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.

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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.

Primalized Sesame Chicken

Posted By on August 2, 2014

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A decent-sized head of broccoli—and with any luck I will still get some side florets developing as well

After a week of torrential rain, I finally got to spend some time in the garden weeding, clearing out bolting cool-weather crops, and filling in a few new sections for fall harvest. My broccoli heads are all just about ready to harvest—I brought in the largest one, which looked like it was thinking about flowering, and decided to show it off in a stir-fry recipe with chicken thighs.

My favorite go-to dish to order at Chinese restaurants is sesame chicken, the one with crispy battered chicken and a sweet-spicy glaze. Obviously I have not been able to eat this since going gluten-free, but no more! Garbanzo bean flour makes an ideal coating for fried chicken tenders or fish sticks, either tossed with the meat dry or mixed with water for something like a pancake batter consistency. Here, I combined the garbanzo bean flour with sesame seeds, and ended up with crunchy, savory chicken nuggets that are tasty on their own but even better topped with stir-fried broccoli and spicy-sweet sauce. Honestly, I think this version of sesame chicken is superior to all of the wheat flour versions I have tried in the past—I had zero trouble with the coating coming off at any point in the process, and the flavor and texture was perfect.

sesame_chicken

Ready for dinner—basmati rice, sesame chicken, and sauted broccoli and red onion

Below I have listed minimal adjustments to the original recipe, but I actually used pre-reduced chicken stock concentrate rather than boiling it down on the spot, and made my sauce from tamari, Ginger People’s sweet ginger-chile sauce, sesame oil and a teaspoon of organic cornstarch to thicken it up—these just happened to be the choices I had available in my fridge. I chose simply to top the chicken with broccoli, onions and sauce on the plate rather than adding it to the skillet first, in hopes of keeping the texture crispy—this approach worked nicely.

Sesame Chicken with Broccoli

For basic kid-friendly chicken nuggets, just make the nuggets and leave off the trimmings. These also reheat nicely in the oven, maintaining their crisp exterior without getting flabby; using chicken thighs rather than white meat also helps maintain some moisture if you intend to reheat.

1 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
About 1/2 C garbanzo bean flour
1/4 C sesame seeds, preferably unhulled
1/4 C avocado oil (or coconut oil or lard)
2 T minced fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 1/2 C homemade chicken stock, or 1-2 T stock concentrate
1 lb broccoli, stems peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds, tops cut into florets
3 T oyster sauce
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, season the chicken with salt and pepper; mix garbanzo bean flour and sesame seeds in a large bowl and toss chicken in to coat thoroughly.

Coat a large skillet with avocado oil. Add the chicken in an even layer and cook over high heat, undisturbed, until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook until browned on the second side, about 2 minutes. With tongs, transfer the chicken to a rimmed baking sheet and put it in the oven while you finish the dish.

In the oil remaining in the skillet, cook the ginger, garlic and crushed red pepper over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and boil over high heat until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Add the broccoli, cover and cook until bright green and crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the oyster sauce, season with salt and remove from the heat. Gently stir in the chicken and sesame oil and serve with steamed rice.

Source: Adapted from Food and Wine

Update 11/4/14: I made this again last night with a different improvised sauce: tamari, Ginger People sauce, toasted sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, garlic powder and a bit of cornstarch. It made a nice sweet sticky glaze with some heat, and I served it with a side of stir-fried cabbage (cut in big squares), carrots, onions and garlic.

Second Chances

Posted By on August 2, 2014

I am constantly amazed by the resiliency of plants. My last garden post showed the devastation of a hailstorm, but just a few weeks later, the plants have not only survived the damage, but many of them have virtually doubled or tripled in size.

My corn and pumpkin plants came through the hail and grew like mad in the last two weeks. Unfortunately, the dog ran through the bed and flattened one of my largest cornstalks—not hopeful that this one will be able to make a recovery, but you never know.

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Popcorn and pumpkins

This bed was one of the most damaged by the hailstorm. Most of the turnips and radishes at the front end of the bed were too stressed by the damage and subsequent heat, and decided to bolt, so there are only a few of those left. I dehydrated a huge bowl of these greens for making my own greens powder, and also made a large batch of arugula pesto, but as you can see, I have not even put a dent in the arugula patch yet.

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Arugula dominates the right-hand side of the bed, with turnips in front, onions and ground cherries behind, and beans and basil visible toward the back.

The kohlrabi is all getting enormous, almost to the point of crowding out my purple hull peas. Some of the bulbs are getting good sized and should be ready to harvest. I am counting on my mom to take some of these off my hands, and would love some of your favorite kohlrabi recipes!

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A nearly baseball-sized kohlrabi bulb is ready to harvest

My emergency efforts on behalf of the beans–sheep and peat amendment and straw mulching—seems to be making a difference. Unfortunately, the hail pummeled everything down to nubs right after this effort, so I still ended up losing half my plants, but the ones that survived are looking healthier and putting out new leaves, so I may get a few bean pods yet.

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Dragon’s tongue beans—these plants are real fighters!

My Swiss chard is another second-chance story. These plants are the same ones that were being eaten alive by leaf borer insects, but with some patience, I am finally finding myself able to start harvesting healthy leaves. A few of the plants are bolting, but I am planting new successions for fall harvest, and in the meantime, I am thoroughly enjoying eating sauted chard with my breakfasts and lunches.

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Chard just starting to bolt

My rutabagas not only survived being transplanted right before the hailstorm, but they are now producing enormous new leaves. Hopefully there are some edible roots developing under there as well!

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Foot included in the shot for perspective—some of these leaves are immense!

I planted 8 asparagus crowns in one bed in my garden way back in April, but had given up hope that they were still viable after several months of no growth, and had stopped watering the bed. But just this week, as I was clearing out weeds and spent penstemons from this bed, I realized that there were actually asparagus coming up amid all the unwanted volunteers. Five out of 8 crowns is not too shabby—I guess the soaking rain we had last week woke them up.

aspagus_fronds

Hard to capture in a photo, but here are two of my baby asparagus plants.

After some big thunderstorms, Jeremy thought he was safe to skip watering my potted plants for two days in 90+ degree weather—wrong! I left on a Monday after watering and came back on Wednesday to a crispy lemon verbena plant. It looked totally fried, but I didn’t have a chance to get rid of it before the next round of rainstorms rolled in. After a good week of rain, I checked out all my plants, and to my surprise, the lemon verbena was trying to green up and produce some new leaves. Now that is true resilience!

lemonverbena_regrowth

Lemon verbena coming back from the dead, after trimming off all the dead foliage

Banana Boats

Posted By on July 31, 2014

We ran into Whole Foods for just a few items yesterday afternoon, and as I was zipping through the produce section on the way to the back of the store for eggs, an item low on the refrigerated shelf caught my eye—fresh banana leaves. I had never seen them for sale either fresh or frozen, and I couldn’t resist picking some up. They immediately made me think of fish en papillote, so I picked up a fillet of turbot for last night’s dinner, and sat down with the computer to research cooking methods.

Amid recipes for grilled or baked fish simply wrapped in banana leaves, I ended up choosing a somewhat more challenging dish called Cambodian-style amok fish, in which the fish is thinly sliced and steamed along with veggies and a curry-scented coconut custard in a handmade banana leaf boat.

banana_boat1

A little wonky, but it evened out once I filled it with fish and veggies!

My banana leaf boat did not come out looking quite like the ones in the photo because it was a little hard to see the initial fold in the instructions, but I managed something passable that successfully held all of the ingredients without leaking. The plan had been to make one boat per portion, but I could only fit one at a time into my little steamer basket, so in the end I loaded it down with a double portion and called it good.

banana_boat2

Ready for its sauna

You can’t see the layers at all, but there was shredded bok choy on the bottom, followed by tiny whole cinnamon cap mushrooms, sliced shiitake mushrooms, and thinly sliced red onion and Swiss chard stems; on top of that I piled up the sliced turbot. The coconut milk custard poured over top was seasoned with red curry paste, fish sauce, and julienned whole fermented Key lime, and I garnished the lot with some julienned sorrel from my garden.

banana_boat3

I let my banana boat steam for 20 minutes, and then served it up with a side of quinoa. I would have liked to leave it in the banana leaf for dramatic presentation, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to remove it from the steamer intact—oh well! It tasted very good, and the little bites of fish and veggies were just Theo’s size, although he may have been even more enthusiastic about his first taste of quinoa. Jeremy said he could taste the flavor imparted by the banana leaves, but I am still recovering from a minor cold and it was lost on me. The other aspect that left me scratching my head a bit was the custard, which was almost undetectable—maybe I should have doubled the amount for my large boat?

Regardless, it was a fun meal, and a nice change of pace. I still have some banana leaves leftover, and am thinking of lining my VitaClay with the leaves and doing a slow-cooked cochinita pibil.

The Carnivore

Posted By on July 22, 2014

theo_carnivore

No recipe at the moment, just an adorable photo of my paleo poster-baby noshing on a rib bone. These were baby back ribs dry-rubbed and braised in the VitaClay for 2.5 hours, then brushed with a homemade barbecue sauce featuring sour cherries, dried figs and rosemary. Heckuva better teether than a plastic toy, don’t you think? :)

Balsamic Salmon and Succession-Roasted Salad

Posted By on July 21, 2014

tuscan_kale

The kale bounced back from that hail storm in record time

So things were looking pretty bleak in the garden after the big hail storm, and we have had rain pretty much every single day since, so it has been hard to find a good time to get in there and clean up the mess (and the proliferating weeds). The lettuce and radishes, and many of the other greens as well, took a cue from the stress of hail damage and finally decided to bolt. The Tuscan kale is in relatively better shape, and the nice thing about its sturdy foliage is that, even hail-mangled as it was, I was still able to harvest an armload of usable leaves. Hard to tell the difference once it is all chopped up and roasted!

I love this sort of throw-as-you-go meal because everything basically just goes right in the oven as soon as you prep it—no fuss and no wasted time, yet with a really well-rounded rounded flavor. If you are efficient about your time management, the entire meal can be on the table in 25 minutes. Theo gobbled down every last roasted grape and clamored for more, and Jeremy said he was “pleasantly surprised” that the salad was cooked instead of raw.

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Hot out of the oven and ready to eat

Balsamic-Glazed Salmon with Succession-Roasted Grape and Kale Salad

1 C organic black or red grapes, sliced in half
1 large bunch Tuscan kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1/2 small sweet onion, thinly sliced on the vertical axis
1/4 C feta cheese, cut into 1/2″ chunks
Avocado oil
Salt and pepper to taste

2 wild salmon fillets, skin on
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/3 C balsamic vinegar
1 T sucanat

Preheat oven to 400F. In a large glass casserole pan or sheet tray, toss grapes with avocado oil to coat, and place in the oven. After 5 minutes, add the kale and onion to the casserole, and toss to coat with avocado oil. After 5 more minutes, add the feta and toss gently; continue roasting for 10 more minutes, for a total of 20 minutes.

Once you get the veggies roasting, season the salmon with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet to medium-high with a splash of avocado oil and the thyme sprigs; sear the salmon skin-side down until three-quarters cooked, then flip and cook the other side briefly. Meanwhile, combine the balsamic vinegar and sucanat in a small saucepan or skillet over medium-high heat and reduce to a glaze consistency.

Stir the roasted kale salad and season to taste. Brush the balsamic glaze over top of the salmon fillets, transfer them to the top of the kale mixture, and roast for 5 minutes or until cooked through.

Source: Inspired by the Food Network blog and Daydream Kitchen.

The New Standard

Posted By on July 20, 2014

GFpumpkinchip_muffins1

All that was left of the batch by the time I got around to photographing it

One of the recipes Jeremy has requested most over the years is my double-pumpkin chip muffins, so it stands to reason that this has also been one of our most missed recipes since going gluten-free last fall. Yes, I probably could have just substituted a gluten-free flour mix for all-purpose and forged ahead, but virtually all the baking I do these days is grain-free and low in sugar, in order to keep our diets as nutrient-dense as I can manage.

Last month I tried my hand at a grain-free pumpkin bundt cake recipe. It was too moist to come out of the pan neatly, so it looked a mess, but it also tasted great and turned out to be the perfect substitute muffin recipe for our old favorite.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake (or Muffins)

4 C almond flour (or sub 1/2 C with tapioca starch)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 T cinnamon
3/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 eggs
3/4 C unsweetened, full-fat coconut milk (or grassfed cream)
1 (15 oz) can pureed pumpkin
1/2 C organic maple syrup
1/2 C organic molasses
1 tsp vanilla
About 1 C chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare 2 dozen muffin cups. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, pumpkin, maple syrup and vanilla, then stir into dry ingredients. Dish out in quarter-cup portions and bake for about 20 minutes or until they spring back when touched.

If making as a bundt cake: Pour into a very well-greased pan and bake in oven for 40-50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack before turning upside-down onto a serving platter.

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I know they’re a hit when I can barely set one down to take a photo before Nolan is stealing it!

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