Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Coconut Sugar Cut-Out Cookies

Can you believe it? 6 more days till Christmas. The day always comes so fast and the anticipation is so present you can almost taste it. The to-do list  is hopefully mostly scratched-out and maybe only some last minute wrapping and baking to be done. So, you may want to add this recipe to the list, so please don't hate me for this extra last minute Christmas fun. 
If you haven't found a good gluten-free Christmas cookie recipe yet, I would dare to say this is my favorite this year. Last year I made a Stevia-Sweetened Sugar Cut-Out cookies, but this year I have been enjoying coconut sugar for it's rich pure flavor, low glycemic index and healthy minerals and benefits. 
There is nothing too special about this gluten-free cookie recipe except that you can actually feel "normal" and use your most favorite cookie cutters and roll out this perfect dough like any other. It is also nut-free, gum-free (but sticks together perfectly!) and very simple, which to me is some of the most important requirements after it being gluten-free. I found it so hard to find a nut-free version of cut-outs. And, yes, nuts may be fine with you, but for my son and myself I have really found peace with avoiding them. This recipe makes about 1-2 dozen cookies depending on your cutter shape's sizes, and I will be doubling it next time because it is so fun to make these cookies. 
I did make quite a few gingerbread men cookies with this dough, but as you may tell from the lack of them in the pictures,  my son ate them all. He liked to eat their heads first and thought it was hilarious! What a hoot! And of course he kept calling them "the good guy cookies" I think my next batch will be just a bunch of "good guys" because he loved them so much.
Also...side note... this recipe would be a great recipe for any teething babe or toddler that is eating more solids because it is a cute cookie treat that they can hold with their own hands, it doesn't crumble too badly, and it's so much better for them than eating something processed or full of preservatives or artificial sugars. You could make these cookies year round with different cutters for every holiday or season of the year just for this fun of it and for the kids of course.
Now, I love these cookies without icing, BUT to stick with the Christmas decorating fun you may want to find a simple icing that works for you or your family. I decided to try out a frosting I used on cupcakes earlier this year. I whipped up almost equal amounts of raw honey and soft coconut oil and came up with a simple sweet icing. I added some strawberry juice/puree to some of that base to make a semi-red color, and some chlorophyll to make a slight green color. Some real-food items for decorating could be candied ginger, raisins, craisins, chocolate chips, coconut flakes and other favorite dried fruits or seeds. I put the icing in a pipping bag (or ziplock bag) to control the use and amount. 

Regular powdered sugar icing or cream cheese frostings are usually naturally gluten-free, but I'm a little too health-nerdy to just allow myself to eat too much toxic sugar and dyes just because so I thought I would try my luck at finding something a little different. A little more rustic and unusual.

Some other help/recipes for finding a healthier alternative icing look here:

Now to the cookie cutting! ENJOY!
Coconut Sugar Cut-Out Cookie Recipe
(gluten and nut-free, vegan)

1 cup of freshly ground buckwheat flour
1 1/3 cup of freshly ground GF oat flour
2/3 cup of white rice flour
*or use 3 cups of your favorite GF flour blend*
1 TB of chia seed meal
1 TB of flax seed meal
2/3 cup of coconut sugar
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1/2 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of baking powder
8 TB of room temperature soft organic coconut oil
6 TB of homemade unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 ts. of apple cider vinegar
1 TB of pure vanilla
3 TB of non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious coconut milk)

*I grind my own flour, so I used Bob's Red Mill gluten-free rolled oats and ground the oats in a high powered blender (magic bullet, vitamix, ect) I did the same thing with raw buckwheat groats to get the buckwheat flour. The freshly ground flour always makes the best baking flour for texture and taste. I usually measure just a bit less of the oats or groats that I need and grind them to make the full amount of flour I need. If I make too much you can always use it in another recipe soon. 

UPDATE 12/2014: I made this recipe recently and subbed out the buckwheat flour with NAMASTE'S GF flour blend and also subbed out the flax and chia seeds. It can be made with subbing the flour and forgetting the seeds to get the same results as the posted recipe. 

In a large mixing bowl, mix together your dry ingredients first...then add the oil, applesauce and vanilla and milk. Mix well with a fork or to be honest, your hands and fingers do the job best. Knead the lump of cookie dough in your hands for a few minutes until you get a perfectly mixed ball of cookie dough. If your dough is a touch sticky, then sprinkle some more rice flour to stiffen it right up, or if you prefer, stick the dough in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to stiffen up and ready for rolling out.

Roll out the ball of dough on a floured parchment paper. Try and keep the thickness around 1/2 inch and roll out as evenly as possible. Then start cutting with your favorite shapes. Put the cookies in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15-18 minutes. I like my cookies a bit crispier, so I stay around 18 minutes baking time, but if you want softer cookies then stay around 15 minutes.  This recipe should make about 2 dozen cookies but really depends on the size of your cutters and how big and small you want your cookies to be.
These are so fun to make with kids, even my 2-year old son had fun "rolling" out the dough and cutting up some cookies. Yes, it made a mess and we had to re-do many of the cookies, but he learned so much and it was fun to see him try and create something of his own. And, with not much to do outside these days with no snow and weird yucky weather.... baking fun is the most excitement we have going on around here these days!
I loved sprinkling some raw coconut flakes. It kinda felt like it was snowing. Even if it was just for a magical second. I miss snow. Is it weird I am saying this? :)

I have my fingers crossed for a white Christmas...I am hoping and waiting...I live in Michigan for goodness sakes! It seems like as long as I can remember lots of snow starting in early November. Not last year or this year, it has just been cold, rainy, wet and dreary. But I haven't lost hope could still happen, right?! And, I may just listen to "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" again....:)
Hmmm, but in the meantime, finishing up shopping, wrapping, baking and resting in between will keep us busy and also in anticipation for the Christmas and new year to come! 

Much love to you as always! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Chocolate Thumbprint Sunflower Seed Butter Shortbread Cookies (vegan, gluten and nut-free)

Well if you haven't noticed, there hasn't been a lot of recipe posting here in the last two months. I have been baking of another kind. Instead of baking cookies, breads and biscuits in my oven, I have been working hard on another "bun in my oven" and expecting another baby around early May. Hence my absence. I put myself on a little blog sabbatical and have been taking one day at a time to get through those rough, rough early weeks of pregnancy. And to be honest, the forced rest has been good for me.

And making a baby is hard work, I tell you!
But after getting myself past the first trimester and seeing all of the holiday food festivities from Thanksgiving and now stories and pictures of Christmas goodies and treats I had to get my hands busy baking again. Tis' the season!
So these sweet, salty and simple treats are no great feat in the kitchen. They are just a simple knock-off of the famous peanut butter and chocolate kiss cookies that everyone adores and curses at the same time because of how addicting they are. I must say I don't know why it has taken me almost 6 years of eating gluten-free and more recently nut-free to make these amazing cookies in a new way. Melt-in-your-mouth DELICIOUS!
To me, when these shortbread's are baking in the oven it smells like a perfect holiday baking extravaganza. Lots of weakening of the will power with these babies. But, they are healthier and also delicious after all, so possibly worth the try of one or two (maybe three or four if you're nice). I hope you are looking forward to and not dreading baking this holiday. Try something new and start simple.
Chocolate Thumbrint Sunflower Seed Butter 
Shortbread Cookie Recipe 
(gluten-free, vegan and nut-free)
1 cup of freshly ground gluten-free oat flour*
1/2 cup of white rice flour
3/4 cup of freshly ground buckwheat flour*
1/2 cup of organic coconut sugar (I use Madhava)
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1 TB of pure vanilla
2-3 TB of non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious Coconut)
3/4 cup of softened organic coconut oil
1/2 cup of sunflower seed butter (I used Once Again Sunflower Seed Butter, but you could used regular SunButter brand or any other favorite nut butter if you prefer)

1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips (about 4 ounces)
1-2 TB of coconut oil for thinning

*I grind my own flour, so I used Bob's Red Mill gluten-free rolled oats and ground the oats in a high powered blender (magic bullet, vitamix, ect) I did the same thing with raw buckwheat groats to get the buckwheat flour. The freshly ground flour always makes the best baking flour for texture and taste. I usually measure just a bit less of the oats or groats that I need and grind them to make the full amount of flour I need. If I make too much you can always use it in another recipe soon. 

In a large mixing bowl, mix together your dry ingredients first...then add the oil, butter and vanilla and milk. Mix well with a fork or to be honest, your hands and fingers do the job best. Knead the lump of cookie dough in your hands for a few minutes until you get a perfectly mixed ball of cookie dough. Roll out a TB-sized ball of dough and place the dough balls on a cookie sheet. Then use a teaspoon or your thumb and press firmly in the middle of the cookie on the sheet before baking. Put the cookies in a preheated 350 degree oven for 12-14 minutes. This recipe should make about 3 dozen cookies.

When the cookies are pulled from the oven if the print in the middle of the cookie has lost it's hole while baking, then use a small spoon again right after pulled from the oven to make the hole more pronounced. You must do this right away while still soft and you must be VERY careful because they cookies are very fragile until completely cool.  

When the cookies are completely cool, you can melt 1/2 cup of chocolate chips (dairy-free) with a TB or so of coconut oil in the microwave for 30 seconds. After the quick nuke, stir very quickly with a small metal spoon. Then with a clean small teaspoon, pour in the hot chocolate into the center of the cookies. Let cool and firm up, you can do this quickly by adding your cookie sheet to the fridge or freezer. 

If you prefer, you can also make these cookies like the traditional peanut butter cookie with the criss-cross fork mark and then just dip the cooled cookie in hot chocolate as well. I decided to do one batch of those to see how I liked the outcome. I like both in their own way, but the thumbprints are much "cleaner" cookies and can be easily packed and shared for holiday parties as well. 
But don't these look yummy as well.
Perfect flavor combo, and so simple too!
I hope this season finds you full. 

Full of thanks, joy and anticipation. 

Here are a few of my other favorite Christmas cookie recipes 
that I will be making once AGAIN this year!!!

ENJOY and happy baking!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Creamy Pumpkin Apple Soup

Hello, perfectly fall-lovin' soup. This is probably a soup recipe that you could google and find many versions of. I whipped these ingredients together the other day because I was craving something warm and comforting as the cool autumn breeze has been blowing hard in my neck of the woods. If you ask me, a warm comforting soup simmering on the stove is one of the best way to enjoy the new found fall chill. And since it has also been raining here for the past 36 hours straight, I'd say soup is the most perfect meal any and all times of the day.
And when you combine fall pumpkins and apples. Magic happens. In a romantic kind of way. And, because I love you, I wanted to let you know that you can't miss out on this delicious and nutritious meal this fall.
Like I said, when you roast a few pie pumpkins you will have lots of puree for fall goodies. Yes, I am one of those people that loves pumpkin so don't mind over doing it this time of year. But even if you are not a pumpkin person, I bet this simple creamy fall and comforting soup will have you starting to reconsider this lovely orange bulb. It can be for more than just for pie and donuts. In fact, it's hints in savory dishes really bring out it's rich flavor qualities. And don't forget that roasting pumpkin also involves a nice batch of crunchy and addicting pumpkin seeds. Seriously. addicting.
So, settle in for a rainy fall day and make a simple batch of this delicious soup to keep you warm and snug.
Creamy Pumpkin Apple Soup Recipe
{gluten, dairy, soy, nut, and sugar-free, vegan}
1 TB of olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 cup of diced celery
3-4 medium apples, skinned, cored and diced
1 ts. of sea salt
dash- 1/2 ts. of cracked black pepper
4 cups of pumpkin puree
1/2 cup of finely chopped fresh sage
1 TB of fresh rosemary chopped
1 TB of fresh thyme leaves, chopped
dash of celery seed
dash of ground cinnamon
3 cups of vegetable broth or stock
1 cup/can of full-fat coconut milk

In a large 5 quart pot, saute the chopped onion, garlic, celery and apples in the olive oil. Add in the salt and pepper to help the vegetables to sweat. Then after 5 minutes of saute, add in the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil, and then turn down heat to a simmer. The apples may be floating a bit, but just stir in and try and keep the soup mixed well and on a constant simmer for 30 minutes. 

Then turn off the heat and let cool down. You can eat the soup like this, as a bit more "chunky" or I prefer to make it super creamy and blend it in batches in my high powered blender when it has cooled down by 50%. I wait for it to cool don to blend because I want to be careful to not get burned by the boiling liquid. Or if you own an immersion stick blender, it would work perfectly to blend this soup right in the pot. Otherwise, it took me 2-3 batched of the soup in the blender to blend it up. I then keep it warm on the stove until I want to serve. 

Serve with a drizzle of herb oil or sprinkle of roasted pumpkin seeds. Or topping with some fresh chopped parsley or thyme works too for a little extra green and flavor. This recipe will serve 6-8 people in one sitting. But it is easily doubled to make more for a larger crowd or for freezing or sharing too. 
I use a mix of tart and sweet apples to bring out an applesauce affect in the soup. The almost bitter sweet pumpkin paired with a fall mix of apples is a perfect blend for your taste buds to full enjoy and feel satisfied. Delicious fall in a bowl. Yum.

Even if you are not enjoying this lovely soup, I hope you find ways to stay warm and cozy today!

Much love to you as always!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pumpkin Date Donuts

Fall. Falling leaves. Hot cider and hayrides. Don't forget some pie and donuts too...Yes, donuts. Lovely pumpkin donuts baked in the luxury of your own kitchen, from scratch with the greatest fall ingredients imaginable. That is the magic of fall.
I made these donuts more than a few times over the last week. They are a perfect toddler snack and they have lots of fiber and nutrients in them as well. Plus, with no refined sugars I can give these sweet treats to my son with no guilt or bad thoughts filling my head.
Pumpkin is one of my most favorite foods, and when you get into October you just can stop me from having pumpkins on my mind and lots of fresh puree in my fridge. And all of the extra pumpkins are finding space on my kitchen floor and front step because they last so long and will be ready for eating when November or December roll around.

These pumpkin date donuts will have your mouth watering before the first bite. And after moist and chewy!

Fresh pumpkin has loads of iron, vitamin C and E, and many antioxidants to boost your immune system. There are vitamins, minerals and fiber all which the body needs to function well and thrive during the fall season and climate changes. Like I even need all those benefits to tempt me into eating more. I mostly just love the scents and smells of pumpkin in the kitchen this time of year. And then to remember all of the good things it also offers my body, those are just extra perks to enjoy.
Pumpkin Date Donut Recipe
{gluten, dairy, soy, nut and refined-sugars free}
1 cup of non-dairy milk (coconut or hemp work best!)
1 cup of chopped pitted dates

1 cup of Bob Red Mill's GF all-purpose flour blend (or other favorite GF flour blend)
1/2 cup of organic coconut flour
1 1/2 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of sea salt
2 ts. of pumpkin pie spice blend
1 ts. of ground ginger
2 TB of flax meal mixed with 4 TB of water (or 2 farm fresh eggs)
2 TB of melted extra virgin coconut oil
2-3 TB of pure maple syrup
1 cup of fresh pumpkin puree
1 TB of lemon juice

First, soak the chopped pitted dates in the non-dairy milk for at least 4-8 hours. If you don't have that time you can warm them on the stove top for 10-15 minutes until the milk is warm. Do not boil! And then when warm you can blend just like if you had soaked them. Blend the soaked dates and milk in a magic bullet or high powered blender and then add the rest of the donut ingredients. Make sure to whisk in the coconut oil well so that there are no clumps and if you choose to make the donuts vegan then make sure you make your flax-eggs and let them sit for just a few minutes before adding to the batter. Let the whole batter sit together for a few minutes and then pour the batter into a large gallon zip lock bag. Take a scissors and cut one of the bottom corners to squeeze through the batter into a grease donut baking pan. You do not need to use the zip lock bag method if you want to spoon out the batter into the donut pan. I have just found that the process is less messy and quicker if you squeeze out the batter into the pan. 

Bake the donuts in a preheated 350 degree oven for 22-25 minutes depending on your oven. Bake until they are golden brown and stiff. Pull from oven and let cool for 5 minutes and then drizzle some maple cinnamon glaze if you want a soft and gooey addition to the donuts. Or of course you can dunk the donuts in regular sugar mixed with cinnamon as well. Whatever floats your boat!

Cinnamon Maple Glaze
2-3 TB of pure maple syrup
1-2 teaspoons of tapioca flour
1/2 ts. of ground cinnamon

The glaze is kinda an estimate and what I mixed up together to make the syrup stick to the hot donuts. This recipe will make 12 medium large donuts or 24 small tiny donuts. I use a Wilton's donut baking sheet that has 6 donut shapes to the pan so I either use two pans for this recipe or bake the 1 pan twice to use up all of the batter. 

It may seem a tad complicated if this is your first try at baking donuts, but they are just as easy as making muffins, tea bread or even pancakes. These treats are super moist, chewy and perfectly delicious. I hope you try out this recipe especially if you are trying to avoid sugar this fall season. It will leave you pleasantly surprised, I promise!

Much love as always!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Maple Pumpkin Pie

Well, hello darling! Don't worry I haven't forgotten you or lost contact with my blog. To be honest, my oven broke a few weeks ago and it took a week to replace and than a week to catch up on kitchen life. And then on top of all that, it has been sunny, gorgeous and so colorful this past week in Michigan. You can just smell the pumpkin deliciousness in the air and the crisp and crunchy apples have been keeping us busy too. I have been thinking about making a few pumpkin treats and I broke-in the new oven with baking off some fresh pumpkins to make some fresh pumpkin puree (a quick instruction below).
And when you bake a whole fresh pumpkin you jumpstart the fall baking inspiration juices as well. You have a whole pumpkin after all, and the smells of fall filling the air will leave you feeling a little weak in the knees. So some things in the recipe forecast... pumpkin donuts, pumpkin cinnamon raisin bread, and maybe a new fall apple cake...looking forward to experimenting and trying out a few ideas...
But for today I made a fresh pumpkin pie- one of my husband's favorite desserts. This on is only sweetened with maple syrup and vanilla goodness. Surprising, yes. But not really once you try it. The maple flavor is a perfect pair to the pumpkin and the not oh-too sweet wonderfulness to a piece of pie will have you thinking you are eating a nice serving of veggies too. So why not? Indulge in some thick, creamy and delectably sweet pumpkin pie.
Minus the dairy, the refined sugars and gluten of course. It is a bit different than my Grandma's thanksgiving pie. Or any canned pumpkin, canned condensed milk kind-of-pie for that matter. It is fresh tasting, lots of flavor, and did I mention you feel like you may be indulging in vegetables too much. Maybe, just too much.
Yes, it may be a little too soon for a Thanksgiving treat, but as I turned the calendar this morning to be greeted by the lovely month of October, I feel no remorse or shame in breaking out the fall favorites early this year. What else is a girl to do?
Fresh Maple Pumpkin Pie Recipe
{gluten, dairy, soy, nut and refined-sugar-free}

1/2 cup of freshly ground buckwheat flour (grind buckwheat groats in a food processor or high powered blender to come up with a powdery flour mixture)
1 cup of Bob's Red Mill GF all-purpose flour blend (or a favorite GF flour mix or baking flour works)
2 TB of pure maple syrup
2 TB of apple cider vinegar
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1/3 cup of softened coconut oil

Mix the flours and salt together and then drizzle in the vinegar and maple syrup. Lastly add the oil and use a spoon or your hands to make a thick and sticky pie dough. Then roll in a ball and plop in a 9 inch pie pan. Use a 1 cup measuring cup bottom to spread evening through out the pan and basically you are using your hands to form a perfectly even pie crust. Make the edges nice with your finger or with a fork and then put in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Take out immediately and let cool completely before adding the pumpkin filling for baking round two.

If you have a favorite pie crust, you can use that in place of my above recipe. I really like the above combo because it makes a nice crust that sticks together and still seems a bit flaky and crispy too. 

pumpkin filling:
2 cups of fresh pumpkin puree
1 cup of coconut milk beverage (I used So Delicious) (or canned coconut milk works too)
1 TB of pure vanilla
2/3 cup of pure maple syrup
1/4 cup of melted coconut oil
2 fresh farm eggs (or chia/flax egg replacement)
1 TB of pumpkin pie spice mix
1 ts. of ground ginger
1/4 cup of tapioca flour
1/3 cup of freshly ground buckwheat flour
2 ts. of baking powder
1/2 ts. of sea salt

If you are curious on how to get some fresh pumpkin puree, google it :) or it is pretty simple by slicing in quarters, scooping out seeds (save for roasting and eating), and then baking in the oven for 1-2 hours depending on size. Once the pumpkin is soft to slice with a butter knife, pull from the oven and let cool.  Use a spoon to scoop out the soft pumpkin into a blender or food processor and then blend until it is a thick and creamy puree. You may need to add water to the blender to get the pumpkin to start blending. I usually end up adding close to 1/2 cup of water to the pumpkin while blending to get a nice puree. 

Then in a large bowl, add the 2 cups of pumpkin along with all of the other wet ingredients, including the eggs. 

NOTE: You can use chia-eggs as a sub for the real eggs, but the pie will turn out much more gel-like and gooey, so make sure you are aware of that beforehand. 

Then whisk in quickly the melted coconut oil so that is does not get cold and clumpy. Then add in the dry ingredients and whip up well again. Let sit for 10-15 minutes for the wet and cold ingredients to gel together and it should look like a nice thick and creamy pudding mix. Then pour the pumpkin filling into the prepared and cooled pie crust. 

Then gently place the pie into a preheated 350 degree oven for 60-80 minutes depending on your oven and elevation. What you are looking for is a few cracks on the pie top and also for there to be no liquid movement in the center of the pie. You should shake the pie gently and see if there is any giggle. If there is you need to keep baking till there isn't. 

When you are done baking, let cool on the counter for 1 hour and then put in the fridge uncovered for another few hours or overnight for best results. Cover with a top or plastic wrap after a few hours to keep the pie moist. Serve chilled, or with a dollup of fresh coconut whipped topping or other favorite whipped topping. 
I usually like mine cold and with no topping. It is the best way to taste the pumpkin and maple goodness. Here is slice one that I shared with my toddler, so I may need to share another with my hubby tonight.

The pie will serve 8 even slices and will stay best in the fridge up to 3 days.

I hope this pie gets you into the fall spirit if you haven't yet.
It's never too early for pumpkin pie, if you ask me.

Much love as always!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Banana Oat Flax Muffins

This is one of those recipes that is a staple in my kitchen. If there was one thing I learned quickly when I first went gluten-free, it was to not give up on baking from scratch. Even if this meant I had to buy a bunch of new flours to work with and many other tricks to learn along the way. And, after almost 6 years of eating this way I still value a home baked gluten-free goodie more than any mix on the market. If you make it right, it cannot be beat. And you may just surprise yourself at being an amazing baker along the way. 
And when you find a recipe that you and your family love, it becomes the stand-in. The classic fall-back-on. It will be the one you make when you need a last minute treat for that trip, party or packed picnic or lunch sack. This recipe is that for me. It involves ingredients that I always have in my kitchen and full of protein, nutrition and whole grains of course. Yes, I may sometimes show-off my baking skills with cupcakes, cakes or whatever other crazy idea comes in my head....but at the end of the day I am just like you...trying to make healthy gluten-free baked alternatives for my family. 
Some thoughts or advice I have for those starting on the gluten-free baking journey...

1. Don't give up if you have a baking flop! Even after 1, 2, or more than 3 times. Try, try again!

2. Be brave. Don't be afraid to buy, try and eat new ingredients. You may just be surprised with what you find.

3. Start simple...start with a recipe you know you and your family will like...and keep those favorite recipes close by for further use.

4. Bake lots and then freeze and store the extras for last minute breakfasts and in the meantime saving time and money as well!
Banana Oat Flax Muffin Recipe
(gluten, dairy, egg, soy, nut and sugar-free)

1 1/4 cup of freshly ground buckwheat flour ( 1 cup of groats ground)
1 cup of freshly ground gluten-free oat flour ( 1 cup of oats ground)
1/2 cup of gluten-free rolled oats
1/3 cup of flax meal (ground flax seeds)
1 1/2 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1 ts. of ground cinnamon
dash-1/2 ts. of ground nutmeg, cloves and ginger
1 heaping cup of mashed ripened bananas (about 3 large ripe bananas)
1/4 cup of apple butter (or homemade apple sauce)
1/2 cup of baking oil (soft coconut or light olive oil)
1/3 cup of non-dairy milk (So Delicious coconut milk is my favorite)
juice from 1 lemon (about 2 TB's of juice)
1/3- 1/2 cup of local honey, maple syrup or agave nectar
optional additions: handful of raisins, craisins, blueberries, chocolate chips, or any other favorites.

First, grind your buckwheat groats and gluten-free rolled oats separately in a food processor or high powered blender. Make just over 1 cup of flours of each and then pour into a large mixing bowl. Then add in the rest of the dry ingredients and whisk well together. Then add the wet ingredients and mix well and let the batter sit for 5 minutes to soak up the moisture. Then use a 1/3 cup measuring cup and pour the batter into muffin tins or a greased muffin pan. This recipe will make 9 large muffins, or 12 medium to small muffins.

I kept this recipe simple today and just topped the unbaked muffins with a sprinkle of gluten-free rolled oats for baking. Then bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-22 minutes, until golden brown and no gooey middles.

This muffin is perfectly moist, fluffy, chewy and hearty as well. It is a perfect healthy whole grain gluten-free treat made without gums, starches, or any extras. It is very basic and simple and it will surprise you on how great it is every time it pops from the oven. I have made this recipe over a dozen times and I am always impressed with it's simplicity and great results. I thought it was about time I shared one of my kitchen's favorites with yours! ENJOY!

Hope you are well and getting into the swing of the new fall season.

Much love and light to you today!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Garden Fresh Lentil Chili

I'll be honest. I'm not a big fan of the month of September. If it wasn't for my husband's birthday landing in this month I would boycott the 30 days all together. But alas, I'm just being childish and need to get my act together. September is here whether I fight it or not!

So here we are. Going into the 2nd week of September and I am trying to be brave and make it through to October. I have been asking myself why I dislike this month for a few years now, and I think I figured out maybe a few reasons this past week. 

One reason being that it is a month of starting back at school, routines, and the "normal" week. I love and savor the summer weeks of no where to be and yet plenty of places to explore. {Yes, I still live within the school-world-schedule because of my husband's job and love a summer holiday.} 

So when September shows her face I am usually willing to ignore it for a few days and then have to except it as real. Yes, September usually is a month of beginnings as well, and that is definitely something to celebrate, so I guess there is good and excitement amidst the flurry. But there is definitely a call for bravery in the discovery in how to live in that tension of the old and the new.
This month also reveals other frustrating visual tensions. Like the tension between hot summer weather and the cooler fall tempts. It has been raining on and off here the past few days and the cool brisk fall air has arrived (for a few days at least!). It seems as if summer is having her last fight and eventually gives into the cool fall breeze making itself known. I am looking forward to the cool tempts. Actually praying and dreaming for them, but the on and off hot switch leaves me a bit crazy. I rather pull of the band-aid with a rip and have us fully into cool and colorful October already!

I guess I'm discovering that I am the kind of person that doesn't do well with tension. For better or worse, this is just the kind of person I am. The healing journey will bring you to many places in the road where you start to learn more and more about yourself. More of what you can handle and more of how you need to push yourself to be something more (or less) depending on the truth you are finding in yourself. You have to be willing to live in the tension of letting go of the old and embracing the new.

This is a part of this gluten-free journey as well. Many of us have bad days with our health, diet or gluten. It's how we are wired. We are sensitive inside and out and this will show us new experiences and we have to learn how to be brave, cope and learn from the old and the new. We have to learn how to live in the tension of our gluten-free being in a gluten-filled world. We have to try and be flexible when we feel the need to live in a rigid world most of the time. Don't let bitterness, pain and frustration keep you stuck in the old. Embrace, explore and strive to discover the new. You might just find that the new can be better than you ever imagined. 

My hope for you is that you find yourself on the healing journey working through the tensions. So that you can live, celebrate and thrive actually living in the tension.  Not wishing for the life before or the life ahead. That you live fully present and live discovering more about yourself in this great amazing world.  
And that is where this lovely vegetable chili becomes a part of my September wailings. It represents the bounty still coming from my garden's womb and also the need to cook a pot of warming and inviting chili for comfort. It is a representation of hope for the fall, and a way to cope with the endings and beginnings of this time of year. 

Also, almost all of the veggies in this chili are from my own backyard and was a great use of the tons of green bell peppers I have in every corner of my kitchen counter. Which is something I needed to embrace and celebrate as well!
Garden Fresh Lentil Chili Recipe
(gluten, dairy, nut, and meat-free {vegan})
2-3 TB of olive or coconut oil for sauteing
1 large sweet yellow onion diced
1 ts. of grated fresh ginger
3-4 large garlic cloves, minced or grated
1 large cup of chopped celery (3 stalks)
1 medium-large chopped zucchini or summer squash
3 large bell peppers (or 6 small sweet peppers)
1 large cup of chopped carrots (3-4 carrots)
6 cups of roasted fresh tomatoes and juices (8-10 medium tomatoes)
2 medium roasted ancho or pablano peppers
4 cups of vegetable stock or broth
4 cups of pure water
2 cups of soaked and rinsed dry green lentils
2 cups of cooked chili bean mix  (black, kidney and pinto) 
or use 1 can of black beans and another can of bean of choice
handful of fresh chopped cilantro (or 1 TB of dried)
2 TB of chili powder
1 TB of ground cumin
1 ts. of ground cinnamon
sea salt and black pepper to taste

First, roast 8-10 medium to large tomatoes and 2 ancho peppers in the oven on 400 degrees or under a broiler for 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes and peppers skins shrink down or are a bit charred. Cool off and remove skins from the tomatoes and put the tomatoes in a blender if you prefer a smoother sauce. Then chop the peppers with or without the seeds to add the the chili. If you like spicier, keep the seeds in. Hold on the side until you are ready to mix together.

In a large 8.5-12 quart pot, saute the onion, garlic, ginger and celery in the oil for 5 minutes or until soft. Then add the peppers, zucchini and carrots and cook for another few minutes until color changes a bit. Then add the tomatoes (puree or roughly chopped) and the anchos. Stir well and then add the rinsed lentils, beans, broth and water. Stir well again and then add the rest of the seasoning ingredients. 

Cook on medium to high heat until a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer and let cook for 50-60 minutes until the lentils are soft but not too mushy and the sauce is cooked and blended well together. 

Serve warm. Some options to serve up a nice bowl of this chili are over a bed of cooked quinoa or brown rice. Top with chopped avocado and fresh cilantro or herbs. Or if you prefer extras like organic corn chips, vegan sour cream or cheese those go well with this too. My favorites are cold avocado and fresh herbs. Also a fresh squeeze of some lime or lemon juice is always a nice last touch as well!

Some other additional ingredients that I did not have on hand or in my garden would be to add 1 cob of organic sweet corn kernels. Or sub the zucchini for 1-2 cups of small diced pieces of a winter squash like butternut. I will add that next time when I buy some at the market. Otherwise the zucchini or summer squash work perfect too.

I hope you enjoy this hearty bowl of delisiousness and find comfort, peace and hope for the journey today!

Much love as always!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Date Sweetened Zucchini Fudge Cake

Yes, you read that right....zucchini fudge cake. Sweetened not with sugar, but with dates to boot!

I was surprised to pick yet another zucchini from the garden yesterday. It was gorgeous as ever and it looks like we will be getting another few before you know it. I guess the cooler tempts the past few weeks have kept the plant alive instead of drying up. I am surprised it's still giving us zucchini. I think we must have gotten over a dozen from this one plant alone. It must be getting tired. And to be honest, I'm looking forward to fall and harder shelled squash like buttercup, butternut and pumpkins, oh my! But, let's not get ahead of ourselves, and may we savor one of the last few zucchini and a long 4 day weekend with CAKE!
But, I do love getting a new zucchini. I get all excited when I see it starting to grow on the plant's base. I just can't wait to use it! Either in a dinner dish or yes a lovely baked good. I have been hoping to make another great zucchini chocolate cake this year, and what better way to finish up some summer squash with a chocolate cake. I was excited to discover that zucchini goes so well with dates and together they make the cake moist, chewy and stick together perfectly. I added a few more tablespoons of maple syrup to sweeten it a touch more, but you do not have to if you are trying to stick to just fruits for sweets.
Date Sweetened Zucchini Fudge Cake Recipe
(gluten, dairy, egg, nut and refined sugar-free)
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup of millet flour
1/2 cup of tapioca flour
1 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of sea salt
1/2 ts. of ground cinnamon
2 Tb of ground flax meal
1 heaping cup of pitted dates
1 cup of boiling water
2-3 ounces of dark chocolate bar (72% cacao or higher)
1 1/2 cup of freshly grated zucchini
3 TB of softened coconut oil (or light olive oil)
1 ts. of pure vanilla

3 TB of pure maple syrup (or honey, or agave)
1/4 cup of allergen-free chocolate chips sprinkled on top

First of all, boil 1 cup of water to pour over a heaping cup of chopped pitted dates. Let the dates, boiling water and the broken dark chocolate bar soak for at least 10 minutes, or you can until it is cooled. Then pour the date, water chocolate mixture into a magic bullet or high powered blender and whip up until creamy and thick. This mixture should look almost like a chocolate pudding mixture.

Then, blend the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the wet and the date mixture. Mix well and pour into a oiled 9x9 Pyrex pan for a thick and chewy cake. It would also work to pour into a 9x13 pan to be a thinner cake, or more like brownies. If you like, sprinkle some allergen-free chocolate chips on top of cake before baking.

Bake the cake in a 9x9 pan for 50-55 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven, or the 9x13 pan for 40-45 minutes. Make sure to bake until the middle it baked and doesn't come up gooey with a tooth pic. 

Let cool for 30 minutes before cutting and serving. This cake will serve between 9-12 people. Serve just is, or with your favorite vegan ice cream. But to be honest, it is pretty wonderful on it's own. It is a perfect treat for an end of summer celebration. ENJOY!
Well friends, I hope you have some relaxing Labor Day weekend plans. I am excited to spend time with my family and soak up every last bit of summer before schedules, routines and cooler air set in.

Here is a link to some of my other favorite Labor Day weekend recipe ideas. 

Much love as always to you and yours!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Garden Fresh Sesame Noodles

I'm finally back with a great recipe for this time of year... I have made this dish half a dozen times in the last month and it is because it is so easy and fresh and a great use for all the fresh veggies you are gathering from your backyard garden or farmer's markets. Besides this dish being quick, it has become one of my husband's favorites and a sneaky way to get the whole family to eat a nice variety of veggies.
In the late summer, it is nice to have a go-to dish that you can gather most of the ingredients in the back yard or from a local garden stand. Last week I was running around most of the day making stops at stores and even a quick trip to a park for my son to let out some energy. And, then before you know it is 5:15pm and my husband calls to say he's on his way home from work. Ah! How did it get to 5 already?! And, the question of the hour..."what to make for dinner???" It would have to be something that will not cause more stress to a busy day. And that is exactly where this dish comes into action. It is easy to find a few things to chop up from the garden, throw in some wonderful Asian flair and comforting brown rice pasta and viola, dinner in 30 minutes or less!
I am not the first to say that this year's garden was a bit of a disappointment with all the weird weather conditions, lack of rain and excess bugs. The soil just seems tired this year. But regardless, there still has been a bounty, even if there is not an overflow to freeze or can. In some ways, you can't feel guilty for not canning peaches and tomatoes this year because in many places (especially here in Michigan) the weather circumstances have made it difficult. My beans have been producing a ton in the past few weeks, and I couldn't be happier because they are one of my fav's fresh from the vine. Plus, one of my zucchini plants has been a trooper and has produced well over a dozen zucchini and I am thinking we still may get a few more before the season is done. Peppers are just about to pop, I have been having an occasional one here and there, but by next week I think I will have them coming out my ears. I guess that will be one I can freeze for later soups, chilli's and stews this winter. After talking with other gardening friends, it is easy to see that this season hasn't been the greatest, but we are still finding joys and lessons from the earth this year regardless. And this dish will have you sharing in the harvest with it's vegetable variety. All of the veggies and herbs came from my back yard minus the garlic, onion, ginger and carrots. Next year I think I will try and plant those (maybe not ginger though-wrong climate) just to see if I can make this one pretty much from backyard to table. So good!
Fresh Garden Sesame Noodles Recipe 
(gluten, dairy, nut and sugar-free)

1 package of 16 ounce brown rice pasta (I use Tinyada's spirals fusilli, or spaghetti)

3-4 cloves of finely minced garlic
1 TB of finely minced ginger root
2-3 TB of olive oil
1 TB of toasted sesame oil

1 cup (2-3 stalks) of sliced celery
1 medium zucchini sliced and halved
1 large chopped bell pepper (or 2-3 smaller sweet red peppers)
1 heaping cup of finely sliced green beans
2 cups of shredded carrots
large handful of finely chopped fresh basil
large handful of finely chopped fresh cilantro

2-3 TB of wheat-free low-sodium tamari sauce
1-2 TB of rice vinegar
1 ts. of ume plum vinegar
2 TB sesame seed butter (tahini)
2 TB of natural sunflower seed butter
1/3-1/2 cup of water or vegetable broth to thin the sauce
dash of sea salt
dash of black pepper
dash of cayenne powder

First, if you want to chop all of your washed veggies that might be the best way to assemble. Cut zucchini into chucks or half circles, slice the green beans into almost pea sized pieces and roughly chop the bell pepper. I like my celery chopped big and thick as well, but you can chop it thin and make it unseen as well. Then grate 2-3 large carrots to get about 2 cups of shredded carrots, and finely chop a handful of cilantro and basil as well. Grate or mine your ginger root and garlic and then you are ready to start the cooking. Boil a large pot of water for your 16 ounces of pasta and when the pasta starts cooking you can start sauteing your veggies.

Start with pouring the olive and sesame oil in a large saute pan or wok. Then toss in the garlic and ginger first and let saute for at least 2 minutes alone on medium heat, then throw in the celery and peppers, cook down for a minutes and then add the green beans and zucchini. There is really no order to the veggies- just make sure you try and let a few cook down before adding the rest so that they are not all trying to cook at the same time. Cook for another 2-4 minutes until all of the veggies are getting soft and translucent. Then add the tamari sauce and the rest of the liquid ingredients. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Even though there is a lot of sodium in the tamari and vinegar, you still want a touch of the sea salt to bring out the flavors as well. Then lastly add the carrots and herbs and turn down the heat, Let simmer and bubble and make sure to also watch the bottom of the pan to not have any burning. Stir consistently with a nice large spoon or spatula.

Then about this time the noodles should be al dente (about 10-12 minutes of boiling). Then drain the noodles and pour the al dente noodles into the vegetable sauce. Stir well and let sit off of heat for 5-10 minutes for the noodles to soak up the sauce. Then you are ready to serve hot and fresh. Serve with a topping of more fresh herbs or some fresh grated carrot. It looks more pretty that way, but to be honest it is so yummy you will not care too much how it looks and will be thinking about seconds before you finish firsts. 
This dish has everything you want in a late summer meal. It's creamy, tangy, fresh and crunchy, savory and sweet, and not to mention super budget friendly as well. You can add some added protein with some grilled chicken, salmon or keep it vegan with some tossed garbanzo beans or other favorite legume. It is nut-free and you wouldn't know it. It is perfect for the peanut lover that cannot have nuts anymore. And, really, the bottom line is that it's addicting. 

This recipe will serve between 6-8 people, and can be easily stored for leftovers or even a cold pasta salad. I have done both of those options over the past month and it still tastes great!

I hope you are finding yummy recipes to make with all your garden and farmer's market goodies. 

Much love as always!