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Saturday
Sep172011

Cinnamon Pear Pancakes with Spiced Honey

Earthy, bold flavors are what come to mind when I think of Autumn. Toasty hazelnuts, spices, pumpkin, beets, and fennel are a few favorites, not to mention fruits like figs, persimmons and apples. I was home last weekend to find my mom’s tree overflowing with pears, so I gathered as many as I could carry to bring with me back to the city. I let them sit in the fruit basket for the week to ripen some more, and come Saturday morning they were ready to be devoured.

 

Instead of maple syrup, I topped the cakes with a spiced honey that was so good I could barely contain myself. I actually don’t think you should make these pancakes unless you’re going to serve them with the spiced honey! The gluten and grain-free batter uses almond flour, which adds a heartiness and buttery flavor that satisfy much more than the refined flour and sugar-filled breakfast of stomach-pains past. 

 

CINNAMON PEAR PANCAKES WITH SPICED HONEY :: Makes about 10

Be sure to use pears that are not overripe, otherwise they’ll turn to mush when you try and grate them. If you have some super soft pears that you’re just dying to use, puree them in a blender with the eggs before mixing with dry ingredients. You may need to add less water or milk to the final batter. 

2 cups almond flour 2 tsp. cinnamon 1/2 tsp. salt 1/2 tsp. baking soda 2 ripe but firm pears, cored and grated 3 eggs water or milk to thin the batter, as needed 1/2 cup honey 1/8 tsp. each cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves 1 Tbsp. butter or coconut oil more butter or coconut oil, for the pan

In a large bowl, combine almond flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs and add grated pears (about 2 cups). 

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, and stir until moistened. Add water by 1/4 cup until desired consistency is reached– not too thin, but not too sticky.

Heat a griddle or nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Add a tablespoon of butter or coconut oil. Scoop batter by 1/4 cup onto the griddle, and gently shape with the back of the spoon to help them spread. 

Cook for 3-4 minutes each side– you want to wait for bubbles to form before flipping them. They burn easily, so keep the heat lower than you think you need to, and be patient with them.

Meanwhile, combine honey, spices, and butter or coconut oil in a small saucepan over very low heat. Stirring occasionally, warm until honey is smooth and resembles the consistency of maple syrup. Keep warm until ready to serve.

When pancakes are finished cooking, pile onto a plate and drizzle with warm spiced honey. Accompaniments: broiled pears and a slice of bacon.

Thursday
Aug112011

This month, I’m baking for power

In this month’s column, I introduce you to my world of baking without flour and sugar. What?! Blasphemy, you might be thinking. This is tricky terrain, no doubt about it. Don’t think that I haven’t had my fair share of bitter chocolate cupcakes and unsalvageable cookies by trying to make them more virtuous than they are by nature. This has surely been the case! 

However, I’ve slowly learned my way around the flour-free kitchen and I have some tricks to share. My reason for bending the baking rules? I love a good breakfast treat. Who doesn’t? But when the usual suspects are laden with refined grains and tons of sugar, they don’t help us out nutritionally – and that also means mentally, physically and spiritually, if you ask me.

TRICK #1: ALMOND FLOUR.

Elana’s Pantry is my go-to resource for all things almond flour, closely followed by Caitlin of Roost. Both of these ladies make do wonderfully on a grain-free diet, and every single recipe is an inspiration. I’ve learned to really love the texture and flavor almond flour brings to baked goods and pancakes, but I’ve found in my own kitchen that it works best when used in combination with other flours. Therefore….

TRICK #2: MILLED FLAXSEED.

Flaxseed meal! Who would’ve thought? I first discovered the magic of flax in these pancakes, where the little pulverized nutritional powerhouses turned into fluffy, cakey goodness on a hot griddle. My guess is that because ground flax absorbs so much liquid and reacts especially well with beaten eggs, there’s almost no need for flour at all. Make sure to buy milled flaxseed, rather than just ground flaxseed – the finer consistency will give you more of a flour-like texture. I bought a small coffee grinder just for this purpose, and it makes the perfect flax for baking.

TRICK #3: DATES INSTEAD OF SUGAR.

Don’t get me wrong – I love sugar. I just hate what it does to my body and mind. The solution? Dates! Dates are incredible. They are packed with vitamins and minerals, fiber, and a carmely, toasty sweetness that reminds me of brown sugar and molasses. The best way to use them is soaked in warm water, pitted, chopped, and blended in with the liquid ingredients. You could also eat them with a smear of peanut butter. Delish!

These three tricks are what helped me create the following recipe for DATE & ORANGE POWER MUFFINS. You can forget ginormous cafe muffins and sugary pastries that leave you hungry an hour later, because just one of these muffins has a crazy amount of protein, healthy fat, fiber, vitamins, and deliciousness that will keep you satisfied in every sense of the word. Please make these, and don’t forget to head on over to the column for more fun tidbits!

DATE & ORANGE POWER MUFFINS :: MAKES 10

1 cup almond flour 1/2 cup flaxseed meal 1 tsp. baking soda 1/2 tsp. sea salt 6 dates, pitted and chopped 3 eggs 2 Tbsp melted coconut oil or butter 1/4 cup orange juice 1/4 cup sunflower seeds 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (Pepitas) 1 Tbsp chia seeds

  • Preheat oven to 350’ and line 10-12 muffin cups with paper liners.
  • In a large bowl, mix almond flour, flaxseed meal, baking soda and sea salt.
  • In a blender, mix dates, eggs, oil and orange juice on medium speed until smooth.
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined. Fold in sunflower, pumpkin and chia seeds.
  • Divide batter among muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Serve, or let cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

 

 

Saturday
Jun252011

Blueberry Bread

Of all the fruits in the world, blueberries are far and away my favorite. They top my granola, fill my pies, become bubbly and fragrant beneath cobbler crust, leave swirly purple trails in my yogurt, are juicy and plump in my pancakes, and, of course, are baked into moist breads. 

These days, I find them at the market in towering displays that suggest anything but scarcity. With a stroke of luck, I discovered them on sale at Whole Foods last week and scooped them up by the armful. I ate a whole pint in one sitting. 

 

Since I’ve had little time for the weekend morning baking that I love so much, today’s project needed to be something special. My grandmother makes an amazing blueberry cake that she sprinkles with powdered sugar upon completion, and the smell of it baking never fails to remind me of summer and special family gatherings. A breakfast version is what I had in mind as I delicately folded the violet berries into a lighter, whole grain batter this morning. With applesauce and yogurt replacing heavier fats; a mix of brown rice, almond a coconut flours instead of wheat; and medjool dates en lieu of sugar, this bread is virtuous and completely wholesome. 

With my craving for blueberry bread healthfully satisfied, all I need now is a good dose of family. What are your favorite food memories?

Blueberry Bread :: Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour 1/2 cup almond flour 2 Tablespoons coconut flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk 2 eggs 3 medjool dates, pitted and chopped zest of 1 orange 1/2 cup lowfat plain yogurt 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven (see step 5) and line a greased loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flours and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. In a blender, whir milk, eggs, dates, and zest until frothy. Add yogurt and applesauce and blend to combine.
  4. Gently fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir in blueberries.
  5. Transfer batter evenly into the loaf pan. I baked mine at 325 degrees for well over an hour, but next time I plan to try it at 350 for less time.
  6. Once a toothpick comes out with dry crumbs, remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and serve, or allow to come to room temperature and then wrap in parchment. Keep in the refrigerator for a few days. 
Saturday
May072011

Today, just this

We picked up our first basket of the season’s strawberries this morning at the farmer’s market, and naturally I couldn’t wait to put them to good use. A chocolate smoothie for lunch, laced with a subtle tart-sweet tang from the fresh berries. Enjoy.

Strawberry Chocolate Smoothie :: Serves 2

1 cup nut milk or water

1 Tbsp ground flaxseed

5 Tbsp cacao powder

1 scoop protein powder, optional

1 banana, fresh or frozen

6 fresh strawberries

3 Tbsp coconut cream (from the top of a can of full-fat coconut milk)

– Place all ingredients in a blender, in the order listed. Blend on high speed until completely smooth, then serve.

Wednesday
May042011

The Abundance of Spring

This month’s column was all about tailoring our favorite wintery pasta dishes to the wonderfully light and refreshing flavors of Spring, as well as making them healthier and more filling. Unfortunately, it won’t run– so, as not to deprive you of a delicious meal, I am still sharing it here! Enjoy.

:: The coming of spring has me craving lighter dishes full of flavor and nutrition. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that bikini season looms on the horizon, but as the rain slows, the sun peeks out, and the days grow longer and warmer, my meals suddenly reflect the shifting seasons.  

In California, we are lucky enough to have a steady supply of produce all winter long. Even so, the pickings are slim, and in May there are many great new finds at the farmer’s market that bring forth a sense of renewal and change.

Asparagus, baby artichokes, broccoli rabe and pea shoots are some of my favorite short-seasoned vegetables, and when you find some good ones, they often don’t need much more than a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt to shine. Catch them if you can, and you’ll be in for a flavorful treat.

When I crave meals that are both filling and healthy this time of year, pasta is never what comes to mind first. And it’s true, the last thing anyone needs is a plate full of refined carbohydrates–but with a few rules in mind, you can still enjoy delicious and satisfying pasta long after winter’s chill has subsided. Here’s how.

Start with a whole grain There are so many wonderful varieties of pasta on the market now– quinoa, farro, spelt, buckwheat, and brown rice, to name a few– that are full of fiber, vitamins and protein. Check the ingredient list to make sure it’s made with 100% whole grain, so you’re not blindsided by tricky packaging.

Add a protein Legumes, chicken, or mild fish pair well with flavorful pasta. I love glazed salmon over soba noodles. Protein adds volume to your plate, helps keep you satiated, and is an important part of a well-rounded meal.

Toss with some green This is my favorite part of every meal. The trick with vegetables is to never overcook them, so steam, blanch or saute until the color brightens, then remove from the heat immediately. You’ll keep the flavor intact, not diminish nutritional quality, and give your dish a vibrant color and fresh texture. Overcooked, mushy vegetables look and taste sad. 

Rethink proportions Have some pasta with your veggies! Make it your goal to have more vegetables than pasta on your plate. I can almost guarantee you won’t miss the extra noodles.

This month’s morsel: Have your pasta and eat it too: Meals like this take very little time, leaving you with much of the day to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. They’re perfect to throw together on weeknights, but also make a gorgeous seasonal presentation to family and friends over the weekend. Packed with delicious flavors that dance in your mouth, you might forget it’s good for you. ::

Pasta Primavera :: Serves 2 Choose organic ingredients, wherever possible, for the best flavor and nutrition.

4 ounces whole-grain pasta (I used brown rice) 2 cloves garlic, minced 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes 1 bunch asparagus, sliced diagonally and fibrous stems discarded 1 cup canned white Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed 1 cup organic frozen peas 2 cups organic arugula 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta, according to package instructions, until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  • In a heavy nonstick skillet over medium-low flame, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add asparagus and toss to coat in oil.
  • Add beans and continue to cook for a few minutes more, until asparagus is tender and beans start to jump in the pan. Add the frozen peas, then arugula, and cook until peas have defrosted and arugula is wilted. 
  • Add olives and pine nuts and stir to incorporate. Cook for a few minutes more to let the flavors combine. Reduce heat to low and add cooked pasta to the skillet. Season with freshly ground black pepper and toss to combine. When pasta is heated through, remove from heat and serve with a drizzle of good-quality olive oil.
More of my favorite Springtime recipes:

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