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!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

PB&J Blueberry Crisp

Well... if you haven't noticed I have been neglecting the blog. Not really intentionally. It just happened. The past few weeks have been absolutely gorgeous here in Michigan and it just seems foolish to be indoors or not be on a grand adventure. And that is just what we have been up too. Two weeks ago we spent a very long week in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I have only been there a few times, and never been to the tippy top. But this trip we went all the way up to the most northern point, called Copper Harbor. There are no words for the beauty that was all around us. We took day trips all over the region involving beach days, waterfalls, mountain trails, and yes, believe it or not, more berry picking.
There is something very healing and therapeutic about large bodies of water, fresh air and sun. It is like a healing suave that rushes over the body and spirit and brings more oxygen and life to your being. And the many colors of blue that radiant from the sky and waters is just breath taking and magnificent. So to add to your healing journey and eating real fresh foods, make sure you find some time to experience God's beauty in nature and let it bring more life and healing to your soul.
So, I'm sorry to be absent as of late, but can you blame me?!
Schedules, school and fall are right around the corner. And in the meantime finding the last minute summer adventures that await you are a must.
And, this simple crisp was a last minute...vacation assembled... masterpiece. Yes, another crisp...but this one is my favorite because it's super simple and the flavors are a combo I adore. I can't believe it has taken me this long to put these ingredients together. All that fresh clean air got to my head, I a good way!
Like I said, we found a local organic blueberry patch. (If you live in or around Houghton, Michigan then look for signs around Chassel on US-41 It is off of Klingsville Road from 41. This organic berry farm is called, Opa's and is off the beaten road a bit). These berries are grown right from the Keweenaw Bay off of Lake Superior. The blueberries mirror the lake's blue and the size and amount of these berries is really astounding. I have been picking blueberries in lower Michigan for almost 15 years and I have never seen such beauties. Some were as big as cherries and super juicy and sweet too. I was in love... to say the least.
So this crisp was created after a long day of adventures and put together with a few simple ingredients that I had with me while traveling. I do not know why I have not put seed (or nut) butter with berries before like this. It is a perfect pair, just like the classic PB&J. It has a way of melting your heart and making you feel like a child again. Perfect pair for a perfect treat. Now all you need might be a nice glass of your favorite chilled no-dairy milk (mine are either Hemp or Coconut). Or of course there is always some coconut ice cream too...
PB&J Crisp Recipe 
(gluten, dairy, nut and soy-free)

Berry Jam Filling:
3 cups of fresh (or frozen) blueberries
3 TB of tapioca flour
3 TB of coconut palm sugar
1 fresh lemon squeezed (about 3 TB of juice)

Mix all of the above ingredients together well and then pour into a 9x9 square or circle baking Pyrex pan. Make sure the flour and sugar mixed thoroughly and all berries are covered. If you do not have tapioca flour, arrowroot powder or cornstarch work as a great sub. If you want to try a mix of fresh berries like blackberry, raspberry and blueberry that would be a nice mix or even bend it a bit more with additional cherries. The key to get the PB&J taste is to stick with berries though.

Crisp Topping:
2 cups of certified gluten-free oats (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1/3 cup of natural sunflower seed butter (or your favorite nut butter works too)
1/3 cup of spiced apple butter (or add 1 ts. of apple pie spice to plain apple butter)
1/3 cup of coconut palm sugar
2 TB of light olive oil
dash- 1/2 ts. of sea salt

Mix the above ingredients together in a separate bowl, then sprinkle with a fork or your fingers over the blueberries in the 9x9 pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes. Basically until it smells heavenly and you see the blueberries bubbling over the oats. Pull from the oven and let cool for a few minutes and serve warm.  Tastes best warmed, but you could also add some vegan ice cream or a glass of milk. And make sure you save some leftover for breakfast :)
I hope you enjoy and find yourself in some late summer adventures. When we returned home we found our garden overgrown and ready for a lot of harvesting. I will share some of my garden love and creations in my next much to return too when you get lost in summer fun.

Much love as always!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fresh Blueberry and Tomato Salsa

So, this is what happens when you have pounds of blueberries laying around and a fresh and beautiful batch of tomatoes straight from the garden. I made this the other day with hopes that they might compliment each other and I'm not super sure it does if you have more tart rather than sweet berries. But, you will have to make it soon and let me know what you think. It was also fun to make this salsa pretty much from all the ingredients in my backyard. I kinda feel like I could rough-it on my own now...well at least I could  if I wanted to just eat salsa in and on every thing.
This salsa is made with fresh tomatoes from my garden, but if that is not accessible for you you can use a 28 ounce or quart-sized jar of canned tomatoes as well. The fresh tomatoes give this salsa a strong fresh and vibrant flavor. So perfect for this time of summer when all you want to do is eat fresh and cool foods. This salsa is perfect for dipping yes, but also for topping on quinoa, millet or in wraps or other summer fav salads and such.
Can you see the blueberry specks? Well, they are there! They are not overpowering and do not turn the salsa completely blue, but it is a hidden and fresh addition to the perfect summer salsa treat.

I must warn you though... you may have 'salsa breath' after eating this fresh and amazing treat. It sneaks up on you... and it just happens. It is just more evidence of devouring it and wondering where did it all go and why so fast?!
Fresh Blueberry and Tomato Salsa Recipe
4 cups of fresh tomatoes that have been blanched to remove skins (also put through a strainer or in cheese cloth to removed access water after blanching)
1 small sweet yellow onion, chopped
2 minced garlic cloves or 1 ts. of dried garlic powder
1/4-1/3 cup of raw local honey
1 TB of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of fresh chopped cilantro
1-2 TB of fresh chopped parsley
1 large lemon squeezed
1 lime squeezed
1 heaping cup of fresh sweet blueberries
1 or 2 small jalapeno peppers (with seeds for spicier or without seeds to avoid heat and make a mild salsa)

First, blanch 2-3 pounds of fresh tomatoes, any size or color will do. Use your favorite or what you got available. Then after you blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 2-3 minutes and then submerged in cold water. Remove the skins and then set the tomatoes in a strainer and press down on the tomatoes to remove more juices and water. And when you come up with about 4 heaping cups of diced blanched tomatoes you can add those to a large blender or food processor. Then add the rest of the ingredients and then blend on high for 10-30 seconds until it is to the consistency you desire. Then serve with your favorite gluten-free corn chip. And, let the dipping begin!
My favorite and choice chips for paring with this salsa is Garden of Eatin' Blue Chips that is made with organic blue corn and is certified GMO free. Which is a super plus when consuming a grain like corn.  Plus, it doesn't hurt that the slight blue of the berries in the salsa and the blue of the chips match. I am all about good looking food :)
Hope you are enjoying the summer fruits and veggies. Local produce is always best. There is just nothing that tastes better, and those extra vitamins will have your body thanking you as well.

Hope you are well and much love!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Garden Baby Cakes

Hello friends, I hope this post finds you well and staying cool. What a hot summer it has been! My garden has been acting hot and tired as well. Even with the sprinkler and my son splashing water from his watering buckets, it still seems brittle and tired. Yet the tomatoes seems to be doing ok and thankfully we have had many great beauties so far, and expect this is just the start to many many more. I am excited to see how many we get this year. And then there are the zucchinis. It hasn't been as plentiful as last year, but I am thankful for each one our plants produce. That is what mainly inspired these cakes. And then I added carrots (not that I have those in my garden, yet) And why not add some raisins and coconut too.
These veggie rich cakes are hearty, moist and delicious. And, it doesn't hurt that they are super simple to make too. I used some Bob's Red Mill GF all-purpose flour blend that I wanted to use up, but you could easily sub in another favorite gluten-free flour mix, or keep it whole grain and use 1 cup of freshly ground buckwheat flour and 1 cup of freshly ground gluten-free oat flour as a sub too. 
These muffins are also a great addition to traveling snack-packs. I have been on a few long weeks away from home this summer and about to go on another. Packing snacks that are healthy, easy and also toddler friendly doesn't have to be hard. These muffins are perfect for traveling. I just hope I can pack them before my sweet son eats them all. He loves them! And, I don't mind if he gets a good helping of zucchini and carrots in the process!

Here are a few other friend's posts I have enjoyed in giving ideas for packing snacks for traveling with small ones or with multiple food sensitivities. You can find those here Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen and here Pint Sized Foodies.

Garden Baby Cakes Recipe
(gluten, dairy, soy and nut-free)

2 cups of Bob Red Mill's GF flour blend (or other favorite gluten-free flour mix, or keep it whole grain and use 1 cup of freshly ground buckwheat flour and 1 cup of freshly ground gluten-free oat flour as a sub too)
1/4 cup of chia or flax meal
2 ts. of baking powder
1 ts. of baking soda
1/2 ts. of sea salt
2 ts. of ground cinnamon
2 ts. of ground ginger
1/2 cup of soft or liquid extra virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup of local honey (or maple syrup)
1/2 cup of So Delicious coconut milk beverage (or other favorite non-dairy milk)
1/2 cup of raisins
1 cup of shredded carrots
1 cup of shredded zucchini
1-2 ts. of pure vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients in together first, then add the oil and milk and the rest of the wet ingredients. Mix well together and then let sit for a few minutes for the dry to soak up the wet. Then use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to measure the batter into muffin tins and this recipe will make 12 large muffins or about 15 smaller muffins. Then bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until you check with a toothpick and it is baked through and not gooey and the tops are golden brown. Let cool for 15-20 minutes before moving or eating to reduce the crumble effect. 
These cakes are toddler approved and super easy to let him snack on all by himself. Which is pretty much what he is all about these days. Being independent and a 'big boy' so these only make my job a bit easier too. Plus, like I mentioned a great snack on the go with added healthy goodness and calories to make my boy strong.
Hmmm, love. They are moist and delicious. Now, pick up some fresh zucchini from the garden or the market, and start shredding. These muffins are just too good to pass up this time of year!

Much love and light to you!