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Since I typically avoid gluten–based on everything I know about it, I really want my kids to reduce their gluten intake as well. As you know if you’ve ever tried, keeping gluten out of kids’ worlds is a difficult task–particularly if your kids don’t have any actual, obvious gluten sensitivity. Gluten abounds, and it’s what gives so many baked goods the “glue” that gives them just the right texture and chew.

I have been on the hunt for good gluten-free sandwich bread for years. I have tried all the usual brands in my natural foods store, and they’re all bland, too gummy and too dry. I persisted for about a year, but eventually gave up and switched to a nine-grain sourdough as the lesser of the evils. However, I reinvigorated my search about 6 months ago–this time, not bothering to look in stores, but instead looking for a recipe I liked so I could make my own gluten-free sandwich bread at home.

I tried several Paleo bread recipes, but most used a cup or more of cashew butter, which simply makes for an outrageously expensive loaf of bread and subsequently outrageously expensive sandwiches. Then I tried several non-Paleo, gluten-free sandwich bread recipes, and after tweaking one several times, decided that this is my favorite.

It’s surprisingly easy to make, uses yeast which makes the house smell soooo good, and delivers a great sliceable, toastable loaf of bread that my children recognize and appreciate as sandwich bread.

This recipe is adapted from ALittleInsanity.

 

Ingredients

1 cup almond milk

½ cup water

2 tbsp honey

2½ teaspoons dry active yeast

2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour)

3/4 cassava flour (I like this brand)

1/3 cup coconut flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon Salt

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

¼ cup plus 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 large eggs

* the original recipe called for 1½ teaspoons Xanthan Gum, but since some people are sensitive to it, I do not add more.

 

Preparation

Oil and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan. (I like to use a Pyrex pan because I find it bakes more evenly and cleans beautifully.)

Pour milk and water into a medium saucepan. Heat over medium low until warm to the touch–not hot or cold. Stir in honey then sprinkle yeast over the mixture. Set-aside and let proof for about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs until pale yellow. Whisk in oil and cider vinegar (or lemon juice). Pour in the milk/yeast mixture and whisk to combine. Add in the flour mixture and stir until combined, then stir for another 30 seconds until the mixture is smooth. (It will be very sticky.)

Using a spatula, spoon the batter into your prepared loaf pan. Wet your fingers and smooth the top a bit (not necessary, but it makes a better looking loaf).

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Let the mixture proof/rise until it’s approximately double in size (20-30 minutes depending on your room temperature.) be careful not to let it rise above your loaf pan. Gluten free breads do not maintain their structure and will flow over the pan or collapse if left to over-rise. Note: My kitchen never seems to maintain a reliable temperature for allowing bread to rise, so I turn my oven on to 475F, and stick my loaf pan full of “dough” in the microwave above above my regular oven. There’s just the right amount of heat to enable the mixture to double in size in 15-20 minutes, after which I turn the heat down to 375F and pop the pan into the regular oven.

Bake for approx. 30-45 minutes. If the crust is darkening too quickly, cover it with foil (tent open ended) and return to baking until done.

Remove loaf pan from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto your cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

Enjoy!

 

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I’ve been promising–at least on Instagram, to share the gluten-free version of my Winemakers Cake (see original recipe here). It’s all I’ve been making lately because it’s super easy and fast to prepare, looks nice when serving to guests, and I especially love that it’s gluten- and dairy-free since I avoid both most of the time. In fact, I like the gluten-free version so much that I’ve been favoring it over the original recipe on most occasions. The crumb seems a bit more delicate even though the gluten-free version doesn’t rise as much as the original recipe.

My local grocer keeps stocking Thomson grapes, too, which is the preferred grape for this cake, and it really feels like an “Indian Summer” dessert–lightly sweet, not too rich or heavy and using the fruit of the season.

If you haven’t already tried this recipe, please do. I know you will love it–especially how easy it is.

 

Ingredients

2 large eggs at room temperature

1/2 cup evaporated cane juice

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk or good-quality almond milk

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour*

1/2 cup almond flour

1 tbsp coconut flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp almond extract

10 oz (about 1-1/2 cups) small, purple grapes**

Confectioners sugar for garnish (optional)

*I like to use Bob’s Red Mill “1 to 1 All-Purpose Gluten-free flour.”

**Thomson or Thomcord grapes work the best because they’re small and jammy in flavor. I’m sure this cake would taste delicious with other varieties, but I would avoid using the more common green or red grapes.

 

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan.

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and pale yellow in color, about 3 minutes. Add the oil, non-dairy milk, vanilla and almond extracts, and mix until blended.

In a medium-size bowl, mix the flours, baking powder and salt until thoroughly blended. Add the lemon zest, and toss to coat. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until blended. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids.

Stir 1 cup of the grapes into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the top using a spatula or back of a spoon.

Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 15 minutes before sprinkling the remaining grapes over the top of the cake. Bake for an additional 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, and the cake has a nice light golden color.

Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife along the sides before releasing the removing the side of the springform pan. Serve at room temperature with a dusting of confectioners sugar. You can store the cake in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Enjoy!

 

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You might be wondering where the food photos and recipes are, but along with wildlife, traveling is most decidedly my other great passion. As it happens, my family has done a lot of traveling this summer, and we’ve been lucky enough to visit some historically-rich and beautiful cities.

If you missed my post on Florence, please check it out here. Otherwise, take a minute or two to get at least a little familiar with the small but incredibly gorgeous town of San Miguel de Allende which lies 274km northwest of Mexico City. I had heard about it for years, and now wonder why I didn’t go sooner.

My husband travels to Mexico regularly for his work, and although it was very last minute, the kids and I booked to accompany him since it was the same week as his birthday. After spending a couple days in Mexico City, we hired a car to take us to San Miguel de Allende. It was certainly an adventure… Google Maps said the drive would take 3.5 hours, so we all looked forward to a little scenery, and a dip in the pool of our hotel when we arrived. Seven hours later… Yep, the predicted 3.5 hours turned into 7 hours. There is only one road between the two cities, on which a truck carrying some sort of fuel (gas or oil) crashed and spilled its highly flammable cargo. And unlike in the U.S., Mexico does not have a rapid response system set up to deal with such things, so they closed the only road between the two cities for hours. Based on the reports of others, it would have taken 10 or 11 hours that day, but we took matters into our own hands, and asked our driver to go off road in order to skirt the closure. Please be advised: this is not recommended!! When you leave the highway, you drive on narrow, unmarked dirt and rock roads through “rancherias,” which are entirely unpoliced areas considered very dangerous–particularly at night. We only took this desperate measure because we were losing our minds parked for hours on the highway, and because the SUV we were in happened to have “protective properties.”

Seven hours later we arrived in San Miguel de Allende, which is hands down one of the most beautiful towns, if not the most beautiful town, we have ever laid eyes on. Narrow cobblestoned streets are lined with buildings painted with rich colors of the earth–terra cotta, saffron yellow, burnt red. You see exquisitely-carved doors everywhere, and magical courtyards abound. Throughout the center of town you see Spanish colonial architecture, which greatly adds to the beauty of this small town. (In addition to being one of the most affluent cities in Mexico, San Miguel de Allende lays claim to the start of Mexico’s independence from Spain.) Beyond its physical beauty, the historic town boasts a thriving arts and cultural scene, and the food is phenomenal. In fact, the food is quite fancy, serving dishes similar to what you find in high-end NYC or San Francisco restaurants only using local ingredients. We actually bemoaned the fact we couldn’t find and didn’t have time to just eat some good and simple enchiladas or other “traditional” Mexican fare.

Another surprisingly aspect of the town was how lush and green it was. In fact, the entire area was incredibly green. It’s the rainy season now, but we were told it is green nearly year-round. And the rains come just in the afternoon for an hour or two–just enough to water all the vegetation and clean the sidewalks and streets. Very efficient.

One thing is certain… We will return to this memorable little town soon.

Happy sightseeing!

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Viva Italia!

View of Il Duomo from my sister's apartment.

View of Il Duomo from my sister’s apartment.

 

I just returned from Italy where I visited Florence and Rome to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday.

Since I love traveling as much as I love food, I thought I’d share some of my pictures and experiences with you here.

I find it ironic–given I eat pasta maybe once every two years, that I ate paste every day I was in Italy. The pasta was so fresh and delicious, and there were so many types to choose from, that I never ran out of something new to try. Not only do the Italians offer so many different kinds of noodles, but they also prepare an incredible variety of sauces. I ate wild boar ragu, spring vegetables, pesto, bolognese, basic marinara, spicy sausage with “black cabbage” and vongole (pasta with clams)–the list goes on. Oh, and the fresh burrata! It was dessert for me. Of course, I also had to try the cannoli, the gelato and the tiramisu. Much to both my joy and horror, the hotel we stayed at just outside of Florence offered several tarts each morning as part of its large breakfast buffet. I tried to eat carefully and healthy–choosing sauteed mushrooms, eggs, fruit and roast tomatoes most mornings, but the tarts and Nutella-filled chocolate-glazed croissants called my name loudly each morning. And after all, I was on vacation!

Here are just a few photos of Florence–many of which will be very familiar if you’ve ever visited, along with some of the delicious food I ate (and appear to still be carrying around). If you follow me on Instagram, a few of the photos are repeated (sorry!). I will share photos from the rest of my trip in a subsequent post because I have so many I’m excited to share.

View over Firenze from the Piazzale di Michelango.

View over Firenze from the Piazzale di Michelango.

Il Duomo in the evening light.

Il Duomo in the evening light.

A church--unassuming from the outside, that we wandered into to escape the punishing heat outside.

A church–unassuming from the outside, that we wandered into to escape the punishing heat outside.

Florence's version of a farmer's market inside the Mercato Centrale.

Florence’s version of a farmer’s market inside the Mercato Centrale.

Tomatoes that tasted like candy with burrata.

Tomatoes that tasted like candy with burrata.

Perfectly roasted octopus on a bed of sauteed greens.

Perfectly roasted octopus on a bed of sauteed greens.

The most amazing little lunch place (Enoteca Tognoni) in the quaint town of Bolgheri.

The most amazing little lunch place (Enoteca Tognoni) in the quaint town of Bolgheri.

Lovely Siena the day before the Palio horse race.

Lovely Siena the day before the Palio horse race.

Siena's plaza tower.

Siena’s plaza tower.

A lovely Siena courtyard with frescoed ceilings.

A lovely Siena courtyard with frescoed ceilings.

Il Duomo in Siena.

Il Duomo in Siena.

Stripes!!

Stripes!!

Lunch at 4 Leoni in the Artisan quarter.

Lunch at 4 Leoni in the Artisan quarter.

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If you’ve never eaten raw cheesecake before, you will be shocked at how much like traditional (think Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese) cheesecake it tastes! In fact, I prefer raw vegan desserts over traditional desserts nearly all the time now. A few exceptions include my lemon olive oil cake and chocolate rosemary cake. As an added bonus, most traditional desserts, even when they’re made with reduced sugar, contain either dairy or gluten–both of which many of us would like to avoid these days. Even if a dairy-laden dessert (e.g., panna cotta, cheesecake, etc.) doesn’t result in uncomfortable and unpleasant side effects, such as gas, cramping and bloating, I always feel “ugh” after eating it.

But after indulging in even a large piece of raw vegan cheesecake, I might feel full, but I also feel light and comfortable and I love knowing I just consumed something that tasted delicious and was actually good for me. Soaked cashews give raw cheesecakes an insanely creamy silky texture that I find superior to anything you get using traditional cream cheese.

Just a few months ago, I served a raw vegan lemon cheesecake to my father who is approaching 80 and is very–did I mention very–traditional about food, particularly dessert. He gave the cheesecake a thumbs up and was shocked to learn it was dairy-free.

Although this recipe is for strawberry cheesecake, you can easily substitute raspberries, blueberries or mango for the top layer. Maybe some really clever cook more talented than me will make three layers of fruit, which would look awfully pretty once sliced.

 

Ingredients

Crust:

3/4 cup walnuts

1/2 cup almond meal

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup medjool dates, pitted

Pinch of kosher salt

Filling:

1 cup cashews, soaked in salted water overnight

1/2 cup plant milk (I use almond)

1/8cup coconut oil, melted

2 tbsp pure maple syrup

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Pinch kosher salt

Topping:

2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled

1-2 tbsp pure maple syrup

1 tbsp coconut oil, melted

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

 

Preparation

Line the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

Process the ingredients for the crust in a food processor using the pulse function until you get a similar texture to this (see photo). Dump the crumbly mixture into the pan and use your hands to press it firmly and evenly into the bottom. Place in the fridge to set while you prepare the filling.

 

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Drain the soaked cashews and rinse with filtered water. Place all the ingredients for the filling in a high-powered blender (such as a Vitamix), and blend, starting on low and moving to high until you have a completely even, creamy consistency. Pour the filling mixture over the crust and place in the freezer for 1 hour.

Put the ingredients for the topping into a blender and process until it’s a thick, even consistency. Pour over the filling and return to the freezer for 4-5 hours.

Transfer the cheesecake from the freezer to the fridge at least 1 hour before serving.

Enjoy!

 

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This is that salad–the one I can eat several times a week and never tire of. It somehow manages to perfectly balance the hardy structure of the kale with the silkiness of the spinach, and the chewiness of the cranberries with the toasted crunch and nuttiness of the pumpkin seeds, all with the perfect combination of sweet and salty.

I also love knowing that everything in this salad packs serious nutritional punch! Low calorie, high fiber kale for Isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from glucosinolates, which help lower the risk of several major types of cancer, and 45 different flavonoids for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, and the list goes on. Pumpkin seeds for heart healthy magnesium, immune boosting zinc and tryptophan for more restful sleep. Cranberries for Vitamin C, fiber and manganese as well as proanthocyanidins (PACs) for helping prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) and protecting against certain types of stomach ulcers. And spinach for niacin and zinc, fiber, vitamins A, C, E and K and a host of minerals. I know that if you’re a vegan or purest, you will likely take issue with the cheese, but I consider it a key component of this recipe, so let me know if you know of a vegan manchego cheese!!

I also appreciate how this salad can be made a little in advance, and still tastes great. If anything, the spinach and kale get even softer and more delicious when allowed to react longer with the dressing.

I hope you love this salad as much as I do!

 

Ingredients

(listed per person in case you’re just wanting a salad for yourself for lunch)

3 leaves dino kale, washed and ribs removed

1 large handful baby spinach

3 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup dried cranberries

3 tbsp aged manchego cheese, sliced into little “sticks” or shaved*

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 tsp good quality Sherry vinegar

1/2 tsp honey

Kosher salt

Fresh-ground pepper

*I like a 12-month aged manchego made from raw sheep’s milk.

 

Preparation

Place the pumpkin seeds in a small oven-proof baking dish or ramekin and toast for 10-12 minutes or until you hear the seeds “popping.” Remove and let cool.

Meanwhile, whisk the olive oil, honey and vinegar in a medium-size bowl until completely blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the kale leaves into roughly 1/4-inch strips and add to the dressing. Toss to coat. Roughly chop the baby spinach leaves and add to the kale, tossing to coat. Add in the cranberries, seeds and manchego, toss, adjust seasoning to taste and serve.

 

Enjoy!

 

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If you read a lot of health-focused food blogs and/or follow a lot of plant-based Instagram users, you’ve undoubtedly seen many photos of overnight oats. They have become a thing–that’s for certain, but I for one can easily see why. Regular cooked oats don’t always sit right with my tummy, and the texture can get a little weird–as in too gummy, tending toward slimy, etc. However, overnight oats keep my tummy humming along nicely, they’re never slimy or gummy–just cool and creamy (although I know some people like to heat theirs).

If you find yourself intrigued by the idea, and if you haven’t tried them yet, try them!! You can alter a basic bowl of overnight oats at least two dozen ways. I like to make mine with peanut butter, then add more goodies in the morning, such as fresh fruit and coconut cream. (The nut butter adds enough protein and healthy fat that I stay full all the way until lunch time.) Some like to add a little chocolate drizzle by combining cocoa powder, coconut oil and a little sweetener over heat. That’s too decadent for my mornings, so I tend to stick with fresh mango and banana or berries.

I also love that you can prepare it in 2 minutes the night before, and have a delicious breakfast ready to go in the morning! My mornings are always rushed with making the children breakfast, packing their lunches, feeding our three cats, coordinating play dates, etc. I like that I can just reach in the fridge and voila–breakfast is ready.

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do!

 

Ingredients for one

1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats

1 tbsp black chia seeds

2/3 cup almond or other plant-based milk

2 tbsp peanut butter or other nut butter

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Pinch kosher salt

 

Preparation

Stir together all the ingredients. Cover and put in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, stir again, add a little coconut cream or milk and some fruit, and…

 

Enjoy!

 

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