September 2, 2010

Cocoa and Adzuki Bean Cake

Last weekend I decided to rearrange our kitchen. And it’s still undone. Once drawers were emptied I pondered the value of useful versus stupid. For example, a Starfrit apple cutter and corer. There’s a slim possibility that I might use it, but I would first have to remember that I own it. And that begs the question, why do I own it? I think someone gave it to me, unloaded it from their own crowded kitchen drawers. Should I remember that I have a stupid Starfrit gadget in my possession, I would have to find it. It dawned on me that drawer organizers and dividers would improve my life. So I went shopping. While I was out and about I decided to visit the lovely new Chanel khaki nail polishes. Yes, you’re right, the Chanel boutique is nowhere near the drawer organizer store. Never mind my upside down kitchen, I’m now on the waiting list for all three shades of polish – vert, rose and brun. I can’t decide. I also found a new pair of rubber rain boots and I love them. My last pair are several years old and it was time to update. I’m wearing my new boots now. And I’m going to create and bake a new chocolate banana bean cake while wearing them. Which is simply another form of procrastination. You might think that I would put my kitchen back together first, but you’d be wrong. My thinking is this: I will organize while the cake is in the oven. That’s the most efficient use of time, isn’t it? Once I tuck the kitchen neatly away I’m going to move on to my clothes closet. I am one of those people who puts away spring and summer and lovingly unfolds fall and winter. I love knits and wool and cozy coziness, and I’m looking forward to fall and shades of glossy khaki polish. And oceans of rain so that I can wear my new boots.

Cocoa and Adzuki Bean Cake – Makes two little 3″ x 5″ loaves or 24 – 2″cupcakes

1 1/2 cups of cooked adzuki or black beans, or use canned

2 ripe bananas

3 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled

1/2 cup cocoa

1/4 cup ground almonds

2 pinches of sea salt

3 tablespoons agave

3 eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Place cooked or canned and drained beans into the bowl of your food processor and whir until they’re blitzed into a smaller size. Add ripe bananas and whir a little more. Add everything else and process to a not-too-smooth batter. Scrape into prepared pans, fill more than 3/4 full, and bake for approximately 45 minutes for loaves or 25 minutes for small cakes. Tops will spring back a bit when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and allow to cool before unmoulding. These cakes are dense and super moist, I think you’ll be pleased. If you like, for a little refined sugar, melt some dark chocolate, about 1/4 of a cup. Stir really well and glaze cakes, either by spreading the loaves with an offset spatula or dipping the tops of the small cakes.


Unbran Muffin

June 7, 2010

Picture of Health

Do not be put off when I tell you that this might be the healthiest thing I’ve ever made, salad aside. It’s a powerhouse of a muffin and it even tastes good. I really like a good bran muffin, that was the inspiration. But, of course, they’re full of gluten and oil and sugar. This one is gluten-free and doesn’t contain much oil or sugar. And there’s no bran, because bran is from wheat. Obviously. It’s a no branner.

Makes 15 – I admit, it’s a bit inconvenient that it doesn’t make a tidy dozen

1/2 cup almond flour

1/4 cup brown rice four

1/4 cup ground flax

2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup large flake, old-fashioned oatmeal

1 cup dried apricots, diced

12 dates

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup hot water

6 large eggs

2 tablespoons molasses

2 tablespoons agave

Preheat oven to 375° and line 15 muffin tins with paper cups. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together almond flour, brown rice flour, ground flax, baking soda and salt. Stir in coconut, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal and apricots and set aside. Place dates in the bowl of a food processor and process with the coconut oil and hot water. Mixture will emulsify and become smooth. With the motor running, add eggs one at a time, and then add molasses and agave. Pour this date and egg mixture over top of the dry and stir until well-combined. Drop the unbran batter into the lined muffin tin by heaping 1/4 cupfuls, fill them right up almost to the top, they should mound slightly. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, tops will spring lightly back when gently pressed.

Granola Bars

February 4, 2010

Flax and Whole Grain

Granola bars are one of those food things, like muffins, that have a tendency to parade around as a health food. They come across as a good choice, clad in their earthy green and nut-brown wrappers, with words such as ‘nature’, ‘flax plus’ and ‘whole grain’ in bright capital letters. Know what I think? Pffft. Have you ever read the fine print, the ingredients? There is likely as much refined sugar and low-quality fat in a supermarket granola bar as there is in a cookie. At least a with a cookie you’re aware of what you’re eating, you know? I had half of a friend’s packaged granola bar on Friday and it was suspiciously good. Here’s my take on granola bars. I suspect you’ll find they’re pretty good, with a nice crunch and crumble.

Makes 18 bars

2 cups large flake oatmeal

1 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup cashews, chopped

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup ground flax

1 large egg white

1/4 cup agave

1/4 cup date sugar

2 tablespoons coconut oil, plus a little more for the pan, melted and slightly cooled

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup raisins

Pre-heat oven to 350º. Spread oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds and ground flax into an even layer on a sheet pan and toast for about 15 – 20 minutes, or until pale gold and fragrant. Remove from oven and lower heat to 300º. Lightly coconut oil a 9″ x 11″ baking pan and line with a rectangle of parchment paper, ensuring that the paper covers the entire bottom of the pan and runs up the long sides so that it will make it easy to remove the bars from the pan after baking. Set aside. Meanwhile, in a large-ish bowl, whisk egg white with agave, date sugar and coconut oil. Whisk in vanilla extract and sea salt. Shake the warm, toasted oatmeal et cetera into the egg white and agave mixture. Add raisins and mix well with a spatula. Turn this mixture into your prepared baking pan, press down on mixture with an offset spatula to flatten and even out the top. Slide into oven and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once halfway through so that it bakes evenly. Let cool completely before lifting carefully from pan onto a chopping board. Use a sharp knife to portion into bars.

PS – you can substitute the suggested nuts and seeds for your favourites. Same with the raisins. All you raisin-haters can use any other dried fruit that you wish.

Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins

February 1, 2010

Warm Blueberry Muffins

I have bags and bags of blueberries in my freezer. I really got out of control this past summer. It’s not just blueberries, either. I have strawberries, cherries, raspberries and even some peaches. I like the idea of being able to freeze the loveliness of summer – a sweet, frozen taste of August in January. The reality is, I’m one of those people who is always, annoyingly, cold. An icy, healthy fruit smoothie is most unlikely after a dark and chilly 6:00 am run. I’m much more comfortable and cozy with the oven on.

Makes one dozen

1.5 cups brown rice flour

1 cup organic cornmeal

1 tablespoon gluten-free baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

zest of one lemon

1 1/4 cups frozen blueberries, or other frozen berry

2 whole eggs

1/3 cup agave

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup almond milk

small splash of pure vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350º and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Set aside. In a large bowl, measure in brown rice flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and lemon zest, whisk lightly together. Stir in frozen berries and toss to coat with dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs with the agave, olive oil and almond milk. Add the splash of pure vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and berries and stir well to combine. The batter will thicken rather quickly from the frozen berries. Scoop the chilly batter into the muffin cups, dividing equally. The batter will almost fill them up. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until tops spring back a little when lightly pressed. I found these muffins were best eaten on the day they were baked. This recipe has used up about 1% of the fruit in my freezer.

In a Hot Oven

December 17, 2009


Okay, seriously, who has an open fire these days? Not too many of us. So there will likely be no chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost, yes, some mornings. But chestnuts roasting in a hot oven, you can make that happen. Turn your oven on and up to 400º. Make a cross-cut in the bottom  (truly easier said than done) – the rounded end – of every chestnut and place in a roasting pan or cast-iron frying pan or cookie sheet, or whatever you have that’s oven-proof. Now slide into your hot oven. I turn them over ten minutes in. It only takes about twenty minutes to bake chestnuts. When you determine that they are done, I go by smell (delicious) and colour (gorgeous toasty-brown), remove them from oven until they are cool enough to handle. Peel back the shell to expose and extract the rich, meaty inside. Consume. Put on a yuletide carol or two.

Little Apple Cakes

December 7, 2009

An Apple a Day

I have a few favourite apples. My top two are Belle de Boskoop and the Pink Lady. Belle de Boskoop are an old-timer of an apple – they are sweet and crunchy and quite large. I see them at farmers markets now and then, but they’re not that easily found. They are the best-flavoured apple for cooking. The Pink Lady is a cultivated apple, a cross between a Lady Williams and a Golden Delicious. Pink Ladies really get around, I see them everywhere. They are a mid-sized apple, tart and crunchy, and great for baking and eating. Use whatever type of apple you like for this recipe, you could even use crapples if that’s what you have in your fridge. For these cakes, I experimented with date powder as the sweetener. It worked very well and gave the cakes a lovely, dark crumb, as if they were baked with brown sugar. Date powder, or date sugar, is simply dehydrated and ground dates. It is an unrefined sweetener that is high in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Try it, I think you’ll like it.

Makes 12 little 2.5″ x 1.5″ cakes. Recipe is easily doubled to make 12 larger cakes or muffins.

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup date powder

2 tablespoons agave

1 large egg

1/4 cup almond milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder

1/4 teaspoon xantham gum

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into smallish pieces (just eat the remaining half piece of apple while you work)

optional topping: 1/4 cup chopped pecans mixed with 2 teaspoons date powder and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350º. Prepare small ramekins or baking tins by placing them on a half-sheet pan and lightly oiling with a bit of coconut oil. Set aside until batter is ready. In a small to medium sized bowl, whisk together coconut oil with date powder, agave, egg, almond milk and vanilla extract. In a larger bowl, combine brown rice flour with remaining dry ingredients. Stir apple pieces into dry ingredients and toss to coat. Pour the quite-thick liquid ingredients over top of flour and apple mixture and stir well. This is a thick batter that requires determined stirring to properly combine and distribute the apples evenly. Use a tablespoon to divide batter amongst your baking dishes, using the back of the spoon to spread mixture flat. If you’re going with the cinnamony-sugary pecan topping, sprinkle a bit over each little cake before sliding into the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating pan about halfway through. At this point, your kitchen will be cozy and perfumed with the delicious scent of cake and cinnamon, one of the very best smells in the world. The tops of the cakes will spring back slightly when pressed. Remove from oven and allow to rest in dishes until cool enough to handle. Use a thin-bladed knife to loosen cake away from dish, invert to release and enjoy, warm out of hand. Or cool completely and wrap individually and freeze. They will be fully defrosted for your 10:00 am refined sugar-free, gluten-free and guilt-free coffee break.

Pumpkin Bread

November 5, 2009


Great Pumpkin Loaf

My friend Jen G. bakes an exceptional pumpkin loaf, but her recipe begins with 3 cups of sugar. I scaled back her recipe and changed up a few ingredients. Here is the result. It’s not quite as yummy as Jen’s, but it’s a whole lot healthier. I also made great pancakes from this recipe. If you want to make pumpkin pancakes and a loaf, double the recipe.

Makes 1 loaf

1/2 cup agave

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

1 large egg, plus 1 large white, save the yolk for your morning omelette

5 oz pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup almond milk

1/4 cup water

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1/3 cup almond flour

1/4 cup ground flax

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon xantham gum

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

Pre-heat the oven to 350º. Line a loaf pan with parchment and set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk agave and coconut oil with egg and egg white. Add pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, almond milk and water. Set aside. In a larger bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Pour wet ingredients over and mix together. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a bamboo skewer into the centre, it will emerge cleanly when done. If you have doubled the recipe for pancakes, pour just half of the batter into the loaf pan and reserve the remaining batter. I fried my pumpkin pancakes in a little bit of coconut oil, they make a great breakfast treat.

PS – Check the comments section for easy instructions on how to make your own roasted sugar pumpkin puree.

Ready for Bread

October 21, 2009

Warm Banana Bread

Warm Banana Bread

We all have bananas that, before you know it, are speckled and tired-looking and ready for bread. I concocted this healthy recipe for my friend Julie, as per her request. I see Julie every morning – we run*, Crossfit, and visit farmers markets together. Good grief, there are not many people I like to see everyday! That says a lot about her, and I’m lucky to call her my friend. She is witty, kind, sincere and sarcastic in equal measure. I know that every morning, without fail, she will meet me at 6:00 for a tough workout. There has been the odd time, literally once or twice, that we’ve gone for coffee instead of exercising. When you meet Julie you will be surprised that this slim chick can do a full pull-up, hanging from a bar like a monkey – it is so impressive and no easy feat. It’s not surprising that Julie likes banana bread, is it?

Makes 1 – 8.5″ x 4.5″ (6-cup) loaf pan

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup almond flour

1/4 cup ground flax

1/2 teaspoon xantham gum

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 large eggs

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

2 over-ripe bananas, pureed

1/4 cup agave nectar

1/3 cup almond milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350º, line a loaf pan with parchment and set aside until batter is ready. In a large-ish bowl combine all of the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. In a smaller bowl, whisk eggs with melted coconut oil, and then whisk in the banana purée, agave, almond milk and vanilla. You know how this is done – pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula. Pour into lined loaf pan and slide into warm oven for about 50 minutes. A bamboo skewer will emerge cleanly when it is done. If there are wet crumbs clinging to your skewer continue baking for another five minutes, that should do it. Let cool on a rack for as long as you can before cutting yourself a nice, warm, thick slice.

Note: you can make muffins instead. I added 1 cup of frozen blueberries to the batter. It made 12 medium-sized muffins and took about half an hour to bake.

Ready for Bread

Ready for Bread

* Julie is yet another amazing Parkside Runner. Julie, I will always be there for you at the 20k mark!