Seeing Green

Posted By on March 17, 2015

This month’s muffin experiments have been inspired by the hope of spring renewal and by St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve been throwing in green color from a wide range of sources, and have been extremely pleased with how well Nolan has accepted almost all of it. Here is a line-up of the emerald offerings, most of which were steamed:

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Avocado chip (front): These were sweet moist muffins studded with Nolan’s go-to chocolate chips, a nice minty green in color. He gobbled them down with no hesitation.

Spinach-romanesco with feta (back): Savory egg muffins like crustless quiches. The moist texture of eggs is rather beyond Nolan at this point; this was breakfast one day for the rest of us.

Not shown: Romanesco chocolate chip, a sweet muffin using spring green romanesco cauliflower as a base along with pea protein. These were moist and had no flavor of vegetables; Nolan ate several of them.

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Taro-almond: This was an initial experiment to see if liquid chlorophyll would make a good natural food coloring for steamed muffins, made using a taro-almond batter for monkey bread. Nolan didn’t have a chance to try the green version because Theo gobbled my tester, but he liked the chocolate-hazelnut monkey bread version.

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Matcha-mint: These dense muffins were scented with cacao butter, matcha tea powder, and peppermint stevia (and of course the obligatory chocolate chips). Both boys loved these muffins; I avoided them because peppermint can be hard on milk supply.

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Cashew chip: This batter was based on the cashew waffles at Against All Grain. The green swirl is just 3 drops of chlorophyll swirled through the batter with a knife, and once again, Nolan didn’t mind the color at all.

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Spinach-banana chip: These almond butter-based muffins contained a little banana and a lot of baby greens (I used a super-spinach blend that included kale and bok choi). The greens contributed color but no discernible flavor, and Nolan ate them just fine.

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Hemp-cannellini with streusel: Theo is my beanie baby so I always seem to have an open can of beans in the refrigerator. I used pureed cannellini beans as the base for these muffins, stabilized with a bit of coconut flour and green hemp protein powder. I added just two drops of chlorophyll to the batter to boost the greenness, and topped them with some leftover cream cheese streusel just because. They were very reminiscent of coffee cake. In this image, the muffin at right went in the microwave, and the one at left in the steamer; both used the same amount of streusel but behaved differently as they cooked, and the steamed muffin had a moister texture but still retained a crumbly streusel. (These muffins were photographed on a bed of scented geranium leaves destined for the dehydrator, from the plant in the background of the previous photo, which badly needed trimming.)

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Sweet pea and green apple: These muffins honestly made me a little nervous because they used an odd combination of produce combined with hemp and amaranth, which both have very grassy flavors to me. The peas and apple were steamed before pureeing, and after my microwave test-muffin, I added a bit of coconut flour for body. Where the batter was a solid green pea color, the finished muffins are more of a camo green (maybe because of the hemp?), with a soft fluffy texture and a mild grassy flavor balanced by ginger.

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Banana-cream cheese chip: I wanted a nice pale muffin as a canvas to try my hand at making a swirled design with chlorophyll, and banana chocolate chip is one of Nolan’s favorite flavors. This batter with whey protein and water chestnut flour fit the bill nicely, although the chocolate chips got in my way a little bit. I used 4 drops of liquid chlorophyll, and swirled them in the top of the batter with a toothpick.

These muffins represent just a few of the ideas I had for naturally green muffins. Since Nolan responded so well to most of them, I’ll have to keep playing around with options like green split pea, spirulina and/or chlorella, sunflower butter mixed with baking soda, greens powders, more vegetable purees, and more. Love finding ways to sneak variety into his diet!

Doing the Splits

Posted By on February 17, 2015

Ever since I made a pot of split pea soup in December, I’ve been playing with interesting ways to use organic split peas. The soup was delicious, much better than my memory of the few times I tried making it years ago, and cooked up in less than two hours in my VitaClay without pre-soaking. I filled it with potatoes, ham, leeks and thyme, and savored the leftovers with Theo’s assistance for the better part of a week.

After that, I tried grinding some of the peas to fine powder with my dedicated spice and seed grinder. It stayed a tiny bit gritty and maintained a minty green color, but I was able to hide small amounts of it successfully in Nolan’s favorite flatbread and cracker recipes. Dried peas are an excellent source of soluble fiber, a decent source of vegetable protein and resistant starch, and are very rich in molybdenum, which is useful in fighting candida overgrowth–all very good reasons to keep looking for ways to incorporate them into Nolan’s diet.

I still have some green pea powder to play with, but have put it on the back burner after purchasing a bag of organic yellow split peas. The nice thing about the yellow split peas for my purposes is that they are yellow, which is a much less obtrusive color than green when you are trying to feed a picky eater like Nolan. I soaked a cup and a half of the yellow peas in filtered water overnight, and ended up making a whole day’s worth of meals incorporating them. I threw most of the soaked peas on the stovetop in fresh water and let them simmer for about an hour until they were tender, then drained and pureed them in the blender with splashes of fresh water until I ended up with a smooth, thick puree along the texture of well-mashed potatoes. This puree then made its way into a variety of recipes.

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Soaked yellow split peas become a thick puree and then a batch of spiced muffins

First up, breakfast. Nolan is still on a muffin kick, so I have been making different flavors of grain-free muffins every single day. I’ve used both garbanzo bean flour and adzuki bean paste successfully in baking before, so I thought the pea puree was worth trying here. To cover up their native flavor, I combined the peas with home-canned applesauce, molasses, maple syrup, cinnamon and ginger for an apple spice muffin lookalike. The batch came out nicely both in the steamer and the microwave, and as hoped, looked and tasted more of the flavorings I chose than they did of peas. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of failing to include chocolate chips, so while Jeremy and Theo approved, Nolan rejected them.

Next up, lunch. I used a majority of the pea puree here, making myself some split pea soup. This was a velvety version of the rustic green VitaClay soup, omitting potatoes for the sake of speed. Nolan was never going to eat soup, but I now know this could make a nice cheese sauce for pasta, either using his favorite white cheddar or the equally beloved nutritional yeast. If his interest in pasta ever resurfaces, I will give it a shot. Macaroni and peas, anyone?

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Spinach salad with shrimp, feta, and split pea crisps, alongside split pea flatbread wedges

Finally, dinner. The peas were more of an accent here than the main course. The meal was sautéed shrimp on a spinach salad with feta, avocado and basic lemon vinaigrette. While the shrimp were thawing, I used my remaining soaked but uncooked peas to make a crispy garnish for the salad based on this recipe. I roasted my peas in the cast iron skillet with bacon grease and tossed them with salt, garlic powder, and smoked paprika; I then used the same seasoning blend on the shrimp and threw them in the same hot skillet. Theo and I snacked on some of the crispy peas while I finished making dinner, and they were great, with a flavor that reminded me more of corn nuts than of peas. They added a nice little crunch to the salad.

To make dinner a bit more substantial, I used the last half-cup of split pea puree to make a nut-free, egg-free pea flatbread. This took moments to stir together, and cooked up quickly too. I adapted and scaled the batter from this recipe which calls for a larger amount of yellow split pea flour, and ended up with a crisp flatbread the size of a salad plate that we all happily shared. Jeremy commented several times on how well he liked the bread, and thought it would make good pizza crust. Nolan was a bit more skeptical, but ended up eating several slices as well.

Yellow Split Pea Spice Muffins

This is a tester-sized batch that makes four 1/4-C muffins. You can triple the recipe for a standard dozen. So far I have only tested these in the microwave and bamboo steamer, and will update the recipe for oven baking next time I make pea puree.

1/2 C split pea puree (soaked overnight, cooked, and blended into a thick puree)
1/4 C applesauce
1 extra-large egg
1 T molasses
1 T maple syrup
2 T coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix together all ingredients in a small bowl. Dish by 1/4 C into four silicone muffin cups.

Microwave: In my microwave, a single muffin cooked perfectly in 60 seconds. You might need a bit of extra time doing all four at once, or further adjust based on your microwave’s power levels.
Steam: These were cooked through in my bamboo steamer after 12 minutes. I live just over 6000ft elevation in Colorado Springs, where the boiling point of water is about 200F. If you live at a different elevation, you may need to adjust the cooking time up or down based on boiling points.

Yellow Split Pea Flatbread

1/2 C split pea puree (soaked overnight, cooked, and blended into a thick puree)
3 T tapioca starch
1 T masa harina
1 T Greek yogurt
1/4 tsp salt

Stir together all ingredients to form a thick but spreadable batter. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high, lightly greased with coconut oil or bacon grease. When skillet is hot enough to start smoking, pour in batter and quickly spread with the back of a spoon, using a light touch. (It will probably not be perfectly even, but that is okay.) Cook until the bottom is deeply golden brown, then use a large spatula (and tongs if necessary) to flip. Cover and continue to cook for several minutes until the other side is golden brown and the middle is set.

Source: Adapted from Cottage Life on Pilgrim’s Farm.

Steam Punk

Posted By on February 1, 2015

Even though Jeremy bought me that bamboo steamer to make dim sum, as I was researching options for gluten-free bao, I came across a recipe for steamed matcha cakes that set off a giant light bulb in my mind. Ever since then, I have been on the track of using the steamer to cook muffins and rolls as a more traditional (and less damaging) alternative to fast-track baking than the microwave.

Steam offers some real health benefits for baking. Not only does it allow some foods to cook faster than they would with dry heat in the oven, but the heat inside the steamer is maintained at the temperature of boiling water — which in my case, at an altitude of just over 6,000ft, is about 200F. This means that there is no chance that the starches in my muffins will produce acrylamide, a carcinogenic compound which can be formed when starchy foods are cooked at temperatures above 250F. It means that delicate essential fatty acids in the seeds are less likely to oxidize and form free radicals. And it also means that more temperature-sensitive nutrients are being preserved in the food after cooking. But what does steaming do to texture and appearance?

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Microwaved peanut flour muffin at left, steamed muffin at right. Same batter, very different result.

After the initial test case based on Jamie Oliver’s coconut buns, I tried steaming Nolan’s current favorite muffin recipe, grain-free peanut-based banana chocolate chip muffins. He was hungry so I baked three in the microwave as usual and did just one in the steamer, at a hard steam for 10 minutes. As you can see, the steamed muffin ended up with both a superior appearance and texture, and this is still my go-to recipe for a few quick breakfast muffins.

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Steamed peanut flour muffins made with applesauce. Half the batter contained honey and chocolate chips, the other half molasses and cinnamon.

I have also made variants using pumpkin puree in place of the banana, and a molasses spice version incorporating applesauce.

Since then, I have been making at least one small batch of muffins every single day, tweaking the ingredients to use different fruit purees, different nuts and starches, and different flavorings. Not every batch is a success, but Nolan is still eating probably 80% of the varieties, so it has added a lot of sneaky nutrients into his diet. All are gluten-free, most are grain-free, some are paleo, and a few have attempted to limit potential allergens more fully. I have so many ideas that I am actually considering writing an e-book about steamed muffins!

Here are just a few photos of some of the more successful muffin variants. I’m sure I’ll be posting more ideas and more recipes soon.

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Black sesame and tahini muffins with chocolate chips

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Buckwheat muffins with shredded apple and cinnamon

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Almond butter muffins with adzuki bean paste and chocolate chips – microwave version in the top row, steamed version on the bottom.

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100% black sesame muffins with banana

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Carrot halwa muffins with almond butter, whey protein and cream cheese

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Spinach egg breakfast muffins with mozzarella and feta – these were basically steamed frittatas.

Ringing in the New

Posted By on January 14, 2015

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Roasted duck, ready to carve

Jeremy gave me a bamboo steamer for Christmas this year. It wasn’t at the very top of my list, but I knew he was hoping that I would keep a promise to try my hand at making gluten-free dim sum if I got one, so I offered to give it a shot for our New Year’s dinner. I wasn’t sure I could pull off an entire meal just of dim sum, however, so I opted to start small and make a roasted duck as the centerpiece. To go with it, I made trial batches of basic coconut steamed buns and pork shumai.

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Simple coconut steamed buns

The coconut steamed buns were about as basic as can be, coming from a Jamie Oliver recipe. I used Trader Joe’s gluten-free flour blend, which pleasantly contains no gums, and added a teaspoon of baking powder to make up for the fact that it isn’t a self-raising flour. I found these very bland but with a decent, if dense, texture; Jeremy was better pleased with them than I was. The extras turned into rocks by the next day, but were still usable as breadcrumbs, so at least they weren’t wasted.

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The shumai was mostly an experiment in whether or not I could use paleo egg noodle dough as a substitute for wonton wrappers. I had made primal fettuccine alfredo with shrimp a few days before using this an adaptation of this fresh pasta recipe (I added a bit of psyllium powder, subbed in 3 whole eggs plus two yolks, and did the whole dough in the food processor). I saved a bit of the dough for this very experiment, and made a simple ground pork filling by pureeing it with bok choi and shiitake mushroom, tamari, toasted sesame oil, garlic and ginger. I rolled out bits of dough into rounds and rather inelegantly wrapped them around balls of filling, then steamed them until they were cooked through. Unfortunately, it didn’t cross my mind that I would need to line the steamer with cabbage leaves or parchment paper before doing so, so they stuck pretty badly underneath. But everything else about these little dumplings felt pretty spot on to me, so I will definitely have to continue the experimentation!

Shortly after New Year’s, I made a trip to the Asian Pacific Market in Colorado Springs to continue my dim sum adventures. With my pantry loaded down with fun Asian ingredients, I have been trying all sorts of dishes outside my comfort zone. First up was an effort at egg rolls, using leftover pork shumai filling as well as a new filling made with leftover duck and fresh water chestnuts. I tried out this technique calling for Paleo Wraps, which are coconut-based. My egg rolls tasted alright, but were very dark, pretty greasy, and for the most part not crispy at all: a valiant and edible effort, but not worthy of photographic documentation.

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Gluten-free bao, pork and red bean filled, with bacon-wrapped water chestnuts and daikon-carrot namasu.

A week or two later, I tried again, this time making real gluten-free yeasted bao buns. I used the last of my packet of Trader Joe’s GF blend and this recipe, and ended up having to add an extra half-cup of the blend plus some potato starch to achieve a shapable dough that was probably still too soft. As you can see, I steamed most of the buns in muffin cups just to make sure they didn’t pancake out too much; the bun at the bottom of the above photo was steamed for comparison without a cup and actually held up slightly better than I anticipated. I served our bao with bacon-wrapped fresh water chestnuts, and a Japanese salad of julienned carrot and daikon called namasu, adapted to use lemon-flavored stevia instead of yuzu (hard to find) and sugar. Theo surprised me by begging for all of the daikon he could get his hands on.

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Pork filling in our bao buns

I tried two different fillings for our bao buns. The first was made with braised boneless pork short ribs in a barbecue-like sauce; this tasted good, but ended up seeming very dry once it was inside the steamed dough, so it probably needed quite a bit more sauce for moisture. The second filling was a basic sweetened red bean paste as Jeremy’s request. I made this from cooking dried adzuki beans and pureeing them with organic sugar, and it was not only a far more successful filling for the bao, but left me with quite a bit leftover. I have been slowly using up this unexpected bounty in baked goods like muffins and pancakes, so expect a post along those lines shortly!

Christmas 2014

Posted By on December 26, 2014

My parents came to spend the day with us on Christmas Eve and take me grocery shopping for the holiday meals. I was pretty exhausted from a night of very little sleep between the boys’ antics, but managed to scrape together a menu and a shopping list. My parents headed back home rather early in the day and didn’t stay for dinner on Christmas Eve; Nolan spent the night at their house and got to preview two of his Christmas presents, a lycra swing and a homemade crash pad.

To keep things simple for our Christmas Eve dinner, I put in an easy pork loin recipe to braise, one of my all-time favorites with just 3 real ingredients. I served it simply with mashed sweet potatoes flavored with rehydrated porcini mushrooms. While it cooked, I finished off a few of my homemade Christmas presents: beard oil for Jeremy, a foot soak mixture for my mom, and some salve for my dad. Theo also helped me bake some chocolate wafer cookies to make into faux-Oreo sandwich cookies, mostly for my dad’s benefit, as he has been missing Oreos.

I really wanted to make everyone a special Christmas breakfast this year, so I talked my parents into coming over early and bringing their ebelskiver pan. I have made ebelskivers with my dad a few times before, but that was before we transitioned to gluten-free. I was determined to try my hand at a grain-free version, but I had concerns about ending up with undercooked centers. My last-minute adaptation used coconut, almond and hazelnut flours and half a dozen eggs. I was able to get them cooking just fine with an extra half-turn, and was even able to stuff them with a few different fillings: chocolate-hazelnut spread, cinnamon-almond butter, and strawberry-chia jam. We served them with a sprinkle of powdered sugar (for my mom), fresh whipped cream and more strawberry-chia jam on the side. I only wish I had thought to buy some sausages to go with them, but live and learn!

grainfree_ebelskivers

Grain-Free Ebelskivers
6 large pastured eggs
3 T coconut flour
6 T full-fat coconut milk or whipping cream
1/3 C hazelnut meal
1 1/3 C almond flour
Pinch salt
2 T sucanat or coconut sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder

Mix together all ingredients while heating your ebelskiver pan over medium heat. Put a dot of coconut oil in each well of the pan when it is hot, and fill each well with about 2 T of batter; I use a 2T disher, which worked perfectly.

Cook ebelskivers on the first side until golden brown underneath. Use a toothpick, skewer or official ebelskiver turner to rotate them 90 degrees; the batter on top will still be wet and drip down to the base of the well, which is what you want. Fill with a teaspoon of desired filling (jam, sautéed fruit, nut butters, cream cheese, etc.), then carefully rotate an additional 90 degrees, which should cover the filling with batter and start cook any remaining raw batter from the top. You will end up with a little globe-shaped pancake that is cooked through. Repeat with all wells and all additional batter.

Source: Very loosely based on Simply Living Healthy.

After breakfast, we opened presents, and Theo spent the rest of the day vacuuming the entire house with his toy Dyson. I launched right into cooking the dinner meal because my parents were concerned about the threat of snow and wanted to get on the road before it got too dark out.

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The Christmas table all set with my mom’s keen eye to festive decoration

The theme for Christmas dinner was German-inspired and sour. I braised a 5-pound chuck roast for sauerbraten, using a very abbreviated marinade and braising time to step up the time table for dinner. It was served with an exceptionally easy gravy, just the juices from the marinade/braising liquid, the onion that cooked with it, and a dollop of sour cream, all pureed in the blender and naturally thick enough without any further ado.

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For the sides, red cabbage seemed to be an obvious choice, so I braised a big pile of that with butternut squash, apple, and onion, based on a recipe from Molly Stevens that flavors it with maple and ginger. My mom is a fan of warm German potato salad, so I also made a big bowl of that using fingerling potatoes and duck bacon (as she is preferentially avoiding pork these days). And finally, for some fresh greens, I tossed together a salad with festive colors and flavors: baby spinach and arugula with pomegranate arils, roasted red beets, candied pecans, satsuma orange segments, and goat cheese, with a simple vinaigrette of honey vinegar.

I had intended to make a gingerbread cake for our dessert but never found the time to bake it. Instead, we nibbled on a trio of chocolate: no-bake grain-free chocolate peanut butter bars, dried fruit dipped in dark chocolate, and grain-free fauxreos (chocolate sandwich cookies with vanilla buttercream).

My Christmas gifts to you: recipes for the well-received body care products I made for my family this year.

Beard Oil

Full of ingredients to moisturize dry skin, nourish and soften the bear, promote hair growth, and stabilize the mood.

1 oz hemp seed oil
1/2 oz black cumin seed oil
1/2 oz castor oil
1 tsp bamboo extract powder
10 drops vetiver essential oil
15 drops each rosemary and marjoram essential oils

Stir everything together and place in a 2oz tinted dropper bottle. Can apply just a few drops neat daily, or use a bit more oil and cover the face with a steaming hot washcloth as an oil cleanser and conditioner.

Soothing Detox Foot Soak

1/2 C baking soda
1/2 C oatmeal
1 tablespoon dried calendula petals
1 packed tablespoon fresh scented geranium leaves, optional
1 tsp ea powdered ginger and bamboo (or olive leaf) extract powder
5-10 drops each of lavender and frankincense essential oils
1/2 C Epsom salts
1/4 C bentonite clay
1/4 C sea salt

Blend oatmeal with baking soda and herbs to make a fine powder; stir together with remaining powders, and add essential oils. Makes 2 cups to fit in a pint jar.

Directions for use: Fill a basin with water as hot as you can tolerate, dissolve 1 cup of foot soak mixture and add 1 C apple cider vinegar if desired. Soak your feet and relax until the water cools.

Thanksgiving Recap 2014

Posted By on November 28, 2014

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Closest shot I have to the finished meal, with all the dishes laid out on the table

I didn’t get many detail shots of our grain-free Thanksgiving dinner this year, but it wasn’t especially fancy, just tasty, high quality food. Jeremy and I are both getting over a stomach bug, so we didn’t have huge appetites. I was most proud of the fact that I managed to have the whole meal ready at the target time of 2:30pm, much earlier than we have historically eaten Thanksgiving dinner. This year was also special in that it was our very first holiday meal together at this dining room table, which traveled all the way from my grandma’s house in Ohio last month.

The Menu

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Golden-brown goodness!

15 lb organic heritage turkey, slow-roasted with herb-shallot butter
Chanterelle mushroom gravy
Grain-free stuffing with leeks, mushrooms, and giblets
Sweet potato puree with melted leeks
Cauliflower mash with maitake mushrooms
Maple-glazed Brussels sprouts with roasted chestnuts
Cranberry-apple jelly
Paleo dinner rolls
Pumpkin chiffon pie with paleo crust

The Execution

Very much like last year, I slow-roasted a 15lb organic heritage turkey, rubbed under and over the skin with thyme, sage, and shallot butter. It was in the oven for 14.5 hours, and came out a perfect mahogany brown. Drippings went into a basic chanterelle mushroom gravy.

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Bread cubes drying, leeks melting, and bowlfuls of cleaned, chopped, minced, and/or boiled vegetables – almost showtime!

This year’s sides were largely prepped in advance, so that I could just put them together and warm them up once the turkey was out of the oven. I got a bit of a late start on the prep this year, as I usually start with the baked goods on Tuesday. On Wednesday afternoon, I roasted and peeled a tray of chestnuts. I also baked a loaf of grain-free bread and diced it up to dry for stuffing. Finally, I put together a pumpkin chiffon pie, roasting a whole sugar pumpkin and trying my hand at a paleo pie crust.

On Thursday morning, I did all the side dish prep. I successively boiled Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and cauliflower, and saved the cooking liquid to add to the turkey stock pot later on. Then I cleaned and chopped all the other vegetables for mise en place. I also melted two huge leeks in butter, browned up some maitake mushrooms to garnish the cauliflower, and cooked down the obligatory potful of cranberry sauce with diced Fuji apple in time for it to gel up in the fridge.

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Bluefoot mushrooms with their pretty violet tones

Once the turkey came out of the oven at 2pm, it was just a matter of assembling the various sides. I mixed up a basic leek, mushroom and giblet stuffing with the grain-free bread cubes, using somewhat exotic bluefoot mushrooms just for fun; it baked in the oven with a small batch of paleo dinner rolls that were mostly for Nolan’s sake, since he no longer eats purees, stuffing, pumpkin pie, or even much in the way of turkey. The sprouts went in a saute pan for some color, and were finished with a handful of chopped chestnuts and a splash of maple syrup. The sweet potatoes went through the food mill courtesy of Jeremy’s assistance, and then heated through with some cream and the aforementioned melted leeks. I threw the cauliflower in the food processor with some stock, sour cream and Parmesan, then warmed it in a pot with the maitakes stirred through.

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Pumpkin chiffon pie with whipped cream and a garnish of candied mixed nuts

For dessert this year, I made pumpkin chiffon pie, which is my dad’s favorite. I didn’t get the egg whites as fluffy as I would have liked, so the texture was not quite as airy as I remembered, but it still tasted good, and the paleo pie crust was alright. It probably would have been easier and almost tastier to make a batch of mini no-bake pumpkin pies, though; the crust of that recipe definitely has more flavor! Actually, I still might go for it. :)

The Verdict

The turkey was gorgeous and very moist. I promptly broke down the carcass and started up batches of stock in my largest pot and also in the VitaClay (which is so small it could mostly just hold the wings and some veggie trimmings). The sides were all tasty as well. I thought the grain-free bread held up admirably, and made a dish that was indistinguishable from regular gluten-laden stuffing. I probably wouldn’t bother baking grain-free bread frequently, since it was still mostly arrowroot starch, but for a special occasion meal, it certainly did the trick. I thought the sweet potato and cauliflower were both delicious, although I strongly suspect that I will be getting the cauliflower leftovers all to myself, and I am already considering converting it into a soup for my lunches. The Brussels sprouts were tasty as well, although I didn’t use as much maple as the original recipe called for. The dinner rolls were really the only disappointment, but they were a last-minute choice after discovering the grocery store was out of chestnut flour (I had planned on a yeasted chestnut flour roll based on a recipe I played with a few months back). Finally, as mentioned above, the pie was tasty but didn’t have that super-fluffy chiffon texture, and the crust was rather bland.

I mostly wish that we had managed to get more than a single bite of turkey into Nolan; his Thanksgiving dinner was mostly the same old cheddar cheese and Zing bar, which is such a bummer.

The Leftovers

We have a bounty of leftovers this year, as I made bigger batches of side dishes specifically for that purpose. I’m planning to make a big pot of turkey soup to take to my parents’ house this weekend. The only dish that is already disappearing too quickly is the pie, mostly because my mom talked me out of making the salted caramel apple-hazelnut tartlets that was going to be my second dessert offering. And since I still have quite a few chestnuts to use up (both ready-roasted and still in the shell), I am currently eyeing this grain-free chocolate-chestnut mousse cake as a Thanksgiving encore—I even happen to have three orphaned egg yolks in the fridge from making the stuffing and pie!

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The table all laid out courtesy of my mother – the only thing it was missing was more family and friends!

Godsend Muffins

Posted By on October 14, 2014

Since I’ve been making these muffins several times a week for the past few weeks, it is high time I share it with you!

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Microwave muffins have such flat tops that I usually turn them out upside down and eat them like single-serving cakes.

I know I just got done complaining about microwave baking, but this recipe has been a godsend when I am at a loss for what to feed Nolan, especially for breakfasts, when the grocery store has run out of his favorite (read: only acceptable) flavor of Zing bars.  He always eats bacon, but everything else is up in the air, and right now, he is coming down solidly in favor of these nearly instant muffins. Made with bananas, eggs, coconut flour and peanut flour, I can make a batch of four muffins in under 10 minutes, so they are a great protein-rich, last-minute addition to the lunch bag. And of course, if you have more time, I highly recommend baking them in the oven instead!

Nearly Instant Peanut Butter Banana Muffins 

If your banana is a smallish one, add a tablespoon or two of your milk of choice (dairy or dairy-free) for extra moisture.

1 large ripe banana
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 C peanut flour (like Protein Plus)
1 T coconut flour
1 T melted ghee, butter, or coconut oil
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 T sucanat, totally optional
1/4 C chocolate chips

Mash banana and mix with egg, vanilla and oil; stir in peanut flour, coconut flour, baking powder, chocolate chips, and sucanat if using. Divide between 4 silicone muffin cups (1/4 C batter each), 3 small greased ramekins (1/3 C batter ea), or one large greased mug. In my microwave, 4 smallish muffins are cooked through in 3 minutes. If you are uncertain how long to bake your cakes, start with 2 minutes and then do 30 seconds at a time until they are cooked through to your taste. Or preheat your oven and bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes.

Variants: I think this recipe would also work well with applesauce, pumpkin puree or another fruit or veggie mash.

(Another version of peanut flour muffins can be found here; this isn’t the recipe I adapted, but I seem to have lost track of the original mug cake recipe I started from. I’ll update the post if I can track it down.)

Chowder Crackers

Posted By on October 3, 2014

I don’t think I have eaten clam chowder since moving back to Colorado, since there aren’t that many good restaurant venues to order it from; we haven’t purchased canned chowder since we were in college and used it as sauce for linguine, eaten out of our one communal mixing bowl. But there was a good deal on littleneck clams at Whole Foods and chowder immediately sprang to mind, so I bought some on a whim and took them home.

clam_chowder

I followed a recipe on Serious Eats for Real New England Clam Chowder, and only made a few minor adjustments out of necessity: fewer clams because I hadn’t been sure how many to purchase, and the addition of a little diced sweet potato to make up for our dwindling supply of russets.  The recipe is naturally gluten-free and made a flavorful soup that I really enjoyed, but Jeremy indicated that he prefers his chowder thick enough to stand up a spoon in, so I’ll have to keep experimenting with recipes. I also want to note that Nolan enjoyed some of the chowder broth tossed on penne pasta for lunch the next day, in an homage to his parents’ culinary roots, lol.

According to the recipe, clam chowder requires a garnish of oyster crackers. I have never been a big fan of oyster crackers, as they always had a stale flavor and then turned to slimy blobs of mush in the soup. But at the last minute I decided to bang out a tray of homemade grain-free oyster crackers for Jeremy’s sake. The tiny batch of batter had just a few ingredients and was a cinch to mix up; it rolled out nicely with a dusting of arrowroot, and I cut out tiny circles with my apple corer (challenging its former status as a uni-tasker), baking them off for a mere 15 minutes. The resulting crackers were pale but crisp, but better yet, they stayed crisp even while bobbing around in my bowl of chowder through the entire meal! They were the perfect little accent to make dinner just that much more special, and I was tickled to find that Jeremy was far more enthusiastic about getting oyster crackers than I could have anticipated–I don’t think even he realized how much he had missed those little packets!

Grain-Free Oyster Crackers

This recipe makes two large sheet trays of oyster crackers, but can be halved relatively easily (beat the egg white slightly first to make it easier to divide in half). These crackers could also be flavored with herbs, spices, or a dry shredded cheese like Parmesan.

1 whole egg plus 1 extra yolk
1 C arrowroot
5 T softened butter
1/4 C coconut flour
Hefty pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Stir together all ingredients to form a ball of dough. Roll out on a surface well-dusted with arrowroot until dough is about 1/8″ thick, and score into little squares or punch out rounds with an apple corer. Bake about 15 minutes until firm and crisp; they won’t take on much color, so go by feel.

Source: Slightly adapted from Predominantly Paleo.

 

Little Black Dress

Posted By on October 2, 2014

No major inspiration for today’s recipe! My parents were staying the night, and I wanted to treat them to scones for breakfast since they are one of my mom’s favorites, and something she has been missing since going gluten-free. I also wanted to treat myself because I had to get out of bed eight times last night between nursing the baby (who has a cold) and trying to get my 6-year old to stop babbling and go back to sleep after waking up at 4am.

I divided the dough in half and mixed frozen blueberries (the baby’s favorite fruit) into part of it, and chocolate chips into the rest. They held their shape perfectly as they baked, and came out with crisp exteriors and moist interiors, along with that crumbly texture characteristic of scones. I actually liked them way better than regular wheat scones, which always seemed so dry and bland to me.

grainfree_scones

Blueberry scones at left, chocolate chip at right. Notice how nicely these held their shape in the oven!

This recipe could easily be adapted to any flavor of scone and would also make divine buttermilk biscuits; I’ve included notes for adaptation below, as well as an adaptation that makes a sandwich bread substitute, and even a cookie variant. Talk about versatility–this recipe is like the little black dress of grain-free baking!

Basic Grain-Free Scones

2 C almond flour
½ C arrowroot starch
2 T sucanat or coconut sugar
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 C yogurt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract or other flavorings
2 T pastured butter, melted
1 C blueberries, chocolate chips or other mix-ins

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the almond flour, arrowroot, sea salt, sucanat, baking powder and soda. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla and yogurt.

Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix until just combined. Gently mix in the butter, then the blueberries. Form the batter into a ball and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Press into a circle and cut into 8 wedges.

Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Variations:
For paleo-friendly and dairy-free, substitute coconut yogurt or pureed fruit or squash, and coconut oil in place of butter.

For basic buttermilk biscuits, substitute buttermilk for yogurt and omit sucanat and vanilla.

For garlic cheddar biscuits, make basic buttermilk biscuits and use shredded sharp cheddar cheese as the mix-in, then brush finished biscuits with garlic butter. These can either be formed as drop biscuits or lightly rolled out with a sprinkle of arrowroot starch and cut out into biscuit shapes.

For flatbread rounds reminiscent of soft sandwich bread, increase arrowroot to 3/4 C, increase yogurt to 1/2 C, add a second egg, omit baking powder, and season (or don’t!) as desired. Scoop in 6 portions onto a baking sheet and spread with a spoon into 4-6″ rounds; bake at 350F for 15 minutes. This variant is based on the recipe here, and makes great peanut butter and honey sandwiches, tuna melts, personal pizza crusts; baked rounds can also be toasted in a regular toaster. Another option is to bake 1/4-1/2 C portions in ramekins for something more like English muffins.

For big soft cookies: Increase sucanat to 1/3 C, and dose out in 1/4 C dollops onto a baking sheet. These could variously be flavored with vanilla and chocolate chips; lemon extract and poppseeds; cinnamon (think snickerdoodle) or other spices; and probably many others. I look forward to experimenting!

Source: Adapted from Frisky Lemon.

Paleo English Muffins

Posted By on August 30, 2014

When Nolan steals food off the counter to eat with no encouragement and Jeremy requests the same meal two days running, I know a recipe is a winner! Jeremy asked me to make tuna melts for lunch last Saturday, but instead of whipping up a batch of the usual flatbreads, I opted to try out a new bread substitute, grain-free English muffins. There are a lot of minor variations on a basic recipe for “Paleo English Muffins” floating around in the aether, but what they all share in common is a simple almond flour-based batter and a stint in the microwave.

I don’t know about you, but as far as I am concerned, “Paleo” and “microwave” go together about as well as oil and water; this is a situation of folks following the letter of the law (specific paleo-type ingredients) but not the spirit of the law (high quality ingredients that throw back to our historical and decidedly pre-microwave diet).

Our own family does not adhere to a paleo-type diet, since we eat lots of raw milk, grassfed butter and cheese, legumes, and the occasional gluten-free grain, but I prefer to do most of my baking grain-free just because it increases the nutrient-density of what are typically junky, starch-heavy foods. Yes, we should probably give them up altogether and just eat more non-starchy vegetables—I did that for the first 6 months or so after eliminating gluten from my diet, and it definitely helped ease my personal transition. But honestly, I love baking and my family has enough hardships without giving up all the foods they enjoy. So oven-baked grain-free English muffin tuna melts it is—with a hefty side of salad fresh from our backyard garden (freckled romaine, arugula and shredded baby beet, with purchased organic apple slices).

Engmuffin_tunamelts

Theo was especially fond of the lovely beet-stained apple slices

Grain-Free English Muffins

1 1/3 C blanched almond flour
1/4 C coconut flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 T fat of choice (olive oil, ghee, butter, coconut oil, bacon grease)
3 extra-large organic eggs, or 4 large
1/2 C water
1 T honey

Preheat oven to 400F, and grease 6 1/2C ramekins. Mix together the dry ingredients, then stir or cut in your fat of choice. Whisk together the eggs, water and honey and mix into the dry ingredients (or just throw everything in the bowl if you are in a rush; this batter is forgiving!). Divide the batter evenly between the ramekins, and bake for 15-20min, until firm. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before turning out and eating in your desired configuration—tuna melts, breakfast egg sandwiches, mini-pizzas, or just pan-toasted and slathered with nut butter and jam.

Microwave option: If you just can’t set aside 20 minutes to bake these muffins in the oven, go ahead and stick one in the microwave for 2-3 minutes; the recipe can be quartered for a single large serving. In my opinion, the color and texture suffer, but if you are going to toast them and slather them with toppings, you might be able to overlook the differences. Of course, if you are that short on time, I highly recommend just cutting an avocado in half and using that in place of bread for your tuna melt!

Source: Slightly adapted from Whole Body Health and Fitness.

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