 ts. of ground cinnamon
1 ts. of ground ginger powder
1/4- 1/3 cup of coconut palm sugar-optional (or maple syrup could be a sub here for sweetener)

Wet Ingredients:
1 ripened mushed banana
2 cups of freshly grated zucchini
1/3 cup of baking oil (I used light olive oil)
1/4 cup of pure apple juice
1/3 cup of non-dairy milk (I used Hemp milk)

Optional muffin toppings:
halved fresh or frozen cherries (what I did!)
fresh blueberries or other fruit (to keep it real!)
chocolate chips (for the naughty-side of you!)

Mix all of the dry ingredients first in a large mixing bowl. Then add in the wet and mix well. Use a 1/4- 1/3 cup scooper to spoon batter into the muffin cups. Top with a cherry or fresh berry and then bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked all the way through. This recipe will make 12 large muffins (or 16 smaller muffins). Pull from oven, let cool for a few minutes, and then enjoy warm from the oven with some drizzled vegan butter or ghee. YUMMM-o :)
If that doesn't win your heart over to do some mid-summer muffin baking.... then I don't know what will. I have been loving zucchini in everything, and this is just another treat to enjoy with those summer veggies.

I hope you have a beautiful day, and enjoy every gift to it's fullest!

Much love!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Zucchini Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Yes- yet another zucchini baked delicacy. I am loving having zucchini in the backyard.... I picked another 3 zucchini and have been loving adding it to sauces, stirfry's and now...CAKE! This recipe started out as a hopeful brownie recipe and ended up being a pretty nice and fluffy chocolate cake recipe. I am still trying to perfect a brownie recipe that I really like, but for now I will share with you this great VEGAN chocolate cake recipe. Love how this cake is fluffy and full of zucchini. I mean, seriously, who wouldn't want to get a serving of vegetables in your cake? :)
I also have been loving this frosting creation. A bit scientific in the making, and I will have to make it a few more times to maybe perfect it, but for now I am sharing what I got and how it is made in smaller measurements. I am hoping that if I make it in a bigger batch I can get larger measurements that may be easier. But the frosting is definitely lick-your-spoon kind of frosting. I saved the spatula for my husband because he always acts so sad if I wash it before he gets to lick it. I guess cake making is truly for the kid at heart! :)

Can you see those little flecks of green in the cake? It may not be that noticeable, but that is the zucchini skins that show up from the grated zucchini. Zucchini bread is quite common, and as it should be because zucchini is a perfect replacement for moisture in a cake and add flavor and density. This cake is still a bit gluten-free crumbly, but with the chocolate frosting tying it all together you have one special treat. Also, this cake does not contain very much sweetener and with the use of stevia it is sweet but not overwhelmingly rich. I guess these brownie-wanna-be's will just have to do as a yummy piece of chocolate cake. I'm not complaining...try it out and you will see!

Zucchini Chocolate Brownie Cake with Chocolate Frosting
3/4 cup of brown rice flour
3/4 cup of millet flour
1 cup of tapioca flour
1 TB of chia seed meal
1/3 cup of cocoa powder
1 ts. of baking soda
1 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of sea salt
1/2 ts. of ground stevia powder
5 TB of coconut palm sugar
1/2 ts. of cinnamon and nutmeg

1/3 cup of pure maple syrup
2 cups of shredded or grated fresh raw zucchini
1/2 cup of slightly warmed coconut oil or light olive oil
1 ts. of pure vanilla
3 ounces of melted dark chocolate or bittersweet baking chocolate (check for dairy-free)

In a large mixing bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients. Then over the stovetop water bath, (or monitored in the microwavable glass bowl), melt the 3 ounces of chocolate and coconut oil together. Then when melted add that to the dry ingredients along with the 2 cups of shredded zucchini and honey and vanilla. Mix well with a spatula and get all the dry parts mixed well together. Then pour into a greased/oiled pan. I used a 9x9 square glass pan, but other baking pans that could be used: a bundt pan, any 9x9 square or circle pans for a thick cake, and a 9x13 pan for a thinner cake. Use what you got and be creative!

Then bake in a 350 degree oven for 50-55 minutes, until you can pick the middle of the cake with a toothpick and it comes out clean.

Pull from oven and let cool. Then when cake is cooled you can leave in pan or knife out onto a platter. Then frost with the following chocolate frosting....:)

Chocolate Frosting Recipe (vegan)
6 TB of very soft Earth Balance (soy-free version) 
2 TB of cocoa powder
4 TB of coconut palm sugar
2 TB of raw honey
4 TB of non-dairy milk 
9-10 TB of tapioca flour (or arrowroot powder)

In a small bowl, mix the softened vegan butter or coconut oil with the coco powder, then add the sugar, honey, and milk.....lastly add the tapioca and add 8 TB and see how thick it is getting by mixing it very well with a spatula. Add more tapioca if you want the frosting thicker- make it to your liking for thickness. This frosting should be creamy and smooth and almost like a Betty Crocker spreadable frosting. If you put it in the fridge though, beware it will thicken up considerably because of the oil. And you can do that, but you may have to warm via stove or microwave to get it movable again. This frosting is my new best friend! I plan to make it in a larger batch and make the measurements easier to measure and make.

Then, lastly, frost your cake and eat it with joy! No dairy, no gluten, and no eggs! Gluten-free vegan goodness. I think this recipe would make a yummy cupcake as well....maybe next time I make it I will do that to see how fun a zucchini chocolate cupcake will have.

Some baking notes:
*I have not tried any specific GF mix yet, but I think that my flour-combination could be substituted for a 2 1/2 cup of another GF baking mix. I do not recommend bean flours or coconut flour as subs though because they act very differently.

*If you want to add 2 eggs to this recipe then got for it... it may make the cake just about the same moisture, and have it be less crumbly. I would add another 1/4 cup of tapioca flour as well if you add eggs.

*I bet you could use frozen grated zucchini in this recipe, but I would just be careful of the moisture levels... you may need to pat the defrosted grated zucchini dry just a bit.

Well friends, that is what I got for today. I hope you are enjoying summer and finding lots of fresh food in your kitchen (or back yard!).

Much love to you!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Zucchini Biscuits (vegan)

Zucchini in a baked treat. Is there any other way?! I mean I do love my veggies, sauteed and stir fried, but zucchini bread or biscuits is the way to go. Seriously... I will have lots of zucchini from my garden in the next few weeks and I am sure I will have to get creative in what to do with it. A reader mentioned making some zucchini lasagna... which sounds amazing and may be in my future if I can figure what I want to do without the cheese... but I digress.

Zucchini. It seems the best place for zucchini is in a baked, not-to-sweet, treat!

I mentioned in my last post about my garden and my first pick of zucchini. I was thinking about making pancakes. Or bread. Or muffins. But then I got to thinking about cookies, scones and then biscuits. And then I came up with a baby friendly biscuit that could almost be a cookie. So, maybe if you are a little more of an American than British chap you should call these Zucchini Cookies... but for the sake of these tidy little biscuit-looking cookies. I decided to call them biscuits! :)

And, this recipe is not as much for "summer" as it is for "baby-food". You see.... my nine month old has decided that he likes it very much to eat what I eat and wants to try everything I put in my mouth. He sticks out those hands and screams mummm telling me, "Mom, get me some of that to munch on!" So... the past few weeks we have been transitioning from mush food to pincher-picker-upper food that he can do himself. Which in my opinion is MUCH harder than the first step of giving him pureed veggies and fruits. So, yeah, where was I... I have a garden blooming, and I have my baby growing up before my eyes. This recipe is to commemorate both of these occasions with the baking of zucchini biscuits.

Baby friendly and season's best zucchini pickin'.
Zucchini Biscuit Recipe (vegan)
1 cup of freshly ground millet flour
1/2 cup of freshly ground quinoa flour
1/2 cup of tapioca flour
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1 ts. of baking powder
1/2 ts. of ground cinnamon
1/2 ts. of ground nutmeg
1/2 ts. of ground ginger powder
3-4 TB of maple syrup
1 1/2 cups of freshly grated zucchini
1/3 cup of olive oil 
1-2 TB of water or non-dairy milk (only if needed to help move the batter around)

Mix all of the dry ingredients together first, then mix in the freshly grated zucchini, oil, water and sweetener. Then mix well. If you need a touch more liquid... add a touch more water, milk or maple syrup.... then scoop out 1/4-1/3 sized scoops and make "drop biscuits" on a parchment papered baking sheet. Then sprinkle some more grated zucchini to make it colorful and to let your mouth know what is about to get itself into. It is a veggies serving after all... you don't want to forget that ;)

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until browned to your liking. Then, pull from oven and let cool. They should be a bit crispy on the outside and fluffing moist on the inside. This recipe will make 12 small biscuits or 8 larger ones. Let cool for a few minutes before biting into. Then... enjoy!!!

Some baking recipe notes:
*Skip the warming spice and add some herbs and you can make this biscuit a bit more savory instead of slightly sweet. :)

*You can use any GF baking flour mix for this recipe ( just make sure you use about 2 cups of flour!) I used quinoa and millet because those are two flours my baby likes and eats.

*I was inspired to make this recipe from an old recipe to make zucchini cookies. So if you want to add more sweetener and some chocolate chips. This could be a pretty yummy cookie or scone as well.
Well friends, that is what I have been enjoying all day. And you should have heard and seen my little boy... he just LOVED these and of course let the whole world know as he was munching on them... with lots of hmmmm, ummmms, and ooooos and ahhhs. :) Babies are so wonderful!

Hope you have a great day! And stay cool- it's HOT out there!

Much love, to you!!!


Monday, July 11, 2011

Honey Mustard Summer Squash

This time of year if you are hot, bored in the kitchen or just plain busy, then you are like me and looking for some simple summer dishes. It's easy to get stuck in a kitchen rut... and when you are entertaining a 9 month old all day, some days you wish dinner would make itself.

Although, something great about summer is the fresh local produce. If you have a garden that is starting to give back to you, then you are probably finding ways to get creative with veggies and new flavors. Or maybe you are noticing more ripe options at your local farmer's market and want to find ways to try and eat more veggies while they are fresh and ready for eatin'. Not to mention, when you can buy summer squash 2 or 3 for a dollar... you can really save a bunch on your grocery bill with fresh food. I have a few tips for you as you try and get creative in the kitchen with those summer veggies...
Summer Veggie Quick Fix Tips:
1. Keep it simple. Either steam, saute or chop up raw and toss with the basics of lemon, olive oil and sea salt and pepper and you may just have a fresh dish all on it's own. Don't over-think fresh veggies recipes. They are yummy just as they are.

2. Fresh herbs are a perfect addition to most summer veggies. If you just add some fresh herbs with your steamed or saute veggie I bet you will have a gourmet main or side dish.

3. Use some of your favorite real condiments to add a flavor as well. i.e. this recipe is using mustard and honey. Both condiments are real ingredients and combined to make a fabulous flavor duo that is quite simple.

4. Summer is a great time of year to focus on just eating raw or fresh as well. Or in the least, force yourself to try new veggies (or fruits) you may have seen before but didn't have guts to try. So, find that veggie that seems to be scary to you. Buy it, and then google a simple recipe know how to cook best. Fresh market produce is pretty amazing so if you need motivation to pick something new out...head to your local farmer's market!

5. Lastly, eat the veggies while they are super fresh. They taste best that way. Don't let swiss chard sit in the fridge for a week before you dice it up, saute it and eat it. Seriously, it won't taste as good as it could if you just let it "rot". Local produce that is picked that day has the most flavor and nutrients ever!
That is how this recipe came together in minutes. I had a handful of summer squash from the market (cheap cheap summer veggie), and instead of just a quick saute with olive oil I added a few more flavors to come up with a simple and yummy side dish that may just turn into a main dish if you don't stop eating...
Honey Mustard Summer Squash Recipe
2 medium summer squash (about 3 cups of chopped raw squash) I used a zucchini and a yellow summer squash
1 TB of coconut oil or ghee for sauteing

Saute the raw squash in either coconut oil or ghee for best nutrient absorption. Then when squash is soft add the following ingredients:

1 TB of local honey (maple syrup or agave could sub here for vegans)
1-2 TB of prepared mustard
1 TB of extra virgin olive oil
sprinkle of sea salt
sprinkle of cracked pepper
sprinkle of fresh lemon juice
1-2 TB of fresh chopped parsley

Mix all together with hot sauted squash in the pan and serve when it is a bit cooled. It could be a cooled summer dish if you want to serve chilled from the fridge, or it could be served from the stovetop. Just make sure not to burn your tongue...honey and squash stay hot a while.

It is a simple dish, but has a bunch of flavor and could be devoured by 2 people for sure.... could serve 4-6 as a side dish. If you want to add more flavor in sauteing.... add a little bit of sweet onion and minced garlic while sauteing. Then add the dressing as the same as above.

Well friends, I hope you have a nice summer-week with lots of fresh and colorful food!

Much love to you!


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chocolate Sundae Sauce (refined-sugar-free)

Chocolate sauce. It's simple, doesn't come from a squeeze bottle, and will melt your heart in seconds... yes, it can do that.

This picture was taken in a late night moment of pure decadence. Yes, my husband and I know how to relax with style. We know best how to work hard, give long hours, and share ourselves to the point of exhaustion. Therefore, we decide that rest is a must!

We celebrate this moment with a quiet night of reminiscing, soft looks and bittersweet chocolate. Yes, the perfect dessert to make one's heart give in to the couch and sweatpants.

Enough is enough. You gotta give in. You gotta. Life is too much sometimes.

Turn down the lights. Talk quietly. Light a candle.

Enjoy a sunset. Drink a cup of honey-lemon tea. Share sweet smiles.

Trust me, you will feel better if you do. You can't run a million miles a minute and expect to be ok at the end of the day. You need to find time to rest. You need to find time to reconnect with yourself. Reconnect with your loves.

Don't let the machine run your heart and soul into the ground. You are a living and breathing piece of art. Don't sweat out all that you got and not replenish your basic, health, and breath. Find space. Create space.

You know that if you cannot find time to rest and be yourself that you are just doing too much. Say no. It may seem like that is impossible, but when you do and start to care for your needs that is when you start to make a difference. Being the best of who you are requires you to eat, sleep, rest and breathe too. You know this. I know this. But sometimes it just gets past us...

That is where this chocolate sauce comes into action. You may need some chocolate sauce to help you get to that place of rest and reconnecting. So, hopefully you have the 3 healthy ingredients in your pantry and ready to make over some of those fresh berries and dairy-free ice cream. If, not....then you should make it a point to start stocking your pantry with some cocoa, coconut oil and local honey! :) I'm just saying...

Eating healthy, or eating real doesn't mean you can't have a dessert here and there. I will be the first to tell you this. I think the healthiest people in the world are those that know how to love life, celebrate and have less stress in their life. So chocolate, wine, and good real food may be just what you need to make this stressed out life feel that much sweeter. All things in moderation of course ;)

Chocolate Sundae Sauce Recipe (dairy-free)
1/3 cup of local honey (or maple syrup)
1/3 cup of extra virgin coconut oil (or soy-free Earth Balance)
2 TB of cocoa powder (100% cacao)

Put all 3 ingredients in a sauce pan on low heat on the stovetop. Heat up and whisk till all is liquid and melted together. Then, whisk till it starts to bubble turn off heat and cool just a bit before serving. It will be EXTRA hot so be careful not to burn fingers or tongues. The cooler it gets the thicker it gets too. Pour over fresh fruit, homemade brownies, and vegan coconut ice cream. Pretty much the best stuff in the world.

It's easy. So, get your comfy clothes on, set up a movie or turn down the lights and make a decadent dessert of fresh strawberries and chocolate sauce...and if you really want to doll it up add some sugar-free coconut ice cream and make some GF/DF brownies to add to the bottom of this. Homemade brownies, or store-bought work the same way :)

Hope you find rest and peace today. Even if it is just a few moments at the end of the day...

Much love to you!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hemp Protein Berry Breakfast Shake (vegan)

Hello Friends- It's been a busy few weeks. I hope you are enjoying summer and all of it's benefits. I can't believe that 4th of July has come and gone. For some reason the 4th is always a day I remember...I get all nostalgic and remember the past years events and where we were living and what we were doing. And, what we were eating :) It seems like strawberries, blueberries and cherries are always filling my mind in the summer. I'm infatuated.
The local strawberries have been so red and yummy this year. I went to a friend's farm to pick, plus have bought my fair share at the farmer's market, and even was given a quart from a client's backyard. How sweet! The strawberry season is so fast, and so I love to enjoy while I can, and then freeze as much as I can to enjoy for months to come. Here are a few thoughts to freezing fresh berries and having these lovely sweet treats on hand for months...
1.) I prefer to wash and pick off the green tops to strawberries before freezing. But this means you must make sure they dry really well before you put in the freezer. Some say to freeze on a cookie sheet before putting into a zip lock bag, but I have found (because of lack of freezer space) that if you wash and dry them on the counter for a few hours you can put them in a freezer bag from the counter and then freeze. You may get a few frozen berry clumps in your bag, but usually with a little force they break easily. And frozen berries are usually being made in smoothies, pies and baked goods and it's ok for them to have a few clumps if it happens.

2.) Don't let any ripe berries go to waste in season! If you date the bags of berries when you freeze them you can eat accordingly as well. This also helps with knowing what is freshest in the freezer if you have many bags like me. Plus, measuring out berries in {2 0r 4 cup measurements} may help before freezing if you plan to make pies, sauces, or jams with frozen berries throughout the year. Freeze as many as you can since they are not cheap, and enjoy the perks of fresh/frozen berries in October, or December. :) Some people wonder why I always seem to have berries on hand, and this is why....I have them in my freezer ready to use! Picking and freezing your own berries is the most frugal way.

3.) My favorite way to use these frozen berries is in smoothies. They are frozen so that add to the thickening part of the smoothie and of course color, sweetness and "freshness". My husband likes to make a blueberry protein shake almost every morning, so I try to make sure I have lots of blueberries in the freezer by the end of the summer. I am sure once blueberry picking season is underway in the next month I may be MIA for a while....:) The good news is, you will know where to find me.
4.) If you do not have a way to pick berries locally, I suggest you try and find farmers in your area that may just sell them at a local market. Looking for a no-spray farmer is always best because that saves your body from extra digested chemicals as well. I have a few favorite orchard/farms in west Michigan (if you are local and interested, let me know!)

Living in Michigan has it's perks (best beaches, perfect sunsets and gorgeous weather) and I think having fresh berries to pick is one of the top reasons. Plus, making a berry protein shake for breakfast is a perfect way to start a hot summer day. I use hemp milk and protein often because it is full of good fats (omega 3's and 6's), and it has good flavor, fiber and creaminess. If you are making a protein shake in the mornings, I would definitely suggest to stay away from whey and soy protein. Stick with plant based proteins like hemp, rice, pea... these proteins are cleaner, and will most likely not cause reactions in your body. It is good-nutrition in a cup.
Hemp Berry Breakfast Shake (vegan)
1 cup of vanilla hemp milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1/2 cup of frozen strawberries
1/2 cup of frozen blueberries
1 TB of chia seed meal (or flaxmeal)
1 heaping spoonful of hemp protein powder
1 TB of chrolophyll
a touch of organic apple juice to make it smooth and drinkable

Blend for 1 minute all of the above ingredients in a blender or magic bullet and you will have your morning smoothie ready to go. Add as little or as much apple juice as you like to get the thickness or smoothness you desire for your smoothie. Then viola- breakfast is ready! It is an easy breakfast on the go (out the door) if you have a nifty carry-along cup with straw. Plus, it is a great way to start your day off with fiber and protein. Just make sure you check your teeth in the mirror before your morning may just have a blueberry seed in your teeth :)

Well, friends, that is my way to start the day today. A smoothie, and some moments of quiet. I hope you have a beautiful day.

Next berry to pick and freeze: Cherries!!!! :) hmmm ummm good!