September 17, 2011

Coconut Chai Cupcakes

My life has changed a lot since I last posted in August.  Most notably, I moved to Greenpoint, Brooklyn! Anyone who's ever moved knows that the process will likely take over your life for at least a month.  First it was apartment hunting and viewing, then packing and driving and moving and sweating.  Now it's furniture shopping and cleaning and organizing. 

chai infused coconut milk. mm mmm
I've only been in my apartment for about two weeks and things are slowly coming together.  My walls are freshly painted, my clothes are hung in the closet, I have a bed, a dresser, and an organized shoe collection (!).  I've been cooking a lot (of course), but my meals have been much simpler and much less photogenic.  If you can believe it, I haven't baked a thing yet! I just haven't had the time or energy, but I'm hoping to change that very soon.

For now, I'll leave you with the last thing I baked before I moved out: Coconut Chai Cupcakes for my friend Ashley's birthday.  I used the Chai Cake recipe from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes, but modified it by using light coconut milk instead of whole milk, Celestial Seasonings' Sweet Coconut Thai tea for steeping, and changing the spice mixture up a bit.

The cupcakes came out beautifully.  They tasted like fall and had a tender crumb, a light sweetness, and a pleasant spice.  I made my own frosting using coconut oil, coconut flour, a bit of light coconut milk, agave nectar and powdered sugar.  It came out pretty well (and was my first time using coconut oil and flour for frosting), but was nothing to write home about.  The cake is definitely worth it though and just right for this time of year.

I'll leave you with a link to the recipe in case you don't have a copy of Sky High:

August 14, 2011

Gluten-Free Banana Bread Pancakes with Quick Stone Fruit Compote

Don't mind the computer in the background, focus on the pancakes
Over the past few weeks I've had a few recipe flops. I'll go into the kitchen with every intention, and expectation, to come out with something blog-worthy, but to no avail. Saturday morning I went into the kitchen with no expectations. I was in the mood to experiment, and didn't look at a single recipe beforehand. Lo and behold something amazing emerged.

Theses pancakes are not only super simple, healthy, and tasty, they're also gluten-free. Woah. They're thick, fluffy, not mushy, and absolutely perfect for topping with coconut oil, maple syrup, almond butter, or this quick stone fruit compote.

I can't wait until next weekend when I have the morning leisure time to make them again, or maybe I'll just have to have pancakes for dinner one night this week.  Worse things have happened.

Gluten-Free Banana Bread Pancakes
Serves 1

1 small ripe banana, or 2/3 large banana
1 egg
1 tablespoon buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon coconut flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

coconut oil for cooking

In a medium bowl, mash the banana with a fork until smooth. Beat in the egg. Sift in the buckwheat flour, coconut flour, and baking powder. Mix until combined.

Heat coconut oil in a non-stick skillet (this is important, I used my non-non-stick griddle and while my pancakes turned out fine, flipping was very difficult). Once hot, pour the batter into desired size pancakes. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side (they're ready to flip when air bubbles begin to form and burst).

Quick Stone Fruit Compote

1 peach or nectarine, chopped
1 plum, chopped
1 tablespoon water
3 whole cloves
3 cardamom pods, cracked
1-2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and cook until fruit has softened and water has dissolved into a syrup.

July 10, 2011

Hemp Chia Pudding

For the past couple of weeks, I've had a new breakfast obsession.  No, it's not oatmeal or even green smoothies.  It's chia pudding and it's the perfect summer breakfast.  Let me count the ways: 1) it's served chilled or at room temperature so there's no need to turn on the oven or stove, 2) it's completely portable (I've been enjoying it on the train to work), 3) it fills me up and holds me over 'til lunch without weighing heavily on my stomach, 4) it's easily customizable, 5) it's delicious! Oh, and it's also 100% raw, vegan, and completely nutritious.  What's not to love?

When I first started making chia pudding, I used a very basic 'recipe,' if you could even call it that-- it was just almond milk, vanilla extract, and chia seeds.  I enjoyed the simplicity, but after awhile, I got a little bored.  Enter dates and hemp seeds.  I love the flavor of both, though I hear some people are turned off by the "earthy/ grassy" flavor of hemp, it's never been a deal-breaker for me.  With just a little extra time an effort, these two ingredients really amp up both the flavor and nutritional profile of your basic chia pudding.

I topped this morning's bowl with banana, wild blueberries, raw cacao nibs, and almond butter.  Other great topping options are unsweetened shredded coconut, homemade granola, and whatever fresh or dried fruit you have on hand.

And by the way, if you're wondering what's so great about chia seeds (or hemp seeds) nutritionally, here's a quick run down: brands differ, but 2 tablespoons of chia seeds have about 6- 8 grams of fiber and 3- 4 grams of protein.  They're also a good source of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.  Hemp seeds also contain Omegas and are a good source of iron, potassium, magnesium and protein, with 2 tablespoons containing 8 grams of protein and all 8 essential amino acids (making them a complete protein).  But now, onto the recipe...

Hemp Chia Pudding
Serves 2- 3

1 3/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
2 medjool dates, pitted
2- 3 tablespoons raw, shelled hemp seeds
2- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch sea salt
1/3 cup raw chia seeds

In a food processor or blender, add all ingredients except the chia seeds and blend until smooth (or as smooth as you can get it in whatever device you're using).  Pour the milk mixture into a large bowl (use the same vessel that you're going to store it in) and mix in the chia seeds, making sure they stay separate and do not clump.  Let the mixture sit for about 10- 15 minutes and stir again, breaking up any clumps with a fork, if they've formed.  At this time, you may either transfer the mixture to the refrigerator to set up, or leave it at room temperature and move it to the fridge in another half hour or so. 

The pudding will last in the fridge for at least a week.  Add more almond milk as needed if mixture becomes too thick.  Enjoy chilled or at room temperature with whatever toppings you like!

June 19, 2011

My Go-To Granola

As I've mentioned before, I make granola often, but often, it goes undocumented.  I like to play around with different ingredeints and flavors depending on the season, but that doesn't mean I don't play favorites.  This is the recipe I keep coming back to; it's my standby.

I think I like this particular combination so much because it's filled with some of my favorite things: almonds, coconut, buckwheat, pumpkin seeds, and usually, maple syrup.   It's also extra crunchy, which I love, thanks to the buckwheat groats.  For this batch, I decided to experiment with a new sweetener I found on sale at Whole Foods: Coconut nectar.

Coconut nectar is a low-glycemic (GI of 35) sweetener that contains 17 amino acids and has a nearly neutral pH.   It's derived from the sap of coconut blossoms and the brand I purchased, Coconut Secret, is also 100% Raw, Vegan, and Gluten-Free. Needless to say, I was excited to try it, especially because I love natural coconut flavor.  Unfortunately, once I got home, I realized that "Coconut Nectar does not have a coconutty flavor." Bummer.

For those of you who are curious, if I had to compare the flavor of coconut nectar to anything it would probably be barley malt syrup or perhaps dark agave nectar.  It has a deep, not quite caramely flavor that I didn't particularly take to.  My verdict is that while the nectar is a worthy product, I definitely prefer the flavor of maple syrup.  So I'll be sticking with the deliciously reliable grade b maple syrup for my usual granola, but I'm still going to play around with other uses for the remainder of my coconut nectar.  As for this granola, recently I've been enjoying it mixed in a bowl with chopped apples and raisins and topped with almond milk.  Breakfast or snack perfection.

Go-To Granola

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raw buckwheat groats
1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
2 1/2 tablespoons grade b maple syrup, coconut nectar, or other liquid sweetener
2 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon ground chia or ground flaxseed (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of sea salt

Preheat your oven to 325 F.  Mix the first four ingredeints together in a large bowl.  In a small bowl (use the same one you melted the coconut oil in), whisk the last 5 ingredeints together and let sit for a few minutes to thicken if using ground chia/ flax.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry until evenly coated.  Spread mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20- 25 minutes, stirring every 10- 15 minutes, until golden.  Let cool and store in a sealed container.

June 12, 2011

Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies

To some of you, the combination of the words chickpea and blondie might make you shudder.  Trust me, I know how you feel.  When I first saw the "dessert hummus" recipes floating around the blog world, I cringed at the thought.  Sweet hummus?  It seemed so very wrong.  Soon enough though, my curiosity got the best of me and I tried my hand at some "cookie dough dip"-- more or less a blended mixture of chickpeas, nut butter, vanilla extract, maple syrup, and chocolate chips.  I didn't LOVE it, but really, it wasn't bad.  If I didn't have all these prior associations with hummus being a strictly savory Middle Eastern spread, I may have liked it even more.

Before the dessert hummus trend kicked in, Heidi from 101Cookbooks featured a recipe for Black Bean Brownies.  Initially, I was skeptical (though most of her recipes don't disappoint), but after this recent foray into the world of chickpea blondies, black bean brownies are definitely on my "must-bake" list.

To be honest, I didn't have high expectations going in to this recipe but I was pleasantly surprised with the results-- chickpea blondies are pretty good! And for all of you who are wondering: they don't taste like beans! Aside from being a fun kitchen experiment, they're are also great for those who are vegan and/or gluten-free.  I have to say, they might be some of the wholiest treats around.

Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies
If you don't have the two kinds of sweetener called for, I think these would work with 1/2 cup of either sucanat/ brown sugar or liquid sweetener. Also, feel free to add up to 3/4 cup sugar if you'd like them sweeter.  Next time I make these, I'll probably use a smaller pan because I like my blondies/ brownies to be thicker.

Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie and Have Cake, Will Travel

1 1/2 cups chickpeas (1 can, drained and rinsed)
3 tablespoons sucanat or brown sugar
3 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons coconut milk or almond milk
1/4 cup nut butter [I used 2 tbsps roasted almond butter and 2 tbsps roasted cashew]
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate

Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Blend all ingredients (except chocolate) in a food processor until very smooth. Mix in chocolate, and spread evenly into a greased 8×8 pan.

Bake for about 22 minutes.  Blondies should be just starting to crack at the middles and turn golden at the edges.  You want them to look a little undercooked when you take them out, because if over-baking will result in a dry, crumbly texture.

Once fully cooled, cut into 16 squares and serve.

May 29, 2011

Really Good Bran Muffins with Prune Jam

It's hard to believe that before I went to college, breakfast used to be my least favorite meal. (Dinner was my favorite, specifically if it consisted of spaghetti bolognese.)  It's not that breakfast in college was so stellar, but when I moved off campus junior year, I started cooking for myself much more.  I also started reading food blogs and, soon, a whole new world of breakfast possibilities existed.

One thing I love to eat for breakfast is muffins.  I love muffins with coffee; I love them toasted with a smear of butter or coconut oil, and I even love them crumbled over yogurt or oatmeal (muffin-top oats, literally).  They're also one of my favorite things to bake.  (I've got tons of recipes here on the blog).

I think my most beloved (really trying not to say favorite again...) muffin would have to be the bran muffin, and that's not at all due to it's guise of healthfulness.  Don't get me wrong, some bran muffins are actually healthy (these, for example, are pretty virtuous), but most bakery varieties are LOADED with sugar to make up for the "blandness" of the bran.  Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I love the hearty texture and deep yet subtle wheat-y sweetness of a good bran muffin; when done right, they're really the bomb.

This particular bran muffins recipe is definitely done right.  It's from Good to the Grain, which I previously reviewed.  If you remember in my review, I was sadly unable to provide recipes from the book, but this time, I did some internet sleuthing and found the reprinted recipe online in The Washington Post.  So this time, you're in luck!  Enjoy these muffins lightly toasted, with smear of good quality salted butter and some of the remaining prune jam-- you'll have yourself the makings of a "favorite" breakfast, trust me.

Bran Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

When the batter is ready, fill alternate wells in the muffin tin so each muffin has room to spread out and bake evenly. When greasing the pans, make sure you grease outside the rim of each muffin well so the muffin top does not stick. [As usual, I didn't see this notation til it was too late so my muffins came out less-than-rounded on top-- doesn't take away from their deliciousness though!]
Adapted from Good to the Grain, reprinted via The Washington Post

For the jam*:
3 large oranges
1 1/2 cups pitted prunes

For the muffins:
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
2 cups buttermilk or almond milk with a squeeze of lemon
1/2 cup whole spelt flour
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons muscavado or dark brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 large egg


Finely grate the zest of 1 orange to yield 1 tablespoon; reserve. Squeeze enough juice from the oranges through a sieve (to catch the pulp) to yield 1 cup.

Combine the juice and prunes in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring just to a boil, then cover and turn off the heat. Let sit for about 30 minutes, then use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the mixture until thick and smooth. The yield will be about 1 cup; 1/2 cup will be used for this recipe. Reserve the rest for another use.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a litte butter to grease 12 alternating muffin wells in the muffin pan or pans (see headnote).

Measure the wheat bran into a medium bowl. Warm the buttermilk or almond milk in a small saucepan over the lowest possible heat setting; it will separate if overheated. Pour the milk over the bran, stirring to combine.

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon adding any bits of grain or sugar that remain in the sifter.

Whisk together the molasses, melted butter, egg, the 1/2 cup of prune puree and the orange zest in another bowl, making sure the egg is well incorporated. Add the mixture to the milk-bran mixture, stirring, then add the resulting mixture to the flour mixture and mix well to form a batter.
Use an ice cream scoop to portion the batter evenly among the 12 prepared muffin wells. The batter should be slightly mounded. Bake for 30 to 34 minutes, rotating the pan(s) halfway through, until the muffin bottoms have darkened (twist a muffin out to check) and the tops spring back to the touch.

Place the muffin pan(s) on top of the stove and gently twist out the muffins, letting them cool on their sides halfway out of their individual wells; that will help keep them from becoming soggy.

These muffins are best eaten when fully cooled. If baked in the evening for the next morning, cool completely, then cover with a clean dish towel.

*Only half of the prune puree is used in this recipe. The remaining puree can be refrigerated or frozen and used for a jam or for another batch of muffins. The muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

May 21, 2011

Dilly Lentil Potato Salad

Today is a perfect day, at least in terms of weather.  It's about 68/70 F, sunny, just a little bit breezy, and not too humid; it's just right.  Days like this don't come around too often so I try to enjoy them as much as possible when they do. 

After yoga this morning, I went back and forth in my head about what I should do to make the most of this beautiful weather, but I was over-thinking it.  Mid-way through getting ready to force myself out the door and do something, I thought to myself, "All I really want is sit outside, read, update my blog, and make/ eat something delicious.  So here I am, in my backyard, soaking in the all too infrequent bright weather and eating the perfect potato salad.

If you're familiar with my blog, you've probably noticed that most of my savory recipes are not exactly, well... exact.  I don't measure much when I cook, and sometimes I don't even measure when I bake (I know, the horror).  So here's my rough recipe for a fresh take on potato salad.  I hope you'll be able to find a perfectly weather-ed day to enjoy it.

Dilly Lentil Potato Salad
Inspired by Heidi Swanson's Mostly Not Potato Salad

new potatoes, fingerling potatoes or a mix
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (any kind but red)
cucumber, chopped
grape tomatoes, halved
scallions, chopped
fresh dill

equal parts whole grain mustard
and white or red wine vinegar
olive oil
sea salt
a teeny bit of agave nectar or honey

Boil a pot of salted water.  Clean the potatoes and halve or quarter them so they are as close to uniform sizes as possible. When the water boils add the potatoes and cook until tender but not falling apart. Drain and set aside. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing.

In a large bowl add the potatoes, lentils, chopped cucumber, and tomatoes.  Season liberally with fresh dill. Pour the dressing over top and lightly toss.  top with scallions and serve room temperature or chilled.

P.s.- This is wonderful to pack for lunches during the week, especially if you work in an office that lacks a microwave and toaster (I'm not naming names).