Procrastination

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.

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Cookie Love

February 15, 2010

First Date

Yummy!

How was your Valentine’s Day? Was it heart-filled and chocolate dipped? If your valentine didn’t spoil you, here’s a recipe so you can spoil yourself with some almost clean, almost classic, chocolate chip cookies. It’s sweetened with coconut sugar, and how appealing is this? Coconut sugar “… is derived from the coconut sap, the sweet juice that is extracted when the budding flower is just about to grow.” Talk about knowing how to woo a gal, and with flowers no less! Coconut sugar is unrefined and rates low on the glycemic index.

Yield: 40 – 2″ cookies

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled

1/3 cup coconut sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup large-flake oatmeal, ground finely in food processor

1/4 cup tapioca starch

1/4 cup fine, unsweetened coconut

2 tablespoons buckwheat

2 tablespoons ground flax

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

scant 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon xantham gum

1/2 cup excellent quality (extra) bitter dark chocolate bits – yes, this is clean eating cheating, but at its most noble. The darker and best-quality chocolate you choose means that you will consume a chocolate that’s high in antioxidants, organic, fair-trade and often evaporated cane sugar sweetened. So if you’re going to stray…

Pre-heat oven to 375º. In a medium-sized bowl whisk together still-warm liquid coconut oil with coconut sugar and egg. Stir in all other ingredients. Drop by teaspoonful onto parchment-lined sheet pans, I fit 3 x 5 nicely. Bake for ten minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on tray. What do you think? Are you feeling the love?

Food Porn For All You Cookie Dough Lovers

Food Porn For All You Cookie Dough Lovers

Pumpkin Bread

November 5, 2009

L1030963

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!

Tailor-Made

September 28, 2009

Tailor-Made

Tailor-Made

Granola has the unattractive image of being just for hippies, sort of like patchouli. But granola is for the chic, too. Here is a template for granola – it’s a flexible recipe that you can tailor as you see fit. If you read the list of ingredients and raisins don’t suit you then leave them out and substitute in something else. Or, again, if you read the list of ingredients and think “What the hell? I don’t have amaranth in my pantry, I can’t make this.” Well then, swap out the amaranth for more oatmeal flakes. In fact, you can swap out the quinoa flakes, ground flax, buckwheat kasha and the amaranth and use only oatmeal, just ensure that you put in a total of five cups. Same with the nuts and seeds. What I’ve chosen to put in my granola depends on both what I like and what I have on hand. It’s not that much work to make your own granola. This recipe makes loads, you will have plenty, even if you give some away. Not only is granola expensive to buy, it often contains bad oil and refined sugars, and lots of both. And if you custom-make your own you can put in exactly what you like, as I’ve said, so that it fits your appetite. Not that you’re fussy. It is a scrumptious and addictive breakfast with almond milk, and a superb snack that travels well. Now, shake shake shake those chic hips and start measuring and pre-heating. Just stay away from the patchouli, okay?

Makes: loads

3 cups large flake, old fashioned oatmeal

1 cup quinoa flakes

3/4 cup buckwheat kasha*

1/4 cup amaranth

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, optional

3/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup unsweetened coconut, I am especially fond of ribbon coconut

1/2 cup sliced almonds

3/4 cup natural, unsweetened apple juice

1/4 cup agave nectar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup dried blueberries

1/2 cup cocoa nibs** or chopped dark chocolate, optional

Pre-heat your oven to 350º and adjust your racks so that you have two racks as in the centre of your oven as possible. In quite a large bowl (hopefully you own one and didn’t sell it at this year’s yard sale… you can use a large pot if you did) combine oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and sea salt. Stir in the spices, if you’re using. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I don’t. If you’re a cinnamon girl as the lovely Jen G.*** is, use all cinnamon and leave out the cardamom. Add the seeds and nuts and set aside. Measure the apple juice, agave and vanilla directly into a measuring cup, stir and pour evenly over your big bowl or pot of granola-to-be. Toss and stir well to thoroughly dampen all ingredients. Turn out onto two parchment-lined half-sheet pans and spread out evenly. Set aside your bowl, or pot, but don’t wash it yet. Slide both trays into your oven. Bake for about half an hour or so, being diligent about stirring so that it toasts evenly. Stir at least twice during the baking time and rotate the pans once. Meanwhile, in your slightly used bowl or pot, toss in the dried fruit and cocoa nibs or chocolate, if using. I think chocolate would be very nice in granola but I can’t be trusted, I would pick out the chocolate bits and end up with a bowlful of chocolate and almond milk for breakfast. Once your granola is out of the oven, cool completely before adding it to your dried fruits and cocoa nibs or chocolate. Combine and store in a large cookie jar or container. In theory your granola will last for a long time, it has a good shelf life. But you will probably make short work of it.

*Buckwheat kasha are toasted buckwheat groats, and they’re gluten-free. I think kasha has a cinnamon-esque flavour. It’s considered a pseudo-cereal because it’s not a grass but a fruit seed.

** Cocoa nibs are fermented and crushed cocoa beans. They are raw and minimally processed, contain no sugar and are super-high in antioxidants as well as minerals. Plus, they have a deep, nutty chocolate taste because they are chocolate.

*** Jen G. is a superstar (note the three *s by her name) and one of the divine Parkside Runners. She has the prettiest, craziest eyes out of all of us. Once she is on board for something, like a marathon or a triathlon, she develops tunnel vision. Training for our first triathlon begins after the RVM!

Gnocchi

August 10, 2009

Out of the Pan

Out of the Pan

Wow, gluten-free gnocchi is better than the original. That never happens. These simple potato dumplings are the lightest I’ve ever had. And, if you choose to finish them in a close-to smoking pan of olive oil as I did, they puff up into the most golden, crisp little pillows imaginable. Actually, they puffed and lightened so much that they lost their smart textural lines. No matter. Have you made gnocchi before? I had my friends Suzanne, Courtney and Richard for dinner, they wanted to learn. Richard was by far the best at rolling the gnocchi dough into narrow, even ropes. And Courtney was a natural at pressing the gnocchi across the lined wooden paddle – it’s called a cavatelli. Suzanne made sure they both knew what they were doing, she is an excellent project manager and enjoys eating more than cooking. Try this recipe. I swear, you won’t be disappointed.

Serves 4

1 pound russet potatoes, about 2 medium, baked and cooled

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 large egg yolk (save the white to add to your morning frittata)

a few swirls of extra-virgin olive oil

freshly ground black pepper

* some variations

Set a large, covered pot of water on the stove to boil. Prepare a sheet pan with a small puddle of olive oil and set near the stove for when the gnocchi is done. Peel your cooled potatoes and grate, mash or rice into a large bowl. Add the brown rice flour, cornstarch and salt and mix together with a fork. Add the egg yolk and briskly stir together. A shaggy or rough dough will begin to form. Turn this shaggy dough out onto a lightly cornstarched surface. Knead gently several times to form an uneven ball. Divide ball into four pieces. Knead each piece of dough into a somewhat tidy ball and then roll and form into a long, narrow rope. Repeat with the rest of the gnocchi dough. Using a bench scraper or knife, cut the ropes into bite-size, 1/2″, dumplings. Now create texture. You can do this by pinching each dumpling in its centre, creating a chunky bow-tie-like shape, or by running each dumpling quickly down either a fork’s tines or an inexpensive ($3) lined paddle, a cavatelli. In four separate batches, gently boil the gnocchi. They pop up to surface like miniature bouys when they’re done, and cook very quickly so don’t leave the stove. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and turn them onto your waiting olive-oiled pan. They are ready to use now, you can serve them in pesto or tomato sauce or garlicky olive oil. Or you can take them one step further and turn them into crisp, golden pillows. Set a large frying pan over high heat and swirl in some olive oil, get it really hot, just this side of smoking. Add the fresh, still-warm gnocchi, let it sear and crust, toss the pan after a couple of minutes. Keep cooking and tossing until the gnocchi have crisped all over, throw in a little sea salt. Tip out onto a platter and finish with some freshly ground black pepper. Be careful not to blister the roof of your mouth with your fresh, ultra-hot potato dumpling .

Fresh Gluten-Free Gnocchi

Fresh Gluten-Free Gnocchi

* There are endless variations for gnocchi. Try the plain potato gnocchi first, and then you can tweak it as you get more practiced. Some suggestions: a couple of cloves of minced garlic; fresh chopped herbs; use one yam or sweet potato in lieu of one russet; or add a handful of parmesan. I’ve added a little cooked, grated beet to create a bright magenta gnocchi. You can experiment.

Zaru Soba

August 5, 2009

Fresh Soba

Fresh Soba

Buckwheat is a protein-rich seed that’s related to rhubarb, and when ground it’s a flavourful gluten-free flour. I wanted to make chilled zaru soba but I had difficulty finding soba noodles that were made entirely with buckwheat. Admittedly, I only looked in two stores for all-buckwheat soba before I decided to try to make my own. I bought Anita’s Buckwheat Flour in the second store. Zaru soba is traditionally served on a bamboo tray, or zaru, with a small dish of cold dipping broth and assorted accompaniments. I was really pleased at what a lovely dough this made. I was concerned about the lack of gluten in buckwheat, as gluten is the protein that contributes to elasticity in dough. I needn’t have worried. This is one of the easiest, nicest, silkiest doughs I’ve ever worked with, and probably very good for a beginner to try.

Serves 4

2 cups buckwheat flour

3/4 – 1 cup water, as needed

That’s it for the soba ingredient list. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, measure 3/4 of a cup of water into the buckwheat and mix with a fork, it will clump together, more or less. If your dough is ultra crumbly, mix in a tablespoon or more of water. If it is too sticky, add a bit more buckwheat. Turn out onto a buckwheat-floured surface and knead lightly several times. Dough will come together into a nice, smooth ball within a minute. Now roll out. I used a rolling pin but if you have a pasta machine then use that. Roll a large rectangle approximately 16″ x 30″ and then cut thin strips of noodles using a pastry wheel or a knife. Your large pot of water will likely be boiling now, turn down to a simmer and carefully add about half of the buckwheat noodles. They cook up quickly, and float to the surface when they’re done. Scoop out with a large strainer and gently, thoroughly rinse under cold water. Drain well. Repeat with remaining noodles. Divide noodles amongst four zaru’s (highly unlikely) or four soup plates (more likely). Serve with cold dipping broth and assorted garnish.

Green Garnish

Shades of Green

Makes 4 cups of broth, or ichiban-dashi (1st brewed soup stock)

1 – 8″ strip of kombu (dried kelp)

1 oz katsuobushi shavings, or bonito flakes – this is equivalent to a good handful

Measure two cups of water into a medium-sized pot. Add konbu and allow to simmer for about ten minutes. Remove from heat and stir in katsuobushi. Let steep for several minutes before straining. If you want, you could make a secondary broth called niban-dashi (2nd brewed soup stock). I’m a bit sheepish about the fact that I’ve only made niban-dashi once, I usually discard the kelp and bonito. Now add two icy cold cups of water to your dashi. There – you just made dashi! This easy and classic stock is the base for many Japanese soups. To make the dipping broth mix in:

1/4 cup tamari soy sauce

2 tablespoons agave

Serve in a small dish alongside your cold soba noodles with assorted garnish. I enjoyed mine with wasabi, nori, green onion and cold steamed radish greens.

Neon Posy

July 28, 2009

Sunshine and Salt-Flecked

Sunshine and Salt-Flecked

These beans are so bright and fresh and colourful that they deserve to be called a posy. Beans, like most vegetables, become crisper and sunnier with a quick dunk into lightly salted boiling water, followed by an icy water rinse. I doused them generously with Maldon salt once they emerged from their baths. These blanched beans make a great snack for your lunch or, even better, a picnic in the sun.

Spaghetti Marinara

July 21, 2009

On Top of Wild Rice Spaghetti

On Top of Wild Rice Spaghetti

Wild rice pasta is a complex carbohydrate that’s really satisfying, and you’ll barely notice that it’s not regular old wheat pasta. The big plus is, other than being gluten-free, wild rice pasta is high in protein, fiber and vitamin B. You can use any shape of wild rice pasta that you like, there are a number of different shapes including spaghetti, radiatore and penne. As for the simple and quick tomato sauce there are two things you can do to make it taste rich and long-simmered. First, and most importantly, don’t chintz out on the tomatoes – treat yourself to a tin of organic San Marzano tomatoes, it makes all the difference. And second, toss in a couple more vegetables than just onions.

Serves 6

1 – 454 g package of organic brown rice spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 rib of celery, diced

1 small carrot, diced

4 cloves of garlic, sliced

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes, optional

1 – 796 ml tin of San Marzano tomatoes*

1 small bunch of fresh basil, leaves rolled tightly together and sliced into thin ribbons, called chiffonade, or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil – set aside a little fresh basil for garnish, if you wish

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and pour in the two tablespoons of olive oil. Let warm and add chopped onions, celery and carrots. Sauté for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and chili flakes, if using. Continue to cook vegetables until thoroughly softened but not crisped. Stir in tomatoes, basil and sea salt. Let simmer for at least ten minutes, and up to half an hour over low heat, stirring every now and then. Taste for seasoning. Ladle about one third of the tomato sauce over the warm, cooked pasta and toss to coat. Divide pasta amongst dishes, and then top each with a little of the remaining sauce. Garnish with fistfuls of stinky, delicious parmesan fine ribbons of fresh basil. Speaking of basil, if you don’t want to make tomato sauce you could toss wild rice pasta with yummy pesto.

* If it says D.O.P. on your tin you bought authentic San Marzano tomatoes – it stands for Protected Designation of Origin

Dad’s Favourite

June 11, 2009

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

Dad's New Favourite

Oatmeal raisin cookies are my dad’s favourite. When I bake up a batch for him, he is not inclined to share. Should you happen to catch him in the act of receiving these cookies, he won’t make eye contact, doesn’t take a moment to say thanks, and beelines stealthily off to hide them. This is true, and not one bit of an exaggeration. A grown man, acting like a furtive squirrel. His level of stealth is impressive, given the thousands of oatmeal raisin cookies he’s enjoyed over the years.

This recipe is a healthy take on his favourite cookie which contains, for example, 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of brown sugar, and so on. He hasn’t tried these yet, and he’s skeptical. Because they’re gluten-free* (and refined sugar-free, and dairy-free, and wheat-free, and vegan) they are very crumbly and lack the slight chew of the original. I like them, they’re very good. The many starches, to replace the wheat flour, are a bit of a pain, but there’s not much to the method – you just dump everything into one bowl and stir. This recipe is the result of many trials, and it’s still not perfect, but it will do until I feel like tinkering again. If you don’t want to bother with baking, come on over. I’ll put the kettle on for tea and we can eat cookies.

* it’s my understanding that oatmeal doesn’t contain gluten, but can become contaminated during processing

Yield: 2 dozen

1/2 cup unsweetened ribbon or medium flake coconut, lightly toasted

1/4 cup rice flour

2 tablespoons tapioca starch

1/4 cup virgin coconut flour

2 tablespoons almond flour

1 3/4 cups old-fashioned, large flake oatmeal

1/2 cup raisins

1/8 teaspoon xantham gum

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder

1/2 cup coconut oil, slightly melted

1/4 cup agave nectar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350º

Line two baking sheets with parchment, and set aside. In a medium-sized bowl combine all ingredients, stir together well. It won’t seem like a conventional cookie dough or batter, it’s more of a loose mixture. Drop this loose mixture by the spoonful onto your prepared sheet pans, 4 x 3 fit nicely on each pan. Flatten gently with the palm of your hand, and coax any stray crumbles into the cookie. Bake for a total of 15 – 17 minutes, rotating pan about halfway through for even baking. Allow to cool on pan, this will help the cookies set a bit. Did I mention that they’re quite crumbly? And that they taste good? And they might even be kind of good for you. Here’s a tip: put the cookies, on their tray, into the fridge for about an hour. It firms them right up.

Update: I was keen to create recipes that are allergen-free, so that means no eggs. But really? Add one egg to make a great, non-crumbly cookie.

A rather loose batter

A rather loose batter