Saturday, May 2, 2015

Zucchini, Olive Oil, Lemon, and Honey Almond Bread

I had a couple of zucchini left over from dinner, and wanted to make another quick bread for Rich. He loves them for breakfast, and to take as a snack for work.

I appreciate the no-fuss of making quick breads. No mixer to get messy, one-bowl prep, and a one pan bake time in the oven. The possibilities for flavor are endless- fruits, vegetables, different flours -  and I've learned to not shy away from trying some pretty strange flavors together.

This particular zucchini, lemon, honey almond, and yogurt bread recipe resulted from utilizing what I had available in my cupboard and fridge. I wanted to try to limit the amount of sugar and white flour in the bread, while still keeping it moist and flavorful. It's not in-your-face sweet, not greasy on your fingers, and has wonderful flavor- tartness from the yogurt and lemon, richness from the brown sugar, nuttiness from the honey almonds, and there's a little bit of earthiness from the zucchini. I think there are still many people who don't realize that vegetables are awesome in bread, and may ask what's the green stuff in here? It's a great way to get your kids to eat veggies without them realizing it.

Recipe Tips:
- * You can easily substitute unsweetened applesauce (cup for cup) for the yogurt, and I've also made this bread with coconut milk and almond milk vanilla yogurt (dairy-free.)
- I've tried this bread also just using wheat flour, and I didn't care for the texture. I split the flours 50/50 and it's great.
- Make sure you are using a true loaf pan. This batter rises beautifully, and will overflow if you have a pan that isn't tall enough. If you are using a smaller pan (or two mini-loaf pans), fill them about 1/2 way and you'll be fine.
- Almond extract would be awesome in this in place of the vanilla paste. A little ground ginger (1/4 tsp) added to this would be delicious too.

Zucchini, Olive Oil, Lemon, and Honey Almond Bread
Makes one large loaf of bread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
Zest of 1 large lemon
1 cup (1 small carton) Trader Joe's nonfat vanilla yogurt
     * for dairy-free, you can sub out almond or coconut yogurt or 1 cup unsweetened applesauce for
        the TJ vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup olive oil
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla paste
Juice from 1 lemon
1 cup Trader Joe's sliced honey almonds, divided
2 1/2 cups (2 medium) shredded zucchini

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- In a small bowl, slightly beat eggs and set aside
-Press shredded zucchini between sheets of paper towels or kitchen towels to remove excess water, set aside
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest until combined
- Make a little well in the middle of the dry mixture and add in the yogurt, olive oil, beaten eggs, vanilla paste, lemon juice, 3/4 cup of the almonds, and the zucchini. Stir just until combined- do not over mix.
- Pour batter into a sprayed loaf pan and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of the almonds on top of the bread.
- Bake for 50- 60 minutes until a toothpick pushed into the center of the loaf comes out clean. My loaf took the full 60 minutes to bake through.
- Cool on wire rack before cutting into slices

If you use almond or coconut yogurt or unsweetened applesauce in place of yogurt, this recipe is dairy-free!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

If Almond Joy and Mounds had a Baby..

Sometimes a great new recipe is born from wanting something you don't have in the house, and are too lazy to go out and buy. I've been playing that deadly diet game called What would I eat if I gave myself a pass right now? with myself for the past couple of weeks, and every single time I come up with an Almond Joy candy bar. But, if I could swap the milk chocolate for dark chocolate.. like a Mounds bar.. but also keep the almonds. Basically I was looking for something that doesn't even exist.

I decided to start pulling things out of the pantry- shredded coconut, raw almonds, agave syrup.. and thought I might be able to make my own version of If an Almond Joy and Mounds had a Baby bar.

I've made these little balls of dairy and gluten-free deliciousness twice this week. I had to make sure the first attempt wasn't a fluke before I posted the recipe for you all. LOL

These little gems are a lot less sweet than any store-bought option. I used sweetened coconut and just a tad of agave syrup as the sole sugar sources. I tried 63% dark chocolate chips for the coating- the darkest I could find, and what I created is just pure YUM!

Recipe Tips:
- I like my candy to have some texture to it, so I pulsed the coconut mixture for only about a minute. If you'd like a creamier center for your candy, pulse it a little longer and maybe add another drop or two of water.
- These candies (for texture) are best the next day. The initial stint in the freezer ensures the balls won't fall apart when you coat them in the melted chocolate. The overnight chilling out in the fridge creates a candy center that's firmer than if you eat them right away. Try it both ways, and see how you prefer it.
- You can substitute 1 1/2 tsp melted coconut oil for the knob of Earth Balance when you melt the chocolate chips. I do recommend using one or the other, and not trying to eliminate them though, because your chocolate will not come out smooth and shiny without it.

If Almond Joy and Mounds had a Baby..
Makes about 20, 2" candy balls

1 cup raw slivered almonds
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/2- 1 tsp agave (I used 1/2 tsp)
2 Tbsp + 1/2 tsp water
Pinch of kosher salt (about 1/8 tsp)
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips (I like the 63% Guittard or Sunspire chips)
1 Tbsp Earth Balance (or 1 1/2 tsp melted coconut oil)

- Line the bottom of a 9x12x2 glass pan with parchment paper, set aside
- Combine the almonds, coconut, vanilla paste, agave, water, and salt in a food processor and pulse until desired consistency. I let it go for about 1 minutes until it was mostly smooth, but still had little chunks of coconut still in it.
       -The mixture will just come together if pressed between your fingers. Don't add any extra water
         until you test the mixture out. You don't want it to runny.
- Take out the center blade from your food processor, and then roll the mixture into about 2" balls. You'll need to kind of press the mixture together as you roll, or they will start to fall apart.
- Place the rolled balls in the prepared glass pan, and stick it in the freezer for 20 minutes to help set the candy.
- In a shallow glass dish, combine the chocolate chips and EB or melted coconut oil and microwave it on high for 30 seconds. Stir the chips, then microwave it for another 30 seconds. My microwave is strong, and it's done at this point. The chips should completely melt when stirred and be the consistency of melted chocolate (not clumpy.)
- With a spoon, roll each of the candies in the chocolate to completely cover them. Carefully re-set each one back in the glass pan.
- Freeze the pan for another 20 minutes, then transfer to the fridge. Once the candies are cooled, cover the pan with plastic wrap and leave it in overnight.

Dairy free and Gluten free recipe!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Not Your Average Banana Bread

My taste buds have changed as I've gotten older. Some foods that I really disliked as a kid; olives, mayonnaise, pickles, vinegar (do you see a theme here..) I really, really like now as an adult. On the flip side, some foods I loved as a kid; bananas, milk chocolate, marshmallows (another theme..) I really don't like any longer. I'm going to have to Google this phenomena.

Rich was craving banana bread yesterday. I'm sure you're like me, and have tried umpteenth banana bread recipes. He's a bit picky- he doesn't like his quick breads too sweet, and really hates them to leave oily grease on his fingers. He also says most don't taste enough like bananas, and are a little dry.

I made three loaves, each with different ingredients in varying amounts, and the moment Rich tasted this particular version, he declared a winner. Moist, banana-y, not too sweet.. it checked all of his boxes. I'm not sure if I'm rubbing off on him, but this was the only of the three loaves with citrus added. I know, I add citrus zest and juice to seemingly everything. I wasn't a believer myself until I started baking with it. It really does add that extra oomph.

I am sometimes, admittedly, a bit of a lazy baker. I'm not fond of sifting ingredients (mainly because my sifter makes a mess and takes a lot of arm power to work it), and rarely have the patience to let ingredients come to room temperature. I'm also enamored with baking recipes where you don't need to use and diry-up your mixer. Oh, and the bananas.. no need to mash them in a separate bowl with a fork- just use your hands right out of the peel. I didn't employ any of the normal baking protocol  in making this bread. No sifting, no mixer, no making sure ingredients are room temperature, and very little clean-up. One big bowl, one small bowl (if you use almond milk), and a whisk. That's all you need to make a great loaf of banana bread. Sold!

Give this banana bread a try, and let me know if you agree with Rich.

Recipe Tip:
- I make everything dairy-free due to family allergies. You can easily substitute 1/3 cup buttermilk for the almond milk/vinegar combo. Save a little time, and save a bowl.

Not Your Average Banana Bread
Makes one 9x5 loaf

1/3 cup almond milk
2 tsp white vinegar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
3-4 very ripe bananas (about 1 1/3 cups)
1 tsp vanilla paste (use extract if you don't have paste)
Zest from one orange (I used a Cara Cara)
Juice from 1/2 the orange
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1- 1 1/2 cups chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- In a small bowl, combine the almond milk and vinegar. Stir, and set aside for about 5-10 minutes. You are essentially making a dairy-free buttermilk. Do this first, then gather your ingredients. You'll be able to get started in no time.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, canola oil, and almond milk mixture until combined and smooth
- Add in the mashed bananas (I mash them between my fingers right out of the peel straight into the bowl), vanilla paste, and brown sugar. Whisk a little more until combined
- Add in the all-purpose flour, wheat flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Whisk just until everything comes together
- Add in the orange juice and zest, and fold in the nuts
- Pour batter into a prepared 9x5 loaf pan (sprayed and floured)
- Bake for 60- 70 minutes (mine took 65 minutes on a convection bake setting), until a toothpick pushed through the middle of the loaf comes out clean
- Cool bread on a wire rack

Dairy-free recipe!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Lightened-Up Carrot and Pineapple Bread

I happened to spot some date syrup at my local HomeGoods store a few months ago, and thought I'd give it a try as a natural sugar substitute in my baking. I haven't been happy with the baking results of  other natural sweeteners I've tried, including coconut sugar (not sweet enough and has a weird after-taste), agave (you have to use a lot more of it than the sugar you're replacing), or even honey (you can taste it strongly no matter how little you use of it.)

I first tried date syrup in a muffin recipe, and absolutely LOVED it! In fact, I loved it so much it's become a pantry staple for me. It's sweetness doesn't bake out, and it has a wonderful caramel taste. I'm a little bit of a caramel fanatic. It's even delicious right out of the container as a topping for almond milk ice cream, or on oatmeal. The biggest bonus is you actually wind up use less of it in a recipe than the sugar you're replacing. One of my biggest successes with date syrup is my Vegan Mini Chocolate Cakes. So delicious!

I haven't been able to find the syrup again at my local stores, but it's readily available online at Abe's Market, and on The Date Lady website. I keep an eye out for specials, and stock up.

This Carrot and Pineapple Bread is so great, no one will realize that it's been lightened-up (or "unleaded" as my husband calls my "special" recipes.) The sweetness from the carrots, pineapple, and date syrup is subtle; and the little bit of brown sugar adds a deep richness to the bread. It wouldn't be one of my recipes without some fresh citrus, and the lemon zest and juice add the right amount of zing to the naturally sweet bread. The little bit of added ground cloves puts the taste of this bread over the top. It's light in texture, and really moist- best served on a plate to be eaten with a fork. I can't wait to share this with Rich tonight for dessert.

Lightened-Up Carrot and Pineapple Bread
Makes 1 loaf

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
zest from 1 lemon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 whole egg
1 egg white
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp date syrup
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 carrot, grated (1/2 - 3/4 cups)
4 oz canned crushed pineapple (do not drain)
1 tsp vanilla paste
chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, cinnamon, cloves, lemon zest, baking soda, baking powder, and kosher salt with a whisk- set aside
- In another mixing bowl, whisk together egg, egg white, brown sugar, date syrup, olive oil, and lemon juice until combined
- Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredient bowl and combine with a large spoon
- Stir in the pineapple and grated carrot
- Pour the batter into a prepared (sprayed/floured) loaf pan
- Top with chopped nuts if desired
- Bake for 40- 50 minutes, or until a toothpick pushed into the middle comes out clean

Dairy-free recipe!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dairy-Free Apple, Pecan, and Cardamom Muffins

Have you ever had a truly delicious dairy-free muffin? I can say with all honesty, most dairy-free anything from bakeries are usually disappointing. They're usually a little tougher or denser in texture, too sweet (most bakeries add extra sugar to DF items to make up for the lack of fat from butter and regular milk or cream) and very, very greasy. One of my biggest gripes is eating a baked good and having a mess of oil on my fingers afterward.

Being lactose intolerant, I've experimented with oodles of dairy-free options for recipes. Baked goods are actually very easy to make DF when you have a couple of key ingredients on hand. The first ingredient is Earth Balance non-butter. It even comes in handy sticks just like butter. I swear you cannot tell the difference. My husband can't tell the difference, and he is usually pretty darned good at spotting an "unleaded" treat. Unleaded is his way of saying something I make is diet, or dairy-free. In other words- yuck. The second ingredient is using unsweetened, vanilla soy or almond milk in place of any milk, cream, or buttermilk that a recipe calls for. Once again, you can't really tell the difference. Both products hold up very well in baking, and afford the same texture as a "leaded" treat.

 These Apple, Walnut, and Cardamom muffins are d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s! They come together quickly- all you need to make the batter is one large bowl, two small bowls, and a whisk. How easy is that?

Recipe Tips:
- peel and cut your apple into about 1" small chunks so they cook through
- adding zest and juice from a fresh citrus fruit is always a good idea- trust me
- don't skip the salt, it really brings out all the different flavors in the muffins
- these cute muffin baking cups are from Simply Baked, and I get them at my local HomeGoods store

Dairy-Free Apple, Pecan, and Cardamom Muffins
Makes 7 large muffins

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 stick (1/2 cup) Earth Balance, melted
3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla soy or almond milk
1 tsp vanilla paste (use extract if you don't have paste)
zest from one lemon
juice from 1/2 the lemon
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 large apple (I used Granny Smith), peeled and cut into 1" chunks (1- 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup chopped pecans

For sprinkling on top (you won't use it all- store the leftovers for future use):
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- In a small container, stir together topping sugar and cinnamon- set aside
- Melt Earth Balance in a little bowl in the microwave for about 1 minute, let cool slightly
- Slightly beat the egg in another little bowl, set aside
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom until combined
- Add in the melted Earth Balance, beaten egg, lemon zest and juice, soy or almond milk, and vanilla and combine with the whisk
- Fold in the coconut, apple chunks, and pecans
- Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, scoop equal amounts of batter into 7 large muffin tins or cups
- Sprinkle each muffin top with some of the cinnamon sugar mixture (I use a spoon)
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick pushed into the center of the muffins comes out clean
- Cool muffins on a wire rack

Dairy free recipe!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Leftover's Club- Whole Shebang Cookies 2.0

I was lucky enough to be paired up with the fabulous Faye Rodriguez of the Live Love Bake Blog this month for The Leftover's Club. Check out her blog everyone- she's got amazing baking recipes, and I bestow her with my Cutest Blog Header Award. I can't wait to try the paleo granola she's sent me- it looks insanely delicious!

If you have a food blog, and would like to join this fun recipe exchange group, check out The Leftover's Club and sign up. See you next month :)

I've been going through my blog, revisiting popular cookie recipes, and coming up with 2.0 healthier version of them. One of my personal favorites is my Whole Shebang Cookie. Kind of like the kitchen sink, but in cookie form. This month for the exchange, I lightened them up by replacing some of the brown sugar with pure date syrup, and by using Earth Balance in place of dairy butter. These nuggets of cookies are really, really tasty. So tasty that I kept myself out of the kitchen once they came out of the oven to cool, and wrapped them up as soon as I could. If I hadn't, I wouldn't eat them all myself!

Dates and date syrup are the newest "healthier weapon" in my baking arsenal. More than any other natural sugar I've tried (agave syrup, maple syrup, honey, stevia...), it really holds it sweetness through the baking process. Sweet, but not in a weird aftertaste way or overpowering (like honey,) date syrup has a lovely caramel undertone. Give it a try :)

Whole Shebang Cookies 2.0
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) Earth Balance
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup pure date syrup
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla paste (you can use extract if you don't have paste)
2 cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips (I like Enjoy Life dairy and gluten free chips)
1 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut (I used shredded)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (raw, unsalted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Line baking sheets with parchment paper
- Cream together the butter, brown sugar, and date syrup until light and fluffy- 3-4 minutes
- Add in the eggs and vanilla paste, mix another 2-3 minutes
- In a separate little bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt
-Add in the flour, baking soda, and salt mixture, mix until combined
- Mix in the chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, coconut shreds, and nut pieces by hand with a large wooden spoon
- Drop scoopfuls (I use the medium size cookie scoop) of dough out onto the lined cookie sheet
- Bake for 10-11 minutes, until the cookies just start to brown around the edges
- Remove baked cookies from the sheets and cool completely on wire racks

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Leftover's Club April- Flourless Vegan Mini Chocolate Cakes

I was matched up with Jenny of the Lazy Vegan Baker blog this month for the Leftover's Club and was ecstatic to see the word vegan in her blog name. I bake/cook dairy-free, and there's no easier way to eat dairy-free than vegan food.

I have some weird rules I've imposed on myself with my blog. I don't throw around the word "best" and prefer to say "my favorite" instead. I also don't share posts for recipes I haven't tried to make myself or haven't eaten and loved, and I don't advertise products just for the sake of getting a (very small I might add) paycheck for doing so.

Having said all of that, Jenny's Lemon Ginger Shortbread Cookies were phenomenal. One of the BEST shortbread cookies I've ever eaten. The tang of both the lemon and ginger (if you've read my recipes, you know I love to add fresh citrus to everything) wakes up your taste buds, and then the creamy texture of the cookie is a really nice juxtaposition. They were a cookie you savor with your favorite beverage. Little bites to make it last longer.. just so good! Thank you Jenny- truly.

For this month's exchange, I did something I haven't done before. I made and sent Jenny a recipe already posted to my blog. Being that she's vegan, and these little mini cakes are one of my favorite recipes (and I feel pretty strongly about saying one of the best vegan chocolate cakes I've had) on my entire blog, it seemed like a no-brainer. I hope she enjoys them even a fraction of the amount I enjoyed her goodies.

If you have your own food blog, and would like to be a part of the Leftover's Club, please take a peek at the website and then fill out an application. It's fun, and they'd love to have you. Take a gander at this week's exchange recipes:


Dates are the new big thing. I don't know if this is true in mainstream cooking, but I'm declaring it in my own kitchen as they have single-handidly made my new eating plan feel like I'm not missing out on sweets. Natural sugar sources- I've tried them all ... real maple syrup, organic honey, stevia, coconut sugar, monk fruit in the raw, unsweetened apple and pear sauces, agave syrup.. and dates are my favorite, hands-down. They are so darned versatile, and hold up in baking (I've found some of the others mentioned lose their sweetness when baked.) They're naturally sweet with a delicious caramel undertone. Leave them whole, chop them up, or pulverize them into a paste or syrup. They're just delicious. Period.

The name of these recipe should be Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free, but not Delicious-free Flourless Mini Chocolate Cakes. But, that's too much of a mouthful, so I'll just call them Flourless Mini Chocolate Cakes. These little gems are so dang good, you won't believe there's no sugar, flour, or eggs in them. They are really dense like a brownie or a flourless cake. So good heated up a little bit with some sliced fresh strawberries, a dollop of coconut cream, or if you're splurging- with a little scoop of my favorite non-dairy ice cream.

Try them, and let me know what you think.

Recipe tip:
- These little cakes will seem a little raw after baking for the 14 minutes the recipe calls for. The toothpick test will not work with these gems, and you can easily overcook them waiting for the picks to come out clean.  Trust me, and take them out after 13 or 14 minutes. Once you let them cool completely, they firm up and are wonderfully moist and dense.

Flourless Vegan Mini Chocolate Cakes
Makes 6-8 small muffin-sized cakes

2 large ripe bananas
1 cup organic nut butter (I used Trader Joe's salted peanut butter)
* pinch of sea salt if your nut butter is unsalted
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp vanilla paste (use extract if you don't have paste)
1/4 cup date syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut

optional toppings:
nut pieces, dark mini chocolate chips (I like Enjoy Life brand,) shredded coconut

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
- Put bananas, nut butter, unsweetened cocoa, vanilla paste, date syrup, and unsweetened coconut in a food processor and blend until combined and it resembles cake batter
- Using a regular-sized cookie scoop, put one scoop batter into small muffin holders
- Top the little cakes with nut pieces, mini chocolate chips, a little shredded coconut flakes if desired
- Place muffin holders on a baking sheet, and bake for 13-14 minutes until the cakes no longer jiggle when moved back and forth
- Cool on a wire rack

Dairy, gluten (if you use gluten-free chocolate chips), egg, flour, and processed sugar-free!