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

Flourless Mini Chocolate Cakes

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 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!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Balsamic Vegetable Salad

Tonight I'm having a real sandwich for dinner. It feels like Christmas Eve- I'm so excited! The only bread I've had in almost two months is whole wheat lavash, and boy do I miss bread. I found a boule roll at Trader Joe's that's made of just whole wheat flour, water, and sea salt. I was practically dancing in the store today while reading the label. Hey- I can eat that!

I'm making this fantastic slow cooker roasted turkey recipe by Kelsey Nixon (I've made it at least 10 times since I found it about a year ago,) for turkey dip sandwiches.  I usually sauté a sliced onion and a package of sliced mushrooms with a little salt and pepper, and top the sandwiches with the mixture  instead of using cheese. It's one easy recipe and makes tender, flavorful turkey and a fantastic au jus.

I wanted to come up with a side dish to serve with the sandwiches that would follow my diet of no dairy, processed sugar or flour. I thought, why not a pasta type salad (my favorite) but without the pasta? Essentially a chopped vegetable salad with a tangy homemade balsamic dressing? I'm in.

Recipe Tips:
- Make sure you make the salad a couple of hours ahead of when you want to serve it. It really needs to sit in the refrigerator for a bit to let the flavors meld together.
- Some fantastic additions would be chopped avocado, cooked chicken or diced salami. Heck, add some cubes of your favorite cheese if you can have it.

Balsamic Vegetable Salad
Serves 4

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp agave sweetener
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried Mediterranean oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Vegetable Salad:
1 cucumber, diced into 1" chunks
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced small
1 small jar artichoke hearts, cut into pieces
3/4 cup whole, pitted kalamata or black olives, sliced in half
1 small container mini heirloom tomatoes (about 2 cups,) sliced in half
2 large pieces of roasted red pepper (Trader Joe's,) diced

- Combine and whisk together all ingredients for the dressing and set aside
- Place all vegetable salad ingredients in an airtight container and toss with the dressing
- Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving

Dairy free recipe!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mexican Quinoa Salad

Within the past few months, quinoa has gone from a food I hadn't tried to a food I love! It not only tastes great, it's a great protein source with a whopping 24 grams in a one-cup serving. It's a little nutty, but takes on basically any flavor you add to it (much like tofu.) It's also a little like a tiny pasta in texture, and who doesn't like pasta?

This recipe was adapted from one I found on damndelicious.net. They had me at one pan prep. The first go around I made the recipe exactly as they had it and it was too bland for me, along with being too dry. A trick I've learned is when cooking quinoa or rice, you need double the liquid to the grain. Not draining the tomatoes, along with the amount of vegetable broth in my adaption of the recipe, is the perfect amount of liquid to cook the quinoa optimally. For my second try, I upped and changed up the spices, added some sweet onion and green chilies, and increased the amount of vegetable broth. Big thumbs up!

This salad is great hot or cold, and is extremely tasty as leftovers. It's delicious by itself, or topped with a little avocado, sour cream, and cilantro. It's also amazing as a dip with some baked tortilla chips.

Mexican Quinoa Salad
Adapted from damndelicious.net
Serves 4-6

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 small sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup rinsed quinoa
1 15 oz can of no-salt added black beans, rinsed and drained
1 8 oz can green chilies, diced
1 15 oz can no-salt added fire roasted tomatoes (not drained)
1 cup frozen Trader Joe's grilled corn
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
Kosher salt
Freshly ground cracked black pepper

Topping Ideas:
Better Than Sour Cream
Guacamole or sliced avocado
Chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges
Tapatio sauce
Baked blue corn tortilla chips

- In a large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil and add the onion, garlic and jalapeño pepper
- Sauté the onion, garlic and pepper for a few minutes
- Add in the broth, quinoa, black beans, green chilies, tomatoes, grilled corn, cumin, and coriander
- Stir well and season with kosher salt and pepper
- Bring to a boil, then stir and reduce heat to simmer
- Cover the pan, and simmer the mixture for about 30 minutes (mine took 35,) or until the quinoa is cooked and the liquid is evaporated (just like when you make rice)
- Fluff with a fork and serve while hot, or refrigerate to serve as a cold salad
- Garnish with whatever you'd like- I have some suggestions above

Dairy free recipe!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Smoky BBQ Three Bean Chili

Chili is a staple around here, and one of my favorite foods to make. One batch made on a Sunday will last all week for lunches. It's an easy way to incorporate a lot of veggies and beans without using meat, and even tastes better the next day or the next..

This smoky bbq bean chili is complex in flavor. First a little sweet from the tomatoes and peppers, then smoky bbq flavor from the smoked paprika and bbq sauce, then the at first subtle heat hits you. Not too hot, but enough to make you reach for the tissues. This particular recipe is a snap to put together. Let the chili sauté for a good hour to meld the flavors.

I've tried MANY bbq sauces. I prefer to make my own, but my favorite store-bought sauce is Hak's. It's a little pricier than some of the more common brands, but the complex flavors (without tasting preservative-laden) are well worth the extra money. I think they're local and kind of new, but from what I've heard from people who have tried them, I'm expecting the company to grow and expand their availability.

Smoky BBQ Three Bean Chili
Serves 6

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large sweet onion, sliced
4-5 garlic cloves, pressed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 can pinto beans, rinsed
1 can white kidney beans (Canellini), rinsed
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 carton (4 cups) unsalted vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, not drained
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup frozen grilled corn (can be found at Trader Joe's)
2 Tbsp Hak's Chipotle Bourbon bbq sauce
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
2 Tbsp Mas Harina (Corn Meal)
2 Tbsp water

Dairy-free sour cream
Fresh pico de gallo
Thinly sliced fresh avocado
Fresh chopped cilantro

- Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat
- Add in the olive oil
- Saute onion, garlic, red and orange peppers for about 5 minutes until onion softens
- Add in chili powder, chipotle chili powder, pepper flakes, Mexican oregano, and smoked paprika and continue to sauté to bloom the spices- about 2 minutes
- Add pinto beans, white kidney beans, black beans, vegetable broth, water, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste and stir carefully
-Stir in grilled corn and bbq sauce and season with salt/pepper to taste
- Bring chili to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about an hour
- The last half-hour, mix the Mas Harina and water in a little cup and stir it into the chili. This will thicken it (so it won't be like soup). It will continue to thicken- don't add more, it's plenty.

This chili is great topped with Tofutti Better than Sour Cream dairy-free sour cream, fresh pico de gallo, sliced avocado, and fresh cilantro

Dairy-free recipe and vegetarian

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Chocolate, Nuts, and Medjool Date Bars

I'm not one to call something something it's not. These are a play on brownies, but they are not brownies. What these bars are, though, are a very chocolaty, healthy, and sweet raw treat. Kind of like a chocolate Lara Bar.

I hadn't tried dates until this #MyHealthyNewYear challenge. I'm not a big fan of figs, and thought they were pretty much the same thing. Boy, was I wrong. Medjool dates in particular are spectacularly sweet and have a caramel undertone. They make a great sweetener for baked goods, and help give a batter some texture.

Fair warning- I did almost burn up my little food processor making these bars as it takes a bit of time and processor effort to chop up the sticky dates into small enough pieces. Purchasing a full-sized processor is now high up on my list.

I've missed bread and chocolate most on this journey. I looked over many gluten-free brownie recipes on Pinterest, and they all seemed complicated. Blend chickpea powder, use melted coconut oil.. I wanted to make an easy, no-bake chocolate bar. I kept it simple, and this tasty bar is the result.

Chocolate, Nuts, and Medjool Date Bars
Makes 12 bars

1 package Medjool dates (1 1/2 cups), seeded
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup unsalted nuts of your choice (I used what I had left of almonds, walnuts, and cashews)
1/2 tsp kosher salt (optional)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life) (optional)

- Place nuts and salt in a large food processor and pulse until the nuts are very small
- Add in the cocoa powder and pulse until combined
- Add in the dates (a few at a time) and process until also small and the dough starts to come together
- If the dough is too dry, add a few more dates
- Turn the dough out onto an 9x9x2 glass dish lined with parchment paper
- Press dough down evenly and firmly with the palm of your hand
- Press chocolate chips into the dough, or dust with cocoa powder (optional)
- Cover the dish with SaranWrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour before you cut into bars

Dairy and gluten free recipe!