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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. 

 

 

Thursday
Jul142011

This month, I’m keeping cool

In this month’s column, we talk about heat. And what to do about it. Turning on the oven and stove isn’t so inviting when just standing around makes you sweat, but when hunger strikes, what’s there to do?

It can be tempting to find shelter in the air-conditioned confines of your favorite restaurant, or pull a container of frozen yogurt from the freezer and call it a day. But when nutrition is top priority, as it is around my house, neither of these options fully satisfies. 

Which is why I wanted to create a menu that involves very little cooking, if at all, and can be served no matter what the temperature. Enjoy it inside, eat it by the pool, or even pack it for a picnic if a shady patch of grass is within reach. Minimal work, maximum nutrition.

See here for the article and other recipes. Below, quite possibly the best dessert I’ve made in a while.

Raspberry Oat Squares :: Makes 9

1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp. water 3 pints fresh raspberries, rinsed 2 Tbsp. raw or Turbinado sugar 3 cups rolled oats 1/2 cup pecans pinch of sea salt 4 Tbsp. maple syrup 3 Tbsp. olive oil or melted coconut oil

  1. Preheat oven to 375’. Stir water into ground flaxseeds and set aside.
  2. Place raspberries on a cutting board and sprinkle with raw sugar. Gently mash with a fork , leaving some pieces of fruit bigger than others. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor, add 2 cups rolled oats, 1/2 cup pecans, and sea salt. Pulse until mixture is coarsely ground. Add 2 Tbsp. maple syrup, 1 Tbsp. oil, and the flaxseed-water mixture. Pulse again to combine, until mixture forms a lightly moist dough. Add more water if necessary.
  4. Press dough evenly into an un-greased 8×8 pan. Pour raspberry mixture evenly over the top. 
  5. In a medium bowl, toss 1 cup rolled oats with 1 Tbsp. maple syrup and 2 Tbsp. oil. Once evenly coated, sprinkle mixture over the raspberries in the baking dish. 
  6. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until top is toasted and raspberries are bubbling. Allow to cool completely, or else raspberries will not set. Once at room temperature, slice into squares and serve.
Sunday
Jun122011

Apricot + Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Was it Mark Twain who said the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco? I’m certainly not the first to assert this, nor will I be the last. City dwellers unite in their general disdain for the months of June and July, holding their breath for the glory of September and October, when the leaves turn golden to match the late-to-emerge sun. 

Boots and puffy vests are standard attire for mid-June. Umbrella? Probably. You may even get away with wearing a scarf at some point. 

 

All of this to say, I made some ice cream a few weeks back to remind me that it was, indeed, summer time. Finals were done, I had a bit of a break between activities, and a warm-weather treat seemed appropriate despite the fact that the weather wasn’t really warm. At all. But it did the trick, and at once I felt the carefree, easy-breezy “summerness” of my childhood returning. So while the rest of you are laying by the pool and basking in the best of the season’s sun, I’ll be up here in the city, eating my ice cream, dreaming of warmer days. 

A bit about this ice cream: I don’t have a fancy-shmancy ice cream maker, but of course I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying a homemade frozen treat. It only means that making ice cream is an all-day activity. The trick is to check on it every two hours, breaking up the ice and whisking the mixture so it stays creamy. Your arms will get a workout, but hey, it only means you can get away with eating more.

Apricot + Coconut Milk Ice Cream :: Makes 1 loaf pan

2 cans full-fat coconut milk 1 Tablespoon coconut oil 3 Tablespoons raw honey 6 apricots, pitted and chopped

– Place a large loaf pan in the freezer to chill while you prepare the mixture – In a blender, puree all ingredients for about 1 minute – Pour into prepared pan and place back into the freezer (optional: first line the pan with parchment paper, so that you can invert the frozen cream to remove it and slice like a semifreddo)  – After 45 minutes, remove mixture from freezer and whisk vigorously to break up any ice that has formed; place back into the freezer – Every 90 to 120 minutes thereafter, remove ice cream from the freezer and whisk to break up the ice and keep it creamy. You may only need to repeat the process twice. – Once it’s completely frozen, allow it to sit on the counter for 5-10 minutes before scooping and serving.

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: