Archive for August, 2009

Date Cake – Revisited

    This is my second attempt to bake Ricki’s date cake recipe from her Diet, Dessert, and Dogs  blog in a gluten-free version. Let me say this in my defense: those warnings on antihistamine packages do not go far enough when they say not to operate machinery while on the medication. Neither should you attempt sewing, knitting, or baking of new recipes. It will take several days to undo the damage. However, Mrs. K’s Date Cake is now a fabulous success!
    Some of where I went wrong previously include grabbing the chia seed instead of the flax seed, using quinoa flour that I had not tried before, blenderizing the date mixture in a pathetic attempt to disguise the dates so that possibly someone else in the house would sample the cake, and finally, forgetting lessons learned about the differences in Dutch and regular cocoa powder. Is it any wonder the cake consistency was somewhere between brownie and fudge?
    Ricki warned about allowing the cake to cool before cutting. For this one it should be cold and mellowed in the pan for an hour or so. I had a piece before dinner while it was barely warm and another after dinner. (It is not unusual for me to do dessert before dinner but usually not before and after!) The second time the flavor seemed much richer. This is a phenomenon that I’ve encountered before with gluten-free baked goods and one that I do not understand. Nevertheless, here is the successful version. (Notice the toasty golden coconut!)

DD&D Date Cake Success!

DD&D Date Cake Success!

Ingredients:
heaping 1/2 cup finely chopped dried (unsweetened) dates
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup Sucanat
2 Tbsp. finely ground flax seeds
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
—————————————————
(This is the gluten-free substitution for the spelt flour)
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/3 cup garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour
1/3 cup potato flour (NOT starch)
2 Tbsp. coconut flour
1/2 tsp. Xanthan gum
—————————————————
1 heaping Tbsp. dark cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Topping:
2 Tbsp. Sucanat
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350* F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan, or line with parchment paper.

Place the dates in a medium bowl and pour the boiling water over them; stir briefly. Add the Sucanat, flax seed, milk, oil, and vanilla, and whisk to blend. Allow to sit until room temperature, about 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour mixture, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and stir to blend. Turn into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Sprinkle the topping ingredients over the cake: first, sprinkle the Sucanat evenly over the surface of the batter. Cover with a sprinkling of the coconut, and end with the chocolate chips. (The coconut gets all golden and toasty during baking – ummm)

Bake for 35-40 minutes, turning the pan once about halfway through to ensure even baking, until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan before cutting. (Makes 9 large or 16 snack-sized pieces.) May be frozen.

Mom

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Garden Harvest Cake from the Twilight Zone

    Andrea is one of those girlfriends that you wish you had known your whole life. Aside from being a lovely, compassionate, outgoing woman and a prize-winning quilt artist she is also a very fine cook. She spotted this recipe for Garden Harvest Cake in the local newspaper and baked one with gluten-free flour for me! She and I both pursue delicious and highly nutritious food and while I might never have noticed this recipe her instincts were spot-on.

    The recipe was a Cooking Light contest winner and I determined to make it not only gluten-free but egg-free and dairy-free as well. This turned into a Cinderella loaf that went from good to bad to great as I bumbled through one misstep after another. At the end of the day there was one only piece remaining of what had been a potential disaster.

    Imagine zucchini bread, carrot cake, and apple cake all together in one cinnamon spiced treat. My carefully plotted changes were penciled in the recipe margins. All of the prep was done and the ingredients were combined. Into the pan and into the oven it all went and the timer was set. The loaf smelled wonderful, was browning nicely, and shrinking away from the pan edges just as the timer went off. A cake tester came out barely sticky and residual heat would continue to cook it so I sat it on a hot pad for about 30 minutes before turning out on the cooling rack. It shrank some during cooling but this is a quite common characteristic of gluten-free baked goods. I hovered, none too patiently, waiting for it to cool enough for slicing. I had planned to wrap several slices to take in to share with staff and volunteers at the food pantry.

    OMG! The middle was still gluey batter. A slice was luscious but very wet and difficult to handle. As expensive as gluten-free ingredients are there had to be a way to salvage this glop. Re-bake, yes, biscotti are cut and re-baked so that is what I attempted. Crosscut thick slices were placed single-layer in a baking pan and sent back into the oven. Time ran out so I wrapped the pan like a hot casserole and took off for my shift.

    Can you imagine how hesitant I was to offer this to anyone? Ann, my longtime and only pantry partner thought it looked and smelled good and this certified Southern cook knows good from not so good. When she took a bite and declared that it was the best of my experiments that she had ever tasted it was beginning to feel like I had entered the Twilight Zone. Our organization’s volunteer coordinator gave it a try and declared a timeout on her diet. Word got around the staff and by the end of our shift there was one lonely piece remaining in the pan. And – they all wanted the recipe!

    In the meantime I set out to bake Ricki’s date cake  recipe from her Diet, Dessert, and Dogs blog in a gluten-free version. Trying to head off potential problems at the pass it was allowed to cool in the oven and thus continue baking from residual heat. It was absolutly luscious but more like a really fudgy textured brownie than like a cake. This must be my phase of the zodiac for dense desserts. I’ll post these recipes when my stars shift and confidence returns!

Mom

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Really Dry Banana Muffins

    Some failures are to be expected when experimenting ‘on the edge’. A very few (thankfully) go right in the trash bin after one or two bites. But what can you do with those in which you have more than a modest monetary investment not to mention your time? Every curmudgeon nerve in my body screams ‘think of something – salvage it’.
    Years ago I developed a banana bread/muffin recipe for my three young children that I am still requested to bake. After many experiments I thought I finally had perfected the gluten-free version of that recipe. It was close. But not close enough. Maybe I over baked them, maybe the batter needed just a bit more moisture, but here I was again with a batch of really dry banana muffins that no amount of hot tea could adequately remedy. So I froze the remainder of the batch and waited for that eureka moment.
    It didn’t happen in a flash but over several days of foraging the cupboards for breakfast with those muffins still weighing on my mind and thinking ‘with almond butter? – too heavy; maple syrup? – too sweet; blackberry jam? – still too sweet’; the strawberries in the fridge somehow said ‘try us’.
    I mashed the strawberries together with a bit of sweetener and briefly zapped them in the microwave to release the juices then quickly defrosted one of those muffins and crumbled it into the berries. The next day the same scenario was repeated with blueberries. And yet again with some leftover canned pineapple tidbits in their juice – topped off with the last ounce of leftover coconut milk.
    This is such a satisfying replacement for dry cereal that I can’t believe that I am actually contemplating keeping that ‘really dry banana muffin’ recipe!

Really Dry Banana Muffin with Strawberries

Really Dry Banana Muffin with Strawberries

Mom

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Goat Milk Cheddar

    When Rita wrote about goat milk products she was not impressed with the cheese she sampled and never went back. The yogurt was pleasing to her but something about the cheese she sampled really turned her off.
    As I spotted this eight ounce brick of goat milk cheddar at my local grocery store the first few pages of the classic children’s story Heidi popped into my thoughts. The child Heidi had gone to live with her grandfather, a goat keeper, and he prepared a dinner of rustic bread and goat cheese chunks, toasted in front of the fire. Now you know that had to be good or a little girl would not have liked it so much. So I always thought there had to be good goat cheese out there somewhere – and this is it!  Montchevre Goat Milk Cheddar is every bit of goodness the story implies. Their website also mentions Feta and I would definitely try that if I can find it.
    Don’t you just love it when you stumble across something so good?

Mom

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Cranberry-Walnut Scones

    This scone recipe was inspired by one from the Bob’s Red Mill web site. I made changes to reduce the sugar and make them dairy free (and thus, vegan). So many people with gluten issues have other sensitivities as well. Sometimes it is a major challenge not-worth-the-effort and sometimes I create some pretty good stuff. Right now this is one of my favorites.

    All of the ingredients are found at my local HEB grocery store except for the coconut flour. While it is expensive, a little lasts a long time and the yumm factor that it adds to baked goods is so worth it. The Austin Whole Foods store has it in stock all the time. And I’ve thought about ordering it from Amazon – it brings the price per bag down but you get 4 bags at a time. So far I don’t use that much so haven’t gone that route.

    You cannot feel deprived eating one of these treats. They taste good, are appetite satisfying, and stave off the hunger pangs for a good long time. You will love it that your friends and family love them while wishing they wouldn’t eat them all up!

Cranberry Walnut Scones

Cranberry Walnut Scones

Ingredients:
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup potato flour (starch has NO nutrients)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup evaporated cane juice – Sucanat
1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 14-ounce can of regular (not light) coconut milk*
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preparation:
    Preheat oven to 450°F. Cut or break the walnuts into bits and toast lightly for one – two minutes in the microwave. Cut cranberries into uniform sized bits. Attention to these small details raises the appearance and mouth feel level appreciably. Stir the vinegar into the coconut milk.

    Sift together all of the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Stir in all of the coconut milk to form a soft dough. Add in cranberries and walnuts and fold in until just combined. Mix it all firmly with a spoon until it forms a ball of dough.

    Knead on the counter or a bread board for a minute or so. Place mixture on top of a square of parchment paper and press to 1” thickness in the form of a circle. Cut into eight pieces like you would a pizza. Place on greased baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes. Gluten free products do not brown as much so be careful not to over bake and cause them to be dry.

    This recipe makes eight very large scones. Divide the dough into two balls to make smaller snack size scones. Let them cool thoroughly before wrapping and freezing.

Nutritional Information:
                       Kcal     Protein     Fiber    Fat     Carb      GI
Large Scone:     362     5             6          14      54       32
Small Scone:     181     3             3           7       14        54

*Note: Do not use light coconut milk or the scones will be drier and possibly tough. Thai Kitchen also contains guar gum which helps provide structure for the gluten-free flours.

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Love your Liver, Part I

My weight loss journey has had its ups and downs, literally on the scale, as well as, the feelings of defeat and triumph. Today, I feel great. But it goes much deeper than a number on a scale. I am learning how important it is to have a good nutritional foundation for health. Some of the benefits of that are a lower weight, more energy and a clear mind.

I started a liver enhancement (or cleanse) program 14 days ago from the book, “The 7 Principles of Fat Burning” by Dr. Eric Berg. The goal is to target the liver with specific means to assist it to be healthier and a by-product of that is better fat burning. My results are that I have lost 10.5 pounds and have such a sense of satisfaction in my efforts. I know how I made that happen…and I did it in a way much different than I ever had before.

I was feeling a bit out of control, emotionally, physically and mentally, in the sense that I was overwhelmed with the issues of my health. I was struggling to keep it together and had no idea each day how much energy I would have to use to push myself to find answers. Some days I just sat on the couch and watched favorite TV shows…and could do no more than that. I was depressed, rebelling and in denial about the next step of my journey. I had to mourn the loss of my health, despite efforts over the years to address symptoms, and work through the anger and other grieving steps to come out on the other side. I had to embrace that I had more to go…even after identifying the Candida and gluten obstacles. I was very proud of that and my ability to get around them…and incorporate the lifestyle changes. However, I had to let go of the victory, face forward and continue on.

I also asked for help to the right kind of healthcare professional, a local chiropractor. I not only trust her, but I trust the tools she is using to assess and improve my health. I needed a coach where I could connect with good rapport and she is being that for me. Out of all the doctors I have gone to over the last 25 years…this feels like a team effort. I educated myself enough now…and gathered resources in place.  I have someone who has supported others this way…and has experience with encouraging compliance in their clients. I am in a position to leverage much and be successful…I just have to do the work.

Creating environments and relationships that support you are not only essential for health, but essential for life. Creating a lifestyle that includes consistency in self-care, nutrition, stress reduction, renewal, positive attitude, resilency and social connections, for my part, is essential in your personal life. Others can be included for work. I actually tended to focus on work, education and career as that was where most of the positive input and success I experienced was derived. Now I am hard at work on the personal side to create balance. It has its own challenges, but without a doubt, my decline of health was the trigger.

I feel I have earned the right to a soapbox…and shout the perils of a life lived foolishly. But to those who are weighed down with their own concerns, it would only be more of the same. I want to be part of the solution, not the problem. And learning to love my liver…plus every other organ and the inner workings of my body helps me be curious and determined to stay the course towards optimal health.

I will detail my experience of the liver enhancement program in my next post.

Rita

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Pizza Crust II

    Now that the family has been enjoying gluten free pizza for several months I began trying different crust recipes since our original favorite contained three eggs for a single pizza crust. This one is quite tasty with simple ingredients (if you don’t count making your own flour blend as you work), and easy to put together. Yeast provides the flavor you expect in a pizza crust, the xanthan provides structure, and the baking powder insures that even if your water was too hot and killed the yeast that your crust will rise a bit and have a nice texture. The salt is a yeast inhibitor and also for taste. If you need to leave out the salt you should be OK with the yeast since the crust goes immediately into the oven. I baked salt free bread some years ago and found that yeast can expand at an alarming rate and run the bread dough over and out of the pan while you watch in horror.

Pizza Crust Ingredients:
Sift all together until thoroughly blended.
1 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup potato flour (not starch)
1 package quick-rising yeast
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup very warm water

Directions:
    Mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl. Heat the water (you should still be able to put your fingers in it without pain) and add the oil. Stir the water/oil mixture into the flour mixture and work it with a spoon until all of the flour is absorbed and it all holds together as you work it.
    Dump the dough on a bread board or clean counter top and knead it with your hands for about a minute. Grease a 12” pizza pan. Flatten the dough and place it on the pan. Press all around until the crust is as even as possible. Form a raised rim around the edge of the crust to help contain the toppings. This step is so much like working with clay in art class. If there are cracks just pinch it back together and try again. Gluten free dough will not toughen up from handling it.
    Bake the crust for 10-12 minutes at 425* F. Remove it from the oven. Add sauce, grilled onions, mushrooms, olives and optional other ingredients. Cheese may be added if dairy is not a problem. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes until the edges are brown and the toppings are hot.

Mom

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